Saturday, 19 April 2014

It was another productive day’s birding, with a change in the wind direction to the east giving a more promising feel to the day. By far the highlight of the day was a fantastic White Stork; first seen over the Lighthouse being harassed by a dozen Oystercatchers at midday, the bird then battled eastwards into the freshening wind. Eventually, the bird flew high and east over the mountain top, in the direction of the Lleyn Peninsula. This is just the second White Stork to be seen on Bardsey, the last being in 1995. This particular bird could well be the same individual reported over both Caernarfon and South Stack two days ago.

In other news, a good crop of 74 Wheatears was scattered around the island; 19 White Wagtails, a Tree Pipit, ten Whimbrels and a Common Sandpipers were also seen around the coast, whilst 74 Swallows, 21 Sand Martins and four House Martins sped northward throughout the day. Inland, two Whitethroats were seen in the withies and wetlands, whilst two Grasshopper Warblers, two Sedge Warblers, 37 Willow Warblers, 14 Chiffchaffs and 13 Blackcaps were in similar localities. Elsewhere, the Turtle Dove was again present at the North End, showing very well on the track near Plas mid-morning, and the first Yellow Wagtail of the year arrived into the field near Ty Pellaf late afternon.

The superb White Stork, just the second for Bardsey. The first record was on 2nd May 1995. There were reports of a single White Stork over Caernarfon and South Stack two days ago
 The very smart Yellow Wagtail, which arrived on the island late in the afternoon. The bird spent the rest of the day feeding amongst the sheep near Ty Pellaf
As well as the Turtle Dove, which remained between Plad and Nant for most of the day, this Collared Dove was found hiding away in Ty Pellaf garden 
There were some stunning Greenland-race Wheatears around

Friday, 18 April 2014

It was another glorious sunny day on the island, with plenty of migrants moving through. It was certainly apparent, however, that a large clear-out of warblers had also taken place overnight. Migrant passage was dominated by Wheatears today, with the largest numbers of the year so far recorded around the coasts and fields inland: totals amounted to 108 Greenland Wheatears. Hirundine passage was also much more pronounced than previous days, with a steady passage of bird throughout the day amounting to 45 Sand Martins, 161 Swallows and seven House Martins. These figures are likely to be large underestimates, since this count was taken from a single hour period between 1230 to 1330. The star of the day had to go to the superb Turtle Dove, which remained shy around the Nant area, showing best in the early morning and late evening. A Continental Song Thrush was seen in Carreg Reed Bed, two Sandwich Terns resided in Solfach for the afternoon, and just a single Whimbrel was present in Solfach.

A continual stream of Swallows northward over the island took place throughout the day, in the calm and clear conditions. A single pair at Ty Pellaf has also been observed carrying nesting material into one of the barns, although it is a little worrying that there is just a single pair at that site at the moment 

The rather beautiful Turtle Dove remained shy for most of the day at Nant, although returned to the field near Ty Capel in the late evening. The bird seemed very content, feeding voraciously amongst the dried cow pats...

 Two Sandwich Terns spent the afternoon in Solfach
Rather belated news from yesterday afternoon, this Bateleur flew south over the island in the late afternoon...(!) (ok, ok, so its just a tail-less Buzzard...)

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Following on from recent days, dawn broke with a fresh westerly wind, which gave the impression that there was not a great deal around; however, as the day progressed, the wind died down, and a fantastic selection of migrants moved through the island, many of which found their way into the open mist nets both at Cristin and at Nant.

Willow Warblers and Blackcaps were predictably the most numerous of the new arrivals on the island, with totals amounting to 69 and 51 respectively, as well as 36 Chiffchaffs. A total of 12 Grasshopper Warblers and six Sedge Warblers were seen and heard during the day, with the pleasant reeling song of the Grasshopper Warblers ringing out from many bushes around the island. A Turtle Dove at Nant was perhaps the best discovery of the day: this stunning bird is the earliest ever to be recorded on the island, with the previous record being on the 18th of April 1963.

