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 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'.

Thursday, 11 October 2018

The weather couldn't quite make up its mind as to how it wanted to treat us today. What started off as a stunningly calm and sunny morning quickly deteriorated with the arrival of an impressive storm that drifted up from Cardigan Bay. It was one of those huge expanses of darkened sky that we can brace ourselves for as we watch it slowly creep towards us from miles off out to sea, and this one drenched the island for much of the afternoon. Once it eventually dissipated, it left us with an eerily still and humid evening plus a couple of interesting birds too. The first Yellow-browed Warbler of the year was associating with a small flock of Coal tits in Cristin Withy, and a Treecreeper was mixed in too. A Firecrest was at Ty Capel and a lonely Spotted Flycatcher was found in the Plantation.

Other birds logged today included a Fulmar, two Common Scoters, a Sparrowhawk, a Buzzard, two Kestrels, a Merlin, two Peregrines, two Water Rails, three Purple Sandpipers, six Snipes, three Whimbrels, six Curlews, three Redshanks, five Turnstones, four Mediterranean Gulls, 100 Black-headed Gulls, five Common Gulls, a Little Owl, eight Skylarks, 11 Swallows, two Grey Wagtails, 29 Robins, three Stonechats, four Song Thrushes, eight Redwings, five Blackcaps, a Yellow-browed Warbler, 12 Chiffchaffs, two Willow Warblers, 19 Goldcrests, a Firecrest, a Spotted Flycatcher, ten Coal tits, two Blue tits, five Great tits, a Treecreeper, 45 Starlings, eight Chaffinches and 15 Goldfinches.

The first Yellow-browed Warbler in, big swells off the West Coast, bracken looking withered and crispy and the sun hanging low in the sky. It definitely feels like autumn. 

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

There was a welcome improvement on the bird front today. As has often been the case recently, the majority of today's notable sightings were recorded within the first few hours of daylight during a period of overhead passage, with the southerly headwind being light enough to allow 98 Skylarks and ten Grey Wagtails to move through. They were joined by a sprinkling of finches, notably the first four Bramblings of the autumn and four Crossbills, two of which dropped down briefly into Cristin Withy. The 'classic' first two Redwings of the autumn were in the Observatory garden mid-morning, five days earlier than their first appearance in 2017, whilst two Willow Warblers made a late appearance. The highlight of the day was the brief appearance of a House Sparrow for a few minutes in the courtyard at Nant. 

Two Teals, seven Common Scoters, two Sparrowhawks, a Buzzard, two Kestrels, a Merlin, three Peregrines, a Water Rail, a Purple Sandpiper, three Dunlins, a Snipe, a Bar-tailed Godwit, two Whimbrels, 40 Curlews, 13 Redshanks, 56 Turnstones, an Arctic Skua, 56 Mediterranean Gulls, 377 Black-headed Gulls, 14 Common Gulls, 300 Kittiwakes, a Common Tern, 420 Razorbills, a Woodpigeon, a Little Owl, a Swallow, five 'alba' Wagtails, 36 Robins, five Stonechats, two Wheatears, three Song Thrushes, seven Blackcaps, 15 Chiffchaffs, 26 Goldcrests, a Firecrest, three Coal tits, six Blue tits, three Great tits, ten Rooks, a Starling, eight Chaffinches,, two Siskins, 32 Goldfinches, 80 Linnets and two Lesser Redpoll.

The results of Sunday's Bird Observatory Bird Race are up! Congratulations to Gibraltar Point for winning the Mainland League with a scorching 122 species, and an equally well played to North Ronaldsay for coming joint first place with yours-truly in the Island League.

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Once again the stiff southerly wind hampered birding attempts on the land, with the highlight of the day coming from the sea in the form of a Bonxie off the West Coast. Wader numbers increased with six Purple Sandpipers and 40 Turnstones in Solfach where ten winter-plumage adult Mediterranean Gulls were also feeding. Otherwise, it was a day for entering Oystercatcher nest data into IPMR and continuing with report writing.

