Friday, 19 September 2014

At about 2040 yesterday evening, the first few drops of rain for over three weeks began falling on the island. After this initial threat, conditions cleared for much of the evening, before closing in around midnight. Heavy rain and thunder ensued in the small hours, and lead to a quite sizeable attraction taking place at the Lighthouse, even though the bean is now a flashing LED. After the last of the rain cleared at dawn, the island was left covered in phylloscopus warblers, and one or two scarcer species amongst them.

The rarest sighting of the day came in the long overdue Barred Warbler, which was found near Ty Pellaf in the morning, and remained there until midday. Common migrants were dominated by somewhere between 400 and 500 Chiffchaffs. This total includes a break down of the following: South End- 150,  Cristin- 40,  Ty Pellaf and Pen Cristin- 35,  Nant- 100. Amongst these small warblers were two Grasshopper Warblers, 15 Whitethroats, six Blackcaps, 19 Willow Warblers, 19 Goldcrests and three Spotted Flycatchers. Other sightings comprised a single Yellow Wagtail on the Narrows, two Whinchats, two Song Thrushes, 47 Wheatears and seven Skylarks.

 This first-winter Barred Warbler was discovered near Ty Pellaf in the morning, and is the first one to be seen in Wales so far this year. It is also the first one on Bardsey since October 2012

A selection of images of the most abundant migrant today...phylloscopus warblers...
Chiffchaffs and Willow Warbler (2nd from the top). There were between 400 and 500 Chiffchaffs on the island today, with over a hundred alone seen in and around the Lighthouse attraction. With dense cloud and the threat of rain tonight, eyes will certainly be turned towards the lighthouse, in the chance that another lighthouse attraction might occur (three Chiffchaffs and a Manx Shearwater were killed last night due to the lighthouse) 
Goldcrest. The weights of the few caught today indicated that they are feeding reasonably well. Most birds were above 5.2 grams.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Very pleasant birding conditions throughout the day encouraged a good bit of visible migration ('vismig') to occur in the morning, which was perhaps the most entertaining period of the day. A total of three Skylarks, 93 Swallows, four House Martins, 215 Meadow Pipits, a flava Wagtail and 14 Grey Wagtails were recorded. Amongst the flocks of passerine migrants was a very interesting flava wagtail, which settled down in the fields below Ty Pellaf for the majority of the day. The bird showed features which are suggestive of a first winter Grey-headed Wagtail (M. thunbergi). This would only be the second autumn thunbergi in the UK this autumn. In other news, a Garden Warbler, 35 Chiffchaffs, 24 Goldcrests, four Spotted Flycatchers and a Pied Flycatcher were seen.

Probable Grey-headed Wagtail. Features which made this bird rather distinctive were the reduced and quite weak supercilum, very dark ear coverts, with the dark colouring continuing over the head and mantle, and an almost complete dark mottled 'shoal' on the breast. Interestingly, Martin Garner found a very similar-looking bird at Flamborough recently, which can be seen HERE 
For comparison, this typical flavissima Yellow Wagtail was seen late in the afternoon on the 19th

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

A handful of new arrivals were recorded on another stunning autumn's day. These comprised a smart male Common Redstart, trapped and ringed in Cristin garden; a smart Ring Ouzel, which managed to escape out of an open mist net in Cristin Withy; a Crossbill, one Lesser Redpoll and three Tree Pipits overhead, tagging along with some 170 Meadow Pipits; and a good total of 28 Chiffchaffs, along with five Spotted Flycatchers. Out to sea, two Mediterranean Gulls flew by in the early hours, whilst nine Purple Sandpipers were amongst a flock of 47 Turnstones around the Narrows.

It was another good day for butterflies, with the continued movement of Red Admirals now amounting to several hundred individuals every day at the moment. In addition to this movement, several Small Whites were seen in various locations, whilst the first Speckled Wood of the year was found around Nant.

