Arctic Tern – first and last dates

Sterna paradisaea – MOR-WENNOL Y GOGLEDD – Passage migrant. Not recorded from December to March

Previous records are summarised in Arctic Tern 1994

YearFirstLastNotes
19934 May15 September 
199418 April1 November 
199514 May18 October 
199624 April25 October
1997 22 OctoberNo spring records
1998 25 OctoberNo spring records
1999 6 NovemberNo spring records
20008 May17 October 
200118 April31 October 
2002 9 OctoberNo spring records
200329 April17 October 
2004 25 OctoberNo spring records
2005 6 NovemberNo spring records
2006 21 OctoberNo spring records
200725 June30 October 
200819 April1 October 
2009 2 NovemberNo spring records
2010 19 OctoberNo spring records
2011 19 OctoberNo spring records
2012 14 OctoberNo spring records
201319 April3 November 
2014 21 OctoberNo spring records
2015 16 SeptemberNo spring records
2016 18 OctoberNo spring records
2017 27 OctoberNo spring records
201818 April21 September 
2019 1 October 
202025 SeptemberNo spring records

Records extracted from the Pembrokeshire Bird Reports, which may contain more detail than shown here.

More about the Arctic Tern in Pembrokeshire

Common and Arctic Terns – 2009

Passage migrant. Not recorded from December to February

It is not always possible to separate Common from Arctic Terns in the field unless they are close and seen well. However, most observers still wish to record what they see and log these birds as either “Common or Arctic”, usually expressed as “Commic Terns”. The following is a review of such records.

There has been a marked difference in the nature of spring and autumn passages. There are many breeding colonies of both species to the north and west of Pembrokeshire along the coastlines of both western Britain and eastern Ireland, which are probably the origin of most passing the county. Whereas there has usually been a strong passage of birds migrating southwards from these colonies in the post breeding season, comparatively few have been seen passing northwards on their way to the breeding grounds. Although there are juveniles as well as adults swelling the population in the autumn, this alone does not fully explain the discrepancy in the volume seen.

It seems more likely that having spent a pelagic winter season, most spring birds pass Pembrokeshire out of sight of land. This would explain why the majority that are detected are to seaward of the islands beyond the west coast, and why increasing numbers are seen from land further up the narrowing Irish Sea. It is interesting to note in this context that in the spring of 1984, when direct comparison was possible, twice as many were seen passing The Smalls compared to Skokholm. As with other species of migrant birds, spring passage is performed with a sense of urgency to reach the breeding grounds at an optimal time, so is a rapid event. By comparison autumn migrants do not need to travel to their wintering areas according to such a strict schedule, being able to pause and accumulate at rich feeding sources en route.

Many more Common than Arctic Terns are identified in the county, so probably make up the majority of reported “Commics”.

Autumn passage

Many more pass through on autumn passage, July to October, than in spring, with occasional accumulations of 100 to 800 birds having been noted off St Ann’s Head, Skokholm, Broad Haven (north) and sea area between Point St John, St David’s Head and the Bishops and Clerks as far out as Bais Bank. However, the majority have been recorded passing along the north coast at Strumble Head. Normally up to 30 per day were seen but periodically larger passages occurred, the largest on record being 190 on the 11th September 1984, 458 on 2nd September 1988, 459 on 27th August 1990, 256 on 11th September 1992, 363 on 4th September 1997, 375 on 1st September 1998, 199 on 17th August 2002, 726 on 31st August 2005 (an additional 151 Common Terns identified as well) and 501 on 8th September 2009.

These large movements have occurred with moderate to strong south or south-east winds, usually accompanied by poor visibility due to rain or drizzle. The terns have arrived on a north-west to south-east track, suggesting they had come from the Wicklow coastal area. The exception was on the 27/8/90 when they arrived from a north-easterly direction, presumably caused by a previous accumulation in Cardigan Bay moving on en masse, there being a moderate south-west wind and good visibility at the time.

