Friday, 14 June 2019

Today was the calmest day we have had for a while now and the rain held off until the evening. The forecast has been all over the place and far from accurate over the last few days (useless weather forecasters!) but this week has been far better than expected.

The nets were opened early and we were rewarded when a male Cuckoo was caught at the observatory, a seemingly late bird. The bird showed no signs of breeding so many on its trip home already or a non-breeder. Another highlight today was a Skylark seen heading south over the narrows, a surprisingly hard to see bird on the island this spring. Other birds included a couple of Redpoll, a Grey Heron and still lots of juveniles from Rock Pipits to Ravens.

The main events of the day was a group going around the east side of the mountain to ring more sea birds. The ringing was spread over a few Shag broods, lots of Guillimots and Razorbills, plus Herring Gulls and Lesser Black-backed Gulls. Today was the first day we targeted the adult Guillimots and the chicks too.

Male Cuckoo

Guillimot chick learning behaviour from its parent

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Still windy today, and although it was a bit muddier than preferred, the assistant wardens went to check the call back rate of occupied Manx Shearwater burrows. This involves finding a burrow that is know to be occupied and playing a Manx Shearwater call into the burrow. By seeing what percentage of shearwaters respond to the call, it's possible to estimate the call back rate of apparently occupied burrows. 

At 16:00 the Observatory team headed to the North End gull colony to ring Herring Gull chicks, in total 80 chicks were ringed, along with a few Razorbills that were caught as nice bonuses. In total there were 156 Herring Gull nests in the North End colony, they prefer nesting on the flatter rocks near the sea, compared to Lesser Black-backed Gulls that nest on the grassy slopes.

Adult Herring Gull at North End
In the evening a Storm Petrel and Manxie ringing session took place, which meant a late night (or early morning) finish. Six Storm Petrels were caught, of which three were re-traps, and 25 Manx Shearwaters were ringed, with plenty of recoveries including a bird with an 'E' ring which would not have been ringed on Bardsey, where we use Fc rings.

Storm Petrel caught at Nant Valley

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Once again the weather really stopped play today. A stiff breeze from the north and rain in the morning means that no ringing can take place which is where the focus is at this time of year as more and more juveniles are appearing especially in the sea bird colony.

The number of family parties around the island are increasing with large fluffy Oystercatcher chicks being seen following their parents and copying their every move, as well as small parties of Linnets, Pied Wagtails and Wheatears.

The guided walk still went ahead in less than ideal conditions but with a good group of people it didnt put anyone off. The moth Trap held very little but a Small Angle Shades and White Ermine are always crowd pleasers as well as the Small Elephant Hawk moth that we still had from the trap the day before. The highlights of the walk included good views of Choughs and young Linnets being fed by their parents as well as the Golden Hair Lichen and the famous Sharp Rush.

Chough flying past

Grey Heron

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

The weather turned on us today, no rain but strong wind meant that mist-netting was not an option. Instead, a brood of Swallow chicks was ringed at Ty Pellaf, compared to previous years there are considerably fewer nests this year, with only three being active. Many of the old Swallow nests have been modified by Wrens, with mossy roofs fitted over the top of the Swallow nest to fit the Wren's needs.

A recount of the South End apparently occupied Manx Shearwater burrows took place, it is one of least densely packed areas of the island but there are still hundreds of burrows to be counted.

The birds of the day have to be a male and female Cuckoo that were up at Nant, getting endlessly mobbed the resident Meadow Pipits. Also around were four Spotted Flycatchers and two juvenile Goldcrests. Juvenile birds of all species are being seen daily now, with plenty of Linnets, Stonechats, Magpies, Blackbirds, Dunnocks and Chaffinches being recorded. Hopefully, the next few day's weather won't prove too much for them to contend with, strong wind and heavy rain have been forecast, which is not the best introduction into the world!

Juvenile Stonechat caught at Cristin in recent days. Photo - Ed Betteridge

At 00:00 members of the Observatory crew headed out to catch and ring Manx Shearwaters at the north west end of Bardsey, the weather became fairly unpleasant (to say the least) at around 01:30. However, 41 birds were ringed and 25 re-traps were recorded, one of which was originally ringed in 1997.

