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Spring wildflowers, puffins and ponies

Read Conservation Officer Julie Garlick's guide to the wonderful wildlife she’s spotted around the Pembrokeshire Coast in June.

May and June are probably many people’s favourite months of the countryside calendar. There’s so much happening, but there’s still the promise of so much more to come. The landscape is now bountiful and full of colour and it’s a joy to be out amongst it.

Wildflowers at Strumble Head.
Wildflowers at Strumble Head.

Something not to be missed is the early summer display of coastal flowers – it’s really at its best at this time of year. There’s the pink thrift, blue spring squill, yellow kidney vetch and white ox-eye daisies, as well as a host of other plants that make this such a diverse habitat, and one for which Pembrokeshire is of international importance.

On the island’s very fringes, along the cliff tops, there are also impressive carpets of white sea campion and pink thrift.
The carpet of flowers on Skomer Island.

I visited Skomer last week, where the swathes of flowers are on a different scale. The whole island is one big colour wash of bluebells and red campion at the moment – just flowers as far as the eye can see. As well as the amazing sight of all them all, their heady scent fills the air.

The carpet of flowers on Skomer Island.
On the island’s very fringes, along the cliff tops, there are also impressive carpets of white sea campion and pink thrift.

Here you can also get really close to puffins, busy going back and for to their burrows to feed chicks called pufflings! Rafts of puffins also surround the island, so you can usually see lots of them before you’ve even landed.

Puffin on Skomer Island.
Puffin on Skomer Island.

The sound (and smell) of thousands of seabirds on the cliffs - kittiwakes, guillemots, razorbills – is also a memory to take away with you. It really is worth the effort to enjoy the Skomer experience.

Initial impressions would be that the flora of Skomer is completely wild and natural, but were it not for the rabbits which were introduced many centuries ago; it would look quite a different place.

Small fenced off areas where rabbits are excluded are filled with tall, dense vegetation – often large old heather clumps, thick grass and bramble.

This is also true for the coastal slopes of the mainland, where grazing by cattle, ponies, sheep and rabbits helps to keep the vegetation more open – a patchwork of short grassland, tall plants and gorse scrub which is so attractive to wildlife.

Welsh mountain ponies amongst spring squill flowers at Cemaes Head.
Welsh mountain ponies amongst spring squill flowers at Cemaes Head.

The National Park encourages farmers and landowners along the coast to manage the cliff-tops in this way. Most of the coastline is privately owned and would have been farmed in the past - long before the arrival of tourism. Today, traditional farming practices and tourism can go hand in hand; the grazing animals help to produce the flower-filled landscape that people travel miles to see.

Did you know it’s Wales Nature Week (2-10 June)?

For information about the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park’s wonderful wildlife and about how you can www.pembrokeshirecoast.wales/wildlife.

You can also discover more by joining in a National Park event, for details visit www.pembrokeshirecoast.wales/events or pick up a copy of Coast to Coast.


National Park Nature Diary
Published 08/06/2018



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