Sporadic since Christmas, Clocaenog’s Great Grey Shrike put in an appearance last week in clear-felled forestry northwest of Llyn Brenig. Smaller than a Mistle Thrush, with a longer tail, a few Great Grey Shrikes winter in Wales from their breeding areas in Finland and Scandinavia. Clearfell provides snags from which to survey open areas for small prey. In times of plenty, they store small birds and mammals on a large thorn or barbed wire, hence the shrikes’ old English name of ‘butcherbird’.
Great Grey Shrikes’ winter territories in Britain have moved west since the 1980s, resulting in increased records in Wales. Numbers grew in the early 2000s and peaked last decade, with more than 25 individuals in some years. However, sightings have fallen to just three or four each winter, although there is time for more to be found this month. The reduction is evident elsewhere in Britain, as described in this Birdguides article, and it remains a major rarity in Ireland.
There is no obvious reason for the historic increase or recent decline. Is it ‘short-stopping’ as evident in wintering waterbirds from the east, with birds not moving so far as the climate warms, or are Great Grey Shrike breeding populations falling in northeastern Europe, as elsewhere on the continent?
Waxwings continue to draw admirers to Pentre Halkyn, with 180 birds on Saturday. Other weekend sightings include overwintering Long-tailed Ducks on Llyn Maelog and two off Benllech, Hooded Crow at RSPB South Stack, and the Snow Goose of unknown origin at Llay. A Slavonian Grebe is off Rhos Point, Cattle Egret and Great White Egrets at RSPB Cors Ddyga, and 300 Pink-footed Geese flew up the Cefni valley on Sunday. In Cardigan Bay, three Long-tailed Ducks were off Criccieth and five off Black Rock, and two Black-necked Grebes at Borth y Gest. A Glossy Ibis has again been at Pwllhelli and Abererch.
Three ways to help birds this week:
A weekly update of bird sightings and news from North Wales, published in The Daily Post every Thursday.