Sandwich Tern – first and last dates since 2000

Sterna sandvicensis – MOR-WENNOL FWYAF – Passage migrant.

Other records are summarised in Sandwich Tern 1994 and Sandwich Tern 2007

YearFirstLastNotes
20004 April26 November
200118 March1 November
200218 March5 November
200316 March11 November
200429 March25 October
200513 March25 October
200624 March31 October
200721 April28 October
200819 March15 October
20093 April27 September(1)
201022 March19 September
20119 April7 October
20123 March4 October
201324 March5 November
201430 March19 December
201531 March22 November
20164 April4 October
201720 March17 October
201830 March25 September
201923 March15 December
Notes2009 Two winter records of a single, possibly the same bird, firstly in Fishguard harbour on 19 Jan and then off Broad Haven (N) on 2 Feb. The earliest migrants were 7 off Tenby on 3 April.

Records above extracted from the Pembrokeshire Bird Reports which may contain more information.

Pattern of occurrence

A distinction between spring and autumn migrants is usually taken as July 1st (week 26/27). However, movements are clouded by immature birds that are in no hurry to get to breeding colonies, and failed breeders that may start wandering southwards before the end of June.

Note – This graph uses records from BirdTrack for Pembrokeshire only, and includes records from the Skomer and Skokholm logs going back to the 1947. There will be additional records submitted only to the county bird recorder.

More about the Sandwich Tern in Pembrokeshire

Sandwich Tern – 2007

Sterna sandvicensis – MOR-WENNOL FWYAF – Passage migrant. Not recorded from December to February

Sandwich Terns breed on the coasts both sides of the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, Black Sea and Caspian Sea. Those from the north-west of Europe winter mainly on the west coast of Africa.

The Sandwich Tern was a rare visitor to Wales up to the early 20th century. It was first recorded in Pembrokeshire when Bertram Lloyd saw four at Newport on the 3rd June 1928. Variously one to eight birds were then recorded in nine years up to the end of the 1970’s and from the 1980’s onward they were noted frequently each year on both spring and autumn passage.

Spring passage

Spring passage has been documented from the earliest recorded on the 8th March through to the 30th June. Records have involved sightings of from one to twenty birds at a time all around the coast, predominantly from the south coast and the west coast including the offshore islands, with far fewer noted along the north coast. Largest counts were of 22 at Caldey, 33 at Penally, 37 at Lydstep, 25 at Frainslake, 25 at the Gann and 21 at Fishguard Harbour. The general movement northwards to breeding colonies along the coasts of the Irish Sea and further up the west coast of the UK, to some extent makes the north Pembrokeshire coast  a lee shore and probably accounts for lesser numbers occurring there compared with the west coast and islands. It is speculative whether those accumulating along the south coast later move to the Irish Sea to continue their migration, or whether some may follow the shoreline of the Bristol Channel to cross overland to the North Sea. 

Autumn passage

Autumn passage has been numerically greater than that of spring, logged between 1st July and the end of October, with 11 November sightings, the latest on the 28th. Taking the break point between spring, 30th June, and autumn, 1st July, is debatable but the latest mean June date is the 22nd and the earliest mean July date is the 9th. Peak passage has consistently occurred between the 25th of August and the 30th September.  The graph shows the average no of sightings per week.

Strumble Head, mean day counts for peak period, 1980 – 2007.

The heaviest passage has been recorded along the north coast and this has been well documented at Strumble Head, where annual totals logged have varied as follows:

Strumble Head autumn totals 1980 – 2007.

Although passage birds normally moved steadily along the north coast, there have been occasional accumulations for short periods, such as 60 in the mouth of the Teifi Estuary, 42 off the Nevern Estuary, 150 in Fishguard Harbour and 250 between St David’s Head and Ramsey. Most have dispersed out to sea once clear of the Bishops but some have moved along the west coast, with up to 32 being logged at Skomer and 40 at the Gann and along the south coast up to 23 have been recorded at Tenby and Saundersfoot, with up to 40 at Wiseman’s Bridge.

The furthest recorded inland was one flying over Roch on the 21st September 1984 but they have several times been seen leaving Fishguard Harbour heading overland above Goodwick Moor. Although regularly seen inside the Cleddau Estuary, particularly at the Gann, in Dale Roads and Angle Bay, the only records from further upstream have been singles at Llanstadwell on the 9th July 1985 and 4th September 1985, two at Newton Noyes on the 2nd October 1985 and 10 at Landshipping on the 2nd October 2004 with 30 there on the 13th September 2006.   

Graham Rees (County bird recorder 1981 to 2007)

More about the Sandwich Tern in Pembrokeshire

Sandwich Tern – 1994

Sterna sandvicensis – MOR-WENNOL FWYAF – Passage migrant. Not recorded from December to February

Mathew (1894) had no records of Sandwich Tern but from his experience in North Devon thought that they must occur occasionally. Lockley et al. (1949) noted seven occurrences totalling 14 birds, at Newport, Goodwick, Skokholm, St Ann’s Head and Dale. The subsequent record until the 1970s shows occurrences of up to 66 birds per year, the totals increasing year by year and occurring on all coasts from the islands to the estuaries. However, frequent seawatching during the 1980s made it necessary to reappraise the status of the Sandwich Tern in Pembrokeshire.

There is a small spring passage between 16 March and June, when groups of up to ten pass northwards, sometimes pausing to fish in places such as Dale Roads or Newport Bay.

They begin to move southwards again by July, and the autumn passage is much more extensive. Groups of up to 15 are seen in coastal areas, including Newgale and the Gann, between July and late October. At Strumble Head up to 50 may be seen daily between mid-July and early October, with peak counts much higher, such as 202 passing on 3 September 1986, 240 on 10 September 1983 and 372 on 17 September 1983. Most appear to put out to sea once clear of the Bishops and Clerks.

Single Sandwich Terns were seen at Dale on 6 November 1936, at Whitesands on 6 November 1984, at Fishguard Harbour on 19 November 1989 and at Broad Haven (north) on 28 November 1987.

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

More about the Sandwich Tern in Pembrokeshire

Sandwich Tern

Sterna sandvicensis – MOR-WENNOL FWYAF – Passage migrant. Not recorded from December to February

Sandwich Tern – 2007

Sterna sandvicensis – MOR-WENNOL FWYAF – Passage migrant. Not recorded from December to February Sandwich Terns breed on the coasts both sides of the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, Black Sea and Caspian Sea. Those from the north-west of Europe winter mainly on the west coast of Africa. The Sandwich Tern was a rare visitor to Wales […]

Sandwich Tern – 1994

Sterna sandvicensis – MOR-WENNOL FWYAF – Passage migrant. Not recorded from December to February Mathew (1894) had no records of Sandwich Tern but from his experience in North Devon thought that they must occur occasionally. Lockley et al. (1949) noted seven occurrences totalling 14 birds, at Newport, Goodwick, Skokholm, St Ann’s Head and Dale. The subsequent record until […]

Sandwich Tern – 1894

Sterna cantiaca Although this species is not included in any of the lists, we feel certain that it must occasionally visit the Pembrokeshire coasts, the Milford Haven estuary, the neighbourhoods of Tenby, Fishguard, &c. But we must at the same time state that it is very rarely seen off the North Devon coast. Mathew M.A. 1894, Birds of Pembrokeshire […]