Thursday, 19 October 2017

Winds out of a south-easterly quarter might at first have seemed promising, but it was swiftly apparent that, with the breeze staying at around 35-40mph for most of the morning and early afternoon, any attempted migration was severely hampered. In the end it was mostly a day of ever diminishing returns.

Out to sea the main surprise was a strong movement totalling 136 Common Scoters, our highest count of the year and probably within the top ten counts ever logged off Bardsey. Otherwise, the only noticeable movement was of gulls off the South End. Of these, it was interesting to still record 65 Lesser Black-backed Gulls heading south in small parties, the first large movement in nearly a month. Otherwise 225 Kittiwakes, 78 Black-headed Gulls, 12 Common Gulls and 11 Mediterranean Gulls were seen. 211 Razorbills and seven Guillemots comprised the only other passage of note, with the only other notable sightings being singles of Great Skua and Wigeon.

A jumbled assortment of grounded migrants were on land, but realistically it seems like few of these were new arrivals. A Kestrel bucked the trend, being the first sighting of this species in the whole of October, while singles of Merlin and Sparrowhawk also remained. Three Firecrests were at the Plantation and showed very well, while just 29 Goldcrests, seven Chiffchaffs and two Blackcaps were spread around. Otherwise the rollcall was pretty modest, 26 Siskins and 21 Chaffinches was the sum of finch passage, 42 Starlings, six Song Thrushes, three Redwings, 30 Robins, two Wheatears, five Skylarks, three Snipes and a Water Rail were about all that was seen on land. A Grey Wagtail passed over Cristin, with lingering sightings again of two Great Spotted Woodpeckers and singles of Blue Tit and Great Tit.

Firecrest, Ephraim Perfect; Ephraim's Bird Blog

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

With the winds switching to easterly overnight, it was no surprise but nontheless very welcome to have a busy day's birding on all fronts. It was highlighted by a Great White Egret that headed south down the South End, before doubling back and returning North. This is the fifth ever record for Bardsey, following singles in October 1990, July in 1998 and 2006, and August 2015.

While it's been almost possible to take them for granted in some recent years, the three Yellow-browed Warblers today were our first since late September, and carried with them the real promise of a siberian waif, which sadly never materialised. Other Warblers were just 13 Chiffchaffs and two Blackcap, while Goldcrests increased to 66, with three Firecrests seen amongst them. It was probably the busiest day for Thrushes of the whole autumn, with 136 Redwings including one overhead flock of 102, and grounded totals of 42 Blackbirds, 32 Song Thrushes and two Mistle Thrushes. An arrival of Chats included 56 Robins, seven Stonechats and three Wheatears. Meanwhile, 160 Starlings made them the commonest migrant of the day.
Yellow-browed Warbler, Ephraim Perfect; Ephraim's Bird Blog

Overhead there was also plenty of action during the morning. The best day's finch passage of the year, numberwise, featured 118 Chaffinches, five Bramblings, 79 Goldfinches, 61 Siskins, 30 Linnets and seven Greenfinches mostly overhead or moving swiftly through the island. 87 Skylarks and 93 Meadow Pipits made them the other two commonest diurnal migrants. Wagtails are now well past their peak, but 22 "alba" Wagtails and six Grey Wagtails still trickled through overhead, as did six Swallows, as we reach the tail-end of hirundine migration. A single party of 15 Rooks headed south over the South End, while high totals of 46 Magpies and 31 Carrion Crows strongly suggested corvid migration was taking place. In particular, several groups of Carrion Crows passed south over the Mountainside, while one group of eight restless Magpies were flying around the very tip of the South End, presumably trying to find the courage to cross the sea! A few other odds and ends rounded off the day's landbird migration; four Reed Buntings were present, Rock Pipits increased to 41, Great Spotted Woodpeckers and Great Tits had both increased to two, three Water Rails, three Sparrowhawks and two Merlins were around, and a Grey Heron passed south over the South End. All in all, one of the busiest day's passage so far this autumn!

