Pembrokeshire Bird Report 1989

Editorial

Most people probably enjoyed the prolonged calm and sunny weather which dominated the summer of 1989. Some bird species took full advantage of the conditions, raptors. Stonechats and Goldcrests in particular enjoying a productive breeding season.  The weather also brought problems. Most seabirds continued to exhibit declining survival rates and ponds dried up so that migrant waders, like Green Sandpipers, were hard pressed to find muddy margins. It seems that every variation in weather brings advantages and disadvantages. So long as variation continues, some sort of balance of is likely to be maintained. If the pattern changes and dry hot summers and mild winters became normal , marked changes could occur in the avifauna. Is it possible that seabirds could shift to the north, t:hat southern species could extend their range into Britain that wildfowl would not need to travel so far west in the winter?  Such changes would be reflected in the systematic lists of the Pembrokeshire Bird Reports.  We wonder if any such trends lurk unrecognised in the reports published so far?

The island colonies of Lesser Black-backed Gulls experienced a disastrous breeding season in 1989.  Eggs were laid and hatched, but the majority of the young died. Why this happened is not clear but food shortage could have been the cause.  Most of the adults normally fly out to sea to gather fish around the trawler fleet operating in the southern Celtic Deep.  This is a seasonal fishery and it is possible that the onset of prolonged calm and sunny weather resulted in a delayed arrival of the prey species.  The NCC’s Seabirds and Sea Team intends to take  hard look at the area in question during 1990 to try to throw some light on the mystery.  The colonies at Skokholm and Skomer will also be monitored by the DWT’s wardens.  Lesser Black-backed Gulls are declining throughout their range but until now were doing very nicely in Pembrokeshire.  Our colonies have therefore become important to the species in a world context so the repetition of such large scale breeding failure would be very worrying.

The new Pembrokeshire avifauna is on schedule for in 1990. Most the text complete. The production of finished versions of maps and histograms remains and enquiries about publication are in hand.

Our thanks go to BBRC and WRAG for their continued good services, which helps to keep the Pembrokeshire record objectively sound. Most of all, our thanks go the many observers who subjected themselves to the disciplines of good note taking and the adjudication system and to those who not only took a great interest in many facets of local ornithology but were also kind enough to share their findings with the rest of us through the medium of this Bird Report.

J.W.Donovan and G.H.Rees


PEMBROKESHIRE ORGANISING COMMITTEE FOR ORNITHOGOICAL RESEARCH (POCOR)

Two meetings of POCOR were convened during 1989 and support arranged for:

BTO

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

DWT:

  • Annual Peregrine monitoring

A sub-committee was set up to review the status of the Chough in Pembrokeshire, to investigate means of habitat management that would be beneficial to Choughs and to identify further study that might further these pursuits.

The 6th 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. An additional presentation outlining the work of POCOR was made to the Pembroke section of the DWT in APril.

Members of POCOR: 1989

Chairman – J.W.Donovan

Vice Chairman – K.J.S.Devonald

Secretary – G.H.Rees

Members:

  • J.Bird
  • P.Bradburn
  • A.P.R.East
  • S.B.Evans
  • T.Gover
  • E.Gwynn
  • A.J.Hansen
  • R.J.Haycock
  • J.Hayes
  • M.D.Higgins
  • J.E.Hodges
  • G.Knight
  • D.Little
  • K.Longstaff
  • M.A.Petterson
  • 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

Highlights

Looking through the systematic list leads me to believe that most of us do most of our birdwatching on islands or headlands, in harbours or estuaries, as record after record originates from such areas.  These sites are of course well known and rewarding venues – we do record from other sites however, for recently we have completed an atlas of breeding birds in our county.  Nevertheless one views any developments which might change the character, naturalness and fruitfulness, in the ‘birding’ sense, of our better sites with something akin to horror – so do I feel about developments which hand over yet more and more of really good habitat to man in pursuit of pleasure and profit (regardless).  The possibility of a hazard to birds in terms of wires, lights and even radar beams (orientation problems perhaps) seem a cause for great concern in that it will be near our valuable islands SSSI, NNR, and Special Protection Area (SPA) and furthermore sited on one of our cherished headland areas at St Davids; I quite accept the views and fears of the landscape and heritage people – we must not forget wildlife aspects though – will our nocturnal seabirds be safe bearing in mind that perhaps 200,000 pairs of Manx Shearwaters breed in the St Bride’s Bay area?

