Pembrokeshire, 17 – 21 April. Leader: Colin Hunt

Eleven car sharing members were based in Freshwater East west of Tenby, weather often chilly but dry.
First stop on our way was Llanelli Wetlands Centre, Slimbridge-inspired with large areas of pool, reed and scrub close to the coast. Sightings (excluding the many foreign water fowl!) included 300 plus Black-tailed Godwits, 30 plus Knot, Lapwings, Greenshank, a juvenile? Long-tailed Duck in intermediate plumage and without the long tail feathers, juvenile Spoonbill, Pochard, a group of eight Mediterranean Gulls amidst Black-headed (including one Black-headed with a striking pink front – an oddity possibly indicating a Swedish-based shrimp diet…) Whitethroat, Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers, many Cetti’s, Meadow Pipits, Reed Bunting. Lots of mating pairs, a Great Crested Grebe pair on a nest and Mallards with five chicks.
The following day we had the tricky drive to Martin’s Haven on Wales’ south-west tip, for the ferry to Skomer Island. Waiting watchers saw/heard Swallows, Blackcaps, Whitethroat, Skylarks, Raven – and Ring Ouzels; then a short boat ride (including views of Common Dolphin? and Harbour Porpoise) and a hard trudge up took us onto this almost treeless island less than three kilometres square raised 60 metres above the Atlantic, with much of its surface punctured with Puffin and Manx Shearwater burrows like a mini WW1 battlefield. The harbour waters were full of Guillemot and Puffins (the latter not yet on their nests), and a small flock of Kittiwake. We scattered in different directions to see and hear Willow Warblers, Blackcaps, Wheatears galore, a single House Martin, five Whimbrel put up by a Peregrine, Choughs, Buzzards, and Fulmars and Gannets down precipitous cliffs. A small inland pool housed a surprise pair of Shovelers, and a few people had great close-ups of a female Ring Ouzel with subtle pale brown throat crescent and silvery feather patterns distinct in the sunshine. Sadly, the paths were also littered with the bones and feathers of Manx Shearwaters who had already fallen prey to hungry predators. An information board showed the huge numbers of these (350,000) and other breeding pair species that have been logged on the island in previous years. The third day started at Bosherton Lily Ponds (part of the Stackpole Estate west of Freshwater East), with long valley lakes (home to Otters, one of which we briefly glimpsed), running through woodland before emerging onto Broad Haven beach. Plenty more warblers – Willow, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Whitethroat – Song Thrush, Bullfinch, Moorhen and Mallard, Grey Heron and Swan, our first Red Kites, and a surprise Gannet diving almost at the shoreline on the beach.
We continued west along the coast to Freshwater West, a long isolated surfing beach and dunes guarded by military areas, to see a scattering of Gannets and Curlews; then inland to the tiny village of Angle on a muddy gravelly creek and cove overlooking Milford Haven. Here some dedicated wader watching found Curlews, Whimbrels with their proportionately shorter bills and striped heads, Oystercatchers, Dunlins, and possibly a Little Ringed Plover (we think we saw pale legs…).
We ended back on the dramatic vertical cliffs at St Govan’s Head just west of Stackpole with lovely close views of Choughs on the grass, Kestrel above, and Guillemots, Razorbills and Manx Shearwaters on the sea 60 metres below with Common Dolphins sporting amongst them. Next day we explored locally, starting at Freshwater East beach, then the wetland reserve of reed and wet woodland that ran up the valley behind, and adjacent reserve through dunes and meadows behind the beach. The wetlands had most of the warblers we had already heard plus a Reed Warbler (song indentified after some intense listening); adjacent areas included Bullfinches, Grey Heron, Buzzard and Kestrel; and sea watches found two Red-throated Divers in the surf – pretty pale grey plumage and obvious upturned bills – Guillemot, a Bar-tailed Godwit in breeding plumage, two Whimbrels, and two fine Sandwich Terns.
Finally some of the group explored an adjacent deep valley woodland reserve memorably called Scraggy Bottom, finding Nuthatch, Pheasant, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Raven and Sparrowhawk.
We spent our last morning on a cliff walk round St Govan’s Head, watching small groups of Razorbills on the sea, Shags on rocks displaying their fine breeding crests, Great Black-backed Gulls, Fulmars, a flying winter plumage Bar-tailed Godwit, a hunting Peregrine, a close-up Kestrel perched on the cliff face – and above and in the gorse-rich heathland – Swallows, House Martins, Wheatears, loudly-singing Whitethroat, Skylark, Linnets, Meadow Pipits, Raven and some slightly surprising Dunnocks.
Many thanks to Colin for organising and leading us on this new trip in an area he knows well: and to Judy Copeland for all her associated help. Total species: 100. Lois Pryce