Eider – 1994

Somateria mollissima – HWYADEN FWYTHBLU – Winter visitor and possible breeder

Mathew (1894) mentioned single birds at Stackpole (undated) and at Dale on 18 January 1891, and Lockley et al. (1949) could add no others. Eiders have appeared with increasing frequency since 1952, when four were at Dale during the second half of November. A few records refer to the Cleddau Estuary, the majority to the outer coast. Groups of up to eight settle in St Bride’s Bay in most winters, where they are most frequently seen at Newgale, and others have been seen off the south coast between Saundersfoot and Flimston, which probably come from the resident flock at Whiteford Point (West Glamorgan). The maximum gathering recorded in Pembrokeshire was of about 30 off the Green Bridge on 26 April 1984. Autumn birds seen in transit off Strumble Head may have originated in Ireland and include most of the adult males recorded.

It was suspected that Eiders attempted to breed at Caldey Island in the early 1980s, and a flightless group seen at St Govan’s Head in mid-July 1983 was probably a brood.

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

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Long-tailed Duck – 1994

Clangula hyemalisHwyaden Gynffon-hirWinter visitor and passage migrant. Not recorded in August and September

Mathew (1894) listed undated occurrences at Stackpole and Haverfordwest, and Lockley et al. (1949) added just one other, a female shot at Milford Haven on 7 December 1906.

Between two and seven have been noted in 24 of the last 30 years, following one at Dale in mid-January 1958. Records refer to ones and twos settling in for the winter in St Bride’s Bay, mostly off Newgale or Broad Haven, and the Amroth—Saundersfoot area of Carmarthen Bay. Others are seen in transit off headlands such as St David’s and Strumble. Occasional ‘mini wrecks’ deposit singles, or groups of up to four, on fresh waters such as Llysyfran reservoir and Bosherston Pools and into the Cleddau Estuary (to the Gann mostly), where they sometimes stay for weeks or months. Up to 12 were in the Amroth—Saundersfoot area from January to March 1989.

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

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Swainson’s Thrush – 1994

Catharus ustulatusCarfonfraithVagrant

An example of this small North American thrush, which breeds from Alaska and Newfoundland south to California and New Hampshire and normally winters from Mexico to Argentina (Cramp 1988), occurred at Skokholm from 14 to 19 October 1967 (C. Britton). This was the first recorded in Britain, although another was found dead at Blackrock lighthouse, Ireland, in May 1956. The Skokholm bird, which was trapped and ringed, occurred in an autumn when the island received no fewer than four North American visitors, the others being Red-eyed Vireo, Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Northern Oriole.

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

CRAMP, S. (ed.) 1977-1993. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa: the birds of the Western Palearctic. Oxford, Oxford University Press. 7 Vols

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Common Scoter – 1994

Melanitta nigra – MOR-HWYADEN DDU – Winter visitor and passage migrant

Mathew (1894) stated that the Common Scoter was a “not rare” winter visitor, while Lloyd was the first to notice large numbers in Carmarthen and St Bride’s bays during the 1920s and 1930s, including flocks during the summer months. Lockley et al. (1949) referred to summer flocks of up to 400 in both bays. Thereafter, many observers contributed observations which established that the Common Scoter is present in our waters throughout the year. Seawatching at Strumble Head from 1980 onwards has permitted seasonal movements to be used to interpret the overall pattern of occurrence.

Male Common Scoters generally winter further south than females (Cramp 1977). Large numbers winter in Carmarthen Bay (West Glamorgan— Carmarthenshire—Pembrokeshire), males conspicuously outnumbering females here. It is difficult to estimate how many birds are present in this huge area, but a series of aerial counts conducted by the RSPB in the 1970s indicated that over 5,000 Common Scoters were present each winter. A further 1,000-2,500 winter in St Bride’s Bay where, surprisingly, males are outnumbered by females in the approximate proportion of 4:1.

The aerial surveys of Carmarthen Bay, and other counts made from boats, indicate that much larger numbers are present in March than in mid-winter, for example 25,000 between Saundersfoot and Worm’s Head on 13 March 1974. This may mean that the Bay is used as a migration staging area, perhaps involving Common Scoters moving up from further south. However, apart from “over 100 passing northwards” off the South Bishop on 18 April 1976 (McCanch 1985) no visible spring movement has been detected in Pembrokeshire. It seems likely, therefore, that the main departure takes place at night. Kumari (1979) has established that Common Scoters do migrate at night, from his radar studies in the White Sea and the Baltic.

