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So this story begins, as you would not expect, at the end. The end to which I am referring is that of my degree and my education in general, as in early July I graduated alongside my peers with a 2:1 BA (Hons) in Photography. It has been a long and tiring journey, but one that has taught me valuable life experience and not only helped me develop a style, but also guided me in the direction of the career I am now working towards.
To celebrate this achievement, my fellow photographic graduate, Daniel McNeil and I decided to take a 'Wildlife Roadtrip' to the beautiful Pembrokeshire coast.
One of the great things that is instantly noticeable with this part of the Welsh coast is the richness of wildlife. Song birds are in great abundance, making this not only a beautiful landscape to see, but also to hear. The smell of the sea, the feel of the sea breeze, the sight of the green rolling hills and stronghold cliffs and the sound of the birds. Every sense comes to life in such a natural part of the country.
One of my favourite passerine birds is possibly an unusual choice as some may consider it a pest, a scavenger and in general, quite plain. But I can't help getting excited in photographing the handsome jackdaw every time I get the chance. I look for character when photographing wildlife and the jackdaw just seems to be full of it. It is one of the smartest birds I've seen and combined with its smart jet-black body, greyish head and piercing blue eyes - it makes the perfect subject matter and is a wonder to watch.
It was an incredible way for myself and Dan to finish off three long years of Uni and we were lucky enough to not only see some amazing wildlife, but also to meet great new friends. We had the fantastic chance to meet up with one of our university lecturers, who over the years has become not only a mentor but a good friend too. It was a great chance to catch up, but also to learn some inside knowledge about great birding spots that he had found along the Pembrokeshire coast! The very next day we followed his directions towards St David's in search of our first sighting of fulmars. The location, which is situated on the cliffs below St Non's Chapel in St David's, is an incredible place to see fulmars; not only nesting on the cliffs below you, but also flying in close proximity.
Of course the main reason we visited Pembrokeshire - and I suspect from the tourist memorabilia that the main reason a large percentage of people visit Pembrokeshire - was to visit the fantastic Skomer Island and the charismatic puffins! The weather had held up a lot better than suspected - too well in fact. Wildlife photographers are a strange lot when it comes to weather, as overcast skies are preferable and clear skies and strong sun are the bane of our lives. Especially when photographing a black and white bird, strong sunshine is not ideal photographically speaking. The excitement was still high between us and after nearly missing the boat we were off across the sea to the island. We knew straight away when we reached the island that something was different from when we visited last year. We were a week or so earlier this year, so we knew there was a strong possibility we'd miss the favoured 'sand eels in the beak' shot - but we hadn't prepared for what we found. The island, still as beautiful as ever, was overrun by what seemed like an increased gull population with the odd song bird singing it's little heart out. But when we reached the Wick - the best place for spotting puffins - we couldn't help being disappointed. Last year the Wick held thousands of these colourful birds running around and flying in with food for their chicks. This year however, we discovered that the puffins were two weeks later than usual and were either still sitting on the nest or out at sea. This meant the grand total of puffins we saw on the ground was just three. This aside, it was an amazing day to wander the island and eventually we found a great spot to get close to razorbill and guillemot on the cliffs and even get close to puffins in the water.