Hen Harrier – winter 2019

Circus aeruginosus – BOD Y GWERNI – Winter visitor.

The Hen Harrier is widely distributed across northern Eurasia. In Britain it breeds primarily over 450m on heather-covered uplands, including in north Wales. In most areas it is migratory, heading south for the winter, although in some areas (including the UK) the migrations may be short – eg from the Welsh uplands to lowland heaths and mires, and to coastal areas – depending on the food supply. 

More information in Hen Harrier 1994

When can they be seen?

Hen harriers are seen from the beginning of September (week 36) with the peak number of observations in October and November. It remains throughout the winter, with observations tailing off during April. Occasionally a straggler is seen during May.

Where can they be seen?

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 best areas for observing hen harriers are the St Davids Peninsula, Mynydd Preseli, Dudwell/Plumstone Mountains, the Marloes Peninsula, and the Castlemartin area.

More about the Hen Harrier in Pembrokeshire

Hen Harrier – 1994

Circus aeruginosus – BOD Y GWERNI – Winter visitor. Not recorded from June to August

The breeding records noted by Mathew (1894) were discounted by Lockley et al. (1949) as probably referring to Montagu’s Harrier. Even in winter they were becoming scarcer by 1894. By 1949 the species was classified as a “regular but very scarce autumn and winter visitor” (Lockley et al. 1949). Saunders (1976) remarked that Hen Harriers had “increased considerably during the past twenty years”.

They usually arrive in October and November, and they depart in March and April with stragglers recorded until the end of May. They range widely across the county during the winter but are scarce south of the Cleddau Estuary and in the eastern Marches.

They hunt across most of the coastal plain, including the larger offshore islands, as far east as the Preseli Mountains. The males tend to use the agricultural areas more than the females. Roosts have been located at Plumston, Puncheston, Pantmaenog, Mullock Bridge, Marloes Mere and Dowrog—Tretio. Most roosts contain two or three birds but Dowrog—Tretio usually attracts between six and eight and up to 14 have been seen gathering there. Distinctively marked Hen Harriers occur some years and tracing their movements has shown that birds roosting at Dowrog—Tretio can range as far afield as Martin’s Haven. It is not known whether there is any interchange of individuals between roosts.

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

SAUNDERS, D.R. 1976. A brief guide to the birds of Pembrokeshire. Five Arches Press

More about the Hen Harrier in Pembrokeshire

Hen Harrier – 1980s winter

Circus aeruginosus – BOD Y GWERNI – Winter visitor. Not recorded from June to August

The BTO winter atlas showed that Hen Harriers were present in a third of Pembrokeshire 10km squares during the winters of 1981-82, 1982-82 and 1983-84.

The darker the colour, the higher the relative total count for each 10km square.  The darkest blue represents over 3 birds recorded per day.

Graham Rees. Pembrokeshire County Bird Recorder 1981-2007

Data collected by volunteers for the BTO. Lack, P. 1986 Atlas of wintering birds in Britain and Ireland. T & A.D. Poyser.

More about the Hen Harrier in Pembrokeshire

Hen Harrier – 1949

Circus cyaneus cyaneus

Regular but very scarce autumn and winter visitor seen chiefly by snipe and duck shooters.  Mathew records it at Rhinderston and Cuffern Mountain and believed it to be “resident, but becoming scarce” but it was quite probably confused with Montagu’s Harrier.  Visits Skomer in winter but not recorded Skokholm.  There are no definite records of it ever having bred in the county.

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

More about the Hen Harrier in Pembrokeshire

Hen Harrier – 1894

Circus cyaneus – Resident, but becoming scarce.

Fifty years ago the Hen Harrier was, no doubt, as Mr. Tracy describes, “common, breeds on heaths and furzy moors, pretty generally distributed over the county.” But this bird is, at the present day, but sparingly represented, and that only in the wilder parts of the county. The larger raptorial birds soon fell victims to improved sporting fire-arms, and to more general game preserving, and the Harriers in particular being quite defenceless at the breeding season, from their habit of laying their eggs upon the ground, were easily found and either trapped or shot. It is a wonder there are any remaining.

When Snipe shooting over the remoter and wilder districts in the north of the county, we have frequently come across the Hen Harrier, and have had the opportunity of shooting many in all stages of plumage had we cared to do so, but we had no desire to lend a hand in the extermination of this interesting and harmless bird. One day in the winter we saw three old males beating a part of Rhinderston Common in line, and we have known and regretted the capture of several old birds in the spring time on Cuffern Mountain. At Cuffern there is a case containing a pair of old Hen Harriers, with their young in down, from a nest found on the Cuffern estate.

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

More about the Hen Harrier in Pembrokeshire

Hen Harrier

Circus aeruginosus – BOD Y GWERNI – Winter visitor. Not recorded from June to August

Hen Harrier – winter 2019

Circus aeruginosus – BOD Y GWERNI – Winter visitor. The Hen Harrier is widely distributed across northern Eurasia. In Britain it breeds primarily over 450m on heather-covered uplands, including in north Wales. In most areas it is migratory, heading south for the winter, although in some areas (including the UK) the migrations may be short […]

Hen Harrier – 1994

Circus aeruginosus – BOD Y GWERNI – Winter visitor. Not recorded from June to August The breeding records noted by Mathew (1894) were discounted by Lockley et al. (1949) as probably referring to Montagu’s Harrier. Even in winter they were becoming scarcer by 1894. By 1949 the species was classified as a “regular but very scarce autumn and winter visitor” […]

Hen Harrier – 1980s winter

Circus aeruginosus – BOD Y GWERNI – Winter visitor. Not recorded from June to August The BTO winter atlas showed that Hen Harriers were present in a third of Pembrokeshire 10km squares during the winters of 1981-82, 1982-82 and 1983-84. The darker the colour, the higher the relative total count for each 10km square.  The darkest blue represents over 3 birds […]

Hen Harrier – 1949

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

Hen Harrier – 1894

Circus cyaneus – Resident, but becoming scarce. Fifty years ago the Hen Harrier was, no doubt, as Mr. Tracy describes, “common, breeds on heaths and furzy moors, pretty generally distributed over the county.” But this bird is, at the present day, but sparingly represented, and that only in the wilder parts of the county. The larger raptorial birds soon […]