Wednesday, 10 February 2016

What a difference a day makes. It started clear, calm, crisp and got progressively hotter as the sun moved higher in the sky, staying that way until the day was seen out with a very spring like feel.

Today was even warm and bright enough to warrant bringing out one of these
Moving through the wetlands towards the narrows, Robins and Wrens sang, marking their territories. Three Stonechats searched for food from the fence lines and two Common Snipe, a Song Thrush and three Meadow Pipits made up the numbers at the start of census. As the end of the wetlands was approached leading to the narrows a very stocky pale looking gull appeared 150 meters or so away above Solfach, the beach. On raising optics to get a closer look at the bird it was now immediately clear that this was a first winter Glaucous Gull, which gave very brief but awesome views as it gained some height and headed south away from the narrows and towards the south end. There have been a few records over the past couple of years of this species, our second largest gull just behind the Greater Black-backed Gull, Arctic and northern European breeder.

On the narrows the usual large flock of Oystercatchers and Curlews was present along with seven Redshank, 18 Turnstones, three Shelduck, two Mallards, three Shags, ten Rock Pipits, two Pied Wagtails and 66 Grey Seals, some of which had been pushed up on the grass above the normal haul out by the high tide. An extra surprise was a female or immature Merlin which whizzed across the narrows skimming the low walls and banks as it headed northwards.

The south end was rather quiet in comparison with only a handful of Oystercatchers, Grey Seals, Rock Pipits, two Choughs, four passing Black-headed Gulls and an adult Common Gull to bolster the numbers. However an adult Peregrine poised on one of the banks just south of the lighthouse was a welcome sight. Sadly no sign of the Glaucous Gull though.

Although very little else was seen over the rest of the island, a male Sparrowhawk working its way through the gorse on the side of the mountain, a loan Woodpigeon, two Goldcrests and a Blue Tit, it was a pleasure to watch four Ravens displaying over the northern end of the mountain most of the day, occasional being harassed by a resident Peregrine. Signs of the approaching season of these early breeders.

474 Guillemots, a single Razorbill, two Kittiwakes and two Harbour Porpoises were spotted off the west coast.

Although the day felt very spring like it was quite a surprise to see a Painted Lady flit across one of the gardens and settle on some of the hedgerows before moving off and disappearing althogether. Very early migrant or an individual woken out of hibernation by the warmth the day brought?

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Apologies for the lack of blog post in recent days, not a vast amount of censusing has taken place and very little has been seen. Today however started off with glorious sunshine and barley a cloud in sight, although strong winds still battered the island.

High tide around the narrows had pushed 51 Curlews and 108 Oystercatchers onto the grassy fields where they fed and rested together in a huge flock. Down on the rocks and seaweed that hadn't been covered by the tide were 75 Grey Seals hauled out, 17 Turnstones and five Redshanks. A Pied Wagtail, 18 Rock Pipits, 13 Herring Gulls, a Lesser Black-backed Gull, two Greater Black-backed Gulls and a Cormorant were also noted, strangely no wildfowl today which were perhaps elsewhere. All seemed settled until a male Sparrowhawk whipped over heading north and sending all the birds into a frenzy of panic and loud calls.

A young Grey Seal hauled out in one of the small bays
On the south end a Wren and Meadow Pipit hid amongst the gorse and a Common Snipe was flushed from a boggy pool near the lighthouse compound which appears during periods of heavy rain. From the south hide 208 Guillemots, four Razorbills, four Fulmars, four Gannets, and four Kittiwakes passed over the impressive swell. A further five Oystercatchers, five Grey Seals, five Rock Pipits and a Shag peppered the south coast, an additional 11 Herring Gulls and a Greater Black-backed Gulls were also present.

View from the south hide, impressive waves and spray...although not the biggest captured here!
Elsewhere on the island a Peregrine mobbed a pair of Ravens with speedy dives and talons outstretched. A total of 17 Choughs on the mountainside, a couple of Goldcrests and the odd Wren, Robin and Moorhen were seen.

In "moth news" success with the trap!.....well one moth, but thats one more than recent efforts. A nice male Mottled Grey.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

A slight drop in the speed of the wind, for the most part a cloudless day and bright sunshine made for an altogether nicer day. The south end of the island, where the lighthouse is situated, unfortunately hasn't been covered so well in the recent weeks so a walk around and to the tip of south end was a necessity!

Around the gorse at the north of the lighthouse was extremely quiet with only a single Wren and Meadow Pipit hiding in the space and patchy vegetation. A check around the lighthouse compound, hoping for a Black Redstart which sometimes frequent the walls there, was on the most part fairly quiet again but a Common Snipe around a boggy patch to the east of the compound and the Curlew flock of 46 individuals feeding on the eastern coast were a welcome sight. From there, and south right to the tip, the odd Oystercatcher, a single Redshank, two Choughs and Grey Seals dotted the coast until the hide was reached. A Red-throated Diver in the water just below the hide appeared and re appeared before being lost out of sight altogether in the huge swell. An adult Mediterranean Gull and Black-headed Gull, six Fulmars, 17 Kittiwakes, two Shags, 23 Guillemots and a Razorbill were also seen.

