Wednesday, 23 June 2021

Graham Rees

It is with considerable sadness that we heard this evening that Graham Rees (Mr Strumble) has passed away. Graham, among many things, was a former county recorder and editor of the Pembs Bird Report, a founder member of the Welsh Ornithological Society, the Welsh Rarities Advisory Group, joint author of Birds of Pembrokeshire, and instrumental in the establishment of the Pembs Bird Group. 

I hope Lyndon Lomax (who was chairman of the Bird Group Committee at the time) does not mind, but below is a copy of a citation that the Bird Group compiled for a Lifetime Achievement Award that Graham received from WOS back in 2012. It hopefully gives a flavour of what Graham was about. 

His passing is incredibly sad news indeed. 

Bob Haycock

Chairman Pembs Bird Group Committee

Graham’s name will always be synonymous with “Strumble Head” (Mr Strumble as he is affectionately referred to by fellow “Strumblers”) having spent many years, days and hours patiently observing and recording the remarkable avian passage that occurs there.  His Strumble observations of common scoter passage, for example, have provided useful pointers to the timing and numbers of these birds likely to be present in Carmarthen Bay.

As well as being a founder member of WOS and the WRAG and a former BTO Rep for Pembrokeshire, between 1981 and 2007 Graham was County Recorder and editor of the Pembrokeshire Bird report, a position he shared with Jack Donovan for many years.

Amongst Graham’s other important life-time achievements has been the establishment of the Pembrokeshire Bird Group and organisation of two County-wide breeding bird surveys. The first (1984-88) was published in Birds of Pembrokeshire (1994) for which Graham was joint Author with JWD. The second about 20 years later (2003-07) was published by the Pembrokeshire Bird Group in 2009.

Graham may not be an exponent of the digital photography age but he has produced many fine sketches and paintings, illustrating the details of birds he has observed in various parts of the world. He is currently at the forefront towards the production of a WeB-based “Pembrokeshire Avifauna” - delving into his notebooks and diaries etc to update accounts on species migration patterns and so on. Hopefully, Graham’s legacy – a lifetime of diligently recording and translating what he sees - will enthuse and inspire others to do the same.

Pembrokeshire Bird Group 

Higgon's Well

From Toby Middlemist: A cracking visit to Higgons' Well this afternoon, with lots of Highlights. A surprise Common Sandpiper flew downstream and went into a brook, and the first returning Black-headed Gulls came back in style with 32 birds present. Two Cormorants have been around since the middle of the month, but a young Grey Heron was new. A delightful Kingfisher was near the entrance, and was later further downstream. A pair of Great Spotted Woodpecker were nice, but two Jay's were a site first. Seven House Martins were above Uzmaston, and my first Long-tailed Tit for a while was by Hanton Bridge. Three Sedge and Reed Warblers were nice, and included a Sedge Warbler singing on the small stream in the Park. Three Willow Warblers were around, and were probably migrants. A Lesser Whitethroat was singing, and a Treecreeper was in the Park.


One at Landshipping on Saturday 19th (Dan Shaw)

Tuesday, 22 June 2021

Willow Tit(s) and more on Brynberian Moor

From David Ord: 

1, possibly 2, very vocal Willow Tits hunting bugs amongst isolated gorse bushes on the moor. Lots of young Stonechats around and a couple of bonus Redstarts and Spotted Flycatchers in trees on the edge of the moor.


From John Bearne:

A noisy post breeding gathering of resident birds in a favoured spot this evening. Delighted to see over 70 juveniles with attendant adults, this is the most I have seen together for years in Milford and indicates that they are doing ok locally. Also three pairs of swifts but no young seen as yet. 


Typically quiet at the Gann for late June, but signs of return migration with an adult Lapwing today, and single Greenshank and Redshank on 20th.  Numbers of Curlew beginning to build, with 26 birds on the saltmarsh yesterday.  2 ringed birds (36 & 37) have been noted amongst the returnees.  The Oystercatcher flock bubbles around 50, and yesterday (and today) included yellow X4 for the first time in nearly a month (well, the first time we have seen it).  Very pleased to report that the 2 pairs of Shelduck are still doing well, with all 12 youngsters still present and correct.  I suspect they will be happy when the spring tides increase the water levels later in the week - extremely low at the moment.  A 2CY Common Gull lingers, as does the 2CY sinensis Cormorant.

Ramsey - Marsh tit

 A marsh tit that dropped into the garden during lunch today was new for the island list!

Llangwm Today

From Graham Brace: 

There was wood warbler singing in the Port Lion end of Benton Woods early this morning. Also, I was pleased to see 23 redshank back in Llangwm Pill just a day later than their return this time last year. Our two mute swan cygnets seem to be thriving well under the very watchful eyes of their parents and local residents around the Pill.

Swifts at last ...

Two Swifts hawking above Mathry for part this morning, my first of the year! Not calling sadly, probably just passing through although they did seem to be having a bit of a look at the church. Maybe a failed pair prospecting for next year...?   I have had some sort of lurgy so spent a lot of time in the garden. First bird heard to sing this morning was a quite distant Song Thrush, closely followed by Blackbird and Robin.

Garden ticks Seen or heard from garden)  for the past two days include juvenile GS Woodpecker,(in)  and Red Kite (over) a rabble of Sparrows and unusual for here a Chiff Chaff, it shows a yellow lower mandible which i dont remember noticing before, a juvenile perhaps?


