Sunday 19 May 2024

Thick fog engulfed the island for the morning census with it clearly only in the afternoon where it turned to a rather nice evening with clear blue skies. The South End held the first Lapwing of the year with a Short-eared Owl being flushed from the rocks on the eastern side with a Sedge Warbler a surprise on the rocks on the west coast of the South End with the regular Rock Pipits and Oystercatchers and a migrant flock of 11 Ringed Plovers and a Dunlin. The Grey Plover remained on Solfach. Four Whimbrels remained with a single Curlew, four Sand Martins went over the Mountain with House Martins numbering 12. Warblers were thin on the ground with a Blackcap, three Whitethroats, six Sedge Warblers, five Chiffchaffs and two Willow Warblers. A single Spotted Flycatcher was at Nant.

The day was also marked with the hatching of the Ringed Plover brood, with two freshly hatched chicks seen at the nest and two eggs still to go. Fingers crossed for these fluffy little pebbles on legs!

A Turnstone was trapped last night © Ed Betteridge 

Alongside two Ringed Plovers and three Dunlins © Ed Betteridge 

Lapwing in the fog © Ed Betteridge 

Ringed Plover chicks hatching © Ed Betteridge 

Saturday 18 May 2024

After a sunny start first thing, thick fog smothered the island for the rest of the day, with strong northerly winds blowing the vapour across creating very atmospheric scenes. 

Although this made birding at any distance tricky, the fog did result in a good variety of waders on Solfach. Ten Ringed Plovers shared the beach with two Sanderlings, three Whimbrels, ten Turnstones, a peak count of 33 Dunlins, and the highlight was a partial breeding-plumage Grey Plover. The Wetlands also saw a new kid on the block in the form of an immature male Sparrowhawk

Grey Plover © Ed Betteridge
Dunlins and Sanderlings on Solfach © Ed Betteridge

There was a small arrival of Wheatears on the South End bolstering numbers among the breeding pairs, with a total of 11 birds seen there. Following the excitement of the day before, other migrant passerine totals were back down to just three Sedge Warblers, three Whitethroats, three Chiffchaffs, two Willow Warblers, as well as a Blackcap and a Spotted Flycatcher which were both ringed at Cristin. There were also a few finches around, with a Goldfinch, a Siskin and two Lesser Redpolls around the garden at Cristin. 
Spotted Flycatcher © Ed Betteridge
In other news, the Raven family were seen on Solfach, with both fledglings gaining confidence in the sky with each day! The Manx Shearwater productivity monitoring is also well underway with many of the study burrows across the island already occupied with adults on eggs. As the first eggs were found on the 4th May, we are anticipating the first chicks to hatch around mid June. 

Manx Shearwater egg being incubated, seen with the endoscope © Kate Fox

Carrion Crow nest © Ed Betteridge

The first Early Marsh Orchid of the year in the fog © Ed Betteridge

Friday 17 May 2024

Light south-easterly wind with cloud was perfect for a fall of migrants. Ringing at Cristin produced a rather fine male Eastern Subalpine Warbler, the 22nd Subalpine Warbler to be ringed on the Island along with four Reed Warblers, two Garden Warblers, a Redstart, seven Sedge Warblers, six Blackcaps, three Spotted Flycatchers, three Whitethroats six Chiffchaffs, a Willow Warbler and a Lesser Redpoll; with the first juvenile Robin and Blackbird also trapped. With the Withies catching a further seven Sedge Warblers, a Reed Warbler, a Lesser Whitethroat, a Whitethroat, a Chiffchaff and a Meadow Pipit. A further six Sedge Warblers, five Whitethroats, two Blackcaps, nine Chiffchaffs, six Willow Warblers, 11 Spotted Flycatchers were logged elsewhere.

Eastern Subalpine Warbler © Ed Betteridge

Wader numbers on Solfach were high with 12 Sanderlings, 11 Dunlins, five Ringed Plovers, three Bar-tailed Godwits and ten Turnstones with 11 Whimbrels and three Curlews across the Island. A Sandwich Tern went passed Solfach with a Black-headed Gull off the South End. Two Collared Doves were mobile around the Island with a male Cuckoo calling at Nant. Two Rooks went over the Wetlands with three Goldfinches and seven Lesser Redpolls.

