Sunday, 20 August 2017

After what seemed like an age of waiting for migration to happen, today, at long last saw a half-decent arrival! The biggest movers were 205 Meadow Pipits, our first obvious movement of the autumn. Linnets saw an increase to 185, and 27 Willow Warblers were  new in. Other Warblers were nine Goldcrests, three Chiffchaffs, two Blackcaps and two Whitethroats. 15 Wheatears was an obvious increase on previous days, including one of the Greenland race "Leucorhoa", while the three Robins seen were all suspected migrants. Most unusual amongst this decent selection of grounded migrants was a cracking male Ring Ouzel on the West Coast, a very early record! It was also a busy morning overhead, with 142 Swallows, 33 House Martins, 10 Alba Wagtails (one flock, of which three of were identified as White Wagtail and the others almost certainly were too), seven Sand Martins and six each of Grey Wagtail and Tree Pipit.

"Greenland" Wheatear (O.o. leucorhoa) - Elliot's Birding Diaries
A dark morph Pomarine Skua seen offshore early in the morning was the highlight of seawatching. Otherwise Kittiwakes usurped Manx Shearwaters as commonest species, with 1290 of the former and 830 of the latter. An excellent 77 Shags were tallied, alongside 37 Gannets, with some variety in the form of 13 Fulmars, six Sandwich Terns, four Black-headed Gulls, two Little Egrets and a Common Scoter. Four Risso's Dolphins were also spotted offshore late in the morning.

Gannet (Morus bassanus) - Elliot's Birding Diaries
72 Turnstones was a significant increaase, with the only other numerous waders being 41 Oystercatchers and 39 Curlews. Otherwise Dunlins and Redshanks numbered seven apiece, there were six Ringed Plovers and four Whimbrels, and a little bit of quality in the form of singles of Knot and Snipe.
Golden-haired Lichen (Teloschistes flavicans - Elliot's Birding Diaries 
The only butterflies of any note were three Speckled Woods at the Plantation. In the Obs moth trap Rhomboid Tortrix and Parsnip Moth were the most notable of a pretty limited selection of 15 species and 30 individuals, but it was nontheless a vast improvement on a very poor few days.
3 Speckled Wood,

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Today we waved farewell to this years Next Generation Birders, and by the sounds of it we'll be seeing many of them returning for next years trip!

Saying farewell to this years Next Generation Birders, a trip that most likely would have never happened if it wasn't for the hard work put in by the BBFO Staff and the BTO for providing the YBOVF - Ben Porter Photography 
Shortly before they were due to leave a Sooty Shearwater (a 2nd was seen in the afternoon!) was picked up on the rough sea passing south, and fast along the west coast which several managed to pick on. Preparing the lodge for the weeks new visitors kept the obs staff busy but migrants where still being noticed. Out to sea another Sooty Shearwater was seen in the late afternoon, with a Arctic Skua, two Sanderlings and five Dunlins moving past in the morning and two Mediterranean Gulls offshore in the evening. Most numerous were Manx Shearwaters, with 3385, while 220 Kittiwakes, 93 Gannets, 21 Fulmars and three Razorbills were also logged.

Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii) - Elliot's Birding Diaries
A more limited selection of waders than in recent days was present on the Narrows, including 49 Turnstones, 38 Curlews, 11 Whimbrels, eight Redshanks, three Ringed Plovers and a single Purple Sandpiper. Very little was grounded though, with tallies of just two Willow Warblers, a single Goldcrest, five Wheatears and 131 Linnets.

One of our NGBs Luke Anderson enjoying not only his first visit to the island, but also thrilled to be
experiencing a Manx Shearwater chick! - Image Steve Stainfield 

Friday, 18 August 2017

On the final day of NGB Trip both the NGB and Staff had eyes fixed on the coast with a grand total of 7394 Manx Shearwaters hugging the islands coast; the most exceptional count of the day, though, was 83 Fulmars, the first large movement of this species all year. 1412 Kittiwakes and 246  Gannets provided the other numbers, with a good selection of other species including one Great Skua off the North End, three Black-headed Gulls, six Razorbill, six Guillemot, four Sandwich Terns, one Common Tern, two Arctic Terns and one 'Commic' Tern.