Spring migration

Spring passage has been recorded from the 29th March to mid June, with stragglers to the end of June, the majority of birds being seen in late April and the first three weeks of May. Most were seen to the west of Skokholm, Skomer and Ramsey, with very few along the north coast but small numbers off the south coast. Most sightings were of one to five birds but up to 18 together have been seen. Those seen moving along the south coast could conceivably have continued their migration up the Bristol Channel and through the Severn valley.

Graham Rees. Pembrokeshire County Bird Recorder 1981-2007

More about Commic Terns in Pembrokeshire

Arctic Tern – 2009

Sterna paradisaea – MOR-WENNOL Y GOGLEDD – Passage migrant. Not recorded from December to March

The Arctic Tern has a continuous circumpolar Arctic and sub Arctic breeding range, the nearest nesting in Wales being at Anglesey and in Ireland in county Wexford. The species winters as far south as the edge of the Antarctic ice and there are ring recoveries of Anglesey birds off South Africa and Australia.

Mathew (1894) stated that the Arctic Tern was “seen commonly on passage in spring and autumn”, but Lockley et al (1949) later noted that they were “no longer seen commonly on passage” and noted just three occurrences, singles at Goodwick on the 13th August 1935 and at Skokholm on the 8th June 1938, with 20 at Dale at the end of April 1947. Donovan and Rees (1994) considered the Arctic Tern to be sparsely recorded in spring when up to eight at a time were seen passing, mainly off the west coast and offshore islands, between the 13th April and the 23rd June, but more numerous in autumn, when up to 30 in a day passed between the 21st July and the 22nd November, principally seen off the north coast.

Any detailed assessment of the Arctic Tern’s status is limited by the fact that only a proportion of Common or Arctic Terns are identified to species, most being logged as “Common or Arctic” , usually expressed as “Commic Tern” . What can be gleaned is that 130 were recorded at Skokholm on the 1st September 1997 and that single birds were recorded away from the coast at Heathfield Gravel Pit on the 23rd September 1999, at Bosherston on the 8-9th May 2000 and at Llawhaden on the 11th May 2000. 

See also the account for Common or Arctic Tern.

Graham Rees. Pembrokeshire County Bird Recorder 1981-2007

(Covers records up to and including 2009).

More about the Arctic Tern in Pembrokeshire

Arctic Tern – 1994

Sterna paradisaea – MOR-WENNOL Y GOGLEDD – Passage migrant. Not recorded from December to March

Mathew (1894) considered the Arctic Tern to be common in spring and autumn whereas Lockley et al. (1949) stated it was no longer seen commonly, noting just three occurrences, singles at Goodwick on 13 August 1935 and at Skokholm on 8 June 1938, with 20 at Dale at the end of April 1947.

It is now sparsely recorded in spring when up to eight at a time are seen passing, mainly off the west coast and islands, between 13 April and 23 June. It is more numerous in the autumn, when up to 30 in a day are seen passing between 21 July and 22 November, principally off the north coast.

Donovan J.W. & Rees G.H, 1994, Birds of Pembrokeshire

More about the Arctic Tern in Pembrokeshire

Common and Arctic Tern – 1994

Passage migrant. Not recorded from December to February

It is often difficult to separate Common from Arctic Terns, particularly at a distance, and consequently the majority of records received refer to ‘Comic’ Terns (Common or Arctic). The following summary is based on such records.

There is a sparse spring passage of birds passing northwards between 2 April and 30 June; Lockley (1961) also includes March but gives no specific dates. This passage is most visible from the offshore islands, when typically only small parties of up to five are seen on scattered dates, but groups of up to 14 have been noted.

They are much more frequent and numerous in the autumn, between July and late October, when they explore inshore waters to a greater extent than in spring. Some birds penetrate into the estuaries with notable gatherings at rich food sources, such as 300 off Skomer in August 1975, over 400 at Broad Haven (north) in September 1974 and 800 off St Ann’s Head on 22 September 1979. This kind of incursion apart, most ‘Comic’ terns occurring in Pembrokeshire pass out of the Irish Sea and along the north coast, passing out to sea once clear of the Bishops and Clerks. Up to 20 pass Strumble Head daily during August and September, with occasional peaks of larger numbers, such as 277 on 3 September 1983 (926 birds were logged in the autumn of 1983, between 12 August and 23 October), and 458 on 27 August 1990 (848 birds were seen passing on the three days from 26 to 28 August).

