Scarce and Rare Birds in North Wales: historic records up to and including 2016

Published on 29 May 2018 in Book reviews

By Robin Sandham

Privately published, 2017, ISBN 978-0-9957428-0-2

Pbk, 328pp; over 200 colour photos

£19.99 buy it from the BB Bookshop

As one who has lived in North Wales for over 30 years and with an interest in rare birds since the early 1970s, this book was eagerly awaited. For the first time, details of all rare and scarce birds (defined as those that occur on average five times or fewer annually in Wales) recorded in the vice-counties of Flint, Denbigh, Caernarfon, Anglesey and Meirionnydd are brought together in one volume. This book provides an excellent reference for anyone interested in rare and scarce birds and, for those of us who have been actively looking for rare birds in North Wales over the years, brings back many memories of the highs and lows of birds seen and those missed.

The book starts with a personal view by Alan Davies of the move from ‘birdwatching’ in the early 1970s through to modern-day ‘birding’, and the role that grapevines, pagers and smartphones have played in this evolution. Following general introduction and acknowledgment sections, Ken Croft provides an overview of some of the better birding sites, as well as a rarity-finder’s birding year in North Wales. Next is the introduction to the main part of the book with explanations of approach, terminology, symbols and abbreviations, and guidance to using the histograms and charts.

The species accounts for all rarities in Categories A, B and C of the British List include details of vice-county, sites, dates of records and additional information (age, number of individuals, whether a first record for the vice-county concerned). There are also sections covering a selection of Category D and E species, another on scarce races, and also a section where other ‘notable’ records are described. Throughout these sections, the text is enlivened by many excellent photographs – the first time that so many photos of rare birds in North Wales have been brought together in one place. Robin has done a thorough job in researching, collating and presenting the records – there are a few inaccuracies, but nothing that detracts from the reference and pleasure value of this book.

After the main section, Robin lays down a challenge – or should that be an encouragement – to go out and find more rare birds, with a section suggesting what might be next and county firsts that are ‘up for grabs’; and finally, there are finders’ accounts of 19 of the rarest species.

There is no question that the list of rare and scarce birds seen in North Wales is impressive – just take a look at the photographs on the cover of the book. Bardsey makes a significant contribution to that list, but there are many other, underwatched locations. If you are interested in finding or seeing rare birds in North Wales, this book will help you plan where and when to visit, and should serve to encourage all of us to get out there and look harder…

Reg Thorpe