Saturday, 8 April 2017

Spring Time at Wembury and Rame Head

A gorgeous spring day on Wednesday 5th April and it was off to Wembury on the bus for a much needed wildlife walk after a very busy shift at work the previous day. I was hoping for a few migrants but other than singing chiffchaffs and blackcaps, 3 swallows flying in off the sea and heading inland and a lone whimbrel feeding on the rocks there was nothing else of note.

Butterflies were much more noticeable especially when compared to this time last year, there were good numbers of peacock and speckled wood along with 2 male orange tip, 2 holly blue and 2 green veined white.

 Speckled Wood, Wembury

 Peacock, Wembury

 Green Veined White, Wembury

Male Orange Tip, Wembury

Drinker Moth Caterpillar

A pair of shelduck and 4 male mallards were feeding the beach and a male sparrowhawk was displaying overhead. Cirl buntings were very elusive this time with just a brief view of a skulky male and birds heard calling and singing but not seen. There was no sign of the Dartford warbler either but I saw it on my last visit in an area that is very overgrown and difficult to view from the paths.

Friday 7th April and an even more gorgeous spring day and so I decided to head to Rame Head for a look around. I don't know why I don't visit Rame more often, it is only 65 pence more for the return bus ticket than it is for Wembury and the journey time is only 30 minutes longer (the service is also hourly, unlike Wembury). Another plus is the stunning view from the top deck of the bus as it travels along Whitsand Bay.

As I got off the bus at Whitsand Bay I immediately picked up 2 swallows flying overhead with a chiffchaff and a blackcap heard singing in the hedgerow nearby. A scan from the clifftop across the flat calm water revealed 2 distant auk species sat on the sea, a lone gannet flying around and 3 great northern divers snorkelling and diving quite close in to the beach. I also had the usual blink and you miss it views of 2 harbour porpoise moving west off Rame Head.

Walking to the chapel at Rame Head via the clifftop footpath and I saw a sand martin fly in off the sea along with more swallows (another 7 in total) and more chiffchaffs and blackcaps were heard singing. A male yellowhammer showed well, busily singing away but a little wary at times, and I eventually saw and heard at least another 3 males on the walk. From the Chapel I had some good views of a fulmar, a peregrine, a male kestrel, a pair of raven, stonechats, 5 skylarks flying over and linnets. A lone harbour porpoise was moving west offshore and 7 female fallow deer were running through the gorse bushes on the cliff edge.

 Male Yellowhammer, Rame Head

Stonechat, Rame Head

Fallow Deer, Rame Head

A very orange looking and skittish butterfly eventually settled long enough for me to confirm the ID of wall brown, my first of the year and a very handsome butterfly. I also saw a holly blue, a peacock and numerous speckled wood.

 Wall Brown, Rame Head

Wall Brown, Rame Head

Heading back to Whitsand Bay and the bus stop for the bus back to Plymouth and I had another scan across the Bay from the clifftops but there was no sign of the divers. 2 Sandwich tern were diving for fish close to shore while a large splash offshore gave away the position of a pod of at least 7 bottle nose dolphins feeding in the Bay before heading west past Rame Head. They were quite unobtrusive as they presumably hunted for fish and showed only briefly at the surface, with their position being given away by the attentions of herring gulls and the odd passing gannet above them. A fox sunning itself on the clifftop to the consternation of a nearby male pheasent was another surprise, my first of the year.

And so two excellent walks along the coast in glorious weather and close to home - and I must remember to go to Rame Head more often.

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