Living by the sea gives an extra dimension to life, but especially at this time of the year when large numbers of seabirds head south, many from the Arctic. The best places to see them around here are the western headlands of Pembrokeshire, but even this far away from the main Atlantic flyway it’s worthwhile getting up early and heading out.
I usually head for the end of a nearby bay which protrudes out into the Bristol Channel further than any other; it’s always a bit of a lottery and you never know what will turn up. Waiting to hear on the grapevine that birds are on the move is the trick, but I risked an early rise this morning and headed out cold. It’s wise to take a telescope, but even with binoculars it can often be good. Nestling in the soft salty turf above the rocky shore provides the best good vantage point and I’m at once watching Manx Shearwaters in groups of twenty or more moving steadily up-channel. Hundreds of Gannets dive in the calm waters off the point and with Sandwich Terns resting on the rocks below, I’m more than happy to have got out of bed early. It isn’t long before I’m joined by a couple of serious birdwatchers bedecked with all manner of expensive paraphernalia. They soon get to work on the part of sea beyond my reach, turning up Great Skuas and several Storm Petrels, the latter far too small for me to see with binoculars. In the two hours I stayed, my tally of Manx shearwaters exceeded 2,000, but with plans to stay the whole day their final counts would probably end up many times this. The Shearwaters will return down-channel in the evening and I wondered if the morning and evening counts would match, or if the birds would return by a different route on the English side of the channel.