Wednesday, 18 April 2018

We had our fingers crossed that things would improve on the weather front, and whilst yesterday's strong winds continued to batter the island the addition today of some warm sunshine made leading our third guided wildlife walk of the year a pleasure. A great bunch of six participants enjoyed views of two Bar-tailed Godwits that pitched up on Henllwyn as well some of the impressive flock of 88 Purple Sandpipers on Solfach. 

Birds seen today included three Fulmars, 13 Gannets, three Sparrowhawks, a Kestrel, 11 Whimbrel, 16 Turnstones, the first Sandwich Tern of the year, a Commic Tern, a Little Owl, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Sand Martin, 15 Swallows, two White Wagtails, seven alba Wagtails, three Stonechats, five Wheatears, two Grasshopper Warblers, 13 Blackcaps, nine Chiffchaffs, 17 Willow Warblers, four Goldcrests, six Chaffinches, 17 Goldfinches, 62 Linnets and three Lesser Redpolls.

Ben made this interesting discovery today - a two-flowered Daisy affected by a rare condition known as 'fasciation'. © Ben Porter


Nils has enjoyed a week's volunteering on the island funded through a BTO young birder's grant. He immediately settled into the wardening team and was a fantastic help today on the guided walk, sharing his impressive bird knowledge with visitors. He also takes great photos! © Nils Bussink

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

It was a blustery, rainy and overcast day with gusts reaching 65mph at times. The main highlight came for the sea, with the first Great Skua of the year making a close fly past of the north hide late in the morning, hounding a juvenile Herring Gull as it went. However, despite the less than perfect weather conditions, there were still signs of life from the land with a smart male Ring Ouzel found on the mountain late in the afternoon. The first Reed Warbler of the year turned up in the observatory garden with a female Pied Flycatcher, the latter being the third separate individual of the spring.

Otherwise, it was a day for indoor jobs. Billy started redecorating the washroom whilst Ephraim continued drawing up exciting plans for completely redesigning his accommodation at the observatory (currently just a room with a bed!). 

Other birds logged today included three Fulmars, 24 Gannets, a female Merlin, a Knot, 56 Purple Sandpipers, two Snipe, four Whimbrel, the first Common Sandpiper of the year, 17 Turnstones, a Little Owl, the long-staying Great Spotted Woodpecker, three Swallows, 48 Meadow Pipits, 24 Rock Pipits including two littoralis birds, three White Wagtails, two Stonechat, 15 Wheatears, 11 Blackcaps, one Chiffchaff, 12 Willow Warblers, four Goldcrests, three Chaffinches, one Siskin and two Lesser Redpolls.

The inclement weather didn't stop the Willow Warblers from frantically foraging on the lawn in front of our kitchen 

We're currently enjoying one of the best spring passages of Purple Sandpiper in recent years

Monday, 16 April 2018

The harsh weather struck back today, winds reached a howling speed, and rain in the morning definitely made me convince myself I may need a few more coffees this morning, before going out.
As is always the case on days as today, the stormy conditions make for brilliant wader watching conditions, whether this is due to more waders making landfall or because they are forced onto the more visible rocks is unclear. However, a cracking total of 75 Purple Sandpipers made a dazzling highlight to the day, also recorded were two Snipes, three Whimbrels, a Curlew, 16 Redshanks and 13 Turnstones.

Two Puffins were the stand out birds of a sea-watch which also saw 109 Manx Shearwaters pass by out to sea. A Stock Dove was a rare sight for the island, and some more light vismig produced 15 Swallows, 43 Meadow Pipits and two White Wagtails. Six Stonechats and eight Wheatears were the only chats recorded today. Despite the windy conditions some small passerines were still logged, foremost 19 Blackcaps, 18 Chiffchaffs, 13 Willow Warblers, three Goldcrests, 91 Linnets and a Lesser Redpoll.

migrant female Blackcap

Willow Warbler feeding on the lawn at Cristin

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Today is predicted to be one of the last calm days this week, following prolonged calm weather we’ve seen the first passage of Spring migrants with another good showing of Blackcaps so far this Spring. Probably as a result of the calm and warmer weather of late, the first Large White of the year was seen, in Ty Nesaf bathroom of all places!