Monday, 10 June 2019

The weather today was to be the best of the week to come, the sun was out and for most of the day with wind was down in the low teens from the north.

Due to the weather and the weather to come this week the opportunity was taken to go round the east side of the mountain to ring sea birds, namely Choughs, Shags and Razorbills. One brood of shags and Choughs were ringed but the Razorbills held the number with 114 birds ringed including some adults caught in the rocks. This involved climbing down to an area called seal cave where large boulders have formed lots of crevices, perfect for nesting Razorbills. The nests are normally fairly obvious with large amounts of  excrement in the area and the little chicks squealing away from the cracks, this, however, does not mean they are easy to get to! So, the vast majority of the day was spent sprawling ourselves across the rocks looking in every crack and crevice before reaching your hand in, often up to your shoulder, to either pull out a cute fluffy ball of a Razorbill chick or to get savagely mauled by the adults! All good fun...

In other news around the island, a Black-headed Gull spent the day again, Shelduck chicks were seen in Solfach which must be a new brood, and a Spotted Flycatcher was trapped and ringed at the observatory.

Adult Razorbill

A very young Razorbill

A not so young Razorbill

Sunday, 9 June 2019

We got the nets open at Cristin today and although it was quiet (quite expected in June), a Robin and House Sparrow were amongst the birds caught. Robins severely dropped in numbers ever since the beast from the east, none are breeding this year so it seems, so any recorded here are birds that are moving around. House Sparrows are rare on Bardsey, the male that was caught today has been around for a couple of days and was simply caught by chance. 
Taken for granted on the mainland, however, male House Sparrows are
undeniably handsome birds
After ringing in the morning we went round to the East side to ring Chough chicks, they nest in fairly inaccessible places and so some scrambling is required to get to the nests!
Chough chick, juvenile Choughs have orange bills and legs, unlike
the adult's characteristic bright red bare parts! Photo - Ed Betteridge
Along with the Choughs, Razorbill Pulli were also ringed and some nest counts were done for Kittiwakes and Fulmars

Saturday, 8 June 2019

Today the weather started a little miserable but cleared up and after the new guests had arrived it turned into a stunning evening.

Birds were thin on the ground but a Knot on the beach with a single Dunlin was only the second record of the year, this bird however was not in summer plumage so presumably a young bird. Other counts included now two Grey Herons, three Whitethroats, three Blackcaps, three Spotted Flycatchers and three Canada Geese.

Clouded-bordered Brindle in the moth trap

Friday, 7 June 2019

The weather today was dreadful, rain was on and off all day and the wind picked up to over 20mph by the evening so the main focus was to catch up on some paper work.

After the excitement of yesterday today was the polar opposite. The House Sparrow was still around the observatory garden and a notable new bird was a Lesser Whitethroat at nant which is the first for a while and a late record. Other than this juveniles seem to be more common and although numbers are down on recent years young Linnets, Carrion Crows and Wrens are being seen regularly now.

Rock Pipit in the Thrift

Yellow Rattle - This is a species that has had huge peaks and troughs on Bardsey due to the change in farming over the years. In 1956 it was considered common in pastures, then 30 years later it was considered very scarce and in 2000 none was found on the island, the decline had continued and extinction was possible. This year there is one prominent hay-meadow field that is full of this species along with Cuckoo Flowers, Meadow Buttercups and various grasses, how it should be!

Thursday, 6 June 2019

After a Shearwater walk that finished in the early hours of the morning, a few of us were up a bit later than usual, which was a shame as the morning was the calmest and brightest it has been for weeks. There was barely a cloud in the sky and the wind was minimal, just a slight south westerly. This calm weather gave the Observatory staff the chance to visit the Gwylan Islands to ring seabirds, they are a small pair of islands 20 minutes from Bardsey that are densely packed with: Puffins, Razorbills, Guillemots, Shags and Gulls.

