Pembrokeshire is a happy hunting ground for birdwatchers, offering them the opportunity to ‘twitch’ to their hearts content, such is the variety of birdlife on display.
The harvest of ticks in boxes has the potential to be colossal with the choice of seabirds, songbirds, raptors, waders, wildfowl, corvines, ocean wanderers, warblers, finches - the list is endless.
The seabird sanctuary islands are world famous - Skomer, Skokholm, Ramsey, Grassholm - for Manx shearwaters, guillemots, razorbills, puffins, kittiwakes, gannets, storm petrels, shags, cormorants and a host of other species. Grassholm, which can be circled in a boat operating from Dale or St Davids, has a gigantic colony of more than 70,000 gannets, one of the largest in Europe, while Skomer and neighbouring Skokholm are famous for all the auks, plus a large colony of gulls, short-eared owls, peregrine falcon and chough. Guillemots and razorbills can also be seen on their nesting sites on Stack Rocks and Needle Rock off Dinas Island, During daytime visits to Skomer the visitor will see no Manx shearwaters, at least not live ones, only the corpses of those unfortunate birds which have been caught by predatory gulls as they emerge from or approach their nesting burrows.
For Shearwaters are nocturnal ocean wanderers totally adapted for flying and clumsy on land. Young birds, when leaving their burrows in autumn gales, are often blown inland and have to be rescued and launched off a cliff as they are unable to get airborne off flat ground. There are daily trips to Skomer by boat from Martin’s Haven and evening trips are also available, when the loud and eerie cries of emerging shearwaters fill the air. This is a unique experience which can also be enjoyed by a stay on the island. Springtime is the best period for a visit to Skomer for the island is not only loud with birds then, but also a riot of colour, with oceans of bluebells and red campion. Visits to Skokholm are restricted, but boat trips round the island are a regular feature. Ramsey is also open to visitors as, of course, is the Monastery island of Caldey off Tenby.
The inland waterways of the county are also a rich haunt of waders and duck. Little egret can be seen at Picton Point, Solva, Nevern, Newport and Dale, among the more numerous heron, shellduck, mallard, redshank, curlew and other waterbirds, while spoonbills have also been spotted at Marloes and Angle. Red Kite, once rare and almost exclusively seen only in mid-Wales, have now spread both naturally and by relocation, and can now be seen throughout the county, particularly in the Preseli Hills and along the wooded shores of the Daucleddau Estuary.
Dale Sailing (01646-603109,603110 and 603123) offers boat trips to and around the islands, as does Thousand Island Expeditions at St Davids (01437-721721) and Venture Jet at Trefin (01348-837764). Pembrokeshire Boat Charters at Milford Haven (01646-4946578) specialises in tailor-made boat trips around the islands and the estuaries.