Saturday, 20 October 2018

It was a stunning day for us to welcome on our final guests to the observatory in 2018. The season has whizzed by, as it so often does, and it feels crazy that from next week onward we'll be looking towards shutting down Cristin for the winter. In the meantime though, there are still migrants to be counted and reports to be written! We inevitably end up spending fewer hours in the field on Saturday changeovers, but there was still an impressive tally of migrants called out at log tonight considering the minimal time we were able to spend birding. The five Whooper Swans that headed east over the mountain whilst we were giving the introductory talk must have been a good omen, as they preceded the first Woodcock of the year that was flushed from the mountain, three Lesser Whitethroats (including an interesting 'eastern' looking bird seen briefly in Ty Pellaf Withy), four Black Redstarts around the houses and the second Richard's Pipit of the autumn that went north over the North-West Fields late in the afternoon. To round the day off, a late Manx Shearwater was seen close in off the South End as were singles of both Arctic and Great Skua.

Other birds logged today included 10 Gannets, a Grey Heron, five Common Scoters, a Sparrowhawk, a Buzzard, four Kestrels, a Merlin, two Peregrines, two Water Rails, a Lapwing, four Snipes, ten Curlews, 14 Redshanks, two Turnstones, 29 Mediterranean Gulls, 110 Black-headed Gulls, seven Common Gulls, 130 Razorbills, a Stock Dove, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, seven Skylarks, three Fieldfares, six Redwings, three Blackcaps, 11 Chiffchaffs, ten Goldcrests, seven Blue tits, three Great tits, 120 Starlings, 14 Chaffinches, three Siskins, 42 Goldfinches, 11 Linnets, three Lesser Redpolls and a roaming flock of 11 Crossbills.

Rush Veneer have been recorded on several occasions in the past couple of weeks. They generally turn up as migrants in autumn, arriving on the same warm southerly winds that carry Saharan dust onto your car's windscreen.

Brindled Ochre is one of the less common resident moths flying at the moment. They're a coastal speciality on here with the larvae feeding on Hogweed and Wild Angelica. This individual was caught by Mark up at Ty Nessaf.

It was a stunner of a sunset. The recently created Pwll Gareth glowed a warm shade of orange in the twilight.

Friday, 19 October 2018

After a pleasant few days of calm north-easterly winds, the direction shifted 180˚ back to a south-westerly bearing. This was instantly evident in the number of migrants recorded today. There was only a small movement noted overhead, instead most of today’s attention was focused on the sea.

Aside from two Great Northern Divers, 52 Common Scoters and 164 Razorbills gulls made up the majority of records today. Some 91 Mediterranean Gulls, two Sabine’s Gulls (the first recorded since …), 693 Black-headed Gulls, 28 Common Gulls and 93 Kittiwakes made their way south today, the former constituting the highest count so far this year. Two Lapwings were new arrivals among the usual waders, and Snipes increased to 13 birds today.

There were still birds present on the land today, despite a small clear out. A Stock Dove was another record of this island scarcity this year, 27 Dunnocks, 26 Robins, one Black Redstart, one Ring Ouzel and one Mistle Thrush were recorded. Warblers totalled just four Blackcaps, three Chiffchaffs and 17 Goldcrests, whilst a small number of Starlings and finches moved through again with 318 of the former recorded today. Finches numbered 72 Chaffinches, two Bramblings, 24 Siskins and five Lesser Redpolls. Finally, one Lapland Bunting made its way over Nant and five Reed Buntings were logged on passage.

The dramatic view great us this morning off the South End

Thursday, 18 October 2018

It was another busy day today, a light northerly airflow once again opened the flood gates for a number of migrants to pass overhead, with a good selection also present on the land. However, a short look out to sea did see a brace of two Greylag Geese, eight Common Scoters, ten Mediterranean Gulls and 282 Black-headed Gulls pass by.

A Merlin was still present today, as were three Water Rails in the lowlands of the island. Among the usual waders were two Purple Sandpipers and five Snipes. A Short-eared Owl swooped around the southern end of the island in the morning. Today’s talking point was definitely the number of birds recorded overhead and their diversity, among the usual species some more notable species included a Richard’s Pipit over the South End and two Lapland Buntings. Overhead passage today, either heard of seen culminated to an impressive 92 Skylarks, 104 Meadow Pipits, three Grey Wagtails, 148 Jackdaw, 50 Rooks, 597 Starlings, 175 Chaffinches, 14 Bramblings, four Greenfinches, 45 Siskins, six Lesser Redpolls and 19 Reed Buntings.

Thrushes and chats were again numerous today with the Siberian Stonechat clocking another day on the island, 32 Robins, two Redstarts, seven Wheatears, 36 Blackbirds, seven Fieldfares, 18 Song Thrushes, 26 Redwings and a Mistle Thrush were recorded. The increase in migrants clearly effected warbler numbers too, an obvious arrival totalled a Garden Warbler, 13 Blackcaps, six Yellow-browed Warblers, 20 Chiffchaffs, a Willow Warbler and 13 Goldcrests.