A bit of excitement took place before the day trip though, when a Greenish Warbler was heard at Cristin by the Warden who heard it from the toilet, and by BBFO Volunteer Ed Betteridge who also happened to hear it whilst peeing in the bushes. After everyone had viewed it in the field, it made its way to the mouth of the Heligoland trap and the Assistant Wardens pushed it into the catching box. That's the 19th record for the island.

Greenish Warbler caught at Cristin - Photo: Lewis Hooper
As well as the Greenish Warbler there were also two Sandwich Terns, 15 Common Scoters and Hooded Crow. So all in all not a bad morning for the island. 

At 12:00 the staff headed down to the slipway to catch the boat, we had a mist-net, poles and other ringing equipment, including darvic rings for the Shags and Herring Gulls, meaning we had a fair amount of items to get up the steep slopes of the Gwylans. 
Darvic ringed Shags in the nest

'Baby' Shag

Razorbill Chick - Photo: Ed Betteridge
After four hours of counting burrows and ringing birds, it was time to depart, all very happy with having had the unique opportunity to enter a seabird colony. With any luck, we'll be back at the same time next week!

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

The weather was much calmer today, the wind started with a stiff breeze from the southwest but finished fairly calm and rain was minimal throughout the day.

Avian highlights were thin on the ground, Birds of prey put in a show with singles of Kestrel, Peregrine, Sparrowhawk and Buzzard. Spotted Flycatchers were still around with an island count of eight, as well as a single Swift, and an impressive 44 House Martins and 21 Swallows.

Waders were in small numbers, Curlew numbers were up to four, Whimbrels at two and a single Ringed Plover and Sanderling joined by six Dunlin and three Turnstone.

However, in two hours of seawatching Manx Shearwaters came in at just under 1500 and Gannets numbered almost 50.

Summer plumage Turnstone 

Wren protecting its young

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

It was the final day of this month's CBC (Common Bird Census) today, which meant slowly walking the west side of the mountain listening for and mapping singing birds, such as Wrens and Meadow Pipits.

The rain and south-west winds made recording difficult today. However, one island rarity was sighted at 11:00, when three Barnacle Geese landed in the lowlands before flying across to the Narrows. This is the 21st record of the species ever recorded on Bardsey and continues this year's high wildfowl count!
Barnacle Geese on the Narrows

Other birds around today include: two Turnstones, one Sanderling, six Dunlins, one Ringed Plover, one Grey Heron, two Swifts, 18 House Martins, 20 Swallows, five Sedge Warblers and seven Spotted Flycatchers.
Summer Plumage Sanderling on Solfach

Monday, 3 June 2019

today proved to be a nice day on Bardsey, although we aren't getting the temperature of the east coast at the moment it was pleasant when you were out of the strong south westerly wind.

A Swift provided some entertainment whizzing around the observatory at midday and a small flock of four Sandwich Terns headed south down the west coast. A lone Whimbrel was still in Cafn along with two Curlews. More counts included 24 Linnets, 7 Spotted Flycatchers, 11 Wheatears, three Dunlins, three Ringed Plovers and a good count of 88 Gannets feeding off the coast.

In some non-avian news the first Common Spotted Orchids of the year were found near the farm made up of five spikes.

Common Spotted Orchid showing the nice spotted leaves                              Lewis Hooper

A Razorbill photographed earlier in the week in which the ring can be read, it turns out to be a bird ringed at a chick on Bardsey in 2001!
Lewis Hooper

Sunday, 2 June 2019

Another day, another rarity... Despite the 30mph southerly winds and heavy rain, BBFO volunteer Ed Betteridge took an early walk up to the Plantation in the morning and came back to the Observatory saying he had potentially heard a Golden Oriole. The morning was too wet and windy to get on with any breeding bird surveys so it wasn't until 12:00 when we got on with census work. Ed walked back up to the Plantation and sure enough saw the Golden Oriole flying in and out of the trees, up the mountain and around the withies at Nant! Not a bad first full day on the island. The bird hung around Nant all day, but was hard to get good views of, which is pretty standard for this species. 
Golden Oriole over Nant

As well as the oriole, yet another fall of Spotted flycatchers had hit Bardsey with 23 recorded at Nant and a handful more around the Withies and Cristin. Two Siskins were also present in the plantation these are probably one of the suspected breeding pairs and are frequently calling.

