Philomachus pugnax – PIBYDD TORCHOG – Passage migrant
The Ruff breeds in temperate to arctic regions of the Palearctic, those in the west wintering in southern Europe and Africa.
Mathew 1894 classed the Ruff as an occasional autumn visitor; rare. He based this on a single specimen seen at Cuffern. Lockley et al (1949) listed three occurrences plus the statement “recorded on several occasions at Skokholm”. Donovan and Rees (1994) classed it as a passage migrant, principally seen in autumn, less regularly in spring and occasionally in winter. There has been little apparent change since.
Ringing – A bird ringed in the Netherlands in July 1967 was found dead at Haverfordwest in November the same year.
Ruffs have become more frequent in Pembrokeshire during the winter, December to February. Donovan and Rees (1994) noted three records up to 1993 but they have been reported 17 times since, all single birds apart from 2 twice and 3 twice, also 9 together at the Castle Martin ranges on the 17th January 2011.
One to six birds per year have been noted in the spring between the 3rd March and the 30th June (though late June birds could be males returning from their breeding grounds) but not in every year. However there were only five years between 1982 and 2012 when they were not recorded.
During an exceptionally heavy passage through south-west Britain in April 1987 several waves passed through Pembrokeshire, resulting in records of three at Dowrog, up to six at Skomer and Dale airfield, 12 at Skokholm, 17 at the Gann and up to 46 at Marloes Mere.
Using records from 1983 onwards as representing the period with countywide observer cover, one to 18 birds per autumn were recorded, with an average of about nine but there were 23 at Skomer on the 15 September 1969.
Records span 6th July to 18th November, peak numbers occurring in September.
Ruffs were seen in coastal areas, on or near the estuaries, by ponds on the islands and mainland and in coastal fields. One seen accompanying Lapwings inland at Pentre Goch, near Felindre Farchog, from the 22nd to the 24th of August 1998 suggests that others were probably missed because of the coastal bias of observer activity.
Graham Rees (County bird recorder 1981 to 2007)