Snow Bunting – records

Plectrophenax nivalis – BRAS YR EIRA – Passage migrant and winter visitor

Previous records are summarised in Snow Bunting 2007.

2008 – Single at Fishguard outer breakwater from 5 Nov – 29 Dec, With two on 6 Nov and three on 23 Dec. Singles on Ramsey 12 Nov. and on Skomer 24 & 31 Oct.

2009 – On the outer breakwater at Fishguard Harbour, three on 1- 28 Jan with two here on 21 Feb. singles on 1 Mar and 17 Oct until the end of the year.  Singles at Strumble Head 11 Oct, on Skomer 9 Nov and Ramsey on 11 Nov and three on Foel Drygarn on 25 Dec.

2010 – In the early part of year single birds on Fishguard Outer Breakwater 2nd Jan, at St. David’s Head 13th Apr and on Ramsey 21st Apr – 3rd May. In autumn: up to four on Dale Airfield between 4th & 31st Oct. with three at St. David’s Head on 14th Oct, up to two birds on Fishguard Outer Breakwater from 6th Oct until the end of the year. Singles at Pen Anglas 9th to 30th Oct, and on St Davids Head 7th Nov. On Skomer single birds on 1st & 9th Oct then two on 12th & 21st Oct and finally one on 1st Nov

2011 – In the early part of the year two at Traeth Llyfyn on 22nd Jan. In autumn a single on Dale Airfield 29th Sept to 1st Oct then another on 24th Nov. Fishguard Outer Breakwater had up to three birds between 10th Oct to 11th Dec. Singles on St. David’s Head on 25th Oct, 10th Nov, 12th Dec with two on 9th Dec and one at St. Govan’s Head on 17th Oct. Ramsey Island singles on 20th & 27th Apr and four on 12th Dec. Photo below by C. Hurford.

2012 – In the early part of the year birds seen at St. David’s Head on from 8th to 13th Jan with a different individual on 25th Feb. Freshwater West had two on 16th Jan & one at Castle Martin on 19th Feb. Two on Fishguard Outer Breakwater in March, one of which was ringed by members of the Teifi Ringing Group on 11th, then two different birds on Fishguard Inner Breakwater on 22nd March & a single at Strumble Head on 1st April.

At the latter part of the year a single at St. David’s Head 22nd Oct, two at Strumble Head on 29th of same month & one at Castle Martin on same date. In November: singles at Broomhill Burrows on 6th, St.David’s Head on 8th, while on Fishguard Outer Breakwater various numbers recorded, max 5 on 20th.

2013 – All records were: seven seen on Foel Cwm Cerwyn on 12th Jan, in November, 12 on the Fishguard Outer Breakwater 15th, three at Whitesands on 7th, four at Newgale on 27th and singles at Freshwater West on 22nd & Broad Haven (S) on 28th. Another single was at St.David’s Head on 24th Oct.

2014 – All records were: single birds at Newgale 10th Jan, Strumble Head 20th to 21st Oct at least, Pencarnan 27th to 31st Oct, Marloes Mere 24th Nov (photo opposite by DJ Astins) and at Foel Feddau in the Preselis on 31st Dec, with six at the same site the day before. Skokholm had single birds on 6th Oct and 19th to 21st Oct, the second being trapped & ringed (race later confirmed as P.n.nivalis – Welsh rarities report 2020). The island then had two flyover records of single birds on 24th Oct & 3rd Nov.

2015 – A single birds on the Preseli’s at Foel Feddau on 17th Jan and another at St. David’s Head on 31st Oct were the only mainland records. On the islands, one on Ramsey on 10th Mar (photo right by L. Morgan) and one on Skomer on 7th Oct, a different bird was seen the following day.

2016 – All records were: a male Fishguard Harbour on outer breakwater 25th Oct-13th Nov, when feathers were found due to it being predated, a female also present 11th -13th Nov. On Skokholm a single on 11th Nov and on Skomer singles on 20th Oct & 7th Nov.

