I write this in the washed-out dawn of 2020's shortest day, whose gloom probably reflects the national mood. However, as I stepped out of the shower half an hour ago, a Robin was singing lustily from somewhere nearby, perhaps under a streetlamp in the darkness. It's not alone. Out walking yesterday, the notes of a Mistle Thrush crossed the field from a treetop, appropriate for the time of year given it shares its name with the hemi-parasitic plant beneath which it is traditional to kiss at Christmas.
I don't think you can put a price on how much better I feel for having birdsong in my life. I know how much poorer I'd feel without it. The restrictions brought about by covid-19 have highlighted the importance of access to greenspace for our well-being, but that greenspace is even better for our mental health when it's rich in wildlife. A study published recently by the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research showed that having an additional 14 bird species in your neighbourhood is equivalent to an average household in Europe feeling £1,400 better off every year. My quick maths puts that value as around £2 billion in Wales alone.
Paul Roberts' photo of Pied Wagtails roosting in the decorated Christmas tree in Bridgend town centre has brightened the mood of many people this week, again illustrating how nature can see us through the dark times. This species is known for its use of buildings to stay warm through a winter's night - I recall seeing them emerge from flue of a Post Office heating system and horticultural greenhouses. Perhaps a little heat generated by the Christmas lights attracted them, as well as the dense structure of the pine. Roosts of up to 2000 Pied Wagtails have been recorded in Wales, one of the largest in the north being 600 at Bangor's Ysbyty Gwynedd in 2000.
Birds found on walks from home over the weekend include Snow Buntings at Cemlyn and Llanddona, a trio of Water Pipit, Rose-coloured Starling and Black Redstart at Amlwch Port and Long-tailed Duck at Foryd Bay. Three Velvet Scoters are with over 8000 Common Scoters off Llanddulas, four Scaup off Kinmel Bay and a Slavonian Grebe was reported in the Conwy estuary at the weekend.
A weekly update of bird sightings and news from North Wales.