Great Shearwater – records

Ardenna gravis – ADERYN-DRYCIN MAWR – Near annual rare autumn passage migrant

Earlier records are summarised in Great Shearwater 2007

2008 – The only accepted record was from Strumble Head, 4th September

2009 – Single birds recorded on three occasions this autumn off Strumble Head: on 17th Aug (AR), 29th Aug & on 3rd Oct (RS).

2010 – Only one record was received of a single passing Strumble Head on 29th Aug (RS).

2011 – The weather conditions in early September were suitable enough for this species to be recorded at Strumble Head this year with two seen each day on the 5th (AR) and 6th (SEB).

2014 – At Strumble Head a very good passage during the last two weeks in August with single birds seen on 17th & 24th then four on 29th, a good count of ten on 30th & finally another two on 31st (AR et al). As with Cory’s Shearwater, it is the first time both large Shearwaters have been recorded on three consecutive days at Strumble.

A single bird was seen & photographed from the Fishguard to Rosslare Ferry on 20th Aug (thought to have been in Irish waters, included here for information only).

2015 – Single birds on 8th & 19th July were the only records for the year, the 8th July record being the earliest county record. (AR, RS).

2016 – A good showing this year off Strumble Head, with the suitable conditions giving a total of 13 birds. In Aug, two on 8th, three on 21st and a single on 28th. In Sept, four on the 2nd and singles on the 4th, 16th & 25th. Additionally one at sea on 18th Aug (RC, SL Murray et al).

2017 – The only record this year was of one off Skokholm on 19th Aug (RB).

A substantial amount of seawatching effort in recent years has proven this to be a truly rare species in this part of the world, however it is perhaps surprising that one heading into moderate westerly winds off the Lighthouse on the morning of 19th August was only the third Skokholm record (or fourth Skokholm bird). The only other Island records to be accepted by the Welsh Records Panel concern two birds logged on 9th September 1993 and a single on 9th August 2000. A probable was noted on 11th September 1969 and singles in 2007 and 2011 have subsequently been deemed ‘not proven’. Skokholm Annual Report 2017

2018 – Single off Skokholm 18th Aug (DJA, ME) and five off Strumble Head on 16th Aug (TP, RDJ).

One which passed over rough seas off the Lighthouse on three occasions between 1525 and 1540hrs on 18th August was just the fifth for Skokholm (DA, ME). This came one day earlier than the fourth for Skokholm logged last year. Skokholm Annual Report 2018

2020 – One logged passing Strumble Head 26 Aug (per PB et al)

Records from the Pembrokeshire Bird Reports, except where noted from the Skokholm Annual Reports

More about the Great Shearwater in Pembrokeshire

Great Shearwater – 2007

Puffinus gravis – ADERYN-DRYCIN MAWR – Near annual passage migrant

The Great Shearwater breeds on islands in the Tristan da Cunha group, Gough Island and Kidney Island in the Falklands. Outside the breeding season they migrate up the western Atlantic to Newfoundland, spreading to Greenland and the Denmark Strait. They return southwards on the eastern side of the Atlantic, passing between July and November. They normally travel well offshore but onshore winds push a proportion close to the coast of Western Europe.

The first one recorded in Pembrokeshire was on the 15th August 1957, when C. M. Swaine watched it passing through Jack Sound, the channel between Middleholm and the mainland. Between 1973, when it was next recorded, and 2007 a total of 228 birds were logged. All were between July and October, the earliest one off South Bishop on 14th July 1975, the latest off Skomer on 29th October 1994.

The majority, 128 birds, were seen from Strumble Head, a further 8 from the islands of Skokholm, Skomer, Ramsey and South Bishop combined.

For a species known to mainly travel well offshore it might be expected that the majority passing through the Irish Sea would be out of sight from land. Opportunities to detect these have been limited by the cost and availability of suitable boats and rough weather sometimes limiting their use. Despite these restrictions a total of 93 birds have been logged in the offshore waters of Pembrokeshire.

A group of 23 were flushed by the passing Fishguard to Rosslare ferry on the 15th September 1981. Five sightings of single birds were made from the Smalls during the autumn of 1982 – 84 when there were daily observations from the lighthouse. One was seen south of Caldey on the 4th August 1991 from the Cork to Swansea ferry. Three were seen from the Fishguard to Rosslare ferry on the 10th September 1999. Two were logged about 10 miles north of the Smalls on the 8th September 2006 from a ship on passage from the USA to Liverpool.

