Mallard – 2021 Winter

Anas platyrhynchos – HWYADEN WYLLT – Breeding resident, passage migrant and winter visitor

Mallard can be seen at any time of year in Pembrokeshire, however, numbers in autumn and winter are augmented by arrivals from north-east Europe and Russia (based on ringing recoveries from Orielton and throughout Wales). Numbers are also increased by the release of birds for shooting, and it is possible the variability of this source accounts for much of the variability of the annual maxima recorded by the Wetland Bird Survey locally.

In the UK as a whole, numbers of (wild) mallard increased in the 1970s and 1980s, but have subsequently fallen. There is no clear reason for the decline, but there is a clear relationship with the ingestion of lead shot. Ringing recoveries have also shown that there is a reduction in the number of winter visitors from continental Europe (Birds of Wales)- probably due to a combination of less severe winters and a reduction in shooting pressure there.


Distribution

This map was produced by the West Wales Biodiversity Information Centre using data collected between November and February for the BTO Atlas 2007-11, with additional data collected in 2011-12 winter to fill gaps in coverage.

Main sites

  • Pembroke Millponds
  • Teifi Estuary
  • Cleddau Estuary: Little Milford – Haverfordwest

Other sites, such as Millin Pill, Llys-y-fran and Marloes Mere have also held over 100 mallard on occasion.


Wetland Bird Survey

Current monthly WeBS totals can be seen here


Annie Haycock (BBS & WeBS local organiser)

References

HODGES J E. (2010-2020) Daugleddau Estuary and Milford Haven Waterway: annual surveillance of summer shelduck populations. Reports to the Milford Haven Waterway Environmental Surveillance Group.

PRITCHARD R, HUGHES J, SPENCE I.M., HAYCOCK R.J. & BRENCHLEY A. (Editors) (2021) Birds of Wales. Liverpool University Press

More about the Mallard in Pembrokeshire

Little Grebe – 2021 Winter

Tachybaptus ruficollis – GWYACH FACH – Breeding resident and winter visitor

See also Little Grebe 2016 WeBS

Little Grebes spend the winters at a variety of sites from small pools, such as irrigation reservoirs, to large sheltered estuarine embayments. The coastal sites are more important in cold winters when inland sites freeze over. The susceptibility of the species to cold winters is illustrated by the drop in numbers (on WeBS sites at least) after the 2009-2010 and 2010-11 winters.

Distribution

This map was produced by the West Wales Biodiversity Information Centre using data collected between November and February for the BTO Atlas 2007-11, with additional data collected in 2011-12 winter to fill gaps in coverage.

Main sites:

Pembroke Millponds – the fourth most-important site in Wales for little grebe

The Cleddau Estuary complex as a whole is the fifth most-important site in Wales, with the greatest concentration now being on the Pickleridge lagoon at the Gann Estuary.


Wetland Bird Survey

Note that Little Grebe were counted only on freshwater sites before 1994-95

Current monthly totals from WeBS counts can be seen here


Annie Haycock (BBS & WeBS local organiser)

References

HODGES J E. (2010-2020) Daugleddau Estuary and Milford Haven Waterway: annual surveillance of summer shelduck populations. Reports to the Milford Haven Waterway Environmental Surveillance Group.

Pritchard R, Hughes J, Spence I.M., Haycock R.J. & Brenchley A. (Editors) (2021) Birds of Wales. Liverpool University Press

More about the Little Grebe in Pembrokeshire

Gadwall – 2021 Winter

Mareca strepera – HWYADEN LWYD – Winter visitor, has bred

The gadwall has been increasing in numbers and distribution in winter since the 1960s.  However, there was a lack of birds in Pembrokeshire (and in Wales) during the early-mid 1990s, and again in 2007-08.  Recent winters have again shown a decline in numbers.  The reason for this is not clear, although as this is primarily a freshwater species, it is possible that its occurrence in this part of the country may depend on whether lakes further north are frozen over or otherwise unaccessible.