The Siberian Stonechat was particularly approachable today, and showed brilliantly in the morning and evening sun

A short film focusing on our long staying Siberian Stonechat

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

There was another change in the winds today, having swung back round to the South-west some places on the west coast of Britain and Ireland faired well. For us, the winds remained calm and allowed a number of migrants to move through.

A Great Northern Diver was seen off the North End in the morning to start things off. Among the usual raptors a Merlin hawked across the island, after yesterday’s absence two Water Rails were in the Withies and 10 Snipes scattered the boggy areas of the island.

Another large movement overhead consisted almost exclusively of Skylark with 244 recorded today along with one Tree Pipit and seven Grey Wagtails. It was another chat and thrush day today, with the Siberian Stonechat continuing its stay in the South End gorse. The bird was present throughout the day showed exceedingly well in the autumn sun. Others included 31 Robins, 12 Stonechats, one Ring Ouzel and three Redwings. It was a little quieter on the warbler front, three Blackcaps were the only sylvias, a Yellow-browed Warbler was heard at Cristin in the morning, whilst eight Chiffchaffs and 19 Goldcrests were the only others recorded. A Coal Tit was still present, and some more finch passage consisted of 57 Chaffinches, 12 Siskins and 11 Lesser Redpolls, the only other birds of note today were three Reed Buntings.

Recent days have seen a spike in number of Hummingbird Hawkmoths on the island, with counts reaching 12 individuals

The Siberian Stonechat continued to associate closely with three western Stonechats in the South End  gorse

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

There was still a calm easterly airflow this morning, combined with a heavy shower in the early hours saw a number of migrants grounded by the weather. Once the weather had cleared, it was clear that some new migrants had arrived, and hopes were high of a far eastern bird. The day produced just that, when a Siberian Stonechat appeared in the South End gorse. The bird showed well throughout the morning, and continued to show into the afternoon as the sun broke through the cloud. The bird lacked black underwings and a dark mask, but showed an obvious contrast in its coverts which allowed us to establish it was a first-winter female Siberian Stonechat. This represents just the fifth island record.

Whilst the Stonechat was the clear highlight, a good supporting cast was also present today. Out to sea a Sooty Shearwater flew west past the South End, whilst 17 Common Scoters, a Golden Plover, a Great Skua, 16 Mediterranean Gulls, 129 Black-headed Gulls and 417 Kittiwakes made up numbers. Whilst on the land a brilliant selection was present. On the wader front, numbers were still high but diversity low as two Snipes, two Whimbrels, 28 Curlews, 18 Redshanks and 28 Turnstones were logged. The Great Spotted Woodpecker was again mobile, and little overhead passage culminated to just 51 Skylarks. Thrushes and Chats were present in good sted today as one Black Redstart, two Redstarts, 10 Stonechats, four Ring Ouzels and seven Redwings were recorded along with the aforementioned Stonechat. Otherwise, warblers seemed to be a little down on yesterday, two Blackcaps, six Chiffchaffs and 23 Goldcrests were the only warblers logged. Other birds seemed to have declined in number as well with just 44 Starlings, 28 Chaffinches, 61 Goldfinches, two Lesser Redpolls and four Reed Buntings recorded.

Siberian Stonechat, from what we could tell it appears to be a S.m.maurus, but we managed to procure a stool sample, so we'll know for sure soon enough!

The stonechat twitch

Monday, 15 October 2018

It was another exciting day today, a good selection was noted, out to sea and both on and over the land. The Northerly-winds today as a change came from a little further afield originating as far away as Scandinavia. A late Manx Shearwater was a surprise out to sea, whilst the first Eider of the autumn was also recorded along with seven Common Scoters. An impressive 18 Mediterranean Gulls, 1195 Black-headed Gulls and 41 Common Gulls made up some obvious gull passage as well.

The heat of the day also saw nine Buzzards and a Merlin recorded among the other usual raptors. Three Water Rails were in the withies and a Snipe was flushed from the Wetlands. The Great Spotted Woodpecker reappeared at Plas. Perhaps today’s highlight was the sheer volume and diversity of birds recorded on passage, with flocks of birds making their way south, largely over the South End. Today some notable ‘vismig’ culminated to a Woodlark, 401 Skylarks, 189 Meadow Pipits, eight Grey Wagtails, 333 Jackdaws, 22 Rook, 102 Carrion Crow, one Hooded Crow, 220 Starlings, 84 Chaffinches, 16 Bramblings, two Greenfinches, 13 Siskins, two Lesser Redpolls, 26 Reed Buntings and three House Sparrows! Also passing overhead was a Cattle Egret which flew over Nant and headed out west appearing to have Ireland in its sights, perhaps most surprising about this bird was the fact that it appeared to be a separate bird to yesterdays, with the previous day’s bird still feeding at Cwrt back on the mainland!

