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 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 make my way to Port Eynon Point, which protrudes out into the Bristol Channel further than any other on Gower. 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 vantage point, and I’m at once watching Manx shearwaters in groups of 20 or more moving steadily up-channel. Hundreds of gannets dive in the turbulent 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 parts of sea beyond my reach, turning up great skuas, a Balearic shearwater, and several storm petrels, the latter far too small for me to see with binoculars. In the two hours I stayed, the 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 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.