Sunday, 22 April 2018

Early this morning we finished the first whole island Common Bird Census (CBC) of the year, with three more left to carry out before the end of June. There was some speculation that Wrens (one of the island's most common breeding) had taken a beating after the harsh winter, and while it may be a little too early to tell, the 91 singing males logged across the island might suggest otherwise.

Birds logged on a quieter day than yesterday included four Fulmars, a Gannet, two Cormorants, 22 Shags, a Sparrowhawk, a Peregrine, six Whimbrel, a Common Sandpiper, two Turnstones, two Sand Martins, four Swallows, a House Martin, a Tree Pipit, a Black Redstart, a Stonechat, five Wheatears, a Grasshopper Warbler, two Blackcaps, 13 Chiffchaffs, six Willow Warblers, five Goldcrests, a Firecrest, a Rook, two Chaffinches, ten Goldfinches and 32 Linnets.

The Turnstones are looking stunning at the moment.

Common Dog-violet can be found flowering across the island at the moment, from the trackside verges to the steep slopes of the east side. 

Saturday, 21 April 2018

The heatwave finally reached us today and we were treated to wall-to-wall sunshine almost without a breath of wind. Billy and Ephraim spent most of the afternoon around the east side of the island watching colour-ringed Choughs, noting which pairs were collecting nest material and the nest sites they were returning to. It was also a good opportunity to re-familiarise ourselves with the other seabirds that nest on the island's east-facing cliffs. Kittiwakes and Fulmars were back on their ledges, Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls were settling down, and auks were starting to raft offshore - all gearing up for the breeding season ahead!

Elsewhere, the highlight of the day was a Blue-headed Wagtail which briefly pitched up in Nant Valley. Hirundine passage has been disappointingly slow so far this spring, but 13 Sand Martins, 57 Swallows and two House Martins were an improvement on recent weeks. Wheatear and White Wagtail passage also picked up with 70 and 30 individuals recorded respectively. Other birds included seven Fulmars, six Gannets, 14 Cormorants, 28 Shags, two Sparrowhawks, two Buzzards, a Kestrel, two Peregrines, two Ringed Plovers, a Snipe, two Whimbrels, a Curlew, five Common Sandpipers, two Rock Doves (with tags on their legs), a Little Owl, a Tree Pipit, a Yellow Wagtail (of the typical flavissima form), three reeling Grasshopper Warblers, two Sedge Warblers, a Whitethroat, 28 Blackcaps, 15 Chiffchaffs, an impressive 171 Willow Warblers, 14 Goldcrests, a Firecrest, a Rook, 40 Carrion Crows, two Chaffinches, 13 Siskins, 55 Goldfinches, 82 Linnets and 38 Lesser Redpolls

A Red Sword-grass in the moth trap was the first for a couple of years, arriving with an early Large Yellow Underwing and eight Dark Sword-grass.

 Spot Ephraim...

We have now located most of this year's Shag nests. Now it's a matter of monitoring them during the season from a safe distance. © Ben Porter

Red Sword-grass hatch in the autumn and overwinter as adult moths, reappearing in the spring. They are seldom recorded on Bardsey, although in theory there are many suitable foodplants on the island to support a strong population.

Friday, 20 April 2018

We were shrouded in low cloud for much of today, but it was thin enough to allow a hazy sun to poke through and warm the island up nicely. Several times during the morning it looked like there was going to be a fantastic cloud inversion up on the mountain, but only when the cloud eventually cleared later in the evening did we get the surreal weather phenomenon that we were hoping for, making it look as though the island was floating in the sky.

