Cattle Egrets were, until fairly recently, a bird seen during Mediterranean or African holidays, small groups of the yellow-billed herons foraging around cattle, buffalos or other grazing animals. Prior to 2000, only four had been recorded in North Wales, and there were only another half dozen in the next 15 years. Christmas 2016 saw the first flock in the region, in the Cefni Valley, and the following spring the species bred just over the border, in the Wirral part of RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands, then the most northerly nest in the World.
Now roosts of more than 200 Cattle Egrets occur in Somerset, the county which holds the bulk of the UK breeding population. Up to 40 were in North Wales last week, including two different flocks of 14 at RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands and RSPB Cors Ddyga, the largest ever recorded in the region. Four were seen from Porthmadog Cob, three at Valley, two near Uwchmynydd and singles at Pennal, Pontllyfni, RSPB Conwy, Holyhead and south of Rhyl.
Long-tailed Ducks are feeding on Llyn Maelog and RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands’ Border Pool. Lapland Buntings were on Bardsey, at Talacre, and at RSPB Conwy, along with six Great White Egrets and a Garganey. Sunday saw Snow Buntings near Pontllyfni, a Great Grey Shrike and Short-eared Owl on the Great Orme and the second Barred Warbler of the autumn on Holy Island. A late Osprey flew inland from Caernarfon and two Twite were among migrants logged at RSPB South Stack.
In tough times for breeding seabirds, a welcome announcement was that a new Sandwich Tern colony has become established on Anglesey’s Inland Sea, where 118 pairs fledged 71 young. Common and Arctic Terns, and Black-headed Gulls also nested at the site, which was wardened by RSPB Cymru. It is the first time since the mid-1980s that there have been two Welsh colonies of Sandwich Terns. The other colony, at Cemlyn, was – like many sites - hit by bird flu this year.
A weekly update of bird sightings and news from North Wales, published in The Daily Post every Thursday.