The only seawatching done today was an hour and a half off the South End early on. It was pretty good, but logging land migrants had to eventually take priority on a good day like today. Gull passage was impressive, with 520 Black-headed Gulls, 465 Kittiwakes, 37 Mediterranean Gulls and 11 Common Gulls. Additional highlights were a Great Northern Diver, two Great Skuas and an Arctic Skua. 540 Razorbills were logged but just 40 Gannets, however a noticeable passage of 63 Shags and 37 Cormorants took place. Seven Common Scoters and seven Guillemots were the only other sightings of note.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

As would be expected, most sightings of note today came from the sea, with several interesting sightings, presumably relating to birds relocating after Storm Ophelia. Most notable in Bardsey terms was the years second Great Crested Grebe in the late afternoon, but other high quality sightings featured a single Leach's Petrel, two Grey Phalaropes, two Pomarine and two Arctic Skuas and a single Little Gull. 836 Kittiwakes and 744 Razorbills made them the commonest offshore migrants, with a single Guillemot picked out amongst the auks, and 13 Black-headed, four Common and four Mediterranean Gulls amongst the Kitts. Meanwhile, 158 Gannets were logged, four Manx Shearwaters south were the first seen for several days, two Dunlins headed south and a single Common Scoter went through the North Sound.

On land, few species were in great numbers, but there was decent diversity. 120 Starlings made them the commonest migrant, followed some way behind by 47 Goldcrests. Otherwise very modest finch passage featured 29 Goldfinches, 15 Chaffinches, 11 Siskins and three Lesser Redpolls, with seven Skylarks and two Golden Plovers the only overhead migrants. Grounded migrants were pretty slim pickings, with 13 Blackbirds, six Song Thrushes, three Blackcaps, a Chiffchaff and two Reed Buntings the only evidence of an arrival. A single Water Rail, two Blue Tits and a Great Tit also remained from previous days, with two Sparrowhawks and a Merlin seen around the island.

Monday, 16 October 2017

While the birds were somewhat interesting today, the main story was, of course, Storm Ophelia, the outer reaches of which swept through Bardsey during the afternoon. Winds reached at least 70mph, and the waves were extraordinary, with some at least 30 feet high. While the human residents escaped unharmed and were able to enjoy the spectacular effects of some truly extreme weather, it will of course have been a difficult day for a lot of Bardsey's wildlife. Over 40 Grey Seal pups have been born on the island this year, but the storm surge at high tide will have left very few of their coves unscathed, and unfortunately we fear that many, probably the majority, will have been washed away. A census will be carried out in the next few days to assess the impact of the storm. On the Narrows the affects on wildlife could be seen in the extreme, with Grey Seals and Purple Sandpipers leaving their usual rocky haunts to take shelter on the grass, the only safe place for them. We also lost Solfach Hide to the sea, and there was a small amount of damage to houses further north up the island (Cristin appears to have survived untouched), but thankfully this was the limit of the storms impact on Bardsey life for the people.

A sad scene indeed; Solfach minus the trusty Todd Chater Hide (Tom Grose)
spectacular waves crashing over Henllwyn, sadly also the most popular area for pupping Grey Seals

Perhaps due to the storm, a good day by Bardsey standards was had for Waders. The most unusual were two Ruffs over the West Coast, while five Lapwings were also seen. Eight Snipes included four in the Narrows and one in/off at the South End, while a flock of nine Whimbrels zipped over the South End during the peak of the storm. Otherwise, 25 Purple Sandpipers was the highest count of the autumn (three of which were dazzled and ringed in the evening), and other good counts were 54 Oystercatchers, 51 Curlews, 40 Turnstones and 11 Redshanks.

the products of an evening dazzling on the Narrows; one of three Purple Sandpipers and a Redshank
(Ephraim Perfect, Ephraim's Bird Blog)

