Friday, 26 May 2017

The mini-revival in migration continued for another day, with a good list of highlights given how late in the season it was. Birdwise, the star of the show was a fine Turtle Dove, our first of the year, and if recent trends are anything to go by we'll consider ourselves fortunate to get another. This individual was seen in the Ty Pellaf/Pen Cristin area for about half an hour, before joining a flock of six Collared Doves (at least ten were present today in a noticeable arrival), and disappearing north over the mountain.

The definition of a record shot

However, a stunning rorqual stole the show from our regular avian features, when one very fortunate observer jammed in on a MINKE WHALE seawatching late in the evening! It surfaced twice off the West Coast, and appeared to be heading north, but a lengthy vigil from the Obs couldn't reolcate it. It did, however, reveal one of two Skua. sp seen during the day. A mixture of appalling light, heat haze and the sheer distance of both birds prevented specific identification. Otherwise the sea was fairly quiet, but 521 Manx Shearwaters and 81 Kittiwakes were logged.

On land, Spotted Flycatcher and Chiffchaff numbered four apiece, with two Blackcaps and a single, late White Wagtail also of note. 57 Swallows and 30 House Martins moved through, alongside nine Swifts, five Sand Martins and a single, heard-only Flava Wagtail. Most unusual of the vis-migging selection were five Grey Herons, heading north along the West Coast mid-afternoon. What exactly were they doing!?

The wader selection on the Narrows was low on numbers but decent on diversity, with three Sanderlings, two apiece of Whimbrels, Curlews and Turnstones and a single Ringed Plover. Five smart adult Black-headed Gulls were also in Solfach, with another two passing south over the South End. Finally, a few notable lepidoptera sightings included four Speckled Woods around Nant, four Common Blues on the wing and 13 Red Admirals, the latter hinting at some obvious immigration at play, on a fine and sunny day with winds from the right quarter to facilitate it.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Following the lack of birds from the last few days, today saw a small number of migrants pass through the island, inspiring some hope. Out to sea Manx Shearwaters numbered 271, while 16 Gannets, one Sandwich Tern and 100 Kittiwakes were also logged, followed by an Arctic Skua in the evening.

The first migrant raptor in a while was seen on the mountainside, in the form of a Kestrel. Some waders were on the Narrows as well, including three Sanderlings, two Whimbrels, one Curlew and nine Turnstones.

Whimbrel on the rocks at the North End

Overhead passage was made up of three Swifts, two Sand Martins, 48 Swallows, 13 House Martins, one Tree Pipit and a ‘Flava’ Wagtail which stopped on the Narrows briefly. Stonechats and Wheatears numbered 13 and 21 respectively. Warblers were a mixture of migrants and breeding birds, Sedge Warblers as expected the most numerous with six recorded, also logged were a Reed Warbler singing on the South End, three Whitethroats, two Blackcaps, four Chiffchaffs and a Goldcrest. Four Spotted Flycatchers were the only other migrants of note.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Another quiet day. There were just five Whimbrels, five Turnstones and one Curlew on the Narrows, and again early morning mist hampered any hopes of seawatching. 185 Manx Shearwaters did however pass in the afternoon. A small overhead hirundine passage featured 55 Swallows and 31 House Martins, alongside two Lesser Redpolls that passed south over Pen Cristin mid-afternoon. Five Goldfinches was a slight increase, and perhaps one or two had arrived. However, no other migration was suspected on a quiet day. Two Meadow Pipit nests were found, with four and two juveniles, while a Magpie nest near Ty Pellaf had one well-developed youngster. All over the island birds are to be seen carrying food now, and soon there'll be plenty of fledglings! 

17 Moths of nine species was our best haul since 7 April (it's been a very slow spring for Lepidoptera on Bardsey!). Shears (six) and Small Square-spot (4) again provided the numbers, while singles of Buff Ermine and White Ermine provided an excellent opportunity to compare the two species for the guests present. A single Dark Sword Grass was the only immigrant, while a Chrysoteuchia culmella (a common Micro Moth of grassland habitats) was our first of the year.

