Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Very gentle north-easterlies and plenty of sunshine just about sums up the weather today. George had the garden nets open before the sun was up and it turned out to be a fairly successful session, with Spotted Flycatchers and Lesser Redpolls in the mix (details at the bottom of the post).

Lesser Redpoll

Spotted Flycatcher

Sedge Warbler

Juvenile Song Thrush

Whilst George was ringing, Steve and Sam headed out, Steve went north and Sam went south. Up at Nant there was a decent arrival of Spotted Flycatchers, at least 26 flitting around the trees along with a Lesser Whitethroat. The bird of the day, however, was easily a Black Guillemot which was sitting on the sea between Bardsey and the mainland, looking brilliant in summer finery. There was one seen last year, so not an easy bird to see from the island.

After lunch both George and Sam headed out to continue the Manxie census, before Steve and Sam headed to the East side of the island to ring the Seal Cave Chough chicks. Last time the nest was checked (about one week ago) there was one chick and three eggs, this week just one chick remained. Perhaps the chick that hatched first got all the food? Who knows? Either way, it was taken and ringed with three colour rings, before being placed back in the nest, not worse for wear.

However, before arriving at the Chough nest, a Fulmar was re-trapped whilst sitting on its nest. These are birds that are best viewed from a distance..! As they have a powerful, heavily built head and beak, with a large hook-tip. On top of that, they produce an oily, acidic fluid that is stored in a muscular part of their digestive system called the proventriculus. They launch this fluid with considerable force from their mouths at any potential threats... Such as us!

Catching a Fulmar with a noose-pole

If you were an avian predator after an easy meal, you certainly wouldn't choose a Fulmar or its chick, as this fluid would matt your feathers and handicap your ability to insulate, keep dry or possibly even fly. That's why you rarely, if ever, see anything mess with a Fulmar. But to watch them soar along the cliffs is a different story... They have one of the most mesmerising flight styles of any seabird, stiff wings and subtle movements to use the breeze to full effect. Perhaps its the mixture of brutish strength and stunning grace that makes them so likeable...

Fulmar in flight

After having a check for Razorbill chicks, Steve and Sam headed back up the slope. Whilst walking along the track, two Oystercatcher chicks were caught and ringed, they were crouched just at the side of the track in almost perfect camouflage.

Oystercatcher chick

Other sightings today include: one Garden Warbler, 42 Shags, eight Shelducks, nine Mallards, 102 Herring Gulls, 34 `Swallows, 15 Stonechats, 14 Wheatears, six Sedge Warblers, four Whitethroats, four Willow Warblers, 30 Spotted Flycatchers, one Great Tits, six Ravens, eight Chaffinches, 19 Linnets and four Lesser Redpolls.

Ringing totals: Chiffchaff 3, Song Thrush 1, Dunnock 2, Lesser Redpoll 1, Blackcap 2, Spotted Flycatcher 2, Sedge Warbler 2, Goldfinch 2, Robin 1
9 species, 16 new, no re-traps



Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Today had a very grizzly start, with clouds hanging low over the mountain and sea fog right up to the coast, it certainly wasn't the most pleasant of mornings to be out. However, as the day went on, the cloud slowly burnt off and it was very hot indeed at times.

George was up at 04:30am to have the nets in the garden open by 05:00 - today's very calm weather was perfect for ringing, there weren't a great deal of birds around though, so between net rounds George started writing up the data from his burrow checks. A Sedge Warbler was probably bird of the morning in the nets - full totals will be at the bottom.

Sam headed out to the Northern recording area to do the morning census and stopped off at Nant first; five Spotted Flycatchers were busy feeding around the perimeter and two Collared Doves were in Ty Capel withy - it'll be interesting to keep an eye on these and see if they're up to anything. Also at Nant was the first fledgling Song Thrush of the year, these were extinct as a breeding species from 1967-2017 and then they have bred every year since, and including, 2018.

Spotted Flycatcher at Nant

The Withies were a little quieter with a further three Spotted Flycatchers and three Sedge Warblers for company. A brood of Meadow Pipits had fledged from beside Plas Withy and their parents were busy ferrying food to all four of them. A Willow Warbler was still singing away from in Cristin Withy, as with the Collared Doves, it will be interesting to see if this attempts to breed this year as they are only an occasional breeder on the island.

Early afternoon saw Sam and George head out to crack on with some more of the Manx Shearwater census, between them, another 250 burrows were counted today, they had to pack in early-ish though as a trip round to the East Side of the Island to monitor the seabirds was planned.

