Wheatear – 1994

Oenanthe oenanthe – TINWEN Y GARN – Breeding summer visitor and passage migrant. Not recorded in February and December

Breeding confirmed42
Breeding probable19
Breeding possible24
No of tetrads occupied85 (of 478)
Percentage of tetrads17.8%

Mathew (1894) and Lockley et al. (1949) regarded the Wheatear as a common breeder on the islands, along the coast and in the mountains. They still breed on the offshore islands, around the outer coast and, most frequently, on the Preseli Mountains (see map). The Skomer and Skokholm numbers were known during the survey period, so adding an average of two pairs per tetrad along the mainland coast and an average density of eight pairs per tetrad for the Preseli area, the county population can be estimated to have been about 400 pairs.

The first Wheatears have been recorded from 4 March onwards, but most appear after the middle of the month. Passage migrants are widespread in coastal areas, with some penetrating a little inland and along the river valleys. They usually appear not to take up station on their inland breeding grounds until about mid-April, though they have been noted at some localities earlier than this. Numbers are generally small, usually up to 20 at each locality, but there was an exceptional 1,500 at Skokholm on 28 April 1938 (Betts 1992). Passage usually ceases by late April, when larger, richer-coloured Wheatears appear. These are usually ascribed to the Greenland race but undoubtedly include Icelandic birds; one ringed at Skokholm in April 1946 was recovered breeding in south­-east Iceland in May 1948. These larger birds continue to pass through until the end of June.

Many Wheatears pass through Pembrokeshire in the autumn, from about mid-August to the end of October, with stragglers until 15 November.  They appear to be generally less numerous in the autumn than in spring, but are more susceptible to large localised falls, such as a group of about 300 birds at the Smalls on 19 September 1982. The larger Greenland- type Wheatears are detectable among the autumn migrants but are less obvious than when in spring plumage. Wheatears have been recorded at the lanterns of the South Bishop and the Smalls lighthouses on several occasions.

An unusual record was of a Wheatear at Templeton airfield on 7 January 1989, though it could not be found on subsequent visits.

Donovan J.W. & Rees G.H, 1994, Birds of Pembrokeshire

BETTS, M. 1992. Birds of Skokholm. Cardiff, Bioline.

More about the Wheatear in Pembrokeshire