Surf Scoter – 2007

Melanitta perspicillataMôr-hwyaden Yr EwynRare visitor

The Surf Scoter breeds across the North American continent mostly north of the tree line, moving south after the breeding season along both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts. A very few cross to northern Europe, particularly to Britain and Ireland.

The first Surf Scoter recorded in Pembrokeshire was a male found at Druidston by Leader Hawkins on the 29th October 1979, which stayed until the 4th November. There followed an immature male passing Strumble Head on the 13th November 1982 and four males together doing the same thing on the 13th November 1987. A male, sometimes two males together, off Madoc’s Haven, near Nolton, from the 14th November 1987 to the 5th March 1988, were most likely part of the Strumble Head foursome. A male passed Skokholm on the 25th October 1990.

A male was present off Amroth from the 3rd to the 27th January 1991, 27th November 1994 to the 2nd January 1995, with two males seen on the 22nd December 1994, a male from the 14th February to the 14th March 1997, 21st and 22nd March 1998, 15th November 1998 to the 11th February 1999, 29th November 1999 to the 15th January 2000. Males were also seen elsewhere in Carmarthen Bay during this span of years, for example at Marros and Pendine in Carmarthenshire.

A male and female were at Broad Haven (N) in St Bride’s Bay from the 5th December 2003 to the 2nd January 2004 and a male and female off Newgale, also in St Bride’s Bay, on the 26th and 27th November 2005. Single males passed Strumble Head on the 9th June and the 22nd September 2004.

All the Surf Scoters recorded in Pembrokeshire were seen in association with Common Scoters and it is probable that they accompanied that species on its annual migrations to and from winter quarters, in which case far fewer individuals were probably involved than the plethora of dates might suggest.  

Graham Rees. Pembrokeshire County Bird Recorder 1981-2007

Additional records

23 December 2003 two males at Amroth.

26 Nov 2005, Newgale male and female

More about the Surf Scoter in Pembrokeshire

Little Gull – 2007

Larus minutus – GWYLAN FECHAN – Passage migrant. Not recorded in June

Little Gulls breed in lowland fresh water habitats throughout the temperate middle and northern latitudes of the Western Palearctic. They have increased in British and Irish offshore waters since the 1960’s, probably coming from the Baltic and North West Russian breeding populations.

Formerly rare in Pembrokeshire, Mathew (1894) knowing of just one occurrence of two birds at Tenby in 1892, Lockley et al (1949) being able to only add one more record of a single bird seen near St Davids on the 12th September 1927. Subsequent records date from 1961, increasing in line with other parts of Britain and Ireland.

     Most of these records came from Skokholm but some from Skomer, Mullock Bridge, Ramsey and South Bishop. Thereafter, observer cover increased and more attention was paid to the offshore waters, with an increasing time being devoted to seawatching.

Most were noted between the 10th July and 31st December, being recorded all around the coast from Cemaes Head to Wiseman’s Bridge, within the estuaries of the Teifi, Nevern and Cleddau and out to sea as far as Grassholm and The Smalls. However the bulk of the records were from Strumble Head, partly because of its geographic position but also because of the intensity of prolonged observations conducted there.

New high county day totals were experienced at Strumble Head in the period 28th October – 24th December between 1984 and 1990, viz. 69 on the 24th December 1984, 75 on the 10th November 1985, 76 on the 13th November 1987 and 47 on the 28th October 1990. All occurred during onshore gales.

The incidence of onshore gales in late October to December diminished during the period 1991 – 2002 and the number of Little Gulls seen dropped, with peak numbers down to 16 on the 14th November 1993, 12 on the 29th October 1996, 10 on the 6th November 1999 and 15 on the 29th November 2002. However, the “right conditions” occurred in 2003 and 46 Little Gulls passed on the 15th November.

The Little Gull has so far been predominantly a coastal bird in Pembrokeshire. The only fresh water records concern singles at Bosherston on the 10th September 1983, Brandy Brook on the 21st March 1991, Pembroke Mill Ponds on the 4th April 1990 and 31st October – 4th November 2004, Pen Beri Reservoir on the 20th December 1997, Withybush airfield on the 21st October 1988, Llys y fran Reservoir on the 30th September 1976 and 1st April 2006.

The marked spring passage of 1973 – 75 noted in Wales by Lovegrove et al (1994) was not recorded in Pembrokeshire. Spring occurrences in the county have been few and sporadic with singles (once two) being recorded in 12 years between 1973 and 2005, with a total of 24 birds involved, passing between the 25th March and 26th June.

