GRC Blog

Welcome to the GRC Recorders pages. This blog provides details on all the relevant news of Glamorgan’s scarcer birds, plus all BBRC & WRP decisions that affect us locally. It will also be used to document the status and occurrence of these scarcer species and we welcome contributions from anyone with photographs, artwork or documentation of rarities past, present and future. The GRC also welcomes all seawatching news from around Glamorgan and news of passage migrants in spring & autumn, uncommon birds in our area and unusual behaviour.

All visitors are welcome. You must first register by sending an email to before you can contribute. An invite will be sent to your email address. Blog content will be strictly moderated. Access to pages and downloads are available to everyone. All photographs on this blog remain the property of the originator.
If you would like to use photos, please arrange permission beforehand.

The Glamorgan Rarities Committee, in conjunction with the Glamorgan Bird Club & Gower Wildlife , have agreed to co-operate with the Welsh Ornithological Society in the sharing of bird records & photographs in the interest of keeping accurate records and to promote birdwatching in North, Mid & South Wales.

Description Guidelines

Records concerning species requiring a description, together with supporting details, are submitted to the Recorders for consideration by the GRC. Supporting details may include a written description and sketches based on field notes, plus photographs, video, sound recordings, or combinations of these methods. Records concerning unusual species trapped for the purposes of ringing should be additionally supported by biometrics data. The Recorder will notify observers of sub-rarities and uncommon birds whose records have not been accepted as soon as practicable.

Occasionally further details may be requested at the discretion of the Recorders [West & East] for more common species for such occurrences as colour variants, out-of-season sightings and unusually large numbers. Also further details may be requested for scarce and rare races, such as eastern Chiffchaffs or Greenland Wheatears.

As indicated above, it would be appreciated if records of unusual species were sent to the Recorders [West & East] as soon after the sighting as possible to ease the workload that otherwise falls to the GRC towards the end of a given year. Records not requiring additional details may, of course, be sent in at any time, and it would be quite in order to send a whole year's records to the Recorders as soon as the year is over.

All records for a given year should be submitted to the Recorders no later than the 31st January of the following year.

Above are illustrations of descriptions for Bewick's Swan in Cardiff from Rob Mitchell and Leach's Petrel off Porthcawl from Paul Parsons, both showing exactly what is required when no photographs are available. A drawing, it doesn't have to be a brilliant, showing the relevant details with notes explaining plumage features, leg and bill colouration etc. Flight jizz and general behaviour. A good practice is to always carry a notebook and pen with you when out birding and get into the habit of looking at birds critically.

Never be put off trying to write a description, if you cannot describe in detail, then use bullet points to describe what features brought you to the conclusion as to which species you thought the bird was.

Use of abbreviations in text [see below].
Please make sure that you outline correctly your abbreviation in your descriptive notes, especially when it is the use of  a site, otherwise the GRC Committee may not know exactly where the species occurred.

With the acceptance of the Kenfig Chiffchaff (6/11/2007 - 21/12/2007) as a Eastern 'Siberian' Chiffchaff by WRP [8/04/2013], written below is statement published by BBRC on the criteria surrounding this form of Chiffchaff in Great Britain. This record should now be considered as the first confirmed occurrance of this form in East Glamorgan. 
Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita tristis (including Ph. c. fulvescens),‘Siberian Chiffchaff ’ NOTE: Now considered not rare enough to be a BBRC taxon. In Wales, this form is now considered by the Welsh Records Panel [WRP].
Although the occurrence of ‘Siberian Chiffchaff ’ in Britain is supported by specimen records, its status here is unclear. The numbers reported suggest that it is a scarce but regular migrant and, to some extent, a winter visitor. However, the criteria used to assess records vary markedly from region to region, and there are suggestions that it is being over-recorded and may actually be rather rare in western Europe. Genuine tristis can be identified by a combination of voice and plumage details; the strongest evidence is plumage coupled with song, but over-reliance on song would seriously affect any attempts to establish status and might lead to the conclusion that tristis was a rare spring migrant. Plumage alone offers the weakest support for identification, and it is not apparent that the real characters of tristis are fully understood. Some of the most distinctive ‘eastern’ Common Chiffchaffs are strikingly pale and grey, with white underparts; these do not correspond to the typical appearance of tristis and are better regarded as presumed eastern Ph. c. abietinus, which is a regular migrant to Britain. Calls are useful but rarely diagnostic, as many of these grey-and-white birds and even some recently fledged juveniles of British Ph. c. collybita utter calls similar to the plaintive monosyllabic note typical of tristis. BBRC proposes to regard this taxon as a genuine rarity pending clarification of its status; we do not yet intend to assess claims, but would like to monitor records from county and regional reports before deciding on the best way forward. We would distinguish between birds which are seen but not heard; seen and heard calling; and seen and heard singing. Some counties already categorise records along these lines, and we encourage all local and regional committees to seek detailed submissions of this race, and sound recordings wherever possible. A good tristis appears rather brown on the upperparts, has a ‘mackintosh-buff ’ wash along the flanks and on the ear-coverts, lacks yellow in the plumage except at the bend of the wing, has olive confined to the fringes of the wing and tail feathers, has rather short and predominantly black bill, and utters a plaintive, monosyllabic ‘iiihp’ call-note. Any chiffchaff which does not match these criteria should not be assigned to tristis. (Dean & Svensson2005; Constantine et al. 2006)
Please note that all descriptions for Caspian Gull, Siberian Chiffchaff & Common'Mealy' Redpoll MUST come with photographic evidence to back up any written notes supplied. These are requested by the Welsh Records Panel for acceptance.

