The new Birds of Conservation Concern published today shows that the Red List of birds in greatest trouble now numbers 60, one-fifth of those in Wales. Those 60 species, including Cuckoo, Curlew and Lapwing, have declined by more than 50% in my lifetime. Their calls should be familiar to everyone in the Welsh countryside, but sadly no longer are. The addition to the Red List of Meadow Pipit, a mainstay of the diet of several upland raptors, and Rook, whose noisy tree-top colonies are far smaller than a few decades ago, indicate the scale of widespread changes to nature across Wales.
Other species on the slide, and now on the Amber List, include Wheatear, Chaffinch and – perhaps a surprise to many – Magpie. There are no simple answers to the question of ‘why’. A combination of factors, many long-term and systemic have affected the quality of habitat and availability of insects and seeds to eat. These make many species more vulnerable to issues such as predation and disease. Greenfinch’s move to the Red List and Chaffinch to Amber are primarily a result of the disease Trichomonosis spread at bird feeders and bathing water. For migrants such as Red-listed Swift and Wood Warbler, and House Martin and Pied Flycatcher on the Amber list, solutions may lie both where they breed and in their African wintering grounds, or somewhere between the two.
The review says that the designation of protected areas and agri-environment schemes have been good at targeting species in greatest need, but on a scale insufficient to turn around the fortunes of these birds. It looks to the Welsh Government’s Sustainable Farming Scheme and commitment to effective management of 30% of land and seas by 2030. The direction of the population graphs and the size of the next Red List will be a measure of the success of those policies.
Birds of Conservation Concern in Wales is published by RSPB Cymru, Natural Resources Wales, the British Trust for Ornithology and the Welsh Ornithological Society. Download the summary report here.
Shortening days reduce time to get out birdwatching, but those who have enjoyed a late Swallow over Red Wharf Bay, Snow Bunting on Black Rock Sands, four Slavonian Grebes in Beddmanarch Bay and one off Harlech. At least a dozen Great Northern Divers are in Caernarfon Bay, Velvet Scoters among thousands of Common Scoters off Pensarn, several Twite east of Gronant, a Firecrest at Morfa Madryn and a Woodlark was reported on the Great Orme. A Green-winged Teal was on Anglesey’s Inland Sea and Black Redstarts at Dinas Dinlle, Rhoscolyn and the mouth of the Clwyd estuary, at Horton’s Nose. A Curlew Sandpiper, Black-necked Grebe and up to seven Water Pipits remain at RSPB Cors Ddyga, while a couple of Avocets and five Ruddy Shelducks were on RSPB Oakenholt Marsh at the weekend.
A weekly update of bird sightings and news from North Wales, published in The Daily Post every Thursday.