Sunday, 22 October 2017

A day of strong North-westerlies; following an exceptional storm blowing birds into the Irish Sea. We've been blessed with these conditions on a few occasions this autumn, and in reality seawatching has been the saviour of an otherwise very below-average season. A near constant watch of the sea was achieved today, and as such a good amount was seen. While the numbers of most species are lower than our previous, brilliant days in September, a very, very good diversity of species and some high quality ones were to be seen.

The classic prize of autumn north-westerlies off Bardsey is Leach's Petrel, today was no exception with six passing the island, mostly during the afternoon and close inshore. Two Storm Petrels in amongst them were much more of a surprise. A Gadwall was the rarity of the day, being just the 11th record, while six Pale-bellied Brent Geese were also good sightings of a species normally barely annual on here (although several have been seen this autumn). Skuas were well represented, with 20 Arctic Skuas, 18 Great Skuas and five Pomarine Skuas, and one unidentified Skua sp. that was probably also a Pom. The two commonest migrants were 2046 Kittiwakes and 1475 Razorbills, while 203 Guillemots was their strongest showing of the autumn. Amongst the Kitts were eight further species of gulls, alongside the regulars came single adults of Sabine's and Little Gull, four Mediterranean Gulls and 15 Common Gulls. And, while it's getting late in the year for terns, four Arctic Terns and one Sandwich Tern were still logged. The best of the rest was still a fine supporting cast, featuring one Red-throated Diver, three Great Northern Divers, ten Manx Shearwaters, two Fulmars, one Wigeon, 32 Common Scoters and six Golden Plovers.

It was aways unlikely that landbirding could amount to much, but in the end the diversity of species was a pleasant surprise. The only migrants in any way numerous were 56 Starlings, 34 Goldcrests and 33 Goldfinches, but quite a lot else was there to be seen. Three Sparrowhawks, two Merlins and a Kestrel were the best of the raptors, while two Water Rails squealed in the Withies, where a Great Spotted Woodpecker lingered. On the coast 59 Curlews, three Whimbrels and six Purple Sandpipers were of note.

The most notable passerines were the first Fieldfare of the autumn in the Withies, a lingering Black Redstart in Nant Valley, three Firecrests still in the Plantation and an increase to seven Coal Tits around the island. The other odds and sods recorded featured six Stonechats, three Song Thrushes, a Redwing, three Blackcaps, eight Chiffchaffs, two Blue Tits, a new-in Great Tit at the Plantation, a Greenfinch, two Siskins, three Lesser Redpolls and a Reed Bunting. While hardly ripping up trees, there were evidently some new arrivals, which given the strength of the wind overnight was a pleasant surprise!

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