Monday, 20 September 2021

alba wags


David has answered Cliff's alba wagtail query. 

Just to confirm my approach to recording these. When I'm uncertain of the identity of the subspecies concerned - Pied Motacilla alba yarrellii or the White nominate M. alba alba - I record them as “alba” wags. Unfortunately, due to distance and light, it was not possible to confirm all seen at Angle on Sunday in a small flock to subspecies level. 

I don't know if we see "hybrids" in Pembs., but I do recall in May at Stackpole (a few years ago) watching a very smart male M. a. alba attempting to mate with a female  M.a. yarrellii. A male of the UK subspecies was having quite a hard time driving it off! Mixed pairs have been recorded previously in Scotland, in the Northern Isles and the Hebrides (Birds in Scotland 1986).  



 A noisy group of 5 jays was a scarce record for the island. A great spotted woodpecker (becoming increasingly more frequent in the past decade) added to the 'woodland' feel

Dale Airfield

Still one juvenile Dotterel on the stony field at the west end of Dale Airfield this evening.  Also a flyover Snipe (2), Dunlin (2) and Ringed Plover (1).  Also 1 Toby Phelps, nice to see him back home in Pembrokeshire.

Regarding Cliff's alba wagtail - an adult female yarrellii for me, the extensive grey flanks being the best clue to subspecific identity.


Just coming to work via Kilpaison and outside work an Osprey flying over heading towards Kilpaison (Paul Warren)

Correction - it's a Wood Sandpiper!

I'm grateful to Dave for texting me to point out that my Green Sand (see below) is a Wood! I did consider this at the time, but decided the continuation of the supercilium behind the eye was just too faint.... Leg length hard to judge as it was standing in water. I last saw the two species side by side in Mallorca in 2015 (at the Water Treatment plant on the S side of La Albufera), and had the supercilium discussion with a fellow birder on the viewing platform....

Anyway thank you Dave, this is how we learn! A Pembrokeshire first for me, if I'm allowed to count it having misidentified it. Saturday's (qv) was seen in flight only, but looked and sounded like a Green.... Here's yet another view of that supercilium

White Wag/Moticilla Alba?

So I snapped this little fella last week on the Green Breakwater, Fishguard Harbour. It was quite distant and not very approachable so its the best shots I got.  There were also a couple of Wheatears and a whimbrel. It was certainly not one of those easily recognisable dazzling silver backed adults we see in the spring. It showed no discernable yellowish tinge around the face that I associate with our juvenile  yarelli//pied Wagtails so was pretty sure it was a not native migrant white/alba. looking at lots of images on the internet there seems to be a lot of variability


Castlemartin Corse

 A glorious morning, the wet area in front of the hide still hanging in there. Only a few ducks today, no sign of the Ruffs but a Wood Sandpiper posed for a photoshoot - not from the hide, it was screened by long grass, I had to get a lot closer. Thanks to Dave A for the correction, I'd earlier identified it as a Green.

Several Chough in the field S of Starman's Hall, and a Whinchat along the main E-W track along with Stonechats (several), Goldfinches, Linnets..... A Kestrel was being perpetually harried by crows, 2 Buzzards, lots of Water Rail calling, 2 Cetti's, 3 Wheatears.....

Alba wagtails

The species is Motacilla alba hence the generic term for unidentified Pied (yarrellii) or White (alba) is 'alba wagtails'.

Slightly confused

 In Bob and Annies post  : Angle Bay this afternoon/early evening,  Bob refers to " a dozen alba wagtails, including at least a few white wags." As Moticilla alba is the latin name for what we generally call White Wagtails, I and i guess others may be a bit confusedby this reference. As I know Bob is about as good as it gets in terms of Bird ID, I am a bit puzzled by this.. maybe I am just being a bit dull but it would be helpful if you might explain Bob! 

Colour-ringed Curlew

The birds that Bob & Annie saw at Angle are almost certainly from the Gann.  They have an orange ring on one tibia, and a black ring with a white 2 digit combination on the other - this is the bit you need to record (I think the numbers go up to 37 so far).  If the combination is different, then it will be from a different location. Picture below shows number 15 from the Gann back in January (there are currently at least 6 colour ringed birds at the Gann).

Sunday, 19 September 2021

Angle Bay this afternoon/early evening

We had hoped to visit Castlemartin Range today, but the area is closed 7 days a week until October. Instead, we went back to Angle Bay where we bumped into others including George Mee and Fiona Day, David Ord, Mike Davey and Rob Lewis who were also looking for the pectoral sandpiper.

There were fewer waders on the shore near the Fort Popton road - quite a few walkers/dog-walkers about! A scan of waders at the Sawdern Point roosts revealed more than 100 curlews and oystercatchers. From a closer look further up the road we could see that at least two of the curlews had colour-rings above the tarsus joint. Unfortunately, we could not make out particular combinations very well. Annie managed to get a rather distant photo of one of the birds (possibly black & white stripes right leg; red? left leg). Was it ringed locally by Paddy and Mike et al.?

