Updated 28 September 2018 - New blog post - The #PeoplesWalkforWildlife

Friday, 25 March 2016

Stack Rocks & Green Bridge, Pembrokeshire – 25 March 2016

After our little break at Bluestone National Park Resort, the sun was still shining so we decided to visit Stack Rocks & The Green Bridge on the South West coast of Pembrokeshire.

To get to the rocks you need to pass through a military range in Castlemartin, which is closed at certain times. It was Good Friday, so we assumed it would be open, but you do need to ring a number to see if it’s accessible on weekdays. (Check out www.visitpembrokeshire.com for more information).

There is a car park fairly near the viewpoints with direction signs/information boards to help you on your way. Our first stop was Stack Rocks, two isolated pillars of limestone which rise steeply from the sea. They are important nesting sites for guillemots and kittiwakes, but neither have returned from their migration yet. They should return in a few weeks time and we intend to go back to enjoy the spectacle.

Information signs
Stack rocks
On the cliffs we could see Fulmars nesting and a single shag. This is the first time I have seen a shag up close and couldn't get over how beautiful it's shiny black coat and stunning green eyes were.

Fulmar nesting in the cliffs
Shag sitting on the cliffs
Our next stop was the Green Bridge - it is renowned as one of Wales' most iconic images from the coast – a huge, 80ft limestone arch with the sea underneath. Sadly, sometime in the future the top of the arch will eventually collapse into the sea and the Bridge will become a stack (like the stack rocks nearby).

There is a viewing platform here, so you can get good pics. From here we walked back along the cliff's path and saw a number of smaller birds including skylarks and rock pipits.

The Green Bridge
Rock pipit

From here we walked back to stack rocks and admired the beauty of the area. There was a cormorant and black backed gulls sitting on rocks out at sea,whilst a raven was flying above being chased by several jackdaws.

Such a beautiful coastline
Cormorant & a pair of black backed gulls
Raven & Jackdaws (you can see the size difference of the crows)
We continued walking along the path and saw a big nest on the opposite cliff, we got talking to a local man and he told us that it was a raven's nest. We sat there for awhile waiting to see if the raven returned, but the bird was far too clever - I think it sensed us sitting there, waiting for it. So we carried on and walked down to a spot the gentleman had recommended. It was beautiful, see the below photo...

A wonderful view of the cliffs
On the way back we saw a pair of stonechat and we decided to pass the raven's nest again to see if it had returned. The raven still wasn't there, but two nosy jackdaws were snooping around. It wasn't long before they were shoo'd off by the beautiful raven and we finally could get a photo.

The path is part of the Wales Coastal Path and you can walk from here to St Govans Chapel, a small thirteenth century stone chapel that was built within the cliffs of St Govan's Head. I definitely want to do a blog on that in the future, so watch this space for that one...

Male & female stonechat on some brambles
A pair of nosy jackdaws check out the raven's nest...
...not for long though, the raven returns to protect the nest.
A sign to show where to go for the Coastal Path

It is a great part of Pembrokeshire to explore and it would be interesting to see the Green Bridge at different times of day (Sunrise, etc). I can't wait to return and will do before this year is out :)

You can find out more about it here.

Monday, 21 March 2016

The wildlife of Bluestone, Pembrokeshire - March 2016

From 21st March 2016 we stayed for a few days at Bluestone National Park Resort, Narberth, Pembrokeshire. It's a fantastic place to get away from it all and a great place to spot wildlife. It is surrounded by woodland and has it's own large lake. We were lucky enough to have a lakeside lodge and even from our window we were confronted by an abundance of wildlife.

Monday 21st March 2016
We arrived late afternoon, but already had a number of birds flying around our lodge...

Male blackbird singing a beautiful song in a nearby tree.
Moorhen foraging on the grass
We came prepared with some bird seed and mealworm and placed some on the balcony of our lodge. It wasn't long before we had visitors like this blue tit...

...and this male chaffinch.
Being nature lovers we were so excited to see birds so close, we couldn't wait to go to bed and wake up the next day to see what else would visit us :)

The sun setting over the lake (this was the view from our lodge) x
Tuesday 22nd March 2016
We woke up nice and early and looked out of our bedroom window to see what the weather was like. It was a bit overcast, but wasn't raining! There were already several birds on the picnic table outside...

Male sparrow waiting for his breakfast
We put some meal worm on the picnic table and it wasn't long before we had a crowd of them:
Blue tits, chaffinches & sparrows 
Then the big boys arrived, starlings...
...and jackdaws
But they seemed to feed nicely together, here they are looking at me
"Hey, we are running low here!"
We watched them for ages and a new face showed up...this adorable Great Tit

In the resort there are a few different walking routes, including a marked nature trail. So we managed to drag ourselves away from our feathered friends and went exploring.

