Sabine’s Gull – records

Xema sabini – GWYLAN SABINE – Scarce passage migrant

Summary of records since 1994

Records to 2006 are summarised and analysed in Sabine’s Gull 2006.

2007 – Participants in pelagic trips to the Celtic Deep were rewarded with views of beautiful single adults on the 26th & 31st Aug. All other records were from Strumble Head in September where: single juvs. on the 3 , 4 , 7 , 13 , 16 , 21 & 23rd. Nine were counted on the 11th, two on the 24 and three on the 25th. The only adult recorded was on the 21st

2008 – All records were from Strumble Head,  except an adult off Grassholm on 30th Aug. Off Strumble Head were: adult 16th Aug.,  adult 20 Aug., adult & juv. 25th Aug. and 2 juvs. on 27th, adult 31st Aug.  In September. adult on the 1st, juv. on the  2nd, adult on the 3rd, juv. on the 6th & 12th an adult & 2 juvs. on 13th, an adult & a juv. on 14th and an adult on the 18th. A juvenile there on 2nd Oct.

2009 – The only non-Strumble Head record was of a juvenile off St. Govan’s Head on 31st Aug. Off Strumble Head, adults: one on 20th Aug, three on the 29th and one on the 31st. In September: two on the 3rd, four on the 4th & 5th, two on the 6th and singles on the 8th & 9th. Juveniles: two on 5th Sept and one on 3rd Oct.

2010 – Only reported at Strumble Head where a total of 24 passed between 21st Aug & 23rd Sept, max 11 on 16th Sept. This year the majority of birds that passed were juveniles with single adult on 21st Aug & three adults on 16th Sept.

2011 – Another species with a record year at Strumble Head in 2011, 86 birds were recorded on 19 dates between 7th Sept & 20th Dec, max 18 on 18th Sept (the highest daily total on record). Of this total 25 were adults & 61 Juveniles. Other records received; an adult from the Fishguard – Rosslare Ferry c30 km West of Strumble Head on 9th Sept, a juv. At Newgale on 27th Sept, another on Skomer on 3rd Oct (only the 2nd island record) and a single juv in Ramsey Sound on 23rd Nov. From Ramsey Island itself a juv on 18th Sept, two on 7th Oct then three adults in winter plumage & another juv on 19th Oct.

2012 – At Strumble Head 21 birds recorded on 11 dates between 24th Aug & 16th Oct. Singles on 24th, 27th, 29th Aug & 9th, 18th Sept & 16th Oct, with two recorded on 12th,17th & 24th Sept and three on 30th Aug & 2nd Sept & the daily max of four on 11th Sept. Of the birds recorded only 8 were juveniles. Elsewhere an adult passed through Whitesands Bay on 17th Oct.

2013 – At Strumble Head only six birds recorded, singles on 28th Aug & 14th Oct with two birds recorded each day on 15th & 17th Sept. All, except for one of the birds on 15th Sept. were adults. The lowest year total since 1999 when also only six were recorded. Juv off Ramsey on 5th Nov.

2014 – Another very poor year for this species at Strumble Head with two Juveniles on 27th Aug, an adult on 29th of the same month and another two juveniles on 21st Oct being the only birds recorded. Ramsey had birds on 21st Oct & 7th Nov both juveniles. The 3rd record for Skomer was a juvenile on 19th Oct.

2015 – At Strumble Head a slight increase in records with a annual total of 10 birds recorded. In August two on 29th with singles on 22nd, 30th & 31st all Adults. In September, two adults and a juvenile on 1st then another adult on 22nd. The final record for the year was a juvenile on 7th Nov.

2016 – At Strumble Head a reasonable showing this year with 15 birds recorded, 12 ads & three juvs. Max four on 4th Sept. Juv off Skomer on 13th Sept.

