As I looked out across the Conwy estuary on Monday morning, I saw a bird that really wasn’t on my radar: a Mandarin Duck!
It quickly took off, heading upriver, but came down on the RSPB lagoons, where I relocated it a short time later, perched on a wooden post outside the hide.
Male Mandarins are showy birds, with “sails” that they raise on their wings when displaying. It was only the sixth Mandarin recorded at the Conwy reserve.
Native to Eastern Asia, Mandarins’ colourful plumage made them an attractive import to wildfowl collections in Britain from the 18th century.
Escapees started to nest in the wild in the 1930s and in the last two decades, numbers have mushroomed, with an expanding population on rivers in mid Wales.
Small numbers breed along the Dee Valley, with others on the Elwy, Dulas and Glaslyn rivers. A reader told me of one recently in Betws-y-Coed, so perhaps the colonisation of the Conwy is underway.
Mandarins nest in cavities in trees, the ducklings jumping as far as 15 metres to the ground when just a few hours old, then led to water by the female.
They may compete with native birds for nest holes, but the GB Non-native Species Secretariat describes their impact on native wildlife as “negligible”.
What else is around this week?
Small numbers of Sand Martins continue to trickle into North Wales, but a House Martin at Holyhead last Thursday was earlier than expected.
White Wagtails have been seen at RSPB Conwy, and Sandwich Terns off Pwllheli and in Cemlyn Bay.
Iceland Gulls were at Nefyn and Hafan y Môr, Pwllheli, at the weekend and a Glaucous Gull remains in Holyhead Bay.
A Great Northern Diver was in Cymyran Bay on Sunday, while Black-necked Grebe, Scaup and Slavonian Grebe remain off the east coast of Holy Island.
Go birding: Talks, walks and activities in North Wales this week
- Wed, Mar 22, 10am: “Muddy Puddles”, nature activities for toddlers, RSPB Conwy, LL31 9XZ.
- Wed, Mar 22, 7.30pm:…