Green Scar Island

Half a mile south west by south of Solva harbour entrance, in St Brides Bay, is the pyramid shaped rock known as Green Scar.

Its name, in contrast to its close companion Black Rock, is no doubt attributable to the fact that it has a green crown of vegetation while its neighbour, about a third its size, is bare and the rocks dark. To the east is another much smaller rock, called the Mare, but it is more familiarly known as the Donkeys Ears.

Green Scar has little to tell in the way of history. The more venturesome local boys used to row out from Solva to swim there or to sunbathe on the clifftop turf, and the Solva fishermen fished for bait there before dropping their lobster pots in the vicinity, to catch lobster or a crab near the Green Scar which can be cooked and eaten in a Solva restaurant 45 minutes later. The seas around the little group of rocks are also a happy hunting ground for mackerel fishermen, for these fish come into St Brides Bay in large shoals in summer, their presence signalled by the arrival of squadrons of gannets plummeting like white cruciform dive bombers on their prey.

The more fish, the more gannets arrive to thrill clifftop spectators with their spectacular displays of aerial agility, and there are plenty of gannets in the area. Grassholm island, some 12 miles offshore is one of the biggest gannet colonies in the country and certainly in Wales, with no fewer than 70,000 pairs at the last count.

With their dazzling white plumage, shading to pale yellow on the neck, and their six-foot wide black-tipped wingspan, they are magnificent birds indeed, and their aim when they dive at great speed on a fish is unerring. Rarely do they surface without a catch, which they swallow quickly before flying up to about 100 feet for the next plunge. When there are fledgelings on Grassholm they lumber home with full craws to regurgitate their catch into the gaping beaks of their young, which are ugly ducklings compared with the fully fledged adults. 

Green Scar is also the home of another diver, the cormorant, which finds a safe and tranquil nesting site on the rock. There is nothing a cormorant likes better than a sunbathe between dives, which, unlike the gannets’ swift stoop, is a prolonged underwater chase of the fish before it surfaces with its catch half in, half out of its beak. The sunbathing takes place on a convenient rock as the cormorant dries out its plumage, wings held wide, like a dark crucifix silhouetted against the horizon. To see a row of cormorants standing thus is like a vision of a multi-cross Calvary. On hazy summer days, Green Scar shimmers out in the bay, above a sea sparkling with sunshine, but in autumn and winter it wallows in a seething swell, waves breaking clear over the top, with white plumes of spray.

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