Wheatear – first and last dates

Oenanthe oenanthe – TINWEN Y GARN – Breeding summer visitor and passage migrant. Not recorded in February and December

Earlier records are summarised in Wheatear 1994

YearFirst arrival Last to leave
19939 March3 November
19941 March21 October
199511 March20 October
19969 March17 November
19979 March2 November
199825 February14 October
199912 March13 November
20009 March5 November
20018 March28 October
200212 March4 November
20032 March26 October
200413 March20 October
200518 March12 November
200616 March25 November
200716 March9 November
200821 February11 October
200910 March1 November
20106 March31 October
20118 March16 November
201211 March28 October
20135 March31 October
20149 March4 November
20158 March6 November
201612 March31 October
201710 March25 October
201813 March11 November
201917 March27 October

First and last dates extracted from the Pembrokeshire Bird Reports

Pattern of occurrence

Note that these are records from BirdTrack only. They include data from the digitised Skokholm and Skomer logs. They do not include all the records sent to the county recorder and therefore may differ slightly from the table above. A week with only one or two records may not show up at this scale.

Week 10 (earliest arrival) is the week beginning 2nd March,

Week 46 is the week beginning 16th November.

More about the Wheatear in Pembrokeshire

Knot – 2020

Calidris canutus – PIBYDD YR ABER – Winter visitor and passage migrant. 

The knot breeds on the high Arctic tundra of Canada, Greenland and Russia.  The majority of those wintering in the UK are of the Greenland and eastern Canada subspecies. 

198243 
198445 
198647 
1990-91 
1993-94 
1995-96 
1997-98 
2001432 
2003434 
2005436 
2007438 
2009-10 
2011-12 
2013-14 1 
2015 
-16 
2017-18 
201E- 
20 
3 
3 
3

Most of the UK wintering population is on the east side of Britain, although flocks of several thousand do occur on the Dee, Dyfi and Carmarthen Bay estuaries.  However, numbers in Pembrokeshire seem always to have been relatively small.  We just don’t have the vast open mudflats that this species prefers.

This map was produced by the West Wales Biodiversity Information Centre using data collected between November and February for the BTO Atlas 2007-11, with additional data collected in 2011-12 winter to fill gaps in coverage.

The most likely places to see Knot in Pembrokeshire are the outer parts of the Cleddau (although they are occasionally seen further upstream), Teifi and Nevern Estuaries, and also on the large beaches of Freshwater West and Frainslake.

Movements

The only colour-ringed knot recorded in Pembrokeshire was T7 (above) on 10 March 2019.  It was ringed as an adult on Merseyside in 2017, and spent that winter there.  This particular colour-ringing project has shown that there is interchange between Merseyside, Deeside and Ireland.  It is possible that T7 had spent at least part of the 2018-19 winter in Ireland and was now on its way east to join thousands of other knot on the Waddensee where they fatten up for the flight to their breeding grounds via staging posts in North Norway and Iceland.   It was last recorded back on Merseyside in July 2019.

As we see only small numbers of knot in Pembrokeshire, it is worth looking carefully for birds with colour-rings or flags.  Ideally get the number on the flag, but even a record of the colour and which leg it is on can provide useful information.

Thanks to Jim Wilson for the colour-ring information.

Annie Haycock (BBS & WeBS local organiser)

References:

BALMER D, GILLINGS S, CAFFREY B, SWANN B, DOWNIE I, FULLER R. 2014. Bird Atlas 2007-11: The Breeding and Wintering Birds of Britain and Ireland.  HarperCollins.  UK

HBW – Handbook of the Birds of the World

LACK P. 1986.  The Atlas of Wintering Birds in Britain and Ireland, T & A. D. Poyser, London

LOVEGROVE R, WILLIAMS G, WILLIAMS I. 1994.  Birds in Wales. T & A. D. Poyser, London

Pembrokeshire Bird Reports

WERNHAM. C, TOMS. M, MARCHANT. J, CLARK. J, SIRIWARDENA. G, BAILLIE. S. 2002. The Migration Atlas, Movements of the birds of Britain and Ireland, T & A. D. Poyser, London

More about the Knot in Pembrokeshire

Pembrokeshire Bird Report 1880

Bob Haycock came across this report when researching historical information about chough in the county. We’ve reproduced it in its entirety here, breaking it into sections and paragraphs to make it easier to read. In the original, each section was a single paragraph. The scientific names are as given in the original – many somewhat different to those used today.

