And so our Cuckoo’s spring draws to an end. The last I heard, in Coed Crafnant above the Conwy Valley, was on 24 June, with only one in North Wales reported to BirdTrack subsequently, on the heathery slopes of Arenig Fawr. The British Trust for Ornithology has fitted nine adult males in England and the Republic of Ireland with satellite transmitters, and five have already crossed the Channel, with one close to Ravenna on the Adriatic coast.
Young Cuckoos are, of course, still to fledge, having evicted the eggs of their step-siblings – most frequently Meadow Pipits in the uplands – several weeks ago. They now ravenously consume all the insects that their unwitting foster parents can provide, and in just a few weeks will follow their biological parents to the forests of central Africa.
Other signs that we are past the summer solstice were evident on a visit to the Menai Strait, where the Ash trees hang heavy with bunches of their ‘keys’, at least those not already lost to the wilt fungus that is causing so many to die. A good number of recently fledged Lapwings suggests a successful breeding season at Morfa Madryn nature reserve, where four Greenshanks have joined the single that stayed here through the spring. Nearby, a tiny Ringed Plover chick racing around the saltmarsh still has a lot of growing up to do.
Little Terns at Gronant, under the watchful eyes of Denbighshire Council wardens and volunteers, are having another good season with more than 210 nests and most now hatched. Live images from the beach and edited highlights from selected nests are on the North Wales Little Tern Group’s YouTube channel. Four Avocet chicks hatched at Cemlyn on Sunday, the first ever on Anglesey. It’s less good news from a tern colony elsewhere on the island, however, where RSPB Cymru report several dead birds and fears that they have been struck by bird flu.
Roger Lovegrove OBE, one of the people who shaped Welsh bird conservation in the second half of the last century, died in Shrewsbury last week, aged 88. He set up the RSPB’s first office in Wales, in 1971, in Newtown where he had been the high school Head of PE for several years. He pioneered a suite of conservation initiatives over the next 27 years, using a government employment training scheme to give many young nature enthusiasts the first step on a career in conservation. Roger was also known for several books, including The Kite’s Tail and Silent Fields, reflecting a conservation success in the former, and the failure of generations of policies to prevent the decline in Welsh wildlife. He also co-presented an annual Birdwatch programme on BBC tv with Tony Soper from 1980, which was a precursor of the popular Springwatch series.
My own encounters with Roger were mainly as a teenager in the 1980s, when I was a wide-eyed enthusiast at the annual RSPB Film Show, which he would present each November at Colwyn Bay's Prince of Wales Theatre (now Theatr Colwyn). Those must have been busy evenings, with a thousand things needed to run the event, but he always took time to ask how I was doing, what birds I had seen, and to tell me that caring about nature mattered. I know I'm not the only young birder that set down a path because of Roger's encouragement.
A weekly update of bird sightings and news from North Wales.