A Sparrowhawk and a Kestrel were marauding around the island today. Another good day for waders saw 30 Purple Sandpipers, a Snipe, four Whimbrels, 13 Redshanks and 12 Turnstones recorded, all of which were feeding on the rocks around the Narrows, bar the Snipe which was flushed from the Wetlands. The female Great Spotted Woodpecker continues to inhabit Cristin garden, presumably now waiting for a mate. Some light vismig resulted in a Swallow, a Tree Pipit and five White Wagtails being logged today. Other migrants included the three Wheatears, 14 Blackcaps, three Chiffchaffs, 22 Willow Warblers and a Goldcrest, all stopping briefly on the island to feed before moving on. Finches continued to be a key aspect of migration this year, some 84 Goldfinches, 112 Linnets and five Lesser Redpolls were to be seen on the island today.

migrant male Blackcap

Female Great Spotted Woodpecker

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Spring hit hard today, waking up in the morning the island was once again surrounded by a light mist, but following the morning sun it began to lift revealing a beautiful and hot day! The island and its residents, both avian and human, bathed in the sunshine for the remaining day.

Despite the warm weather some winter visitors were still to be observed today foremost a Merlin still present hunting around the Narrows and West Coast of the island, also a Jack Snipe and a single Common Snipe were flushed from the Wetlands.

Willow Warbler in the gorse on Pen Cristin

Three Whimbrels on the Narrows were new migrants and following the foggy weather of late, the clear skies saw the first real passage of migrants overhead primarily hirundines. In total eight Sand Martins, 31 Swallows, 13 House Martins, three Tree Pipits and 26 White Wagtails were recorded, with the latter settling down on the Narrows briefly to feed before moving on. Chats today included a stunning male Redstart which was also caught at the Observatory, also logged were four Stonechats and 47 Wheatears several of which were of the Greenland race O.o.leucorhoa. Warbler numbers saw another fall, but still good numbers were passing through, one Grasshopper Warbler, one Sedge Warbler (the first of the year), 54 Blackcaps, 35 Chiffchaffs, 65 Willow Warblers and 23 Goldcrests were seen today. A male Pied Flycatcher caught at Cristin was a pleasant surprise and kept guests and staff alike entertained. Finally, finch passage was once again very noticeable with 42 Chaffinches, one Brambling, 12 Siskins, 26 Goldfinches and 39 Linnets recorded.

A Serin surely can’t be far behind?

A stunning 2cy male Common Redstart

2cy male Pied Flycatcher

Friday, 13 April 2018

Although numbers of birds didn't quite match up to yesterday, it was still a great day to be out in the field. What was presumably the same 2nd calendar year male Pied Flycatcher as yesterday was still around Nant, and a stunning male Common Redstart was ringed at Ty Nessaf. Interestingly, the plethora of arriving spring migrants were joined by a small number of returning winter migrants, namely three Fieldfares and two Brambling.

Other birds included eight pairs of Fulmars back on ledges around the east side, two Teals, 17 Common Scoters, a Sparrowhawk, a Buzzard, a Merlin, 91 Oystercatchers, nine Purple Sandpipers, the first two Black-tailed Godwits of the year, two Whimbrel, a Curlew, a Common Gull, just a single Puffin, a Collared Dove, the Great Spotted Woodpecker, ten Sand Martins, seven Swallows, a House Martin, 22 Wheatears, a Grasshopper Warbler, 40 Blackcaps, 15 Chiffchaffs, 57 Willow Warblers, 17 Goldcrests, 35 Chaffinches, 19 Siskins and 48 Linnets.

In the moth trap there was a Red Chestnut, two Common Quakers and a Dark Sword-grass.

