Before this amazing summer becomes a distant memory, here is a short walk along the Wales Coastal Path, in Pembrokeshire, at a spot where I have always managed to find an otherwise rare bird – the chough. They really are unmistakable, this member of the crow family, the red bill and legs standing out against their glossy blackness, and especially now against the pale background of a gloriously dry and sunny clifftop, for once matching the idyllic cover of my Birds of Pembrokeshire book. This is a seriously detailed survey of species, numbers and locations, not exactly bedtime reading but certainly a bargain at £1 from the secondhand book room at the National Botanic Gardens of Wales in nearby Carmarthenshire.
My late uncle, a botanist and naturalist, first brought me to Lydstep, this National Trust headland not far from the ubiquitous caravan sites and holiday parks of this popular part of the Welsh coast.
After a short walk through wind stunted woods we burst out into the open and are immediately distracted, in spite of the stunning views, by bees, butterflies, summer flowers and lichen.
It is mainly frequented by dog walkers, and occasional abseilers, but on this day seems more like a Mediterranean island, with other islands in view (in fact Caldey Island, Tenby daytrippers destination but also still home to a few monks).
Upended vertical bedding planes of the precipitous cliffs hint at past tumultuous geological events and it is not long before we glimpse choughs diving down. There are only a few, three or four today at most, but easy to spot, also, feeding on patches of the short-cropped grass of the cliff tops, or stalking around on the ground in characteristically corvid fashion, when not performing aerial manoeuvres to outdo human Red Devils. This is absolutely their habitat and they are doing OK, though there are only a few parts of the UK where they are now found. Known in the past as the Cornish chough they have only recently returned to breed there, previously confined to these Western shores and islands of Wales and Scotland, as well as Ireland.