Marloes and St Brides
BIRDS OF THE MARLOES & ST BRIDES AREA
CHARACTERISTIC BIRDS OF THE AREA
Chough - this small member of the Crow family with bright red bill and legs, and characteristic “kiang” call can usually be seen at the Deer Park. Several pairs nest on the cliffs here.
Raven - these very large black birds with a long wedge-shaped tail are most usually seen flying over giving their characteristic deep “kronk” call. They also nest on the cliffs and occasionally in trees.
Wheatear - this very smart bird - the male in grey, black white and peach - perches on rocks and stones and flits around showing off its bright white rump. They breed in rocky, grassy areas such as the Deer Park.
Stonechat - perched on top of a gorse bush and issuing its pebble-clicking alarm call, the Stonechat is a familiar bird to coast path walkers
Whitethroat - this perky little summer visitor sings its powerful but scratchy little song from hedges and bushes all over the Peninsula. It is really quite common, but in late April when the numbers are swelled by migrating birds, it can seem as though there is a Whitethroat in every bush!
Grasshopper Warbler - a small streaky brown bird which most people have never heard of. It breeds in damp areas with a few bushes, such as at Marloes Mere, and sings its reeling monotonous song mostly at dawn and dusk but at other times of day as well. The song can be mistaken for a Nightjar, but there are no Nightjars here. Again, at migration time in the spring they can be quite common - we counted 6 singing birds at St Brides one morning and they were not even in very suitable habitat! Click here to listen to the song.
Puffin It seems that every visitor who comes here wants to see a Puffin. Luckily that can easily be achieve by visiting Skomer between late April and the end of July. The best viewing time is probably early July when the Puffins are feeding young and flying ashore with the much-photographed beakful of fish. Check this link to listen to the “Puffin Rap”.
Manx Shearwater There are several hundred thousand pairs of these birds on Skomer and Skokholm but they are not easily seen - they only come to the land at night in order to try and avoid predators such as the Greater Black-backed Gulls. The best way of experiencing Shearwaters is to stay overnight on Skomer between April and August when you will not only see, but also hear these incredible birds (but avoid bright moonlit nights!) An evening boat cruise should also provide views of Shearwaters rafting on the sea waiting for it to get dark. Listen to Manx Shearwaters here.
Kittiwake The Kittiwake is a delicate little gull with a small yellow bill and black legs. It has characteristic black wing-tips with no white on them - all other gulls have some white with the black. The are oceanic and coastal birds and never come inland except for very short visits to collect mud and water weed to build their nest, which they construct on a small ledge on a cliff. A colony of Kittiwakes is very noisy - all raucously calling their name “kittiwake”. A breeding colony of Kittiwakes is present each summer on the Wick on Skomer.
Razorbill The symbol of the Pembrokeshire National Park, the Razorbill is a very smart puffin-like black and white bird with a heavy black bill marked with white. The nest in crevices on the cliffs and very good views can usually be had from the steps up from the boat-landing on Skomer.
Guillemots These birds are browner than the Razorbill with a long thin beak. They nest precariously packed together on cliff ledges and again can be seen well on Skomer.
Gannet These very large bright white birds with a yellowish head can often be seen cruising along the coast and sometimes fishing, using their dramatic plunge-dive technique. A boat trip to Grassholm is required to see them well.
Peregrine Peregrines breed along the cliffs and can often seen during the course of a coast path walk. In the summer the juvenile birds often draw attention to themselves with noisy screaming and ineffectual hunting attempts.
Also conspicuous in the area are small breeding birds such as Reed Buntings, Skylarks, Linnets, Rock Pipits and Meadow Pipits. In the winter, there can be Lapwing, Golden Plover, Snipe, Water Rail and ducks such as Gadwall, Teal, Wigeon and Shoveler on Marloes Mere, and it is also a good spot for a variety of birds of prey. There are also usually some wintering Chiffchaffs in damp spots and Black Redstarts can sometimes be found on St Brides church roof.
A few recent rarities include:
By January 2013, the fourth Glossy Ibis was still at Marloes Mere. A Ring-necked Duck and 4 Pink-footed Geese were also to be seen there.
In Spring 2012 there were three long-staying Glossy Ibis in the Marloes area - see here. This was joined by a fourth during the summer.
An American black Duck spent some time on Marloes Mere in March 2008. Garganey and Green-winged Teal are regular spring visitors.
The Islands regularly host rare migrants and vagrants but getting over to see them at short notice in windy spring and autumn weather can be tricky!