Updates to the Wetland Bird Survey counts for this season.
Maximum count may be in any month from June to March
Data for June and July are collected by Jane Hodges during the annual surveillance of summer shelduck populations on the Cleddau Estuary complex. There are no counts in August. The September to March data is collected from sites across Pembrokeshire (including the Teifi Estuary) for the BTO Wetland Bird Survey.
Note that totals for any month this season may be updated as more counts come in.
Black-tailed Godwits were regular autumn migrants through the county, with up to 10 being recorded (though not always on WeBS counts) in most years. One or two, and occasionally larger numbers, were sometimes seen in mid-winter on the upper reaches of the estuary.
Since the early 2000s, larger numbers were being seen on the Pembroke Upper Millpond. During subsequent winters, this flock was sometimes recorded on the Millponds, sometimes at Pembroke River, and sometimes at Cosheston Pill. There have been additional observations of larger numbers at Angle Harbour in recent years.
The great change in numbers can be seen from the maximum seasonal counts (any month) on the Cleddau Estuary, above. The relatively large counts in 1996-97 winter seemed, at the time, to be a one-off, but subsequent winters suggest that was just the beginning.
Average monthly counts (all Pembrokeshire WeBS sites) for the five-winter periods from 2010-15 and 2015-20 above, show that the changes are not limited to numbers, but affect the the pattern of occurrence too.
Counts at migration time depend on how many are passing through on that particular day, and with only one count day a month, they can be difficult to interpret. The above graph shows the maximum autumn (September-October), mid-winter (November – February) and Spring (March) counts for each season since 2000-01. Clearly there are increasing numbers staying throughout the winter.
A clue to the reasons for the changes come from several birds that were carrying colour-rings or flags. These indicated that they came from the Icelandic breeding population.
Research on this Icelandic population has shown that considerable changes have taken place in the birds’ behaviour. Basically, climate change has meant there is a greater area of Iceland available to breeding birds early in the season. The Icelandic population has therefore been able to increase. The original small Icelandic population wintered in southern Portugal, with few birds stopping in the UK. As the population has expanded into new areas, these new sub-populations are wintering closer to home. This means more birds wintering in the UK, particularly in the south-west, and in Ireland. You can read a lot more about this here
WeBS counts from sites across Wales show a dramatic increase in numbers from the late 1980s onwards, believed to be linked to these increases in the Icelandic breeding population.
Mathew (1894) considered the Black-tailed Godwit to be a rare autumn visitor and Lockley et al. (1949)noted seven occurrences of single birds at Dale, Bosherston, Tenby and Skokholm, with five at Dale on 5 October 1947, which included February, March and May records.
It is now a regular passage migrant in small numbers, most frequently in autumn, between 25 June and 28 October. Numbers are small, normally up to ten birds, but larger flocks do occur with up to 35 seen regularly around Little Milford throughout August and September between 1949 and 1955. Only small numbers have occurred there since; however, about 40 put in a brief appearance on the Carew River on 20 July 1984. One or two occasionally spend the whole winter on the Cleddau Estuary, principally in the upper reaches at Hook and Carew/Cresswell.
Groups of up to ten pass through between 3 March and 8 June, with larger flocks occasionally stopping off briefly; for example 15 were at the Gann on 18 May 1985 and 25 there on 26 May 1987.
Black-tailed Godwits are not confined to the estuaries while on passage, being recorded at the offshore islands of Skokholm and Skomer, on popular bathing beaches including 18 seen at Broad Haven (north) on 2 May 1963, or passing offshore ( including 22 passing over the Smalls on 2 July 1982 and one flying in off the sea at Strumble Head on 12 September 1984). It is probable that most, if not all, are of Icelandic origin.
This is a bird with rather longer legs and bill than the Bar-tailed Godwit, and although it was formerly one of the waders that each spring visited the fen districts in the east of England to nest it is now everywhere scarce, and only an uncertain visitor either in the spring or autumn. Mr. Tracy merely remarks that it is “scarce,” without giving particulars of occurrences. It is included by Mr. Mathias in his list, and Sir Hugh Owen informs us that he has shot it at Goodwick
Limosa lapponica – RHOSTOG GYNFFONFRTH – Passage migrant Black-tailed Godwits were regular autumn migrants through the county, with up to 10 being recorded (though not always on WeBS counts) in most years. One or two, and occasionally larger numbers, were sometimes seen in mid-winter on the upper reaches of the estuary. Since the early 2000s, […]
Limosa lapponica – RHOSTOG GYNFFONFRTH – Passage migrant Mathew (1894) considered the Black-tailed Godwit to be a rare autumn visitor and Lockley et al. (1949) noted seven occurrences of single birds at Dale, Bosherston, Tenby and Skokholm, with five at Dale on 5 October 1947, which included February, March and May records. It is now a regular […]
Limosa lapponica – RHOSTOG GYNFFONFRTH – Passage migrant The BTO winter atlas showed that Black-tailed Godwits were present in only two estuarine 10km squares during the winters of 1981-82, 1982-82 and 1983-84, both within the Cleddau Estuary complex The light blue colour represents 1-4 birds which is consistent with the Birds of the Estuary Enquiry (BoEE, now WeBS) […]