The afternoon was spent counting gull nests around Pen Cristin and monitoring Manx Shearwaters at Barcut.

Many gull eggs are now hatching © Ed Betteridge

Oystercatcher nest with a view © Ed Betteridge

Thursday 16 May 2024

The day started beautifully calm and sunny with a light South Easterly breeze bringing a few new arrivals, before the wind shifted to the North and brought heavy rain into the evening. 

The highlight was a female Whinchat in the Wetlands, as well as a male Chaffinch singing proudly at Ty Pellaf, and a total of  four Spotted Flycatchers, 12 Goldfinch, 34 Linnets and five Lesser Redpolls. Also seen were a Sand Martin, 11 Swallows and seven House Martins, the latter two including some returning breeders which are now back on territory. 

Warbler totals came to four Sedge Warblers, four Whitethroats, a  Garden Warbler, two Blackcaps, six Chiffchaffs and two Willow Warblers. During a session at Cristin, ringing totals of these came to two Lesser Redpolls, a Goldfinch, a Robin, two Sedge Warblers, two Whitethroats, the Garden Warbler, a Blackcap and a Chiffchaff

Adult male Lesser Redpoll © Ed Betteridge

It was relatively quiet on the wader front, with a Bar-tailed Godwit, a Whimbrel and two Turnstones the highlights on Solfach. 

Other birds included a Grey Heron around the Wetlands, six Shelducks at Pen Cristin, a Buzzard above the Mountain, two Kestrels at Nant, and two Collared Doves around Cristin. The first juvenile Rock Pipits of the year were seen at the North End, as well as a new brood of fluffy Oystercatcher chicks tucked in among the rocks. Cetacean sightings are becoming more frequent, with three Harbour Porpoise seen off the West Coast. 

Following reports of reduced numbers of Guillemots on ledges across the UK, we took advantage of the calm morning weather to head out on the boat to gauge the numbers in comparison to previous years. Watch this space to see how numbers compared to previous years. In the afternoon, the gull nest count continued in the northern section of the East Side. While out there, another adult Shag was colour-ringed - look out for 'BBEB'!

Shag being ringed © Ed Betteridge

Large number of Moon Jellyfish in Henllywn © Ed Betteridge

Wednesday 15 May 2024

Strong easterlies winds saw some arrival with a male Kestrel went along the East Side, the Bar-tailed Godwit remained in Solfach with a Whimbrel there and along the West Coast, three Collared Doves were at Nant, a Little Owl was flushed from Nant, three House Martins were around the Lowlands, a male Firecrest was singing at Cristin, two Jackdaws and three Rooks went over, Spotted Flycatchers numbered five with warblers totally three Blackcaps, three Whitethroats, a Sedge Warbler, four Willow Warblers and ten Chiffchaffs with a Chaffinch, 12 Goldfinches, two Siskins and six Lesser Redpolls

Firecrest © Ed Betteridge

During the afternoon the gull nests were counted around Seal Cave and the first Herring Gull chicks were found freshly hatched! 

Herring Gull with nesting material © Ed Betteridge

Herring Gull chicks © Ed Betteridge

Tuesday 14 May 2024

Calm easterlies at this time of year always have potential, and today they produced with an Alpine Swift seen hawking over Nant with a mixed Hirudine flock mid-afternoon. The bird was unfortuantly brief being only seen by two day visitors before it gained height and headed north. 

Elsewhere, a female Teal toured the Wetlands and was the first in a while, four vocal Curlews were new in along the West Coast and were possibly a sign of failed breeding nearby, five Purple Sandpipers were on the South End with a Collared Dove at Ty Pellaf. Solfach had a rather nice Bar-tailed Godwit alongside a new Ringed Plover, four Turnstones, two Dunlins and a White Wagtail. Hirudines numbered 23 House Martins, 28 Swallows and five Sand Martins with a Spotted Flycatcher at Nant and Cristin.

