A gaggle of Barnacle Geese on Anglesey’s Dulas estuary at the weekend included three wearing engraved coloured leg rings. More petite than the Canada Geese that have lived in North Wales for more than a century, wild Barnacle Geese breed on rocky outcrops on the tundra of Greenland, Svalbard and Russia. Those from western populations winter on the Solway Firth, although until the 1870s they were said to have wintered on the Dee estuary in their thousands. The soft calls of a flock of Barnacle Geese is one of my favourite winter sounds, recalling cold, frosty days on the Scottish border.
So, from where had this trio originated? The answer was somewhat less remote. These had been ringed on Derwentwater and Ullswater in Cumbria earlier this year as part of a project to track the growing naturalised population of the species. In the coming weeks it’s likely that more will drop onto the North Wales coast and rivers before resuming their journey south. Many will spend winter on the Dyfi estuary, where numbers have grown from a handful in the early 1990s to more than 600 in recent years. The organisers are appealing to birdwatchers in North Wales to report colour-ringed Barnacle Gesee to their website, which will generate a history of other sightings of that bird.
The Dulas estuary also hosted a Curlew Sandpiper, with another on the Cefni estuary along with a Little Stint and an Avocet. RSPB Conwy’s lagoons had a busy weekend, with a Black Tern, Little Stint, Garganey, Spotted Redshank, Knot, Pintails and a couple of Ruffs. Little Stints have also been at Llyn Trawsfynydd and on Anglesey's Inland Sea. An easterly airflow last Wednesday brought three Wrynecks to Bardsey, probable Melodious Warblers on the Great Orme and Holyhead, and two Cranes dropped into RSPB Cors Ddyga overnight.