In between typical daily chores that today involved taking apart a washing machine, today's sightings included a Fulmar, 33 Manx Shearwaters, a Gannet, a Sparrowhawk, two Buzzards, a Kestrel, a Peregrine, 20 Purple Sandpipers, two Whimbrels, two Curlews, nine Redshanks, a Common Sandpiper, three Black-headed Gulls, just one Guillemot and six Razorbills, a Puffin, a Little Owl, four Swallows, 20 House Martins, two Tree Pipits, a Stonechat, three Wheatears, a Grasshopper Warbler, a Sedge Warbler, the first Whitethroat of the year, 34 Blackcaps, six Chiffchaffs, 36 Willow Warblers, two Goldcrests, a Starling, three Chaffinches, three Goldfinches, 61 Linnets and six Lesser Redpolls

Butterfly interest included the first Painted Lady of the year up on the mountain, a Green-veined White at the obs and two Peacocks. Moth trap totals continue to improve, with 11 Dark Sword-grass, a Early Grey, two Common Quaker, an Angle Shades, an Early Thorn, a Red Chestnut and Hebrew Character being an impressive tally considering the recent weather. Elachista canapennella and Acleris hyemana were seen day-flying around the mountain. 

 The first Painted Lady of the year is an early one! Freshly emerged from hibernation or an immigrant from the continent on these strong southerly winds? 

The old broken washing machine was taking up all the space in the shower room so something had to be done about it. I never knew they put a mahusive concrete slab in them.

 This evening's surreal cloud inversion 

The 'lads' enjoying the sunset this evening, from left to right: Nils (our fantastic volunteer this week), Billy and Ephraim (assistant wardens), Connor, Ben and Mark. Si├ón is behind the camera feeling a little outnumbered! 

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Most of the country baked in hot sunshine today but our little corner of the North Wales coastline remained distinctly cold and misty. Still, conditions were calm enough to start the first of four breeding bird surveys this spring. This means a very early start to walk the length of the island - we split the island into manageable chunks so each survey takes a couple of mornings to complete - to note any and all established bird territories.

Today we covered the south end of the island, a good decision seeming as that's where the majority of the day's avian highlights seemed to turn up! Two Canada Geese on the beach at Solfach were an island scarcity, two Tree Pipits and a Grasshopper Warbler were in the gorse by the lighthouse, a Hooded Crow and two Jackdaws tagged along with the roving Corvid flock whilst a very early Swift bombed straight down the island and off to sea past the Lighthouse just as dawn broke at 6am. 

The rest of today's birds included two Fulmars, 25 Manx Shearwaters seen on our 'Meet the Manxies' walk, a Gannet, two Peregrines, 128 Oystercatchers, 16 Purple Sandpipers, a Snipe, five Whimbrel, nine Redshanks, 16 Turnstones, two Sand Martins, three Swallows, three White Wagtails, a stunning male Black Redstart, four Wheatears, a Sedge Warbler, eight Blackcaps, 12 Chiffchaffs, two Goldcrests, 31 Carrion Crows, five Siskins, 18 Goldfinches, 129 Linnets and 23 Lesser Redpolls

The sun eventually appeared late in the evening, illuminating the Marsh Marigold and Cuckooflower that are starting to appear in the damper areas of the lowlands.

Common Scurvy-grass is brightening up the cliff tops at the moment. It shouldn't be long before the Thrift and Spring Squill start to come into their own.

The Lesser Celandine looks fantastic too!

One of the earlier day-flying moths to appear on Bardsey is the micro moth Pyrausta despicata. They can be a common find on the cliff tops in spring. This one was flying around the north hide today, seemingly unfazed by the recent stormy weather!

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

We had our fingers crossed that things would improve on the weather front, and whilst yesterday's strong winds continued to batter the island the addition today of some warm sunshine made leading our third guided wildlife walk of the year a pleasure. A great bunch of six participants enjoyed views of two Bar-tailed Godwits that pitched up on Henllwyn as well some of the impressive flock of 88 Purple Sandpipers on Solfach.

Birds seen today included three Fulmars, 13 Gannets, three Sparrowhawks, a Kestrel, 11 Whimbrel, 16 Turnstones, the first Sandwich Tern of the year, a Commic Tern, a Little Owl, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Sand Martin, 15 Swallows, two White Wagtails, seven alba Wagtails, three Stonechats, five Wheatears, two Grasshopper Warblers, 13 Blackcaps, nine Chiffchaffs, 17 Willow Warblers, four Goldcrests, six Chaffinches, 17 Goldfinches, 62 Linnets and three Lesser Redpolls.