Other birds around include: three Chiffchaffs, two Willow Warblers, one Sedge Warbler, three Sedge Warblers, five Dunnocks, 13 House Martins, 12 Swallows, two Turnstones, three Dunlins and six Ringed Plovers.

Saturday, 1 June 2019

Today started much calmer and the wind was down to single figures for the evening and still from the south. after several days of windy conditions, mist and rain it was a nice change to have a calm, and even warm at time, day.

With more birdable conditions today some late migrants popped up, most notably our second Common Rosefinch of the spring in with a flock of 3 Lesser Redpolls in the early morning. In addition to this there was a Reed Warbler in the south end gorse with some strong face markings that gave some people a run around and a singing Cuckoo at Nant that was given a hard time by just about everything.

The number of Spotted Flycatchers had increased again to a total of 14, and the number of waders dramatically increased overnight with 17 Sanderling, lots in summer plumage, 5 Dunlin and 6 Ringed Plover.
In juvenile news there was some young Wrens at nant being fiercely protected by their parents as well as the first juvenile Linnet of the year at the observatory.

Cuckoo being chased by a Meadow Pipit                               Lewis Hooper

The first juvenile Wrens                       Lewis Hooper 

Sanderling                        Lewis Hooper
In some non avian news, the first Hummingbird Hawk-moth was seen on the wing hovering around the Fuchsia and two Common Seals were seen loafing with the Grey Seals. 

Friday, 31 May 2019

The weather died down just enough for the boat to make a crossing today, a 20mph southerly wind was borderline though...
The Manx Shearwater census continued today, almost a third of the island is now complete. The number of burrows has continued to rise since the last census six years ago. 

We were hoping to ring a few Herring Gull chicks in the afternoon, but after getting the darvics ready along with the usual ringing kit it turned out that the chicks were just slightly too small to ring. It was a chance to see inside the gull colony and gauge how far along the nests are. 
Herring Gull chicks in the nest, relying on their camouflaged feathers for protection
A Black-headed Gull was the third record of the year and was recorded on Solfach today, this was probably the bird of the day. Other birds include: one Grey Heron, one Little Owl, nine Stonechats, two Sedge Warblers, four Whitethroats, three Spotted Flycatchers, three Ravens, six Choughs, one White Wagtail and one Blackcap

Thursday, 30 May 2019

The wind remained strong and fog blew through the island all day leaving some guests stranded fro another day, consequences of visiting a remote island.

Juvenile birds are now appearing in small numbers around the island, with around 70 pairs of Oystercatcher nesting there is now four juveniles seen scampering around with their parents. Also, Juvenile tail-less Meadow Pipits are popping up with their parents fiercely trying to defend them if you get too close and one juvenile Rock Pipit seen on the south end. four Ravens have been seen regularly on the mountain including two adults and the two fresh looking juveniles with them. In some sad news however the pair of Shelducks raising their ducklings in Solfach have had all their chick predated, the most recent three seem taken by a single Herring Gull frequenting the beach.

Bog Bean                                                Lewis Hooper

Buff Tip                                       Lewis Hooper 

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

There were strong northerly winds all day today, mixed with some driving rain. So although not the easiest conditions to record birds in, it was an ideal day to catch up with IPMR (Integrated Population Monitoring Reporter), which is the programme that the bird ringing data is entered into. 

With little avian news, here are some photos of slow worms found around Cristin in last week's warmer weather. Slow worms are legless lizards, with eyelids and a flat tongue unlike the forked tongues of snakes. Slow worms do not reproduce by laying eggs, instead giving birth to live young (neonates) in late summer. Females can be identified from males by their larger size (up to 50cm) and dark markings on the side and occasionally the back; males can also have small blue spots. Neonates can be identified by their small size, dark bellies and flanks, and dark dorsal stripe. Slow worms can also drop their tails (caudal autotomy) as a defence from predators.
A large female Slow Worm, presumably pregnant, showing a blunt tail tip indicating that it has been dropped in the past.

