A new year brings fresh impetus to get out birdwatching. Daylight is slowly lengthening, the first Chiffchaffs and Sand Martins may be only eight weeks from arrival, and resolutions are made to spend more time in nature. Despite a strong wind taking the edge off the warmest ever New Year’s Day, there was plenty to see for those who had not partied too hard the previous night.
Among the highlights on 1st January were a Long-tailed Duck on Shotwick Boating Lake, Scaup on Cefni Reservoir, RSPB Conwy and Rhyl’s Brickfields Pit, and an Iceland Gull on the Little Orme, where more than 200 Grey Seals have hauled up recently. The fine lines of an Avocet stood out on the Alaw estuary, while a Black Redstart close to Benllech beach and a Firecrest at Llanfairfechan sewage works added a touch of colour. Great Northern Divers were in Holyhead harbour, off Rhos Point, Benllech and in Beddmanarch Bay, with a couple of Slavonian Grebes at the last of these. Siberian Chiffchaffs were at Porth Meudwy and Pontllyfni, these winter visitors now occurring more frequently or birders are becoming more familiar with identifying them. Single Snow Buntings were at Talacre and Caernarfon airfield, a couple of Jack Snipe in Glanwydden and flocks of Pink-footed Geese at Llanbadrig and Cemlyn.
The subsequent couple of days have seen Spotted Redshank at RSPB Conwy, Black Redstart at Porthdinllaen, and four Whooper Swans at RSPB Cors Ddyga. Five European White-fronted Geese remain on fields beside the Clwyd estuary and a Little Gull flew past the end of Pen Llŷn. Short-eared Owls hunted at Aberffraw, Cors Ddyga and near Kinmel Bay, and up to seven are on the Dee estuary.
Ornithologists on the Solway Firth had a more grim start to the year, counting thousands of dead Barnacle Geese that have fallen victim to Avian Influenza. Kane Brides, Research Officer at the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, reported that over 20% of the Svalbard Barnacle Goose population – all of which winter on the Solway – are thought to have died so far. For more on the outbreak, see this blog from last month.
The fastest bird sightings report in the UK was published before midnight on New Year’s Eve by Martin Jones. His Anglesey Bird News blog provides a weekly update of sightings on the island, all wrapped up in a report for 2021, for which he is seeking donations to the Cemlyn Wardens’ fund for North Wales Wildlife Trust.
A weekly update of bird sightings and news from North Wales, published in The Daily Post every Thursday.