Other birds logged today included eight Manx Shearwaters, 412 Gannets, a Sparrowhawk, a Buzzard, a Kestrel, three Peregrines, two Ringed Plovers, two Dunlins, a Bar-tailed Godwit, three Whimbrels, 20 Black-headed Gulls, two Common Gulls, 988 Kittiwakes, two Guillemots, two Little Owls, one Swallow, eight Robins, two Stonechats, a Wheatear, two Blackcaps, five Chiffchaffs, 14 Goldcrests, a Coal tit, a Blue tit, four Great tits, eight Chaffinches, two Goldfinches and a Linnet.

Today's birding left us wanting more, but the sunset hit the spot.

Monday, 8 October 2018

Today could pretty accurately be described as the 'comedown' after yesterday's bird race. There wasn't much visible overhead migration and there seemed to be a pretty obvious exodus of migrants on the land. The best count came from the sea, with 1189 Kittiwakes feeding in several large flocks of the West Coast throughout the day. The Little Egret lingered for another day as did the Collared Dove.

A Manx Shearwater, 63 Gannets, three Grey Herons, a Buzzard, a Kestrel, two Merlins, a Water Rail, a Ringed Plover, five Purple Sandpipers, two Dunlins, a Snipe, four Whimbrel, 48 Curlews, 18 Turnstones, nine Mediterranean Gulls, 23 Black-headed Gulls, two Common Gulls, 12 Robins, four Chiffchaffs, 21 Goldcrests, a Coal tit, a Great tit, three Jackdaws, four Chaffinches, four Goldfinches and four Linnets.

Probably today's most interesting find was this small weevil, Donus zoilus, in the moth trap this morning. The adults eat small legumes such as clovers and trefoils before overwintering and emerging again the following spring.

Sunday, 7 October 2018

The morning of the Bird Observatory's Bird Race 2018 dawned to a similarly dramatic passage of Skylarks over the island, almost all of which were heading south. A minimum of 457 birds were totted up during evening log, making today the best Skylark day since 1400 were recorded on 19th December 2010. They were joined in the sky by a Woodlark that flew south midway through the morning - just the 21st record for the island.

We were all giving our census routes that little bit of an extra grilling today in the hope of maximising our species total, but the strong south-westerly wind made birding at ground level hard work. Just six Coal tits, a Blue tit and eight Great tits remained following yesterday's influx, whilst out at sea a Pomarine Skua and two Arctic Skuas harassed the ever-present flock of Kittiwakes. At the end of play, we had recorded a respectable 74 species. Now to wait for all other competing bird observatories to submit their results before the winner is announced!

Other birds today included a Manx Shearwaters, 46 Gannets, a Little Egret, a Common Scoter, two Sparrowhawks, two Buzzards, three Kestrels, two Merlins, two Water Rails, two Ringed Plovers, four Purple Sandpipers, three Dunlins, three Snipes, a Bar-tailed Godwit, two Whimbrels, 50 Curlews, 22 Redshanks, 30 Turnstones, four Mediterranean Gulls, 113 Black-headed Gulls, seven Common Gulls, 580 Kittiwakes, a Collared Dove, a Little Owl, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, two Swallows, 240 Meadow Pipits, two Grey Wagtails, 68 'alba' Wagtails, 27 Robins, four Wheatears, five Song Thrushes, five Blackcaps, eight Chiffchaffs, 37 Goldcrests, ten Jackdaws, 50 Rooks, two Starlings, 68 Chaffinches, four Siskins, 56 Goldfinches, 17 Linnets, three Lesser Redpolls and two Crossbills.

These birds may have a more local origin than the two 'Continental' Coal tits we recorded back in May, but their ability to disperse is still impressive. A Blue tit ringed here on 4th October 2003 was re-trapped alive and well 345km to the west on Cape Clear Island 19 days later.