West Wales has a most fantastic selection of Sea and Coastal birds. Some are resident on estuaries and shores or visit in the winter after breeding in territories to the north. Waterfowl and Waders make up a large proportion of the seabirds but there are also the fascinating species which prefer an offshore existence for much of the year – known as the pelagic birds. Read more about them on our page about Birds to see on the offshore islands of West Wales.
When to see pelagic birds
A number of Manx Shearwater, Fulmar, Storm Petrel, Gannet and Kittiwake breed here in summer; some of these hang around our coasts all year and others are often seen in spring and autumn as passage migrants. Flocks of low-flying black ducks – the Common Scoter can be seen offshore throughout the year. Several varieties of Tern and Skua, other types of Shearwater and Petrel can be spotted at sea during spring and autumn as they travel to and from their nesting sites further north and their wintering grounds to the south.
When to see wading birds
Many of the wading birds are dinky things about the size of a thrush or blackbird, with Sanderling and Dunlin being amongst the smallest. The best time to see them is in winter, but Oystercatcher, Common Sandpiper, Lapwing and Redshank are around all year. Many species of duck also tend to arrive in the winter and so your out-of-season holiday can be especially interesting when visiting particular habitats such as the Dyfi, Teifi, Tâf and Loughor Estuaries. Whilst not strictly a sea bird, the small, speckled Rock Pipit is a common sight in the ‘splash zone’ around coasts.
The Offshore Islands
The Pembrokeshire coast is famous for its offshore islands and many visitors are drawn here in summer for a chance to view the drama of the huge colonies of pelagic birds which congregate on the rocky cliffs to breed after spending the winter out on the ocean. Most famous amongst these are the Puffins on Skomer Island with their brightly striped beaks and comical behaviour. Mid-June to mid-July is usually the best time to see them.
If you’re the seafaring type, then it’s worth taking the boat trip to Grassholm to see a huge colony of Gannets; graceful in flight, they suddenly fold their wings back tight against their bodies and dive like missiles into the sea, reportedly reaching speeds of around 70mph.
Guillemot and Razorbill, Kittiwake and Fulmar all nest on precarious cliff faces. Manx Shearwaters are secretive; in order to avoid being picked off by the gulls, they return to their Skomer burrows at night but can be seen at sea during the day.
Islands and mainland cliffs and stacks
Guillemots and Razorbills, Kittiwakes and Fulmars all nest on precarious cliff faces. They also nest around the coast of Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion so you can often see them on a walk around Dinas Island, around the cliffs of Castle Martin Peninsula – Elegug Stacks in particular. Further north, you might spot them during a kayak adventure with Mike Mayberry Kayaking, or on a boat trip with A Bay to Remember or New Quay Boat Trips.
Boat trips to the islands of Ramsey (off the St Davids Peninsula) Skomer, Skokholm and Grassholm (off the Dale Peninsula) are available from the end of spring to late October when weather conditions are suitable. More detail about these and about seabirds on our page about Birds to see on the offshore islands of West Wales.
Staying in West Wales
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