Whilst, conditions were perfect for birds to make their way straight over the island, some decided to made landfall. An assortment of species were recorded throughout the day, scattered across the vegetation of the island. Thrushes and chats were noted with, 36 Robins, one Redstart, 11 Wheatears, 25 Blackbirds and 15 Song Thrushes recorded, all up on recent numbers. Warblers and their close relatives included some nine Blackcaps, five Yellow-browed Warblers, 23 Chiffchaffs, 14 Goldcrests, one Firecrest, two Pied Flycatchers, five Coal Tits and one Treecreeper. This brought the day total to a whooping 81 species, the most diverse day of the year!

A Vestal was yet another migrant recorded today

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Following yesterday’s less than suitable weather today turned over a new page. A calm north-easterly airflow hit the island throughout the day, and clouds parted to reveal a sunny day. With change-over finished we sat on the porch for no more than a few minutes, before the first highlight of the day revealed itself. A group of three large white birds coming in from the South originally appeared to be Little Egrets, but as they approached the Wetlands of the island, it became clear the top bird was actually a CATTLE EGRET! Whilst in recent years they have slowly become an ever-commoner species in Britain, to the extent now that they have begun to breed, this Mediterranean visitor represented the first record for our little island! The species has been a much predicted first for Bardsey, but it wasn’t until today that the barrier was eventually broken down, presumably as they continue to colonise Britain they will become a commoner occurrence.

The day proved to be a bird filled one, and the supporting cast was nothing to turn your nose up to. A Water Rail was again squealing from the Withies, and four Snipes were flushed from the Wetlands. The usual waders remained on the beaches and were joined today by a Common Sandpiper which set hearts racing, but disappeared before a certain ID could be made. Sea passage was made up of c.2000 Kittiwakes which piled through off the South End this afternoon. Otherwise, over the land a little vismig culminated to 30 Skylarks, one ‘flava’ Wagtail and one Grey Wagtail. Dunnocks and Robins increased in number with 18 and 24 seen respectively. A Redstart graced the Plantation and some 12 Blackbirds today were clearly new in. Among the warblers today were four Blackcaps, 18 Chiffchaffs, 15 Goldcrests and a Firecrest, however the star of the day went to the three Yellow-browed Warblers recorded today, with this little gem eventually starting to begin to inhabit the island. The Spotted Flycatcher remained at the Plantation, and tit numbers remained stable with three Coal Tits, two Blue Tits and six Great Tits seen. A Treecreeper showed well at the Plantation, and a group of 194 Starlings roamed the island. Some more early finch passage resulted in 21 Chaffinches, one Brambling, four Siskins and six Lesser Redpolls. Finally a Reed Bunting was heard calling from Cristin in the early hours.

Bardsey's first Cattle Egret in 66 years of recording

Treecreepers are a scarce passage migrant through Bardsey, just two birds were seen in 2017

One of the first of hopefully many Yellow-browed Warblers to come this October

Saturday, 13 October 2018

The residue of storm Callum remained into today, strong winds coming from the South-west battered the island, leaving trees flailing about and all inhabitants of the island sheltering indoors from the torrential rain. That said, those that persevered through the conditions were treated to a few notable species.

A Great Northern Diver was the first order of the day, a bird just beginning to lose its summer-plumage. A Teal was among the resident Mallards, whilst on the beaches a pleasant variety of waders kept us entertained which included two Ringed Plovers, 10 Purple Sandpipers, one Whimbrel, 60 Curlews, 26 Redshanks and 50 Turnstones. From the North End a Short-eared Owl was definitely a highlight of the day, but a Great Skua passing by was also a nice treat. Some bashing of the bushes revealed just a small selection of passerines sheltering from the weather, one Blackcap, four Chiffchaffs, 10 Goldcrests, one Spotted Flycatcher and three Coal Tits were the highlights.

Friday, 12 October 2018

The predicted forecasts in the run up to today had suggested it might be a good idea to batten down the hatches, so when Storm Callum hit the island in the early hours of the morning we were fairly well prepared for a decent battering. Indeed, a decent battering is what we got, with Force 12 (Hurricane Force) winds making it a tad challenging to stay on two feet at times. Combined with driving rain and a mahoosive swell off the West Coast it made for spectacular viewing... from the office window. A Great Northern Diver and two Arctic Terns 'flew' past the North End, although how much of their aerial movements were dictated by actual wind flapping as opposed to wind assistance is probably debatable. A Common Tern pitched up on Solfach for some storm respite.

Other birds logged on a 'breezy' day included a Sparrowhawk, two Kestrels, a Peregrine, two Ringed Plovers, six Purple Sandpipers, two Whimbrels, 14 Curlews, 21 Redshanks, 50 Turnstones, three Mediterranean Gulls, 31 Black-headed Gulls, 17 Swallows, two Song Thrushes, a Blackcap, four Chiffchaffs, nine Goldcrests, two Great tits, three Chaffinches, three Goldfinches and a soggy Linnet.

The definition of an 'office day'.