Saturday, 26 September 2020

More northerlies today, and still rather strong at 18mph. The day got off to a nice start with a Black-throated Diver flying south along the west coast! This will likely be the only record of this species this year! The short seawatch session also yielded one Fulmar, two Manx Shearwaters, one Sooty Shearwater, 87 Gannets, 17 Common Scoters, 844 Kittiwakes and 288 Razorbills.

A few wader species were present on Solfach and the Narrows, as usual. Today, seven Oystercatchers, six Ringed Plovers, three Dunlins, nine Turnstones and four Redshanks were counted. Other waders included a flock of 24 Curlew that were roosting on Carreg yr Henwy, and two Snipes flushed up from the Wetlands.

One of today's ringed Plovers on Solfach

Another star bird today was a very quiet and very skulky Yellow-browed Warbler in the garden at Ty Pellaf. It was first seen in an apple tree before ducking into cover. The second of what is shaping up to be a good year for this species! A Reed Bunting was found in Ty Pellaf Withy too.

Spot the birdie... The rather elusive Yellow-browed Warbler at Ty Pellaf

Other sightings today include: two Lesser Redpolls, 75 Linnets, 65 Goldfinches, 15 Goldcrests, five Chiffchaffs, two Blackcaps, 19 Stonechats, 13 Robins, 166 Meadow Pipits and one Skylark.

Friday, 25 September 2020

 The north-westerlies continued today, 21 mph throughout the day. Seawatching took place during the morning, it wasn't the most action-packed day, but skua and Kittiwakes passage was decent, the totals include 11 Manx Shearwaters, 483 Gannets, four Teals, five Common Scoters, six Arctic Skuas, 11 Great Skuas, one Mediterranean Gull and 1874 Kittiwakes

Mallards have been flocking around Solfach lately, up to 25 have been seen together

A walk to the south end produced a nice juvenile Bar-tailed Godwit mingled in with a flock of 43 Curlews. Singles of this species have been recorded consistently over the last few days. Two Skylarks were also a nice sight and sound as the occasionally sprung up from the heather into the strong northern wind.

There have now been 27 Seal Pups, hopefully, we're in for another year of 55-60 in total!

Solfach was quieter today, waders include just two Ringed Plovers, five Dunlins, three Redshanks and 11 Turnstones all accompanied by 22 Rock Pipits and 18 White Wagtails.

Thursday, 24 September 2020

Rain fell heavily during the night but had more or less cleared by the morning, although dark clouds were threatening throughout the day. The wind was 19 mph from the north-west and had a biting chill to it.

The westerlies seem to be halting migration slightly, and today was even quieter than yesterday for most species, only 19 swallows were recorded today and just 55 Meadow Pipits. White Wagtails were still in decent numbers on Solfach, 26 were counted today, along with 28 Rock Pipits. The sound of Goldcrests could be heard in the Obs garden, and could mainly be seen feeding amongst the three spruce trees, hopefully, we'll be getting some really large numbers of these tiny migrants soon...

Seawatching was not as productive as hoped, 19 Manx Shearwaters, 56 Gannets, 250 Kittiwakes and 24 Razorbills were about the best of it. Three Great Skuas were seen off the South End later in the day, too. 

One of our ringed Shags, ringed earlier this year from a brood of three.

There was a good variety of raptors today, two Kestrels, one Sparrowhawk, two Peregrines and a Merlin. these are becoming quite standard species for any given day, but are nice to see, of course.

 A young Merlin tucking into a pipit on the North End

Waders were once again in decent numbers, 38 Oystercatchers, eight Ringed Plovers, nine Dunlins, one Whimbrel, 43 Curlews, five Redshanks and a good count of 52 Turnstones.

Wednesday, 23 September 2020

The wind switched to a north-westerly today, and wind speeds were lower, gusting at around 15mph. Immediately noticeable was the number of Robins ticking away in the garden, in total 26 were counted today. 

Nant produced three Blackcaps, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a small flock of Lesser Redpolls and decent numbers of Goldcrests, plus three Sparrowhawks circling over the plantation. 

It was another good day for waders, and in particular, the best day of the year for Curlews with a flock of 143 counted on the south end! Far higher than the previous highest total. Other waders today include 15 Oystercatchers, 7 Ringed Plovers, 12 Dunlins, two Snipes, one Bar-tailed Godwit, two Whimbrels, four Redshanks and 43 Turnstones.