Jacob, one of our younger guests, has been really enjoying moth mornings at the obs. Here he is completely enthralled by a Red Chestnut. They're his favourite species apparently. Fingers crossed he grows up to become a moth aficionado!

Red Chestnut

A dark, cloudy night provided perfect conditions for Ben, Mark, Ephraim and Billy to head out for a Manx Shearwater ringing session.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Yesterday's calm and mild weather continued into today, and what started off as a fairly quiet morning bird wise soon turned into a classic early spring fall day. An impressive 164 Willow Warblers were flitting about on the cliffs, stone walls and just about every feasible patch of vegetation with 40 Chiffchaffs and 103 Blackcaps. In addition, three Grasshopper Warblers were reeling in the wetlands, two White Wagtails were on the Narrows, three Tree Pipits flew over during the course of the day as did a flava Wagtail. The best was saved until last when a stunning male Pied Flycatcher was discovered at Ty Nessaf this evening.

The fine weather also gave us a chance to get back around to the dramatic cliffs on the east side of the island, this time to count Shag nests. A total of 28 apparently occupied nests were found, some with up to three eggs but none with chicks yet. The nest sites found today will be mapped out and visited regularly to monitor breeding progress throughout the season.

Other birds noted on a fantastic spring day included five Fulmars, a Cormorant, 56 Shags, two Sparrowhawks, a Buzzard, a Water Rail, a Ringed Plover, four Snipes, a Whimbrel, 16 Turnstones, a Puffin, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Sand Martin, seven Swallows, a House Martin, two Black Redstarts, four Stonechats, 39 Wheatears, 17 Goldcrests, a Chaffinch, two Siskins, eight Goldfinches, 21 Linnets, a Bullfinch and a Reed Bunting.



 Pied Flycatcher - note the browner primaries indicating this is a first summer bird.
Willow Warbler
Black Redstart

Shags can lay up to five eggs, but no more than three were seen in any nest on today's visit.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

It was a pleasantly warm and sunny day to be out in the field once the mist had departed. A male Ring Ouzel found on the mountain above Nant and a Grasshopper Warbler reeling in the gorse both spiced things up on the migrant front whilst a good number of other species were noted. Birds today including a Fulmar, a Gannet, five Cormorants, 22 Shags, two Sparrowhawks, a Buzzard, a Merlin, 126 Oystercatchers, four Whimbrels, two Curlews, a Collared Dove, two Little Owls, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Sand Martin, nine Swallows, a White Wagtail, just one Robin (!), ten Blackcaps, 30 Chiffchaffs, 27 Willow Warblers, 17 Goldcrests, the first Rook of the year, three Chaffinches, two Siskins, six Goldfinches, 34 Linnets, four Lesser Redpolls, a Crossbill and a Reed Bunting.

Migrant warblers can be found everywhere and anywhere at the moment, from the dry heathland of the east to the damp bogs of the west!

Ephraim has been making the most of Bardsey's beautiful night skies to create this amazing star trail photography. He's explained it to me before but I still don't have a clue how he does it.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

There was a surprising clear out of migrants following a cloudy and drizzly night. The highlight today came from the sea, with five Bottlenose Dolphins performing well off the south end in the last hour of sunlight. Scarcely seen off Bardsey (certainly much less often than Risso's or Harbour Porpoise) it's tempting to assume that this is part of the same pod that passed by the island last week.

The pick of today's birds included a Fulmar, a Cormorant, four pairs of Shelducks, the female Merlin, a Buzzard, two Peregrines, 103 Oystercatchers, four Whimbrels, a Collared Dove and a Little Owl. Migrant passerine numbers appear to have fallen overnight, with just five Wheatears, three Blackcaps, nine Chiffchaffs, two Willow Warblers and 16 Goldcrests. There were two Chaffinches at the observatory as well as 17 Goldfinches and 44 Linnets moving around in feeding flocks.

Things are starting to liven up in the moth trap, with two Early Thorn, three Dark Sword-grass, an Early Grey, a Mottled Grey, three Common Quakers and a Red Chestnut caught at the obs last night.

