Thursday, 16 August 2018

In contrast to yesterday's wash out, today dawned bright and sunny and remained that way for the majority of the day. The winds were still gusting from the south-west which whipped another wild swell off the west coast, and once again that's were the majority of the day's spectacular seawatching counts were made. It started early with a Sooty Shearwater moving south just offshore, conveniently associating with a very obvious flock of Common Scoters to act as a point of reference for various observers across the island. At 09:30am, with Manx Shearwaters streaming past, the radio call went out "there's a large shearwater heading south!", quickly corrected to "it's a Great Shearwater!". The bird moved past at pace, but prolonged views were enjoyed by the lucky observers - Warden Steve, Icky Steve and Ephraim - watching from up at the observatory. Billy was collecting a moth trap from within Ty Pellaf reedbed when the news broke, and despite sprinting over to Solfach, had missed it. He returned to the observatory to empty the moth trap with a couple of guests and before he could lift out the first egg box a second Great Shearwater was picked up. Views of this individual were more prolonged as it flew low over the waves several 100 metres offshore, banking often to reveal grey-brown upperparts and a white collar and dark cap that were distinctly visible even at distance. 20 minutes later things got ridiculous when another (!) individual passed by. These three birds represent the eighth, ninth and tenth records for Bardsey, following on from single confirmed records in 2016 and 2017.

The morning flurry of Great Shearwater induced excitement ensured that the sea was well watched for the rest of the day, and the supporting cast was nothing to turn your nose up to. Another Sooty and two Balearic Shearwaters moved through with 29868 Manx Shearwaters, as well as a Storm Petrel, 20 Golden Plovers, two Bar-tailed Godwits, a Great Skua, and impressive numbers of 1769 Kittiwakes and 247 Arctic Terns.

Other birds logged today included 41 Fulmars, three Grey Herons, 16 Common Scoters, a Kestrel, a Peregrine, seven Ringed Plovers, two Sanderlings, six Dunlins, three Turnstones, 12 Mediterranean Gulls, 48 Black-headed Gulls, 1769 Kittiwakes, nine Sandwich Terns, a Common Tern, 78 'Commic' Terns, three Guillemots, four Razorbills, a Puffin, 34 Swallows, 42 House Martins, a Robin, two Stonechats, ten Wheatears, two Sedge Warblers, a Blackcap, four Chiffchaffs, 31 Willow Warblers, a Spotted Flycatcher, three Chaffinches and 65 Linnets.

Ephraim's field notes for the first Great Shearwater.

The balcony out front of the obs is perfect for prolonged viewing of seabirds moving past the west coast. Fuel these guys with a couple of mugs of coffee and the promise of an interesting Shearwater (and the spare time!), and they'll happily stare out to sea all day.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

We haven't really had to say it too often this season, but today was a complete wash out. The winds picked up from the south-west, frequently gusted 40mph, and the torrential rain set in to ensure that anyone caught away from shelter was in for a miserable time. It's on rough weather days like this in late summer that the cosy (and mostly dry) seawatching hides start to get their fair share of usage, and a combined six hours of seawatching by the team resulted in some decent tallies of seabirds passing off the west coast including the first two Little Gulls and the fourth Balearic Shearwater of the autumn. Manx Shearwaters were a constant feature throughout the day, with no less than 8680 counted gliding up and down over the swell almost as if they were enjoying the adrenaline rush. 60 'Commic' Terns (unidentifiable Common/Arctic Terns) that also passed by were most likely all Arctic Terns.

It wasn't a great day for counting landbirds, but other sightings did include 17 Fulmars, 139 Gannets, two Cormorants, three Grey Herons, five Common Scoters, four Ringed Plovers, three Sanderlings, eight Dunlins, six Whimbrels, five Curlews, two Redshanks, 34 Turnstones, three Mediterreanean Gulls, 58 Black-headed Gulls, 278 Kittiwakes, two Sandwich Terns, a Guillemot, 14 Swallows, two House Martins, two Stonechats, six Wheatears, seven Willow Warblers, a Spotted Flycatcher and 11 Linnets.

