Colour-ringing, the practice of attaching lightweight plastic markers to the legs of birds, has its critics. Seeing birds with a colour ring makes some people feel that birds are ‘de-wilded,’ an illustration of human intervention. I’m not a bird-ringer, but when it’s done for the purpose of gaining new knowledge and especially to contribute to their conservation, I see its real value. Because it can be seen with optical equipment, the reporting rate is far higher than standard rings, which are only found when caught by another ringer or after the bird is dead. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve found Black-headed Gulls in North Wales that hatched in Poland and Nottinghamshire, illustrating the wide area from which birds visit our coast. Our understanding of places used by foraging Choughs is greatly enhanced by a long-running project in North Wales.
Most Ospreys hatched in Wales are colour-ringed, and this week Dan Brown - originally from Bangor and leading a wildlife tour in Scotland - photographed an Osprey at RSPB Loch Gruinart on Islay in the Hebrides. It had hatched beside the Afon Glaslyn in 2017, but this was the first sighting of ‘Z8’ since it departed on its first migration five years ago. It probably stayed in West Africa for a couple of years, so where is it heading to breed? This year’s Osprey nest at Glaslyn has two eggs, while the nest at Cors Dyfi already has three, and the first was laid at Llyn Brenig on Monday. Passage Ospreys have been over Belgrano, Gronant, Mochdre, Penrhynside, Malltraeth and Holyhead in the last week.
On my visits to Pen Llŷn and the Great Orme over the weekend, dozens of Greenland Wheatears paused on migration before the final leg of their journey north. But my counts were small compared to more than 200 on Bardsey on Sunday. Whinchats were at several coastal watchpoints on Monday, while other migrants included a Dotterel at RSPB South Stack, Little Gulls at Connah’s Quay and off the Great Orme, and a Curlew Sandpiper on the Alaw estuary. An Egyptian Goose that was briefly on the Conwy estuary, and an unusual bird in North Wales despite breeding widely across central England, has relocated to RSPB Cors Ddyga. A Hawfinch on a feeder near Denbigh is a superb garden record.
Many people are wondering where the Swallows are, with far fewer reported than is usual at the end of April. Unsettled weather in central and southern Europe may be responsible, so let’s hope for a change over the weekend.
A weekly update of bird sightings and news from North Wales, published in The Daily Post every Thursday.