Common Tern (Sterna hirundo) - Elliot's Birding Diaries
Meanwhile waders were in good numbers the day consisted of 74 Oystercatchers, seven Ringed Plovers, 13 Dunlins, four Purple Sandpipers, one Snipe, 17 Whimbrels, 17 Redshanks, 65 Turnstones and 47 Curlews. Nine Sanderlings were also logged moving south while seawatching.

Purple Sandpiper (Calidris maritime) - Elliot's Birding Diaries
Other migrants dotted about the island today included two Sparrowhawks, one Buzzard, three Sand Martins, one Reed Warbler, ten Willow Warblers, three Goldcrest, two Chiffchaff, one Chaffinch and 146 Linnet.

With our Next Generation Birders leaving tomorrow, we'd like to say a massive thank you to the BTO for providing this years young ornithologists with the money to be to pay for the trip via the YBOF Grants.

Both NGBs and Staff enjoying Chilly Night at the observatory

Thursday, 17 August 2017

The sixth day of the Bardsey NGB week was a rather quiet one for birding, though much enlivened by a quiz at day's end, compered by Steve Stansfield and competed by NGB's, staff and guests alike! Covering such broad bird-related topics as identification, sexing and ageing, Latin names and general birding knowledge, it stretched us all to wits end, with the eventual champions, after a tie-break call quiz, being the "Bardsey Dazzlers" team, comprised of Ben Porter, Emma Stansfield, Harry King and Jacob Spinks. Steve and Emma also cooked a mean chilli for all, and therewere plenty of celebrations for Ben Porter's 21st birthday!

Mr Porter enjoying his birthday treat - Image Steve Stansfield 

Earlier in the day, the standout birding highlight was the relocation of the Long-eared Owl at Nant. The excitement of seeing this bird for several NGB's was, however, tempered by the frustration of having it bounce out of a mist net! On a day of could-have been's for raptor ringing, a Sparrowhawk did the same! Otherwise grounded migrants were very modest in number, numbering six Willow Warblers, two Goldcrests and singles of Chiffchaff, Sedge Warbler and Reed Warbler, the latter the most unusual and seen in the Obs garden. Overhead two Sand Martins were the only sightings of any significance, with hardly any suggestion of the other two hirundines being on the move.

Manx Shearwater (Puffinus puffinus) - Ben Porter Photography 
It was also pretty quiet on the sea, with only 907 Manx Shearwaters, in comparison to counts of several thousand on most recent days. 804 Kittiwakes and 176 Gannets provided the extra numbers, with variety coming with little more than singles of Common Scoter, Arctic Skua and Black-headed Gull.

Curlews were up to an excellent 85 today, and there were 43 Turnstones, but just 38 Oystercatchers were around. Otherwise the only waders logged were ten Redshanks, five Ringed Plovers, three Dunlins and two Whimbrels.

A sunny day saw a few good butterfly counts, notably 16 Small Coppers, five Painted Ladies and a single Common Blue. A single Darter sp. seen at the Plantation could not be identified to species.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Today the Irish sea was alive with Manx Shearwaters, with 5121 noted (evening counts reached an excellent 100per 1min when the visibility was good enough to see the sea!), and amongst them a single Balearic Shearwater headed south along the West Coast. Furthermore 33 Shags, 15 Cormorants, 152 Gannets, 28 Common Scoters, one Arctic Skua, 4 Black-headed Gulls, 841 Kittiwakes, 3 Sandwich Terns and 1 Puffin were also noted. With Puffin being an uncommon autumn migrant, each sighting now could well represent the last of the year.