We headed round from Pen Cristin to count the seabird colonies at the Southern End of the East Side - we first stopped in the Herring Gull colony below Pen Cristin. There were a few chicks hatched in the area we viewed the cliffs from, and we found a few Shag nests from here, too. A Puffin flew out of a burrow nearby where we were standing too and stood below, always a stunning bird to see up close.

Puffin on Pen Cristin 

two Herring Gull chicks in the Pen Cristin colony

A Shag on a nest at Pen Cristin

This Shag was ringed a little further along the coast in the nest at Barcut in 2010!

Sam headed down to Barcut to count the Kittiwake, Guillemot, Razorbill and Shag nests at Tornado Ledge and checked the contents of the Shag nests while he did - most of the Shag pairs now have chicks, however a few are still incubating eggs at the moment.

Kittiwakes on the nest at Tornado Ledge.

Razorbill at the Nest site at Tornado Ledge

We there headed for another section of the Kittiwake Colony at "Little Kitt Colony", 39 Adults On Ledges (AOLs) were counted along with a further 12 Shag nests. After the colony had been counted, a couple of the Kittiwakes were caught and ringed and released soon afterwards.

The "Little Kitt Colony"

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Adult Kittiwake

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a photo showing the red orbital ring quite well

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The scientific name fir Kittiwake is Rissa tridactyla. The genus name Rissa is from the Icelandic name Rita the name of this species, and the specific tridactyla is from Ancient Greek tridaktulos, "three-toed", from tri-, "three-" and daktulos, "toe"

Other highlights and complete counts were: 45 Shags, two Sand Martins, 15 Swallows, 21 House Martins, 16 Stonechats, 13 Wheatears, six Sedge Warblers, four Whitethroats, one Blackcap, four Chiffchaffs, one Willow Warbler, three Great Tits, 28 Siskins and 20 Goldfinches.

Ringing today produced Goldfinch 6, Stonechat 3, Chiffchaff 1, Blackbird 2, Sedge Warbler 1, Kittiwake 2. Total 15 birds of 6 species.


Monday, 25 May 2020

Today held a lot of promise! That was the mindset last night and this morning... However, two Reed Warblers was the best the day had to offer in the end migrant-wise, but these are the first for a while so are not to be scoffed at. Plus, they are a good sign of movement!

Crow nest in the withies

The morning census's also produced a good number of Sedge Warblers, four in the withies, one at Nant and 4 in the reedbed. Stonechat juveniles were seen on the south end and the withies once again today, nice to see. It's always surprising how thick and fast juvenile birds start to appear!

Female Stonechat

Male Stonechat

The afternoon was spent carrying on with project work, which for George meant putting out new posts to mark some of his Manxie burrows. For Sam, it meant carrying on with the burrows census, the first section of the census area was completed today.

The main excitement of the day came in the afternoon when the Obs staff set off to ring some Chough chicks. Choughs, for those who don't know, nest in some very awkward places, often the nests are just plain inaccessible, at the least, a bit of a climb is required! The nest today was one of the easier ones to get to but still a bit of a scramble and a squeeze! At least three chicks were in the nest, but one hopped out of reach and so only two were accessed. They were colour-ringed and we'll be going to more nests tomorrow, so should be adding a few more to the totals!



Chough chick getting its colour-ring combination

Other sightings today include: four Fulmars, one Buzzard, one Peregrine, 107 Oystercatchers, two Whimbrels, one Curlew, 38 Swallows, four House Martins, 20 Stonechats and nine Wheatears.

A very brief ringing session in the withies yielded two Sedge Warblers

Sunday, 24 May 2020

Finally, the wind had dropped and we were treated to the first sunny, warm day for a while. Although there was still a relatively stiff breeze around, it was still very pleasant!

The morning saw George head up to Nant to see what was about, other than two Collared Doves which were also present yesterday, it was relatively quiet. A Blackcap was singing in Nant Withy, and the singing Whitethroat was still going strong above the Withy on the Mountainside. Otherwise, the recently fledged Stonechats were still being fed by their parents just beyond Ty Capel, I imagine it won't be long until these start becoming more independent.
a female Stonechat below the Obs.

Sam headed out once again to continue with his Manx Shearwater Census in the North West Fields, another 260 burrows were counted today and large increases were again seen in all of the walls counted.

