Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Early Spring update

A surprisingly prolonged period of settled weather has allowed for a few boat trips over to Ynys Enlli over the last week, although it's still a couple of weeks until the Obs team arrive to start the 2019 season in earnest. Ben Porter managed to steal a day's visit to the island on Monday, and reports back on the state of affairs with the island's wildlife from a few hours stomping around in the unseasonably warm sunshine...

looking north-east to Pen Llyn from Mynydd Enlli

The rocky cliffs of the East Side were well-attended by returning seabirds on approach to the isle, with Guillemots lining the steeper cliff-faces, hundreds of Razorbills peppering the rocks around Briw Cerrig and Bae Felin; and a few pairs of Shags were already paired up for the season and midway through nest construction. Totals included 11 Fulmars, 17 Shags, 22 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 240 Herring Gulls, 5 Great Black-backed Gulls, 650 Guillemots and 745 Razorbills.

Only 11 Fulmars were present on their cliff ledge nest sites, although some pairs may not have been in attendance on today's visit

Guillemots prospecting cliffs and partners ahead of the 2019 breeding season. The cliffs will be looking a little more white-washed in a few months' time!

A walk of the coastline revealed the island's wintering Oystercatchers to have dispersed and paired up around their territories along the shore, with 107 birds counted, whilst a gathering of waders at high tide around the Narrows included a Whimbrel, 45 Purple Sandpipers, 31 Curlews, 10 Redshanks and 36 Turnstones. A single Red-throated Diver was present off the South End, alongside some stunning breeding-plumage Cormorants with white-frosted head attire.

Towards the more vegetated refuges away from the shore, the Plantation held four Chiffchaffs and a singing male Goldcrest, along with a Painted Lady and Peacock butterfly feeding on the Pussy Willows; a scattering of 15 Stonechats - some doubtless newly-arrived migrants - populated patches of flowering gorse, and 48 Meadow Pipits, two Skylarks and a Song Thrush were seen in the pastures and coastal fields. Perhaps the highlight of the visit was a Short-eared Owl, flushed from the rushy fields near Ty Pellaf Withy. A single Jack Snipe and 28 Common Snipe also revealed themselves after some traipsing through the wetter rush and boggy wetlands. 

Aside the birdlife, there were a handful of Seven-spot Ladybirds dotted around, no doubt wafted in on the warm southerly winds, whilst clouds of the dung beetle Aphodius sphacelatus swarmed along parts of the summit ridge, honing in on patches of fresh sheep dung. There were 128 Grey Seals hauled out in Henllwyn and along the South End, but surprisingly no cetaceans to be seen considering the flat-calm seas. 

We'll have to wait another couple of weeks until the BBFO team arrive for the next update - hopefully there will be some Wheatears hopping along the coast by then!

The day's Chough count was just nine birds, although some of the non-breeding birds which usually spend the winter on the island may be elsewhere on the mainland instead. Even so, this is a worryingly low count considering we'd hope to have eight or nine pairs beginning to nest build in the coming month 

Oystercatchers in the roaring westerly swell, despite a complete lack of wind

Painted Lady - whether this individual is a true migrant or has emerged more locally is hard to say, but with the current weather conditions it could easily be from further afield 

Seven-spot Ladybird

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