Donovan J.W. & Rees G.H, 1994, Birds of Pembrokeshire

More about Commic Terns in Pembrokeshire

Arctic Tern – 1949

Sterna macrura – MOR-WENNOL Y GOGLEDD

It is no longer, as in Mathew’s day, “seen commonly on passage in the spring and autumn”. 

Once recorded Skokholm, 8 June 1938. One seen Goodwick, 13 Aug 1935 (Bertram Lloyd). During the widespread inshore passage of this species at the end of April 1947, about twenty were seen over Dale beach (J.F. and P.Garnett)

R.M.Lockley, G.C.S.Ingram, H.M.Salmon, 1949, The Birds of Pembrokeshire, The West Wales Field Society

More about the Arctic Tern in Pembrokeshire

Common and Arctic Terns

Passage migrant. Not recorded from December to February

Common and Arctic Terns – 2009

Passage migrant. Not recorded from December to February It is not always possible to separate Common from Arctic Terns in the field unless they are close and seen well. However, most observers still wish to record what they see and log these birds as either “Common or Arctic”, usually expressed as “Commic Terns”. The following […]

Arctic Tern – 2009

Sterna paradisaea – MOR-WENNOL Y GOGLEDD – Passage migrant. Not recorded from December to March The Arctic Tern has a continuous circumpolar Arctic and sub Arctic breeding range, the nearest nesting in Wales being at Anglesey and in Ireland in county Wexford. The species winters as far south as the edge of the Antarctic ice and there […]

Common Tern – 1994

Passage migrant, formerly bred. Not recorded from November to March Sage (1956) concluded that the terns mentioned by Ray in 1662 as breeding at Caldey were “almost certainly Common Terns”. Mathew (1894) recorded a colony of about 20 pairs on Skokholm Stack which Lockley et al. (1949) believed had ceased to breed in 1916. Mathew reported the […]

Arctic Tern – 1994

Sterna paradisaea – MOR-WENNOL Y GOGLEDD – Passage migrant. Not recorded from December to March Mathew (1894) considered the Arctic Tern to be common in spring and autumn whereas Lockley et al. (1949) stated it was no longer seen commonly, noting just three occurrences, singles at Goodwick on 13 August 1935 and at Skokholm on 8 June 1938, with […]

Common and Arctic Tern – 1994

Passage migrant. Not recorded from December to February It is often difficult to separate Common from Arctic Terns, particularly at a distance, and consequently the majority of records received refer to ‘Comic’ Terns (Common or Arctic). The following summary is based on such records. There is a sparse spring passage of birds passing northwards between […]

Common Tern – 1949

Species account from the Birds of Pembrokeshire, 1949, by Lockley, Ingram and Salmon.

Arctic Tern – 1949

Species account from the Birds of Pembrokeshire, 1949, by Lockley, Ingram and Salmon.

Arctic Tern – 1894

Sterna macrura – MOR-WENNOL Y GOGLEDD Seen commonly on passage in the spring and autumn in the estuaries and off the coast, at Milford, &c. Also in Goodwick Bay, where it has occurred to Sir Hugh Owen. Mathew M.A. 1894, Birds of Pembrokeshire and its Islands More about the Arctic Tern in Pembrokeshire

Common Tern – 1894

Sterna fluvialis – A common migrant off the coast in spring and autumn. We learn from the boatmen that there is a small colony of Common Terns on Skokholm Stack. In the spring of 1884, we were told that about twenty pairs might be counted there. Some Common Terns were seen on the Tuskar Rock on May 24th, 1883; and others […]

Common Tern

Passage migrant, formerly bred. Not recorded from November to March