Seawatching in the morning produced highlights of one Balearic Shearwater, two Great Skuas and three Great Northern Divers, but the highlight of the morning had to be a Great Crested Grebe which flew through the Sound late morning!

A Kestrel at the farm took a liking to one of the mist net poles as a perch and as it was in the area all day, George thought he may as well try and catch it which he managed to do. A very rarely ringed species on the island! 

A young Kestrel caught at the farm today

Totals today include 11 Lesser Redpolls, 72 Linnets, 36 Goldfinches, three Siskins, two Chaffinches, four Ravens, 22 Goldcrests, five Blackcaps, 13 Wheatears, 26 Robins, 28 White Wagtails, one Grey Wagtail, four Skylarks, 14 House Martins, four Black-headed Gulls and three Mediterranean Gulls.

Tuesday, 22 September 2020

 It was windier today, a 20mph south-westerly was fairly constant all day long. This meant visible migration was not as productive as the last couple of days and the number of Skylarks, Grey Wagtails and Meadow Pipits had dwindled. A Merlin was busy hunting any Meadow Pipits on the south end, other raptors today include, two Kestrels, two Sparrowhawks and two Peregrines.

Solfach was quite active, though. During high tide in the morning waders on the beach included six Ringed Plovers, ten Dunlins, nine Redshanks, 41 Turnstones and a Bar-tailed Godwit! A flock of 12 Black-tailed Godwits flew past the Narrows during the morning too! Four Purple Sandpipers were also present on the rocks around the Narrows, they are often out of sight and only seen if they get flushed by something!

Purple Sandpiper

A seawatch took place throughout the morning, and although quiet on almost every front, a very notable passage of 17 Balearic Shearwaters made up for the lack of other numbers! These are the first records in what we were worried was going to be a blank year for this species! 

Passerines, as mentioned were not passing in great numbers today, but pulses of Swallows flying south added up to 88 birds. The usual number of White Wagtails were present on Solfach, 41 in total. The highlights of the day were two Whinchats that were briefly seen in the Lowlands before ducking out of sight not to be seen again, the second and third for the month! Only two Skylarks were seen, both on the narrows and 82 Meadow Pipits is a large decline compared to other days this month. Today was, unfortunately, a blank day for Grey Wagtails too, probably due to the change in wind direction.

Monday, 21 September 2020

Today was calm and sunny, with almost no wind. This morning George opened nets at Ty Pellaf, Kevin opened at the Withies and Alex at the Obs.

Eighty-three birds were caught at Ty Pellaf, with 44 Meadow Pipits making up for the bulk of the catch. This was reflected in the overhead passage as 300 were recorded across the whole island. Also caught at Ty Pellaf were 16 Lesser Redpolls, 13 Goldcrests, four Chiffchaffs and a Willow Warbler.

Just over 60 birds were caught between the Withies and the Obs, with the highlights being a second juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker and another Grey Wagtail.

The first Woodlark of the year was heard flying over Ty Pellaf and 41 Skylarks were recorded on passage. Brent Geese were seen for the second consecutive day along the West Coast when 11 flew North this afternoon. Other highlights from visible migration today were the continued passage of Grey Wagtails, of which 20 were recorded, 27 Common Scoters and eight Snipe. A Merlin was also seen again around the South End.

adult White Wagtail (Motacilla alba alba)

A similarly calm evening allowed for another attempt at catching White Wagtails, and this proved the most successful session yet as 11 were ringed. This takes the total caught this year to 37 individuals.

 Juvenile White Wagtails, male (left) and female (right).
Ringing at Ty Pellaf as the sun sets

Other sightings: one Teal, two Sparrowhawks, one Kestrel, eight Ringed Plover, five Purple Sandpipers, 14 Redshanks, nine Razorbills, one Whitethroat, one Spotted Flycatcher, 26 Carrion Crows and 31 Lesser Redpolls.

Sunday, 20 September 2020

A fresh breeze from the North East was still a main feature of today, but the sun was again hot, helping to keep things from being too cold!