The day had started out fairly calm, with, like much of the country, a very warm southerly blow and a reddish tinge to the sky caused by Saharan dust. This seemed to facilitate a small amount of migration early in the day, the highlights of which were a Hawfinch and a fairly late Tree Pipit passing overhead. Typical late autumn fare was represented by 95 Starlings and 31 Redwings, with a few other Thrushes seen, notably seven Song Thrushes, a new Mistle Thrush and the lingering Ring Ouzel from yesterday. Visible migration was barely perceptible, but two Skylarks and a Grey Wagtail passed overhead. Otherwise a small selection of grounded migrants were seen, including 32 Goldcrests and 23 Robins; four Blackcaps, three Chiffchaffs and a late Willow Warbler were the sum of Warbler action, and a Firecrest was a new arrival at Ty Capel. Seven Siskins, three Reed Buntings and a Greenfinch were the best of the rest of the new arrivals, and some ever present fare included a Great Spotted Woodpecker retrapped at Cristin, where singles of Blue and Great Tit remained. A single Merlin was also present on the West Coast.   

Sunday, 15 October 2017

With Hawfinches showing up all over the country recently, it seemed like only a matter of time before our first of the year, and one that graced the Plantation today was probably the day's highlight. Alongside it came a small but interesting selection of migrants. A Ring Ouzel at Cristin was probably the scarcest, while six Redwings were the first of the autumn. 128 Starlings was the first large movement since several flocks in late summer, while a small array of other finches/buntings totalled 11 Chaffinches, seven Siskins and singles of Lesser Redpoll and Reed Bunting.

Just 42 Goldcrests and 33 Robins were in evidence today, with other warblers being seven Chiffchaffs and four Blackcaps. Five Stonechats were around on land, five Skylarks passed through overhead and two Merlins were present. Other highlights were lingering singles of Great Spotted Woodpecker and Water Rail in the Withies, and Blue Tit and Great Tit at Cristin.

Amongst waders, four Golden Plovers south were the highlight, while Redshanks had increased to 12, Whimbrels to three and Snipes to five. 34 Turnstones was also an increase on the previous day, with the flock of Curlews numbering 54 today. Out to sea was very quiet, five Great Skuas, 17 Common Scoters and a single Wigeon were about as interesting as it got, with a few loafing gulls including two Mediterranean Gulls.

One interesting sighting was a Portuguese Man-of-war washed up in Cafn.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

It remained rather quiet again today on Bardsey! A few definite new arrivals were seen on land, including 29 Goldfinches, three Starlings, two Reed Buntings, 51 Robins, five Water Rails and 13 Swallows  passing south. Also to be found were 32 Goldcrests, five Chiffchaffs, four Blue Tits, a single Great Tit and a Great Spotted Woodpecker, although some or all of these may have been lingering from previous days. Two Sparrowhawks and a Merlin were the only raptors of note, while waders included a Golden Plover on the South End and a Ringed Plover south offshore, but otherwise little different. A Snipe was in the Wetlands, with 55 Curlews, 22 Turnstones, nine Redshanks and two Whimbrels around the Narrows.

On the sea highlights were few and far between, but a Little Gull off the North End was a nice surprise. Three each of Mediterranean and Common Gulls, 11 Black-headed Gulls and 205 Kittwakes were also offshore, but otherwise all that were on the move were singles of Great and Pomarine Skua.

Friday, 13 October 2017

A very slow day on Bardsey today, clouds enveloped the island throughout the day. Combined with strong southerly winds, resulted in most birds sheltering.

The usual waders were again recorded today, two Whimbrels, 70 Curlews, 19 Redshanks and 42 Turnstones. A single Arctic Skua was logged showing well off the North End, followed by a Skua sp. On the land, ten Robins, five Stonechats, 14 Goldcrests, two Chaffinches and one Reed Bunting were the only migrants recorded.

The promise of easterlies on the horizon could produce some impressive migration over the next few weeks, following these prolonged westerlies which will have held most migrants at bay.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

A small drop in the winds were enough to see a small number of migrants make their way through the island today. A small passage was noted out to sea with four Manx Shearwaters, 81 Gannets, three Common Scoters, two Golden Plovers, one Pomarine Skua, one Mediterranean Gull and 267 Razorbills.

Two Wigeons lingered off the West Coast throughout the day, two Merlins were again an impressive sight. Three Water Rails were again heard from the Wetlands today.