The pectoral sandpiper was on the rocky shore there too, but the sighting was all too brief before it probably flew off with most of the curlews etc. We searched other likely spots along the shore and over at the harbour, but we failed to relocate it. Hopefully there is a reasonable chance of it sticking around though, so it could be worthwhile someone checking the shore again.

Other birds along the shore included a few bar-tailed godwits, several ringed plovers, a few turnstones,  whimbrel and a roosting flock of 10 little egrets. We saw none there yesterday, but the light was poor then. 

Over at the spit zone in the harbour, there was a small mixed flock of dunlin, ringed plovers and turnstones. There were also about a dozen alba wagtails, including at least a few white wags. On route we noted 3 kestrels between the bay and the Angle road.

Dotterels, Dale airfield


Took a bit of finding but at least 2 dotterel still on the airfield this evening, (and a Golden plover). One spent most of it's time at the intersection with occasional feeding forays along the edge of the stoney field. During the hour I was watching it a second bird called from time to time from somewhere further up the field, the bird I was watching called back but seemed reluctant to move. I left it there and went looking for the other but couldn't find it.

The Ravens were out in numbers with c20 pairs tumbling and flipping in the warm updrafts above Marloes Sands, quite a spectacle (they must have seen the trailer for the new Top Gun film).

Spot the dotterel

It's in there somewhere. Honestly.

Dale Airfield

A single Dotterel still this evening on the stony field, with a very flighty Golden Plover.

The Teifi...

An Osprey was present yesterday afternoon feeding on the sandbars (Liz Snell). The bird doesn't seem to have stayed. The Wigeon flock has increased by a futher 20 birds today - now 57 The Gadwall  is still with the Wigeon and over the weekend both Pintail and Shoveler have been in the flock. In the small wader flock, the Dunlin count (100) is now ahead of the Ringed Plover count (70). Up to 5 Sanderling and 4 Bar-tailed Godwits are still present. 3 Coot on the Marshes.


 A movement of Jays on the St Davids peninsula this morning with a party of around twenty seen at Rhodiad with individual birds seen around the airfield and Dowrog.

Dale Airfield

 Earlier this morning fantastic close views of the 3 Dotterel on the stoney patch.

Karen & Alison

The Gann

 Nice early morning walk with plenty going on, 9 Greenshank, 14+ Redshank, 3 Wheatears, 6 Herons, 6 Little Egret, single Peregrine, & Red Kite, 4 Barwit. Dunlin, Teal, & RPs present, not forgetting the Osprey being hassled by Crows.

Saturday, 18 September 2021

From Fiona Day: Me and George visited Dale Airfield this afternoon, lane up to the airfield was fairly quiet (a few chiffchaffs and robins). But the stoney field at the far end was much more successful with 3 Dotterel, appearing fairly settled, but active - working their way around the gorse bushes. Unfortunately they were difficult to photograph in the drizzle. 

Western Cleddau

From David Ord:

A Green Sandpiper was on the gravel just downstream of St Catherine's Bridge this afternoon.

Angle Bay - at high tide this evening

In between the showers at the Rhoscrowther/Kilpainson end of Angle Bay this evening we noted c.30 dunlin, 7 ringed plovers a curlew sandpiper and a rather nice pectoral sandpiper which we were fortunate to see reasonably well for a few minutes in the heavy drizzle before it flew off with some of the dunlin. It might have headed over to one of the the main wader roosts over at Sawdern Point, but it was impossible to see much over there due to the persistent drizzle and poor light. 

We noted it immediately when we arrived. After a few minutes it flew off towards Sawdern Point

c.70 wigeon were loafing offshore along with 12 mute swans and 2 great crested grebes which we saw later over at the village end. A single kestrel flew over the bay, the only raptor that we saw. Over at the Angle harbour area we noted another 72+ dunlin feeding on the shore at high tide, alongside a few turnstones and another curlew sandpiper

This curlew sandpiper was feeding in a mixed flock of mostly dunlin near the harbour

A kingfisher put in a brief but timely appearance just after we had commented that we don’t often see one here! Two Mediterranean gulls were perched on the spit with several black-headed gulls. There must have been a dozen or more rock pipits feeding with the waders in the harbour and at the Rhoscrowther end. There were also a couple of wheatears feeding on the shore.

Earlier in the week (on Wednesday) we noted a couple of garden warblers feeding on elder berries in a mixed flock of blackcaps (several), chiffchaffs, blue and great tits over on the old rubbish tip opposite Fortunes Frolic, Haverfordwest.

Dotterel, Dale airfield

An early look around the airfield with Paul in the hope of finding a few waders. However, despite the rather damp and murky conditions there was a surprising lack of standing water, no pools at all. Most noticeable were the numbers of pipits, must have been 100s grounded with others moving overhead including a Tree pipit. Also the constant sound of Skylarks passing. Linnets in a couple of large flocks in the thistles probably totalled around 200. c20 Wheatear. Pair of Kestrels (kestrels have been ever present on recent visits around Dale and Marloes). Only waders were a lone Golden plover at the intersection and a Curlew. We were checking the scrub overlooking Marloes Sands around 9:30 when a Dotterel could be heard approaching, we picked it up coming in from over the sea and followed it as it flew over our heads, it started to whiffle and looked like it came down out of sight probably towards the eastern side but a thorough search drew a blank. It looked like there had been a bit of a fall, with about a dozen Chiffchaff on the airfield with another 4-5 on the track and 6 in the village. Blackcaps had also arrived, 3 on the track with 10 in the village. 3 Whitethroat. A first Willow warbler for a while and a Spotted flycatcher in the sycamores on the track. A Great spotted woodpecker. Robins seemed to be in every bush, tree and hedge, could easily be 50 in the village more likely double that.

