Sunday, 17 June 2018

Conditions did not improve today, with the wind, wet and fog set in and only clearing marginally by the late afternoon. It may come as a shock to some, but these were the yearned after conditions after a stunning two-month period of seemingly endless sunshine and calm weather. The damp conditions gave an eventual excuse to stay indoors and catch up on some of the shoulder high stacks of paperwork which has been building up since the beginning of the breeding season, and update (shudder) IPMR. After the parched conditions it was a godsend to see the rain falling and slowly filling up the wells around the island.

Despite the rain, a few migrants were recorded amongst the usual breeding birds, a Sparrowhawk was flushed off the South End which was presumable a new bird in, a Curlew was heard calling distantly on the Narrows along with a Whimbrel, whilst a Cuckoo was seen very briefly in the Withies, hopefully we can expect another successful breeding attempt of this species on the island. The first signs of southward Swift passage was also noted with three birds recorded, a sign of autumn already! Finally, five Siskins were also logged, a pair in Cristin garden, and three on the South End which swiftly moved on. Could we expect to see our first Green Sandpipers, or Black-tailed Godwits in the coming days, only time will tell.

Foxglove reaching out from the dew spangled undergrowth, the island is looking particularly luscious after today's rain

Saturday, 16 June 2018

It was a windy and wet start to today, but the weather slowly improved throughout the day and by afternoon the winds had dropped enough to allow the weekly changeover boat to run, safely delivering our new guests for the week. The boat also saw the departure of both Billy and Josie from the island, leaving Ephraim to fend for himself at the Observatory. So far, the building has remained upright, and no fires have devastated the complex, but the week is yet young.

After what can only be described as a blistering spring for rare birds, it’s time for Bardsey to take a seat and focus on breeding birds. Very few migrants were noted, aside from a small passage out to sea with 300 Manx Shearwaters and 225 Gannets recorded in a little under an hour today passing by. Instead the attention lay on the breeding pairs of Oystercatchers, Wheatears, Stonechats and numerous seabirds.

Spot the Oystercatcher, a chick demonstrating their outstanding camouflage

Friday, 15 June 2018

With storm Hector looming, we spent today rushing to finish some more of the seabird and breeding bird monitoring before the strong winds and rain stop play. Census effort however produced just a handful of migrants, a Kestrel was the first sign of a raptor migrant in some time. Whilst the small party of waders on the Narrows arrive at this confusing time of year, where you can’t be sure if they are coming back or going to breeding grounds. Two Dunlins, a Whimbrel and one Turnstone were recorded. Hirundines were also present today primarly consisting of the breeding pairs, 19 Swallows and seven House Martins were seen. The only other migrant recorded today was a single Spotted Flycatcher, the first in nearly a week!

The view from the North End of the island, with Thrift growing from every nook and cranny

Thursday, 14 June 2018

We certainly received the storm-force winds and rain that had been predicted, but the worst of it had passed by dawn, leaving us with a stunning sunny day and an impressive swell off the West side of the island. Huge white horses rolled against the coastline, and it certainly made a change from the mirror calm sea we've gotten used to recently!

It was otherwise a day to continue monitoring and mapping the island's breeding birds, many of which are now feeding chicks. There's huge disparity in the progress of Swallow broods across the island. Two pairs at Ty Pellaf are already feeding well-grown chicks whilst pairs further up the island have only laid one or two eggs so far.

The Wood Warbler decided to weather the storm on the island and was still present this morning, singing and showing well in the Plantation. Otherwise, bird interest included four Fulmars, 2390 Manx Shearwaters riding the waves early in the morning, 114 Gannets, a Grey Heron, a Curlew, a Collared Dove, a Little Owl, six Stonechats, eight Wheatears, two Sedge Warblers, a Blackcap, three Chiffchaffs, a Willow Warbler, two Chaffinches and 15 Linnets.

The dense vegetation of the Plantation gave the Wood Warbler plenty of shelter from which to give off its distinctive 'trilling' song.

We were able to ring a brood of five well-grown Swallow chicks this evening.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

The predicted rain and wind didn't set in until late this evening, and it was otherwise a perfectly calm and dry day for finishing off counting Lesser Black-backed Gull nests around the east side of the island before the bracken completely grows up and covers them. In total we've tallied 134 Apparently Occupied Nests (AON) containing a mix of well-grown chicks, newly hatched chicks and freshly laid eggs which is up on 119 AON recorded last year but still down on the 141 AON recorded in 2016. 

