This wildlife holiday offers an introduction to Pembrokeshire’s special natural history, at its best in early summer. It includes visits to spectacular seabird colonies, a rich marine-life and an abundance of wild flowers. Weather permitting, we’ll take boat trips to view Grassholm’s Gannet colonies from the sea (the island is home to 40,000 pairs), and we’ll land on Skomer which at this time of year accommodates over half a million seabirds, including Manx Shearwaters, Guillemots, Razorbills and Puffins galore – the latter only an arm’s length away! Offshore, dolphins and porpoises are regularly seen, while on the mainland we’ll search for some of Pembrokeshire’s other natural history delights including a variety of orchids, as well as rare butterflies and dragonflies.
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Présente le mardi et vendredi toute la journée
Mon 8th Jun - Fri 12th Jun
* These tours are operated by Naturetrek (ABTA Y6206) for which Nature et Terroir acts as agent.
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Andrew Bray retired from the military where he was working as a project manager for procurement programmes. He is an active member of the Army Ornithological Society and the first recipient of the President's Medal for his promotion of the society in the fields of bird watching and conservation. Andrew has led scientific expeditions to Ascension Island for 12 years; the findings from which have provided a long term database for use by scientific bodies. He has organised many trips to continental Europe and within the UK for Army birdwatchers and has a long North American bird list! His patch is Salisbury Plain, some of which is a restricted area, and he organises bird, butterfly and botany walks across it. He has travelled extensively around the world, and more recently to the Canary Islands, Finland, Iceland, the Sultanate of Oman and Turkey. Andrew enjoys sharing his passion for birding with others.
Burton is a small village situated close to the deep-water channel of Milford Haven. It is a quiet village and centrally placed from which to explore the surrounding area.
We’ll meet at our base, the Beggars Reach Hotel, this evening, and after supper the group will assemble to discuss our wildlife-watching programme. The planned itinerary will depend very much on the weather conditions predicted for each day. With some of the itinerary focused on exploring Pembrokeshire’s islands either by foot or at sea we will, to a certain extent, be at the whim of the Atlantic weather which we hope shall become kind and clement by June! If any of the pelagic excursions need to be delayed or cancelled we have an abundance of alternative options for land-based excursions which are detailed below. Please bear in mind that the specific days and timings of each excursion may be subject to change, due to the weather.
After breakfast and a drive to Marloes, weather permitting, we will make the short (15 minute) boat crossing from the mainland to Skomer and spend most of the day exploring this National Nature Reserve on foot. Skomer is around one and a half miles long and a mile wide, and accessible by a network of trails crossing most of the island. Upon arrival on Skomer we will orientate ourselves and make the short climb of 200m up onto the largely flat plateau of the main part of the island before exploring further.
Most of the island is littered with the burrows of some of the estimated 100,000 Manx Shearwaters and a fair few Puffins. We will need to take care to stick to the marked trails to avoid any damage to this delicate ecosystem. Scattered around the island are numerous colonies of cliff-nesting seabirds such as the largest Welsh colony of Guillemots as well as numerous Razorbills. Cliff-top viewing platforms offer an impressive panorama of the co-ordinated maelstrom on the guano-splattered cliffs below. The best places to see large numbers of Puffins are close to the landing point at North Haven and at The Wick although a good number of the 6,000 pairs are liberally scattered along much of the cliff top. At this time of the year, adults should be busy bringing food to their new-born chicks and we can enjoy observing their daily behaviour at close range.
Although Skomer is famous for seabirds, there are other attractions. Between one and four pairs of Shorteared Owls also breed here, as do Little Owls, and they are busy feeding their young throughout the day and night in June, giving us a good chance of seeing them. There are also several points around the coast from which Grey Seals can be seen and we may even be lucky with a glimpse of a Harbour Porpoise. Although we will be reaching the end of the amazing carpet of spring bluebells, the island becomes overtaken with a monopoly of deep pink Red Campion in June and a variety of other maritime plant species can be found.