Gadwall are kleptoparasitic on species such as coot and swans that feed on submerged vegetation – bringing it to the surface where the gadwalls can reach it.  It is therefore possible that the recent decline in gadwall here is related to the decline in coot since 2010. 

Distribution

This map was produced by the West Wales Biodiversity Information Centre using data collected between November and February for the BTO Atlas 2007-11, with additional data collected in 2011-12 winter to fill gaps in coverage.

The main sites are:

  • Bosherston Lakes (5-year maximum average = 11)
  • Marloes Mere (5-year maximum average = 16)
  • South Hook Pools (5-year maximum average = 23)

Wetland Bird Survey

Monthly counts for the current season can be found here

Pattern of occurrence

The number of records each week since 2000 from BirdTrack. This gives an idea of when they are most likely to be seen.  Most records do not include counts. May-June records generally refer to single birds, however up to six were present at Marloes Mere in June 2014, and a male was apparently keeping company with a female mallard and her chicks on Pembroke Millpond 2011.

Annie Haycock (BBS & WeBS local organiser)

More about the Gadwall in Pembrokeshire

Red-breasted Merganser – 2020 winter

Mergus serrator – HWYADEN FRONGOCH – Winter visitor

This map was produced by the West Wales Biodiversity Information Centre using data collected between November and February for the BTO Atlas 2007-11, with additional data collected in 2011-12 winter to fill gaps in coverage.


Best places to see Mergansers

The coast off Wiseman’s Bridge/Amroth – telescope required, but the largest numbers in recent winters have been found here.

Fishguard – Goodwick and Lower Town harbours – we have watched a bird swim between the two.


Wetland Bird Survey

No Red-breasted Mergansers were seen during the 2020-21 season.

Note from the BTO Waterbirds in the UK report for 2019-20

  • Species that migrate from the east, including Mergansers, were down compared with the previous winter, likely related to the exceptionally mild weather across Europe.  Red-breasted Merganser 10-year trend was -23%, their lowest index value since 1980s, as shown below.

Note from the BTO Waterbirds in the UK report for 2013-14

  • The decline in the UK’s wintering population of Red-breasted Mergansers, evident since the mid 1990s, has slowed slightly. However, following a spike in numbers in 2010-11 (perhaps associated with the coldest winter across northwest Europe for 35 years), the annual index has resumed its downward trajectory.
  • Given that numbers wintering to the east of the UK have increased steadily in the last 30-40 years, for example in The Netherlands, the observed trends are suggestive of a range shift perhaps induced by climate change – as has been demonstrated for other waterbirds. However, this hypothesis has not yet been tested for this species, and perhaps pertinently, large decreases have been reported from further east in the Baltic Sea.

Carmarthen Bay

The area of Carmarthen Bay viewable from the Amroth/Wiseman’s Bridge area is not part of the Wetland Bird Survey. Nor is it watched on a regular basis. However, virtually all the double-figure counts of red-breasted mergansers are from this site. The counts below are taken from the Pembrokeshire Bird Reports since 1990.

Annie Haycock (BBS & WeBS local organiser)

More about the Red-breasted Merganser in Pembrokeshire

Knot – 2020

Calidris canutus – PIBYDD YR ABER – Winter visitor and passage migrant. 

The knot breeds on the high Arctic tundra of Canada, Greenland and Russia.  The majority of those wintering in the UK are of the Greenland and eastern Canada subspecies.  However, one colour-ringed bird recorded in Pembrokeshire was also seen in northern Norway.

198243 
198445 
198647 
1990-91 
1993-94 
1995-96 
1997-98 
2001432 
2003434 
2005436 
2007438 
2009-10 
2011-12 
2013-14 1 
2015 
-16 
2017-18 
201E- 
20 
3 
3 
3

Most of the UK wintering population is on the east side of Britain, although flocks of several thousand do occur on the Dee, Dyfi and Carmarthen Bay estuaries.  However, numbers in Pembrokeshire seem always to have been relatively small.  We just don’t have the vast open mudflats that this species prefers.