In the morning, the best bird was another Lapland Bunting which flew south over the North End, these are becoming almost expected now on mornings with reasonable overhead passage! A Merlin on the Narrows was trying to catch Wheatears and Meadow Pipits which were feeding down on Henllwyn.

Kestrel over the South End
Skylark over the South End
Silver Y on the South End

In the afternoon, a pod of 30 Common Dolphins and four Harbour Porpoise headed down the West Coast while a Grey Plover headed North overhead.

Grey Plover over the Obs

Saturday, 19 September 2020

Today was slightly colder and windier than yesterday, making census more difficult this morning.

It was apparent that many of yesterday's birds had moved on, but three Spotted Flycatchers were still present along with one of the Hooded Crows in the Northwest Fields. There had been at least a small arrival of Wheatears as 28 were seen across the island, all being of the Greenland subspecies 'leucorhoa'.

'Greenland' Wheatear

Three Lapland Buntings were the highlight of overhead migration, including one individual that briefly came down onto Pen Cristin. Meadow Pipits also continued to move through the island today as 245 were recorded.

Spotted Flycatcher

There were 11 Redshank, five Ringed Plovers and nine Dunlin on Solfach, as well as four Mediterranean Gulls and 11 Black-headed Gulls sat on the sea together. Five Common Gulls were also seen between here and the South End. The first Jack Snipe of the autumn was seen on the South End amongst a flock of Skylarks, as well as two Common Snipe and four Golden Plovers.

Mediterranean Gull (left) and Black-headed Gull

Redshanks and Turnstones

Newborn seal pup and mum

Common Snipe


Hooded Crow

The first socially-distanced log of the year took place this evening outside the Observatory, during which two Little Owls were heard calling from the lowlands.

Other sightings include: four Common Scoters, one Whimbrel, ten Sandwich Terns, two Great Spotted Woodpeckers, 26 Skylarks, one Whitethroat, two Blackcaps and one Starling.

Friday, 18 September 2020

Today started out feeling rather chilly as the brisk north-easterly winds continued and clear skies were over the island. George headed north to Nant, Alex to the lowlands and Steve to the south.

As the morning went on, it was clear that there were a good number of migrants scattered across the island. However, the best bird of the day was had early on when Steve found a Yellow-browed Warbler feeding on insects in the sunflower field at Ty Pellaf. This is the first record for the year and the 2nd earliest record ever for this species, with the first coming just one day earlier in 1988. The bird was elusive but stayed into the afternoon and was briefly joined by a Wood Warbler in the Ty Pellaf garden, just the second record this year of this declining long-distance migrant.

The Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus breeds in the east Palearctic. Its breeding range extends from just west of the Ural Mountains eastwards to eastern Siberia, Mongolia and Northeast China. It is a strongly migratory species and winters mainly in tropical South Asia and South-east Asia, but also in small numbers in western Europe. Many hundreds reach the shores of the U.K. each autumn. It was formerly considered to comprise three subspecies, but P. i. humei and P. i. mandellii are now split as a separate species, Hume's Leaf Warbler P. humei, leaving P. inornatus monotypic. The Yellow-browed Warbler was first described by the English zoologist Edward Blyth in 1842.
The Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus breeds in the east Palearctic. Its breeding range extends from just west of the Ural Mountains eastwards to eastern Siberia, Mongolia and Northeast China. It is a strongly migratory species and winters mainly in tropical South Asia and South-east Asia, but also in small numbers in western Europe. Many hundreds reach the shores of the U.K. each autumn. It was formerly considered to comprise three subspecies, but P. i. humei and P. i. mandellii are now split as a separate species, Hume's Leaf Warbler P. humei, leaving P. inornatus monotypic. The Yellow-browed Warbler was first described by the English zoologist Edward Blyth in 1842. 

Elsewhere across the island another Wryneck was seen along the mountainside, offering relatively good views for this often rather skulky species. There had also been an arrival of Wheatears as 34 were seen, including 25 individuals of the larger, more orangey Greenland subspecies. A Water Rail and a Reed Bunting were in the Withies and a Great Spotted Woodpecker was seen. It has become evident that there have actually been at least two woodpeckers present on the island as one was seen in the talons of a Peregrine whilst another was seen later in the day!

