Spring is truly my favourite season. Longer days encourage me to spend more time outdoors, knowing that birds are moving and almost anything is possible. An early Saturday walk at RSPB Conwy was brightened by a pair of Garganey. Another two males swam into view, joined by a fourth male. The presence of a female among the quintet led to much scrapping, the males emitting an excited throaty call akin to running a drumstick down a washboard. The call is the source of its unusual English name that has made a complex etymological journey from Italian via Lombardy, with the same root as the verb ‘gargle’.
But these birds had come even farther. Garganey winter in sub-Saharan Africa and rarely breed in Wales so those seen here in spring are probably heading for Scandinavia. Five at Conwy and six at Malltraeth Cob on Saturday were the earliest seen in North Wales this century, and singles followed at RSPB Cors Ddyga and RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands on Sunday. They are among at least 250 Garganey reported to the Birdguides website in the southern half of Britain since Friday.
The wardening team have returned to Bardsey Bird & Field Observatory for the summer and are already busy recording migrants, including the first Manx Shearwaters in their nest burrows, Firecrest and Black Redstart; another Black Redstart was across the sound at Uwchmynydd on Monday. As well as large numbers of Chiffchaffs and a handful of Sand Martins and Wheatears, summer migrants in North Wales include the first House Martin of the year at RSPB Cors Ddyga and an Osprey at Malltraeth on Monday, and a Little Gull and four Avocets at Connah’s Quay nature reserve on Sunday. A Ring-necked Duck on Cefni Reservoir is only the fourth recorded on Anglesey.
After the smoke cleared following shocking images of the Dee marshes ablaze at the weekend, RSPB nature reserve staff revealed that the extensive blackened area should be home to breeding Bittern and Cetti’s Warbler in a few weeks, and a pair of Marsh Harriers that were building a nest. The marshes will hopefully recover with new growth in the coming weeks, although it will take longer for insects and small mammals to recolonise. Cheshire Police report that three teenage boys have been arrested on suspicion of arson. The impact would have been more devastating had it occurred in late April, as happened with a similarly large fire at reedbeds on the Tay estuary in 2020.
A weekly update of bird sightings and news from North Wales, published in The Daily Post every Thursday.