Birdwatchers are encouraged to help surveillance for H5N1 avian influenza this winter, as conservationists raised alarm at the potential impact on wild bird populations for which the UK is important. RSPB Scotland has released images of hundreds of carcasses at its nature reserves on the Solway Firth, and estimates that 10% of the Svalbard breeding population of Barnacle Goose may have died here in recent weeks. With the highly pathogenic virus confirmed at 65 poultry premises across the UK, including two in North Wales, wild birds confirmed with the disease include a Buzzard in Gwynedd, a Mute Swan on Anglesey and several Pheasants in Wrexham CBC.
Although ducks, geese and swans are especially susceptible, infection among Great Skuas nesting in Scotland last summer and scavenging species such as Buzzard and White-tailed Eagle has been confirmed, and several dead Curlews have been reported. Thankfully, no sites have yet been affected on the scale of the Solway and although the risk of contracting the disease from a wild bird is very low, people are reminded not to handle sick or dead wild birds. Dead waterbirds, gamebirds, gulls and raptors should be reported to the DEFRA helpline on 03459 335577.
An Iceland Gull has joined the Little Orme grey seals in Angel Bay, almost 200 Pink-footed Geese feed on fields in Penrhyn Bay and another flock is near Cemlyn. Several Black-throated Divers are off northwest Wales, Long-tailed Ducks in Foryd Bay and Kinmel Bay, and a Bittern at Morfa Dinlle. At the tip of Pen Llŷn, a Snow Bunting was on Mynydd Mawr and Black Redstart near Aberdaron, with another on a Llandudno rooftop last week. Up to 16 Hawfinches have been along the Afon Conwy in Llanrwst, three Siberian Chiffchaffs at Pontllyfni and Scaup at RSPB Conwy, Llyn Trawsfynydd and Rhyl Brickfields Pit.
If you are off work over the break, I hope you get a chance to enjoy some time outside exploring nature, a vital tonic in uncertain and challenging times. I wish all BirdNotes readers a safe and peaceful Christmas.
A weekly update of bird sightings and news from North Wales.