The increased early morning birdsong is a clear sign that the breeding season is underway across North Wales. The Wren outside my home-office window has been alternating between busy nest-building and song so loud that it prompted comment from a government official during a Zoom call last week. This male Wren will build several domed nests of moss, leaves and grass, from which his mate will choose one to line with feathers and lay her eggs.
A pair of Greenfinches has returned to feed in my garden after a winter’s absence, a welcome sight as the BTO BirdTrends 2020 report published last week shows their numbers in Wales have crashed by 71% since 1995. My pair, which I hope will nest in the garden, could have been on a more distant winter break than any of us during lockdown. Greenfinches ringed in Wales in the summer have been found in the Channel Islands and France in winter. Signs of nesting are a reminder that hedgerows must not be cut by farmers between 1 March and 31 August, and that’s good guidance for gardeners too. It’s time to put the hedge-trimmer at the back of the shed.
RSPB Cors Ddyga recorded the first House Martin and Swallows on consecutive dates last week (3 and 4 March), although they were not the earliest ever, as both species were seen in February 2019. The first Sand Martins were there on 6 March. A Common Sandpiper in the Menai Strait has overwintered, but one on the River Clwyd may be a northbound migrant. The Iceland Gull remains at the nearby Brickfields Pond, Rhyl, and a Hen Harrier photographed at Gronant was ringed as a chick in The Netherlands in May 2019.
Six Chiffchaffs, including two of Siberian origin, remain near Glanwydden, and several others have been singing across the region. Four Black Guillemots are off Llandudno’s North Shore, eight Great Northern Divers off Dinas Dinlle and booming Bitterns heard at RSPB Valley Wetlands and Cors Ddyga. Snow Buntings remain at Kinmel Bay and the Great Orme, and eight were below the summit of Foel Grach in the Carneddau on St David’s Day. Last week’s feature on Ring-necked Parakeets prompted further records of a pair around Rhyl, as well as previous sightings in Denbigh and Llandudno.
Just published is the Cambrian Bird Report 2019, covering Anglesey, Caernarfonshire and Meirionnydd, and featuring Wales’ first nesting Savi’s Warbler on the cover. It summarises the sightings by hundreds of birdwatchers and surveys undertaken across northwest Wales, including the records from Bardsey Bird and Field Observatory. Copies are available for £8 each including postage, by cheque or bank transfer. Telephone Geoff Gibbs on 01248 681936 for details.
Finally, and I can’t promise that this is the last time I shall mention it, 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.