Scarce and rare birds in Wales: January – March 2018

This summary is compiled by Robin Sandham for birdsin.wales. Records featured are subject to acceptance by the British Birds Rarities Committee (pink) and the Welsh Records Panel (blue), where relevant. An index of all months can be found here.

From 2018 onwards, this summary will be published quarterly, rather than monthly.

Probably the star bird of the quarter was discovered towards the end of March. A SNOWY OWL was finally identified on St David’s Head, Pembrokeshire on 31st March, following intriguing earlier independent reports from South Stack RSPB (Anglesey) on 24th-25th March and Twmbarlwm (Gwent) on 22nd March. This bird stayed for a week into April and another (or more probably the same bird) was reported flying north along the Ceredigion coast on 8th April.

Snowy Owl

CATTLE EGRETS were at Peterstone Wentlooge (Gwent) on 6th January, Ynyslas (Ceredigion) on 7th January, Maltraeth Marsh (Anglesey) on 12th and 30th January, Pont Marquis (Anglesey) on 25th February and another was seen at Rumney Great Wharf (Glamorgan) on 4th January and 17th February.

A SNOW GOOSE was at Cemaes (Anglesey) on 14th January and scarce ducks and gulls featured strongly through the quarter. The female KING EIDER remained at Ynyslas until at least 8th March and a FERRUGINOUS DUCK was at Llangorse on 7th-8th March and then at Llan Bwch Llyn Lake (Powys) from 11th to 27th March and was seen again on 30th. RING-NECKED DUCKS meandered around the south of the country, with one seen at NWC Llanelli (Carmarthen) on 3rd January and then from 29th January to 30th March, whilst other sightings came from Llangorse from 24th January to 6th February and another at Cardiff Bay on 28th January, whilst Surf Scoter sightings came from Pensarn on 1st and 14th January, and Old Colwyn (Denbighshire) on 8th January and 11th February and then from 13th to 30th March.

Ferruginous Duck

The two scarcest gulls came from either end of the country: a BONAPARTE’S GULL on the Teifi estuary on 23rd February and a probable AMERICAN HERRING GULL on 17th March at Pwllheli (Gwynedd) on 17th March. A RING-BILLED GULL was at Tre’r Dol (Ceredigion) on 18th – 19th January and (probably) the same bird was seen at Llys-y-Fran Reservoir (Pembrokeshire) on 5th and 28th January and then 1st, 2nd and 26th February. On 1st February the Llys-y-Fran gull roost held the RING-BILLED GULL, two adult Yellow-legged Gulls, four Mediterranean Gulls, one hybrid Black-headed / Mediterranean Gull and a juvenile Iceland Gull.

On 12th February Robin Sandham retrapped an Oystercatcher which had been ringed almost 32 years before – on 21st June 1986 (as he commented, the bird was almost as old as him)!  Sad news in February concerned a satellite tagged Hen Harrier, ringed originally as a chick on the Isle of Man in 2016, which spent its first winter largely in Shropshire, then moved to the Ruabon area in 2017 until its tag suddenly stopped transmitting on 12th February.

Firecrests, Hawfinches and Bramblings have been recorded in above-average numbers across Wales during the first three months of 2018 and a flock of over 60 Crossbills, including many juveniles, was seen at Clywedog on 29th March. Siberian Chiffchaffs were at Gann Estuary (Pembrokeshire) on 17th February, Amlwch (Anglesey) on 4th – 19th and 24th February and Kidwelly on 4th February. An unusual record of an apparently wintering Ring Ouzel came from Mynydd Meio, Abertridwr during Fenruary and a ROSE-COLOURED STARLING toured Pembrokeshire from Roch on 8th February, then at Freystrop Cross on 3rd March, Robeston West on 5th – 6th March and finally Pembroke Dock on 22nd March.

Ring Ouzel