The Rev. Clennell Wilkinson, Rector of Castlemartin, and for some time President of the Pembrokeshire Field Naturalists’ Club, provided much information in respect of the birds of the Castlemartin district for Mathew’s 1894 Birds of Pembrokeshire

You could scroll straight down to the bird section, and ignore the rest.

South Pembrokeshire Naturalists’ Field Club

Evening meeting, January 29, 1880

Vice-President’s address, and, Paper on the Flora of South Pembrokeshire, by the Hon Secretary

The first evening meeting of this Society was held in Pembroke, in St. Michael’s Schoolroom, on Thursday, January 29th. There was a fair attendance of members, and a small but interesting exhibition of microscopes and objects of natural history. Among the latter a portion of Mr. Barrett’s splendid collection of moths, was much and deservedly admired. Mr. Wilkinson exhibited some cases of eggs, and Mr. Wratislaw a small case of beetles, containing types of the different families. Mr. Cherrill showed specimens of some of the rarer plants of the district, and microscopes were exhibited by Dr. Clunn of Tenby, Dr. Saer of Pembroke, and the Honorary Secretary.

Weather

In the course of the evening the Vice-President (the Rev. C. Wilkinson) said—It is an old saying that English people meet, the first thing they talk about is the weather, and the next is about their neighbours. You will not, therefore, be surprised if, in addressing you for the first time:, I also begin with the former topic, though I do not mean to proceed to the latter, more doubtful subject. 

In speaking to you as members of a “Field Club.” I apprehend that the weather must be a subject worthy of our consideration, especially when it has been such as we have experienced during the past summer, the very period when the chief operations of our Club were taking place. And when we remember that the past season has been as unpropitious to naturalists as to farmers, it may well be supposed that the very existence of the infant club has been imperiled. It has, however, survived, and I hope will survive, increase, and flourish for many years to come.

In a climate like this, when a fine day can never be predicted, the uncertainty of the weather must always be a great drawback to-any operations out of doors ; yet when people are in earnest the very uncertainty of their work may add zest to its pursuit. I hope that such may be the case with us under these and similar trials that we may meet with.

The past summer we have been given to understand, has been perhaps the coldest and wettest on record, and therefore we may consider ourselves rather fortunate than otherwise, that only two out of four days of meeting have been spoilt by rain; and damp, so that many of our members, anticipating rain, did not put in an appearance. One day, however—that on which the meeting was held, by the kind permission of the Earl of Cawdor, at Stack-pole Court—was all that could be wished. We will hope for the time to come that we enjoy a fuller share of sunshine than we have during the past season. 

I mention these circumstances as sufficient to account for any deficiency of work done, and for a rather meagre list of captures and discoveries made by members of the Club during the year. Yet we have results to record and some of them valuable. I shall endeavour to sum up some of the most interesting facts and captures made and observed by members of the S. P. N. F. C.

Birds

There have been no attempts made to collect birds, though their visits and habits have not escaped notice.  I will make a few remarks upon some rare, or at any rate not common, birds which have been observed in this part of Pembrokeshire, though not all within the past year.

There was a very fine specimen of the Gyr Falcon shot in the neighbourhood of the Haven not many years ago, and now in the possession of Dr. Morison.  I mention this in consequence of the rarity of the bird in this country, and therefore worthy of a place in our records. The common Buzzard Falco Buteo, which is now becoming very uncommon in most places, still continues to haunt our burrows near the sea. It is one of the largest of our hawks, and I have observed it near Freshwater West within the last few weeks. The Peregrine Falcon Falco Peregrinus, the chief of our falcons, still, I am glad to say,  flourishes and rears its young both at Stackpole and Stack Rocks every year.

The Raven also builds there, and the beautiful little Red-legged Chough Corvus craculus is to be found all along the South Cliffs. After severe frosts which have prevailed during these two last winters, I regret to say that I have found many of these interesting and rare birds lying dead upon the Burrows, killed, as I believe, by the Severity of the weather. And, indeed, there do not appear to be so many about our shores now as there were three or four years ago. I trust, however, that they may soon again become numerous. They still are to be seen at Stackpole, Stack Rocks, Linney, Freshwater West, and Angle.

