Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Light easterly winds overnight and during the day not only brought a couple of rare sightings but also provided some excitement with some of the more common migrants that occur. The first surprise of the day came when a Long-eared Owl was discovered roosting in Cristin Withy.  For the lucky viewers the bird seemed happy perched motionless in more or less the same spot for most of the morning. Long-eared Owls occur on Bardsey most years and have even breed a few times, but due to their secretive nature and incredible ability to camouflage themselves, they may often go unnoticed. One Little Owl was also heard in the Lowlands and was particularly vocal as night fell. Two Sparrowhawks and two Buzzards were also seen.

Not long after the sighting of the Long-eared Owl came another surprise as a Bonelli's Warbler was discovered feeding at the eastern end of the Plantation which was bathed in early morning sunlight. This is the eighth record of the island, the last being in 2014 and found around the same area as this individual. Two days ago a phylloscopus warbler was heard calling twice from the garden at Cristin and thoughts were of perhaps a Greenish Warbler, but the bird did not call again and was not seen that day. The following morning a pale looking Phylloscopus Warbler with green wings was seen very briefly in Plas garden, but the bird quickly disappeared north not to be seen again that day and the identification was not clinched. This was most likely the same individual. Bonelli's Warblers breed as close as south west Europe but are a rare vagrant to northern Europe. There are two separate species, Western and Eastern Bonelli's Warbler, Eastern being the rarer of the two with only a handful of records for the entire United Kingdom. Separation of the two can be done on call, western sounding almost similar to that of a Willow Warbler or Chiffchaff with a whistled "hu-eef", whilst the Eastern's call is a harsher "chip", no overlap is known in terms of call between the two. Biometrics and wing formula can also help in terms of identification but overlap between the two can occur. The bird was later trapped in a nearby mist nest and biometrics and images were taken. Biometrics and plumage (as well as the call heard two days beforehand) suggest this individual is of Western origin, but frustratingly whilst being observed in the field the bird stayed silent.

Western Bonelli's Warbler feeding at the Plantation
Western Bonelli's Warbler later caught, ringed and released
Various Pied Flycatchers made an appearance in different locations around the island, three were recorded and were the first of the Autumn. Spotted Flycatchers also amounted to three, Willow Warblers nine, one Chiffchaff, two Goldcrests, four Chaffinches, a single Sedge Warbler, Blackcap and Whitethroat, 14 Stonechats and 16 Wheatears were also logged. Linnet numbers rose to the highest count of the Autumn with 316 noted, 13 Tree Pipits buzzed over the island and 61 Meadow Pipits, 20 Rock Pipits, a Grey Wagtail, nine Pied Wagtails and the first White Wagtail were also seen. A small number of hirundines were also noted as four Sand Martins, 95 Swallows and four House Martins passed over and fed in mixed flocks above the island.

Corvids present today included 20 Choughs noisily swooping and calling over the mountain, four Ravens over the Narrows, 21 Carrion Crows and 15 Magpie's.

As if this wasn't enough excitement an outstanding sighting came late in the morning when Bardsey's fourth Citrine Wagtail, a first winter bird, was discovered on the narrows. The bird was heard calling as it passed over parts of the Narrows but luckily settled on the grass very briefly before it took flight north up the island and wasn't seen again. Unbelievably the first record of this species on the island was in 2012 and subsequently three more records have been recorded in the last four years!

Citrine Wagtail seen all too briefly on the Narrows
A male Wheatear beginning to look extremely dapper after moulting
Again a fine selection of waders were on display throughout the island. A single Knot passed out at sea heading south, three Purple Sandpipers hid amongst the rocks around one of the beaches where five Dunlin, eight Redshanks and 38 of the 40 Turnstones were also seen. A Whimbrel, 13 Curlews and two Greenshanks were close by, 30 Oystercatchers were counted with four Snipes and three Green Sandpipers discovered further up the island.

Numbers off the coast had decreased with just a handful of species recorded. A Little Tern bombing down the west coast was a clear highlight but also seen were 18 Fulmar's, 123 Manx Shearwaters, 23 Gannets and a Great Skua. Cormorant numbers amounted to 13, Shag's 15 and seven Grey Herons were observed. Mallard numbers had swelled to 29 today, the female with her eight juveniles on Nant pond at the northern end of the island, 12 individuals around Solfach and eight in the North West Fields.

Black-headed Gulls moved south in numbers throughout the day with 430 counted, 106 Lesser Black-backd Gulls, 763 Herring Gulls, 32 Greater Black-backed Gulls and 118 Kittiwakes were also seen.

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