Ben made this interesting discovery today - a two-flowered Daisy affected by a rare condition known as 'fasciation'. © Ben Porter


Nils has enjoyed a week's volunteering on the island funded through a BTO young birder's grant. He immediately settled into the wardening team and was a fantastic help today on the guided walk, sharing his impressive bird knowledge with visitors. He also takes great photos! © Nils Bussink

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

It was a blustery, rainy and overcast day with gusts reaching 65mph at times. The main highlight came for the sea, with the first Great Skua of the year making a close fly past of the north hide late in the morning, hounding a juvenile Herring Gull as it went. However, despite the less than perfect weather conditions, there were still signs of life from the land with a smart male Ring Ouzel found on the mountain late in the afternoon. The first Reed Warbler of the year turned up in the observatory garden with a female Pied Flycatcher, the latter being the third separate individual of the spring.

Otherwise, it was a day for indoor jobs. Billy started redecorating the washroom whilst Ephraim continued drawing up exciting plans for completely redesigning his accommodation at the observatory (currently just a room with a bed!). 

Other birds logged today included three Fulmars, 24 Gannets, a female Merlin, a Knot, 56 Purple Sandpipers, two Snipe, four Whimbrel, the first Common Sandpiper of the year, 17 Turnstones, a Little Owl, the long-staying Great Spotted Woodpecker, three Swallows, 48 Meadow Pipits, 24 Rock Pipits including two littoralis birds, three White Wagtails, two Stonechat, 15 Wheatears, 11 Blackcaps, one Chiffchaff, 12 Willow Warblers, four Goldcrests, three Chaffinches, one Siskin and two Lesser Redpolls.

The inclement weather didn't stop the Willow Warblers from frantically foraging on the lawn in front of our kitchen 

We're currently enjoying one of the best spring passages of Purple Sandpiper in recent years

Monday, 16 April 2018

The harsh weather struck back today, winds reached a howling speed, and rain in the morning definitely made me convince myself I may need a few more coffees this morning, before going out.
As is always the case on days as today, the stormy conditions make for brilliant wader watching conditions, whether this is due to more waders making landfall or because they are forced onto the more visible rocks is unclear. However, a cracking total of 75 Purple Sandpipers made a dazzling highlight to the day, also recorded were two Snipes, three Whimbrels, a Curlew, 16 Redshanks and 13 Turnstones.

Two Puffins were the stand out birds of a sea-watch which also saw 109 Manx Shearwaters pass by out to sea. A Stock Dove was a rare sight for the island, and some more light vismig produced 15 Swallows, 43 Meadow Pipits and two White Wagtails. Six Stonechats and eight Wheatears were the only chats recorded today. Despite the windy conditions some small passerines were still logged, foremost 19 Blackcaps, 18 Chiffchaffs, 13 Willow Warblers, three Goldcrests, 91 Linnets and a Lesser Redpoll.

migrant female Blackcap

Willow Warbler feeding on the lawn at Cristin

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Today is predicted to be one of the last calm days this week, following prolonged calm weather we’ve seen the first passage of Spring migrants with another good showing of Blackcaps so far this Spring. Probably as a result of the calm and warmer weather of late, the first Large White of the year was seen, in Ty Nesaf bathroom of all places!

