Fersiwn Gymraeg ar gael yma

As the fond memories of swifts and swallows gliding on the warm summer breeze fade into the crisp frosty air of autumnal mornings, we get ready to welcome some of our winter arrivals.

Indeed, while we may have said farewell to many a colourful species in August and September, soon, we shall be re-familiarising ourselves with old friends returning once more for a winter in Wales.

The redwing is a notorious winter bird and is seen across Wales in these colder months. Arriving from Scandinavia, its creamy strip above the eye and orange-red flank patches make this thrush distinctive, as well as giving it its name of course. They will roam the Welsh countryside usually, rarely visiting gardens – yet when heavy snow hits leaving a thick white layer over all terrains, they will wander to urban areas. 2018’s Beast of the East saw many visit urban areas that were hidden in a carpet of snow. Come springtime, they will leave Wales, a nest low down in boggy woodlands and birch forests.

Another thrush to grace the Welsh countryside in the winter months is the fieldfare. Similar to the mistle thrush in size and very social in their behaviour, fieldfare will gather in flocks ranging from a dozen to hundreds. Hopping around with a very upright posture, you might see these beautiful birds on the turf searching for worms and berries in fields, or even in your park or garden from time to time.  They tend to nest in loose colonies, preferring tall park-like birch or pine trees and return to Scandinavia and Northern Europe around March.

Come the winter, the goldeneye will fly in from Russia and Northern Europe to join our native ducks on our ponds and lakes (there are some goldeneye that nest in the UK, but usually only in the Scottish Highlands). The male has a rich black, white and green plumage – while the female is a brown - but they both hold that distinctive eye which gives them their name. They will reside here in Wales, consuming mussels, insect larvae, small fish and plants, until it is time to return the East or Northern Europe around February time.  

After taking a quick pit-stop in Iceland on their long journey, Greenland white-fronted geese will soon be arriving in Wales. And while most will choose the Dyfi Estuary in Ceredigion as their location, it is worth noting that some geese opt for Anglesey. It’s not been a happy story for the Greenland white-fronted geese – following years of shooting, their numbers have fallen greatly – and we see as a result the numbers wintering in Wales in the last 30 years have dropped dramatically. But following legislation from the Welsh Government guarding this species from being hunted, we are hopeful that over time these numbers will recuperate.

Of course, the above are only a handful of species that winter with us here in Wales, a mere tip of the iceberg. But while this winter may be unique in terms of where you can venture, be sure to keep a look out locally for different characters in your garden and local green spaces!