Chaffinch – 2008 migration

Fringilla coelebs – JI-BINC Breeding resident and passage migrant.

Many Chaffinches from northern Europe, particularly Scandinavia, migrate in the autumn down the Continental west coast, crossing either over the southern North Sea or the English Channel to winter in Britain. Some continue through Britain to Ireland.

Lockley et al (1949) described Chaffinch migration of tens of thousands coming down over Cardigan Bay to strike the northern and western coasts of the county during October.

Betts (1992) noted large movements through Skokholm in October and November, including 3,200 passing on the 22nd October 1966 and 2,000 grounded in fog on the 26th October 1988.

A total of 11,600 were logged passing Strumble Head during 12 days of observation between the 16th October and the 22nd November 1981. Peak passage involved 2,160 on the 24th October and 2,590 on the 1st November.

The Pembrokeshire Bird Report for 1986 recorded many thousands passing Strumble Head between the 4 October and the 12 December. It added it would have taken an army of observers to count the visible birds but many more were heard that were too high to see.

The volume of passage during October to November diminished thereafter. Peak autumn totals at Strumble were 2,405 in 1999 and 2,711 in 2007. Peaks at Skomer were 3,500 in 1993 and 4,850 in 2008.

At least 1,000 passed over the St David’s peninsula on the 24th October 2002. 1,000 coasted at Pen Anglas on the 15th November 2007. 1,350 passed Pencarnan in half an hour on the morning of the 23rd October 2009.

Flocks have sometimes temporarily accumulated in coastal regions during autumn passage time e.g. 400 at Marloes on the 24th November 1991 which soon moved on.

Fragmentary as the available records are, they evidently indicate that considerably fewer migratory Chaffinches have been reaching Pembrokeshire since the massed movements of the1940s to 1980s period.

Lockley (1957) described a strong return passage during March and April but this has not been detected since, other than a few Chaffinches appearing on the offshore islands at this season.

© 2010 Graham Rees. Pembrokeshire Bird Recorder 1981-2007

BETTS. M. 1992. Birds of Skokholm, BioLine, Cardiff.
LOCKLEY. R. M, INGRAM. C. S. and SALMON. H. M.1949. The birds of Pembrokeshire, West Wales Field Society.
LOCKLEY. R. M. (1957). Pembrokeshire, Robert Hale, London.
REES. G. H. (Ed). Pembrokeshire Bird Reports, 1981 – 1986, West Wales Naturalists Trust.

More about the Chaffinch in Pembrokeshire