Those taking a winter break can enjoy watching wildfowl, waders and other waterbirds like Slavion Greebs, Great Northern Divers and Little Egrets on the Cleddau, Nevern and Teifi rivers. Peregrines, Merlins and Hen Harriers hunt widely across the county and large flocks of Lapwings and Golden Plovers often tower over the landscape, flushed by these marauding raptors.
Spring sees the arrival of those birds that only visit this country to breed, like Swallows, Warblers, and many of the sea-birds. In the right conditions "falls" of migrants can be encountered around the coast or on the islands, perhaps including Wrynecks and Ring Ouzels, with always the chance of the unexpected.
Summer is a good time to visit seabird colonies, to enjoy the bustle and spectacle of their hectic breeding cycle. Such visits often provide good views of Peregrines, Ravens and Choughs that inhabit the same habitat. Quieter moments can be sought in the local woodlands where Pied Flycatchers and Wood Warblers nest. Almost everywhere visited should provide encounters with Buzzards.
The following localities are recommended as good places to see birds. Those marked with an asterisk* are accessible to the less physically fit, including those in wheelchairs.
Autumn migration is more drawn out than the spring passage, so any visit between August and November can reveal interesting birds. Again, coastal areas and the islands are worth searching for passage waders, and watching coastal waters can sometime reveal spectacular passages of seabirds.
SKOMER ISLAND:(National Natural Reserve managed by the Wildlife Trust West Wales)
Boats run daily (expect Mondays) from Martins Haven between 1st April or Easter (whichever is the sooner) and 31st October (weather depending) For more information see http://www.dale-sailing.co.uk
The seabird colonies are conveniently sited for viewing, particularily at the Wick, comprising Fulmars, Kittiwakes, Guillemots and Razorbills and the opportunity to watch Puffins at close quarters. It is best to visit between May and early July for the birds leave the island as soon as the young are ready to leave the nest. Skomer hosts the largest colony of Manx Shearwaters in the world, but you will not see them flying around. They nest in burrows, which they only leave during the hours of darkness. However, you can sample what is happening underground, live, by looking at the video display situated in the Barn.
Several pairs of Short Eared Owls breed on the Island and they can often be seen hunting in daylight, against a backdrop of commuting Lesser Black-backed gulls. Oystercatchers, Curlews, Peregrines and Choughs.
RAMSEY ISLAND: (RSPB Reserve) Boats run daily from St Justinians, near St Davids. Thousand Island Expeditions are the only boat operator allowed to land on Ramsey and there is a limit on the number of people permitted on to the island each day, so it's best to make a reservation. For information and bookings ring 01437 721721 Thousand Island Expeditions in St Davids Telephone 01437 721721. Ramsey is another fine island for seeking migrants; Britain’s first Indigo Bunting was seen here, so it's always worth a visit. The island has fine colonies of Guillemots, Razorbills and Kittiwakes as well as nesting Shags, Lapwings, Peregrines and Choughs. Guided walks to explore the beautifully wild and rugged island nature reserve of Ramsey with its lovely flowers, ferns and heathers, dramatic scenery, Atlantic grey seal colony and a wealth of resident and migrating birds. Private Guided Walks for Groups, Clubs and Schools can be arranged call for details.
THE WELSH WILDLIFE CENTRE, CILGERRAN: (a Wildlife Trust West Wales Reserve) Extensive reed-bed habitat abutting the Teifi estuary and flanked by woodland. Restaurant and shop on site and the Reserve is fully equipped with accessible hides. Breeding Reed, Sedge and Cetti's Warblers, Water Rails and Reed Buntings. The adjacent woodland and gorge is the breeding ground for Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers, Wood Warblers, Redstarts and Pied Flycatchers. Waders and wildfowl visit in the winter and on passage, as do other migrants. Richard's Pipit, Spotted Crake and Aquatic Warbler have been seen and there is always the chance of encountering a Goshawk or Red Kite (also Otters!). For more information call 01239 621600
AMROTH: A good place to visit in winter for it provides a good view of Carmarthen Bay where the largest concentration of Common Scoters in Britain occurs. Other species seen there include Red-throated Divers, Red-breasted Mergansers, Velvet and Surf Scoters, Long-tailed Ducks and Scaups.
STRUMBLE HEAD: (Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority) The car park provides an excellent vantage point for seawatching. Best visited in the autumn when spectacular passages of Manx Shearwaters, Gannets and Kittiwakes are seen. Best place locally to see Tern and Skuas. Always the chance of seeing speciality birds like Great and Cory's Shearwaters, Leach's Petrel, Little and Sabine's Gulls, or if very fortunate, something even rarer, the Wilson's and Soft-plumaged Petrels.
NEVERN ESTUARY Best viewed from the iron-bridge at the head of the estuary. Much disturbed but a place that affords close viewing of waders, gulls, Herons and Kingfishers.
FISHGUARD HARBOUR *
A good place to see Great Northern Divers and some of the less usual gulls. Mediterranean Gulls regularly winter and other species pop up from time to time, like Ring-billed and Glaucous Gulls. Rarities have included Forster’s Tern and Ross's Gull.
WESTFIELD PILL (a Wildlife Trust West Wales Nature Reserve)
A dammed pill whose water grades from fresh in the upper reaches to saline near the bund. A fine place to view waterbirds like Little Grebes, Ducks, Waders and Kingfishers. Woodland birds also accessible in the flanking trees. Night Heron, Hoopoe and Temminck’s Stint have been recorded.
BOSHERSTON LAKE *: (National Trust)
Artificial bodies of water set among woodland and dunes. Winter ducks, breeding Heron and woodland birds. Bitterns visit in winter when Chiffchaffs and Firecrests can also be found. Attractive to migrants at passage times, Lesser Yellowlegs, Spotted Sandpiper and Red-rumped Swallow being among those that have been found.
A complex area of creeks, mud flats and saltings, so there is a need to view from several places. The following are recommended:
Good numbers of passage and wintering waterbirds, particularly Dunlin, Curlew, Whimbrel, Greenshank, Bar-tailed Godwit, Wigeon, Teal and Shelduck. A variety of other species occur, such as Red-necked and Slavonian Grebes, Whooper and Bewick’s Swans. Like most estuaries, one never knows what might turn up. Spoonbill, Avocet, American Wigeon, Long-billed Dowitcher and White-winged Black Tern have been seen. Cleddau River Cruises offer trips through the inland waterways departing from Neyland Marina. Call 08081 445529 for details.
* areas accessible to the less physically fit, including those in wheelchairs.
ID: 17 Revised: 11/11/2011