Sunday, 13 October 2013

At about 0940, Chris radioed in to Cristin with the news that there was an interesting-looking wheatear on the South End. As people began the swift walk down to the Narrows, further news came from Chris with the possibility of it being a PIED WHEATEAR. This news fuelled a slightly quicker pace for birders nearing the site, and within minutes many had their binoculars and telescopes focussed on this stunning wheatear. After a while of watching the bird and taking some poor record shots, external features such as a scalloped mantle (with the feathers fringed pale-white) pointed to the bird most likely being a Pied Wheatear (as opposed to a melanoleuca Black-eared Wheatear).

However, before any further features could be noted, the bird flew east out into Henllwyn, across the bay, before landing on the seaweed-covered rocks on the other side. After 10 minutes, the bird was finally re-located on the track side in the Hay Fields. It afforded brief views, before continuing up the track, and then into the Ty-Pellaf Wetlands. Thankfully, it settled down on the fence lines for half an hour or so, allowing more features to be seen, ruling out the rarer possibility.

After a short while, the Pied Wheatear became mobile, flying over towards Traeth Ffynnon, before ultimately settling on the lower slopes of the East Side. Here, it seemed to be very comfortable in this terrain, and gave some fantastic views as it fed alongside a Northern Wheatear. It continued to show well up until 1130- at this point many of the observers dispersed to cover the rest of the island.

Unfortunately, it was not a happy ending to the story of the wheatear. At approximately 1430, efforts to re-find the bird on the east side came to an abrupt end, when a Sparrowhawk was seen flying over the crest of the hill carrying a hefty passerine. A few minutes later, the Sparrowhawk was seen again, and as it flew away the distinctive tail pattern of the wheatear was all that could be seen on the bird the hawk was grasping. And so, five hours after this stunning bird was found, the unfortunate rarity ended up in the talons of a male Sparrowhawk! A sad ending to a fantastic bird.

 The very smart Pied Wheatear. This is the first record of this species on Bardsey, and only the third for Wales. The previous Welsh record was 20 years ago: a bird found on Ramsey Island in 1993! The last image in this series show the very small amount of black on the outer edges of the tail feathers.
Some more images of the cracking bird. (c) Pete Howlett
A Northern Wheatear to compare!


  1. Did anyone from off the island try to twitch it?

    1. Hi Steve: I believe there were a few people wanting to get across to see it, but Colin (the boatman) was not doing any trips, so no-one came in the end.