As my groaning shelves testify, I love a bird book. A well-researched volume is more definitive in its answers than an internet search, and I love the feel of the pages, the rich artwork and photographs in my hand. But there is some information for which the web is far superior, especially for sharing and visualising data almost in real time.
The United Nations Convention on Migration Species recently launched a Eurasian-African Bird Migration Atlas, which for the first time maps the movements of millions of individual birds that have been ringed and found subsequently, over more than a century. The results, open to all at migrationatlas.org, enable ornithologists to understand better how different parts of the flyway are connected between seasons, but also how that is changing with climate disruption.
It is a goldmine that I will doubtless spend long winter evenings digging into. At the weekend, I watched a male Ring Ouzel feeding three begging juveniles that had not long left their nest in the Carneddau. From the Migration Atlas, I can see that there have been just two exchanges of Ring Ouzels from North Wales: one between Bardsey and southwest France, the other between Conwy and the Grampian Mountains. However, added to all the Ring Ouzel data from both continents shows that these form part of a movement between Britain and Morocco, where they spend winter with other Ring Ouzels that breed in the Alps and Scandinavia. In a few months, these young Carneddau birds could be sharing Juniper berries with birds hatched in Norway and Switzerland.
Understanding bird movements is also essential for those tracking highly pathogenic avian influenza. A lack of testing makes it hard to be certain, but reports from seabird colonies across Scotland, and in tern sites in eastern England, the Netherlands and France, indicate that ‘bird flu’ could be catastrophic for some species. Wales’ only Little Tern colony at Gronant – which now has a live stream from the beach - is having a record year, with over 200 nests, so wardens will be watching nervously for symptoms. The Animal & Plant Health Agency urges anyone finding a dead bird to report it on 03459 335577 and not to touch it.
Rose-coloured Starlings have been spotted in gardens in Llandudno Junction and Llanfechell in the last week, perhaps the start of a westward European movement that we have witnessed in the last two summers. A handful of waders, such as Whimbrel at RSPB Conwy and a Greenshank on the Alaw estuary, are a sign of southward migration as failed breeders leave their Arctic breeding grounds and make an early move to their wintering areas. A Yellow-legged Gull was at RSPB Conwy on Sunday, a Hooded Crow on the Clwyd estuary and six Mediterranean Gulls on Porthmadog’s Llyn Bach, including one ringed near Leipzig last summer. Two Black Swans on the Inland Sea and one at Aber Ogwen originate from a collection.
A weekly update of bird sightings and news from North Wales.