Manx Shearwater (Puffinus puffinus) -  Elliot's Birding Diaries 
Amongst the waders counted on the Narrows, undoubtedly the most notable sighting was a total of 29 Whimbrels, a very high count for an already above-average autumn. Also noted were 56 Oystercatchers, six Ringed Plovers, five Purple Sandpipers, six Dunlins, 28 Curlews, 29 Whimbrel, 11 Redshanks and 43 Turnstones

Passerine migration today was again poor. Overhead 63 Swallows and 15 House Martins were noted, with 133 Linnets, 12 nominate-race Wheatears, two Greenland Wheatears, two Blackcaps and singles of Willow Warbler, Whitethroat and Sedge Warbler noted on land. A Little Owl was heard calling too.

Next Generation Birders out at Nant Valley assisting the observatory's studying of Manx Shearwaters - Image Steve Stansfield
In other news, the night before whilst NGB's George Dunbar & Elliot Montieth (our autumn intern), were presenting their fantastic talks about "Birding Iberia" & "Birdinghead" to the BBFO Staff, NGB's & BBFO committee members, a fall of 5 Convolvulus Hawk Moths invaded the island. Other sightings from the moth trap included a Purple-bar and the second Orange Swift of the year (and first to be recorded in the trap), but otherwise little was noted.

NGB George Dunbar presenting his talk about his recent birding trip to Iberia with fellow NGB Jacob Spinks - Image Steve Stansfield

Convolvulus Hawkmoth (Agrius convolvuli) - Image George Dunbar

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Another blustery day saw scopes pointed out to sea for most of the daylight hours. However, rewards were rather less than yesterday. Kittiwakes numbered a season high of 1948, while Manx Shearwaters were down to just 1405, with 200 Gannets a good count. Variety came in the shape of 19 Fulmars, four Arctic Terns, three Common Terns, two Sandwich Terns and singles of Great Skua, Arctic Skua and Guillemot, the latter becoming more notable in August as Auks generally have become thin on the ground!

Manx Shearwater (Puffinus puffinus) - Elliot's Birding Diaries 
A decent selection of waders featured as it's most notable member a single Black-tailed Godwit, found on the South End and relocating to Carreg yr Honwy. 51 Curlews and 37 Turnstones were the most numerous, with Oystercatchers down to a remarkably low 27. 17 Whimbrels was a pretty good count for Bardsey in the autumn, with the best of the rest being 11 Dunlins, six Ringed Plovers, five Redshanks, four Purple Sandpipers, three Snipes (flushed from a wet patch on the South End), and two Common Sandpipers.
Rock Pipit (Anthus petrosus), trapped and ringed in the Heligoland trap as part of the island
colour ringing project (Image - Ben Porter)

BBFO Staff out with NGBs  Jacob Spinks, Kate Fox, Luke Ozsanlav-Harris & Eleanor Grove showing them the island portable Heligoland Trap used for trapping and studying the Rock Pipits & Waders (Image - Ben Porter)

A Great Spotted Woodpecker trapped at the Plantation was the highlight on the land, with the commonest migrant again being Linnet, numbers were again on 117. 12 Willow Warblers were mostly at the Plantation, with three Sedge Warblers and a Blackcap the only other warblers noted. Three Goldcrests and three White Wagtails were also on the deck, while overhead were 78 Swallows, 38 House Martins and a single Tree Pipit heading south. Singles of Kestrel and Sparrowhawk, the latter an immature female, were also new in.

NGBs out ringing Manx Shearwater chicks as part of the BBFO census work (Image - Steve Stainfield) 
A quiet day for migrant insects did see two Migrant Hawkers and singles of Painted Lady and Silver Y encouraged by a slight improvement in the weather. One Speckled Wood at the Plantation was the most notable of the resident Lepidoptera to be seen.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Sea-watching proved quite productive today with 3760 Manx Shearwaters logged, as well as 1089 Kittiwakes, an excellent 290 Gannets, 14 Fulmars, ten Common Scoters, four Razorbills, two Sandwich Terns, one Common Tern, 11 Arctic Terns, one Guillemot, four Razorbills and three Arctic Skuas. Three Teal heading south was a good record, while the highlight was a Storm Petrel off the South End early in the morning. While we catch good numbers during the summer months this is a species logged very infrequently while seawatching, but our second record of this year. While not what you might think of as a migrant, 26 Great Black-backed Gulls logged today included twelve heading south out to sea, which presumably indicates some movement.