Balearic Shearwater


George is a keen young birder volunteering with us until the end of August. He's already getting straight into the swing of things with a productive seawatch from the North Hide that included close views of this juvenile Mediterranean Gull and a slightly more distant Balearic Shearwater. All photos © George Dunbar

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

There's no doubting the avian highlight from today. A Song Thrush has been spotted in several gardens around the island over the past month but it wasn't until today, when a fledgling was caught in the observatory heligoland trap, that it became evident this was more than just a lonesome individual choosing to spend the summer on Bardsey. The bird was still exhibiting pin feathers and couldn't have flown much further than the other end of the observatory garden! The parents did well to raise a brood (are there more fledglings out there?) in almost complete secrecy right under our noses, and its a good thing we clocked them when we did as its the first confirmed breeding record for the island since 1961!

Other birds logged today included three Fulmars, 200 Manx Shearwaters, 23 Gannets, a Cormorant, two Grey Herons, two Kestrels, three Ringed Plovers, ten Sanderlings, 18 Dunlins, three Whimbrels, nine Curlews, a Redshank, a Common Sandpiper, 21 Turnstones, ten Mediterranean Gulls, 20 Black-headed Gulls, 15 Kittiwakes, four Sandwich Terns, 51 Swallows, 50 House Martins, a Tree Pipit, a White Wagtail, a Robin, five Stonechats, eight Wheatears, three Sedge Warblers, a Chiffchaff, 52 Willow Warblers, six Chaffinches and 47 Linnets.

Today's Song Thrush was still moulting its juvenile pin feathers and wasn't particularly capable in the air, eliminating any likelihood of a sea crossing.

Monday, 13 August 2018

Today started out much the same as yesterday with a thick drizzly murk hanging low over the island. It wasn't the most pleasant weather for carrying out morning census but it did once again ground the birds. Eight juvenile Mediterranean Gulls joined the regular post-breeding gull flock down on Henllwyn, one of which was sporting a very shiny white colour ring with black letters. After a bit of scrutiny the ring was read, and a speedy email later we had details back from the ringer that revealed it to have been ringed as a chick along the Haringvliet, an inlet of the North Sea in South Holland on 15th June 2018. Another juvenile had a red colour ring on its leg and although its code couldn't be read, it will have originated from a similar colour-ringing scheme in eastern Europe.

Other sightings today included ten Gannets, a Cormorant, four Shags, two Grey Herons, a Sparrowhawk, a Kestrel, a Peregrine, eight Ringed Plovers, 14 Sanderlings, 19 Dunlins, two Whimbrels, nine Curlews, five Redshanks, 40 Turnstones, 44 Black-headed Gulls, a Common Gull, 25 Kittiwakes, 20 Sandwich Terns, 41 Swallows, 26 House Martins, a Stonechat, six Wheatears, five Sedge Warblers, a Garden Warbler, four Chiffchaffs, 13 Willow Warblers, four Spotted Flycatchers, five Chaffinches and 48 Linnets.

We don't usually get such large numbers of juvenile Mediterranean Gulls this early in the autumn, and it seems likely that many of them are dispersing from colonies in mainland Europe.

We set up the whoosh net on Solfach this evening in anticipation of catching waders at high tide.

Sunday, 12 August 2018

After yesterday's break in boat service, today's more settled weather meant we had to say goodbye to the remaining young birders. They've been a fantastic bunch that we've really enjoyed having around the observatory. We hope they enjoyed their stay on the island and no doubt we'll be seeing many of them back on the island at some point in the near future.

Birdwise, Solfach was the place to be today. A combination of murky, drizzly weather and a early morning high tide had thrown up a fresh supply of seaweed, attracting several hundred waders (many of which will no doubt be adults fresh off their arctic tunda breeding grounds) down onto the beach. With the likes of 145 Turnstones, 41 Dunlins, 29 Sanderlings and seven Ringed Plovers, it was definitely the highest wader count of the autumn. Elsewhere, a Greenshank called as it flew over the island and a Balearic Shearwater passed by the west coast later in the afternoon.