2017 – All records: 1 st w male on Skomer on 3rd Nov, three at St. David’s Head on 8th Nov and two on the Outer breakwater Fishguard Harbour on 16th Nov

2018 – Singles unless stated: at Porthgain on 7th Jan (photo below by B. Haycock), three at St. David’s Head 7th Mar, near Fishguard Fort on 31st Oct, male on Skomer 4th Nov and Outer Breakwater Fishguard Harbour on 8th Nov

2019 – Four on Dale Airfield 26 Oct, increasing to six 1 Nov with four there the following day, photo below by E. Davies. Five at Marloes Mere 27 Oct and singles at Gann 14 Oct, Skokholm 21 & 24 Oct and 4, 7-8, 10, 17 & 29 Nov and Skomer 3 & 11 Nov

2020 – All records were of singles: Fishguard Outer breakwater 30 Oct, Skokholm 4, 6 & 9 – 11 Nov, Strumble Head 24 Nov, Pwll Deri 27 Nov and at Llanrhian 6 Dec.66 Individuals of the race nivalis accepted by WBRC include: one trapped on the outer breakwater, Fishguard 11 Mar 2012 (per RD) and a female trapped and ringed on Skokholm 19 Oct 2014 (RB).

Records extracted from the Pembrokeshire Bird Reports

More about the Snow Bunting in Pembrokeshire

Snow Bunting – 2007 migration

Plectrophenax nivalis – BRAS YR EIRA – Passage migrant and winter visitor

The Snow Bunting has a circumpolar breeding distribution, inhabiting the treeless expanses of the Arctic, extending south to areas of Norway and Scotland. Partially migratory, many winter far south of the breeding range. Most occurring in Britain have been of the Icelandic race P. n. insulae but the nominate race P. n. nivalis has been recorded in lesser numbers.

Six single Snow Buntings are on record for Pembrokeshire between the years 1859 and 1914, indicating that the species did not loom large during the specimen collecting era, which is perhaps significant considering their striking appearance. Lockley et al (1949) noted that the Snow Bunting was “a regular visitor to Skokholm in October and November but only once seen in spring”.

For the whole county there followed records in 17 years between 1953 and 1969, in 14 years between 1970 and 1989 and in every year bar one between 1990 and 2007.The majority, 86 %, were recorded in the autumn, between mid September and December, the earliest being on the 11th September. Of these 50 % were recorded in October.

Mostly single birds were involved but parties of up to 10 were sometimes encountered, with up to 15 seen at Ramsey, up to 17 at Skokholm and up to 38 at Strumble Head. The mean county autumn total was 9 per annum, excluding exceptional numbers recorded in 1996 and 1999.

 A total of 172 was recorded in 1999, of which a passage total of 115 on 16 dates was logged at Strumble Head. A total of 209 was recorded in the autumn of 1996, 160 of them spread over 10 dates passing Strumble Head.

 Snow Buntings have been recorded in the autumn at Pen Morfa, Dinas Island, Strumble Head, Garn Fawr (Pen Caer), Pen Brush, Trefin, Abereiddi, Trwyn Llwyd, St David’s airfield, Treleddyn, St David’s Head, Porth Clais, Ramsey, South Bishop, Solva, Newgale, Nolton Haven, St Bride’s, Martin’s Haven, Wooltack Point, Skomer, Grassholm, The Smalls, Marloes Beach, Skokholm, Gann,  Dale airfield, Kete, St Ann’s Head, Freshwater West, Castle Martin ranges, St Govan’s Head, Stackpole, Greenala and Garron.

 It seems that Snow Buntings can be encountered anywhere in coastal areas during autumn passage. Single birds at Carn Ingli on the 24th October 2005 and at Foel Eryr on the 28th November 1985 are the only inland records at this time of the year, perhaps reflecting the paucity of observers away from the coast at passage time.

A small and erratic spring passage has been detected in coastal areas, with variously one to three birds at a time noted during March and April, in 14 years between 1958 and 2006. Single birds were also recorded at Manorbier on the 26th May 1991 and at Strumble Head on the 5th June 1959 and 19th August 2002, the latter “captured” on video.

LOCKLEY. R. M, INGRAM. C. S. and SALMON. H. M.1949. The birds of Pembrokeshire, West Wales Field Society.

More about the Snow Bunting in Pembrokeshire

Snow Bunting – 2007 winter

Plectrophenax nivalis – BRAS YR EIRA – Passage migrant and winter visitor

There were 25 January records and 17 in February, up to 2006. Most were transient, recorded on single dates or gone in two or three days.

Two first seen at Fishguard Harbour on the 22nd November 1993 remained until the 14th January 1994, one staying until the 16th February.

Nine found on the Castle Martin ranges on the 21st December 1996 had reduced in number to seven by the 31st December, which stayed until the 19th January 1997, six of them were still there on the 2nd February.

Three which arrived on the salt marsh at the Nevern Estuary on the 29th November 2004, remained until the 11th January 2005, two of them until the 28th February.