The narrows proved slightly more exciting on the species front. The pair of Wigeon from a day or so ago were present in one of the bays, again accompanied by Mallards numbering eight today and a Shelduck. A further eight Redshanks, four Turnstones and 88 Grey Seals also resided in the same area. On the other areas of the narrows nine Rock Pipits, a Pied Wagtail and awesome views of a Gannet as it cruised by close off the coast.

Through the wetlands another Common Snipe was found along with two Song Thrushes, two Robins and further north two Stonechats picked their way long fence lines. To finish off the day an additional four Shelducks, presumably new arrivals, flew down the west coast as the sun was setting heading south.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Although plenty of areas were covered today, including the west side of the mountain, Cristin (the observatory garden), Ty Pellaf (the farm), lowlands and withies, very few birds aside from a couple of Blackbirds, Robins, Wrens, Chaffinches and Moorhens were seen.

A highlight came towards the end of the day in the form of the local Choughs as a flock noisily gliding close by, down the side of the mountain and into the lowlands.

Interestingly, however some tracks were discovered in the muddy perimeter of the ponds in the centre of the island. Tiny webbed tracks of a Teal, measuring only 45mm or so. No Teal have been seen during the days cencuses yet but it is evident that a number of ducks seem to be favouring the ponds and pools at night.

The miniscule tracks of a Teal, characteristic trait of slightly inward pointing prints of most wildfowl

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Although the strong winds continued today, and will continue for the foreseeable future, the island has seen much of the local rain pass us by, or fortuatusly come during the night to the delight of the inhabitants.

The swell of the past few days, which had left views from the north hide lacking as you tried to peer over a passing wave before the next arrived seconds later, had subsided slightly so a walk across the north end and to the hide in the northwest corner of the island made a change. Small groups of Auks continued to be active out at sea with some spectacular views of winter plumaged Guillemots bobbing just in front of the hide and periodically diving under before returning to the surface five or so meters away. Although beautiful looking birds anyway in plumage during the breeding season there is something quite striking about them in winter plumage as their facial pattern becomes paler and more contrasting. In total, 48 passed in the morning along with seven Razorbills. Divers, when seen in recent weeks from the north end, have been tending to fly west through the Bardsey sound, presumably from  waters south of the Llyn peninsula to the east of Bardsey, and head out west before settling on the sea, today was no exception. Two Red-throated Divers did exactly that, generally alighting quite some distance out although one individual later on decided to venture closer prompting a few seconds of great views before disappearing in the swell.

Whilst scanning the sea close in a Grey Seal was picked up floating just in front of the hide, on closer inspection with the telescope a mass of tentacles could be seen protruding from its mouth, the suction pads along the underside of the "legs" and hole in the centre of the body where the mouth parts are situated could be seen clearly as the seal continued to feast on the Cephalopod! Seconds later a number of Kittiwakes, of which 14 passed by, were soon harassing the seal and it disappeared out of sight.

Other notable sightings was a small pod of three Porpoise heading east through the Bardsey sound, three Common Scoter and two Fulmar.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Arriving at the narrows we were greeted with the sign of a pair of Wigeon, a drake and female, resting on the rocks just below the boathouse joined by six Mallards. 21 Curlews, 59 Oystercatchers, ten Turnstones, three Redshanks and a Shag were also present in the same bay along with 106 Grey Seals hauled out on the beaches. 35 Herring Gulls, a Greater Black-backed Gull, 13 Rock Pipits, four Choughs, four Magpies, two Ravens, a Carrion Crow and an additional Redshank, two Shags and 13 Mallards occupied the opposite side of the narrows. 16 Kittiwakes fed in the rough seas just off the narrows.

Further investigation needed but possibly the faint tracks of a Common Snipe, found along a boggy ditch bordering one of the fields in the lowlands
As expected the Nant area and the plantation were very quiet, however the wintering Firecrest again put in a brief appearance next to the chapel where it restlessly flitted about emitting a piercing pipping call. A Goldcrest, two Linnets, two Chaffinches, four Moorhens, six Magpies, two Carrion Crows, a Blackbird and a Wren made up the rest of the numbers.

Out at sea was much the same but two Common Scoter heading south were a nice addition to end the day.

Friday, 29 January 2016

A trip up and over the mountain was the start to the day today. Rounding the southern end of the mountain and starting the accent a Sparrowhawk was disturbed from a small clump of gorse, a stunning adult male with its pure slate grey upper parts and bright rufous throat, as it flew off to take shelter somewhere else it was clutching recently caught prey in its talons. Further along the mountain 77 Herring Gulls along with two Lesser Black-blacked, two Greater Black-backed Gulls, 11 Kittiwakes and two Choughs dotted the colonies and rode the winds below. A Shag passing the east side and two Meadow Pipits were seen along the ridge.

Descending the north end of the mountain and heading passed the plantation was very quiet but we were greeted by a couple of singing Wrens, Robins and calling Dunnock. Singles of Blackbird, Goldcrest and Moorhen skulked in the gardens, and a flock of four Linnets and five Chaffinches frequented a field next to the chapel.