In other news, a Great Northern Diver flew east past the South Tip; a single Common Sandpiper and four Whimbrels were seen around The Narrows; and singles of Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel represented the raptors present on the island.

Last year, we had just one Turtle Dove during the spring and autumn: a single on 5 June

A total of 98 birds were ringed during the day, most of which were trapped around Cristin before 1100. This total comprised the first five Grasshopper Warblers and seven Sedge Warblers of the year to be trapped and ringed, as well as Lesser Redpolls, Goldfinches, and the usual domination by Blackcaps and Willow Warblers...
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One of the smart Grasshopper Warblers that was trying to sneak through the garden unnoticed
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Sedge Warblers arrived in good numbers today, with seven birds trapped at Cristin, and several birds heard singing in the lowlands

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Despite a much stronger south-easterly wind, a good number of common migrants arrived onto the island during the day, with many also passing through. The clear skies and chilly temperatures gave the morning an almost autumnal feel, which was amplified by the clear presence of visible migration over the Narrows and South End. This 'vis mig' consisted of three Sand Martins, 22 Swallows, 39 Meadow Pipits, one Grey Wagtail, seven White Wagtails, one Crossbill, one Siskin, 95 Goldfinches, 67 Linnets and four Lesser Redpolls.

A few slightly more noteworthy species were also seen during the day, one or two of which were new for the year: a Common Sandpiper in Solfach was the first of 2014; a very smart male Common Redstart was seen briefly at Nant; a Grasshopper Warbler was heard reeling away in Nant Withy; and the year's first Tree Pipit was seen somewhat belatedly above Nant. This has to be one of the very few years where Tree Pipit arrives later than Pied Flycatcher and Common Redstart!! Warbler numbers remained reasonable, with 49 Willow Warblers and 14 each of Blackcap and Chiffchaff logged.

As well as the passerine migrants, a good bit of seabird passage took place southward off the South Tip in the early hours, leading to totals of 316 Manx Shearwaters, one Red-throated Diver, six Fulmars, 29 Gannets, four Common Scoters, a Mediterranean Gull and three Common Gulls.

 This rather dingy Ringed Plover joined the breeding pair in Solfach. Its smaller size and darker brown colouring suggest that it may well be a passing 'Northern' Ringed Plover (C.h.psammadroma)

The very handsome male Redstart-the second of the year so far

Ringing activities during the day were hindered by the brisk south east wind, although the new Heligoland trap at the Observatory produced some 30 birds during the morning. In the later afternoon, the wind died down enough to open a handful of mist nets at Nant, resulting in the capture of 17 phylloscopus warblers
The catching box of the Heligoland, with Goldfinch, Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Willow Warblers all making an appearance
One of the Chiffchaffs trapped during the day
Lesser Redpoll
This particular Willow Warbler bore an interesting feature: the tenth primary had not been moulted, and so this abnormal 10th primary was much more worn than the other primaries and secondaries

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

It was another stunning day of clear skies, low winds and high temperatures; the calm weather encouraged a trickle of migrants to move through the island during the day, although the numbers were not as high as have been experienced on the south coasts of the UK in the last few days (see here).

Warbler numbers had increased since yesterday, with totals standing at: one Grasshopper Warbler, 25 Blackcaps, 17 Chiffchaffs and 31 Willow Warblers. In the late afternoon, the first Whitethroat of the year was discovered in the bramble bushes near the Limekiln, which is two days earlier than the first of 2013. Although still pronounced, hirundine passage was somewhat less than yesterday, with 17 Sand Martins, 39 Swallows and seven House Martins logged during the day. A total of 12 White Wagtails around the Narrows is the highest gathering of the year, and a single Scandinavian Rock Pipit was also seen amongst them late afternoon. Two Common Gulls around the Narrows were the first for some time, which a total of four Whimbrels is the highest count so far this year.