White Ermine on the left, and Buff Ermine on the right

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

A thick fog enveloped the island from dawn onwards today. While at some times of year that might be the precursor for a stunning arrival of migrants, today it just meant what few birds were around were even harder to see than usual! The only likely migrants on land were five Collared Doves at Nant, and one each of Spotted Flycatcher at Ty Pellaf and Willow Warbler at the Plantation, while a very small overhead passage of 37 Swallows, eight House Martins and a single Sand Martin was logged.

Just four Turnstones, thre Whimbrels and two Curlews were on the Narrows, alongside a decent high-tide concentration of 155 Herring Gulls. The impenetrable mist ensured little of note was logged on the sea, but in a short period when it lifted 99 Manx Shearwaters passed through the West Coast.

It also seems like, after an interminably long time waiting, the Moth season is getting underway. We've only been getting regular species, but yesterday produced 13 moths of ten species, with 16 of eight species today. I know plenty of you trapping on the mainland would baulk at such paltry totals, but for us that's a considerable improvement on the spring so far! Shears and Small Square-spot are currently turning up with the most regularity, while highlights have included a very fresh Green Carpet (First of the year) and a White Ermine yesterday. A Vapourer Caterpillar was also seen in the garden, while seven Small Coppers were making the most of the brief periods of sunshine!

Monday, 22 May 2017

After a few rather uninspiring days, a couple of sightings of note inspired some hope of improvement. The days standout highlight was two Black Guillemots north past the South End at 08:05, the pick of the bunch on a considerably improved day for seawatching. Five Black-headed Gulls and two Sandwich Terns were also of note, while the commoner species were well represented, including 751 Manx Shearwaters, 672 Guillemots, 435 Razorbills, 101 Gannets, 57 Kittiwakes and 46 Puffins

Two respendlently-plumaged Sanderlings were the pick of the bunch of a few waders on Solfach, that also included seven Turnstones, four Whimbrels, two Curlews and two Dunlins. Meanwhile overhead passage was once again modest, but 78 Swallows, 44 House Martins and two Sand Martins were recorded.

The only grounded migrant obviously new in was a Grey Wagtail at Henllwyn in the morning, an unusual sighting for the time of year! Perhaps a failed breeder, or a wandering 1st-summer bird? It's surely too early in the year for juvenile dispersal, although the bird never gave good enough views to age it. Otherwise, it was a bit of a guessing game whether we had any new migrants on the island, amongst totals of eight Sedge Warblers, four Chiffchaffs, three Whitethroats, two Collared Doves and a Lesser Redpoll. With all seemingly breeding or at least over-summering on the island this year, it seems likely that this accounts for most if not all of those logged today.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

It's still almost eerily quiet here on Bardsey, good birds have been incredibly few and far between of late! It's finally reached the stage where the writer attempted to identify a few grasses in the garden this afternoon, such is the total inaction on the migration front!

Out to sea there were still a fair few Manx Shearwaters logged early doors, 541 seen today. 40 Gannets was the only other particularly high count of birds moving offshore, while 22 Puffins were off the East Side. A rather paltry sum of waders was just six Whimbrel, one Curlew and one Turnstone.

The streams of Hirundines pouring through earlier in May now seems but a distant memory, todays count of Swallows was just 71, with 17 House Martins also seen, and two Sand Martins the first noted for several days.

The most notable arrival of "migrants" almost certainly hadn't come from very far afield, with 33 Feral Pigeons counted today! All seen were bearing rings, that plus their tendency to stay as close to human habitation as possible certainly offers a few hints as to their origins! A single Collared Dove was again at Nant. On the Warbler front, 3 Whitethroats included a bird nest-building in the Wetlands, there were seven Chiffchaffs and a single Blackcap, plus two Spotted Flycatchers. The overall impression being out in the field now is that virtually every bird you see is breeding on Bardsey, which couldn't really be more different than a month ago, when virtually every bird you saw seemed to be on passage!

