Wildlife In Pembrokeshire
The rich and abundant wildlife found in and around Pembrokeshire, with its many and varied habitats; inshore, offshore, coastal, upland, wetland, estuary, woodland moorland and valley, has been a source of fascination for locals, tourists and naturalists for centuries. Discover more about some of the most common inhabitants of our excitingly diverse environment that is home to some fascinating land and sea creatures......
It may surprise some people to know that badgers are first cousins to otters, polecats, weasels, ferrets and mink. The species we know in this country is the European Badger, one of the largest of the family Mustelidae and an animal of considerable strength and tenacity.
Basking sharks are not sharks at all in the ‘Jaws’ sense, so there is no need for panic when the huge form of this gentle browser of the coastal waters is seen just beneath surface off the Pembrokeshire coast.
Fast becoming celebrity cetaceans are the bottlenose dolphins of Cardigan Bay. These highly intelligent and exuberant creatures, which seem to celebrate their very existence by displays of sheer joie de vivre in all corners of the Bay and around the coast of Pembrokeshire, are attracting hundreds of visitors each year.
One of the most enchanting members of the crow family is the Chough. Thankfully, it is quite numerous all round the Pembrokeshire coast and on the offshore islands where its favourite nesting sites in inaccessible caves, cracks and crevices in the cliff face are abundant.
The common dolphin (Delphinus Delphis) is not so well-known off the Welsh coast as its larger though less numerous cousin, the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops Truncatus) which has a healthy and flourishing population in Cardigan Bay.
Occasional sightings of fin whales have been reported off the Pembrokeshire coast in recent years. Also known as the finback, razorback or common rorqual, they are the second longest animal in the world and the second largest rorqual after the blue whale.
Fulmars resemble gulls but on closer inspection are distinguished by the shape of their beak which has a tube-shaped proturberance on the top, for the fulmar is a tube-nose and a first cousin of the albatross.
Britain’s largest seabird patrols the waters off the Pembrokeshire coast and dives spectacularly into the sea to catch their prey. It is a memorable experience to watch the large cruciform shapes of gliding and plummeting gannets, with their sparkling white plumage and long black-tipped wings.
You don't have to go to an island to see grey seals, for they inhabit almost every cove and beach along the entire 180-mile length of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Coastal Footpath from Amroth in the south to Poppit Sands in the north.
Looking very penguin like on land, with its dark brown back and snow-white breast, the guillemot is a member of the auk family (Alcidae) and first cousin to a puffin and a razorbill.
It is not necessary to take a boat to see harbour porpoises, for they usually stay close inshore, entering harbours as their name suggests, and frequenting the long stretch of coast between Strumble Head and St Davids Head in large numbers.
Humpbacks are sometimes spotted off the Pembrokeshire coast during their 16,000 mile annual migratory journeys from polar waters to tropical or sub-tropical regions. They are frequently seen from ferry boats and also from cruise ships, passengers particularly watching out for them in the Bay of Biscay.
Killer whales or orcas are the top ocean predators, in fact they are called `apex predators’ because they have no predators above them to treat them as prey. However, these big and powerful toothed whales are so tame and seemingly friendly when they are trained to perform in Sea World and other marine theme parks, it is difficult to think of them as ruthless and savage ocean killers.
Kittiwakes are ocean-wandering members of the gull family, and many people believe they are never seen on the mainland, let alone nesting there. Resembling the common gull or a small herring gull, the kittiwake breeds on the Pembrokeshire bird-sanctuary islands and on offshore stacks.
No bigger than a pigeon and able only to shuffle on land, the Manx Shearwater is a master of ocean flight and a pelagic wanderer that can clock up 5,000,000 miles in its lifetime.
The minke whale, or lesser rorqual, has often been spotted in the waters off the Pembrokeshire coast in recent years. Only 50 miles across St George’s Channel, whale-watching expeditions set sail from County Cork to spot Minke and several other cetaceans in the waters of the Western Approaches.
The peregrine is a handsome bird about the size of a crow, with a blue-grey back, barred white underparts and a black head and distinctive ‘moustache.’ Its yellow beak and talons and its large, dark, yellow-circled eyes are fearsomely formidable features.
Colourfully clown-faced, the puffin is probably the best-known and most popular of Pembrokeshire seabirds. Its image appears on advertising for local potatoes, coastal shuttle buses and various food products, and it is one of the most photographed of the auk family which inhabits the Skomer Island nature reserve.
The razorbill lays its single egg per season and rears its lone chick on a rocky ledge on a mainland cliff or island, amid the chaotic maelstrom of competing auks.
Of the 37 species of mammal known worldwide as foxes only 12 actually belong to the true fox family of vulpes which includes wolves, jackals and some wild dogs. By far the most widespread and common species is the red fox, which inhabits large areas of Europe, including the UK, and is a cunning and controversial creature.
The roe deer has spread in recent years after almost becoming extinct in Wales, and has been seen as far south west as the Pembrokeshire border with Ceredigion. Roe deer males have short, straight antlers and are quite small, with a body length of 3.1 to 4.4 feet, a shoulder height of about 2.5 feet and a weight of between 33 and 37lbs.
The European Shag is a species of cormorant which breeds round the rocky coasts of western and southern Europe and is a familiar sight on the Pembrokeshire coast.
Short eared owls
Summer visitors to the island may be lucky enough to spot an owl quartering low over the central plain, its moth-like or bat-like erratic flight distinctive. This floppy flight action is due to its irregular wingbeats and it flies only a foot or two above the ground from which height its sudden appearance takes its prey by surprise.
How the tiny storm petrel, not much bigger than a sparrow but with longer wings and weighing just over an ounce, can survive a lifetime spent wandering the stormy oceans of the world is one of life’s mysteries.
The Skomer vole is a distinct species, first identified as different by the Cardiff naturalist Robert Drane F.L.S. during a visit to the island in 1897 by the Cardiff Naturalists’ Society.