This map was produced by the West Wales Biodiversity Information Centre using data collected between November and February for the BTO Atlas 2007-11, with additional data collected in 2011-12 winter to fill gaps in coverage.

The most likely places to see Knot in Pembrokeshire are the outer parts of the Cleddau (although they are occasionally seen further upstream), Teifi and Nevern Estuaries, and also on the large beaches of Freshwater West and Frainslake.

Annie Haycock (BBS & WeBS local organiser)


References:

BALMER D, GILLINGS S, CAFFREY B, SWANN B, DOWNIE I, FULLER R. 2014. Bird Atlas 2007-11: The Breeding and Wintering Birds of Britain and Ireland.  HarperCollins.  UK

HBW – Handbook of the Birds of the World

LACK P. 1986.  The Atlas of Wintering Birds in Britain and Ireland, T & A. D. Poyser, London

LOVEGROVE R, WILLIAMS G, WILLIAMS I. 1994.  Birds in Wales. T & A. D. Poyser, London

Pembrokeshire Bird Reports

WERNHAM. C, TOMS. M, MARCHANT. J, CLARK. J, SIRIWARDENA. G, BAILLIE. S. 2002. The Migration Atlas, Movements of the birds of Britain and Ireland, T & A. D. Poyser, London

More about the Knot in Pembrokeshire

Shoveler – winter

Anas clypeata – HWYADEN LYDANBIG – Winter visitor and sparse breeder

The shoveler has a breeding range that extends through Eurasia and Western north America. In general, it migrates well to the south for the winter with a few areas, such as Britain, the Netherlands and the west coast of America seeing birds all year round.

Occasionally one or two pairs breed in Pembrokeshire, but really they are a winter species here. Generally they are found on freshwater sites and in sheltered estuaries.

Numbers are variable, but probably around 100 in most winters – double that in a good year. This reflects the situation in Wales as a whole, with the general increase since the early 1990s. The map shows they can be scattered well beyond the sites monitored for the Wetland Bird Survey. However, Marloes Mere and Castlemartin Corse are the most likely places to find them.

This map was produced by the West Wales Biodiversity Information Centre using data collected between November and February for the BTO Atlas 2007-11, with additional data collected in 2011-12 winter to fill gaps in coverage.

Movements

Most recent ringing recoveries of birds shot in Wales show they are coming from (or moving through) the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Latvia and Estonia. However, studies at Orielton Decoy in the 1930s showed that some of our birds came from breeding grounds such as the Volga and Pechora rivers on the western Siberian Plain.

Annie Haycock (BBS & WeBS local organiser)

References:

BALMER D, GILLINGS S, CAFFREY B, SWANN B, DOWNIE I, FULLER R. 2014. Bird Atlas 2007-11: The Breeding and Wintering Birds of Britain and Ireland.  HarperCollins.  UK

HBW – Handbook of the Birds of the World

LACK P. 1986.  The Atlas of Wintering Birds in Britain and Ireland, T & A. D. Poyser, London

LOVEGROVE R, WILLIAMS G, WILLIAMS I. 1994.  Birds in Wales. T & A. D. Poyser, London

Pembrokeshire Bird Reports

WERNHAM. C, TOMS. M, MARCHANT. J, CLARK. J, SIRIWARDENA. G, BAILLIE. S. 2002. The Migration Atlas, Movements of the birds of Britain and Ireland, T & A. D. Poyser, London

More about the Shoveler in Pembrokeshire

Glaucous Gull – winter

Larus hyperboreus – GWYLAN Y GOGLEDD – Irregular winter visitor.

The Glaucous Gull breeds along the north coasts of Canada and Eurasia, and their associated islands. Most move south in the winter, though often still spending the season in frozen areas.