The first odonata of any description this year was a Blue-tailed Damselfly today on Pwll Cain. The Cranefly Tipula luna was observed in the Obs Garden, but even insects were otherwise reduced to the same few regular species.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Migrants were scarce on the ground today with a prevailing westerly wind. However, a good variety of birds were once again recorded today.

Out to sea 245 Manx Shearwaters were recorded along with 26 Gannets and three Black-headed Gulls. The second calendar year Grey Heron continues its break on Bardsey seen around both the Wetlands and the Narrows. A surprise today were two Teals and another obvious migrant was a Kestrel at Pen Cristin.

Wader numbers have unfortunately tapered off now with only three Whimbrel, one Curlew and a Turnstone recorded. Chough work and seabird monitoring around the East Side ended with a total of 241 Kittiwakes, 912 Guillemots, 612 Razorbills and 40 Puffins logged, most of which were on ledges and at an early stage of incubation.

Swallows and House Martins were also seen today with 55 and three seen respectively. The migrant breeders today included 12 Stonechats, 11 Wheatears, 11 Sedge Warblers, four Whitethroats and six Chiffchaffs. Also logged today were a Blackcap, two Willow Warblers, two Spotted Flycatchers and two Lesser Redpolls.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Mid-May has so far been a very muted affair for migration, and carried on in a similar theme today. A rarity or two can't be too far away! It certainly seems unlikely we'll quite match the spring of 2017, when Blyths Pipit, Eastern Subalpine Warbler, Black Kite and Ortolan Bunting had all been found by now! But with a list of late May/early June rarities to get any birder drooling, there's still every reason to hope we can pull something good out of the bag.

With goregous weather and not much migration today, a good amount of time was spent working in the Seabird Colony. Choughs were seen at several nest sites removing faecal sacs, a sure indicator of chicks in the nest. Shags are looking well grown in almost all nests checked now, with a handful of late eggs still to hatch. Our first three clutches of Herring Gulls have hatched over the last couple of days, while all the other seabirds are starting to settle down for what we hope will be another productive season.

The migration monitoring that did happen today revealed another strong movement of Manx Shearwaters, 1161 were seen, almost all off the West Coast early in the morning. We also recorded modest totals of 183 Razorbills, 72 Guillemots, 56 Kittiwakes and 31 Gannets moving offshore. Visible passage overhead was limited to just 111 Swallows, 17 House Martins and two Sand Martins, plus two unseasonal sightings in a Rook over the Mountain and a Skylark south off the South End.

A Knot on the Narrows was the highlight of a small selection of waders, which also comprised seven Whimbrels, four Curlews and singles of Sanderling, Dunlin and Turnstone.

Finally, grounded migrants were once again sparse, but there was a little bit more diversity today. At least one or two of the 14 Sedge Warblers seen today were probably migrants, while five Whitethroats were new in. Nine Spotted Flycatchers, five Chiffchaffs, five Lesser Redpolls, two Willow Warblers and singles of Blackcap and Garden Warbler were also noted.

On the Butterfly front, sighting of the day was our first Common Blue of the year, on the wing at Carreg Bach. Buff-tip and Galium Carpet were the highlights of just four moths caught in the Obs trap, both firsts for the year though.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Following last year’s deluge of rare migrants during the mid-May period, hopes were high for this year. However, unfortunately the island has failed to deliver yet, but it’s still very early days. Instead our focus has been leaning more to monitoring the breeding birds of the island, especially seabirds, now with Manx Shearwaters reaching their peak incubation period following the Full Moon on 10th May.

Out to sea, large rafts and feeding flocks of Manx Shearwaters accumulated to 1951, also moving through were 25 Gannets and 25 Common Scoters, a rare sight recently.

With a Sparrowhawk pair on the island, sightings are frequent with singles often seen hunting or carrying prey. The same cannot be said for our Peregrine pair, with single birds only being recorded occasionally, since they seem to almost religiously feed on the East Side. The only migrant bird of prey today was a Buzzard seen over the Mountain.

