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.   

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