Look out for Rooks
Despite the cold wind, spring showed its face at the weekend: frogspawn in a farm pond, bright yellow Lesser Celandine flowers unfurling in the verges and Rooks arguing over the growing piles of sticks in trees whose leaves are yet to bud. The rookery at the edge of my village has grown from two to ten nests in the last week alone.
The Welsh Ornithological Society is seeking help with the second year of its national survey of rookeries. This farmland crow has declined by more than 60% since 1995 and since 2019 it has been illegal to kill Rooks or destroy their nests. The WOS survey asks people to census 2-km squares and to report any rookeries they count to the local records centre, Cofnod. Full details of how to take part are on the WOS website birdsin.wales.
A Cambridge University study has highlighted the slow take-up of alternatives to toxic lead ammunition. Lead shot from spent cartridges is ingested from the ground by birds and fragments of bullets and shot in carcasses can be scavenged by birds such as raptors and Ravens, as well as mammals. Up to 100,000 birds are thought to die of the sub-lethal effects of lead poisoning each year, even though lead shot use over wetlands has been banned in Wales for two decades. The new study shows that 94% of Pheasants sampled contained lead shot. The proportion of Pheasants shot with a non-lead alternative has increased from 1% to 6% in the last year, but there are just another two years before farming and shooting organisations had planned a voluntary end to the use of lead shot. Professor Rhys Green from the University’s Zoology department said “If UK game hunters are going to phase out lead shot voluntarily, they’re not doing very well so far. The small decrease… is nowhere near on track to achieve a complete transition to non-toxic ammunition in the next two years.”
Having gone missing for a week, the male Baikal Teal is again in Foryd Bay, along with a Scaup. Two Surf Scoters and up to 10 Velvet Scoters are off Llanddulas and a Slavonian Grebe off Pensarn. A flock of Pink-footed Geese is at Gronant, with Twite, Jack Snipe and Yellow-legged Gulls nearby. Water Pipits were spotted at Gronant and at RSPB Conwy, where another Scaup and a couple of Spotted Redshanks have wintered. A Firecrest was in Newborough Forest at the weekend and a group of Ruddy Shelducks on the Clwyd estuary last week. A Hooded Crow remains at Bychestyn, near Aberdaron, and Slavonian Grebes and Scaup are on Anglesey’s Inland Sea.
With early Sand Martins already in southwest England and Wheatears in west Wales last week, keep an eye open for the flash of a white rump on coastal headlands or the hills, although northerly winds will surely slow down the advance guard of migrants.
Bangor Bird Group meets in person for the first time in three years on Wednesday 1 March, with a free public lecture at Pontio by Professor Tim Birkhead. Birds and Us reviews human interactions with birds throughout our 12,000 years of documented history from Egyptian Ibis Mummies, through scientific experimentation, engineering mimicry and artistic inspiration, to concern for their conservation and wellbeing. For details and tickets, book here.
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A weekly update of bird sightings and news from North Wales.