The Rev. C. M. Phelps, of Tenby, has twice seen what he believes to-be the Rose-coloured Pastor Turdus roseus between Pembroke and Tenby.  It is a very rare bird in this country, and is about the size of a starling. I myself also observed at Freshwater West, about this time last year, a bird flying low across the Burrows, which, far as I could judge, must have been this same species. The day was very dull, and it was towards night, so that I had not a very good view of it, and it seemed useless trying to follow up the bird. I would not, therefore, say for certain that it was the Rose-coloured Pastor, but I do not know any other bird that it could have been. With these three recent instances of the occurrence, or supposed occurrence, of so rare a bird in this part of the country, I think it worthy of the attention of the members of our Club, that they may investigate the matter further, and try to place it beyond dispute, that we have such visitors within our district.

The Cirl Bunting Emberiza Cirlus has been occasionally shot, and I have seen two skins of this bird, obtained on the Ridgeway, between Pembroke and Tenby. The Black Redstart Phoenicura Tithys I observed a few years ago, on the 29th of March, in my own garden. It frequently came close under the windows, and remained about the house the whole day. It was a male bird.

Lepidoptera

I will now pass on to Lepidoptera. In this branch of natural history we have some experienced collectors in the Club. One would have supposed that of all branches of natural history, the one which would have suffered most from a season like the past would have been that which embraces the lepidopterous insects. This has no doubt been in part the case, yet there have been some remarkable exceptions. The chief of these has been the unusual abundance of the Painted Lady Butterfly Pyrameis Cardui. As the year 1877 was remarkable for the abundance of Colias Edusa, not only here but in most other places, so the year 1879 has been for an extraordinary abundance of Pyrameis Cardui.

That this should have happened in so cold and wet a season is strange, though not unprecedented; for I have met with a passage from an old record, called the “Journal of a Naturalist,” which mentions a parallel case. Speaking of the uncertainty of the appearance of this butterfly, the author says that its abundance appears to require a succession and variety of seasons and then it springs into life we know not how. This was particularly obvious in the summer of 1815, and the two following, which were almost unceasingly cold and rainy : scarcely a moth or butterfly appeared. And in the early part of 1818 the season was not less ungenial:  a few half animated creatures alone struggled into being; yet this painted lady was fostered into life and became the commonest butterfly of the year; it has, however, but very partially visited us since that period. The keenest entomologist, perhaps, would not much lament the absence of the beauty,’ if such cheerless seasons were always requisite to bring it to perfection.”

This a very remarkable parallel to the phenomenon which has been witnessed, during the same sort of weather, in the past year, when Cardui appeared in countless thousands and with it a great abundance of the Gamma Moth Plusia Gamma. In this neighbourhood the numbers of P. Cardui were very great. On the 14th of August, in the course of a drive from Castlemartin into Pembroke, the morning being warm and sunny, and this insect at that time emerging from the pupa state in greatest quantities, I must have seen at least three hundred of them; whereas in an ordinary season not half a dozen would have been visible.

But in other countries they were abundant in a still more extraordinary degree. In Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Upper Austria, Switzerland, and Belgium, they were the subject of general remark among naturalists.

Some suppose that they passed over from the continent into this country, but this I am inclined to doubt. I do not think that the numbers of hybernated specimens seen in the spring were in excess of most other years. Yet the quantities of the larvæ observed on the thistles in July were ,much greater than usual, from these came the multitude observed in the following month. It would therefore appear that the season was propitious chiefly in the hatching of the eggs and the rearing of the larvæ. I believe that in the past year, this species was double brooded, though the theory is not generally accepted.

The larvæ which were collected in July seem for the most part to have been feeding near the, flower of the thistle, or at any rate well up the stalk, and these went through their changes and became perfect Imagines in August. But later in the season, about the second week in October, small larvæ were observed feeding on the seedling thistles, under the leaves, close upon the ground; and from these I succeeded in obtaining perfect specimens of P. Cardui as late as the 20th of November.

