The Birds of Wales, published last year by Liverpool University Press and the Welsh Ornithological Society (click here for details), ranked the breeding birds for which Wales is particularly important. It was no surprise that Chough was top, with 79% of the UK population, and that Pied Flycatcher (68-76%) and Manx Shearwater (57%) featured, but I had not appreciated that Wales is estimated to hold as much as 70% of the UK’s Hawfinches. This chunky brown songbird, with a bill capable of cracking cherry stones, has important populations in Meirionnydd and the Wye Valley, with others on the edge of Cardiff.
More than a dozen fed this week in trees along the river at Llanrwst, and another three at Caerhun churchyard. Colour ringing suggests that at least some Conwy Valley Hawfinches will soon leave for Norway, but do others stay locally? (For more on the colour-ringing project, read this Daily Post article from 2017). Having gone from many sites in southern Britain, the race is on to find out more about this enigmatic bird. A PhD student, Ewan Stenhouse, at Cardiff University has been investigating Hawfinch diet using the latest genetic barcoding technology to identify the species in its droppings. Now the RSPB is co-funding a study at Lincoln University to investigate the impact of the Trichomonas parasite that is responsible for the collapse in the Greenfinch population (the closing date for applications is 31 March).
Other birds in North Wales include the first Wheatear of the year at Cemlyn on Monday, a Ring-necked Duck at Llyn Brenig on Friday that may have been the one that overwintered on Llyn Tegid. A Great Grey Shrike continues to feed among clearfell near the reservoir, a Bonaparte’s Gull flew up the Conwy estuary on Saturday, Cattle Egrets remain at Llanynghenedl and Bardsey and an Iceland Gull on the Little Orme. Calm seas improved viewing of a Long-tailed Ducks off Criccieth, Colwyn Bay and Benllech, Surf and Velvet Scoters off Llanddulas/Old Colwyn and a couple of dozen Great Northern Divers in Caernarfon Bay.
A weekly update of bird sightings and news from North Wales, published in The Daily Post every Thursday.