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Those magnificent aviators in their flying machines

  It has been a long time since I went to an airshow. If my memory serves me right the last one I attended was at St Athan's, Cardiff, with my father when I was in my teens - probably around the mid-1980s. Like me my Dad loved aircraft and on that occasion to ensure we had a good view he enthusiastically ensured we had the closest view possible by attending very early, parking the car up at the crack of dawn and then marching right up to the fence next to the main runaway. I recall the car park being empty when we turned up and it being a very sunny and windy day. Despite the years passing by the thrill of watching and hearing the planes with my Dad has never left me. I also remember after spending a fantastic day with my father returning feeling very windswept and sunburnt to the car park and spending over an hour trying to find my Dads car as he had forgotten where we had parked it (and the fact that several thousand cars had turned up since we had arrived did not help things ;)

Skomer Part 3 Two out of three aint bad

 



For the third day, we had booked the Grassholm Gannetry Experience boat trip. Unfortunately, as we all sat in the car escaping from the rain at Martins Haven, dripping wet just after our return from Skomer Island, I received a message informing me that the Grassholm trip has been cancelled due to bad weather being forecast.

It was not a surprise and despite Paul Joy doing his best to sound like Meat Loaf declaring "Two out of three ain't bad" (I almost thought that Mr Joy was singing about the fact he is the only Canon user and lamenting he did not have a Nikon) -that made me chuckle, we were all a little disappointed. I have been trying to get to Grasshom for a decade and have never been successful due to bad weather. Visiting Pembrokeshire is always a gamble when the weather is concerned. 

A distant Grassholm. One day I will get there finally!

So, with Grasshom cancelled the Three Amigos had to think of a Plan B. Fortunately we did have a backup plan and whilst enjoying a meal in the pub after a day out at Skomer we discussed where we would go on the second day.

After filling our bellies and a rest Plan B was decided - we would be visiting Stack Rocks and St Govans the following day. Both are excellent places for birding.

Skomer Part 3 - Two out of Three ain't bad.

On Saturday our view from the lodge did not look too good. The wind was really blowing the trees and there were dark clouds on the horizon. The weather had certainly changed.

The weather forecast however was quite promising with bright spells of sunshine forecast despite some rain showers so as we left the lodge to start our day of birding we were all rather excited.

The Amigos have visited Stack Rocks in a previous tour of Pembrokshire and know it is a fantastic place.

The largest stack is crammed with Auks.

Stack Rocks is situated on the Pembrokeshire coast that borders the Castle Martin Tank Range and lies in the military red zone owned by the Ministry of Defense, so that means access is sometimes limited when the military is running exercises.

On this particular occasion, we were lucky to have a visit as during the week access had been closed due to exercises taking place ( we had heard the explosions of tank and ordinance being fired the night before.

The car park lies about 100ms away from the Stacks. As soon as you get out of the car we could hear the noise of thousands of seabirds. The sound is incredible and I find it really exciting.

We walked from the car park and approached the clifftop. As we did so a flock of Choughs flew overhead and seemed to be blown at a terrific rate across the sky as the wind was really blowing.

Dark clouds were starting to roll in across from the sea and things were looking ominous.

The sea was really stirred up with some big waves.


Within minutes of looking over the side of the cliffs, we were retreating from a rainstorm hiding behind a solar panel with a bunch of Wildlife Trust employees who were volunteering for the day. There has been some monitoring work being done using various tech - hence the need for a solar-powered energy supply on the clifftop. We had a nice chat - one of them was an ex-warden from Skomer.

After a while, the clouds began to part and the sun came out again. Now it was time to do some serious birding and enjoy the view.

The stacks are incredible.   The first two are viewable together with a few others a little further down the coast but only a short walk away.

"I am the Kind of the Castle" Thats what the perched Guillimot is squawking .

Birds were constantly coming and going.

Can you find the chicks?


The largest stack has almost every conceivable spot a bird can perch filled. As you get closer to the edge of the cliff the view is truly amazing. The raucous noise is incredibly loud and made by Guilimots jostling for space, Razorbills perched on their own little places on the edges and sides of the stacks and gulls swooping around the whole stack lurking in readiness to grab a chick.

From a distance, all you can see are the black and white of the Auks. When I zoomed in with the Nikon P1000 I was amazed that hidden amongst the feet of the Guillemots I could see the Guillemot chicks. Picking the chicks out is hard and found it a little bit easier when I reviewed the pictures and videos afterwards at home.

On this visit, I was amazed at how many birds from the colony that were taking to the air in massive flocks. Every now and again hundreds of birds would take off and fly above the cliff tops.


I have never seen so many birds flying at Stack Rocks.


Its huge



Every nook and cranny where a bird can perch is occupied.



We finished off the visit to Stack Rocks with a walk to the Green Arch.  On the way to the arch there is another stack that was covered in Auks. There was also a couple of Cormorant/Shag looking birds but I could not get a close enough picture to really decided what species they were.

Another stack that we found walking to the Green Arch


As we neared the location of the arch a pair of Fulmar were busy soaring up on the cliff side updrafts and putting on quite a show. Fulmars are one of my favourite seabirds.

Fulmar


Finally we made it to the Green Arch. The wind was now blowing a gale and the gusts were very strong.
Whilst taking some photographs I was shocked to see one walker standing ridiculously close to the edge, so much so I had to scream at him to move back. I swear if he had taken one footstep further he would have fallen and died. Fortunately he was not deaf or short sighted - he saw me waving frantically to get step back and he did!

The Green Arch

Note the gentlemen stood precariously close to the edge!


The Three Amigos.


After feeling like I had prevented something horrendous happening I felt pretty good. Stack Rocks is an amazing place and I would really recommend it to anyone for a visit. The scenery is out of this world and the birding is really good.

Now this should be my last post concerning Skomer but I am going to write a fourth blog post as I just cant fit everything in. There was so much good stuff to write about on the trip.

So, when I next get chance the final bonus instalment will get written once I get some spare time.
Next up will be all about our visit to St Govans.









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