Reports suggest that last week’s cold snap pushed Blackcaps into gardens around North Wales. They are attracted not just to supplementary food, but to wildlife-friendly plants that provide shelter and harbour natural food in difficult times. Blackcaps are a summer visitor from North Africa, but some come here from central Europe, as far east as the border of Poland and Ukraine, in winter. Upwards of 2000 Blackcaps winter in Wales, those in the north primarily around the coast and in the Dee and Clwyd valleys. Read more about Blackcaps in Welsh gardens in this BirdNotes column from 2021.
This weekend’s RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch will be an opportunity to stocktake Blackcaps and other wildlife using our gardens. Visit rspb.org.uk/birdwatch to take part.
There is much we don’t know about the changing habits of migratory Blackcaps, dubbed ‘microevolution’, but new technology is starting to change that. Nanotags, weighing just one-eighth of a gramme and attached to the smallest of songbirds, emit a unique pulse every 3.7 seconds that can be picked up by a dedicated Motus receiver. Base stations are spread across the Americas, and increasingly in northwest Europe, enabling individual birds to be tracked in real time as they cross the continent. A paper in the journal British Birds this month illustrates the potential of this new technology. There are no receivers yet in Wales, but one planned at the Calf of Man Bird Observatory will be used to study Wheatear migration this year.
Recent sightings include 50 Waxwings near Halkyn Quarry and flocks in Prestatyn and Dyserth. A Glossy Ibis flew over the A55 in Anglesey’s Cefni Valley on Monday, and a Cattle Egret at nearby RSPB Cors Ddyga. A Long-tailed Duck is off Benllech, a Little Gull at Traeth Dulas and a small flock of Snow Buntings at Talacre. A pale-cheeked American Wigeon at RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands is probably one seen on Anglesey before Christmas.
A new project is calling for volunteers to help survey Curlews in the Clwydian Hills this spring, as part of a new Curlew Connections Wales project designed to help the species’ recovery. The project is also seeking help in Montgomeryshire and Bannau Brycheiniog National Park. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
Wildlife broadcaster Iolo Williams has called on people to have their say on the Welsh Government’s proposals for a Sustainable Farming Scheme. The Welsh Ornithological Society and RSPB Cymru have teamed up to run a series of briefing events, including in Wrexham and Caernarfon, as well as an online seminar, in late February. Iolo is urging everyone to get involved, to ensure that the new scheme helps farmers take action to help nature thrive. Iolo said “If you do only one thing for Welsh wildlife in 2024, please do this.” Dates and details are on the WOS website.
A weekly update of bird sightings and news from North Wales, published in The Daily Post every Thursday.