2017 – A very good year at Strumble Head for this species with 52 birds recorded: 14 Adults & 38 Juveniles / 1st w. Maximum day count was of 15 on 11th Sept. The only other records were of a juvenile off Skomer on 15th & 16th Sept, two adults off Skokholm on 12th Sept, juv. on 13th, 16th & 18th and a 1st w on 21st Oct.

2018 – A total of 13 logged passing Strumble Head, all adults. In August, two on 24th & 25th, four on 27th and singles on 29th & 30th. In September, singles 11th, 14th and 21st.

2019 – Three off Skokholm 9 Oct, one off Skomer on 9 Oct and two there the following day and one was seen from a pelagic trip into Celtic Deep 19 Sept.  Total of eight logged passing Strumble Head: singles 31 Aug, 1 & 4 Sept, two 5 Sept and three 29 Sept.

2020 – A total of 13 logged passing Strumble Head 13 on 26 Aug, 11 of which were adults, one a juv and one unaged. Elsewhere juveniles off Skomer 26 Aug, an adult off Skokholm 30 Aug and a juv. off Whitesands Bay 2 Nov

Further analysis of the data in the Pembrokeshire Bird Report 2019.

Source: Pembrokeshire Bird Reports

More about the Sabine’s Gull in Pembrokeshire

Sabine’s Gull – 2006

Xema sabiniGwylan SabineScarce passage migrant

The Sabine’s Gull is an Arctic breeding species, with an estimated total population of less than 100,000 pairs. Most breed in Canada and Eastern Russia, with about 100 – 200 pairs in Greenland and sporadic outliers in Spitzbergen.

The east Canadian and Greenland populations cross to the east Atlantic en route to winter as far south as Namibia and western South Africa. Strong winds at this time result in variable numbers passing through inshore waters.

The first to be recorded in Britain was at Milford Haven in the autumn of 1839 and another was recorded near Amroth on the 12th November 1892.The next to be recorded in the county was not until the 11th October 1968 at Skokholm.

Subsequently a total of eight birds were noted between 1970 and 1980, at Skokholm, Newgale, St David’s Head and off Fishguard. Between 1981 and 2006 they were recorded from The Smalls, the Gann, Bluck’s Pool, from the Pembroke to Rosslare ferry, Skomer, Ramsey and the Celtic Deep but principally, 95 % of the total, from Strumble Head. 

Total birds per annum:

Records span the period from the 11th August to the 20th November, the most logged in any year being 43 in 1997, with a highest day total of 12 at Strumble Head on the 13th September 1997.

Two birds recorded do not fall within the pattern outlined above, the first being a juvenile feeding among seaweed on a Caldey Island beach on the 16th July 2005. This was remarkably early for a bird of the year to have travelled so far from where it had fledged, possibly climate change resulted in an early start to breeding.

The second was a first winter bird seen at Strumble Head on the 2nd January 1999, flying with Kittiwakes, when its smaller size and unfamiliar plumage pattern attracted observers’ attention

Age of birds

Xema sabini Juveniles have outnumbered adults, making up 79 % of the total recorded. Peak numbers of adults have occurred in August, whereas juveniles have peaked in September and October.

Patterns of occurrence, 1981 – 2005, adults in red, juveniles in blue, in six day periods.

Weather Effects

Throughout the 1980’s Sabine’s Gull occurrences were associated with south west gales, which were thought to have blown them into Cardigan Bay from the South West Approaches, which they were able to exit when the wind veered between west and north. These conditions were the result of depressions tracking along a course whereby the centres passed north eastwards over Scotland.

 Post 1992 autumn depressions began to track farther south, their centres either over Pembrokeshire or south of it. These resulted in strong south easterlies which did not have the same displacement effect on migrant seabirds. However strong northerly winds sometimes followed, blowing down the west coast of Scotland and the length of the Irish Sea, which did result in Sabine’s Gulls passing close in to the north Pembrokeshire coast.