'Greenland' Wheatear


Flycatchers were also present in decent numbers across the island as 13 Spotted Flycatchers and three Pied Flycatchers were recorded. Five Grey Herons were seen circling over Pen Cristin before heading out to sea, two Hooded Crows were seen again in the Northwest Fields and two Golden Plovers were on the South End.

Spotted Flycatcher

Grey Heron

On the non-avian front, a new Grey Seal pup was seen in Solfach and two Vestals, 28 Silver Y, two Painted Ladies, 49 Large Whites and 25 Red Admirals were the Lepidopteran highlights.

a rather dashing 'Greenland' Wheater

Other sightings include: 11 Dunlins, eight Ringed Plovers, a Snipe, nine Teal, 16 Skylarks, nine Grey Wagtails, 19 White Wagtails, 42 Robins, two Whitethroats, two Blackcaps, 30 Chiffchaffs, one Starling, nine Siskin and 48 Goldfinches.

Thursday, 17 September 2020

It didn't take long for the island to heat up today, and by around 08:30 it was certainly too warm to wear anything more than a t-shirt and shorts!! A cool North-Easterly breeze helped to keep the heat down a little, and also brought us some more birds.

An evening Kayak in Henllwyn

George headed north in the morning, with Nant being relatively quiet apart from a few Goldcrests,  Chiffchaffs and Siskins. There was more activity overhead though, with a further 12 Siskins and 19 Chaffinches, with the highlight being two Crossbills which flew north at around 9am and a Hooded Crow which flew south shortly after. Over in the North West Fields, a new flock of 32 Carrion Crows also contained another two Hooded Crows, these are uncommon here, but should become relatively regular from now through the autumn.

Hooded Crow with two Carrion Crows in the North West Fields

Steve headed south to Pen Cristin first where there was a brief movement of Swallows for around twenty minutes which totalled 228 birds, it was then on to the Narrows where offshore another group of three Curlew Sandpipers headed rapidly south with a single Dunlin amongst them. Other wader numbers were healthy today, and there was a nice variety too, with 13 Ringed Plovers, two Golden Plovers, 10 Dunlin, one Snipe, one Whimbrel, 52 Curlew, eight Redshank and 86 Turnstones. Over on the South End, Tuesday's Wryneck was still present around the same bush.

Dunlin on Solfach

In the evening, George and Alex went for a kayak around Henllwyn; they checked a few Ogofs around there as they did and spotted a new Grey Seal pup in one of them. This is the eleventh this year, hopefully it'll be another bumper year for pupping on the island!

Newborn Grey Seal pup

Other sightings today included: 11 Common Scoters, two Sparrowhawks, three Buzzards, one Kestrel, two Peregrines, five Mediterranean Gulls, five Black-headed Gulls, two Common Gulls, one Great Spotted Woodpecker, 38 Skylarks, one Tree Pipit, 21 Grey Wagtail, 85 White Wagtails, 38 Robins, one Reed Warbler, one Whitethroat, one Blackcap, 17 Chiffchaffs, one Willow Warbler, seven Goldcrests, 37 Chaffinches, 23 Siskins and 82 Linnets.

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Today picked up where yesterday left off, with dense fog covering the island and a cool north-easterly breeze blowing in the damp air. Visibility was extremely poor but George and Alex set off in hope of finding migrants that may have been forced down by the fog.

Ty Capel in the fog

Whilst the Withies were quiet, a walk around the Narrows and South End proved more productive. Six Purple Sandpipers and six Dunlins were on and around the Narrows, along with 84 Turnstones, 56 Oystercatchers and seven Skylarks. A lone Golden Plover sat in front of the lighthouse and a single Siskin were the highlights from the South End.

Three Yellow Wagtails were seen flying around the fields on the way back to the Obs and upon return a Reed Bunting was heard calling in the garden, the second record of this species for the year and the first of the autumn. Meanwhile, Steve had headed north to Nant where a Pied Flycatcher and a female Redstart were present, the latter being the first recorded since August.

Chiffchaff at Ty Nesaf

It wasn't until 3 o'clock that the fog eventually began to clear and the temperature started to rise. There was a notable increase in activity, most evident at Ty Nesaf and Nant where Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests could be seen feeding amongst the pines where the Pied Flycatcher was still present. Two Kestrels were seen hunting together at the North End but the highlight of the day came when an Osprey was seen flying low along the West Coast before circling around the Narrows and was then lost to view. It was seen again later this evening attempting to hunt in Solfach and Henllwyn before being mobbed by Oystercatchers and a Peregrine. It subsequently headed North out to sea and was once again lost to view. This was the first record this autumn and the second of the year.

