Many birdwatchers have reported Redpolls in recent weeks. Those on garden feeders are Lesser Redpolls, a species that will soon breed locally but widely across North Wales, especially in upland birch woods. However, some over coastal watchpoints are larger, paler and longer-winged than local birds. These are Common Redpolls, which breed around the Arctic Circle, although some don’t quite match the textbooks. It is suspected that many passing through North Wales in spring are Icelandic, though some may go on to Greenland or Canada. And where have they wintered? Around 80 Redpolls headed high to the northwest from the Great Orme on Sunday, while a flock of 28 was at Cemlyn last week. Redpoll taxonomy is complex, and I admire anyone who takes the time to observe them closely on a breezy spring morning. If you really want to take a dive into the identification of Icelandic Common Redpolls, you could do worse than start with this blog by the late Martin Garner.
The rarest birds of the week were at the most eastern and western points of the region. A smart male Woodchat Shrike was a great find on Bardsey, a spring migrant that had ‘overshot’ the Mediterranean after returning to Europe from west Africa. On the Dee Estuary, a Crane was found during a thunderstorm on Sunday, although it stayed resolutely 100 metres east of the national boundary, before moving on overnight. Cranes have made a wonderful recovery as a British breeding species, partly thanks to releases in Somerset of captive-bred birds. This one may have been heading for Scandinavia before being brought down to earth by the rain. Just beyond North Wales, a Squacco Heron was at RSPB Ynys-hir on the Dyfi Estuary last week.
On Anglesey, Short-eared Owls were over the Alaw Estuary, a Hooded Crow at RSPB South Stack and a Garganey at RSPB Cors Ddyga on Monday. A Hobby hunted the first emerging dragonflies at Cors Ddyga, but the sight of 20 of these sleek falcons over Fenn’s and Whixhall Mosses, near Hanmer, on Monday must have been truly impressive. It’s almost certainly a record count for Wales.