Bardsey Bird & Field Observatory warden Ed Betteridge had a surprise last Tuesday when one of the first birds he found on the island was a Song Sparrow. This streaky songbird, not closely related to our House Sparrow, is resident across the northern states of the USA, but look quite different in each part of North America, caused by local environmental conditions not genetics. Song Sparrows that breed in southern Canada leapfrog their sedentary relatives to winter in the mid West and Gulf Coast states. It is only the 11th Song Sparrow found in Britain, and with the exception of one in Yorkshire in 1964, all were found around the Irish Sea or on Fair Isle, just south of Shetland. This may point to it riding on a ship for all or part of its voyage. This was the second Bardsey record, coming 53 years almost to the day after the first, but unlike the 1970 visitor, this was a one-day wonder.
News of the Song Sparrow rather overshadowed another trans-Atlantic arrival, an American Golden Plover at Cemlyn, on Anglesey. Other unusual birds last week include a Quail at Sealand, Wood Sandpiper at Cemlyn, Garganeys at RSPB Cors Ddyga and Tree Sparrows at RSPB South Stack. A White-tailed Eagle reported flying up the Dee valley near Holt on Sunday may be a young bird released in southern England as part of a reintroduction project.
The latest Wetland Bird Survey results show big declines of several species in Wales in the last 10 years. Non-breeding populations of Pochard fell 66%, Bar-tailed Godwit by 64%, Grey Plover by 52%, Coot by 42% and Red-breasted Merganser by 37%. There were positive increases in Whooper Swan, Gadwall, Eider, Pale-bellied Brent Goose, Turnstone and Little Egret in Wales over that period. The Dee estuary remains the fourth most important wetland in the UK for waterbirds, with another Liverpool Bay estuary, the Ribble, in second place.
A weekly update of bird sightings and news from North Wales, published in The Daily Post every Thursday.