One of a few young Slow Worms found, presumably born last year.
A brief recce of the Herring Gull colony revealed that around half the nests now contain chicks, so far no auk chicks have been seen, but this isn't to say that there aren't any present. 

Other birds around include: two Collared Doves, one Little Owl, two Sedge Warblers, two Whitethroats and five Spotted Flycatchers.

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

The day started with a fairly strong wind from the west but died down in the evening.

There was again little movement in terms of migrants, however, a Reed Warbler found singing at the observatory in the early morning was a nice surprise. Also, towards the evening a report from a visitor claimed a Common Redstart on the top of the mountain along with other migrants including one Swift and 11 Spotted Flycatchers.

Numbers of finches were up including 2 Siskins which may be thinking of breeding, 25 Linnets mostly breeding birds, 7 Goldfinchs and 3 Chaffinchs. Other numbers included 17 Magpie, 17 Wheatears, 55 Meadow Pipits, 15 House Martins, 31 Swallows, two Peregrines, one Kestrel, one Common Buzzard and three Common Scoters.

 In addition to this, there was a Manx Shearwater walk lead at night which, for the first time this year, included some Storm Petrel ringing. It is a little bit early in the season but one bird was caught, a re-trap of a bird caught on the island. Safe to say everyone was happy!

Storm Petrel                                   Tom Williams  
Ragged Robin, a typical wild flower in wet grassland and very abundant at the moment 

Monday, 27 May 2019

Breezy weather today reaching about 20mph, followed by a heavy shower in the late afternoon which caught a few people out, having to make a mad dash for shelter! Ten Spotted Flycatchers were recorded today, so still pretty good numbers. Many of the ones that have been caught have been extremely skinny and carrying little to no fat, so we can assume they are migrants that have almost just flown in.

The Manx Shearwater burrow count continued today, and happily there is a notable increase in the Apparently Occupied Burrow (AOB) count, of around 20% or so. Good news for Bardsey and the birds.

Swallows are still in the egg laying phase, several nests around the out-houses on the island have eggs in, up to four, but most are still on one or two. House Martins are also breeding around the lighthouse which is good news, and one was caught at Cristin yesterday evening which was a nice surprise. However, Sand Martins have not been recorded for weeks now!
House Martin caught at Cristin, a tiny bird with a (proportionally) very long wing! Special care is required when ringing this species as the tarsus is short and feathered, in fact, even the toes are feathered.

A Common Seal was seen in Henllwyn today, which was spotted in amongst the usual Grey Seals. These two species lead quite different lives, Common Seals give birth in the spring, sometimes on off shore sand bars or similar location and the pups learn to swim very quickly. Grey Seals give birth in the autumn and the pups grow rapidly, feeding on milk over the course of about a month, and moult out of their lanugo before fending for themselves.
Common Seal - Photo: Tom Williams

Sunday, 26 May 2019

Today the weather went from one extreme to the other, the morning started with fog and rain showers and a reasonably strong south westerly wind and ended with blue skys, sunshine and a much calmer wind.

Avian news was much the same as in recent days, now two Grey Herons, a pair of Peregrines, three Sanderlings, two Turnstones, two Swifts over the observatory, nine Whitethroats, 11 Spotted Flycatchers and a Jackdaw at Nant. 

Juvenile birds are becoming more abundant everyday now, juvenile Dunnocks are being seen and caught in the observatory garden with 3 seen today long with 6 adults across the island. Also, the Shellducks in Solfach still have 5 chicks and 7 Juvenile Stonechats were seen today along with 10 adults across the island.  

The moth trap is starting to pick up now with the warm weather and overcast conditions at night helping bring things out. Numbers of Bright-line Brown-eye moths have picked up to ten, Small Elephant Hawk moths are infrequent and Large Yellow Underwings are starting to appear which I am sure will become abundant. 