At sea off the west coast 62 Guillemots, 7 Razorbills and three Kittiwakes passed. 

With the swell and waves being so large and prolific, sea watching has been a lot easier when finding shelter behind the various houses on the island

Thursday, 28 January 2016

A change in Auk numbers today which saw Razorbill as the most numerous Auk off the west coast, 29 Razorbills and just 13 Guillemots. 13 Kittiwakes also drifted south with two Fulmars, a single Black-headed Gull and Cormorant.

No Bullfinch today, although one could deduce that in the weather of the past days it is still taking shelter on the island somewhere! A Woodpigeon, seemingly the only one on the island at the moment, shot out of the plantation. Two Goldcrests, two Blackbirds, two Robins, three Wrens and two Moorhens were noted around Nant.

The remains of a recently deceased Magpie, including upper mandible, we can only guess as to the cause death. Predation by Sparrowhawk?
Eighteen Choughs and a Raven over the mountain and lowlands most of the morning gave fantastic views as they effortlessly used the winds to carry themselves low over the buildings as they moved around. The gathering of Mallards on the ponds over recent days was now only six birds.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

A continuation of the strong south westerly winds today again creating some very impressive waves with battered the coasts.

Battling their way south out at sea were 282 Guillemots, 3 Razorbills, four Gannets, seven Fulmars and seven Kittiwakes. Whilst conducting the sea watch, cowering behind one of the walls of the houses at the north end, the soft "pyu" of a Bullfinch was heard again as it got closer and closer before landing in the garden where it only stayed for a matter of seconds before taking flight again. Unfortunately this time the bird was not seen and only heard, so it was not determined if it was the same individual as a few days ago or not, the likelihood is that it was probably the same bird however. 40 Herring Gulls and a Greater Black-backed Gull were scattered throughout the north end fields feeding and 25 Mallards took shelter on the ponds.

Very little else was noted for the rest of the day, most wildlife wisely kept hidden and silent.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Winds up to 67mph and driving rain for most of the day made censusing very difficult. A walk down the the narrows in the afternoon once the worst of the conditions had passed would be the only port of call today unfortunately. On the narrows pounding waves and winds driving sea spray and foam across the narrows made for an interesting walk. On the sheltered side of the narrows, Henllwyn, is where most of the wildlife resided. A small haul out of Grey Seals today with only 41 seen. Roosting on the rocks were 97 Oystercatchers, 57 Curlews and 12 Redshanks. Foraging in amongst the seaweed also on this side were severn Turnstones and ten Rock Pipits. Two Ravens were again on their favourite patch of seaweed along with three Magpies and a Pied Wagtail, but Choughs were absent from this section of the island today.

The "calm" after the storm

Little else was noted on the island during the raging storm. 14 Choughs seeked shelter on the side of the mountain behind some of the stone walls. The Mallards, numbering 17 today, took up residence on one of the ponds, a wise choice as the west coast where they gather was pounded by incredible waves all day. Three Blackbirds, a Song Thrush, a couple of Moorhens and a Chaffinch were the only extra additions in land.  

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Highlights of a misty day started with a walk through the wetlands on the way south towards the narrows. Whilst transecting the long grassy boggy patches and small pools in the wetlands a total of 12 Snipe, a Jack Snipe, Song Thrush and two Meadow Pipits were seen. One by one the Snipe took off with their characteristic call, like the sound of squelching mud and flew towards the west coast and out of sight. One small Snipe, identified as a Jack Snipe, took flight just a foot or so from the observer, it flew thirty meters or so before taking refuge in a bramble hedge.

The narrows was without some of its numbers of birds today, most likely still on the island but somewhere out of sight. The Curlew flock was not present, possibly further south around the lighthouse or up on the slopes of Pen Cristin where they frequent. Redshank  and Chough numbers were also lacking with one and six seen respectively. The usual flock of gulls had gathered on the grass, some bathing in the makeshift pond. Mostly Herring Gulls totalling 37, but two Greater Black-backed and a Lesser Black-backed Gull joined them. The first Lesser Black-backed Gull for a month or so, possibly the start of birds returning from heading south for the winter. Eight Turnstones, five Mallards, two Shags, a Cormorant and 18 Rock Pipits were seen but no sign of the Hooded Crow or pair of Shelduck that were present in recent weeks.

Again a late afternoon sea watch didn't produce much, 36 Guillemots, 5 Kittiwakes, singles of Fulmar, Common Scoter and Gannet. A Curlew passed heading north and a Shelduck passed south.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

For a change of scenery (and a bit of exercise) a trip up and over the mountain was the first port of call for morning census. Small clusters of Herring Gulls occupied the lower grass and rocky slopes of the east side, where soon enough there will be hundreds of gulls making up the large colonies during the breeding season. Four Raven, presumably two pairs, tussled in the strong winds and a couple of small gatherings of Choughs fed along the west side of the mountain. On the way down the ridge coming towards the narrows a male Sparrowhawk, looking very much like the same bird seen a day or so ago harassing Magpies around Nant, darted low to the water across the bay and along the mountain slopes.