Kumlien's Gull criteria sent by WRP
We, (WRP), have a handful of Kumlien’s Gull records to assess and for the first time we have immatures – and therefore we need a standard – a minimum required for acceptance.
WRP require a series of good quality photos showing the open wing – those with the closed wing are fine for giving you an impression but NOT GOOD ENOUGH for record adjudication or firm identification of Kumlien's. Any individual showing darker primaries across whole wing was not a good candidate for Kumlien's – normal variation in Iceland Gulls.
The WRP can adopt a defensible position, as long as we have photos that show the “essential primary features”.
On any 1st and 2nd winters:
  • contrast between darker outer primaries and paler inner primaries
  • darker outer webs than inner webs on outer primaries
3rd winters:
  • darker outer webs than inner webs on outer primaries 
Adults – should be even easier:

  • Dark pigment (darker than grey of upperpart grey ) on at least one primary.
Snow Bunting races

It is thought that the Icelandic birds arrive in Scotland via the Northern Isles, and presumably some make their way down the west coast. The nivalis birds seem to come west across the North Sea from Scandinavia, although they may work their way home up the English and eastern Scottish coast. This would explain why nivalis is rare in the west and Wales. 

Snow Bunting indicators

Icelandic race [Occurs in VC41]
Tertials all evenly chestnut, not buff=adult
9th primary less than 40% white=insulae
Brown mantle
Scandinavian race
White or whitish rump feathers 
Primary coverts white tipped black=1st winter male
Very frosty mantle
More than 60% white on 9th primary 

[Thanks to We Bird North Wales for this info]

Common Site Abbreviations & Organisations in use VC41
CCP = Cosmeston Country Park
CBWR = Cardiff Bay Wetlands Reserve (Cardiff Bay)
ENR = Eglwys Nunydd Reservoir
KNNR = Kenfig National Nature Reserve
LNR = Local Nature Reserve
MMNNR = Merthyr Mawr National Nature Reserve
RGW = Rumney Great Wharf (East Cardiff foreshore)
RPL = Roath Park Lake (Cardiff)
WWT = Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust
WTW = Water Treatment Works (Cardiff Foreshore & Ogmore)
BAP = Biodiversity Action Plan
BBRC = British Birds Rarities Committee
BOU = British Ornithologists' Union
CNS = Cardiff Naturalists' Society
FHP = Flat Holm Project
GBC = Glamorgan Bird Club
GRC = Glamorgan Rarities Committee
GBR = Glamorgan Bird Report
GOS = Gower Ornithological Society & Gwent Ornithological Society
EGBR = East Glamorgan Bird Report
M&SGBR = Mid & South Glamorgan Bird Report
RBBP = Rare Breeding Birds Panel
VC = Vice-county
WOS = Welsh Ornithological Society
WRP = Welsh Records Panel

Species context: (VC41)
BNG = Black-necked Grebe
BTD = Black-throated Diver
GBB Great Black-backed (Gull)
GBT = Gull-billed Tern
GCG = Great Crested Grebe
GGS = Great Grey Shrike
GND = Great Northern Diver
GSW = Great Spotted Woodpecker
GWE = Great White Egret
HB = Honey Buzzard
LBB = Lesser Black-backed (Gull)
LEO = Long-eared Owl
LRP = Little Ringed Plover
LTD = Long-tailed Duck
LSW = Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
PFG = Pink-footed Goose
RBG = Ring-billed Gull
RBF = Red-breasted Flycatcher
RBM = Red-breasted Merganser
RBS = Red-backed Shrike
RND = Ring-necked Duck
RNG = Red-necked Grebe
RTD = Red-throated Diver
SEO = Short-eared Owl
WFG = White-fronted Goose
WWBT = White-winged Black Tern
YBW = Yellow-browed Warbler
YLG = Yellow-legged Gull
White-winged gulls = Iceland & Glaucous Gulls

Birdwatching Terminology:
SP or sum plum = Summer Plumage
NB or N/Br = Non-breeding [Plumage]
WP or win plum = Winter Plumage
PBM = Post Breeding Moult
DC = Down Channel (seawatching)
UC = Up Channel (seawatching)
F/o = Fly over
UTV = Un-tickable views (observation insufficient)
OML = On my list!

Age details
imm = immature
juv = juvenile
1st W = First winter
1st S = First summer
2nd W = Second winter
2nd S = Second summer
3rd W = Third winter
3rd S = Third summer
sub-ad = sub adult
CY = Calendar Year - age specific to a 12 month period
1cy = First calendar year
2cy = Second calendar year
3cy = Third calendar year
4cy = Fourth calendar year