The Welsh Ornithological Society is calling for volunteers to help survey one of the most familiar farmland birds in Wales this spring. Groups of Rook nests in bare trees are obvious in late winter, and birds will soon return to these traditional colonies to repair and rebuild in readiness for the breeding season. A few adults were hanging around these rookeries in the Conwy Valley on Sunday, but more will return by the start of next month.
Rooks are a bird in decline, now listed as vulnerable to extinction in Europe and recently added to the Amber list of the UK birds of conservation concern. In Wales, the decline is greater than elsewhere in the UK, down by 58% since 1995. This means it qualifies for the Red List, alongside Curlew, Cuckoo and Yellowhammer. When Rooks were more common, they were regarded as an agricultural pest because they eat newly-sown seed and emerging crops. The speed of loss has resulted in Natural Resources Wales making it illegal to kill a Rook without holding a specific licence.
The WOS Rook survey involves a single visit to a pre-determined tetrad (2km x 2km grid square) between 1 March and 15 April, repeating a survey undertaken in 1996. WOS is reminding birdwatchers that nil counts are just as important as confirmed rookeries, and urges people to be ‘zero heroes’. Details of how to take part are on the WOS website.
Highlights of a windy week include a Firecrest at Penrhos coastal park, a dozen Hawfinches in Llanrwst, two Avocets at RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands and Snow Bunting on the Great Orme. Long-stayers include a Great Grey Shrike near Llyn Brenig, Scaup at RSPB Conwy, Iceland Gull on the Great Orme and Cattle Egrets on Bardsey and near Bodedern.
A weekly update of bird sightings and news from North Wales, published in The Daily Post every Thursday.