On the narrows a further two Ravens, bringing the total to six for the day, were picking through the seaweed along with a Magpie. Roosting on the rocks as the tide went out was a mixed flock of 77 Oystercatchers and 51 Curlews, in the same bay nine Redshanks and 11 Turnstones resided along with a haul out of 103 Grey Seals.

A late sea watch from the north hide as the light was fading and the rain set in was largely uneventful,  5 Fulmar, 23 Guillemots, a Gannet and 4 Kittiwakes. A Red-throated Diver disappearing into the murk at the end was, however, a bonus!

Friday, 22 January 2016

A change in the weather over the passed fews days as seen it go from flat calm too strong winds gusting upwards of 35mph.

A Red-throated Diver made an appearance at the north end in the morning flying straight towards the north hide before resting on the sea sixty meters or so off shore. It gave fantastic views as it slid under water (unlike a shags which take a small hop when diving under) in search of food. Otherwise very quiet at sea, 114 Guillemots, three Razorbills and 24 Kittiwakes passed by during a watch.

An adult Peregrine was on fine form again with low flights throughout the day, occasionally hovering like a kestrel before skimming the fields and gaining height again. Three Song Thrushes in the wetlands, a Stonechat at the farm, Meadow Pipit on the side of the mountain, five Chaffinches on the main track, a couple of Wrens, Robins and only singles of Dunnock and Blackbird made for a very quiet day north of the narrows.

The long and slender footprints of Moorhens

Around the narrows it was business as usual 28 Curlews rested on Carreg yr Honwy (an outcrop of rocks just off shore), seven Redshank Noisily darted across the bays, eight Turnstones kept hidden between seaweed strewn rocks, 12 Mallards bobbed at the entrance of the slipway and two Ravens picked over the fresh remains of a Grey Seal.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

One of the nicest days on the island for quite a few weeks with winds of around 14mph from a south south east direction and not a cloud in sight....but still very chilly.

Thought the lowlands an up to the north end of the island was where most of the bird activity took place. Early on a male Sparrowhawk gave fantastically close views as it patrolled some of the gardens and harassed the locals Magpies, diving at some of them as they punched on the roofs of the buildings. A flock of 16 Linnets spent the day around Nant, joined by a couple of Chaffinches they picked their way through one of the fields adjacent to the chapel. During the morning whilst inside one of the outbuilding a brief call of a bird in flight was heard, a mournful, weak sounding "pyu", recognising it as sounding like Bullfinch a quick dash outside and a scan around sadly produced nothing. Whilst a lunchtime census of the plantation and gardens was coming to an end low and behold a stunning male Bullfinch shot out of one of the gardens and perched on some brambles for a few moments before seeing its striking bright white rump disappear into a small copse. Not a common bird on Bardsey but there have been a few records in recent years.

Tracks of an Oystercatcher, which seem to frequent the mud around the buildings at night

The day generally felt very active and almost spring like. Robins holding territories, Wrens belting out songs from the bushes, a pair of Stonechats chasing each other along the stone walls bordering the mountainside, a Common Buzzard being hounded by corvids in the lowlands and a surprise Cormorant deciding to fly down the island whooshing over observers heads only a few meters from the ground.

A quick walk passed the narrows and late sea watch for the most part was very quiet, Hooded Crow, 47 Curlews, two Redshank and a Pied Wagtail present on the narrows. A Purple Sandpiper and Shelduck being the only notables out to sea as they flew through the sound at the north end.

Monday, 18 January 2016

A relatively pleasant day country to what the weather forecasters were saying and although not many areas were censused today there were some nice sightings all the same.

From the north end what seemed to be a dull sea watch turned out to be quite an interesting few minutes towards the end. Initialy after twenty minutes or so 13 Guillemots, one Razorbill, eight Kittiwakes, two Fulmar and a couple of Herring Gulls had made their way passed the hide. On the verge of packing up the telescope and heading into the lowlands one more scan of the sea was taken when two Wigeon, a drake and a female/ first winter bird made their way east through the Bardsey sound. As the island doesn't do too well for a range of duck species this was a nice sight. As they were followed in the telescope view, two Great Northern Divers crossed the ducks paths heading the opposite direction and at the same time a Harbour Porpoise surfaced below. This was shortly followed by a flock of 17 Common Gulls, mostly adults but two second year and two first winter birds, an exciting few minutes. 

On leaving the north hide the injured ringed Oystercatcher that was discovered a week or so back, baring a ring that was placed on it in 1983 was seen again as it scurried across rocks, onto the grass and disappeared down one of the stone walls.

In an attempt to try and find a Jack Snipe "on the deck" to photograph the main pond in the centre of the island was the next port of call. One path was slowly walked along the boggy northern edge but to no avail, as another section, still on the northern edge was walked a small amount of bird droppings could be seen in the mud. Wondering whether these could be from snipe they were inspected, only to have a Jack Snipe literally come up from under my nose, no more than a foot away. Testament to their confidence in their camouflage....or the observers bad eye sight!!