George then headed out round some more of his Manx Shearwater Productivity Burrows and managed to get them all finished today after completing the ones at Cristin, Pen Cristin and Ty Pellaf.  As it stands, 70% of burrows checked have an adult with an egg, another check soonish should see a few more of these empty burrows being occupied.

Steve and Emma headed out for a walk later afternoon and there was a Spotted Flycatcher in Plas Withy, plus a couple more broods of Stonechat young, three were in Ty Pellaf Withy and another three were on the South End; seven broods have fledged so far this year with a few more pairs yet to fledge their young, too.

Other highlights today were: four Whimbrels, two Curlews, three Sedge Warblers, four Whitethroats, one Garden Warbler, three Blackcaps, one Chiffchaff.

Saturday, 23 May 2020

The weather today was much the same as yesterday, with 40mph winds coming in from the south-west. Because of these favourable conditions, George and Sam decided it would be a good opportunity to head to the North End hide to do some seawatching. As expected, the strong winds brought many of the seabirds close to the shore and it was a good chance to get close-up views of species such as Manx Shearwaters, Fulmars and Gannets. Totals from today’s seawatches will be at the bottom of the post.


 Oystercatchers from the North End hide

 Fulmar past the North End with Guillemots in the background

 Manx Shearwater

Gannets were flying in nice and close today

Hundreds of auks were flying close by too, including mixed flocks of Razorbills and Guillemots such as this


After a couple of hours in the North End hide, George and Sam headed down the West Coast the strong winds made it difficult to walk, almost having to stop to regain balance at some points. As is often the case in strong winds, small birds weren’t out in big numbers, but one nice surprise that was seen along the West Coast was the year’s first fledgling Wheatear. What’s more, just a little bit further south along the West Coast the year's first two fledgling Pied Wagtails were also recorded.

 Juvenile Pied Wagtail on the Narrows

Juvenile Rock Pipit on the South End


In the afternoon, Sam decided to brave the wind and go and annoy some more Manx Shearwaters with the burrow census. The wind does make it hard to hear and so the work was slower as you really have to get your ear in every burrow to listen for any responses, but one wall was completed which contained 69 burrows. Not bad, but it is far easier to move quickly along the walls when the weather is calm!

The wind had died down significantly by 17:00, and a quick walk through Nant produced three Spotted Flycatchers, one Robin and two Collared Doves, along with a few of the species that you would expect such as four Goldfinches, four Blackbirds and two Chaffinches.

The evening was spent having a curry night and watching a film with Steve, Emma and Connor (the reason this blog is being uploaded this morning rather than last night!) it went on until the early hours and we all ate far, far too many onion bhajis…

Sightings today include: 3589 Manx Shearwaters, 178 Gannets, 469 Kittiwakes, 18 Fulmars, 1000 Guillemots, 600 Razorbills, 20 Swallows, four House Martins, 10 Stonechats, 12 Wheatears, eight Choughs and ten Linnets.

Once again, wind prevented any ringing today!

Friday, 22 May 2020

Today has been windy, windy, WINDY!!! It has also been strangely warm in the more sheltered areas, but the wind basically made today a write-off.

This morning saw George having a look at the sea from the Obs to see if much was passing, but surprisingly there wasn't much at all apart from Manxies, and there wasn't even any massive number of those! A few Gannets were on the move, too, but there were more pressing matters to attend to, so he packed up early.

Carreg yr Henwy at low tide, still getting covered in water!

The morning was spent writing a few things for last year's report, re-ordering some of our lists into the BOU's new order and catching up on some other office work. Sam did some more work on the Helgoland Trap in the garden, stripping off the remaining mesh from the lower areas of the trap and leaving the higher stuff 'til a calmer day when working up a ladder is a bit safer!!

In the afternoon, George continued work on the Common Room wall, scraping back more of the lime mortar top expose more of the original stone. Once this wall has been re-pointed, floor re-painted and the rest of the room re-painted too, it should look quite good (if I do say so myself)... While George was having a break from the Common Room, there was a Garden Warbler singing in the garden, which is probably bird of the day!

the Common Room wall is shaping up well!

Sam headed out to the Narrows late afternoon, small waders were non-existent, and there weren't as many Oystercatchers as usual either, however, there were a few Whimbrels, with two on both Solfach and Henllwyn and another two along the West Coast as he headed to the North End. From the North Hide, things were much busier than this morning - in half an hour, 350 Manx Shearwaters and 28 Gannets passed the hide. Other than that, things were very quiet, with all small birds presumably well hunkered down out of the wind.

a Manxie passing the North End

Other birds of note were: 500 Manx Shearwaters, 53 Gannets, 14 Swallows, two House Martins, nine Wheatears, two Willow Warblers and two Great Tits.