They are now seen regularly in Pembrokeshire in winter, often staying well into the spring. Small numbers are involved, sometimes none. Large movements are thought to be associated with colder weather further north, or rough weather at sea. However, not all cold winters bring birds this far south – there were none in 2010, and the influx in 2014 was during a relatively mild winter.

Once here, many birds stay around for a while, sometimes a few months, visiting a number of sites and sometimes making it difficult to determine exactly how many are present.

In early 2017 a colour-ringed first-winter bird turned up at Holyhead in Anglesey. It has been ringed as a chick on Svalbard, off the north coast of Norway, the previous year. This is so far the only indication of the origins of birds coming to Wales, but it does not mean that others don’t come from Iceland or Greenland.

This map was produced by the West Wales Biodiversity Information Centre using data collected between November and February for the BTO Atlas 2007-11, with additional data collected in 2011-12 winter to fill gaps in coverage.

Other sites have been used, eg Llanstadwell, Fishguard Harbour, Penberi Reservoir, while some birds have been recorded flying past St Govan’s Head and through Ramsey Sound.

More about the Glaucous Gull in Pembrokeshire

Hen Harrier – winter 2019

Circus aeruginosus – BOD Y GWERNI – Winter visitor.

The Hen Harrier is widely distributed across northern Eurasia. In Britain it breeds primarily over 450m on heather-covered uplands, including in north Wales. In most areas it is migratory, heading south for the winter, although in some areas (including the UK) the migrations may be short – eg from the Welsh uplands to lowland heaths and mires, and to coastal areas – depending on the food supply. 

More information in Hen Harrier 1994

When can they be seen?

Hen harriers are seen from the beginning of September (week 36) with the peak number of observations in October and November. It remains throughout the winter, with observations tailing off during April. Occasionally a straggler is seen during May.

Where can they be seen?

This map was produced by the West Wales Biodiversity Information Centre using data collected between November and February for the BTO Atlas 2007-11, with additional data collected in 2011-12 winter to fill gaps in coverage.

The best areas for observing hen harriers are the St Davids Peninsula, Mynydd Preseli, Dudwell/Plumstone Mountains, the Marloes Peninsula, and the Castlemartin area.

More about the Hen Harrier in Pembrokeshire

Fieldfare – 2020

Turdus pilaris – SOCAN EIRA – Winter visitor and passage migrant.

The Fieldfare breeds across Iceland, much of northern and central Europe, and east to central Siberia and northwest China. Occasionally, it has bred in Scotland.

Some fieldfares arrive in Pembrokeshire in mid-September, but the main arrival is at the beginning of October (week 41).   The timing depends mainly on the food supply to the north – many Norwegian breeding birds stay in Norway if the weather is mild and berry crop is good. Thus the numbers seen in Pembrokeshire can vary considerably.

See Fieldfare 1994 for more detailed information.

Data from BirdTrack: this graph shows the numbers of records on the Pembrokeshire mainland only. As Skomer and Skokholm are not occupied in winter, including their records makes it look as though the species is primarily migrating through. Island records do, however, slightly extend the season, eg. with singles recorded on Skokholm on 10 and 13 June 1980, and then from mid-September in some years.

During the winter, fieldfares can be found across the county, often in small numbers, but occasionally in flocks of 50-100. The largest flock recorded in recent years was of 1,700 that passed over Skomer on 2 March 2018.

This map was produced by the West Wales Biodiversity Information Centre using data collected between November and February for the BTO Atlas 2007-11, with additional data collected in 2011-12 winter to fill gaps in coverage.

