Pembrokeshire Bird Report 1988


Balearic Shearwater has been entered separately from Manx Shearwater in this report. This step has been taken partly for ease of reference but also because Balearic is likely to be accredited with specific status in the not too distant future, albeit under a new vernacular name.

Wildfowl and wader numbers were generally lower in 1988 than in recent years, reflecting the mildness of the winter periods. These same mild periods resulted in increased survival of many small birds, so breeding stocks were high. This was particularly welcome in the case of Stonechat whose numbers had been depleted during the previous colder Winters.

Production of a new county avifauna has progressed to the final draft stage for about half the species on the Pembrokeshire list, but a lot of work remains to be done if the 1990 deadline is to be achieved.

On the night of 3 December 198B the tanker “EI Omar”, berthed at the Texaco Jetty, accidently discharged about 1000 tons of oil into the Cleddau Estuary. Oil spread throughout the estuary, stretching as far upstream as the Daugleddau and, somewhat surprisingly, badly contaminating the Carew/Cresswell pills.  A total of 341 birds of 18 species were noted to be oiled on a special survey conducted on 11th December. These included 51 Shelducks, 59 Dunlins and 111 Black-headed Gulls. Few birds were found dead but how many succumbed later is anybody’s guess. How long it will take for the estuary to rid itself of the effects of the oil spill is also an unknown. The estuary has been subject to many minor spills in the past but nothing on as major a scale as this before. Other worrying features are that the spill took so long to notice. that there were unwarranted delays in notifying interested parties and that the emergency measures taken were largely ineffective. Let us hope that subsequent consultations have made better arrangements to deal with any future emergencies.

The newly launched Welsh Ornithological Society published its first annual report in 1988. The report bridged the gap between the demise of the Old series of Welsh Bird Reports published in “Nature in Wales” by the Dyfed Wildlife Trust, and the present day. We understand that future reports will not only contain the annual systematic list, but also include features and papers of Wales-wide interest.  We are delighted that the Dyfed Wildlife Trust was among the first of the regional Societies to become affiliated to WOS and the Pembrokeshire birdwatchers have supported the venture in such good numbers.

Finally, thanks to you all for your contribution of records from which this Pembrokeshire report has been compiled.

Thank you also for cooperating with the two tier adjudication system for bird records, Pembrokeshire can hold its head high on its standard of bird recording.

J.W.Donovan and G.H.Rees


Two meetings of POCOR were convened during 1988 and support arranged for:


  • National Atlas (first year)
  • Heronry Census
  • Birds of the Estuary counts


  • Breeding Birds of Pembrokeshire (Final year)
  • Annual Peregrine monitoring

The 5th Pembrokeshire Bird-Watchers Conference was hosted by the Texaco Oil Company in November. A wide-ranging programme was jointly organised by the DWT and the BTO.

Members of POCOR: 1988

Chairman – J.W.Donovan

Vice Chairman – K.J.S.Devonald

Secretary – G.H.Rees


  • J Bird
  • A.P.R.East
  • T.Gover
  • A.J.Hansen
  • R.J.Haycock
  • J.Hayes
  • M.D.Higgins
  • D.Little
  • K.Longstaff
  • M.A.Petterson
  • A.Poole
  • J.Potter

The POCOR wishes to thank the staff of the Dyfed Wildlife Trust for their support during the year. Thank you all the observers who gave their support to the surveys and who contributed records, from which this bird report has been complied.

Graham Rees


It is not difficult to identify the brightest of this year’s highlights, the finding of a male Moussier’s Redstart at Dinas Head on the 24 April by the indefatigable Graham Walker and his party of birders — I am sure that even most cherished ornithological hopes were exceeded by this “first for Britain” .

GHR an hearing the news strived to locate it in the gathering gloom of dusk and PH and JWD (plus dog-in-law) failed the next morning! The resident Stonechats (similar) were not too pleased with its presence — it departed to we regretfully know not where. Problem is I suppose that this North African species (Atlas Mountains) is normally sedentary except for a degree of vertical migration so is it a genuinely wild occurrence (lately I note another European record occurred in 1988 — an adult male, at Methanic. Greece, on 30 March).

Looking at the records in a more systematic order brings one back to our first Great White Egret at a St. David’s irrigation reservoir in April — a vigilant observation and careful note taking led to this acceptance.

Our Spoonbills achieved national fame — many birders came to see them — a diligent lady noted the first Juvenile on September as fed in the streamlet running into the western end of Angle Bay. The bird that joined it on 12 October, of similar age, was ringed and the visible characters on the large rings led us to the knowledge that it was ringed as a nestling in Holland on 11 June.