Manx Shearwater (Puffinus puffinus) - Elliot Birding Diaries 
A variety of waders were seen today: 55 Oystercatchers, 56 Curlews, 40 Turnstones, 34 Redshanks, eight Whimbrels, seven Ringed Plovers, four Purple Sandpipers, eight Dunlins, one Greenshank (heard calling overnight) and one Sanderling.

NGB Kate Fox happy after ringing her first Storm Petrel on Bardsey

Elsewhere a Long-eared Owl found in Cristin Withy was the third record of the year, while the first White Wagtail of the autumn was on Solfach. 50 Swallows, 20 House Martins and two each of Sand Martin and Swift moved south. On land 16 Wheatears included one first-summer male of the Greenland race Leucorhoa, with a small selection of warblers including one Grasshopper Warbler in the Obs garden, and a bizarre sighting of a Reed Warbler on the rocks at Henllwyn! Two each of Willow Warbler and Sedge Warbler were also noted, plus a single Whitethroat. Meanwhile Linnets had increased to 117. The only insect sighting of note on a blustery day was a single Hummingbird Hawk-moth in the Obs Garden, while even the Moth trap was quiet.

Purple Sandpiper (Calidris maritime) - Elliot's Birding Diaries 

Sunday, 13 August 2017

After a long night ringing Manx Shearwaters and Storm Petrels, this morning our NGBs were set out in force for a combination of ringing and census work.

Migrants for today came in all shapes and sizes, with an increase in migration signalled by a good selection of birds on the move on land and sea. Overhead 386 Swallows, 80 House Martins, 24 Sand Martins and four Tree Pipits were logged. 37 Willow Warblers was the best count for some time, while an obvious increase to 194 Linnets was logged.

A calm sea provided ideal conditions for viewing cetaceans, with a total of 19 Risso's Dolphins, three Common Dolphins and nine Harbour Porpoise. A good diversity of seabirds were recorded, the highlights being singles of Great Skua and Arctic Skua. 65 Common Scoters, one Mediterranean Gull, eight Black-headed Gulls, 106 Gannets, 637 Kittiwakes, 32 Sandwich Terns and one Arctic Tern were also logged, representing reasonable reward for a good day's coverage of the sea.

On the Narrows, Curlews were up to 67, but recent Oystercatcher counts reveal something of an exodus of late, with just 45 seen today. Whimbrel passage this autumn has been better than usual, and 13 today was a fairly good count for the time of year. Other waders included an excellent 52 Turnstones, as numbers continue to build. 47 Redshanks was another high count, and 20 Black-tailed Godwits moving south was probably the most notable sighting. Ten Ringed Plovers, seven Dunlins, two Purple Sandpipers and a single Common Sandpiper completed an excellent day for waders, capped by an overnight Golden Plover heard at 03:45.

Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus) - One of the birds from the mist nets in the withies this morning that was ringed by NGB Kate Fox 

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Eight members of the Next Generation Birders (NGB) arrived on the island today for their week-long trip. After an introductory talk and some lunch, they were taken on a guided walk. The route went from the Obs up to Nant, where a moth trap was checked, then headed west through the NW fields, and south towards Solfach, before returning to the Obs.

NGBs checking the contents of the Nant moth trap (Image - Josie Hewitt)
After the guided walk, the NGBs were treated to a BBQ to give them lots of energy for Storm Petrel ringing up on Pen Cristin. Ten Storm Petrels were ringed, providing a great opportunity for the NGBs to see them up close.