A single feather found around one of the pools on the island, appears to be from a Mallard
A very brief trip to the narrows was greeted by a female/ immature Merlin as it whipped over the main track and headed north up the island. In one of the main bays 30 Curlews, 40 Oystercatchers, nine Mallards and eight Redshanks were seen.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

A "hike" up Pen Cristin (a small ridge that overlooks some of the steep east side slopes on the island) was rewarded with views of 85 Guillemots wheeling around in a large flock close to the lower cliffs.  They can be know to prospect for nest sites as early as December and January so these were presumably checking out potential ledges for the breeding season to come. The odd Herring Gulls were also starting to occupy some of the breeding sites, still early but nice to see the signs of spring to come. Nine Choughs and 20 Starlings were also seen in the vicinity.

From there a walk down towards the narrows produced similar numbers and species seen over the past weeks. An additional 16 Choughs, 16 Rock Pipits, 37 Oystercatchers, severn Redshanks, ten Turnstones and just 15 Curlew (although there were bound to be a few more hiding somewhere on the island). A Whimbrel resting on some of the rocks just off shore was fantastic to see as there are fewer than 30 reported Whimbrels wintering in the United Kingdom this winter, the majority usually head further south for the winter, occupying coast around Africa before heading north again for spring. Singles of Hooded Crow and Shelduck were other pleasant additions.

A smart Common Buzzard in the lowlands (for once not being harassed by local corvids), a Song Thrush, Stonechat, two Goldcrests and Siskin were the only other notable birds seen around the island today.

The moth trap set last night wasn't exactly the most exciting, with only a handful of fly's (of which I am afraid I am not familiar with) and no moths. Better luck tomorrow night maybe?

Saturday, 16 January 2016

The first really calm day for a week or so was very welcome and made for pleasant censusing conditions.

An early sea watch wasn't without some nice sightings but at the same time wasn't brimming with excitement. Two Divers flew frustratingly out of sight quickly heading north, most likely to be Great Northern Divers, 113 Guillemots 16 Common Scoters and later a small flock of 15 Black-headed Gulls and three Mediterranean Gulls flew north passed the north end. A small group of Linnets also passed through the telescope view and made their way down into the north west fields, the first Linnets for a number of days.

Around Nant and the plantation a nice party of severn Siskins noisily made their way north along the side of the mountain and presumable carried onto the mainland beyond. The usual two Goldcrests, Wrens, Robins, Dunnocks and Moorhens were also noted so not much change there but a low flying adult Peregrine is always a treat as it swooped close to the mountainside and five Ravens circled above.  

 The tell tale signs of thrushes, using the hard surfaces around the cemetery to crack open snail shells
Highlights from the lowlands and around the farm included two Common Snipes at one of the ponds, a Song Thrush spooked from gorse growing along the field boundaries, single Meadow Pipit and five Stonechats, one in the lowlands and the other four around the farm.

Down on the narrows at high tide Redshanks fed alongside Oystercatchers around the grassy areas and the slowly dissipating pool which appears after heavy rainfall. The Turnstones were as usual industriously picking through the rocks and sea weed emitting their bubbly calls to each other as they were disturbed and flew across the bay. The Curlew flock which numbered 34 today were seen disappearing south towards the lighthouse where they can quite often been seen. A total of 16 Choughs were again present but no sign of the Hooded Crow which seems to come and go as it pleased.

With such rough weather in recent weeks this was only the second chance of a pleasant enough night to set the moth trap, hopefully it will be more successful than the last effort!

Thursday, 14 January 2016

A slow start to census this morning, at sea just five Guillemots, one Razorbill, 30 Kittiwakes, a Fulmar and two Common Gulls passed by.

As usual 24 Rock Pipits, a Pied Wagtail, 18 Choughs, seven Turnstones and two Redshanks foraged amongst the piles of seaweed in search of invertebrates, whilst overhead (but still extremely low) a pair of Ravens tumbled and turned in display flights. Other Corvids scattered across the narrows were the Hooded Crow, Carrion Crow and a small gang on four Magpies which also all seem to favour the seaweed to pick through.

A late afternoon walk around the edges of one of the ponds was rewarded with views of a Jack Snipe which (in classic fashion) kept itself concealed in the grass only to flush and fly away once we had stepped passed it within a couple of feet of where it was hiding!

Pwll Cain (the small permanent pond in the centre of the island), quite frequently a good place for Snipe to reside around the boggy perimeter

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

With extremely strong winds the day before a trip down the the north hide this morning seemed like a good bet to see if anything new had been blown our way. The watch started well with a Great Northern Diver heading out west, close views of an adult Common Gull and 18 Common Scoter but slowly pittered out with only a few additions, 17 Guillemots, a single Razorbill and 24 Kittiwakes.

Thoughts of finding something different (a Pallas's Warbler perhaps, or anything different!) prompted a walk through the lowlands and a check of the withies.... Unfortunately no Pallas's Warbler but Three Stonechats in the lowlands were pleasant to watch as they perched along fence lines, dropping to the ground in search of food. The plantation and the Nant area at the north end were much the same in terms of quietness. A couple of Moorhens fed around the perimeters of the gardens, two Goldcrests restlesly gleamed food from tree branches, contacting each other from time with their high pitched "zee" calls as the odd Robins "ticked" and a handful of Wrens made their presence know.

Although very quiet in recent days there's always the promise of a new day and maybe something different........  

