Smew is a rare visitor to East Glamorgan, with perhaps just one or two records annually. Over the last few days, a fine ‘redhead’ has taken up residence at Hendre Lake in Cardiff.
Males of course, are easily recognised with their white plumage and black mask and back. Females and immature birds are often lumped together as ‘redheads’, with predominantly grey plumage, a chestnut head and white cheek. In flight, it shows black and white wings. It is the smallest of the three sawbills that regularly occur in the UK.
The species can sometimes be surprisingly difficult to pick out in the grey winter light over the pools, lakes or reservoirs they frequent.
Smew breeds in the northern taiga forests of Europe and Asia, using trees to nest, like their close relative, Goosander.
BirdTrack shows a sharp rise in reports over the last few weeks, no doubt a result of the recent cold snap, forcing birds overwintering in continental Europe to move across to the UK.
Iceland Gull is a rare visitor to East Glamorgan, and resides on our list of description species. Gulls may be aged using combinations of plumage, bill markings, eye and leg colour, so with some diligent field notes and digital images, we have evidence of a number of different individuals present this winter. To date, birds have been seen at Cosmeston, Dowlais, Kenfig NNR, Ogmore, Pen-y-Bryn, Ponsticill Reservoir, Sker and over the border at Aberavon and Gower.
The map makes for an interesting comparison with the map for 2011, clearly showing that there has already been a wider geographic spread of records this year than for the whole of 2011. Particularly noticeable are the higher number of records from the coasts of Ireland, Wales and western Scotland.