NGBs watching Porpoise off the North End (Image - Josie Hewitt)
Highlights of the day's sightings were two Razorbills, one Mediterranean Gull in Henllwyn and a count of 900 Manx Shearwaters off the West Coast.

Storm Petrel (Hydrobates pelagicus) - Image: Josie Hewitt

Friday, 11 August 2017

NGB Trip 2017

Tomorrow, the island welcomes eight Next Generation Birders (NGB) for their annual week-long trip to Bardsey, where they will experience life at one of the UK's 19 fully functioning and registered Bird Observatories.

For the past 4 years NGBs have been coming to the island, with most of the trip costs paid for by the BTO's Young Bird Obs Volunteer Fund. During the trip, the NGBs will be carrying out a range of tasks to gain an insight into life at an observatory. This will include assisting with census counts, bird ringing and monitoring the Manx Shearwaters.

Long-term monitoring of bird populations and migration is one of the Observatory’s primary aims and so the daily bird counts recorded by the NGBs during their stay will be contributing to this. Bird ringing is also an integral part of the Observatory’s work, and those NGBs with appropriate licenses will be able to assist with the various ringing activities that will be going on throughout the week.

Manx Shearwater (Puffinus puffinus) - Image: Sorrel Lyall
From the 12th to the 19th August the BBFO blog will be managed by two of the NGBs currently staying at the observatory: our autumn intern Elliot Montieth, and volunteer Josie Hewitt, who have both returned to the Obs after falling in love with the island on previous visits.

Storm Petrel (Hydrobates pelagicus) - Image: David Hunter
To see what our NGBs are getting up to throughout the week make sure to follow the hastags #YBOVF and #BardseyNGB on Facebook and Twitter.

NGBs on Bardsey in 2015

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Two Red Knots on Carreg yr Honwy first thing this morning got the day off to a good start. Waders continued to put on a good show throughout the day with 37 Oystercatchers, 15 Turnstones, 11 Curlews, nine Redshanks, five Whimbrels, two Ringed Plovers, two Purple Sandpipers, one Dunlin and one Golden Plover seen.

Sea-watching produced 450 Manx Shearwaters, 25 Gannets, 11 Shags, ten Cormorants, three Common Scoters and one Fulmar. While raptors seen today included Peregrine, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk.

Non-avian highlights of the day included a washed-up Tope Shark near Solfach, Migrant Hawker at Nant, Emperor Dragonfly in the Wetlands and a Silver Y moth in the Plantation.

Tope Shark (Galeorhinus galeus) - Elliot's Birding Diaries

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Kick-starting the day was a Tree Pipit heard passing over the Mountain on this morning's census, whilst shortly after a Little Egret was spotted flying low over the South End and west out into the Irish Sea. Meanwhile a Emperor Dragonfly was seen briefly a Pen Cristin and a Greenshank made a quick stop off at the Narrows.

Little Egret - Elliot's Birding Diaries 
Out at sea little was noted apart from a flock of 24 Common Scoter heading south off the West Coast along with 3 Sandwich Terns fishing off Pen Cristin and on the rocks at the South End 456 Kittiwakes were counted.  

Waders today included: 11 Ringed Plover, 43 Oystercatcher, 1 Purple Sandpiper, 29 Turnstone, 20 Redshank and rather surprisingly a single Dunlin was flushed from the small grassy pool located on the South End.

Manx Shearwater - Elliot's Birding Diaries
Other birds on the island today were 3 Willow Warblers, 72 Meadow Pipits, 1 Sparrowhawk, 30 Choughs, 86 Linnets, 45 Swallows, 14 House Martins, 2 Sand Martins and rounding it all off was a Swift observed hawking over Pen Cristin.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Highlight of the day was undoubtedly a cream-crowned Marsh Harrier that was observed passing high over Pen Cristin at 1500 before heading south into Cardigan Bay.