A single Purple Sandpiper, two Snipes, three Whimbrels and 63 Curlews were todays waders and a Ringed Plover in Henllwyn was new in. On the land a Barn Owl around Cristin Withy was the highlight, presumably one of the lingering pair seen occasionally. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was still in the Withies, 25 Skylarks were heard overhead and a keen ear picked up on a Grey Wagtail making its way through. Robin numbers increased again today, a total of 35 was recorded. Three Chiffchaffs were the only warblers to be seen, but 47 Goldcrests were scattered around the island. Three Blue Tits and a Great Tit were again present. Finch passage saw some 11 Chaffinches, two Brambling (one of which was trapped and ringed, a stunning adult male), two Siskins, 25 Goldfinches, 11 Linnets and three Lesser Redpolls pass through the island. Two Reed Buntings were also recorded today.

Adult male Brambling trapped and ringed today,

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

The South-westerly winds continue to overstay their welcome here on Bardsey, with gusts well above 50mph at times! Unsurprisingly this produced very little on the land. However, persistence with seawatching produced a few birds of interest, six Manx Shearwaters were still to be seen, despite the majority already being on their wintering grounds. Gannets moved through in a noticeable number with 71 logged today. A smart adult Little Gull was a pleasant surprise; however, the clear highlight today was a 2nd calendar-year Yellow-legged Gull seen past the North End, only the sixth record of this species for Bardsey, but amazingly the second this year! Kittiwakes moved through in good number as did Razorbills with 1456 and 184 seen respectively. The only other bird out to sea was a single Puffin, an unseasonably late record! 

Two Purple Sandpipers were seen sheltering in the bays on the Narrows. Two Merlins were still to be seen, as were two Water Rails. Finally, Goldcrests predictably fell in number with only 14 seen today.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

With the winds blowing up again today bird numbers took a plung, however as ever there were some goodies recorded. Six Wigeon in Henllwyn were the first in a while, two Merlins continued to maraud the island today. A total of four Water Rails were heard in the Withies and Wetlands, waders included two Purple Sandpipers and two Snipes. Out to sea a Pomarine Skua was the highlight, however a Great Skua, six Mediterranean Gulls, 952 Kittiwakes and 837 Razorbills also made their way past the island. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was seen again, just a single Skylark was recorded today, whereas Robins climbed to 48 birds. Stonechats numbered nine along with seven Wheatears. Just two Chiffchaffs and 42 Goldcrests could be mustered from the bushes. Finally, a single Reed Bunting was heard in the Wetlands.

Chough pair in front of dramatic skies,

Monday, 9 October 2017

Another day of strong South-westerly winds today, but still relatively calm in comparison to previous days, allowing for a small trickle of migrants.

Sea passage consisted mostly of gulls however, 15 Common Scoters and 15 Mediterranean Gulls were the stand out birds. Two Merlin was slightly down on recent totals, but still a good showing of this charismatic species. A Barnacle Goose made its way South over the Island early on giving good views to the lucky observers, a somewhat scarce bird on Bardsey with only 19 previous records.

The majority of today’s waders were reported from the Narrows with the 15 Purple Sandpipers putting in another appearance. Two Whimbrels, eight Redshanks and 32 Turnstones were also of note. In the Wetlands and Lowlands a Jack Snipe and two Snipes were a pleasant surprise.

The land produced another good haul today with a Short-eared Owl the stand out highlight, however two Great Spotted Woodpeckers still lingered as well as two Barn Owls hunting around Ty Pellaf in the early hours. Overhead passage today was made up of 72 Skylarks, five Grey Wagtails, 17 ‘Alba’ Wagtails, 35 Chaffinches, three Greenfinches, seven Siskins, 64 Goldfinches, 58 Linnets, two Lesser Redpolls and two Reed Buntings. Bashing the bushes today produced 36 Robins, a Mistle Thrush, a Lesser Whitethroat, two Blackcaps, five Chiffchaffs, 52 Goldcrests and three Blue Tits.

View of the Llyn Peninsula from the North End,