Sunday, 10 January 2016

The day began with decent sea passage of mostly Guillemots amounting to 725 all heading south within about an hours watch. In smaller numbers 13 Razorbills, two Fulmars, one Gannet and four Common Scoters passed by.

A walk along the west side of the island heading south was fairly quiet, odd pairs of Choughs and Oystercatchers dotted the coast along with the regular flock of Mallards which seem to favour some of the higher rock pools, especially in rough conditions.

The wind battered narrows were slightly more lively on the bird front. Just out from the narrows amongst the tide race a first winter Little Gull joined a small group of Kittiwakes skimming the waters surface in search of food. Around the mounds of seaweed 17 Choughs feed alongside a Hooded Crow, Raven, five Starlings and numerous Rock Pipits. Elsewhere on the narrows 61 Curlews fed in the short grasses, a Stonechat and Pied Wagtail were seen near the boathouse and the usual waders including 107 Oystercatchers, nine Redshank and four Turnstones littered the rocks until a low flying adult Peregrine spooked them into a cloud of frenzied alarm calls before settling back down.

Although the rest of the island was fairly quiet, a Woodcock in the gorse on the side of the mountain was a nice surprise whilst helping the farmers round up the sheep.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Not much change over the last few days bird wise but some life out at sea today during a mornings seawatch.

Guillemots and Razorbills made up the bulk of the numbers with 146 and 24 respectivly. A Fulmar shearing through the troughs in the distance, 14 Kittiwakes, 80 Black Headed Gulls with Three Mediterranean Gulls, an adult and two second winter birds, intermingled and an adult Common Gull. A nice passage of Common Scoter amounted to 69 heading in a southerly direction, some fantastic views of flocks where the small yellow knob of the adult males was even visible as they cruised passed at close range. A diver, which was most likely a Great Northern Diver, passed by at a frustrating distance and became no more than a speck moving through the telescope.

Whilst censusing the west coast attention was drawn to an Oystercatcher which appeared to unfortunately have an injured right wing, enough to render the bird flightless. It was able to be caught to asses the condition of the bird and on inspection could be seen that it was carrying a metal BTO ring.

One of our most common (and noisiest) waders here and probably very much underrated. Beautiful 

A look back through our database revealed that this bird was ringed as youngster back in 1983! At a fantastic age of around 32 years old this doesn't beat the current record of longevity for the species, held by an Oystercatcher at around the age of 40, but an awesome discovery none the less. Lets hope this particular bird can add a few more years to its current age!

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

On the whole it was again a fairly similar day in terms of the number and types of species about, although there were a few nice suprises.

A scan through the rocks on the narrows revealed a group of nine Lapwings roosting among the regular flock of Oystercatchers before taking off with their distinctive buoyant flight and almost unbird like alien calls. The pair of Shelducks, 25 Mallards, nine Redshanks, six Turnstones and 47 Curlews were also present.

Around the buildings, gardens and further north up the island to the plantation a Redwing, Siskin and Goldfinch were heard flying over. Again the Firecrest was present around the area of the plantation where a Water Rail was also heard, fleeting views of a Sparrowhawk winding its way through the mature gorse along the side of the mountain and a Buzzard made itself know as it soared low over the building tops. And finally becoming almost a feature of the island now the Barn Owl was seen roosting in one of the outbuildings.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Sea watches from both the south end and the north end of the island were fairly quite today. A good count of 130 Razorbills with the odd Guillemot tagging along, a smart looking adult Mediterranean Gull in its pure white plumage and a couple of Gannets made up the numbers out to sea.

Around the narrows 37 Curlews, 33 Oystercatchers, 13 Turnstones, seven Redshank and a sneaky Purple Sandpiper joined the 110 Grey Seals on the exposed rocks as the tide receded. 16 Coughs, both resident and non resident birds, picked their way through the piles of washed up seaweed along with six Magpies. A pair of both Mallards and Shelduck bobbed around in one of the bays, 21 Rock Pipits were scattered throughout the area and the Hooded Crow was again present.

Highlights further inland included a Common Buzzard gliding through the lowlands with a Carrion Crow in hot pursuit, a Little Owl calling from the north west fields, Sparrowhawk, Goldfinch, Song Thrush and Goldcrest around the plantation and resident Peregrine soaring over the mountain. 

Not the best time of year for shear diversity of moths but the first calm and dry night in recent weeks to set the moth trap

Monday, 4 January 2016

Census today provided very little in terms of numbers and diversity of species but instead was a chance to appreciate the small details that may be overlooked on days of vigorous counting of hundreds of migrating birds.

Out at sea very few numbers of birds passed, however a flyby Great Northern Diver, close views of a hand full of passing auks (some of them in stunning winter plumage with their striking black and white facial patterns) and a single Fulmar effortlessly cruising over the now calm sea were satisfaction enough.

Along the west coast a couple of pairs of the resident breeding Choughs were picking through the short grasses in search of food, momentarily stopping to contact each other with a flick of their wings and distinctive "chiach" call. A small flock of 11 Linnets perched momonterily on the surrounding fence lines and Oystercatchers noisily patrolled the coastal rocks where a single Rock Pipit was seen.