A good number of the island's breeding Wrens have been seen carrying nesting material to their nest sites in recent days, and the usual dawn chorus comprises mostly of their surprisingly loud song. This particular singing male seemed to prefer showing off his dancing abilities, as opposed to his vocalisations...
Some more images of this particularly flexible Wren
 Blackcaps continue to move through in reasonable numbers, and many are also finding their way into the mist nets at the Observatory
There seem to be two pairs of breeding Blue Tits on the island this year- each individual has been fitted with a ring. Two of the individuals, however, were ringed back in 2010 and 2011, and have been present on the island every since

Monday, 14 April 2014

A rather glorious spring day saw clear skies and a nagging northerly wind persisting for the third consecutive day on the island; however, the passage of most migrants were very slight, with hirundines being the most numerous passing birds. Similar totals to yesterday saw 132 Swallows, eight Sand Martins and five House Martins logged in the space of an hour or so, although this sustained movement throughout the day would have amounted to a figure closer to 500 or more had observers been in the field for most of the day. The morning census revealed some four White Wagtails and five Wheatears around the coast; six Blackcaps, 4 Chiffchaffs, eight Willow Warblers and six Goldcrests in the gardens; and two Lesser Redpolls overhead.

A handful of Goldcrests arrived on the island overnight- some were seen moving through rapidly, whilst others spent a little time feeding frantically around (and on) the Damson flowers in Cristin Garden
Did you know? Goldcrest's scientific name, Regulus regulus, is Latin for Prince or Kinglet, referring to the golden crowns possessed by most members of the family Regulidae. 
 Blackcaps continue to move through in small numbers, many feeding on the nectar of the Damson and Apple Blossoms
The non-breeding flock of Oystercatchers in Henllwyn has diminished to virtually none at all, with most birds  having dispersed around the coast to their respective breeding territories.

It's all happening at the obs

Even though spring migration is in full swing and mornings are filled doing census work and ringing...

... there is still lots of practical work to be done at the Observatory. 

Over the past few weeks staff and volunteers have been getting the building is ready for this seasons guests who are due to arrive next week. 

As you will have seen, Todd, Bevan and Mike have been here for two weeks and left yesterday stop they have made great inroads into a rather large workload we had. Mark and Steffan have been busy getting the Observatory ready, painting and preparing rooms, cleaning and tidying.

 Todd and his team have been fitting new skylights.


Todd constructed a replacement hide on for Solfach at home in the West Midlands and transported it in kit form to the island where he Bevan and Mike assembled it on the beach. 

During winter months heavy rain penetrated the roof at Christine bringing down a portion of the upstairs ceiling on the landing. 
Steve spent his morning fixing the problem...

We now just need the filler to dry and the new ceiling to be painted. 

Todd, being a professional roofer, spent some time trying to find the source of the problem and fix the leak on the chimneys. 
Steve has spent a lot of his time, between working on the report, ordering seo plies of cleaning products and loo rolls for the season. 
Also thanks to a generous donation specifically for improvements to the obs. he has been sourcing and ordering mountains of duvets, pillows, suggest, pillow cases, duvet covers and curtains from Dunelm. 

Mike and Bevan painted all the gutter brackets in the courtyard. 
And Todd followed fixing in the new guttering. 
Connor's new school room is nearing completion...

Todd and the gang left yesterday after two weeks hard work. 

They were replaced by our next volunteers, Fiona and Rob Bithell who got straight on with sorting out the from garden. 
And Steve finished off boxing in the skylights. 
These now need a lick of paint and are then ready to go!

Mark and Steffam spent part of today monitoring chough nests. 

And Steve has been putting the finishing touches to the 2013 report ...

Then at 3pm all the residents and volunteers gathers on the narrows to do a clean up of the beach and surrounding areas. During the winter lots of sea-born rubbish is washed up on the beaches. The strong winds blow it ashore and all over the fields. However a couple of hours and we had three large bags full of rubbish which will leave the island to be processed on the mainland. 
And everyone was treated to tea, coffee and some fantastic cakes (thanks Ben, not just good at taking bird pics eh!) at the farm. 
We have also been collecting the accumulation of scrap metal that has built up at the obs over the past decade, this will also be leaving the island soon for recycling. 
And the Rayburn has been cleaned out and de-coaked, but is still in need of a full service!
So that is a brief round up of getting things ready for the start of the season.