The second sighting of Bottlenose Dolphins in as many weeks - same pod doing the rounds?

Harbour Porpoise are the most common cetacean in the waters surrounding the island. Views of dolphins and whales from Bardsey are often distant, but each species have distinctive features that can aid identification. Porpoises keep a very low profile in the water, barely revealing much of their body apart from their noticeably compact dorsal fin when they breach.

This colour-ringed Chough was seen collecting bunches of thrift around her nest site today on the west coast. Unusual amongst Choughs, this female appears to have divorced from her long-term colour-ringed partner this year, and is now building a nest with a new unringed male!

Monday, 9 April 2018

The island was shrouded in an eerie mist as we led the second guided wildlife walk of the year. It came down in waves, one minute we could see down to the Lighthouse then the next we had to squint to see 10 metres in front of our faces. Participants had to imagine Razorbills rafting offshore or Peregrines swooping on the mountain above, but it gave us a chance to appreciate & study some of the non-avian aspects of Bardsey wildlife such as mosses, liverworts, lichens and flowering plants.

Birds noted on what was a fairly quiet day included four Fulmars, 26 Manx Shearwaters, two Sparrowhawks, a Buzzard, a Merlin, two Peregrines, a Water Rail, just 34 Oystercatchers, seven Snipes, a Whimbrel, a Curlew, a Collared Dove, two Little Owls, the Great Spotted Woodpecker, five Swallows, a House Martin, a White Wagtail, three Stonechats, ten Wheatears, a Fieldfare, 16 Blackcaps (a bit of a clear out after yesterday), 46 Chiffchaffs, 11 Willow Warblers, 19 Goldcrests, four Chaffinches, a Siskin, two Goldfinches, 27 Linnets and a male Bullfinch trapped at the observatory.

Other wildlife included two Peacocks that became active when the sea fret cleared and five Harbour Porpoises that passed by in the Sound. Five Dark Sword-grass were trapped overnight in the moth trap, proof that the current southerly winds are not just a source of migrant birds but also migrant lepidoptera!

Billy proposing to one of the guests on the cheap - with a sprig of one of the island's most abundant mosses, Rhytidiadelphus squarrosus.

When the mist did eventually part there was a spectacular cloud inversion. This weather phenomenon occurs where cold air becomes trapped below warm air, becoming saturated and condensing into cloud. Cardigan Bay became a blanket of cloud, with only the highest tops of the Llyn Peninsula peaking through in the distance.

Dark Sword-grass is one of the most common immigrant moth species to arrive in the UK from mainland Europe. It breeds regularly, although moths that turn up this early in the season are usually wanderers from the continent. 

Sunday, 8 April 2018

It was the warmest day of the year today, which combined with calm southerly winds made for fantastic t-shirt birding conditions and a fine selection of migrants recorded. The most tantalising bird of the day was a possible male Bluethroat heard giving snippets of song on several occasions during the morning by two different observers, first at Ty Nessaf and later at Nant Withy. It was clearly elusive, vocalising from deep vegetation on both occasions, but despite searches throughout the rest of the day it was never seen. Knowing that there could be a mesmerising male Bluethroat on the island is both exciting and frustrating, so we're all keeping our fingers crossed that it resurfaces and can be pinned down in the next couple of days!

Elsewhere, highlights included the first Grasshopper Warbler of the year at Ty Pellaf, two Black Redstarts at the Lighthouse and Plas respectively, a Hooded Crow that flew north over the island and two late Fieldfares that toured the island during the course of the morning. Numbers of common migrants were again on the up; the Cristin mist nets were manned all morning as it soon became apparent that Blackcaps, Goldcrests and Goldfinches were moving through the observatory garden at a considerable rate. Other birds included four Fulmars, a Gannet, two Sparrowhawks, two Buzzards, a Kestrel, a Merlin, two Peregrines, three Water Rails, the first Ringed Plover of the year, two Whimbrels, one Curlew, 14 Redshanks, 13 Turnstones, 265 Razorbills, three Collared Doves (including a singing bird), a Little Owl, five Stonechats, four Wheatears, 14 Blackbirds, 63 Blackcaps, 65 Chiffchaffs, 22 Willow Warblers, 87 Goldcrests, two Firecrests, 12 Chaffinches, 15 Siskins, 56 Goldfinches, 71 Linnets and three Lesser Redpolls.