There are 46 records for mid winter, that is January to February, mostly involving one or two birds at a time but with three Skokholm on the 6th February 1998, three Strumble Head on the 10th February 1985, six there on the 24 January 2002 and seven on the 13th January 2004, six Ramsey Sound on the 19th January 2004 and 11 Fishguard Harbour on the 13th February 2005. Most were one day occurrences but one was at Newgale for 26 days in January to February 1990 and another at Fishguard Harbour for 63 days from the beginning of January 1995.

Graham Rees. Pembrokeshire County Bird Recorder 1981-2007

LOCKLEY. R. M, INGRAM. C. S. and SALMON. H. M.1949. The birds of Pembrokeshire, West Wales Field Society.
LOVEGROVE. R, WILLIAMS . G. & WILLIAMS. I. 1994. Birds in Wales, T & A. D. Poyser Ltd, London.
MATHEW. M. 1894. The birds of Pembrokeshire and its islands, R. H. Porter.

More about the Little Gull in Pembrokeshire

Sooty Shearwater – 2006

Puffinus griseus – ADERYN –DRYCIN DU – Regular autumn passage migrant. Has not been recorded in February, June or November.

The Sooty Shearwater breeds in New Zealand and its sub Antarctic islands, south west South America, the Falkland Islands, the South Atlantic islands and Australia. They spend winter in temperate sea areas in the North Pacific and North Atlantic. In the Atlantic they travel off the eastern seaboard of the Americas to the Newfoundland area, returning south off the western seaboard of Europe.

The Sooty Shearwater was first recorded in Pembrokeshire on the 9th September 1931 when R. M. Lockley saw one from a boat between Skokholm and Grassholm. Then Lockley et al (1949) stated “Seen fairly regularly during the early part of September off Skokholm.” 

A total of 41 were recorded between 1957 and 1978, most being logged at Skokholm but some were also noted off Skomer, South Bishop, from boats visiting Grassholm and the Smalls, from the Fishguard to Rosslare ferry and off Strumble Head.

They continued to be recorded on occasions at these places and also off St David’s Head, Ramsey, St Govan’s Head, from the Pembroke to Rosslare ferry, off the Swansea to Cork ferry and from small vessels visiting the Celtic Deep area. One to five birds per day were involved apart from 20 at the Celtic Deep on the 15th September 2002. However, much larger numbers were logged with greater regularity at Strumble Head between 1980 and 2006.

Overall annual pattern 1980-2006 at Strumble Head

(Expressed as the mean number of birds per six day periods. Values were adjusted for the seven day periods at the end of Aug and Oct by dividing their totals by seven and multiplying by six before calculating the mean.)

Passage has been recorded from the 3rd July to the 19th November, peaking in August and September but some sightings have been made outside this period. They were single birds at the Smalls on 22nd March 1984, at Whitesands Bay on the 28th December 2000, at Strumble Head on the 2nd January 1988, 3rd May 1982, 23rd December 1983 and 27th December 2006.

Analysis

The number of Sooty Shearwaters seen has been dependent on the nature of the weather systems occurring during the peak passage time, August to September. A trickle of small numbers were recorded during light to moderate winds, larger numbers in more turbulent weather.

During the 1980’s Atlantic depressions moving south-west to north-east with their centres passing over Northern Ireland and Scotland were prevalent. Locally these produced south-west gales which veered north-west before moderating when the system progressed further to the north-east.

The south-west component is thought to have displaced shearwaters from the Western Approaches into the Irish Sea. They were able to make their way back southwards when the wind wore around to the north-west, many of them passing close in to the north Pembrokeshire shore in the process. The largest counts of Sooty Shearwaters at Strumble Head were made during these conditions, i.e. 237 on the 1st September 1985 and 397 on the 3rd September 1983.

The depressions that occurred in August and September between 1990 and 2006 tracked further south with their centres over Pembrokeshire or further to the south. These systems did not produce the south-west going north-west winds locally, indeed they often produced easterly winds which did not prove favourable for placing Sooty Shearwaters in Pembrokeshire waters.

They did occasionally produce strong north winds blowing through the North Channel and down the Irish Sea, which pushed some Sooty Shearwaters close to the north Pembrokeshire shores but in lesser numbers than during the 1980’s. Counts between 11 and 35 were made on peak days, the maximum being 42 on the 14th September 2004.

Breakdown of Strumble Head totals

1980 – 891736
1990 – 99645
2000 – 06474

Graham Rees. Pembrokeshire County Bird Recorder 1981-2007

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

More about the Sooty Shearwater in Pembrokeshire

Eider – 2005

Somateria mollissima – HWYADEN FWYTHBLU – Winter visitor and possible breeder

Winter

Varying small numbers over-wintered (December/January to February/March) in 89 % of the years 1952 to 2008, most frequently in St Bride’s Bay between Little Haven and Newgale, the most involved being 16 in 1998.    

Winter presence in St Bride’s Bay: 1981-2005.

