Blustery weather may have dampened family barbecues and outdoor events, but attracted birders to coastal watchpoints around North Wales. Black Terns were seen in an arc from the Dyfi estuary and Harlech to Kinmel Bay, with the largest counts of 70 from Rhos Point, where some roosted on the stone breakwater, and 65 at Criccieth in a couple of hours on Saturday afternoon. Two dozen passed Amlwch and Point Lynas in north Anglesey, and those reported were probably the tip of an iceberg. With at least 250 past Pembrokeshire’s Strumble Head, more Black Terns were seen in Wales in three days than in any year since 2005 (see the chart below).
Black Terns haven’t bred regularly in Britain since The Fens were drained in eastern England, and they continue to decline in western Europe because of habitat loss. The birds seen in the Irish Sea at the weekend originate from lakes and peat bogs in the eastern Baltic, Belarus and western Russia, where they recently finished their breeding season. They usually fly through the southern North Sea and down the Bay of Biscay but strong south-easterly winds pushed them farther west. Their ultimate destination is the Gulf of Guinea in west Africa, where they will spend the winter.
A handful of Arctic and Great Skuas were alongside the terns, numbers of the latter lower than usual because of bird flu on their breeding islands, and a Long-tailed Skua passed Rhos Point. Easterly winds also brought a Melodious Warbler and Nightjar to Bardsey, a Little Stint and Ruff are at RSPB Conwy, and a Wood Sandpiper dropped onto Cemlyn lagoon.
Rowans and Hawthorns hang heavy with fruit in the Carneddau, attracting roving flocks of Mistle Thrushes from the valleys, attention drawn by their rattling calls. In just eight weeks, the first Redwings from Scandinavia will arrive to pick off the remains.
A weekly update of bird sightings and news from North Wales, published in The Daily Post every Thursday.