Iceland Gulls Visit Glamorgan

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.

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Iceland Gulls, by Jeff Slocombe

These local visitors are part of a national influx demonstrated on BirdTrack.   This has been typified by exceptional numbers on the Outer Hebrides, with up to 67 counted at one location on Lewis over the weekend! The influx is reflected in both the reporting rate and map for BirdTrack records in 2012.

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.


Recording Mute Swan Movements

Despite its regal appearance, the Mute Swan is a common sight on the various ponds, lakes and rivers in Glamorgan and the rest of the UK. A project run by BTO volunteers is trying to unravel the mystery of movements of this, our largest water bird, in South Wales.

Mute Swan by Rich Facey
Mute Swan by Rich Facey

The vast majority of Swans ringed in Glamorgan are ringed at Cosmeston Lakes Country Park as part of a BTO volunteer run project, examining connectivity in wetland habitats. The project is sponsored by the Vale of Glamorgan County Council via grant aid from CCW. James Vafidis, a BTO Ringer who co-ordinates the ringing at Cosmeston Lakes said:

“We know there is turn over of swans here; some days all the birds at the lakes seemed to be ringed, while on other occasions it’s a case of spot the ring! We are trying to find where and how far these birds go.”

To date 100 swans have been ringed at the Country Park with the aim of looking at movements both in the local and wider area, and whether individuals have preferences for certain sites at certain times of the year.

BTO Metal Ring by Rich Facey
BTO Metal Ring by Rich Facey

Ringing is already shedding light on the population movements of this species. Recoveries of some birds ringed at Cosmeston show local movements with birds moving within 5 to 10 kilometres of the Country Park. Others have spread their wings further, however, making it as far as Merthyr Mawr. But ringing has also begun to reveal a wider link with a swan ringed at Abbotsburry, Dorset, being recaught at Cosmeston – a movement of 100km.

James added “Although we are receiving records of ringed swans, these largely come from birds that have met a sticky end. What we ideally need is more sightings of live birds from across Glamorgan and further afield and are calling on local birders to help.”

Currently none of the Cosmeston Swan heard is fitted with DARVIC colour rings, only with a BTO metal ring. However, these are surprisingly easy to read in the field, especially through a pair of binoculars or ‘scope! If you do see a ringed swan then please record its number and let us know by reporting your sighting at

This article was written by Rich Facey, Cardiff Bird Ringers.