Thursday, 21 May 2020

Another night of Manxie ringing in which another 102 birds were ringed and 33 were re-trapped, not bad going, that's almost 200 new birds in a couple of nights.

A Manx Shearwater ringed last night

The day started rather wet at roughly 06:00, with some slight drizzle that soon cleared. The morning census around the Narrows and South End yielded three Ringed Plovers, two Dunlins and five Turnstones as far as small waders are concerned, these were all feeding on Solfach. The 11 Sanderlings that were present yesterday were nowhere to be seen today.

Henllwyn was flat calm this morning

The South End gorse harboured the usual Stonechats and Wrens, with the occasional Oystercatcher amongst it all. The first fledgling Rock Pipit was recorded today, it was food begging on the rocks in Henllwyn, so we'll be seeing more of them very soon. Another juvenile Stonechat was seen in front of Cristin today too, also being fed by the adults.

A food-begging juvenile Rock Pipit (left) with an adult (right)

 A slightly closer view of the same juvenile Rock Pipit

Juvenile Stonechat

Once back from the census, we had plans to ring the Chough chicks on the South End, but first to check the productivity burrows for incubating adults, concentrating on the burrows that are on the East Side of the mountain. Sam and George ended up being out for roughly four hours checking the burrows and experienced some bizarre weather at the top of the mountain. Some mist rolled in from the sea and the temperature went from uncomfortably hot to uncomfortably cold in a matter of minutes!

The mist shrouding the mainland

Moving our way

 Until it swept around us, along with the cold breeze that was carrying it

The burrow checks went well, it appears some of the birds haven't got round to laying quite yet, but there is still plenty of time for them to lay and incubate. It's not uncommon for birds to lay eggs in June, some can lay as late as July, but that is really at the tail end of the season.

Because of the temperature drop and the fact that it was rather late in the day, the Chough ringing was postponed until Monday, which is something to look forward to!

Sightings today include: five Whimbrels, eight Shelducks, 79 Oystercatchers, one Collared Dove, 24 Swallows, five House Martins, nine Wheatears, nine Stonechats, eight Sedge Warblers and 14 Linnets.



Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Today started off grey but turned into a glorious, sunny and very warm day! It was probably the warmest day since we arrived, it certainly felt like it anyway, with temperatures getting up to about 18C.


Last night, Steve and George headed out to ring some Manxies and only got back to the Observatory at around 02:30am - it was worth it though and they managed to ring 87 between them! It's always a privilege to see these birds, and an even greater one to be able to ring them. Considering how elegant and agile these birds are at sea, they are remarkably unwieldy on land, stumbling around the island's walls throughout the night...

one of the Manxies ringed last night

Early morning saw Sam head out to do his census while George recovered from last night's 'Manxie-ing'. There were still a few Spotted Flycatchers around with three at Nant and one in the garden at the Obs. A couple of Whitethroats were present along the Mountainside too with one at Carreg Bach still and another singing away above Nant Withy. Sedge Warblers were still about too with four singing through the Withies and wWetlands and a further two in Ty Pellaf Reedbed.

George headed out to continue his Manx Shearwater Productivity Burrow checks and it is good news so far with 88% of burrows containing adults with eggs.

one of the posts in the North West Fields
a predated Manxie egg in the North West Fields

Steve and Emma headed to the South End in the afternoon and the Narrows held the most interest, Solfach to be more specific. An increase in waders was certainly apparent with 11 Sanderlings, eight Dunlin and seven Ringed Plovers feeding. This is by far the highest count of Sanderling so far this spring, and they're always a pleasure to see, with some of the adults beginning looking particularly smart.
Sanderlings roosting in Solfach
Mixed flock of Dunlin, Sanderling and Ringed Plover
Sanderling flying onto the beach in Solfach
Sanderling and Ringed Plover

Other highlights today were: four Whimbrels, one Curlew, six Sand Martins, 68 Swallows, 180 House Martins, 15 Wheatears, five Willow Warblers, seven Spotted Flycatcher, six Great Tits and 27 Linnets.

Ringing was limited to 87 Manx Shearwaters in the early hours of today.