I must say that our first Bulwer’s Petrel off Strumble Head, 13 September, is a real “crippler” – would that I was there!  GHR et al again! – and a Cory’s and Great Shearwaters and many Sooty Shearwaters and more!

Worried about Herons – after a mild winter one would expect perhaps an increase in pairs at our Slebech Heronry for such is the normal pattern: in fact we have a decrease and I for one wonder why?

Pintails breeding – two pairs on our Skomer Island – first breeding records for Pembrokeshire and Wales!  How the ducklings, any of them, survive the attentions of the gulls is puzzling.  Parental care and a certain amount of poolside cover must be important.  Tufted Ducks perhaps bred at Lower Treginnis irrigation reservoir (reservoirs again, what a contribution they continue to make to our avifauna).  Shovelers appeared to have bred at the same reservoir and elsewhere.

Not even a little bit scientific this comment, but interesting that our Canada Geese reached a maximum of 116 on the Cleddau complex and the Barnacle Geese of Marloes/Skomer 116 at a Marloes Mere count.

That harriers feature more and more in our records is good.  Montagu’s may well breed again and Marsh are regular birds of passage.  Observers of ringtail harriers really will have to ‘look to their laurels’ and ensure not only that their bird was a Montagu’s and not Hen but was also a Montagu’s and not a Pallid – no way we wish to augment our harrier listing by ‘back door methods’ – ‘face – disk – ear” patterns please!

The Rouqh-legged Buzzard incident should be noted, and again more Osprey records.  Our Peregrine population is now at about 30 pairs, a success story: nevertheless we remain most interested in the birds remaining unmolested and strongly deprecate illicit activities concerning these splendid birds.  It seem certain that some pairs can well tolerate a great deal of public viewing; this is good, we must be wary of disturbance however and yet “keep an eye” on our personal adopted eyrie to ensure successful broods.

A Corncrake record with a pang, Skomer 4 October, I recollect the nests and calling birds as recently as the early ’60’s.

One wonders if the two Ring—necked Parakeet records are forerunners of colonisation on the lines of the Collared Dove success — very doubtful but they do enjoy Ash seeds and we are well endowed with such trees.

To have heard the Nightingale in song in West Wales is good – a pity the songster failed to find a mate and so breed — or just what did happen? We all know that singing ceases when the young hatch and are to be fed (no time for idle song!)

Another “Strumble” makes the lists, our first Dusky Warbler, 15 October, a record for the skilled and vigilant; take a look at NAL’s article on pages 29-32, all is revealed – discoveries await your attention (we will need a full description or course of your rara aves).

The Chough continues to intrigue and delight all who know it.  It is our privilege to have custodianship of some or more pairs; POCOR is currently promoting some investigations into brood success, feeding area needs and winter survival – records of this species doing what and where are very welcome.  We are grateful to Richard Meyer (Applied Ornithology Unit, University of Glasgow) for sharing his researches with us.

The November Rose—coloured Starling was said to be a “replica’ of the 1986 bird located only some 100 metres or so away – it’s here again I heard said, no of course not, for Juveniles soon moult into at least sub—adult plumage .

Siskins invaded in September — November (they invaded Isles of Scilly to at that time). Doubtless one undeniable benefit from conifer plantations in our uplands — have you visited the Rosebush area to see our Siskins and Redpolls during the breeding season?

Twite, Black-headed Bunting and Rose-breasted Grosbeak are noted – clearly there is no end to the arrivals unusual and unexpected – I hope you share in such observations, if you do, please keep “us” well-informed.

N.B. I should have mentioned that as a result of 1988/89 winter data as assessment of our Cleddau Estuary system has revealed that the waterway, with its dendritic system of creeks, pills, mudflats and saltings, is of INTERNATIONAL IMPORTANCE for over 20,000 waterfowl (waders and wildfowl) have been recorded over the period 84/5 – 88/89 as average winter peaks.

Also I should have mentioned the Chough conference held at Orielton in November 1988, the event was a workshop on Chough conservation: NCC and World Wide Fund for Nature were among lead organisations.  Speakers covering Ireland, Scotland, Isle of Man, France, Portugal and Andalusia and of course Wales, including the local scene.  Our own Bob Haycock led an excursion in his St Govan’s study area – many feeding Choughs were seen and local folk felt that much had been learnt which would help out local consideration for the Chough’s future in Pembrokeshire.

Jack Donovan

Short notes and reports

Manx shearwaters enjoy good P.R.

Grassholm revisited

Nesting swallows

Salutary Encounter

Early and late dates for summer migrants on Skokholm

Rare passerines on mainland Pembrokeshire

The full Pembrokeshire Bird Report for 1988 is available here

Other Pembrokeshire Bird Reports


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