A group of 23 occurred at Ramsey on the 6th January 2000 but there is no information as to how long they stayed.

The status of Mynydd Preseli as a wintering ground for Snow Buntings has not been resolved. It would appear that active watchers seldom traverse the upper regions in winter. Local farmer J. G. Stewart-Peter when recording two birds on the 2nd January 1953, stated that he saw small numbers on the highest parts of the range in most winters.

About thirty were noted on “Preseli Top” on the 1st March 1970 and 10 there on the 25th January 1986, 15 were near Foel Cerwyn on the 18th December 1987, three at Foel Feddau on the 18th February 1988 and eight or nine on Foel Drygarn on the 16th December 1997.

More about the Snow Bunting in Pembrokeshire

Snow Bunting – 1994

Plectrophenax nivalis – BRAS YR EIRA – Passage migrant and winter visitor

Mathew (1894) recorded Snow Buntings near Fishguard in 1859 and at the Smalls on 17 October 1884. Lockley et al. (1949) added records from Solva in October 1894 and February 1912, at Boulston in February 1911 and at St Ann’s Head on 27 April 1914. They also noted that it was regular at Skokholm in October and November, but had only once been seen in the spring.

Nowadays one or two pass in spring, between 10 March and 27 April, though not annually. One was at Strumble Head on 5 June 1959.

They are regular autumn migrants, passing through coastal regions and the islands, occurring as far out as the Smalls. Groups of up to 12 have been recorded annually between 23 September and 18 November. At Strumble Head 14 birds were seen on 9 October 1983, and 17 birds were at Skokholm on 6 October 1961.

Up to 30 Snow Buntings have been found in the winter on the tops of the Preseli Mountains and they are probably regular, a challenge for birdwatchers to ascertain their true status there. Individual birds have also wintered on the coast at Fishguard Harbour several times during the 1980s, and at Strumble Head in 1984, while groups of five at St Ann’s Head on 30 December 1984 and on Castle Martin ranges on 22 January 1985 may also have been wintering.

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

More about the Snow Bunting in Pembrokeshire

Snow bunting – 1894

Plectrophenax nivalis

A winter visitor, rather rare. Never seen by us.

Sir Hugh Owen has met with it near Fishguard. Mr. Tracy says, “often obtained in a severe winter.” In Mr. Mathias’ list, but does not appear to have occurred to Mr. Dix. ” White Buntings ” are reported to have been seen about the rocks at the Smalls Lighthouse on October 17th, 1884. These were doubtless Snow Buntings migrating.

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

More about the Snow Bunting in Pembrokeshire

Snow Bunting

Plectrophenax nivalis – BRAS YR EIRA – Passage migrant and winter visitor

Snow Bunting – 2007 migration

Plectrophenax nivalis – BRAS YR EIRA – Passage migrant and winter visitor The Snow Bunting has a circumpolar breeding distribution, inhabiting the treeless expanses of the Arctic, extending south to areas of Norway and Scotland. Partially migratory, many winter far south of the breeding range. Most occurring in Britain have been of the Icelandic race P. n. […]

Snow Bunting – 2007 winter

Plectrophenax nivalis – BRAS YR EIRA – Passage migrant and winter visitor There were 25 January records and 17 in February, up to 2006. Most were transient, recorded on single dates or gone in two or three days. Two first seen at Fishguard Harbour on the 22nd November 1993 remained until the 14th January 1994, one staying […]

Snow Bunting – 1994

Plectrophenax nivalis – BRAS YR EIRA – Passage migrant and winter visitor Mathew (1894) recorded Snow Buntings near Fishguard in 1859 and at the Smalls on 17 October 1884. Lockley et al. (1949) added records from Solva in October 1894 and February 1912, at Boulston in February 1911 and at St Ann’s Head on 27 April 1914. They also […]

Snow Bunting – 1980s winter

Plectrophenax nivalis – BRAS YR EIRA – Passage migrant and winter visitor Up to five birds were seen in four 10km squares during the BTO winter atlas of 1981-82, 1982-82 and 1983-84. More about the Snow Bunting in Pembrokeshire

Snow Bunting – 1949

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

Snow bunting – 1894

Plectrophenax nivalis A winter visitor, rather rare. Never seen by us. Sir Hugh Owen has met with it near Fishguard. Mr. Tracy says, “often obtained in a severe winter.” In Mr. Mathias’ list, but does not appear to have occurred to Mr. Dix. ” White Buntings ” are reported to have been seen about the rocks at the Smalls Lighthouse […]