Sunday, 20 June 2021

Shelducklings, Greenfinches....

 In the Teifi estuary we now have 3 seperate Shelduck broods - six, six, and a young eight. I still have not checked the St Dogmaels area- I suspect at least 1 more brood there. The first Redshank have arrived,  the two birds still present this evening. 

A couple of days a go a Greenfinch started singing from the tree tops near Priory Bridge on the Reserve edge - still singing this morning. I was in Fishguard this morning and surprised to hear a Greenfinch singing from trees by the Police station.

An adult Black Guillemot in the Stena side of the harbour.

Saturday, 19 June 2021

The Teifi Marshes

This evening a pair of Tufted Duck on Kingfisher Pond, the first wandering interesting waterfowl of the summer - numbers of Mallard, Shelduck and Canada Geese are on the increase too.

Earlier in the day the first juvenile Reed Warbler of the year caught and ringed.

St Govans

Photos from visiting birder Steve Smith,  pictures taken on Friday 18th from near the look out station to the East of St Govans Headland, the climbers are back so the birds had moved slightly.

Couple of Northern Wheatear fledglings and fledgling  Choughs with Adult

Friday, 18 June 2021

Mediterranean Gulls

 3 Med Gulls flying across Freshwater West at lunchtime today - all looked like 2nd summer birds.

Also a flock of 7 Chough - presumably non-breeders.

Andrew Crowder


From John AT:

Hi, thought you might be interested to know I have been watching at least 12 swifts circling over the house SA62 4ET Lower Freystrop, Little Milford.

Islands, Seabirds and Flycatchers

 Just thought it might be interesting for people to catch up with some of the less known island stuff and a comment about Spotted Flycatchers fist.

We have Spot Fly's nesting in the garden and have had more or less every year in the last 10 years or so and we hardly ever see them until the chicks hatch and the adults start to flycatch on more exposed branches.  Otherwise they are VERY secretive and rarely come out of the canopy and it takes a lot of patience to try and see them as they see you before we see them and they just sit there hidden from view.

In the last couple of weeks we have completed the seabird counts and ringing on Caldey and St Margarets and also managed to Shag survey and ringing visit to Mildand Island.

The Caldey counts, which we have done for over 40 years, found 1,950 Herring Gull nests making it the second largest colony in the UK albeit only half the population of the 1970's and we ringed 200 well grown chicks for the 20th year.  there are also 511 Lesser Black-backed gulls and 8 Greater Black-backed gulls there along with a record 188 Razorbills and 140 Guillemot although the cliffs are mostly unsuitable for them.  Probably 2 pairs of Chough (one definately breeding) and saw a Red Legged Partridge (introduced in 2019) and a couple of Red Squirrels. Caldey is very under watched and has some great habitat and a September visit to watch the often spectacular Swallow passage is unforgettable.

On St Margarets a minimum of  112 Cormorant pairs is the lowest count since the 1960's and just 3 Shag nests (there were over 30 at one time but its been very variable), 1685 Guillemot  and 244 Razorbills (both about the same as 2019) and at least 65 pairs of GBB gulls.  Up to 17 Puffins almost daily around the northern cliffs and 2 burrow sites located.  In a short visit we ringed 40 good sized Cormorant chicks but at least another 60 were too big to approach, we also ringed 45 large GBB  chicks.  the survey here and the ringing visits date back to 1969 - one of the longest running continuous data sets in the UK.

Just a few days earlier on Midland we found just 13 Shag nests and ringed just 15 chicks - the lowest count there since the early 1980's and a major decline from the early 2000's when the population peaked at 55 pairs and we ringed 130 chicks.  Breeding success was also low at less than 2 chicks per pair.  We wonder whether the increasingly severe storms are causing some problems for this coastal feeding species.  In contrast to St Margarets the GBB chicks here were really tiny or just hatching - a good 3 weeks behind.

Hirundines and Swifts, lack of!

Here In Mathry a relatively healthy population of 20+ pairs of House Martins, years ago,  have dwindled to one, perhaps two pairs.. Treqwynt Manor not far away had over 30 pairs five years ago and is now down to nine or ten.

My old mate Brian Rickard had several pairs of House Martins and Swallows nesting on his eves and within his sheds, at his holding on Dale Rd, but none at all this year.

I spent 40 minutes in the Co-op car park looking for Swifts and drew a blank. there were at least two pairs probably nesting in the centre of tow, probably in or around the St Mary's Church, last year. One pair regularly nested in the old primary school but that was pulled down a couple of years ago. 

I feel cheated and sad that younger generations may never have the thrill of a summer soundtrack of screaming Swifts, warbling Swallows (surely the most underrated of our songsters) and twittering House Martins.

I have noticed sparrows plundering nests but so did Gilbert White over two hundred years ago, so its something that has probably always happened. It may now be more of a problem now that populations seem to be plummeting due to other possibly unidentified factors. 


Osprey heading west over the Preselis last night.

Thursday, 17 June 2021

Swallows - lack of

 I'm out & about for a couple of hours most days round Dinas & the estuary at Newport. In the last 10 days I've seen 1 (one) Swallow. The Bird Track reporting rate for Pembs (& Wales) is well down on the norm. There seems to have been no real catch up from the cold Spring delayed migration.

But the first juv Black Headed Gull arrived at Newport yesterday.

Wednesday, 16 June 2021


 The endless variety of buzzards - caught this pale beauty close to home this afternoon