Thousands across North Wales spent an hour of last weekend record garden visitors for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. My highlight this winter has been the regular appearance of House Sparrows. This may be a familiar visitor for many readers, but for me it’s a real rarity even though a small number have lived in a thick hedgerow on the edge of our village for years. I first heard House Sparrows from the garden during the first Covid lockdown in April 2020. With most traffic noise banished, I heard the cheeping twitter of sparrows on the breeze. They were several hundred metres away, a big distance for a House Sparrow, as most spend their whole life in a tiny patch. But as people turned to nature for solace during the pandemic, new feeders appeared in village gardens, and the sparrows followed. Now I get to see one or two from my home office window most days. It may not be a classic songster, but I treasure that sound.
House Sparrows are making a recovery, with numbers having almost doubled in Wales since the mid-1990s. But the population remains much lower than in the 1970s and earlier, especially in large urban areas, from which they’ve disappeared in some cases.
More unusual garden visitors this week are a Lesser Whitethroat, probably of Asian origin, in Holyhead and a Swallow at Bodorgan on Monday. Also on Anglesey, a Cattle Egret is on fields west of Bodedern, nine Whooper Swans were on Llyn Llygeirian at the weekend and seven on the Braint estuary on Monday. Four Greenland White-fronted Geese are with Whoopers near Garreg in the Glaslyn Valley, and a Ring-necked Duck on Llyn Tegid can be seen from Llangower station.
A Snow Bunting is on the Great Orme, the Iceland Gull remains on the Little Orme and Hawfinches in the Conwy Valley include singles at Llanrwst and Betws-y-Coed, and six at Llanbedr-y-cennin. Up to 20 Twite are on Flint marsh and a Snow Goose flew into the upper Dee estuary with Pink-footed Geese, perhaps a genuine visitor from Arctic Canada that has arrived via Lancashire.
A weekly update of bird sightings and news from North Wales, published in The Daily Post every Thursday.