Fersiwn Gymraeg ar gael yma
Every year, thousands of birds embark on long and perilous journeys to Wales to breed or feed. Here’s a quick look at some of the birds that will call Wales home over the spring and summer months.
Deep sea divers
Razorbills are small, black and white seabirds spend most of their lives out on the open ocean. They’re excellent swimmers and even better divers, sometimes reaching a depth of over 100 meters to catch the small fish they feed on. In early spring, they migrate to the coastline to nest and raise their chicks, building their nests on precarious-looking ledges on steep cliff faces. RSPB South Stack is a good place to spot them, as they share their home with hundreds of other seabirds like puffins and guillemots. After spending a couple of months raising their chicks, they will leave around July to return to the open waters of the Atlantic. Sedge-y stuff On to RSPB Conwy as we see (or hear!) the sedge warbler. A small, quite plump, warbler with a striking broad creamy stripe above its eye and greyish brown legs, it will be arriving from Africa around this time, and will nest in the fields of Conwy until August. In the late summer, along with the wood and reed warblers, they will leave us again for the warmth of countries to the south of the Saharan Desert.
The great gannets of Grassholm
Over at RSPB Grassholm Island, the gannets return to their stronghold. Spending the winter feeding off the western coast of Africa, they will come back to breed on the small, rocky island west of RSPB Ramsey Island. While relatively small, this piece of rock will welcome 36,000 pairs of gannets to nest here every year. Watching these elegant birds fishing, with their large bodies, long necks and beaks, and distinctive yellow heads, is a remarkable sight as well – diving from heights of 30m, they can hit the water at speeds of up to 60mph. They have an extensive network of air-sacs between their muscles and skin to help cushion this impact.
Pied in the sky
Pied flycatcher are also black and white birds, but you won’t find these nesting on a cliff face. Pied flycatchers prefer tree cover, and they will arrive in Welsh woodlands around April. They migrate from west Africa, where they spend the winter months feeding. Every year, they make an epic journey to Wales, where they will nest in areas of mature woodlands and wooded valleys. As the name suggests, pied flycatchers feed on insects. They will eat a huge variety of insects - from spiders, bees, flies ants and caterpillars. RSPB Lake Vyrnwy, Ynys-hir and Carngafallt are good places to spot these intrepid travellers – go and have a look!
Swiftly does it
Completing an epic 6,000-mile migration from Africa, usually in early May, are the swifts. Swifts need warm weather to provide a constant supply of flying insects, so they spend only about three months in Wales each summer, before moving on again to Africa via France and Spain. Quite the travellers! If you venture down to Cardiff Bay in the next few weeks, you may be lucky enough to see some of these wonderful visitors at the swift tower. It’s now two years since the swift tower was erected, in partnership with Glamorgan Bird Society, and we’re proud to be able to offer them a haven. Since 1995, a devastating decline of 69% has been seen in swift numbers in Wales, mainly due to habitat loss. In cities such as Cardiff, we are seeing less redevelopment of old buildings - in favour of demolition and development of new modern buildings – which do not offer these remarkable birds the same nesting opportunities. If we carry on this trajectory, we may well lose the swift as a nesting bird in Wales within twenty years.
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