Looking at the systematic list again brings immediately into focus the recording – hopefully accepted – of the long-anticipated Black-browed Albatross.  Cory’s, Great, Sooty, Manx, Balearic and Little Shearwater feature – six species, with sightings as early as July (Great) and as late as November (Little).  The Skomer census of Manx for 1989 gives c.165,000 pairs – a substantial increase beyond Peter Corkhill’s total of c.100,000 pairs back in the ’70s; it seems likely that Skokholm too may have a shearwater population increase.

Should you visit Skokholm in the future and visit the Storm Petrel colonies by night with our warden you too may see Leach’s Petrel as did those on 22 June.

The breeding of Teal at a St Nicholas irrigation reservoir is special – 4 pairs of breeding Pintails on Skomer and of Shovelers there also is no less impressive.  Is 12 Long-tailed Ducks together at Saundersfoot on 29 January a new count record? – think it is.

Marsh Harriers on passage – Montagu’s Harriers overwintering and passing through – a winter Red Kite and a Honey Buzzard in July; it pays to keep a close eye on our “Broad-winged hawks”!

Of falcons, possible breeding of Hobby, our 5th Red-footed Falcon (20 May) and continued expansion and success for Peregrines must please us all.  I think the oft-reported “small grey falcons” flying low along our lanes and cliffs in June were in fact the common and dashingly impressive male Sparrowhawk – doing well too.

Nothing to report on Grey Partridge alas – Red-legged records no doubt refer to game preserve rearings but what of our Quail year – at least 80 sightings – eggs and young seen – we must all now be experts on call notes for the species; there must have been good southerly weather systems at the time of northward spring migration.

Little Ringed Plover – two records – already breeding in Carmarthenshire – soon our turn? – vigilance please – gravel expanses (i.e. Letterston pits and similar areas).

Keep an eye on those gulls too – Mediterranean, Little, Sabine’s, Ring-billed, Iceland, Glaucous, races from remote areas and hybrids – a fascinating group of birds. What though of our Lesser Black-backs (see Editorial)?

Some years Black Guillemot quickens our pulses by appearing at the right time in a favourable breeding site – perhaps one year!

Only one record of Nightjar – only one for Woodlark (oh that we could return to 1961 for the latter delightful songster was frequent then).

Red-throated Pipit – a challenge of identification – pipits really can be – beware of masquerading Meadow Pipits though!

Has anyone ventured into our Preseli quarry areas to check on Ring Ouzel as a breeding bird? – must do this in 1991.  Leucistic Song Thrushes produced wild and varied speculation at Newport Golf Course (near the 19th hole!).

Cetti’s, Savi’s, Blyth’s Reed and Subalpine – warblers all and exciting too. c.20 Blackcaps at Stackpole in the winter is excellent news and proved the value of ringing for these birds were seen in ones and twos, but unringed bird after unringed bird were netted and duly ringed – without this technique RJH may have thought only one or two were involved.

Golden Oriole in a willow in a reed bed at St David’s in June was hoped for, for this peninsula regularly provides views and calling from these wary but splendid birds – most in late May early June period.

Good – breeding Tree Sparrows proved once more.  Crossbill, Hawfinch, Lapland and Little Buntings and Ortolan all recorded.

Bird of the year must be the Northern oriole – probably a first winter female – that found shelter and food in John and Shiela Scammel’s garden at Roch – where it was watched by many who contributed £1,020 to the Trust for the pleasure of seeing and some even photographing this “star turn”.  This was our 4th of the species and whilst it was noted first on 2 January it probably arrived in Britain during the period of stormy westerly winds in October 1988, when it must have carried over the Atlantic on jet streams from the Caribbean as it migrated north to south in the New World.

We are all grateful to John and Shiela for their considerable fortitude – they proved that if the occurrence of a rarity can be “orchestrated” to offend one and benefit some, so be it.  Not all occurrences will be so capable of organisation however.

I almost forgot that intrepid Swallow which wintered in Haverfordwest, 9 January to c.4 March – doubtless it succumbed to the spell of hard weather then and would have had few fat reserves to carry it through.

Another good year for birds behind us – good watching, notetaking and record submissions for the future and thank you to all subscribers and participants.

Jack Donovan


Short notes and reports

The diet of Little Owls on Skomer.

The Strumble Connection

The full Pembrokeshire Bird Report for 1989 is available here

Other Pembrokeshire Bird Reports

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