The nature walk goes through deciduous woods, over streams and along boardwalks. There was lots of bird life, but the weather was a bit grey so we couldn't get many good photos. We continued following the numbered trail and saw two small birds flying in and out of trees. Upon closer inspection they were in fact a pair of Goldcrests. We couldn't believe it and they started doing a repetitive mating dance that lasted 10 minutes (you can see part of it in the video below).

A pair of Goldcrest perform a mating dance

Such beautiful birds and seeing them so close and doing such a wonderful display made our day. They eventually flew off and we continued our walk along the path which eventually reached one of Bluestone's eateries 'Camp Smokey'. We stopped for some refreshments and were greeted by a friendly robin. Dan was amused with the setting, this is where the zip wire activity takes place and he thought he was in Ewok territory 'Endor' (Star Wars fans will get this lol)

Camp Smokey
Friendly Robin
We continued back on the trail, which lead us up higher into the woods - we reached a pathway with trees either side and remembered that last year in May they were full of bluebells, but we were here too soon this year. Once again we were greeted by an even friendlier robin and also a blackbird singing a lovely song.

The trees without bluebells March 2016
The trees with bluebells May 2015
Lovely, friendly robin
A singing blackbird
It was a lovely little nature trail and we made our way back to our lodge, as soon as we got there we already had a few birds waiting for us...

...including this Blue Tit...
...male Chaffinch...
...and this lovely Great Tit.
Wednesday 23rd March 2016
On our third day in Bluestone we had two new visitors outside our lodge: a pied wagtail and song thrush. We decided to walk a bit further out of the resort and into Canaston Woods, which is accessible from the resort.

Pied wagtail in a nearby tree
A Song Thrush looking for worms.
One of the ways out of the resort and into Canaston Woods.
It was a lovely walk around the woods and we saw a number of birds including a gorgeous buzzard sitting in a tree, we also saw numerous amounts of fungi and found these other interesting things...

Buzzard sitting in a tree
A big pellet full of bones near where the buzzard was hunting
A fox (?) skull
King Alfred's Cakes fungi
Some weird orange slime fungi
Lovely snowdrops in flower

The weather was grey and cold, so we finished our walk quite soon. We stopped to visit the castle on the way back - Castle Coch dates back to the 14th century and surrounded by trees from Canaston Woods. Again we could hear lots of bird life, but the bad lighting prevented any photos.

Castell Coch
Castell Coch

Thursday 24th March 2016
This day was a bit of a wash out, it rained almost all of the day. We did however see a few birds: a Cormorant on the lake, a Long Tailed Tit in the nearby bushes and a Carrion Crow in the grass.

Carrion Crow foraging in the grass
Cormorant on the lake
Long Tailed Tit in the bushes outside the lodge
(sorry about the photo, it was taken through a rather wet window)
A soaking bird on the balcony :(

In the evening the rain eventually eased off and we went for a bite to eat at the King's Tafarn, came second in the pub quiz then went looking for frogs, newts and toads. Armed with a torch, we couldn't believe the amount of toads next to the lodges - Bluestone is primarily a no car zone and people travel around in buggies - we lost count of how many times we stopped buggies and pointed out toads were crossing!

The toads were out in force and lots were mating, including a pair on our doorstep! We also saw lots of Palmate Newts, but no frogs.

Mating Common Toads on the path outside the lodge
(look at the size difference between male and female)
More mating Common Toads - Two's company, three's a crowd!
A posing Common Toad giving the 'don't mess with me' look
Palmate newt crossing the road
Another Palmate newt
...and here's another pair :)
We were so happy we saw so many toads and newts, they seem to be thriving in Bluestone and hopefully we saved a few potential road kills.

Friday 25th March 2016
So today was our last day staying at the resort, it was a completely different day than yesterday and the sun was finally shining. We had to check out quite early so we had one more walk around the lake before we made our way to Stackpole (this will be my next blog). This is what we saw on our last day...
The view from our window
One of the paths down to the lake
A Dunnock & Song Thrush seeking out juicy worms
The Toads were still at it! - Underwater, you can see the size difference!
A Mallard chilling out
A Herring Gull on top of our lodge bidding us goodbye.

Our stay at Bluestone was wonderful, we saw so much wildlife without even leaving the lodge. When we did leave the lodge we were treated to birds like buzzards and goldcrests. I would recommend Bluestone to anyone who loves nature and just wants to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. We will definitely be back :)