Castlemartin Corse

A week too late for WEBS, but a drop of rain transforms the place - shallow standing water in front of the hide. It can't last because of the hyper-efficient drainage. But, there were around 80 teal, 20 mallard and 15 or so moorhen near the hide. Two Ruff were lurking in the rushes: they were forced into the open by a moorhen: one was a Reeve. Also a Green Sandpiper, and a small brown, silent, wader glimpsed in flight for a nanosecond which may or may not have been a dunlin. 

To reach the hide without scaring everything off in front of it you have to approach along the inland side of the hedge bank which runs down to it, cross the ditch at the ditch crossing and creep doubled up into the hide. In doing so you risk scaring off everything in the open water to the east of the hide. Had the hide been built correctly on the end of the hedge bank, with a screened approach, it would have been able to see both ways. 

A Wheatear and a Whinchat were near the hide: there were two more wheatear on the bridleway down from Gupton to Freshwater West. A kestrel was the only raptor. Good flocks of small birds feeding on the plentiful seeds, and 7 Chough were feeding in the tussocky vegetation. At least 3 Cetti's warblers sang in different parts of the reedbed, several Water rail calling. 

Ruff, Reeve
Lurking Reeve

Friday, 17 September 2021


Both the Osprey and Curlew Sandpiper still present today.


Common Rosefinch this afternoon. 

Gann / Dale Airfield (Thursday)

A/the juvenile Curlew Sandpiper still at the Gann, pretending to be a Redshank in Crabhall Corner.  The juvenile Osprey still hanging out up the river above the footbridge.  On the evening high tide 40 Ringed Plover, at least 19 Dunlin, 4 Bar-tailed Godwit and 2 Turnstone.  In amongst the Black-headed Gulls at least 15 Mediterranean Gull (11 adults, 2 2CY, 2 1CY).

Bumped into Brian at the airfield and we combed the stony field together, lots of birds best of which was an adult Yellow Wagtail.  Not a single wader but looks perfect.

Thursday, 16 September 2021


Three Wryneck, a juvenile Marsh Harrier, two Swift and, unusually, an Arctic Tern over the Courtyard. 

Wednesday, 15 September 2021


 Two Dotterel and three Wryneck today. 

Dotterel, Dale airfield

A juvenile Dotterel in the stoney field around 4:30. First noticed as it called when flushed by a female Kestrel and flew from the north edge of the field down towards the end by the intersection. Paul and I had just refound it at SM 79168 06483 around 5:00 (boy, they can disappear among the scattered stones and depressions) and were watching through the scopes when the Kestrel flushed it again, this time it flew north eastwards and may have come down in the field or old runways beyond the eastern boundary SM 79680 06818. Lots of Linnet (c150), Wagtails (50), Pipits (c30), Wheatear (c30) and Skylark (c20) in the stoney field which the Kestrel was probably targeting. The Southern Migrant Hawker was still around the pond, with a Migrant Hawker for company and comparison. Also 4 Snipe.

Green Woodpecker

From Toby Middlemist: I was very excited to hear the distinctive call of a Green Woodpecker over my house in Haverfordwest late yesterday evening. I had forgotten about it until just now when I heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker also flying over!

Tuesday, 14 September 2021


 Two Dotterel and two Wryneck still. 

Whinchats and a first for Pembs

Another interesting afternoon out with Paul, the very mild weather had put lots of butterflies on the wing mostly Red Admiral and Speckled Wood plus Whites, Small copper, Blues and Commas, but new arrivals of the bird kind were not so obvious. Dale airfield: Chiffchaff and Whitethroat on the track up. Some promising looking pools from the recent rain but nothing in them apart from Common darters. Best were 2 Whinchat in the scrub, Yellow wagtail and a Tree pipit in the stoney field. c20 Wheatear. Flock of c200+ Linnet. A Great spotted woodpecker looped across the airfield and a single Starling. Male Kestrel and 3 Chough. Most exciting discovery was non-avian, as I was checking the scrub around the pond for more Whinchats, Paul suddenly announced he'd got a Southern Migrant Hawker, a really smart dragonfly and a first for the county (so I hope a photo is acceptable on this occasion).

Kete: 7 Ringed plover and a Dunlin by the car park, and another Kestrel.

Marloes Mere: 6 Whinchat out from the Britton Hide,  c40 Mallard, 7 Teal and 3 Shoveler. 5 Snipe and a Ringed plover. A female Kestrel and 3 Wheatear behind the cafe.

From Eleri Davis in St Davids: A somewhat unusual sighting of a Black-tailed Godwit on St Davids golf course, near Whitesands beach, this morning.