Oystercatchers are largely on nests as well, but small groups can still be found with 73 birds recorded today. Migrant waders today included three Whimbrels, three Curlews and two Turnstones.

Overhead passage is primarily consisting of Hirundines still with eight Sand Martins, 135 Swallows and 39 House Martins logged, a ‘Flava’ Wagtail was also heard flying over Cristin.

13 Stonechats and 17 Wheatears are probably now only breeding birds on the island, the latter of which should be fledging their first young within the next few weeks.

Warblers today were 14 Sedge Warblers, three Whitethroats, one Garden Warbler, one Blackcap, ten Chiffchaffs and three Willow Warblers. Spotted Flycatchers are still moving through in moderate number with 15 logged today. Also of note were three Siskins and two Lesser Redpolls.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

After several dreary days, the weather at least was a considerable improvement today, mostly sunny with a fresh South-westerly breeze. It didn't bring any spectacular migration, but there was a little bit around.

Swallows picked up where they'd left off three days ago, 333 moving through today, mostly streaming south on their way to Ireland. Amongst them were 65 House Martins, 22 Sand Martins and a Swift, while two Flava Wagtails and two Tree Pipits were also heard overhead. There was a small finch passage detected today, including seven Goldfinches and three Lesser Redpolls south through the South End early in the morning (both species amounting to 11 in total with birds on the ground), and our first five Siskins for over a week. However, migrant songbirds were in short supply. Totals of 21 Wheatears and 15 Sedge Warblers will include mostly breeding birds, otherwise there were just eight Chiffchaffs, three Spotted Flycatchers and singles of Willow Warbler and Whitethroat.

Early morning sea-watching was fairly productive, with a steady stream of 401 Guillemots, 286 Kittiwakes, 250 Manx Shearwaters, 75 Razorbills and 52 Gannets. 17 Common Scoters moved north at 08:40, seven Puffins moved through all in all, and only our second Great Skua of the spring was perhaps the highlight of the day, going north off the South End at 08:00.

It was the quietest day in weeks for waders, alongside the ever-present Oystercatchers were ever-diminishing totals of six Whimbrels, two Curlews and one each of Turnstone and Ringed Plover. Otherwise, the only sighting of note was a Buzzard that drifted south over the island. In non-avian news, a good count of 204 Grey Seals was logged today, one of our highest totals of the year so far. On Pen Cristin the first two Herring Gull chicks have hatched, with many young Shags now getting to an impressive size, and two, possibly three already fledged! As expected, Guillemots and Razorbills are in excellent numbers on the cliffs, their squabbling creating a marvellous cacophony.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Another day of gale force winds and heavy down pours early on today, however by late afternoon the skies had cleared up and gave way to bright sunlight. Today was one of the few occasions where the early bird most certainly did not catch the worm, to start the only birds noted were seabirds passing at a slow rate, by the end of the day five Fulmars, 1164 Manx Shearwaters and 45 Gannets had been logged.

The waders persisted to feed on Solfach today with two Ringed Plovers, a Sanderling, two Dunlins, eight Whimbrels, two Curlews and 12 Turnstones logged, making what they could of the wet weather. Overhead passage was, if you’ll pardon the pun, dampened today and only a single Swift, 38 Swallows, four House Martins and a Tree Pipit were noted, a huge decrease in number from the last few days, not surprisingly.

A Whinchat was seen briefly in the Wetlands, and the usual 12 Stonechats were logged again, 14 Wheatears were also probably some of the breeding pairs on the island. In the hedges, bushes and trees today were 12 Sedge Warblers, three Whitethroats, a Blackcap, three Chiffchaffs, six Willow Warblers and a Goldcrest. Probably most impressive today was the small arrival of Spotted Flycatchers, with 23 logged today. Finally, two Lesser Redpolls were seen at Cristin today.