Birdwatching at Marloes Mere
Marloes Mere is a great place for birdwatching. It’s an especially good place to see waterfowl and birds of prey in the winter months. Walk down the lane from the Marloes Sands car park and stop often to look across the wetland. There are two hides overlooking the mere, where you can sit quietly and wait for things to happen.
In spring it’s alive with bird song, with whitethroats and sedge warblers singing in the hedgerows. It can seem quiet in summer – a sea of soft-rush with little more than a moorhen or mallard lurking at the water’s edge. But linger a while in one of the hides and birds do reveal themselves: a reed bunting singing from a willow bush, a dabchick on the irrigation pond, or perhaps a Marsh harrier sending teal springing from the ditches.
This spectacular bird of prey can turn up at any time but especially on spring and autumn migration. Two or three may be present, hunting over the Mere for birds and amphibians.
Teal, our smallest duck, hide in the dense wetland vegetation. But they can be flushed out by a Peregrine falcon or Marsh harrier overhead.
Snipe feed at the wet edges of the marsh and can be hard to spot. Cold weather forces them out into the open. When disturbed, they zigzag wildly away with a sharp 'ketch' call.
Did you know?
- Marloes Mere was once famous for its medicinal leeches
- They were exported to London for surgical use such as cleaning wounds
- They seem to have died out at Marloes over 100 years ago
- This was probably when cattle stopped grazing the marsh
- The cattle are back now, helping to graze for conservation management
- So far, there's no sign of leeches reappearing
- Bill Oddie looked for them a few years ago, but didn't find any
Gannets breed on Grassholm, which you can see on the horizon. In spring and summer the island glows white. You can see them offshore anywhere around the Marloes Peninsula.
Some 6,000 pairs of puffin nest on Skomer. It's possible to see them on the water in Jack Sound, together with razorbills and guillemots. Binoculars are essential, a telescope useful.
Large flocks of chough are being seen in winter on the Marloes Peninsula. As well as their normal insect diet they eat grain from among the stubbles on Trehill Farm. So look for them as you walk the coast path.
Since 2003, Marloes has seen a daring and imaginative project to re-create coastal habitats and put back a historic field pattern that had been lost to intensification. Led by the Countryside Council for Wales and the farmer, the work gained fame for its ambitious scale.
Heathland requires poor acid soils, and the coastal fields had long since been improved for agriculture by the addition of lime to the topsoil. The challenge was to reverse the process.
The top soil was stripped to re-form the lost hedgebanks, and the soil was acidified with an application of waste sulphur from the Texaco Oil Refinery (now Valero) at Pembroke. Seed-rich heather brash was spread here and there, and as the sulphur worked its way down through the soil profile in the following years, the heath was able to recover.
An exciting new addition to Marloes's birdlife are Dartford warblers, which you can find on the deer park in areas of dense gorse and heather.
Stonechats are resident all year round, and like Dartford warblers are vulnerable to hard winters. Listen out for their noisy 'squeak chack chack' calls from gorse bushes.
Whitethroats are common in spring and summer. Watch as they hurl themselves in the air for their noisy song flight. In winter they head for sub-Saharan Africa.