Swallow – first and last dates

Hirundo rustica – GWENNOL – Breeding summer visitor and passage migrant

‘Winter’ records are observations between December and March, usually at least a month after the last migration records. However, in some years this distinction is not made in the the bird reports.

YearFirstLastWinter records
198117 March31 October2 December
198226 March16 November 
198310 March14 November 
198431 March12 November 
198530 March21 October 
198617 March10 November4 December
19874 April27 October 
198826 March6 November 
198920 March29 OctoberOne wintered at Haverfordwest, being first seen on 9 Jan and last seen about 4 Mar after which it was feared that it succumbed during sudden frost (JWD et al).
199030 March26 October 
199129 March30 October2 December
199218 March30 October 
199315 March10 October 
199420 March20 November 
199523 March16 NovemberOne Teifi Marshes 13 January
199619 March7 November 
199730 March3 November 
199818 March25 November 
199923 March5 November 
200011 March12 November 
200124 March16 November 
200224 March20 November 
200327 March12 November 
200419 March31 OctoberWinter records – Singles St Davids 1 and 9 December, and 4 Texaco Refinery Nov to 31 December – survival probably helped by the microclimate at the refinery
200517 March21 NovemberAt Texaco refinery, 4 wintered until 3rd week Jan then down to 3 by end of month, one remained until 10 Mar. 4 were ringed on 1 Jan, one that had been caught on 20 Dec 2004 had lost 25% of its body weight between these two dates. Singles Milford Haven 1 Mar & W. Angle 10 Jan, were probably from Texaco. 3 Amroth 26-27 Jan.
200627 March2 November 
200714 March3 NovemberSingle at Bosherston on 7 December
200827 March26 OctoberDecember records included: 3 at Stackpole Home Farm 9th and 11th, 2 here on 22nd, singles St Anns Head on 11th, and Pembroke Dock on 3rd and 24th, and birds at the Chevron refinery on 12th.
200913 March23 OctoberLast surviving swallow at Chevron was last seen on 5 January, 2nd bird found dead due to the cold weather. Winter records: two hawking around farm buildings at Church Farm, Castlemartin on 22nd November.
201017 March16 October 
201113 March26 October 
201218 March8 NovemberDecember records were from Hundleston with two on 5th and 10th and a single on 7th.
20139 April14 November 
201417 March1 November 
20152 April18 November 
201623 March4 December 
201712 March4 December 
201817 March26 October 
201914 March8 December 
202018 March1 December

More about the Swallow in Pembrokeshire

Swallow – 2003-07 breeding

Hirundo rustica – GWENNOL – Breeding summer visitor and passage migrant

Comparison with previous atlas:

1984-882003-07
Breeding confirmed294338
Breeding probable7074
Breeding possible6222
No of tetrads occupied426 (of 478)434 (of 490)
Percentage of tetrads89.1%88.6%

Swallows are highly dependent on the availability of suitable buildings for nest sites.  They nest in barns and other outbuildings, porches, sheds and garages, and are often semi-colonial particularly in farm buildings where livestock are kept.  More unusual nest sites have included a sea cave in Martins Haven and a disused underground heating duct at Stackpole.  They have nested in the public conveniences at Martins Haven for many years. Swallows have also bred successfully in some of the rooms in Carew Castle. Swallows are aerial insect feeders, and forage over a range of semi-natural habitats such as freshwater and salt marsh; open water; open, wooded areas and scrub, and over pasture especially if it is grazed by livestock, e.g. cattle and horses.

Data obtained during the 2003-07 tetrad survey suggests relatively little change in the distribution of breeding pairs of Swallows in the county (see map).

The data show an increase of 13% in the number of tetrads where breeding was confirmed between the two tetrad surveys. The map shows a largely unchanged distribution of tetrads in which breeding was confirmed or probable. A few gaps have however, opened up, for example on the St David’s Peninsula, on the Pencaer Peninsula and in one or two parts of mid and north Pembrokeshire away from the coast.  These appear to be quite small-scale, localised losses that may be linked to the loss of suitable nest sites, e.g. as a result of conversion of outbuildings to dwellings. They may also be a result of changes in the distribution and abundance of aerial insects, following changes in land management practices.

Following the 1984-88 tetrad survey, it was estimated that at an average density of 20 pairs per tetrad, there were at least 8,500 pairs of Swallows in the county. A 13% increase in the number of tetrads where breeding was confirmed during the 2003-07 tetrad survey suggests that the breeding population is around 10,000 pairs.

Jane Hodges

More about the Swallow in Pembrokeshire

Swallow – 1994

Hirundo rustica – GWENNOL – Breeding summer visitor and passage migrant

1984-88
Breeding confirmed294
Breeding probable70
Breeding possible62
No of tetrads occupied426 (of 478)
Percentage of tetrads89.1%

A common summer visitor to Mathew (1894), arriving in April and departing by early October. Lockley et al. (1949) agreed that the Swallow was a common summer visitor and added that it was abundant on passage. Today they breed commonly throughout the county (see map). At an average density of 20 pairs per tetrad there must be at least 8,500 pairs. Most nests are situated in farm buildings but other inhabited and derelict buildings are also utilised. They regularly breed in a sea cave at Martin’s Haven, providing endless entertainment to folk waiting for the Skomer boat. A pair bred underground in a heating duct at Stackpole in 1987.                 