Ringing recoveries

Several ringed as nestlings in Norway and Finland have been recovered in Wales, and one ringed in Wales was found in Sweden in the breeding season. The following birds were all recovered in Pembrokeshire:

RingedRecovered
Adult female, 14-11-1983. Noordeinde, Oldebroek: 52°31’N 5°52’E (Gelderland) The NetherlandsDead, 22-02-1986. Haverfordwest.
Nestling, 20-06-1953. Fana: 60°19’N 5°27’E (Hordaland) NorwayDead, 05-03-1956. Waterston, Milford Haven
Nestling, 06-06-1963. Madekoski, near Oulujoki: 64°57’N 25°37’E (Oulu) FinlandDead (storm) 02-11-1964 South Bishop Lighthouse  2,283km   WSW

Annie Haycock (BBS & WeBS local organiser)

References:

BALMER D, GILLINGS S, CAFFREY B, SWANN B, DOWNIE I, FULLER R. 2014. Bird Atlas 2007-11: The Breeding and Wintering Birds of Britain and Ireland.  HarperCollins.  UK

HBW – Handbook of the Birds of the World

LACK P. 1986.  The Atlas of Wintering Birds in Britain and Ireland, T & A. D. Poyser, London

LOVEGROVE R, WILLIAMS G, WILLIAMS I. 1994.  Birds in Wales. T & A. D. Poyser, London

Pembrokeshire Bird Reports

WERNHAM. C, TOMS. M, MARCHANT. J, CLARK. J, SIRIWARDENA. G, BAILLIE. S. 2002. The Migration Atlas, Movements of the birds of Britain and Ireland, T & A. D. Poyser, London

More about the Fieldfare in Pembrokeshire

Black Redstart – 2019

Phoenicurus ochruros – TINGOCH DU – Winter visitor and passage migrant

The Black Redstart is found over most of Europe and parts of Asia in sparsely vegetated rocky areas, often at high altitudes. It is resident in parts of its range and migratory in others (HBW). In Wales, it is mainly a passage migrant and winter visitor.

There are few ringing recoveries involving Wales.  However, the BTO Migration Atlas indicates that birds migrate through the UK between their wintering grounds around the Western Mediterranean, and breeding areas on mainland Europe, particularly the Netherlands, Belgium and France, and further east.  Some birds stay for the winter, though it is not clear if these are mainly birds that have bred in Britain, or are continental ones.

The majority of records are from coastal sites, though as the map shows, there is a scattering of sightings across the county even in mid-winter.

This map was produced by the West Wales Biodiversity Information Centre using data collected between November and February for the BTO Atlas 2007-11, with additional data collected in 2011-12 winter to fill gaps in coverage.

Most records come from Skokholm and Skomer Islands, where data is gathered on a daily basis.  However, as the islands are not normally occupied during the winter, there are few over-wintering records from them.

Only a handful of mainland records have been entered into BirdTrack each year, although this has increased to 20-30 in the last three years.

Mainland records in dark green, Island records in lighter green

The graph shows the cumulative number of records (not the number of birds) entered into BirdTrack since 1980. Although BirdTrack did not exist in 1980, a lot of data, especially from the island bird logs, has been added retrospectively.

Migration peaks show clearly. It has usually started by the time the islands are re-occupied in early March (week 11) and continues until the end of May for spring migration. Autumn passage starts in mid-September (week 41), continuing at least until the end of November.

2009 was an exceptional year for black redstarts seen on the mainland, with up to a dozen recorded on several days during October, and up to twenty in a day noted on the sightings blog.

Annie Haycock (BBS & WeBS local organiser)

References:

BALMER D, GILLINGS S, CAFFREY B, SWANN B, DOWNIE I, FULLER R. 2014. Bird Atlas 2007-11: The Breeding and Wintering Birds of Britain and Ireland.  HarperCollins.  UK

HBW – Handbook of the Birds of the World

LACK P. 1986.  The Atlas of Wintering Birds in Britain and Ireland, T & A. D. Poyser, London

LOVEGROVE R, WILLIAMS G, WILLIAMS I. 1994.  Birds in Wales. T & A. D. Poyser, London

Pembrokeshire Bird Reports

WERNHAM. C, TOMS. M, MARCHANT. J, CLARK. J, SIRIWARDENA. G, BAILLIE. S. 2002. The Migration Atlas, Movements of the birds of Britain and Ireland, T & A. D. Poyser, London

More about the Black Redstart in Pembrokeshire