Back at the observatory, a stunning Wood Warbler took up residence in the garden for the best part of the day, showing well and giving bursts of song on occasions (a short recording of the song is attached below). Other birds logged today included two Fulmars, three Gannets, a Grey Heron, a Whimbrel, a Collared Dove, a Sand Martin, 16 Swallows, 13 House Martins, a Stonechat, three Wheatears, two Sedge Warblers, two Chaffinches, two Siskins and 11 Linnets.

Today's Wood Warbler is a new addition to the year list and the first since one at Nant on 22nd August 2017. They're always a special passage migrant to see on Bardsey, rarely turning up more than a handful of times in any one season.

The Sheep's-bit is starting to add some more blue to the East Side cliffs now that the bluebells and Spring Squill have almost completely gone over.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

If the weather forecast is to be believed, tomorrow will see the end of what has been a phenomenal run of hot, sunny and extremely dry weather. The clouds are set to thicken and the wind is predicted to whip up quite considerably so we took advantage of what appears to be the last clear, calm day to get around the East Side and check up on the Razorbills in the boulder field at Bae Felen. There were hatched chicks squeaking from almost every crevice, and a flush count resulted in 910 adults counted. Ideally we'll make several more flush counts of adults at each site before using the generally accepted conversion factor of 0.68 to produce a figure for the number of pairs.

Other birds logged today included nine Fulmars, 15 Gannets, a Sparrowhawk, five Dunlins, a Whimbrel, a Curlew, a Collared Dove, a Sand Martin, 14 Swallows, a House Martin, four Wheatears, a Sedge Warbler, a Chiffchaff, a Goldcrest, two Chaffinches and four Linnets.

Much of the afternoon was spent ringing a combination of adult and juvenile Razorbills at Bae Felen. There may have been cuteness overload.

Corn Spurrey is now flowering abundantly in the Ty Capel field. In recent years, this field has been left to overgrow having previously been used as cattle fodder. This vulnerable arable weed appears to be declining throughout the UK, and this appears to be the first time it has appeared on the island for a number of years.

Monday, 11 June 2018

Today was another stunning day, although it didn't feel as warm as in previous days, owing to the brisk northerly winds sweeping across the island. The usual avian suspects were present, including 89 Oystercatchers, ten Swallows, one male Blackcap singing in the Obs garden, three Chiffchaffs, one Willow Warbler, ten Choughs and two Ravens. Highlights from today's sightings include two Sanderlings, ten Dunlins, a Turnstone, a single Curlew, one Whimbrel, five Black-headed Gulls and two Peregrines darting over the mountainside.

Lackey Moth caterpillars are in abundance around the island at the moment, with plenty being seen on the walls of the Observatory itself too!
This afternoon saw Mark, Billy and Josie head to the East side of the island to carry out some seabird counts and ringing of the Herring Gull chicks in the North End colony. This yielded counts of 120 Herring Gulls, 390 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 457 Guillemots, 90 Razorbills and 15 Puffins. A Kestrel at the top of the mountain was an added bonus.

Due to the windy conditions, invertebrates, especially lepidoptera, were rather thin on the ground, with just eight Silver Y moths, four Green-veined Whites, one Common Blue and one Painted Lady recorded. Although an Ingrailed Clay in the Observatory moth trap was the first one of the year.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Once again we were treated to a searing hot day, and while there was no sign of either of yesterday's Broad-bodied Chasers, there were plenty of birds and other invertebrates around the island. Silver Y moths continue to be disturbed from practically every patch of grass on the island, with 168 logged today. Thrift Clearwings are approaching their peak now and thanks to the glorious weather we've been having, they are a daily sighting. Billy even managed to find a very obliging individual whilst carrying out seabird counts on Pen Cristin this morning.

Other sightings from today included a Grey Heron in Solfach, two Lapwings, a Whimbrel, a Little Owl, a Swift, 21 Swallows, seven House Martins, two Stonechats, 14 Wheatears, a male Blackcap, five Chiffchaffs, a Spotted Flycatcher, two Chaffinches, three Siskins and three Goldfinches. On the butterfly front, two Small Coppers and two Painted Ladies contributed a splash of colour amongst the Thrift on Pen Cristin and the West Coast.

