By-passed by many people who head for Snowdonia, Mynydd Hiraethog is a special place for birds, even on a winter’s day that can feel desolate. Although the breeding Curlews of summer have left, there are still a few forest edges where Willow Tits hang out, the shiny red berries of Rowan trees attract Fieldfares and Redwings, and patches of clear-felled forestry can become the winter territory of a Great Grey Shrike.
It’s always a thrill to see the dark eye-mask of a Great Grey Shrike, a black swoosh set against a head of the palest grey, above its persil-white underparts. Only a small number winter in Wales, their presence sometimes given away by a ‘larder’ of excess food such as voles or small birds hung on the thorn of a bush or a barbed wire fence. These breed in Scandinavia and were truly scarce until the early 1990s, but more have been found in recent decades, with some suggestion that they are wintering farther to the west in Britain. The first of the winter is among felled trees above Pentre-llyn-cymmer, south of Llyn Brenig.
The most unusual sighting at the weekend was a Dusky Warbler near Talacre. It’s only the eighth Welsh record of a bird that breeds in central and eastern Siberia and should now be in southeast Asia. Six of those eight records have been in North Wales. Other warblers seen recently include Lesser Whitethroat in Holyhead and Uwchmynydd, Siberian Chiffchaffs at Port Amlwch, Great Orme and Traeth Lligwy, and several Blackcaps that are likely to be migrants arriving from central Europe.
A Slavonian Grebe is in the eastern Menai Strait, two Snow Buntings on the Great Orme and a Twite was at Conwy Morfa at the weekend. Several Swallows have been in north Anglesey in recent days, while 10 Water Pipits at RSPB Cors Ddyga last week was an excellent count for the region.
A weekly update of bird sightings and news from North Wales, published in The Daily Post every Thursday.