Pembrokeshire Bird Report 1985


This is the fifth Pembrokeshire Bird Report in the present series. It differs from previous versions inasmuch as it has modestly expanded beyond being a simple systematic list. It is hoped that future editions will continue to develop so that the Report becomes both a reference document and a means of keeping readers appraised of ornithological developments within the Pembrokeshire boundaries.

Field activities in 1985 included a week long survey of Ramsey Island and an overnight landing on North Bishop Rock. Relevant details have been incorporated within the systematic list.

A meeting of the POCOR held in Feb 1986 agreed that descriptions of the following species would no longer be subject to the WRAG vetting procedure: White Stork, Gull ,Little Auk ,Wryneck Golden Oriole, Blue-headed Wagtail, Cetti’s Warbler, Reed Warbler and Lapland Bunting.  All other species on the WRAG list would still require the usual  positive vetting before being accepted into the Pembs listings. with the Pembs Breeding Birds Survey research continues towards the production of a new Pembs avifauna. It is hoped to complete this work ready for publication in 1990. It would greatly assist the thoroughness of this task if observers do forward any previously unsubmitted records ,ringing recovery or any reprints of relevant published material.

On the evening of the 16 June, the 1100 ton tanker M.V.Bridgeness ran aground on the Barrels. About 190 T of oil leaked into the sea and over 2,000 birds were known to have become contaminated. 631 dead birds were collected, the main victims being 291 Puffins, 189 Guillemots and 103 Razorbills. Most if not all, were adults and consequently chicks at nearby colonies were known to have died from starvation having thus been deprived of one or more of their parents.

A review of Scandinavian Lesser Black-backed Gull records suggests that erstwhile claims for L.f.fuscus may well relate to L.f.intermedius. Greater awareness of the differences should permit more accurate recognition over the next few years and hopefully establish a pattern of occurrence against which previous records may be put into perspective.

Graham Rees


Three meetings were convened in 1985 and support arranged for the following:


  • Heron Census
  • Winter waders on rocky shores
  • Winter cormorants
  • Estuaries Enquiry

Seabird Group:

  • Operation Seafarer 2 (year 1)


  • Breeding Birds of Pembs. Survey (year 2)
  • Annual Peregrine monitoring

An additional meeting of the Cleddau Estuary Counters was held in March

The 2nd Pembs Bird-Watchers Conference was held at Orielton Field Centre on 23 November, jointly sponsored by the WWTNC and the BTO, and organised by A and S.J. Sutcliffe. 120 people listened to a varied programme consisting of nine talks.

Members of POCOR: 1985

Chairman – J.W.Donovan

Vice Chairman – S.J.Sutcliffe

Secretary – G.H.Rees


  • J Bird
  • K.J.S.Devonald
  • A.P.R.East
  • T.Gover
  • T.Hallett
  • A.J.Hansen
  • R.Harper
  • R.J.Haycock
  • G.C.Lambourne
  • D.Little
  • K.Longstaff
  • A.Sutcliffe
  • W.Williams

The POCOR would like to thank all the observers who contributed to the surveys and the Trust Office staff for their continued support.

Graham Rees


I am sure that the 2nd Pembrokeshire Birdwatchers’ Conference held at Orielton on 23 Nov, 1985 qualifies as a 1985 highlight-a splendid range of topics was covered by speakers with very styles. The content was excellent with something for everybody. Maintaining such standards in future years will be difficult!

We think of divers as coastal birds – a winter visitor to harbour or headland — imagine the delight of farmer Neville Pugh when he identified (and photographed) a Red-throated Diver on his irrigation reservoir at Hayston Hall. Irrigation reservoirs make a significant contribution to Pembrokeshire’s natural history, so if you know of one in your “territory” keep an eye on it if permissible.

Slavonian Grebes tarry ever later and the sight of one in impressive summer plumage at the Gann in early April was a delight – oh that ruby eye!

Shearwater watchers go from strength to strength in their identification skills – beware though the problems of separating ‘Balearic’ from “Levantine”, convincing detail must be recorded.

Bitterns continue to visit us in winter – Heron numbers appear to be down a little — this species is a hard weather reactant.

Impressive numbers of Bewick’s Swans in the St David’s area – 32 is a goodly count. Five species of wild geese is worthy of note and the feeding exodus from Skomer of the Barnacles gave many really splendid views at and near Marloes Mere; this WWTNC reserve now seemingly very well favoured by wintering fowl – the pools scrapes, weir repairs and the farmer’s reservoir extentions have given us a fine wetland location which can be reasonably well ‘scoped from the National Trust car park.

120 Canada Geese in December on the Cleddau Estuary is a record number.

Turning to birds of prey, surely the June harrier is significant – vigilant observation essential in likely breeding areas in the coming years. Red Kite and Hobby continue to feature increasingly, but are Merlin records decreasing? This would certainly tie up with the trend in British breeding populations.

Of waders , the Skokholm Temminck ‘s Stint , the same island’s Pectoral Sandpipers and the Buff—breasted Sandpipers of Elate Airfield during September are such as to make one look forward to autumn viewing and visits to these rewarding locations. Just think though of the many suitable sites unvisited and the likely presence of less usual species.

1985 has been a good gull year! Our first authenticated Ring-billed Gull (Llanstadwell in February) and Sabine’s, Little, Glaucous and “Meds”. Beware (or aware) ,was your so very dark-mantled Lesser Black-back really fuscus fuscus? — certainly not fuscus graelsi, but what of fuscus intermedius? “Gen up”, go forth a birding but be cautious!

Auks undeniably suffered from spillage from M.V.Bridgeness, let’s hope the population is capable of recovery — one would think it is.

It was interesting to see the winter Song Thrushes able to cope with the hard weather, lack of snow cover enabled the birds to find snails. There were well used “anvils” everywhere. Some birds met their fate in roadside verges, unable always to avoid the traffic ;they fared rather better than other thrushes.

If you are “into” small brown birds then what of Skomer Island 1985? Icterine, Melodious, SubaIpine, Barred and Lesser Whitethroat – book your island accommodation I would suggest. The latter species seems to be more often recorded than previously the strident call is quite unmistakable once heard.  Yellow-browed Warblers are a feature of the year; search the coastal sheltered valleys and tree clumps in September and October and we may record more of them.

A pilgrimage to St Davids in late May undeniably will bring ecclesiastical rewards — secular matters of an ornithological flavour can also be rewarding though for this seems to be a favourite time and location for Golden Oriole!

For me though the best bird of 1985 was the singleton albino Gannet with yellow bill and cream white unblemished plumage which flew closely past Strumble lookout on 15 Sept — many saw this lone mystic “Marie Celeste” of the sea bird world.

P.S. Enough of highlights there’s work to do – the Atlas project needs more input – please help in 1986 & 1987

Jack Donovan

The full Bird Report for 1985 is available here

Other Pembrokeshire Bird Reports


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