Scarce and rare birds in Wales – 2021 highlights

This summary is compiled for by Robin Sandham. Records featured are subject to acceptance by the British Birds Rarities Committee (bold capitals) and the Welsh Records Panel (bold italic capitals), where relevant. Please note that records will appear in this summary before they have been accepted by the appropriate record panel.

Robin Sandham writes:

It’s time to hand over the baton after several years of writing the monthly reviews for the WOS website in which time has seen some amazing rarities in Wales. I continue as a panel member on the WBRC and hope to see you in the field in the future. It would be unfitting to leave without one last look at a selection of last year’s highlights. Our monthly feature will be paused for a couple of months, but here are some of the highlights of 2021.

The KUMLIEN’S GULL on the Ogmore Esturary (Glamorgan) over 8-17th proved to be popular in February. March was fairly quiet apart from mammal news of Tenby’s Walrus which drew in hundreds of onlookers.

April kicked off with some “noc-migging” records, firstly of a STONE CURLEW calling over Penrhyn Bay (Caernarfonshire) on 1st. Another turned up on St. David’s airfield on 26-27th.  Again noc-mig recording paid off and revealed more unknowns – this time a SPOTTED CRAKE over Tregaron Bog (Ceredigion) along with thousands of migrating Common Scoter on 5th.  Who knows what else this technique will reveal in the coming years.

An ALPINE SWIFT was a classic “spring overshoot” for April photographed over Skokholm on 1st and seen at Wooltack Point and St Govan’s Head (Pembrokeshire) on 2nd and again over Nolton Haven on 18th. In MayBLACK-HEADED BUNTING was a welcome record at the Derlwyn Arms beer garden in Brnyamman (Carmarthen) on 26th.  Is there a better beer garden record in Wales?

June started with a male EASTERN SUBALPINE WARBLER at Carmel Head (Anglesey) on 1st. A CASPIAN TERN was at NWC Llanelli (Carmarthen) on 24-30th. It was colour-ringed and originated from Finland. An unprecedented influx of Rosy Starlings occurred throughout the month.  July highlights were on Anglesey with an ELEGANT TERN in residence at Cemlyn from 4th onwards and a PACIFIC GOLDEN PLOVER was on the Cefni Estuary at Malltraeth over 27-29th and a pelagic trip off Pembrokeshire scored a WILSON’S PETREL on 29th August.

September’s news was focussed on Flintshire with an elusive SQUACCO HERON at Big Pool Wood (Flintshire) over 15-26th. A BONAPARTE’S GULL was at Rhyl (Flintshire) on 28th and a WILSON’S PHALAROPE at Burton Mere Wetlands (Wirral) which occasionally ventured onto Border Pool (Flintshire) between 21-23rd.

In October Bardsey hosted its second RED-EYED VIREO over 2-3rd which was then ringed. Another was nearby on the mainland and was enjoyed by many at Porth Meuddwy on 6-9th.

Whilst November was relatively blank, December brought a much photographed PACIFIC DIVER to  Eglwys Nunydd Reservoir, Glamorgan which was still there heading in to 2022.

I hope these summaries have inspired you to get out birding and to find your own highlights whether common or rare, each outing we usually see something new and always learn. Good birding for 2022.

Here are pictures of perhaps the top ten birds of the year (well, nine birds and a mammal!):


February – Kumlien’s Gull

March – the Tenby Walrus

April – Spotted Crake (but this photo was taken at RSPB Conwy, not on noc-mig!)

May – Black-headed Bunting

June – Caspian Tern (Dave Astins)

July – Elegant Tern (Bob Garrett

August – Wilson’s Petrel

September – Squacco Heron (Jeff Cohen)

October – Red-eyed Vireo (Steve Stansfield)

December – Pacific Diver (Robert Mitchell)

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