But to return to what has been ,said about the abundance of this insect during the past year in other countries. The flights seem to have been in a northerly direction. At Angers the number seen passing along one street was computed at 50,000 in one hour. At Geneva a cloud of them is said to have darkened the sun for several minutes. These were observed in some places as early as May, but the beginning of June seems to have been the time of the special migration in France and Germany. In Austria a swarm was so dense that it was computed to amount to at least 1,000,000.

There were, besides this species, which has attracted so much attention, in this neighbourhood, about the usual number of Argynnis Aglaia, Lycæna Ægon, and some others of our local kinds. The larvæ of many moths, also, seemed to be in unusual abundance—such as Bombyx Rubi, Hadena Pisa, Dicranura Vinula, and Smerinthus Populi.

The most important discoveries which have been made in this branch of natural history are due, however, to our most accomplished lepidopterist, Mr. Barrett. He, having heard of the discovery in Devonshire of new Clearwing, which is bred in the thrift, and that the same had also been discovered in the Isle of Man, and in each case in such situations as exactly corresponded with our rocky sea-coasts, searched diligently and found it not unfrequent in this locality. And during the past year many of the larvæ of this new and rare insect have been obtained. The name of it is Sesia Philanthiformis, or the Thrift Clearwing.

There is, moreover, another still more important discovery which he has made, and that is of a new Pyralite, which had not previously been recorded as found in this country. This was Ebulea Stachydalis, and has been found at Stackpole and at several places in Castlemartin, although it does not at present appear to have been found elsewhere.

Conchology

I will now turn to the subject of conchology. There are many places where some of our rarer shells are found,. and yet the localities are little known. Scaphander Lignarius and Trochus Granulatus, as well as Aporrhais Pes-peleicani, are found finer in the Haven than in any other locality that I have heard of. Cerithium Adversum, Cerithopsis Tuberculare, and Mangelia Teres, are rare shells, and are to be found at Freshwater West. Lyonsiå Norvegica and Scalaria Communis are obtained from the Haven of unusual size. . Janthina Communis is washed up also at certain seasons, especially about the autumn equinox, if the wind has been blowing for some days from the S. W.

Natica Sordida is to be obtained from St. Bride’s bay by dredging, where it is unusually fine. This is a very rare shell.

Besides these I would wish to mention the following list of shells, all, more or less abundant in certain localities in South Pembrokeshire: Pholas Dactylus (Amroth), Venerupus Irus, Tellina Incarnata, Lutraria Elliptica (very fine at Tenby), Tapes Decussatä, and T. Virginea, Venus Casina and V. Fasciata, Artemis Exoleta and A. Lincta, Circe Minima, Lucina Borealis, Diplodonta Rotundata, Arca Tetragona, Pinna Pectinata (fine from Haven), Pecten Maximus, Chiton Fascicularis, Emarginula Reticulata, Trochus Zizyphinus, v. Lyonsii, T. Lineatus, Scalaria Turtoni, S. Clathratula, Trophon Muricatus, T. Clathratts, Mangelia Gracilis, M. Purpurea, M. Striolata, M. Septangularis, Ovula Patula, and Marginella Lævis.

Botany

The list of plants observed has been carefully registered by our Secretary, and he has prepared a paper on the subject.

Note – this was presented as a separate paper, not included in the main report.

The Future

There are still several subjects which it was proposed that this Club should take up, and in which, as yet, little or nothing has been done.

We want some of our members to take an interest in coleopterous insects; and I believe that there is some good ground for the pursuit of this branch of natural history in our immediate neighbourhood.

Another subject we should like to hear more about is Geology, and considering that Pembrokeshire, with its great extent of sea coast, where the various strata are exposed to view, is so well adapted to the pursuit of this science, it is a great pity that none of our members have taken up this subject. I do hope that in the course of the present year something may be done to advance this portion of the work of the Club.

Archaeology was also mentioned in our rules, and with the number of interesting ruins by which we are surrounded, it is strange that we have not yet found anyone who will undertake to qualify himself to speak with authority respecting them.

I am glad to be able to announce that prizes are now offered for the best collections made within the year in several branches of natural history. A circular has been sent to each member specifying the collections for which prizes will be given. I hope that this will stimulate many of our number to be more diligent in observing the .natural history of our district.

Let me in conclusion request you all to join in wishing success to our Club, and I hope that it is now in a fair way of answering the purposes for which it was called into being.

