Monday, 14 May 2018

We've mentioned several times on the blog that many of the island's birds appear to be late nesting this year, but it's just as obvious that plants are also late to bloom. Returning guests and island residents alike haven't failed to notice the lack of gorse flowers which usually light up the mountainside by early May, nor the lack of bracken alongside the paths. Probably the island's two most well known flowers, Thrift and Spring Squill, are only just beginning to start covering the coastline in swathes of pink and blue - two colours that very much sum up late spring here. Alongside these are smaller populations of Cuckooflowers and Bluebells in the damper areas of the lowlands, as well as some less obvious species that poke through the short species-rich maritime turf such as Western Clover, Small Adder's Tongue and Sea Mouse-ear. Today's continued sunny weather provided a good opportunity to get out for a bit of botanising!

Birdwise, today's highlight were probably two Continental Coal tits which were very mobile and foraged in the Withies, at Nant and at Ty Nessaf, both with distinctly slaty-grey backs and bold white cheeks characteristic of the nominate Continental subspecies Periparus ater ater. If accepted these could be a potential new race for both the island and Wales.

Continental Coal Tits - The British race P. a. britannicus has an olive hue to its brownish-grey back plumage, distinguishing it from the continental European nominate subspecies P. a. ater in which the back is bluish grey without a hint of green or brown.

A Fulmar, two Manx Shearwaters, 17 Gannets, two Grey Herons, a Sparrowhawk, a Buzzard, a Kestrel, two Peregrines, four Whimbrels, a Common Gull, a Kittiwake, 11 Puffins, a Collared Dove, a Little Owl, a Sand Martin, 244 Swallows, ten House Martins, three Stonechats, 17 Wheatears, four Sedge Warblers, a Reed Warbler, a Whitethroat, a Blackcap, a Chiffchaff, two Willow Warblers, two Spotted Flycatchers, a Rook, four Chaffinches, two Siskins, 14 Goldfinches, 24 Linnets and eight Lesser Redpolls made up the rest of the day's sightings.

 An iconic island view - the mountain, the lighthouse and a stunning carpet of Thrift.

Spring Squill is adding a bluey haze to the coastline at the moment.

 Cuckooflower is dotted around the lowlands at the moment. It acts as the sole foodplant for the island's tiny population of Orange-tip butterflies, although they're rarely seen here.

There's aren't vast carpets of Bluebells on Bardsey like there are on other Welsh islands such as Skokholm and Skomer, but they still brighten up the largely treeless landscapes of the wetlands and lowlands.

In the UK, Western Clover is restricted to exposed cliff tops and coastal grassland within 100m of the sea. There are only a few locations where it grows away from Bardsey, with populations in Cornwall as well as several other coastal sites in North and South Wales. The first few flowers are beginning to appear above Pen Cristin now, a week or so later than previous years. 

Small Adder's-tongue is a minute fern (seen here with a 20-pence piece for comparison!) which grows in damp grassland in several spots across the island. Without regular sheep grazing this rare and fragile species would be out-competed by more dominant grasses and sedges. We found several 'spikes' (ferns don't have flowers) poking through the turf a few days ago.

Sea Mouse-ear is a common find along the island's clifftops at the moment. The four forked petals (as opposed to five on other Mouse-ears) helps distinguish it, as well as the fact that it's... small.

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