Not all leave Carmarthen Bay in the spring, presumably those remaining being non-breeders which complete their moult there. The situation in St Bride’s Bay at this season is not clear. A southward passage past Strumble Head, through St Bride’s Bay and then eastwards past St Govan’s Head, during June and July, is thought to include males returning from their breeding grounds and making their way to Carmarthen Bay to moult. Later movements, peaking in October and November, include a larger proportion of females and these would be post-moult birds heading for their winter quarters. Fewer Common Scoters have been recorded passing St Ives in Cornwall than pass Strumble during these movements, which may indicate that our passages include birds that winter further south. The timing of the movements, coupled with a synchronous passage across the middle of England, suggests that the majority of the Common Scoters seen in Pembrokeshire are from the Fenno—Russian breeding population. A recovery of one bird in Lancashire in December that had been ringed in Finland in October supports this hypothesis, but the recovery of another that had been ringed in Iceland means that the situation may be more complex.

Common Scoters are vulnerable to oil spills and casualties were noted in 1950 and again in 1973-1974, on each occasion about 300 being found contaminated and stranded on the Pembrokeshire shoreline of Carmarthen Bay.

A male Black Scoter, subspecies americana, was at Newgale from November 1991 to March 1992 (D. Astins et al.).

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


Black Scoter Melanitta americana is now recognised as a separate species

see article by Martin Garner

CRAMP, S. (ed.) 1977-1993. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa: the birds of the Western Palearctic. Oxford, Oxford University Press. 7 Vols.

KUMARI, E. V. 1979. Moult and moult migration of waterfowl in Estonia. Wildfowl 30: 90—98.

More about the Common Scoter in Pembrokeshire

Ring Ouzel – 1994

Turdus torquatus – MWYALCHEN Y MYNYDD – Passage migrant, has bred. Not recorded in December

Mathew (1894) frequently encountered Ring Ouzels on the Preseli Mountains and judged from their behaviour that they bred there, noting that eggs were taken in 1867. Lockley et al. (1949) added the record of a pair breeding in a Preseli Mountain quarry in 1948, where Fursdon (1950) also found them nesting the following year, with three young fledged. A pair was present in another nearby locality in 1969 and bred in 1971. There are no subsequent breeding records, though a female was seen in the Preseli Mountains in July 1983.

The Ring Ouzel is a regular spring and autumn passage migrant, with up to four occurring in coastal areas, principally at Skokholm, Skomer and the Preseli Mountains, from 5 March to 26 May and from 27 August to 22 November. One seen at Skomer on 29 February 1984 was probably an early migrant, but another seen in a St David’s garden on 6 January 1985 seems more likely to refer to an overwintering bird.

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

FURSDON J. 1950. 12th Annual Report of the West Wales Field Society. 14-15.

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Surf Scoter – 1994

Melanitta perspicillataMôr-hwyaden Yr EwynRare visitor

Surf Scoters have been recorded as follows: the first was a male at Druidston from 29 October to 4 November 1979 (L. Hawkins et al.), followed by an immature at Strumble Head on 13 November 1982, four males together passing Strumble Head on 13 November 1987, a male at Nolton Haven from 14 November 1987 to 5 March 1988, with a second male there on 28 November 1987 and 5 March 1988, a male at Skokholm on 25 October 1990 and a male at Amroth from 3 to 27 January 1991.

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

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Velvet Scoter – 1994

Melanitta fusca – MOR-HWYADEN GOGLEDD – Winter visitor.

Up to eight are seen most winters in St Bride’s Bay and off Saundersfoot—Amroth, the maximum recorded being 12 off Newgale on 30 December 1988 and 14 passing Strumble Head on 21 October 1991. Also occasionally seen passing Skokholm and Skomer, it has occurred at Newport Bay, Dale Roads, the Cleddau Estuary at Hook, and on fresh water at Bosherston Pools and Slebech Pond.

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

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Goldeneye – 1994

Bucephala clangula – HWYADEN FRONGOCH – Regular visitor. Not recorded in August and September

Both Mathew (1894) and Lockley et al. (1949) classified the Goldeneye as a not very common but regular winter visitor. Today they occur regularly in winter on the Teifi, Nevern and Cleddau Estuaries, Llysyfran reservoir and Bosherston Pools, and with less regularity on other fresh waters. Up to 15 on the Teifi, one or two on the Nevern, 40-50 on the Cleddau and up to 15 at Bosherston Pools are typical winter numbers, with about 80-90 birds being the county total. Numbers increase during cold spells, with about 150 in Pembrokeshire during January—February 1987, 114 of them on the Cleddau Estuary.

Goldeneyes arrive during October and November (exceptionally September) and depart in March and April, during which periods they are sometimes seen off the headlands and islands. May records have included birds in potential breeding habitat, for example at Rosebush reservoir and one flushed from a tree at Bosherston Pools on 20 May 1980 raised great hopes. Single birds remained at the Gann until 15 June 1968 and at Jordanston Pools until 17 July 1981.

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

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