 A busy morning in the ringing hut!

Blackcap fresh in resting on the rocks around Traeth Ffynnon

A gulp of Cormorants loitering in Henllwyn

Willow Warbler feeding in the Wetlands

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Changeover day meant we had to say goodbye to Icky Steve and Rob, our two fantastic volunteers who have been great company at the observatory this past week. Steve has completely transformed the LSA hut where our assistant wardens and volunteers usually sleep, applying a new coat of 'mushroom' colour paint (it looks much better than it sounds!), whilst Rob has worked his magic in the garden by digging us some potato and onion patches.

We welcomed the first family of guests to the island for a week's stay, but not before another clean of the observatory that limited the amount of time spent in the field. Today's birds included three Fulmars, six Cormorants, five Shelducks, a Buzzard over the mountain, two Merlins, a Water Rail, 98 Oystercatchers, a Snipe, a Whimbrel, 11 Turnstones, 23 Kittiwakes, two Puffins amongst the increasing rafts of Razorbills and Guillemots, two Collared Doves, six Sand Martins, 13 Swallows, 83 Meadow Pipits, four Stonechats, a Wheatears, a Song Thrush, a Redwing, a mini fall of 50 Blackcaps, 101 Chiffchaffs and 72 Willow Warblers, 38 Goldcrests, two Firecrests, three Blue tits, 11 Chaffinches, one Greenfinch, 19 Siskins, 44 Goldfinches, 30 Linnets, two Bullfinches and a Reed Bunting.

Our freshly dug vegetable patches courtesy of Rob. Thanks Rob! 

The caterpillars of Acleris hyemana feed on heather. It is a common moth in the island's upland habitats. Unlike many species which spend the winter as caterpillars or pupae, this species overwinters as an adult. This individual, presumably recently re-awoken, was flying around the courtyard this afternoon.

Friday, 6 April 2018

With our first group of guests due to arrive tomorrow, it was all hands on deck to give the observatory a much needed deep clean. Binoculars were replaced by dustpans and brushes for the best part of the day, but we still managed to fit in a bit of birding in between the polishing.

A pair of Teals that landed on Nant Pond in the afternoon were the first since two birds on 23rd March and a smart summer plumage Golden Plover was the first since three on 11th March. At sea, a Fulmar, three Manx Shearwaters and ten Gannets were seen, whilst raptor interest came in the form of a female Sparrowhawk at Nant, a female Merlin and a Peregrine. The ever present Great Spotted Woodpecker was drumming in the observatory garden for much of the day and two unringed Blue tits were visiting the feeders there. Migrant warbler numbers were slightly down on the past couple of days, with six Blackcaps, 33 Chiffchaffs and 17 Willow Warblers noted. There were two Firecrests, one at Plas Withy and another at the observatory. Several roaming finch flocks contained 13 Chaffinches, seven Goldfinches, 17 Siskins and 15 Linnets whilst an elusive female Bullfinch was seen at the observatory.

No matter how wintry and bleak the island may still feel at times, Daffodils have an unrivalled ability to make it look like spring!

Thursday, 5 April 2018

We carried on from where we left off yesterday and resumed the first guided wildlife walk of the season under clear blue skies. Participants enjoyed fantastic views of the first two White Wagtails of the season, several migrant Chiffchaffs feeding on the shingle on Solfach and a spectacular chase between a female Merlin and an unfortunate Meadow Pipit.