A change in habitat with a walk through the centre of the island also proved to be quiet, a Peregrine stooped overhead heading out to sea in pursuit of prey, the roaming Hooded Crow was seen moving in the direction of the narrows from the mountain and a Song Thrush made its presence know with a clatter of wings and its muted "sip" call as it darted out of one gorse bushes and into the next.

As the afternoon drew on another Song Thrush was seen around a garden at the north end, not long after the characteristic "pew" flight call of a Siskin was heard as it dropped into the garden where it briefly perched. Possibly a young male with muted colours to its yellow plumage and the beginings of a  black crown (all be it a patchy one) starting to show through.  

Sunday, 3 January 2016

A very contrasting day weather wise started with quite a damp morning which added to an already waterlogged island. As the day progressed conditions eased and we were treated to a beautiful afternoon of calm winds and sunshine.

Presumably the same Firecrest from the previous day had now moved slightly further south and was now inhabiting a scrubby area south of the chapel, although frustratingly for the observer it kept itself well concealed, only occasionally emitting a short 'buzzy' call and snippets of its buzzy ascending song. The north end and the plantation in particular were extremely quiet otherwise, with a brief appearance put in by a Sparrowhawk as it sped into the trees, a Blue Tit, and a handful of the resident Robins, Wrens and Dunnocks.

The same could be said throughout the lowlands, the observatory garden and the area around the farm. A Snipe was flushed from around one of the ponds, a Water Rail "squealed" from the depths of the vegetation in the withies, a Goldcrest and Goldfinch were seen at the observatory and a male Stonechat on the fence rows below the farm. However, views of two Ravens displaying above the island and a Peregrine skimming the mountainside was quite pleasant in the afternoon sun.

A pair of Ravens together in the afternoon performing their dramatic tumbling and "croaking" display
Further south the usual groups of Herring and Greater Black-backed Gulls gathered around the pools that had formed on the narrows but were today joined by five Redshanks and a Shelduck. Occupying the seaweed washed up in the bays and amongst the rocks were 27 Rock Pipits, 14 Turnstones, 14 Choughs, 54 Curlews and one Whimbrel. Just out of one of the bays a flock of 12 Black-headed Gulls passed by accompanied by a very smart first winter Mediterranean Gull which passed by.

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Ben Porter left the island today to continue his studies at university after a christmas break so coverage of the island won't be as extensive and most certainly top notch photographs maybe lacking in the blog.

The day brought a dramatic drop in winds and only the odd drizzly shower so numbers on the passerine front were certainly more than in prior days. Highlights of the day were present at the north end of the island around the Nant area where the elusive Barn Owl was found roosting in one of the outbuildings. Before making its graceful escape out through the open door the Barn Owl fluttered around the room, briefly alighting on a windowsill where views seem to suggest that it was possibly un-ringed and not the adult bird that was caught and ringed in the previous autumn. A male Firecrest around the plantation was another pleasant highlight as it zipped around restlessly feeding. Three Goldcrests, a single Great Tit and Song Thrush, a scattering of Wrens, Robins, Dunnocks and Blackbirds made up the rest of the numbers around the north end and through the central lowlands of the island.

Around the narrows a Great Northern Diver headed south out at sea whilst Herring Gulls, Black-headed Gulls and a small gathering of 21 Mallards bobbed in the swell. A flock of 24 Purple Sandpipers hid around the coastal rocks and 14 Turnstones, five Redshanks and ten Curlews were the counts on the wader front today. The ever present Hooded Crow, small group of four Choughs, a mobile gathering of 160 Starlings and a single Pied Wagtail and male Stonechat were also in the vicinity.

Friday, 1 January 2016

30th December
A cold, wet and rather windy day saw a limited selection of avian wildlife on offer- two Song Thrushes in the wetlands were the only passerines of note.

31st December
The last day of 2015 saw a good selection of birdlife to end what has been another superb season on Bardsey. The day got off to a good start with a Grey Phalarope flying south past the north hide in the morning, along with a Red-throated Diver, nine Common Scoters, a Gannet and seven Fulmars. There was a reasonable gathering of gulls around the Narrows, best of which was a smart adult Little Gull; other gulls included two Black-headed Gulls, two Common Gulls, a Lesser Black-backed Gull, 93 Herring Gulls and 121 Kittiwakes. Inland, a Little Owl was heard calling at Nant, three Goldcrests were seen in the Plantation, and the usual Hooded Crow was present around the Narrows.

A parting image from 2015, of the aurora borealis on the northern horizon looking over Bardsey mountain

Some stormy images - Herring gull (top) and Kittiwakes (lower two)

Dogfish washed up Solfach

More Goose Barnacles have been washing up on floatsom

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

26th December
The 26th was a day equally as grim as Christmas day, and thus there was very little to report in terms of bird news. The usual Whimbrel on the Narrows was the best of the bunch, present amongst a flock of 81 Oystercatchers seeking shelter.

