Twice a year, billions of individuals of around 4000 species make a journey. Some travel farther than others, and in the northern hemisphere ‘autumn’ the direction is broadly north to south, but of course, it’s not quite that simple. While some have almost completed their migration by mid August, such as adult Cuckoos that left us in June and are already south of the Sahara, our Swifts are only now leaving their nest sites for Africa. Monday’s rain brought Spotted Flycatchers and warblers including Willow, Sedge and Whitethroat to Bardsey, where Bird Observatory staff will monitor numbers as they have annually since 1953.
One of my favourite waders is Greenshank, elegant in white and grey winter plumage, although some late-summer arrivals still have brown wings and mottled underparts from the breeding season. Their ‘tieu-tieu-tieu’ alarm call as they take flight gives away their presence. Numbers increased sharply at the weekend, with a flock of 28 at Aber Ogwen and 24 at Morfa Madryn, on the southern shore of Menai Strait.
Greenshanks breed from Scotland to the far east of Siberia, bordering the Bering Sea. Those in North Wales are most likely to breed in Scotland and will stay for the winter or move on to Ireland or France, whereas those on North Sea coasts include many from Scandinavia that are heading for West Africa. But even that journey is nothing compared to Greenshanks from eastern Russia that fly to Australia and New Zealand to winter. In all cases, they depend on a network of wetlands such as Traeth Lafan at which to refuel. For more information about Greenshank migration (and lots more amazing Wader Tales), I thoroughly recommend browsing through Graham Appleton's excellent blog.
A Balearic Shearwater fed among Kittiwakes off Anglesey’s Point Lynas on Saturday and a Storm Petrel fluttered past Criccieth. Farther south, a Wilson’s Petrel became a snack for a Peregrine; it was the first Wilson’s Petrel in Ceredigion, but is one of the most abundant birds in the world, having made it to Cardigan Bay from the South Atlantic. Ruffs were at Cemlyn, RSPB Cors Ddyga and Malltraeth Cob, a Little Tern at Cemlyn and a Roseate Tern at Gronant. A dozen Black Guillemots are off Penmaenmawr.
A weekly update of bird sightings and news from North Wales.