Small Angle Shades

Small Adder's Tongue Fern

2 of the 5 Shelducklings

Saturday, 25 May 2019

The times of migration are starting to really slow down now and we are getting into the breeding season. The assistant wardens are well into their Manx Shearwater work, nests and territories are being located and noted and today some subliminal counts of the east side from the water gave us an idea of how we are going to count the colony.

The weather was nice once again with sunshine and a light south westerly breeze picking up in the evening.

Avian news consisted of three Canada Geese on Pwll Cain, two Siskins hanging around at the plantation, only our third Greenfinch of the year at Pen Cristen, four Chaffinchs in two breeding pairs, ten Spotted Flycatchers still, five Willow Warblers, five Chiffchaffs, 11 Sedge Warblers with some seen with nesting material and 11 Dunnocks including juveniles at the observatory.

one of the Canada Geese                               Lewis Hooper

Meadow Pipit with food                             Lewis Hooper

Puffin off the boat                              Lewis Hooper

Friday, 24 May 2019

Today was another good day for Spotted Flycatcher records, 22 were seen throughout the day, once again with the majority at the plantation. 

Passage migrants appeared to have really lowered in numbers lately, the ringing sessions that take place at Cristin garden are starting to produce the same faces, lots of re-traps from previous sessions! A juvenile Dunnock was caught today, from one of the two nests suspected to be in the garden. Stonechat juveniles have been out and about in the last couple of weeks. At least six pairs are nesting on the island.
Juvenile Stonechat - Photo: Tom Williams

One bird that is not so familiar was a female kestrel that hovered over the mountain behind Cristin before heading off south. 

Other birds around include: 10 Shelducks (including five Juveniles), one Buzzard, six Sanderlings, three Dunlins, 32 House martins, six Rock Pipits, eight Wheatears and 12 Goldfinches.

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Light winds from the south and clear blue skies produced another nice day on Bardsey.

Avian highlights were few and far between but the pair of Peregrines were watched hunting the 7 Dunlins and single Ringed Plover on Solfach. Also more Stonechat juveniles are appearing, begging for food off their parents. The Raven juveniles were also seen on the east side of the mountain, three of them seen with two adults.

Additional numbers include four Redpolls, 34 Linnets, five Chaffinchs, seven Spotted Flycatchers, ten Stonechats, 50 Meadow Pipits, and two Buzzards.
Some Orchids starting to appear starting with these Early Marsh Orchids

Razorbill on the edge                                    Lewis Hooper

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

South-westerly winds and bright sunshine today. Early in the morning a Common Rosefinch was sighted and photograghed by Tom Williams who is volunteering for the BBFO for 10 days, and that happened to be his first morning out birding!
Common Rosefinch at Nant

Once again there were a number of Spotted Flycatchers at Nant, 11 were recorded today. Other than bird recording, today was an ideal day to start mapping Oystercatcher nests and the first trip round south end yielded 11 nests and up to 15 territories. The majority of these were on the rocks around the coast.

Other birds around include: 34 Linnets, 17 Shelducks, one Siskin, two Goldcrests, one Reed Warbler, 13 Sedge Warblers, nine Stonechats and 11 Wheatears.

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Today was extremely still and the Irish sea looked like a mill pond! The sky stayed clear all day producing a taste of summer weather. 

The avian news today produced no real highlight as such. The waders numbers had increased with migrants such as 36 Dunlins, five Sanderlings and a single Grey Plover showed signs of movement, there were also two Ringed Plovers. three Curlews, 141 Oyster Catchers, six Whimbrels, and nine Turnstones

Other counts included the inguring Grey Heron, two Buzzards, five Collared Doves, ten Stonechats, ten Wheatears, 15 Sedge Warblers, nine Common Whitethroats, five Blackcaps, and 11 Spotted Flycatchers

Seals playing at high tide                                Lewis Hooper

Summer plumage Sanderling                          Lewis Hooper

Summer plumage Dunlin                                Lewis Hooper