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The view from the new 'vis mig' bench above the obs back garden. A good spot for picking out flocks of Meadow Pipits and Swallows heading south, as well as the odd Grey Wagtail or Skylark. Today's highlights from the bench included the Crossbill and a Lesser Redpoll
The first winter male Redstart
Small numbers of Wheatears have been moving along the coast recently, and some have been quite smart indeed
Pink-barred Sallow 
Feathered Ranunculus

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Although still a very pleasant day indeed, there seemed to have been a significant clear out of migrants overnight, and the passage of birds over the island during the morning was much slower than yesterday. In total, four Skylarks, 153 Swallows, 83 House Martins, 114 House Martins, seven Grey Wagtails and 36 White Wagtails were recorded in the morning, whilst a single Song Thrush, 32 Wheatears, three Whitethroats, four Blackcaps and 16 Chiffchaffs were seen around the coast and in the vegetated areas. Waders were certainly on the move today: singles of Greenshank, Ringed Plover, Golden Plover, Lapwing and Dunlin passed over the coast, whilst two each of Knot and Whimbrel were also seen.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Generally over the past week, the number of common migrants on the island has been disappointingly low. However, after yesterday's slight rise in migrant figures, it appears that the gusty easterly wind and clear skies have finally done the trick. Today, a fair increase in the number of warblers around was very apparent, along with some very respectable totals of other passerine migrants.

Migrants were most obviously moving through the island between 0800 and 1130, during which time about 819 Swallows, 231 House Martins, 278 Meadow Pipits, 34 Grey Wagtails, a Sand Martin, one Yellow Wagtail, two Blue-headed Wagtails, six Skylarks and a Tree Pipit flew south and east over the island. A pipit flushed out of the north west fields sounded like it could have been a Red-throated Pipit, whilst a Wryneck was seen near Plas, and a Greenshank flew around The Narrows. Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler numbers were similar to yesterday, with about 15 each, whilst single Redstart, Whinchat and Lesser Whitethroat were seen alongside four Grasshopper Warblers.

In terms of non-passerines, the most notable records of the day comprised three Teals, a Buzzard, one Sanderling, seven Snipe, four Whimbrels, one Arctic Skua, seven Mediterranean Gulls, 1908 Kittiwakes and a Common Tern.

There were fewer Spotted Flycatchers around today in comparison to yesterday. This particular bird was certainly feeding very well in the calm conditions, successfully catching wasps, flies and this rather impressive Red Admiral!
Tree Pipit 
Sexton Beetle covered in mites. Apparently, the mites often use such beetles merely as a means of transport between food sources such as dung. The mites may even help to keep beetle pests down, feeding on small invertebrates in the beetle 'galleries', However, some instances have also shown the mites to be parasitic
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In other news, it appears that we have missed a Shrike!! This bee was found impaled upon some barbed wire at the north end of the island one or two days ago. This is characteristic of shrikes, and is most likely to be the scarce autumn migrant Red-backed Shrike

Sunday, 14 September 2014

There was a small movement of seabirds off the west side of the island in the morning, which included two Balearic Shearwaters, nine Wigeons, 42 Common Scoters, an Arctic Skua, four Mediterranean Gulls, 191 Black-headed Gulls and 10 Common Gulls and two Sandwich Terns. A Turtle Dove appeared in the north-west fields, after disappearing for a few days, but remained elusive. Visible migration in the morning was again quite entertaining, with a total of 236 Swallows191 Meadow Pipits, one Yellow Wagtail, one 'Flava' Wagtail, 12 Grey Wagtails and nine 'alba' Wagtails recorded. Warbler numbers seemed to be on the increase, but other passerine migrants were also arriving inland: a single Redstart, two Whinchats, 33 Wheatears, two each of Grasshopper and Sedge Warblers, three Blackcaps, ten Spotted Flycatchers and almost 20 each of Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler were the final totals for the day.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

It was an interesting day in that, despite the flat calm and sunny weather, most avian action was centred sea-ward. In the early hours, the first Black-throated Diver of the year flew past the South Tip, along with four Wigeons, three Shelducks and five Common Scoters. Continued seawatching efforts throughout the day yielded with some nice oddities, including a Pomarine Skua, an Arctic Skua, five Mediterranean Gulls and some 129 Black-headed Gulls. In terms of migrants on terra firma, a Wryneck was seen around Cristin, 229 Meadow Pipits passed overhead, and two Spotted Flycatchers were in the withies.

