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RARE birds are the [...].

Byline: JULIAN HUGHES

RARE birds are the lifeblood of Britain's most active birders: and this week, three rarities touched down in North Wales.

They were not must-dropeverything-and-leave-at-once rare, but in global terms, they were some of the rarest birds to make landfall here.

Buff-breasted sandpiper is a wader that breeds in the tundra at the very top of Canada and migrates through the grain belt of mid-west America.

And that's where they've run into trouble. Conversion of native grasslands to cropped agriculture, combined with unrestricted hunting in the 19th century, meant that a population of millions has been reduced to as few as 15,000 pairs.

Ex-hurricane Katia delivered at least 50 buff-breasted sandpipers to Britain and Ireland last week, with two at RSPB's South Stack reserve and another at RSPB Conwy.

With so many found, how many others remained undiscovered and, more worryingly, how many didn't make it across the Atlantic? Other waders here over the weekend included four grey phalaropes at Porthmadog and singles at Criccieth, Malltraeth, Cefni estuary and near Holyhead.

Spotted redshanks were at RSPB Conwy, RSPB Oakenholt and Morfa Madryn, a little stint on the Clwyd estuary and curlew sandpipers at Conwy and on the Alaw estuary.

The rest of the week was dominated by seabirds.

Criccieth and Harlech each scored with a smart Sabine's gull on the beach, and these graceful pelagic birds also flew past Point Lynas, Bardsey, South Stack and Porth Ysgaden.

Tiny Leach's storm-petrels were over the surf at Porth Iago and Ysgaden, Rhyl, Rhos Point, Lynas and Bardsey, while a few black terns were seen along the coast, with a brief appearance at RSPB Conwy.

There are still plenty of house martins around, a few swallows and chiffchaffs, and small numbers of other summer migrants, but the turning season is apparent with the first Lapland buntings at South Stack and on Bardsey.

Birders using Twitter are being urged to report their goose sightings with the tag #goosewatch to track their arrival from the Arctic.

The first Welsh report came with 200 barnacle geese at RSPB Ynys-hir on Sunday.

GO BIRDING... FRI: Shorelife walk at Tonfannau, 10.30 pm. Meet opposite station. SAT: Tour of RSPB's new Dee Estuary reserve. Meet at Spar car park, Queensferry, 9am (07715 667406). SUN: Guided walk at Port Neigwl, meet in car park, 10am. SUN: Migration walk with Julian Hughes, "Follow the Swallow", RSPB Conwy, 2pm. SUN: woodland walk, RSPB Ynys-hir, 2pm. TUES: Free guided walk, RSPB South Stack, 10.30am.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Sep 22, 2011
Words:416
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