Osprey circling in front of the lighthouse
Hunting in Solfach
A Peregrine in pursuit of the Osprey 

Other totals / sightings: one Great Spotted Woodpecker, one Tree Pipit, five Blackcaps, 24 Chiffchaffs, two Willlow Warblers and 11 Goldcrests.

Tuesday, 15 September 2020

Conditions today were very hot indeed, very little breeze meant that it was muggy, but clear skies in the morning were pleasant; these disappeared in the afternoon though and were replaced with a thick haar which rolled in off the sea, and knocked the warm conditions back considerably.

Today's clear skies produced reasonable overhead passage, but from a little later on than usual, with proper passage only really picking up from about 08:30, but being some of the best passage so far this year. Totals from across the island were: 505 Meadow Pipits, one Tree Pipit, 93 Skylarks, 157 White Wagtails, 52 Grey Wagtails, one Yellow Wagtail and 178 Linnets. On the ground, 18 Wheatears included a few of the Greenland race 'leucorhoa'.

Unusually, a few of today's Grey Wagtails stopped to feed around the rocky coastline.

Skylarks passed low over the island 

A few of the Skylarks also stopped to feed today, as did some of the Meadow Pipits (below)

Steve headed South, as a lot of the birds seemed to be passing over the South End; when he reached the southern end of the Narrows, a group of Turnstone flew over to Carreg yr Henwy with another bird showing a white-rump, a Curlew Sandpiper! This is the first of the year, and the 65th record for the island. It was later seen again over the Soth End with two Dunlins. Further on, two Ringed Plovers flew south over the South End with two comparatively tiny waders, on closer inspection, these were two Little Stints, another bird new for the year, and a good one to get, with these only occurring every few years. Soon after, a Great White Egret was seen passing over the centre of the island, it quickly circled round and headed back across to the mainland, though - this is just the eighth island record.

A Curlew moving past the South End

juvenile Peregrine on the South End rocks

George had opened nets at Ty Pellaf, if it hadn't been for Meadow Pipits, it would have been a quiet morning, with 36 of the 50 birds caught being Meadow Pipits. A Grey Wagtail added nice variety though, with this still being a comparatively rare bird to catch on the island. Down in the Withies, Alex had caught three Grey Wagtails, and two new species for the year's ringing list too, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, and a Reed Warbler, both are scarce migrants through the island.

On the South End, an Arctic Skua had moved South along with two Great Skuas, one of which actually passed over the South End itself. A Wryneck was in the northernmost gorse bush on the South End too, and three Golden Plovers passed over, with one stopping off to feed on its way South. Four Teal in Solfach represent the highest count of this species so far this autumn. Back towards the Lowlands, a Whinchat was present in the sunflower field, and a Long-eared Owl and a Water Rail were in Cristin Withy.

one of the Teal in Solfach

A Wheatear on the South End

Two of the Golden Plovers flying over the South End

one Golden Plover that stopped to feed up on its way

Later on, Alex and George headed back to the farm to try and catch some White Wagtails going in to roost in the Withy. It was the most successful night yet, with eight being caught, encouragingly all were juveniles, so perhaps they have had a good breeding season this year. A large female Sparrowhawk was also caught consequently, clearly having come wise to the arrival of easy food in the withy in the evenings!

A Sparrowhawk and a suitably unsettled flock of hirundines over the farm

Ringing totals today: Dunnock 2, Goldcrest 3, Wren 9, Meadow Pipit 37, Linnet 2, Grey Wagtail 4, Robin 5, Lesser Redpoll 1, Reed Warbler 1, Stonechat 1, Goldfinch 1, Siskin 1, Blackcap 2, Whitethroat 1, Chaffinch 1, Willow Warbler 3, Great Spotted Woodpecker 1, White Wagtail 8, Sparrowhawk 1. 84 birds of 19 species.

Meadow Pipit

Grey Wagtail

White Wagtail

juvenile female Sparrowhawk