Besides that it was another typical day on the island with waders including 1 Purple Sandpiper, six Ringed Plovers, 23 Oystercatchers, 28 Curlews, Nine Whimbrels, ten Redshanks, a Common Sandpiper and five Turnstones.

Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis Image - Elliot's Birding Diaries 
Out along the west coast seabirds were seen throughout the day gathering in huge feeding flocking with counts from throughout the day finishing at 709 Kittiwakes, three Guillemots, 2010 Manx Shearwaters, 35 Common Scoters and 283 Gannets. An adult and two juvenile Mediterranean Gulls were also seen heading north along the coastline.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Todays highlight on the island was not that of a bird, but instead came from sea with 2 Risso's Dolphin showing well off the north end and even breaching the surface on several occasions.

The lucky observers catching a glimpse of the two Risso's from the Obs garden (Image - Steve Stansfield)

Waders today came in at 52 Oystercatcher, 1 Grey Heron, 12 Redshank, 10 Turnstone, 9 Common Sandpiper, 6 Whimbrel & 45 Curlew. Meanwhile out on the sea 3 Common Scoter headed south off the west coast with the south end holding host to 310 Kittiwake and a additional 125 off the west coast. A small number of Sandwich Terns, five, and party of 6 Mallards were also spotted off Solfach.

Furthermore there was also a fairly decent selection of raptors scattered around the island today with a Peregrine seen attempting to take a juvenile Chough over the mountain, whilst a juvenile Sparrowhawk was at Solfach and a Kestrel at the south end.
Juvenile female Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) Image - Elliot's Birding Diaries

Juvenile female Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus), with the Nant sparrowhawks failing to produce any young this year any juvenile to the island would have to be a migrant  (Image - Elliot's Birding Diaries)

Other notes from today included that of 10 Willow Warblers, 23 House Martin, 77 Meadow Pipit, 56 Swallow and the highest count of Linnet for the autumn with 133.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Highlights of today were two Kestrels seen over the Mountain on this mornings census, besides that all other regular migrants where recorded on the island including a small fall of three Chiffchaffs and ten Willow Warblers along with a Mediterranean Gull noted passing the West Coast.

Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus) - Elliot's Birding Diaries 
Bardsey's very own 'waderfest' is getting stronger by the day with today's totals coming in at 50 Oystercatchers, two Ringed Plovers, three Purple Sandpipers, two Common Sandpipers, 15 Turnstones,  43 Curlews, six Whimbrels, a Dunlin, 1 Grey Heron, eight Redshank  and seven Sanderling. Meanwhile finch numbers are beginning to rise with a total of 69 Linnets being counted today with ninety-three noted on the 3rd!

For those currently on the island then a temporary Photography Hide set up along the path down to the boat house have been rewarded to excellent views of some of island Stonechats which despite heavy predation by Corvids have managed to fledge several young.

European Stonechat ssp. hibernans Saxicola rubicola - Elliot's Birding Diaries  

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Some 15 Common Scoters were seen past the West Coast early on today. Otherwise, all other migrants today were recorded on the island.

An impressive number and selection of waders were seen today with the highest counts of the season for Turnstones, 13 Ringed Plovers, four Sanderlings, four Purple Sandpipers, 17 Dunlins, ten Whimbrels, 18 Curlews, ten Redshanks, one Common Sandpiper, and 54 Turnstones were logged today!

Stonechat (

Other migrants were scarce on the ground with only a single Willow Warbler recorded.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

There was another notable movement out to sea today, a total of 2699 Manx Shearwaters, 16 Common Scoters and a Common Tern were logged.

A Kestrel made a brief appearance, as did the juv. Cuckoo. Waders once again dominated the numbers with a Ringed Plover, four Sanderlings, a Dunlin, 11 Whimbrels, 29 Curlews, nine Redshanks, a Common Sandpiper and six Turnstones recorded.

Adding to the diversity of common migrants were two Willow Warblers, unfortunately with the bad weather this week, Willow Warblers have been scarce on the ground with no days reaching double figures this week.