After we have enjoyed a picnic lunch and more of Skomer in the afternoon we will head back to our hotel for a freshen-up and a hearty dinner.
Stackpole Head & Bosherton Lakes
Today, we’ll head out after breakfast to do some land-based wildlife-watching. Although the itinerary will depend on weather and what we have managed to do so far, we hope to spend the day on the southern coast in the area of Stackpole Head and Bosherton Lily ponds. This National Nature Reserve supports a dramatic variety of habitats within a relatively small area.
The reserve offers a number of interesting walks and we will visit the best areas for wildlife. As we make our way along the Pembrokeshire Coast Path we walk along the top of some dramatic Carboniferous limestone sea-cliffs with numerous arches, crevices and blow-holes. They support a rich calcareous community of rare lichens and plants including crevice-dwelling species such as Golden Samphire and Rock Sea Lavender, Thrift and Vernal Squill. As we pass across the beautiful dunes and beach of Barafundle Bay and the species-rich turf of Stackpole Warren we may encounter orchids such as Bee, Pyramidal and Twayblade as well as some interesting dune plants like Yellow Horned Poppy, Slender Thistle, and possibly Early Gentian – a rare UK endemic in its only Welsh locality. On the patches of ericaceous heath, Silver-studded Blue butterflies are on the wing in mid-June and laying their eggs on species of heather, and we may also find other interesting butterfly species like Dark Green Fritillary and Brown Argus. Small flocks of Chough are often present on the Warren and a wide diversity of breeding birds is found in this mosaic of habitats.
As we walk along the edge of Bosherston Lily Ponds we should see extensive beds of White Water Lily in flower in June in these unusual lakes. They are also home to numerous dragonfly species including Emperor and Hairy Dragonflies as well as the smaller, flitting damseflies. This is an excellent place to see Otter and we have a reasonable chance of locating this elusive and charismatic animal.
After the walk we may have time to fit in a short trip to the dunes at Broomhill Burrows to see abundant marsh orchids and other dune plants such as Carline Thistle and Adder’s Tongue Fern as well as several reptile species.
Minwear Wood, Rosebush and the Teifi
We will set off for a day of land-based wildlife-watching. Our first stop will be Minwear Wood where we will look for Wood Warbler, Goldcrest and Marsh Tit. Redstart will be calling from the trees and depending on the water level there may be Dipper. We then head off to Rosebush at the foot of the Presili Hills to find Lesser Redpoll, Siskin and Coal Tit as we admire the old slate works on the walk to the forest. A lot of areas have been cleared and we could find Tree Pipit and Cuckoo amongst the clearings. We will also check out the plants, butterflies and other bugs as we walk along the many paths. There is a pub based on an old Railway Station where we can have lunch. Our final stop in the afternoon is at Teifi Marshes in the north of the county or, alternatively, Fishgaurd for Dipper and Llangollen Fen. We may visit the Welsh Wildlife Centre at Teifi Marshes to see what is around and will look for waders and ducks. The area is a pre-glacial channel with the river Pilau meandering through it. There is a range of habitats and Water Buffalo are used to graze the site. With luck there will be breeding Curlew and even a late Whimbrel passing through.
Dowrog Common and St Davids
For our final morning we may have time to visit Dowrog Common to the east of St Davids where there is a superb example of a lowland ‘fen’ heath. The site holds a myriad of wildlife including a number of notable plants and animals such as Lesser Butterfly Orchid and the tiny Yellow Centaury; Small Red and Scarce Bluetailed Damselflies and Marsh Fritillary butterfly. We will then head into St Davids, the smallest cathedral city in Britain, where we will have time to explore this historic settlement before we head back to the hotel via the railway station at Haverfordwest. We then say our goodbyes and head our separate ways.
NB. Please note that the itinerary above offers our planned programme of excursions. However, adverse weather and other local considerations can necessitate some reordering of the programme during the course of the tour, though this will always be done to maximise best use of the time and weather conditions available.