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Another Saturday changeover meant we had to say goodbye to ex-assistant warden Steve Hinde (more commonly known as Iccy Steve on Bardsey for his ability to find Icterine Warblers) who's been with us since mid-May carrying out all kinds of much needed DIY jobs as well as finding the odd rare bird or two (that stunning White-spotted Bluethroat won't be forgotten anytime soon!). Of course, the island had a goodbye present in store for him when a Minke Whale was spotted surfacing off the West Coast midway through the morning. It lingered for around 30 minutes, quite far out, breaking the surface enough times for everyone at the Obs to get scope views of it before it was finally lost in the heat haze that almost constantly covers the horizon at the moment.

Birds logged today were few and far between owing to the fact that it was weekly guest changeover, but they did included a Fulmar, a Dunlin, a Curlew, five Collared Doves, a Little Owl, three Swifts, a Blackcap, a Chiffchaff, two Chaffinches, two Siskins, four Linnets and a Lesser Redpoll. A Painted Lady flew around the observatory garden briefly this afternoon, whilst no less than two male Broad-bodied Chasers were seen together on Nant Pond!

Minke Whales are a rare sight in the waters around the island. Most sightings are of individual whales that surface one or twice for one or two lucky observers and are never seen again. It was nice that everyone got to see today's whale, especially considering that yesterday was World Oceans Day! It was always distant, so Siân did well to get this record shot. © Siân Stacey

Friday, 8 June 2018

Another stunning hot day provided the perfect opportunity for taking our guided walk participants up onto Pen Cristin. A fly over Yellow Wagtail was our bird highlight from the walk, but the plants were out in force and everyone got to learn about the rarer species that are found on Bardsey and very few other places in the UK. Two Black-tailed Godwits in Henllwyn were the first of the year and a scarcely annual bird on Bardsey.

Other birds seen today included 2150 Manx Shearwaters, a Grey Heron, a Buzzard, a Peregrine, three Lapwings, two Curlews, a Collared Dove, two Little Owls, a Blackcap, six Chiffchaffs, two Willow Warblers, two Chaffinches, a Siskin, two Goldfinches, 14 Linnets and two Lesser Redpolls.

Pwll Cain was the place to be today. We may be in times of drought, but there's still plenty of water in the pond, and healthy populations of invertebrates can be found around its fringes at the moment.

The Brown China-mark moth is abundant around the pond at the moment. The larvae are completely aquatic, living and feeding on plants underwater, only coming to the surface to pupate!

The tiny Glyphipterix thrasonella can't boast about having aquatic caterpillars, but it does have a lovely metallic sheen to it when the light is right. It feeds on Rushes and is very common throughout the damper parts of the island at the moment.

Pwll Cain holds a small population of Azure Damselfly, but patience is needed to pick one out amongst the much larger populations of Blue-tailed Damselfly.

Bog Pimpernel is beginning to flower in... yes, that's right... the island's bogs!

Thursday, 7 June 2018

For the umpteenth day in a row we were treated to more blazing heat and blue skies from start to finish. Our guests certainly aren't complaining and neither are we, although the lawn is starting to look a bit parched and the well that supplies the observatory with running water could certainly do with a bit of rain.

There was no sign of yesterday's Blyth's Reed Warbler, but whilst searching for it a Broad-bodied Chaser was found around the Plantation area. The island has been well covered since the individual on 3rd June, making it tempting to assume that this is a different dragonfly and thus the second record for the island.

Birds logged on a quieter day than yesterday included five Fulmars, 910 Manx Shearwaters, 29 Gannets, eight Common Scoters, a Sparrowhawk, three Peregrines (including an intruding female that was quickly chased away by the resident female), a Lapwing, two Sanderlings, two Whimbrels, a Turnstone, three Collared Doves, a Sand Martin, 13 Swallows, six House Martins, a Stonechat, 12 Wheatears, a Whitethroat, three Chiffchaffs, a Willow Warbler, two Chaffinches, a Siskin and 20 Linnets. Five Painted Ladies were dotted around the island and Silver Y moths continue to be disturbed from every patch of grass on the island.

Billy hopped on Colin's round-the-island boat trip this afternoon and acted as tour guide whilst also using it as an opportunity to take photos of the Guillemot and Razorbill ledges for counting. Auk numbers on the ledges vary from day to day, which means we'll need to make repeated counts over a number of weeks before we can take an average and work out a final figure for the number of pairs. 

 Thrift Clearwings are now out in force on the West Coast and up on Pen Cristin.

The Yellow Rattle is lighting up the North West Fields.