Other birds seen today included a Fulmar, 1885 Manx Shearwaters, 23 Gannets, five Shags, a Grey Heron, a Kestrel, a Purple Sandpiper, two Whimbrels, seven Curlews, three Redshanks, a Greenshank, four Common Sandpipers, 145 Turnstones, six Mediterranean Gulls, 12 Black-headed Gulls, 14 Kittiwakes, three Sandwich Terns, a Skylark, 22 Swallows, 24 House Martins, three Stonechats, seven Wheatears, a Song Thrush, five Sedge Warblers, a Whitethroat, two Chiffchaffs, 52 Willow Warblers, three Chaffinches and 35 Linnets.

We were treated to some beautiful light in the final hour before sunset.

Another calm night meant it was back out onto Pen Cristin for a combination of Storm Petrel ringing and Perseid meteor appreciation.

Saturday, 11 August 2018

I walked back along the track to the Lighthouse last night with the Milky Way extending across the sky above me. Without the hassles of light pollution or cloud cover, the stars looked spectacular, and every now and then a Perseid meteor would whizz overhead. It was a huge contrast to the scenes this morning. A storm rolled in during the early hours of the morning, bringing with it drizzle and brisk winds that set the tone for the rest of the day.

A few hardy souls donned their waterproofs, braved the rain and headed out to the seawatching hides at either ends of the island to count the seabirds passing over the swell off the west coast. They returned with some impressive tallies that included 10700 Manx Shearwaters, 292 Gannets, 15 Mediterranean Gulls and 359 Kittiwakes.

Other sightings today included 19 Fulmars, a Common Scoter, a Kestrel, two Peregrines, nine Ringed Plovers, 12 Sanderlings, 42 Dunlins, four Black-tailed Godwits, three Whimbrels, six Curlews, five Redshanks, three Common Sandpipers, 25 Turnstones, 15 Mediterranean Gulls, 73 Black-headed Gulls, a Common Gull, 359 Kittiwakes, a Sandwich Tern, four Razorbills, two Puffins, a Swift, 15 Swallows, 21 House Martins, four Stonechats, nine Wheatears, a Song Thrush, a Sedge Warbler, a Whitethroat, two Chiffchaffs, 15 Willow Warblers, a Chaffinch and 50 Linnets.

Last night provided perfect conditions for ringing Storm Petrels over on Pen Cristin. 

Friday, 10 August 2018

We said goodbye to the majority of the Young Birders today, with conditions set to worsen over the weekend boats were offered for either Friday or Sunday afternoon. Today in contrast was still brilliantly calm and sunny. Migrants were a little scarcer on the ground today, but there was still a scattering of birds to be seen.

Most of the action was surrounding Solfach again, seven Ringed Plovers, one Sanderling, 17 Dunlins, one Whimbrel, seven Curlews, seven Redshanks, two Common Sandpipers and 39 Turnstones were all logged around the Narrows. A small increase in Kittiwakes saw numbers rise to 270 birds, but we’re still well under the expected numbers we’d usually see at this time of year off the South End or Carreg yr Honwy. A Black Tern and Great Skua were another nice additions to the run of good seabirds seen this week, despite the conditions.

A single Swift was noted overhead, whilst a White Wagtail was seen feeding on Solfach. Warbler numbers were well under those in recent days, just two Sedge Warblers, one Blackcap, two Chiffchaffs and 18 Willow Warblers were recorded.

The fair weather allowed a group of us to visit the East Side today to ring the Storm Petrel chicks we'd found earlier in the season during seabird monitoring ©Alex Starace

Young Birder's Week 2018!

Thursday, 9 August 2018

It was another nice sunny day today, this in turn saw a small increase in passerine migrants. Out to sea things were a little quieter a Sooty Shearwater was the highlight of today’s efforts. Along with the three Kestrels seen today was a Merlin, the first of the autumn. More action on the narrows consisted of four Ringed Plovers, one Purple Sandpiper, four Dunlins, two Whimbrels, 11 Curlews, 12 Redshanks, three Common Sandpipers and 37 Turnstones.