Elsewhere, totals for the day included two Manx Shearwaters off the south end, 20 Gannets, three Cormorants, a Grey Heron, a Canada Goose (a scarce bird on Bardsey) a Buzzard, 112 Oystercatchers and nine Turnstones. The Collared Dove remained as did the Great Spotted Woodpecker, and at last the first Sand Martin of the year went north with three Swallows. A Stonechat, 13 Wheatears, eight Blackcaps, 39 Chiffchaffs, ten Willow Warblers, 11 Goldcrests, a Firecrest, a Blue tit, 11 Chaffinches, 20 Linnets and a Bullfinch made up the rest of the day's sightings.

 This fine male White Wagtail was one of two on the Narrows today © Rob Bithell

This photo of the Purple Sandpipers at Solfach has emerged from a few days ago. How many birds can you count? I make it 48. © Rob Bithell

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Today saw us lead the first of our weekly guided wildlife walks this year. 14 keen and enthusiastic participants joined us to learn more about the flora and fauna of the island, but almost as soon as we'd headed off down the track a bank of thick cloud descended from over the mountain and bought with it heavy rain and strong winds that set in for the rest of the day. Needless to say we all agreed to reconvene tomorrow when the weather forecast is supposed to be more forgiving!

Despite the inclement conditions a nice selection of migrants were noted. A Yellowhammer first seen at Ty Capel was later ringed at Ty Nesaf and 28 Blackcaps spread across the island was a significant increase on yesterday. Two Manx Shearwaters passed by the south end early in the morning (many more were calling after dark!) where the female Merlin was also seen. There were 121 Oystercatchers, 30 Purple Sandpipers, a Dunlin, three Snipes, a Whimbrel, a Curlew, 19 Redshanks and 24 Turnstones. A single Puffin was in the Sound with at least 180 Razorbills and 85 Guillemots. Two Collared Doves remained as did the Great Spotted Woodpecker. 13 Swallows moved overheard during the morning with the first House Martin of the year. Other passerines included 172 Meadow Pipits, a Stonechat, 12 Wheatears, 87 Chiffchaffs, 24 Willow Warblers, 15 Goldcrests, 10 Chaffinches, eight Siskins, 45 Goldfinches (in two mobile flocks), 14 Linnets and a Lesser Redpoll.

Left to right, top to bottom: Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Chaffinch, Blackcap

There are never more than one or two records of Yellowhammer every year, and they are rarely trapped on the island. Today's stunning individual was identified as an immature male. 

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Today was one of those day's where clouds move across the sky almost faster than you can track them with your eyes. It was distinctly breezy, but thankfully this meant that any rain showers were quickly blown over the island and for most of the day we were bathing in sunshine. It was perfect weather for taking part in the beach clean organised by Island Manager Siân Stacey. A fantastic effort by islanders and guests alike meant that three tonnes of rubbish was removed from the shoreline, really hitting home just how much junk (polystyrene foam was a particularly bad offender) is floating in our seas. A link for donating to the Bardsey Island Trust's ongoing beach clean appeal can be found here

A jolly bunch of Bardsey beach cleaners! © Siân Stacey

Birdwise, the rarity highlight of the day came as we were all enjoying a well earned post-beach clean cuppa, when Icky Steve picked out a Wigeon heading low over the island. However, the most impressive event of the day was without a doubt the impressive fall of Chiffchaffs that took place. It seemed as though every gorse bush contained a feeding warbler, with the minimum total coming to an impressive 128. Other birds seen today included six Manx Shearwaters at sea, a Grey Heron, four Shelducks, a Sparrowhawk, one of the female Merlins, two Water Rails, 129 Oystercatchers, two Whimbrels, a Collared Dove, 99 Meadow Pipits, a Black Redstart, three Stonechats, a large arrival of 31 Wheatears, four Blackcaps, five Willow Warblers, a Blue tit, 20 Chaffinches, five Linnets, two Bullfinches and presumably yesterday's Hawfinch heard first thing.

Chiffchaffs and Wheatears were the stars of today, with a huge increase in numbers for both species compared to yesterday 

This female Great-spotted Woodpecker has been on the island since August last year. The first over-wintering record for the island - all she needs now is a mate!