Marsh Harrier – 2011

Circus cyaneus – BOD TINWENScarce passage migrant, winter visitor and former breeder.

The Marsh Harrier breeds throughout the Western Palearctic, wintering southwards as far as Africa but it is resident in some areas.

Said to be formerly a common resident in Pembrokeshire, it had become a rare visitor by the time of Mathew (1894). How rare can be judged by there being only eight recorded occurrences between 1880 and 1941. Eighteen individuals were noted between 1942 and 1980, an increase that cannot be entirely due to a growth in the number of active observers.

From a single pair in 1971, the British breeding population increased by about 20 % per year to reach a minimum of 363 pairs by 2005. Although Pembrokeshire is peripheral to the main breeding area in eastern England and the species remained scarce in the county, its frequency of occurrence increased during the British population expansion.

A pair summered in both 2010 and 2011 but breeding was not proven.

Cumulative monthly totals up to 2011.

Peak passage periods were April and May in spring and August and September in autumn. Apart from one seen near St David’s on the 2nd January 1955, there have been two over wintering birds, at the Dowrog in 1982/83, Marloes Mere in 1994/95 and at Castle Martin in 2009/10.

The only adult males recorded were: at Stone Hall in 1880, Ramsey on 20th May 1953, Skomer on the 3rd April 1984 and 24th – 25th April 1997, Trefeiddan on the 8th April 1984, the Gann on the 2nd March 1994 and 29th March 1995, Skokholm on the 3rd May 2001, Hendre, St David’s, on the 4th May 2001, the Dowrog on the 13th November 2003 and one half of the possible breeding pair in 2010 and 2011.

Most Marsh Harriers recorded were at or near the coast, from the Ceredigion border to Tenby, most frequently at the Teifi Marshes, St David’s area, Skomer and Marloes Mere.

Records from further inland were: Stone Hall in 1880, shot at Loveston in c.1884, Jordanston Moor prior to 1894, Mynydd Preseli on the 14th August 1929, Thornton on the 12th May 1971, Treffgarne on the 29th September 1996, Clarydale on the 15th April 1997 and Haverfordwest Race Course on the 10th October 2002. It should be noted that the bulk of observer attention has been focussed on the coastal strip.

Marsh Harriers seen migrating through the county have often hunted on the way, particularly pausing at wetlands, heath and moor but have also been seen quartering barley fields. Many followed the line of the coast but one was seen flying northwards out to sea at Strumble Head on the 6th May 2001 and another coming in off the sea from the north on the 3rd November 1996. A female was seen to depart eastwards from Marloes Mere on the 26th April 1987 steadily gaining height and was at an estimated altitude of 500 feet when finally lost to sight.    

Graham Rees. Pembrokeshire County Bird Recorder 1981-2007

More about the Marsh Harrier in Pembrokeshire

Marsh Harrier – 1994

Circus cyaneus – BOD TINWENPassage migrant and occasional winter visitor

This former common resident had by the late 1800s become only a rare visitor (Mathew 1894). Lockley et al. (1949) noted records from the Preseli Mountains and Dowrog.

Since then, Marsh Harriers have been recorded in 25 of the 37 years from 1950 to 1987. Single birds wintered near St Davids in 1954/55 and at Dowrog in 1982/83, all other records referring to passage birds, with singles occurring from 3 April to 14 June and from 3 August to 28 November. Most records are from coastal areas such as Freshwater East, Marloes Mere, Skokholm, Skomer, Ramsey, Trefeiddan, Llanwnda and Teifi Marshes, but they have been seen inland at Thornton, Jordanston and Loveston. One seen departing from Marloes Mere in May 1987 flew eastwards, steadily climbing, and at a great height was lost to telescope view.

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

More about the Marsh Harrier in Pembrokeshire

Marsh Harrier – 1949

Circus aeruginosus aeruginosus

Said to be formerly common resident but by 1894 only a rare accidental visitor.  Mathew records it from Stone Hall, winter 1880, Jordanston Moor, Orielton decoy and Stackpole. 

One shot, Loveston 1885 (Bertram Lloyd). One Prescelly Mt, 14 Aug 1929, Dowrog Common 11 Sept 1941.  J.F. records one immature, Dowrog, 25/26 May 1948.

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

More about the Marsh Harrier in Pembrokeshire

Marsh Harrier – 1894

Circus aeruginosus

Formerly a common resident, but now only a rare accidental visitor.

When we were shooting Snipe near Stone Hall, in the winter of 1880, a fine old male Marsh Harrier flew within a few feet of us, and we might easily have shot it. Sir Hugh Owen has informed us of one shot some years ago on Jordanston Moor, not far from Fishguard, and of another that he saw hovering over the legions of wild fowl on the decoy at Orielton. There is one in the plumage of the first year in Lord Cawdor’s collection that was shot near Stackpole Court.

Writing about the birds to be found in the neighbourhood of Laugharne, the Rev. C. M. Phelps says : “People speak of a bird they call the ‘Duck Hawk.’ He is represented as a big fellow, and given to attack the various kinds of sea and freshwater Duck that come sailing up the Laugharne river with the flowing tide. One sunny morning, some four years ago, I, myself, saw some such Hawk of considerable size on a sandbank near the mouth of the Tave. He flew across the estuary to the Warley Point before I could make him out. What can this ‘Duck Hawk’ be ?” To this question of Mr. Phelps we are able to reply that the “Duck Hawk” is one of the old names of the Marsh Harrier, the bird being very fond of attacking and feeding upon wild fowl, and the bird frequenting the Laugharne river may, with all probability, be referred to this species.

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

More about the Marsh Harrier in Pembrokeshire

Marsh Harrier

Circus cyaneus – BOD TINWENScarce passage migrant, winter visitor and former breeder.

Marsh Harrier – 2011

Circus cyaneus – BOD TINWEN – Scarce passage migrant, winter visitor and former breeder. The Marsh Harrier breeds throughout the Western Palearctic, wintering southwards as far as Africa but it is resident in some areas. Said to be formerly a common resident in Pembrokeshire, it had become a rare visitor by the time of Mathew […]

Marsh Harrier – 1994

Circus cyaneus – BOD TINWEN – Passage migrant and occasional winter visitor This former common resident had by the late 1800s become only a rare visitor (Mathew 1894). Lockley et al. (1949) noted records from the Preseli Mountains and Dowrog. Since then, Marsh Harriers have been recorded in 25 of the 37 years from 1950 to 1987. […]

Marsh Harrier – 1894

Circus aeruginosus Formerly a common resident, but now only a rare accidental visitor. When we were shooting Snipe near Stone Hall, in the winter of 1880, a fine old male Marsh Harrier flew within a few feet of us, and we might easily have shot it. Sir Hugh Owen has informed us of one shot some years ago on Jordanston […]