Others that have stayed throughout the winter were: two at Amroth in 1994, up to three in Angle Bay in 1998, singles in Newport Bay in 1999/2000 and in 2001, one to six in 2002, one to five at the Gann in 1987, two in 1963 and one in 1968/69.

Eiders which occurred in the winter but remained for shorter intervals were also recorded at Ceibwr, Fishguard Harbour, Jack Sound, West Angle, Sandy Haven, Newton Noyes, Llanstadwell, Neyland, Lawrenny/Roose Ferry, Landshipping, Frainslake, Manorbier, Giltar, Tenby, Saundersfoot and Caldey.

Passage

Eiders have also been recorded in transit in every month of the year, either flying past prominent headlands like Dinas Head and Strumble Head (1 to 19 at a time), past the islands of Ramsey, Grassholm, Skomer and Skokholm (1 to 15 at a time), or settled temporarily on the sea.

 The latter category has included 30 at the Green Bridge of Wales on 26th April 1984, 38 in Caldey Roads on 25th March 1998, 17 off Solva on 17th April 2001 and 40 off Porthgain on 29th December 2003.

The origin and destination of these birds is unknown but Pembrokeshire lies between the main Eider concentrations in Wales at Aberdysynni, Merrionydd, mean of 72 in 12 recent years, and the Bury Inlet, West Glamorgan, mean of 97 in the same period, so could conceivably involve interchange between these populations.

Graham Rees. Pembrokeshire County Bird Recorder 1981-2007

More about the Eider in Pembrokeshire

Dusky Warbler – 2003

Phylloscopus fuscatusTelor TywyllVagrant.

The Dusky Warbler breeds from Siberia to Mongolia wintering to the south but is a vagrant of annual occurrence to Britain.

The first Dusky Warbler recorded in Pembrokeshire was at Strumble Head on the 15th October 1988, being seen by Stuart Devonald, Graham Rees and John Stafford. Initially seen in the open it behaved in an agitated manner. When the observers backed off it immediately flew into deep cover in gorse. It was only subsequently viewable by using a car as a makeshift hide when it foraged on the ground.

The second to be recorded was found by Paul Grennard at Porth Clais, and was seen from the 10th to the 15th of November 2003. It was also skulking but this time in willows and with patience was seen by many observers.

Graham Rees. Pembrokeshire County Bird Recorder 1981-2007

More about the Dusky Warbler in Pembrokeshire

Little Owl – early records

Athene noctua – TYLLUAN FACH – Breeding resident

1920 – One caught in a rabbit trap, Newgale Farm, 12 March (3 others between then and 1923). H.W.Evans

1920 – One killed, Solva, H W Evans collction, and recorded in BB of that year as the 1st for Pembs (per B.Lloyd). Lloyd goes on to record: Since then several nests have been found near (this owl was doubtless spread about the county before 1920 but was certainly rare; and even now it is still far from common)” B.Lloyd 1936

1925 – Skokholm, 6 & 7 July: We heard from the lighthouse-men that one had frequently been about of late. B.Lloyd

1927 – from Bertram Lloyds diaries:

  • 30 May: This new introuctio is spreading rapidly. Oldham and I saw one tonight in the burrows (Tenby).
  • I saw a family near Newport in July
  • 14 June: One seen on rocky outcrop (c.100ft up) under Preseli top
  • 4 July: 2 ads and 4 or 5 young, Eglwyswrw

1930 – from Betram Lloyd’s diaries

  • 9 July: One on the sand dunes nr Castle Martin Cors. There are now several about here (teste A.S.Jeremiah)
  • one heard, Ramsey 8 & 9 Sept
  • 1 near Black Rock, Tenby, 13 Sept

1931– from Betram Lloyd’s diaries

  • 1 Clarbeston Road, 30 April
  • 26 July: A pair at the top of the cliffs among crags ne Saddle Point. In such places they are now nesting hereabouts

1937 – One, Norchard, 26 June (B.Lloyd)

1946 – One, possibly two pairs bred, Skomer (per JWD)

Records transcribed from Graham Rees’s historical archive

References: LLOYD. B. 1929-1939 Diaries, National Museum of Wales

More about the Little Owl in Pembrokeshire

Baillon’s Crake

Porzana bailloni – Accidental; only two on record.

Sir Hugh Owen has informed us that he saw two of the “Lesser Spotted Crake” on Goodwick Moor, in the autumn of 1869, and shot one of them. The bird ” looked like a fieldmouse when swimming.” He has since recognised his specimen in Yarrell as Baillon’s Crake.

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


Additional Note

Jack Donovan and I, when compiling The Birds of Pembrokeshire (1994), considered this record too vague for this species to be accepted onto the County list.

Graham Rees