Woodcock – research

Scolopax rusticola – CYFFYLOG – Winter visitor and passage migrant.

Woodcock are probably one of the most common waders in the county during the winter, according to work done by Paddy Jenks with the Pembrokeshire and Teifi Ringing Groups.  However, they are rarely seen, let alone counted, because of their secretive and generally nocturnal habits.

Paddy and his team ringed a total of 1653 woodcock between November 2008 and March 2019. 107 of these individuals were recaptured or recovered.   The recaptures show that many individuals have a very high site fidelity.  The ringers often found birds within a hundred metres of where they had been caught either the same winter, or in previous winters.  

The recoveries outside of the UK show that many individuals wintering in Pembrokeshire originate in Russia.  In Europe, it is illegal to shoot during the breeding season, so most of the recoveries from closer to home are probably birds on autumn migration, though some could have bred in these areas.  

The ringing groups hope to continue with the project into the future with the aim of collecting as large a sample size as possible, so that any future changes can be discerned.

The full report can be seen here

Information provided by Mike & Theresa Sherman

More about Woodcock in Pembrokeshire

Chiffchaff – ringing recoveries

Phylloscopus collybita – SIFF-SAFF/SIFF SIAFF – Breeding summer visitor, passage migrant and winter visitor

Since 2009,  2157 chiffchaffs have been ringed at various sites on the Pembrokeshire mainland.   Another 2000 or so were ringed on Skokholm in that period.

These days, ringing is primarily for monitoring bird populations – their survival, reproductive rates, and so on.  It is a very important tool in understanding how and when bird populations change. 

A good proportion of the chiffchaffs ringed on the mainland are part of Constant Effort Site ringing, which is designed for population monitoring.  Many of the birds ringed will be breeding, or will have hatched on that site.  They will often be retrapped on the same site, in the same or subsequent years. These birds are not included in the map.

Chiffchaffs ringed on Skokholm are on migration.  They may be heading north in spring, and south in winter, although occasionally a bird seems to be going in the wrong direction as it overshoots its destination.  An example is a bird that was ringed on Skokholm in spring, but subsequently settled to breed in Cornwall that summer.

This map shows where birds ringed in Pembrokeshire went to, or where birds ringed elsewhere came from.

Ringing has been undertaken on Skokholm and elsewhere in Pembrokeshire for many decades, but the earlier data isn’t currently easily available. 

The apparently low number of birds that have left mainland Pembrokeshire reflect the fact that a large proportion are ringed as fledgelings and  juveniles, which are very vulnerable to predation.  Birds that have made it as far as Skokholm before being ringed are a bit older, and so have a much better chance of survival.

Meanwhile, that chiffchaff from Keeston is the oldest, and the furthest-travelled, chiff-chaff from Pembrokeshire in the last decade at least.

Annie Haycock (BBS & WeBS local organiser)

Data from Mike and Theresa Sherman of the Pembrokeshire Ringing Group, from the Skokholm Island Annual Reports, and from the BTO website.

More about the Chiffchaff 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. 

2013-14 1 

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.


The only colour-ringed knot recorded in Pembrokeshire was T7 (above) on 10 March 2019.  It was ringed as an adult on Merseyside in 2017, and spent that winter there.  This particular colour-ringing project has shown that there is interchange between Merseyside, Deeside and Ireland.  It is possible that T7 had spent at least part of the 2018-19 winter in Ireland and was now on its way east to join thousands of other knot on the Waddensee where they fatten up for the flight to their breeding grounds via staging posts in North Norway and Iceland.   It was last recorded back on Merseyside in July 2019.

As we see only small numbers of knot in Pembrokeshire, it is worth looking carefully for birds with colour-rings or flags.  Ideally get the number on the flag, but even a record of the colour and which leg it is on can provide useful information.

Thanks to Jim Wilson for the colour-ring information.

Annie Haycock (BBS & WeBS local organiser)


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

Common Gull – colour-ring sightings

Larus canus – GWYLAN Y GWEUNYDD – Winter visitor

The common gull has never been common in Pembrokeshire, and is usually seen only in winter. Breeding populations have declined in many areas, stimulating a need to find out more about the gulls and their movements. To this end, gulls have been ringed in several countries in Europe, using a combination of colours and letters that can be read through a telescope or camera lens without the need to recapture the birds.

If you come across a bird with colour rings, please report it to European Colour-ring Birding from where you will get information about ‘your’ bird, as well as adding to the database of useful information about the species.

Please don’t just assume that someone else has reported a sighting – your record could add information such as longevity, the amount of time a bird spends in a particular place, etc.

This map is based on observations made by Sam Baxter and others at the Nevern Estuary (red pin). Blue pins show where gulls were ringed.

Additional information about colour-ringing common gulls

More about the Common Gull in Pembrokeshire

Goldfinch – ringing & migration

Carduelis carduelis britannica – NICO – Breeding resident

We see goldfinches all year round in Pembrokeshire, so it is difficult to know if we are seeing the same ones all the time, or if the winter birds are different to the summer ones.


Studies in England suggest that some 80% of goldfinches may migrate, but the extent and direction of the migration seems to depend more on food supply and weather conditions than on the birds being hard-wired to a particular route or destination (BTO Migration Atlas 2002).

Spring migration is most noticeable on the offshore islands. Analysis of records from Bardsey and Skokholm bird observatories show a marked increase in the daily numbers of birds seen in between the last week of March and the middle of May.  But while numbers on Bardsey have exceeded 150 on several occasions, on Skokholm they are generally less than 20 apart from exceptional counts of 80 in April 2013 and 143 in April 2014.

Skokholm autumn counts are rather higher, though still usually less than 100 in a day. The highest count was 285 on 14th October 2013. However, 2018 was a record year overall with counts of 114 on 30 September, and 119 and 170 on 6 and 15 October respectively.

Flocks are also recorded moving along the coast, for example 150 near Fishguard on 3 May 2016, 100 at Castlemartin on 23 September 2017, and 120 over Rosebush on 18 October 2018.


The few birds ringed in Pembrokeshire and found elsewhere, or ringed elsewhere and found later in Pembrokeshire, are shown on the map above.  The bird ringed in Belgium was caught by a cat 3 years later near Narberth. The one that went to France was picked up dead a year after being ringed at Boncath.

For Wales as a whole, some 80 ringed goldfinches have been found across most parts of Britain, while a similar number ringed elsewhere have turned up in Wales. 

It is generally considered that Welsh birds migrate to Spain (the longest movement of a Welsh goldfinch was from Talybont-on-Usk to 180km south of Madrid), but the ringing data indicate there is also an interchange with Ireland.

More about the Goldfinch in Pembrokeshire