Castlemartin Choughs and Cows

29 of us met at 0900 for the Castlemartin Range West walk, on a grey and windy day, hoping the forecast heavy rain would hold off till later in the day. Peter Royle in his role as a National Park Walk Leader, assisted by Alison Beak as backmarker, led the walk, while Bob and Annie Haycock were our wildlife guides.

Castlemartin choughs by Annie Haycock

Castlemartin choughs by Annie Haycock

Bob and Annie were soon turning up rare plants, including goldilocks aster, while the golden samphire was still showing well. The colder weather resulted in low insect activity; whilst several species of bumblebee were found the shrill carder bee refused to put in an appearance, and the strand beetle was as elusive as usual. On the path we came across live ammunition and dead rodents – a common shrew and later a pygmy shrew. On a more optimistic note two baby seals were spotted on Hobby Horse Bay.

On the birding front there was a flock of around 20 choughs feeding amongst the anthills, and seeking shelter in rock crevices when rain threatened. A young sparrow hawk perched obligingly close to the path for several minutes. Several species of shore wader were noted, including small flocks of sanderlings and ringed plovers. A Mediterranean gull was also a nice find in Bluckspool Bay. The birding highlight was unanimously agreed to be an osprey moving southwards, being harried by a sparrowhawk and a kestrel over the cliff edge.

Castlemartin cows by Annie Haycock

Castlemartin cows by Annie Haycock

For some considerable distance we were joined by a herd of around 20 Friesian steers that dutifully followed in single line at our rear, joined in with a look over the cliffs at the seals, and stopped for lunch with us at Linney Head, before eventually finding something else to do.

With the rain holding off we could move at a very leisurely pace and reached the cars at around 4.30. Just as I returned the keys to the Guardroom at Merrion Camp the serious rain started.

Everyone agreed it had been a very interesting day, thanks to Bob and Annie’s knowledge and enthusiasm. We all look forward to the opportunity of walking the range again next year in the early summer.