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A Pembrokeshire Day

Skomer

So it dawned. Wet.

No matter. My B&B landlady assured me that I could park right on Strumble Head, for that top seawatching site was my goal.

Windy too. Again no matter. The car makes an acceptable hide and the birds were close enough to shore – gannets, guillemots, one razorbill, kittiwakes and Manx shearwaters. I couldn’t convert any of the latter into Balearics or sooties or even Cory’s, which had been reported over the weekend.

Triple no matter. Manxes are so oceanic that any opportunity to watch them is a gift. 99% of holidaymakers gazing out to sea don’t know the birds exist so again the birder has a whole extra dimension to play in. The shearwater colony at Skomer must be the closest to Bristol so the Pembrokeshire coast must also be the closest true seawatching experience. 160 miles, or more than three hours, distant – not exactly a day trip. About as far as Cornwall. I wonder if these pelagic wanderers grace stretches of the Devon or Dorset coast.

Then I somehow spent the rest of the day pootling in Pembrokeshire. It’s captivating – my Scotland substitute from Bristol. Despite the distance it is hard to believe I’ve never been. Yes, and I did break from the birding and drop in to St David’s.

So I was late afternoon driving into Pembroke itself for a reported scaup. Roadworks slowed me up and on the spur of the moment I decided to stop a further night. I ticked the scaup – the only bird in the entire Castle Pond; it was almost surreal – ate a very hot Madras and was ready for another seabird city at Stack Rocks on the Castlemartin MoD range the following morn.

But only if the Army had played along, or rather didn’t want to play with their toys. The red flags were flying and the barriers were down, just like old days at Barry Buddon. (A firing schedule is on the Web; weekends generally seem to be free but not weekdays.) They could have at least blown something up for me as alternative entertainment. Never mind: I added yellowhammer to the Welsh list at the end of the Angle Peninsula and scuttled for home when heavy showers settled in.

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