A Sparrowhawk and a Kestrel were marauding around the island today. Another good day for waders saw 30 Purple Sandpipers, a Snipe, four Whimbrels, 13 Redshanks and 12 Turnstones recorded, all of which were feeding on the rocks around the Narrows, bar the Snipe which was flushed from the Wetlands. The female Great Spotted Woodpecker continues to inhabit Cristin garden, presumably now waiting for a mate. Some light vismig resulted in a Swallow, a Tree Pipit and five White Wagtails being logged today. Other migrants included the three Wheatears, 14 Blackcaps, three Chiffchaffs, 22 Willow Warblers and a Goldcrest, all stopping briefly on the island to feed before moving on. Finches continued to be a key aspect of migration this year, some 84 Goldfinches, 112 Linnets and five Lesser Redpolls were to be seen on the island today.

migrant male Blackcap

Female Great Spotted Woodpecker

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Spring hit hard today, waking up in the morning the island was once again surrounded by a light mist, but following the morning sun it began to lift revealing a beautiful and hot day! The island and its residents, both avian and human, bathed in the sunshine for the remaining day.

Despite the warm weather some winter visitors were still to be observed today foremost a Merlin still present hunting around the Narrows and West Coast of the island, also a Jack Snipe and a single Common Snipe were flushed from the Wetlands.

Willow Warbler in the gorse on Pen Cristin

Three Whimbrels on the Narrows were new migrants and following the foggy weather of late, the clear skies saw the first real passage of migrants overhead primarily hirundines. In total eight Sand Martins, 31 Swallows, 13 House Martins, three Tree Pipits and 26 White Wagtails were recorded, with the latter settling down on the Narrows briefly to feed before moving on. Chats today included a stunning male Redstart which was also caught at the Observatory, also logged were four Stonechats and 47 Wheatears several of which were of the Greenland race O.o.leucorhoa. Warbler numbers saw another fall, but still good numbers were passing through, one Grasshopper Warbler, one Sedge Warbler (the first of the year), 54 Blackcaps, 35 Chiffchaffs, 65 Willow Warblers and 23 Goldcrests were seen today. A male Pied Flycatcher caught at Cristin was a pleasant surprise and kept guests and staff alike entertained. Finally, finch passage was once again very noticeable with 42 Chaffinches, one Brambling, 12 Siskins, 26 Goldfinches and 39 Linnets recorded.

A Serin surely can’t be far behind?

A stunning 2cy male Common Redstart

2cy male Pied Flycatcher

Friday, 13 April 2018

Although numbers of birds didn't quite match up to yesterday, it was still a great day to be out in the field. What was presumably the same 2nd calendar year male Pied Flycatcher as yesterday was still around Nant, and a stunning male Common Redstart was ringed at Ty Nessaf. Interestingly, the plethora of arriving spring migrants were joined by a small number of returning winter migrants, namely three Fieldfares and two Brambling.

Other birds included eight pairs of Fulmars back on ledges around the east side, two Teals, 17 Common Scoters, a Sparrowhawk, a Buzzard, a Merlin, 91 Oystercatchers, nine Purple Sandpipers, the first two Black-tailed Godwits of the year, two Whimbrel, a Curlew, a Common Gull, just a single Puffin, a Collared Dove, the Great Spotted Woodpecker, ten Sand Martins, seven Swallows, a House Martin, 22 Wheatears, a Grasshopper Warbler, 40 Blackcaps, 15 Chiffchaffs, 57 Willow Warblers, 17 Goldcrests, 35 Chaffinches, 19 Siskins and 48 Linnets.

In the moth trap there was a Red Chestnut, two Common Quakers and a Dark Sword-grass.

Jacob, one of our younger guests, has been really enjoying moth mornings at the obs. Here he is completely enthralled by a Red Chestnut. They're his favourite species apparently. Fingers crossed he grows up to become a moth aficionado!

Red Chestnut

A dark, cloudy night provided perfect conditions for Ben, Mark, Ephraim and Billy to head out for a Manx Shearwater ringing session.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Yesterday's calm and mild weather continued into today, and what started off as a fairly quiet morning bird wise soon turned into a classic early spring fall day. An impressive 164 Willow Warblers were flitting about on the cliffs, stone walls and just about every feasible patch of vegetation with 40 Chiffchaffs and 103 Blackcaps. In addition, three Grasshopper Warblers were reeling in the wetlands, two White Wagtails were on the Narrows, three Tree Pipits flew over during the course of the day as did a flava Wagtail. The best was saved until last when a stunning male Pied Flycatcher was discovered at Ty Nessaf this evening.

