Caldey Island isn’t the first place you’d think about when looking for nature-watching sites in Pembrokeshire, but it does have some advantages over the other islands.
First, it is easy to get to, with boats every half hour or so from Tenby Harbour, starting around 10am, every day except Sunday.
Second, if you are not good with climbing steps or walking on uneven footpaths, you don’t have to that here. There is a solid road from the landing to the village (with the Monastery in the top photo), and on up to the lighthouse (below).
Third – the birds. From the lighthouse, there is a mown path a short way to the east, and a long way to the west. From this you can see herring and lesser black-backed gulls, fulmars, razorbills, shags, cormorants, and choughs and peregrines.
Today, we were there to check on the chough nest sites. We found one at the eastern end – with the birds obligingly flying to the crevice to show us where it was, and then coming out with a faecal sac thus proving that they had chicks inside (the faeces are contained in a membranous sac that the adult bird can carry out of the nest and drop some distance away, thus keep the nest clean).
There were nine other birds feeding and flying lazily around not far from the light-house. Choughs don’t breed until they are two or three years old, so this would be a gang of ‘teenagers’ hanging around and often getting escorted off an occupied territory by the resident pair.
Fourth – the flowers along the coast were spectacular. Thrift Ameria maritima and Kidney vetch Anthyllis vulneraria were in full bloom (above). Then there were patches of sea campion Silene maritima and spring squill Scilla verna.
I looked for small blue butterflies on the kidney vetch, but none were flying today – and this side of the island may be a bit too exposed for them. I looked for 24-spot ladybirds on the sea campion, again without success, though there were plenty of seven-spot ladybirds scattered about. No gorse bugs on the gorse, either. But there was a green nettle weevil on one of the patches of nettles.
The path used to end here, at Windberry Bay, where you can admire the spectacular red sandstone cliffs. A mown path takes you back to the village, for tea and cake in the cafe.
Or you can follow the path further west to Sandtop Bay. We ate our sandwiches overlooking this bay, counted the gulls on the far side, and just as we were about to leave, a chough flew across to his nest site on the far end. This was a male taking food back to his mate who was probably still sitting on eggs or very small chicks.
Again, an easy track takes you back to the village, where you visit the cafe and shops, and join the hard track back to the boat.