Friday, 12 September 2014

It was another pleasant day, with one or two scarce bird making up for the absence of many common migrants. In the morning, a smart juvenile Red-breasted Flycatcher was discovered in Ogof Diban (a deep gully at the very south tip of the island). It was a very Fair Isle-esque setting, and the flycatcher certainly seemed a bit out of place feeding on large Sea Slaters on the rocky beach at the bottom of the gully!

In other news, a Wryneck was seen at Cristin, where a Ring Ouzel was also seen later on in the day; two Yellow Wagtails flew overhead, along with 27 Grey Wagtails, three Skylarks, a Sand Martin and 74 Swallows; a single Whinchat was present on the South End and two Spotted Flycatchers were seen inland. In terms of non-passerines, the most noteworthy sightings of the day included two Teals, 16 Common Scoters, a Kestrel, a Knot, a Snipe, a Common Sandpiper, one Arctic Skua and a Sandwich Tern.

The last few years have been quite good for Red-breasted Flycatchers on Bardsey. Last year, for example, there were at least four records, the first of which was on 21 September. This is the 80th record of this species on the island 
There are still some Manx Shearwater chicks in the burrows around the island, although the majority have already fledged 
Pied Wagtail

Thursday, 11 September 2014

It was another day of clear skies, dazzling sunshine, warm temperatures and very calm north-easterly winds. However, the marked absence of any significant numbers of common migrants continues to puzzle. The highest numbers come from the movements of birds over the South End and The Narrows in the early hours. This morning's totals amounted to: one Swift, one Sand Martin, 128 Swallows, a Tree Pipit, 156 Meadow Pipits, a 'flava' Wagtail and 17 Grey Wagtails. In the afternoon, a Wryneck was seen briefly at Nant (likely to be different to the bird from previous days), and three Whinchats, a Song Thrush, two Blackcaps and two Spotted Flycatchers were also noted. A flock of three Ruffs and a Golden Plover over the South End were the highlight of a small movement of waders in the morning. Other species noted at high tide included a Ringed Plover, four Dunlins, a Snipe, a Whimbrel, four Redshanks and seven Turnstones. Out to sea, a minor passage of terns included 16 Sandwich Terns, four Common Terns and six Arctic Terns.

The young Peregrines continue hunt and play around the island, although they are gradually becoming more serious in their hunting (as opposed to the playful scraps the juveniles often had with Oystercatchers and Choughs)

Take this scene, for example.... 
This unfortunate Turnstone was pursued by two juvenile Peregrines, one of which came very close indeed to pinning the wader down. However, the Peregrine couldn't quite close the gap, and so this particular Turnstone managed to escape (this time) 
The Little Owl family on Pen Cristin have dispersed somewhat now, although occasionally one of the adults can be seen hiding away in the mature gorse bushes 
Sparrowhawks continue to terrorise passerines around the island. This particular female interrupted a Rock Pipit-ringing session on Solfach mid-morning, and spent ten minutes perched on top of the portable Heligoland!
The last broods of Swallows have now fledged, and will be joining the southward-bound stream of migrants in no time at all

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Despite the glorious weather and very low winds, there were relatively few common migrants around the island. Indeed, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler counts for the last few days have not exceeded five. The Wryneck was seen in the early hours around Cristin, whilst a passage of Swallows and Meadow Pipits overhead amounted to 107 and 86 respectively. Another good count of Grey Wagtails was made, with 10 seen overhead in the morning, and 28 White Wagtails around The Narrows was another respectable figure.

This adult female White Wagtail was trapped in Ty Pellaf Reed Bed during an evening mist netting session at the wagtail roost. The bird was carrying four colour rings and a BTO ring, which could be used to promptly track down the origins of this bird. It turns out that this individual was ringed on the 16th of September 2012 in Slapton Marshes, Devon. Last year, this same bird was re-sighted in North-west Iceland, on the 30th of July 2013!

The re-sighting location of this White Wagtail last year