Now, if you're a birder, early August isn't usually the bestest time to visit Pembrokeshire. (Norfolk is much better in August, Mrs JJ take note). The islands are quiet because most of the seabirds have finished nesting, wader passage hasn't really kicked off and it's usually just a little bit too soon to expect some nice rarities. The height of our birding ambition every year is to get the Fishguard Harbour Black Guillemots onto Gethin's life list. And so it was again this year. But of course, they also naff off in early August too so we've dipped on them every year.
But, our 2011 holiday was to prove much more fruitful . . . .
We set off for St Davids on the 9th. Unbeknown to the Twitchmeister, before leaving the house I'd clocked that there was a Melodious Warbler lurking down at Martin's Haven. Like any self-respecting birding father, I didn't tell him. On arriving at Havefordwest, I pulled over and checked my phone - the harmonious Hippo was still showing - I still didn't breathe a word. Two minutes before we arrived at the National Trust car park in Martin's Haven I told him to get hold of his Collins and familiarise himself with Melodious Warbler. "Why?" he said "Cos you're going to be looking at one within the next few minutes" I said. Cue: pandamonium.
This holiday was already proving better than any of our other Pembrokeshire family holidays . . . and it hadn't even started yet.
We arrived at St Davids in a cold, stiff south westerly wind. Mrs JJ wasn't happy. But, Geth and I were. Strumble Head here we come!
7.30 the following morning (I know, I know, we should have been there at least an hour earlier but it was the first full day of our holiday and Mrs JJ didn't want to be woken up too early . . . so we compromised) we were sitting on our deckchairs on Strumble. Cue usual opening question: "Anything showing, boys?" Reply: "Nope, very quiet". Trying to hide my disappointment "Oh, what a shame".
Now, anybody who's ever been seawatching in Glamorgan will be familiar with 'quiet days', and a 'quiet seawatching day' in Glamorgan isn't the same as a 'quiet seawatching day' on Strumble. There were thousands of birds out there! Dozens of Kittiwakes streamed past, as did scores of Manx Shearwaters, auks, gulls and Gannets galore. And then best of all three Bonxies close in and two Sooty Shearwaters further out. Two more lifers for the Twitchmeister (#248 & #249) and a Wales tick for me (the Sooties).
"Wot no Balearics?" The Twitchmeister enjoying a "quiet day" on Strumble.
We left north Pembs the following Saturday (having enjoyed every night the spectacle of thousands Manxies flying past St Davids Head on the way back to their burrows) and headed off to our second destination - Saundersfoot. Here, the quality of birding dropped to the usual Jenkins-Jones family holiday standard. Although Geth, on one of his early morning forays into a nearby wood (I'd stayed in bed), found a Marsh Tit. He tried gripping me off again but it didn't work this time.
In birding terms the holiday may have started with a bang and ended in a whimper but I'm not complaining. I'll be happy to compromise and return to Pembrokeshire again in 2012.
And in case you'r wondering . . . yes, we dipped on the Black Guillemots at Fishguard again.