A single Skylark was noted on the Narrows, overhead passage saw 87 Swallows, 46 House Martins and one ‘Flava’ Wagtail pass through the island. A Song Thrush was once again present an early thrush migrant, just one Whitethroat was reported today, but Willow Warblers saw a rise to 57 birds along with a single Spotted Flycatcher.


The Waders on Solfach, as usual have been incredibly obliging coming down to a couple of feet at times, theres plenty of food for them to find for this Ringed Plover as hundreds of sand-hoppers deck the beach

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

There was a scattering of clouds today, with sunny intervals warming the island and a calm breeze passing over the island. It was a little quieter today on the bird front, but the day still held its surprises.

A Yellow-legged Gull was a surprise find passing off the North End today becoming only the seventh record for the island, but the fourth record in three years. Also noted passing by were 7050 Manx Shearwaters and one Common Scoter.

Again, Solfach was bustling with activity holding the majority of the waders recorded today which included five Ringed Plovers, one Lapwing, one Knot, one Dunlin, 11 Whimbrel, ten Curlews, 12 Redshanks, three Common Sandpipers, 19 Turnstones and the first Green Sandpiper of the year!

A small number of hirundines were noted passing overhead totalling 37 Swallows and 11 House Martins, also logged were four Grey Wagtails. Inland a Song Thrush, five Sedge Warblers, two Whitethroats, one Blackcap and 21 Willow Warblers were the best of the rest.

Wednesdays have become growth rate monitoring day since our first Manx Shearwaters hatched a little over a month ago, some chicks have already hit their peak weight, whereas other are only in their second or third week of life.

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

It was a damp start to the day today, with mist enveloping the island, and occasional drizzle wetting the ground. The conditions made for slightly more challenging birding to begin with, but later in the morning as the sun began to break through the clouds and glistened the island with its rays more birds began to appear presumably grounded by the early rain.

Out to sea some quality was noted with both a Sooty and Balearic Shearwater past the North End. Other birds noted passing by were 11 Common Scoters, a Pomarine Skua and a Sandwich Tern. A few raptors had also come in during the night two Sparrowhawks, a Buzzard and a Kestrel were all noted around the Mountain.

A small but diverse selection of waders were on the Narrows again two Ringed Plovers, five Sanderlings, eight Dunlins, eight Whimbrels, 22 Curlews, one Redshank, two Common Sandpipers and five Turnstones were logged. Overhead passage totalled two Sand Martins, 46 Swallows and six House Martins, not quite the number we’d been having previously, but more expected when considering the conditions. Inland a White Wagtail was new in whilst warblers culminated to one Grasshopper Warbler, three Sedge Warblers, two Whitethroats, 14 Chiffchaffs and 80 Willow Warblers! Also noted today were three Spotted Flycatchers and 90 Linnets.

A mixture of both daytime and nighttime Manxy ringing has been greatly enjoyed by the young birders this week, but has begun to take its toll on energy

Monday, 6 August 2018

It was a slightly calmer day today, migration wise anyway, conditions seemed to whip up a little by the afternoon. It was a manxelicious day instead, with the afternoon dedicated to ringing the young in the nest and the night to catching and ringing the adults. Over 150 new birds were ringed in the end thanks to some brilliant effort put in by all.

The highlight of the day was a Balearic Shearwater which passed the South End with a Common Scoter and three Sandwich Terns the only other birds of note out to sea. Five Grey Herons were scattered across the Narrows and South End, whilst wader numbers fell slightly just one Ringed Plover, two Dunlins, 11 Whimbrels, ten Curlews, five Redshanks, six Common Sandpipers and three Turnstones were logged. The juvenile Cuckoo put in another appearance in the Withies. More hirundine passage totalled three Sand Martins, 53 Swallows and 39 House Martins. The first noticeable arrival of Wheatears was also seen today, 18 were logged mostly around the southern section of the island. A Grasshopper Warbler was a nice treat among the usual six Sedge Warblers, five Whitethroats and 12 Willow Warblers. A reasonable total of 104 Linnets were also present.

The Young Birders getting up close and personal with the Manx Shearwaters helping contribute to the huge Manx Shearwater ringing data set the observatory has worked on in the past 66 years!