Bar-tailed Godwit © Ed Betteridge
Other bird included a Buzzard, 13 Whimbrels, 15 Wheatears, seven Sedge Warblers, three Chiffchaffs, six Willow Warblers, two Whitethroats, two Rooks, a Chaffinch, ten Goldfinches and nine Lesser Redpolls
The afternoon was spent counting gull nests at the North End, this nest showing the variation in egg colour or possible egg dumping by another bird © Ed Betteridge

Razrobill on an egg © Ed Betteridge

A bridled Guillemot after being ringed © Kate Fox

Monday 13 May 2024

With the forecast predicted to be wet and windy for most of the day a nocturnal survey into the early hours produced two Whimbrels, four Ringed Plovers, two Dunlins, a Meadow Pipit, a Wheatear and the first Mallard of the year to be ringed. A small number of Manx Shearwaters were also ringed on the South End including a bird ringed as an adult in 1989!

The rain came in around 9am so a early census in a brisk south-easterly was in order. Migrant totals were low with 12 Whimbrels, two Collared Doves, 13 Swallows south, a Spotted Flycatcher, two Willow Warblers, three Chiffchaffs, a Sedge Warbler, two Goldfinches, a Chaffinch and four Lesser Redpolls logged.

Ringed Plover © Ed Betteridge

Whimbrel © Ed Betteridge

Mallard © Ed Betteridge

Sunday 12 May 2024

A brisk southerly wind with clear skies developed into thick fog during the evening. A Bar-tailed Godwit was on the South End with 12 Turnstones through east. A Grey Wagtail went high north over Nant late afternoon with a Starling on the School House and five Spotted Flycatchers around the Island including one trapped at Cristin. Lesser Redpolls are still on the move with 48 logged with most flocks going high south.

Other birds included a Grey Heron, a Sparrowhawk, a Kestrel, six Ringed Plovers, three Dunlins, a Curlew, eight Whimbrels, a Turnstone, a Feral Pigeon, three Collared Doves, two Sand Martins, 23 Swallows, nine House Martins, 17 Stonechats, 15 Wheatears, eight Sedge Warblers, a Whitethroats, two Blackcaps, eight Willow Warblers, eight Chiffchaffs, two Rooks, two Chaffinches, 32 Goldfinches and two Siskins

Lesser Redpoll © Ed Betteridge

Saturday 11 May 2024

Last night we were treated to an extraordinary display from the Aurora Borealis with clear skies perfect for watching this spectacle. 

Staff viewing the Northern Lights © Steve Stansfield

Northern Lights © Ed Betteridge

A Canada Goose was a surprise start to the day with a single bird flying over and landing on the sea off Solfach! Waders are still passing in decent numbers with four Ringed Plovers, four Sanderlings, six Dunlins, five Whimbrels, a Common Sandpiper and three Turnstones. Two White Wagtails were on Solfach with a Cuckoo and Garden Warbler at Nant with Spotted Flycatchers starting to pass through with nine logged. 

Warblers numbered four Sedge Warblers, a Blackcap, ten Willow Warblers, six Chiffchaffs with a Goldcrest new in at Cristin. Three Collared Doves toured the Island with a Feral Pigeon around Plas. Redpolls are definitely on the move with 20 including ten ringed with three Goldfinches and four Siskins. Hirundines numbered 30 Swallows, nine Sand Martins and four House Martins.

Turnstone © Ed Betteridge

Friday 10 May 2024

Calm south-easterlies with clear skies resulted in a Golden Oriole being seen flying south from Nant direction over the Lowlands; the bird was relatively high and was not seen to land being land seen flying over the Withies. Despite an extensive search the bird was unfortunatly not relocated. Incredibly this is the 61st record for the Island. 