Shoveler – winter

Anas clypeata – HWYADEN LYDANBIG – Winter visitor and sparse breeder

The shoveler has a breeding range that extends through Eurasia and Western north America. In general, it migrates well to the south for the winter with a few areas, such as Britain, the Netherlands and the west coast of America seeing birds all year round.

Occasionally one or two pairs breed in Pembrokeshire, but really they are a winter species here. Generally they are found on freshwater sites and in sheltered estuaries.

Numbers are variable, but probably around 100 in most winters – double that in a good year. This reflects the situation in Wales as a whole, with the general increase since the early 1990s. The map shows they can be scattered well beyond the sites monitored for the Wetland Bird Survey. However, Marloes Mere and Castlemartin Corse are the most likely places to find them.

This map was produced by the West Wales Biodiversity Information Centre using data collected between November and February for the BTO Atlas 2007-11, with additional data collected in 2011-12 winter to fill gaps in coverage.

Most recent ringing recoveries of birds shot in Wales show they are coming from (or moving through) the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Latvia and Estonia. However, studies at Orielton Decoy in the 1930s showed that some of our birds came from breeding grounds such as the Volga and Pechora rivers on the western Siberian Plain.

Annie Haycock (BBS & WeBS local organiser)

References:

BALMER D, GILLINGS S, CAFFREY B, SWANN B, DOWNIE I, FULLER R. 2014. Bird Atlas 2007-11: The Breeding and Wintering Birds of Britain and Ireland.  HarperCollins.  UK

HBW – Handbook of the Birds of the World

LACK P. 1986.  The Atlas of Wintering Birds in Britain and Ireland, T & A. D. Poyser, London

LOVEGROVE R, WILLIAMS G, WILLIAMS I. 1994.  Birds in Wales. T & A. D. Poyser, London

Pembrokeshire Bird Reports

WERNHAM. C, TOMS. M, MARCHANT. J, CLARK. J, SIRIWARDENA. G, BAILLIE. S. 2002. The Migration Atlas, Movements of the birds of Britain and Ireland, T & A. D. Poyser, London

More about the Shoveler in Pembrokeshire

Common Gull – colour-ring sightings

Larus canus – GWYLAN Y GWEUNYDD – Winter visitor

The common gull has never been common in Pembrokeshire, and is usually seen only in winter. Breeding populations have declined in many areas, stimulating a need to find out more about the gulls and their movements. To this end, gulls have been ringed in several countries in Europe, using a combination of colours and letters that can be read through a telescope or camera lens without the need to recapture the birds.

If you come across a bird with colour rings, please report it to European Colour-ring Birding from where you will get information about ‘your’ bird, as well as adding to the database of useful information about the species.

Please don’t just assume that someone else has reported a sighting – your record could add information such as longevity, the amount of time a bird spends in a particular place, etc.

This map is based on observations made by Sam Baxter and others at the Nevern Estuary (red pin). Blue pins show where gulls were ringed.

Additional information about colour-ringing common gulls

More about the Common Gull in Pembrokeshire

Red-necked Phalarope – records

Phalaropus lobatusLlydandroed GyddfgochVagrant

The Red–necked Phalarope breeds above the middle latitudes across the Holarctic, the nearest to Pembrokeshire normally in the far north of Scotland. Western Palearctic birds winter in the Arabian Sea and largely migrate overland.

A juvenile shot on a farm pond at St Twynells in c.1900 was housed in the collection of F. Roberts. Bertram Lloyd examined the specimen on the 20th May 1928 and verified the identification was correct. Lockley et al (1949) quotes “Recorded by a writer in the Field, 18th March 1899” but gives no detail, not even a locality. Barrett, 1959, noted singles off St Ann’s Head (not St Govan’s as quoted by Donovan and Rees, 1994) on the 19th September 1950 and at the Gann on the 16th September 1957. Subsequently there was a juvenile on a farm slurry pond at Haroldston West on the 4th and 5th October 1983.

Graham Rees (County bird recorder 1981 to 2007)


Recent records

2015: Skokholm, 9 June photo above

2017: A single on Skomer on 28th Sept (PR)

2019: Male photographed on the Teifi Marshes 8 June (T.Evans)

Extracted from the Pembrokeshire Bird Reports

More about the Red-necked Phalarope in Pembrokeshire

Grey Phalarope – records

Phalaropus fulicarius – LLYDANDROED LLWYD – Passage migrant. Not recorded from April to July

Earlier records are summarised in Grey Phalarope 2006

2007 – All records were of singles: at the Nevern Est. on 30 Oct. and passing off Strumble Head on the 8 & 25 Sept., 29th Oct. and the 10 Nov.