The fine weather also gave us a chance to get back around to the dramatic cliffs on the east side of the island, this time to count Shag nests. A total of 28 apparently occupied nests were found, some with up to three eggs but none with chicks yet. The nest sites found today will be mapped out and visited regularly to monitor breeding progress throughout the season.

Other birds noted on a fantastic spring day included five Fulmars, a Cormorant, 56 Shags, two Sparrowhawks, a Buzzard, a Water Rail, a Ringed Plover, four Snipes, a Whimbrel, 16 Turnstones, a Puffin, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Sand Martin, seven Swallows, a House Martin, two Black Redstarts, four Stonechats, 39 Wheatears, 17 Goldcrests, a Chaffinch, two Siskins, eight Goldfinches, 21 Linnets, a Bullfinch and a Reed Bunting.



 Pied Flycatcher - note the browner primaries indicating this is a first summer bird.
Willow Warbler
Black Redstart

Shags can lay up to five eggs, but no more than three were seen in any nest on today's visit.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

It was a pleasantly warm and sunny day to be out in the field once the mist had departed. A male Ring Ouzel found on the mountain above Nant and a Grasshopper Warbler reeling in the gorse both spiced things up on the migrant front whilst a good number of other species were noted. Birds today including a Fulmar, a Gannet, five Cormorants, 22 Shags, two Sparrowhawks, a Buzzard, a Merlin, 126 Oystercatchers, four Whimbrels, two Curlews, a Collared Dove, two Little Owls, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Sand Martin, nine Swallows, a White Wagtail, just one Robin (!), ten Blackcaps, 30 Chiffchaffs, 27 Willow Warblers, 17 Goldcrests, the first Rook of the year, three Chaffinches, two Siskins, six Goldfinches, 34 Linnets, four Lesser Redpolls, a Crossbill and a Reed Bunting.

Migrant warblers can be found everywhere and anywhere at the moment, from the dry heathland of the east to the damp bogs of the west!

Ephraim has been making the most of Bardsey's beautiful night skies to create this amazing star trail photography. He's explained it to me before but I still don't have a clue how he does it.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

There was a surprising clear out of migrants following a cloudy and drizzly night. The highlight today came from the sea, with five Bottlenose Dolphins performing well off the south end in the last hour of sunlight. Scarcely seen off Bardsey (certainly much less often than Risso's or Harbour Porpoise) it's tempting to assume that this is part of the same pod that passed by the island last week.

The pick of today's birds included a Fulmar, a Cormorant, four pairs of Shelducks, the female Merlin, a Buzzard, two Peregrines, 103 Oystercatchers, four Whimbrels, a Collared Dove and a Little Owl. Migrant passerine numbers appear to have fallen overnight, with just five Wheatears, three Blackcaps, nine Chiffchaffs, two Willow Warblers and 16 Goldcrests. There were two Chaffinches at the observatory as well as 17 Goldfinches and 44 Linnets moving around in feeding flocks.

Things are starting to liven up in the moth trap, with two Early Thorn, three Dark Sword-grass, an Early Grey, a Mottled Grey, three Common Quakers and a Red Chestnut caught at the obs last night.

The second sighting of Bottlenose Dolphins in as many weeks - same pod doing the rounds?

Harbour Porpoise are the most common cetacean in the waters surrounding the island. Views of dolphins and whales from Bardsey are often distant, but each species have distinctive features that can aid identification. Porpoises keep a very low profile in the water, barely revealing much of their body apart from their noticeably compact dorsal fin when they breach.

This colour-ringed Chough was seen collecting bunches of thrift around her nest site today on the west coast. Unusual amongst Choughs, this female appears to have divorced from her long-term colour-ringed partner this year, and is now building a nest with a new unringed male!