Golden Oriole © Ed Betteridge

Golden Oriole © Ed Betteridge
An early morning corvid movement involved at least four Jackdaws and seven Rooks that toured the Island. Finch passage was strong with 38 Lesser Redpolls, five Siskins and 12 Goldfinches. A Flava Wagtail went over the South End mid-morning with Wheatear numbers still at 17 suggesting little movement. Three Sedge Warblers were recorded, down on recent days, but did include a UK control trapped at Cristin. A Spotted Flycatcher was in the Withies with a Goldcrest at Cristin. Only four Chiffchaffs were logged, all trapped at Cristin with Willow Warblers totally ten. A good passage of Swallows saw 65 logged alongside seven Sand Martins and seven House Martins. A wader fest on Solfach saw eight Sanderlings in a range of plumages alongside 25 Purple Sandpipers, four Dunlins, nine Turnstones, a Common Sandpiper and 27 Whimbrels
Seven of the eight Sanderling with a single Dunlin showing the range of plumages © Ed Betteridge

Sanderling © Ed Betteridge
The rest of the Shag nests were counted during the afternoon with yet more hatching, the total is still needed to be calculated but seems to be a record year for Shag pairs! A single adult Shag was caught with it being a bird ringed as a chick in 2018; the bird was fitted with a colour ring to allow us to conitue to monitor this bird.
Adult male Shag with its new colour ring © Kate Fox
However, despite good numbers of nests and eggs it was sad to see lots containing litter and plastic  © Ed Betteridge
This Razorbill was ringed as a chick in 1999 making it 25 years old © Ed Betteridge

Thursday 9 May 2024

Ringing at Cristin first thing produced a Reed Warbler, three Sedge Warblers, two Whitethroats and two Lesser Redpolls amongst a modest catch. A further four Sedge Warblers were trapped in the Withies with three elsewhere. A male Whitethroat displayed from Plas Withy with a Spotted Flycatcher on the Green Lane. 

The Grey Heron remained in the Wetlands, where a male Sparrowhawk hunted with two Ringed Plovers, 17 Whimbrels and a Common Sandpipers the only wader of note. A small number of hirudines numbered 17 Swallows, four Sand Martins and three House Martins. Other migrants of note included 17 Wheatears, five Willow Warblers and two Chiffchaffs. The first Shag nest count was made with the first chicks of the year found. 

The day ended with a Turtle Dove being seen flying north over Ty Bach before landing in Nant; the bird was very mobile flying around the North End and the Lowlands. Nant also had a Cuckoo, two Collared Doves and a Spotted Flycatcher

Turtle Dove © Ed Betteridge

Wednesday 8 May 2024

A moderate south-westerly breeze kept temperatures mild despite glorious sunshine for much of the day. Wader numbers were down from the day before, with just five Whimbrels and again four Ringed Plovers recorded, as well as a Sanderling on Solfach. 

Ringed Plover © Kate Fox

Hirundines continued to move through in small numbers, totaling at three Sand Martins, 45 Swallows and two House Martins. Other migrants included five White Wagtails on Solfach, three Sedge Warblers and a Blackcap ringed at Cristin, and total of three Chiffchaffs, four Willow Warblers, a Whitethroat and a Spotted Flycatcher. There were also two Goldfinches and two Siskins passing over Cristin, and a total of six Lesser Redpolls were recorded. 

Other birds included a Grey Heron touring the ponds, five Shelducks and a Starling at Plas. 

With the breeding season well underway, the team are busy mapping the territories of different species. During a walk along the West Coast to record breeding evidence of Rock Pipits and Oystercatchers, the first Oystercatcher chicks of the year were found just as they were hatching!

Oystercatcher chicks hatching! © Kate Fox

Tuesday 7 May 2024

Northerly winds did their best to damper migration with two Spotted Flycatcher in Cristin Withy and five White Wagtails on Solfach the only passerines of note. A small hirudine passage saw 50 Swallows, 13 Sand Martins and four House Martins logged with waders numbering seven Dunlins, 34 Whimbrels, two Curlews, six Turnstones and four Ringed Plovers.

Other birds seen included a Grey Heron, a Sparrowhawk, a Collared Dove, 18 Wheatears, three Sedge Warblers, a Whitethroat, two Chiffchaffs, five Willow Warblers, two Goldfinches and seven Lesser Redpolls.