2008 – a very good autumn for records of this species, with what must have been a large number of individuals off shore, including a count of 20+ near the Smalls Lighthouse on the 17th Sept. (with one group of 11) and 3 near Grassholm on 19 Sept.

All other records were of singles: near Smalls Lighthouse on the 30 Aug, off Freshwater West and North Haven, Skomer on the 11 and 12 Sept. & 7 Oct., off Castlemartin on the 21 Sept and near Grassholm on the 25 Sept.

Recorded passing Strumble Head: single on 13 Sept. & 1 Oct. and two on 2 Oct. Storm driven birds were reported from Pembroke Mill Pond on 2 Sept., on the driveway of a house in St. Florence on the 11 Sept. and at Hook & Little Milford on the 13 Sept.

2009 – A single at Newgale from 14 to 26 Jan, singles at Angle Bay 16 Jan, Wooltack Point 22 Nov, Freshwater West 28 & 29 Nov.

2010 – All records were from Strumble Head, where one was seen on 22 July, three were reported on 24 Aug and one was there on 29 Aug.

2011 – This proved to be a bumper year for passage of this species off Strumble Head. In September: singles on 5, 13, 14, 22 & 26, with two on 17 and six on 18. In October: two on 6th, ten on 7th, two on 17th and a single on 18th. There were also late records in December of singles on 5th, 17th & 20th Dec. Overall this was the second best year for records of this species at Strumble Head, since 1980, after the 35 in 2001.

2012 – A quiet year for the species at Strumble Head in 2012 with only five records all of single birds on 29 July (2nd earliest Strumble record), 24 & 26 Aug, 13 Sept & 12 Oct. Two off Ramsey on 11 Sept was the only non-Strumble record.

2013 – a good year for the species at Strumble Head with a total of 14 birds recorded on 10 dates between 25 August & 3 Nov, max three on 16 Sept. A single also seen from St. Davids Head on 29 October.

2014 – Strumble Head recorded nine birds this year, singles on 11 & 29 Aug, 3 & 7 Nov with the maximum day count being five on 21 Oct. Ramsey had one fly south on 4 Oct and two on 21st of the same month.

2015 – A single bird at St. Bride’s from 26 to 28 Dec (video above by Annie Haycock). At Strumble Head a total of 10 birds recorded, seven on 31 Aug, one on 5 Sept and two on 21 Nov.

2016 – At Strumble Head a total of 10 birds recorded. In August a single on the 3rd, in September singles on 2nd & 16th with three on 17th and two on 29th, then in November singles on 4th & 9th. One winter record at St. Justinians on 6th Jan.

2017 – A total of seven birds recorded from Strumble Head this year, singles on 18 Aug, 3 & 10 Oct, with two on 19 Aug & 11 Sept. One off St. Justinians on 21 Sept and one in North Haven, Skomer on 16 Sept.

2018 – Singles seen on Skomer 21 Sept, and Skokholm 17 Oct. Two off Strumble Head on 21 Sept and one on 23rd. Two off Skomer on 15 Oct.

2019 – All records were from Strumble Head: one on 6 & 31 Aug, two on 1 Sept and three on 5 Sept and eight on 6 Oct. Singles Skokholm 21 Aug & 10 Oct.

One was picked up, dazed by flying into a wall at Newgale on 11 October.  The bird was released the following day.

Records extracted from the Pembrokeshire Bird Reports

More about the Grey Phalarope in Pembrokeshire

Herring Gull – WeBS 2020-21

Larus argentatus – GWYLAN Y PENWAIG – Breeding resident and winter visitor

Updates to the Wetland Bird Survey counts for this season.

Counting gulls for WeBS is optional, and has only been regularly included at Pembrokeshire sites since 1993. Gulls are still not counted on a few sites.

Note that totals for any month this season may be updated as more counts come in.

Annie Haycock (BBS & WeBS local organiser)

More about the Herring Gull in Pembrokeshire