Review of the July local group nature walk at RSPB South Stack Reserve , Anglesey

Saturday, 1 July 2023

A nature walk around the RSPB’s South Stack Reserve, Anglesey

A walk around this impressive and bustling reserve can mean only one thing and that is sea birds and lots of them, including their noise and smell!

However, before the main event of the day was underway, a coffee stop in the new café was irresistible. Sufficiently fortified, the party was down to the business of birdwatching.

There is always something to be seen at the westerly sited South Stack, whatever time of year ones goes there. A visit in spring and summer has a drama, as a result of the birds’ breeding cycles. The height of the cliffs is particularly awesome and the stratified ledges of the local carboniferous limestone are utilised as safe breeding platforms. Of course, the isolated rocky outcrops and (limited) green areas are also occupied.

Surrounding the reserve are parcels of heathland, in spring, squill abounds; however, in August and September they are at their best when the heather and gorse are uniformly in bloom.

Butterflies are also plentiful, but it is for the birds that most people go there and our small party of seven was no exception.

Usually, the odd Puffin can be seen sitting on the sea below Ellin’s Tower but not on this occasion. Much better views were had, as is the norm, by descending the steps to the lighthouse. With good luck, birders can often see Puffins amongst the boulders, where they nest, on the steeply inclined buttress slopes. And the party did. Altogether, eleven individual Puffins were recorded, the highest number sighted by any member of the group. Clearly it was the party’s lucky Puffin day.

Razorbill were easily sighted along with a few thousand pairs of guillemot. Fulmar Petrel, Cormorant and all the usual species of Gull were sighted. Returning to the café, the near vertical grassland held Stonechat and Meadow Pipit, and a small charm of Goldfinches.

Lunch at a picnic bench was a rather wind-blown affair with feral pigeons the uninvited guests!

After lunch, a circular walk around the heathland, towards the bottom car park, revealed a small number of Chough and a lone Skylark.

On arriving back at the Visitor Centre during mid-afternoon, the party disbanded, going their separate ways. Altogether, nineteen species of birds were spotted, all the usual ones for South Stack. However, the numerous Puffins sighted were the undoubted stars, making the day very memorable.

Last word:

Nature is rude, and incomprehensible at first; be not discouraged, keep on, there are divine things well develop’d, I swear to you there are divine things more beautiful than words can tell.

Walt Whitman (1819-1892), American poet, essayist and journalist