Whichever period is examined it becomes evident that the variation in the number of Sabine’s Gulls seen depends on the frequency of “favourable” winds. Between 1980 and 1990, one to nine per annum was recorded in six years and 12 to 25 per annum in five years. Between 1991 and 2005, three to nine per annum were noted in eight years and 12 to 43 in six years. None were seen in 1993 in an autumn dominated by north east winds.

Graham Rees. Pembrokeshire County Bird Recorder 1981-2007

More about the Sabine’s Gull in Pembrokeshire

Sabine’s Gull – 1994

Xema sabiniGwylan SabineScarce passage migrant

Mathew (1894) cites three Pembrokeshire occurrences, at Milford Haven in the autumn of 1839, near Amroth on 12 November 1892 and an undated record of a bird taken at Stackpole. No more were recorded until one was seen at Skokholm on 11 October 1968, followed by single birds in five years up to 1979. Since 1980 Sabine’s Gulls have been seen annually, mostly as single birds, or two together, blown inshore by gales in the period from 22 August to 23 November. They have been noted at Skokholm, the Smalls, the Gann, Newgale, St Davids Head and Fishguard, while 130 passed Strumble Head between 1980 and 1992, with a maximum of 25 in a year and up to six passing in a day.

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

More about the Sabine’s Gull in Pembrokeshire

Sabine’s Gull – 1894

Xenia sabinii – A rare, occasional straggler from the far north; only three occurrences.

In Mr. Mathias’ list. One killed by a keeper of Lord Cawdor was seen by Mr. Mathias in Tracy’s shop, at Pembroke. This was a young bird in the first year’s plumage, and is now in the collection at Stackpole. In the first edition of his well-known work on “British Birds,” page 422, vol. iii., Mr. Yarrell states : “I have notes of one killed at Milford Haven, in the autumn of 1839.” Then, in the Zoologist for 1892, page 423, Mr. Charles Jefferys, of Tenby, relates the capture by himself of an immature Sabine’s Gull, on November 12th, that year, near the village of Amroth. “There was a strong wind blowing in shore and a heavy sea. It was late in the afternoon, almost dusk, and the bird was flying along the surf-line, as if looking for food. It was in good condition, and is now being preserved.” Mr. C. Jefferys has since informed us that this specimen is now in the Kelvin Grove Museum at Glasgow.

Sabine’s Gull is another very small species that is extremely rare in this kingdom in its pretty adult plumage in which it has a dark, lead-coloured cap and throat, the latter encircled by a black ring. It breeds beyond the Arctic circle, and its forked tail, and the angle at the symphysis of the under mandible, make it to be easily distinguished in all plumages from the Little Gull, with which we have known it to be occasionally confounded. After rough weather in the autumn this small Gull is not very rare along our south-western coasts.

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

More about the Sabine’s Gull in Pembrokeshire

Sabine’s Gull

Xema sabiniGwylan SabineScarce passage migrant

Sabine’s Gull – records

Xema sabini – GWYLAN SABINE – Scarce passage migrant Summary of records since 1994 Records to 2006 are summarised and analysed in Sabine’s Gull 2006. 2007 – Participants in pelagic trips to the Celtic Deep were rewarded with views of beautiful single adults on the 26th & 31st Aug. All other records were from Strumble […]

Sabine’s Gull – 2006

Xema sabini – Gwylan Sabine – Scarce passage migrant The Sabine’s Gull is an Arctic breeding species, with an estimated total population of less than 100,000 pairs. Most breed in Canada and Eastern Russia, with about 100 – 200 pairs in Greenland and sporadic outliers in Spitzbergen. The east Canadian and Greenland populations cross to […]

Sabine’s Gull – 1994

Xema sabini – Gwylan Sabine – Scarce passage migrant Mathew (1894) cites three Pembrokeshire occurrences, at Milford Haven in the autumn of 1839, near Amroth on 12 November 1892 and an undated record of a bird taken at Stackpole. No more were recorded until one was seen at Skokholm on 11 October 1968, followed by […]