27th December
For the first time in about a month, the wind speeds dropped below the 5mph mark, after gusting over 50 mph overnight. This narrow window allowed a boat to cross to the island, albeit in less-than-ideal conditions! It also made for easier and more pleasant observational conditions, with a productive selection of sightings: out to sea, a pale-bellied Brent Goose flew south, along with a Gannet, three Guillemots, three Shellducks, five Common Gulls and a third-winter Mediterranean Gull. A good gathering of waders around the narrows included six Purple Sandpipers and the usual Whimbrel, whilst a small flock of 35 Starlings joined the Hooded Crow and Choughs on Solfach. In the wetlands, a total of three Song Thrushes were recorded, along with a single male Stonechat, and the first Jack Snipe for some time was flushed amidst five Common Snipe.

28th December
Strong south-westerly winds throughout the day provided some reasonable seabird passage out to sea, comprising two Gannets, a Shellduck, 12 Common Scoters, two Mediterranean Gulls, 11 Black-headed Gulls, eight Common Gulls, two Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 110 Herring Gulls, 109 Kittiwakes, four Guillemots and 708 Razorbills. Inland, the Jack Snipe was again seen in the wetlands, along with three Common Snipe and four Song Thrushes.

29th December
It was another breezy day, with the wind speeds kicking up a notch as storm Frank arrived in the latter hours of the afternoon. Another good movement of auks was noted off the West Side in the morning, involving 366 Razorbills and 30 Guillemots, whilst eight Common Gulls and 112 Kittiwakes fed off the Narrows. Singles of Woodcock and Redwings were noted inland.

The flock of Choughs remain around the Narrows, although almost all the seaweed has been wiped clear from the beaches now

Purple Sandpipers

A Jack Snipe trying to pretend it is invisible!

Rock Pipit

Gooseberry Barnacles commandeering an old bottle!

Bardsey Lighthouse

Friday, 25 December 2015

First of all, a Merry Christmas to all! It has been one of the most miserable days of the month here on Ynys Enlli, but today has been preceded by some very pleasant conditions!

Happy Christmas!

Avian Diary

22nd December
A day of brisk winds and intermittent showers saw nine Purple Sandpipers, two Whimbrels, 47 Curlews, nine Redshanks and 20 Turnstones gather around the Narrows at high tide, which represents moderately higher counts that previous days and weeks. A smart first-winter Little Gull was seen feeding off the South End with the usual Kittiwakes, and two each of Razorbill and Guillemot passed by; raptors were represented by the (apparently) overwintering Kestrel and Sparrowhawk, both of which were present around Ty Pellaf in the morning.

23rd December
A survey of the shoreline at low tide once again revealed good numbers of the curious organisms called By-the-wind Sailors, which were washed up amongst the seaweed and driftwood (see here for more). A count of the entire coast was carried out mid-morning as part of the BTO's non-estuarine waterbird survey (NEWS). There were thus some reasonable counts of shorebirds made, including 73 Oystercatchers, a Purple Sandpiper, one Whimbrel, 57 Curlews, 14 Turnstones, 37 Black-headed Gulls, three Common Gulls, 399 Herring Gulls and 73 Kittiwakes. Singles of Sparrowhawk and Kestrel were also recorded, along with two Peregrines, a Hooded Crow, a Siskin and 51 Rock Pipits.

24th December
A day dominated largely by clear skies and strong westerly winds saw a very high tide in the early hours strip the beaches around the Narrows of most of the seaweed piles that have been gathering in previous weeks. A Shelduck, a Snipe and two Common Gulls were the most noteworthy non-passerines noted, whilst a good gathering of 26 Choughs, eight Starlings and the usual Hooded Crow was noted on Solfach. A single Little Owl was seen in the evening near Carreg Bach.

25th December
Lashing rain, strong southerly winds and chilly temperatures made for a bit of a grim day, and there were very few birds braving the conditions! A single Whimbrel and Snipe were noted around the Narrows.

Purple Sandpiper


By-the-wind Sailor

Monday, 21 December 2015

21nd December
A largely wet and windy day meant that field observations were minimal, although a single Whimbrel was seen amongst 50 Curlews around the Narrows, and the Hooded Crow remained here too.

22nd December
It was a more endearing day of clear skies and passing rain showers, although a very strong south-westerly wind whipped up an impressive swell out to sea. By far the highlight of the day didn't come until night-fall, when a Barn Owl was seen along the island's track, where three Woodcocks were also seen. Two first-winter Little Gulls were amongst some 92 Kittiwakes, four Common Gulls and a Gannet off the South End in the morning, whilst a single Whimbrel and two Purple Sandpipers were the more noteworthy waders on offer.

21st December
Another breezy day saw lashing rain storms in the morning give way to glorious sunshine in the afternoon, making for another largely pleasant day. The high tide late in the afternoon encouraged a reasonable gathering of waders, with 61 Oystercatchers, 52 Curlews, 11 Redshanks, four Purple Sandpiper and 24 Turnstones, whilst movements out to sea comprised two Fulmars, a Common Gull and 60 Kittiwakes.

Herring Gull

juvenile Kittiwake

The view from the south end on the afternoon of the 20th

A Grey Seal pup born a few days ago continued to take shelter in one of the small bays in Henllwyn

Saturday, 19 December 2015



From all the staff at BBFO