 A total of 59 were encountered between 1998 and 2002 from shark–fishing vessels hired to visit the Celtic Deep area.

The largest incursions into our waters were in 1999 when a total of 41 was logged in the Celtic Deep compared to 11 inshore off Strumble Head and in 2002 when 17 were seen in the Celtic Deep and 29  recorded at Strumble Head.

Further offshore observations from boats could throw further light on the pattern of occurrence of this species, as in some years few, or none, might pass through the Irish Sea. Using the data so far available, 85 % more birds were seen offshore than from the land on dates when weather permitted hire vessels to go to sea and simultaneous observations could be made from land.

The largest numbers seen from land have mostly been when strong onshore winds have prevented offshore observations. The county day maximum of 25 was recorded passing Strumble Head on the 31st August 2002 when the sea was too rough for small craft to put out to sea.  It is possible that observation from a large vessel offshore that day might have revealed a greater presence than has so far been indicated. Resolving such observational incompatibilities presents a challenge.

Graham Rees. Pembrokeshire County Bird Recorder 1981-2007

More about the Great Shearwater in Pembrokeshire

Great Shearwater – 1994

Puffinus gravis – ADERYN-DRYCIN MAWR – Near annual passage migrant

Mathew (1894) noted one probable occurrence and one or two were recorded at the Smalls on 3 September 1917. These records were reported by Lockley et al. (1949) who considered them unsatisfactory but gave no reasons for this judgement. One bird in Jack Sound on 15 August 1957 (C.M. Swaine) was therefore the first undisputed record for Pembrokeshire. Since then a total of 79 birds has been recorded from the Fishguard to Rosslare ferry, off Caldey, the Smalls, South Bishop and predominantly Strumble Head, where it has been seen in nine of the last ten years. Extreme dates are 14 July and 16 October, one to three birds making up most sightings. However, seven were at Strumble Head on 16 August 1990 and 23 together were seen from the Fishguard to Rosslare ferry on 15 September 1981.

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

More about the Great Shearwater in Pembrokeshire

Great Shearwater – 1894

GREATER SHEARWATER, Puffinus major

An occasional visitor – rare.

Writing to us on September 18th, 1886, the Rev. Clennell Wilkinson, rector of Castle Martin, says: “The Greater Shearwater I think I have seen washed up dead on the shore, but that was some years ago, and I am not now very certain about it.” This is a considerably larger and lighter coloured bird than the Manx Shearwater, and is an irregular visitor, sometimes in large flocks, from the Atlantic to the coasts of Devon and Cornwall, and is well known to the people of the Scilly Isles, so that it very probably enters the Bristol Channel occasionally, and may occur in Milford Haven, &c.

Mathew M.A. 1894, Birds of Pembrokeshire and its Islands

More about the Great Shearwater in Pembrokeshire

Great Shearwater

Puffinus gravis – ADERYN-DRYCIN MAWR – Near annual passage migrant

Great Shearwater – records

Ardenna gravis – ADERYN-DRYCIN MAWR – Near annual rare autumn passage migrant Earlier records are summarised in Great Shearwater 2007 2008 – The only accepted record was from Strumble Head, 4th September 2009 – Single birds recorded on three occasions this autumn off Strumble Head: on 17th Aug (AR), 29th Aug & on 3rd Oct […]

Great Shearwater – 2007

Puffinus gravis – ADERYN-DRYCIN MAWR – Near annual passage migrant The Great Shearwater breeds on islands in the Tristan da Cunha group, Gough Island and Kidney Island in the Falklands. Outside the breeding season they migrate up the western Atlantic to Newfoundland, spreading to Greenland and the Denmark Strait. They return southwards on the eastern […]

Great Shearwater – 1994

Puffinus gravis – ADERYN-DRYCIN MAWR – Near annual passage migrant Mathew (1894) noted one probable occurrence and one or two were recorded at the Smalls on 3 September 1917. These records were reported by Lockley et al. (1949) who considered them unsatisfactory but gave no reasons for this judgement. One bird in Jack Sound on 15 August […]

Great Shearwater – 1894

GREATER SHEARWATER, Puffinus major An occasional visitor – rare. Writing to us on September 18th, 1886, the Rev. Clennell Wilkinson, rector of Castle Martin, says: “The Greater Shearwater I think I have seen washed up dead on the shore, but that was some years ago, and I am not now very certain about it.” This is a considerably larger and […]