North Anglesey has been the toast of local birders recently, with two scarce songbird visitors at the weekend, following a Pectoral Sandpiper last week. A juvenile Red-backed Shrike was found on the east side of Cemlyn lagoon on Monday, one of a dozen scattered across Britain in the last week. Sadly it’s uncommon in Wales now, and this one almost certainly hatched in Scandinavia, but that was not always the case. In 1838, Thomas Eyton wrote that above Capel Curig “some dozens of them may be seen on the side of the hill above the lakes, which is thinly covered with scattered hawthorn bushes, and abounds with their prey”.
Another former breeding species was at nearby Hen Borth over the weekend, photographed by Tony White. The Turtle Dove is the bird is heading fastest towards extinction in Britain, numbers having declined by half in just five years, and by a staggering 98% since 1967. The last Welsh pair bred in 2011. Changes in farming, primarily on arable, have driven the decline, but hunting now threatens the diminishing population. Turtle Doves leave Britain each autumn to winter south of the Sahara, and there was an outcry when the French government permitted the hunting of more than 17,000 this autumn. That decision was overturned by a French court at the weekend, although the Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux estimate that up to 10,000 have already been shot. But it’s good news for the individual resting up at Hen Borth when it does begin its southward voyage.
Other sightings over the weekend include a Little Stint at Point of Ayr, two Hooded Crows at RSPB South Stack and a Rose-coloured Starling at Bull Bay. A scattering of Curlew Sandpipers included six at Foryd, two each at RSPB Conwy, the Alaw estuary and Pwllheli lagoon. There are six Great White Egrets at RSPB Conwy, and singles at Connah’s Quay nature reserve and Cemlyn Bay. Lapland Buntings were on the Great Orme and Carmel Head, a late Swift over Penrhyn Bay, and two Garganey, a Firecrest and a Spotted Redshank at RSPB Conwy.