Chaffinch – 2012 Winter

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

The chaffinch is widespread across Pembrokeshire in winter, the only gaps being on the Preseli tops and Castlemartin Range – both open exposed areas.

Chaffinch numbers have been boosted during the winter months when the sedentary breeding population has been joined by immigrant continental birds. Bertram Lloyd (1939) considered the small groups he found around farm rickyards and dungyards to be local birds but the larger flocks in the more open countryside were continental birds.

Since then the farmyard groups have largely disappeared in the absence of spilled grain and dung heaps, which have largely given way to slurry pits. Groups in the wider countryside have varied in size and distribution dependent on the nature of changing agricultural practices. Those areas proving attractive to Chaffinches have been barley stubbles, seeded turnips, unharvested linseed and crops like sunflowers planted for the benefit of Pheasants. Beech mast has also been exploited but the quantity available is cyclical and the trees are local and sparsely distributed in the county.

The size of most winter flocks has been between 50 to 300 birds, with some larger gatherings on record. 500 were at Longhouse on the 6th February 2004 and Castle Martin on the 15th January 2007, 600 at St Florence on 31st December 2005, 750 at Angle on the 23rd December 2008, 900 at Marloes on the 25th January 1993, 2,000 at St Florence on 29th January 2006 and 3,000 at Hubberston on the 5th January 2006. 

Graham Rees (County bird recorder 1981 to 2007)

Data collected by volunteers for the BTO Atlas 2007-11 – plus an extra winter of fieldwork

References: LLOYD. B. 1929-1939 Diaries, National Museum of Wales.

More about the Chaffinch in Pembrokeshire