The coming weeks will highlight the strong connection between North Wales and Iceland, as the East Atlantic Flyway will be busy with northbound birds. White Wagtails, Whimbrels and Black-tailed Godwits will call into our wetlands to refuel as they head towards their breeding grounds after a winter in Africa. The small Welsh population of Greenland White-fronted Geese on Anglesey and the Dyfi Estuary will soon be heading northwest, making a stopover in Iceland, as will some of the Pale-bellied Brent Geese that winter in the Menai Strait. Breeding waders from Iceland, Greenland and Canada, such as Turnstones, Redshanks and Oystercatchers, also winter on the mild Welsh coast. The familiar black-and-white Oystercatchers will soon be moving to Iceland, the Faeroes, Norway and Scotland to nest. Results from the BTO Non-Estuarine Waterbird Survey (NEWS) of the rocky and open coast were published last week and show Wales holds the highest densities of Oystercatchers but that the decline in numbers has also been greatest here.
The one species with Iceland in its English name, the gull, does not breed in the country. Its Welsh name, Gwylan yr Arctig better describes its breeding area of northeast Canada and Greenland. There have been few Iceland Gulls in North Wales this winter, but one at Brickfields Pond nature reserve has been enjoyed by birders locked down in Rhyl, and another was in Foryd Bay last week.
Birders braving the wind at the weekend saw more Wheatears, Chiffchaffs and Sand Martins arriving, with a few Swallows too. The gales blew a Little Gull through Anglesey’s Llyn Llywenan on Monday, and Lapland Buntings and a Snow Bunting hunkered down on the Great Orme. Several Black Redstarts were reported last week, including one at Minera Quarry. Pairs of Ospreys have returned to their nests by the Afon Glaslyn and Cors Dyfi, and one of the Llyn Clywedog pair is also back.
A new national avifauna, The Birds of Wales, will be published in July. Liverpool University Press is accepting pre-orders for £25 (plus p&p), which is £20 below the published price. Click here for details and to order, using the code WALES50 to get the discount.