Shelduck © Ed Betteridge

Dunlin  © Ed Betteridge

Monday 6 May 2024

The wind had switched to northerly overnight and dominated the days weather, causing a few birds to drop on the island. A vocal Blue-headed Wagtail was on Solfach during the high tide before heading north alongside seven White Wagtails. A good variety of wading birds were also in Solfach, including the first Sanderling of the year, 15 Dunlins, three Turnstones, six Whimbrels, three Ringed Plovers and a Common Sandpiper. Three Jackdaws at the North End were the first for a while with a female Chaffinch new in at Cristin where the eighth Garden Warbler of the year was ringed. A Grasshopper Warbler was reeling around Ty Pellaf anbd a Swift went north. The wind dropped in the evening and saw a Short-eared Owl cruise north along the Mountain from Pen Cristin.

Blue-headed Wagtail © Ed Betteridge

Sanderling © Ed Betteridge
In the evening a nocturnal survey around the Narrows produced four Dunlins, a Ringed Plover, a 'Greenland' Wheatear and three Whimbrels including a bird ringed in 2020. All the Dunlins and the Ringed Plover were colour ringed with the new rings from the Mid-Wales Ringing Group. 

Other birds of note included a Grey Heron, a Kestrel, a Buzzard, a Merlin, a Feral Pigeon, nine Wheatears, two Sedge Warblers, a Blackcap, four Chiffchaffs, a Willow Warbler,  12 Swallows, nine Sand Martins, four Lesser Redpolls and six Goldfinches.

Pied Wagtail © Ed Betteridge

Sunday 5 May 2024

Calm south-easterly winds didn't produce as much as hoped but still a few birds around. The South End was suprisingly busy with a Tree Pipit, a Lesser Whitethroat, two Common Whitethroats, 14 Chiffchaffs and six Willow Warblers in the gorse. A Flava Wagtail went over with another Tree Pipit over Cristin. A male Chaffinch was at the North End with a Garden Warbler in the garden at Cristin. Waders included 11 Purple Sandpipers, eight Ringed Plovers, three Turnstones and 24 Whimbrels. A passage of hirudines saw 40 Swallows, 13 Sand Martins and six House Martins logged. Ringing at Cristin was highlighted by a Reed Warbler, a Sedge Warbler and three Lesser Redpolls, with five Sedge Warblers caught in the Withies. 

Reed Warbler © Ed Betteridge
Other birds included a Grey Heron, a Buzzard, a Merlin, a Kestrel, two Collared Doves, three White Wagtails, 25 Wheatears, 11 Sedge Warblers, seven Whitethroats, eight Blackcaps, 19 Chiffchaffs, ten Willow Warblers, two Rooks, four Siskins, 16 Lesser Redpolls and two Goldfinches.

Razorbill © Ed Betteridge

In the early afternoon Gareth took staff and some guests around the Island to monitor the seabirds and get the first counts of seabirds on the cliffs.

Also seen whilst out on the boat was a rather strikingly pale 1st-year Shag on Carrag y Honwy with 31 other Shags. The bird was noticeably paler than the other 1st year birds present and seemed to show some characteristics of the Mediterranean subspecies Phalacrocorax aristotelis desmarestii. The bird showed many pro features including having a very pale underparts but seemed to lack dark thighs, though the bird was puffed up so could be hidden under body feathers. The upperparts are worn but have a pale look to them but perhaps not pale enough though there is great variation. The bill seems to be very good for desmarestii with yellow base extending across the lower mandible which seems very bright and contrasting with the dark upper mandible and culmen. Leg colour is variable in both races and photos didn’t show the feet too well however, they seemed pale especially compared to nearby shags. For any confirmed identification biometrics would be needed, really alongside DNA and/or a ring. Though hard to say from photos the bill does seem to be longer and thinner then the adult next to it; but again this varies between birds especially males and females. This follows a similar looking bird in September 2009, with a Bardsey ringed bird making it to northern Spain so its not impossible to think that Mediternean breeding Shags could make it here.

Pale Shag © Ed Betteridge

Showing the feet © Ed Betteridge

Compared to an adult, showing the bill structure and shape © Ed Betteridge

Pale looking Shag from 2009 © Steve Stansfield