The first Swallows usually arrive in Pembrokeshire in the last week of March, occasionally from the 8 March onwards. Spring migrants are sometimes seen flying south again, a ringing recovery of one marked at Skokholm and recovered in Cornwall three days later suggesting that they may sometimes overshoot their destination or can retreat if they outstrip favourable weather conditions. They pass northwards across the county throughout April and May and a few can still be seen passing until early July. Many pause to hawk for food, freshwater proving a particularly attractive diversion. Bad weather, particularly drizzle, can cause a temporary halt and hundreds of Swallows will gather at places such as Pembroke Mill Ponds and Llysyfran reservoir. They move on rapidly as soon as the weather clears. Ringing recoveries show that these migrants reach a variety of destinations, from County Clare, Ireland, to Shropshire.

Swallows pass southwards again from late July, the movement increasing in volume to a peak in September. Massive movements take place on some autumn days. A particularly large passage was noted on 22 September 1983, when they were seen streaming in off the sea at Strumble Head from 07.45 hours (GMT) onwards. About 1,000 were counted over a 0.8 km front during the first hour, about 2,000 in the second hour and an average of about 500 in the following hours. Observation ceased at Strumble Head at 11.30 hours, when a journey to St David’s established that they were coming in all along the coast. If the Strumble figures were representative of the movement as a whole, then at least 90,000 would have passed by during the movement. They continue to be seen on a diminishing scale through October until early December. They also migrate at night, judging by an occurrence at the lantern of the Smalls lighthouse on the night of 20 May 1984.

Several ringing recoveries show that Pembrokeshire Swallows go as far as South Africa during the winter, but one was still at Little Milford for a few days from 29 February 1960, another was near Manorbier on 1 February 1966 and one wintered at Haverfordwest in 1989, spending much of its time hawking insects over the river between the two bridges. It was first seen in January and thought to have succumbed during a sudden sharp frost on 1 March, but it has subsequently come to light that a Swallow appeared at Clarydale (about 5 miles to the east) on that date and was present until 14 March.

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

More about the Swallow in Pembrokeshire

Swallow – 1894

Hirundo rustica – A common summer visitor.

We used to greet the Swallows on 10th April, as an average date, at Stone Hall, where they were always numerous, and nested in all our outbuildings, bringing off two broods of young in the course of the summer.

When the May Fly was “up” on the Cleddy below our house it was a grand time for the Hirundines. In company with numerous Sparrows and Chaffinches they gathered to the feast, and most eagerly pursued the chase of the dancing ephemera. The tiny Sand Martins appeared to have no difficulty in bolting them, and we could hear the snap of their mandibles as one disappeared inside. One day a Swift in headlong pursuit collided against our head and fluttered stunned to the ground, but soon recovered and rose again on wing.

The greater number of our Swallows left us in North Pembrokeshire about the middle of September; some had gone before in August, and very few remained in the early days of October.

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

More about the Swallow in Pembrokeshire

Swallow

Hirundo rustica – GWENNOL – Breeding summer visitor and passage migrant

Swallow – first and last dates

Hirundo rustica – GWENNOL – Breeding summer visitor and passage migrant ‘Winter’ records are observations between December and March, usually at least a month after the last migration records. However, in some years this distinction is not made in the the bird reports. Year First Last Winter records 1981 17 March 31 October 2 December […]

Swallow – 2003-07 breeding

Hirundo rustica – GWENNOL – Breeding summer visitor and passage migrant Comparison with previous atlas: 1984-88 2003-07 Breeding confirmed 294 338 Breeding probable 70 74 Breeding possible 62 22 No of tetrads occupied 426 (of 478) 434 (of 490) Percentage of tetrads 89.1% 88.6% Swallows are highly dependent on the availability of suitable buildings for […]

Swallow – 1994

Hirundo rustica – GWENNOL – Breeding summer visitor and passage migrant 1984-88 Breeding confirmed 294 Breeding probable 70 Breeding possible 62 No of tetrads occupied 426 (of 478) Percentage of tetrads 89.1% A common summer visitor to Mathew (1894), arriving in April and departing by early October. Lockley et al. (1949) agreed that the Swallow was a […]

Swallow – 1968-72 breeding

Red = breeding confirmed Orange = breeding probable Yellow = breeding possible More about the Swallow in Pembrokeshire

Swallow – 1949

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

Swallow – 1894

Hirundo rustica – A common summer visitor. We used to greet the Swallows on 10th April, as an average date, at Stone Hall, where they were always numerous, and nested in all our outbuildings, bringing off two broods of young in the course of the summer. When the May Fly was “up” on the Cleddy below our house it was […]