Friday, 23 June 2017

A wild and windy day resulted in understandably little action on the land, but some excellent seawatching with 2593 Manx Shearwaters moving through, and the observers patience was rewarded with a single Balearic Shearwater amongst them. 134 Gannets was also an excellent total, and a decent auk passage features 140 Guillemots, 178 Razorbills and 72 Puffins throughout the day. 14 Common Scoters and 8 Fulmars completed a fine day.

Manx Shearwater (Puffinus puffinus) - © Elliot Montieth

1st summer Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla) - © Elliot Montieth

Manx Shearwater (Puffinus puffinus) - © Elliot Montieth

Gannet (Morus bassanus) - © Elliot Montieth

Waders were much quieter today, although 10 Curlews was the highest daytime count of the autumn so far(the nocturnal vis-migging early yesterday morning made that day's total higher overall). Singles of Whimbrel and Lapwing were the only other waders seen. A high 586 Herring Gulls included a feeding frenzy on the stormy high tide in Solfach, and over 140 moving southwards off the North End in six hours. The Coal Tit remained and 2 Starlings were present, otherwise passerines comprised of just the resident breeding birds. Very little was seen on the insect front on a windy and often wet day.

Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) - © Elliot Montieth

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) & Curlew (Numenius arquata) - © Elliot Montieth

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Waders are typically the first birds to migrate in autumn, and today marked the first occasion since mid-May that good numbers and diversity were recorded on the island. The totals were considerably helped by a half-hour vigil from our volunteer Elliot, who recorded a pretty decent overnight passage between 00:45 and 01:15. Totals for the day were 16 Curlews (11 overnight), six Whimbrel (all overnight), 5 Dunlin (overnight), three Golden Plover (overnight), two Ringed Plover (both overnight), two Redshank (one overnight), two Common Sandpipers and a single Lapwing, seen at more conventional times of day! Another classic sign of early autumn here is a build-up of Black-headed Gulls, the 14 seen today is our highest count since May but represents the tip of the iceberg, with multitudes more due to arrive soon!

Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) - © Elliot Montieth
Some Swallow passage was evident today, with the 44 seen including some resident birds and some heading purposefully south through the wetlands. Two Swifts and a single Sand Martin also moved south. The Coal Tit also remained, while it was an interesting day for Warblers. While Blackcap and Sedge Warbler have oversummered in small numbers on the island, a single of the former in Cristin Withy was likely new in, and several extra of the latter were seen, in Plas and Ty Pellaf Withies. As these were singing they could be early failed breeders heading south, or males who've only started to become more active again after incubation, or perhaps even very late first-summers, or birds who failed in their first brood elsewhere on the mainland? All conjecture of course, all we can say with certainty is that numbers have jumped up dramatically in recent days.

A decent day for Leipdoptera was also had, with residents including another three Speckled Woods at Nant, up to 31 Six-spot Burnets, and 17 Brown China-marks around Pwll Cain. Another Grayling was seen, this time in the unusual location of the Heligoland Trap at Cristin! In the Obs trap, a Heart & Club was notable, the most up to date checklist (all records up to 2013) only lists 13 records, with nine of those in 2009. Immigrant lepidoptera were represented by eight Red Admirals, eight Diamond-backs, two Silver Y's and a Painted Lady.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

A much quieter day in general, though there were a few birds to keep us all entertained. The unseasonal Coal Tit lingered, and since it was singing while the Common Bird Census was being undertaken, will make at least an honorary entry into the 2017 Breeding Bird Report! Two Starlings were the only sign of passerine migration/dispersal from elsewhere, while the Grey Wagtail was seen for a third day. 30 Swifts and a single Sand Martin moved South.

Curlews are starting to build up now, with seven seen today. Probably the same Lapwing from yesterday was present again, as were two Whimbrels and three Black-headed Gulls on the Narrows.

colour ringed Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) - © Elliot Montieth
Choughs, meanwhile, seem to be having an excellent breeding season. The bird in the image below is the female of the West Coast pair, who have fledged three young (image below shows adults with 2 fledged youngsters), in the past few days. Even more impressive when she swapped males this year, with a new colour-ringed bird taking her previous mate's place! They join four pairs that have already fledged a total of 12 young in the last two weeks, giving us excellent productivity so far this year. We're still waiting on two pairs to hopefully fledge, but this has already been a very good season so far for one of Bardsey's most iconic birds.

Chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) - © Elliot Montieth
Chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) - © Elliot Montieth
A Double-line, a nationally scarce moth that's been recorded only a handful of times on Bardsey, was the highlight of today's trapping. Four Thrift Clearwings were on the wing on the South End, with an Emperor Dragonfly in the Lowlands and the first Grayling of the year on the East Side. 

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

An excellent day for non-avian diversity. The most spectacular highlight was probably an Ocean Sunfish off Pen Cristin, although a BLACK-TAILED SKIMMER also at Pen Cristin, was only the second record for the island. Two male Darters were almost certainly Red-veined Darters, but were only seen in flight very briefly. It was another great day for Red Admirals, with 78 seen, and seven Silver Y's completing the immigrants. Our first Meadow Browns have also emerged in the last few days, and we saw another Emperor Dragonfly on Pwll Cain.

On the bird front, it was pretty quiet,with the exception of a thoroughly weird Coal Tit! This mostly sedentary species is uncommon at the best of times on Bardsey, and even more so in midsummer. Three juvenile Starlings were a sign of autumn, while Grey Wagtail and Collared Dove from previous days lingered.

42 Swifts moved south through the island, while a female Kestrel went strongly north through the Wetlands in the afternoon.

Monday, 19 June 2017

The most notable feature of today was a fantastic passage of Swifts. Peaking between 05:30 and 07:30, when several groups of 20-50 were observed, a total of 130 were seen today, almost all making their way south. This is one of the highest counts of recent years, and presumably represents very early departures from breeding grounds further north. Also on the move overhead today, two Grey Herons and a single Sand Martin made their way south.

The other highlight of the day was a considerable influx of Red Admirals, with 62 seen, many of which were actively migrating along the Mountain Ridge mid-afternoon. Singles of Painted Lady and Hummingbird Hawk-moth completed the picture for immigrant insects.

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) - Elliot Montieth
On the sea, 18 Common Scoters and a single Sandwich Tern were the main sightings of note. Another Lapwing was seen today, alongside an early returning Redshank in Henllwyn, plus five Whimbrels and three Curlews. A 1st-summer Black-headed Gull was in Solfach, with a Grey Wagtail on the West Coast also notable.

Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) - © Elliot Montieth

Sunday, 18 June 2017

A glorious, sweltering Sunday for Bardsey, with more evidence of early migration. Out to sea 13 Black-headed Gulls, ten Common Scoters and four Sandwich Terns headed South, amongst fairly low counts of 201 Manx Shearwaters and 34 Gannets. However, the outstanding highlight was our second MINKE WHALE sighting of the year, appearing very briefly amongst a feeding flock of Manx Shearwaters at 18:30. Two Harbour Porpoise were also offshore.

Some interesting bits were noted on vis-mig; including two Lapwings and singles of Grey Heron, Rook and Grey Wagtail heading south, and 42 Swallows and eight House Martins. The only obvious arrival on land was a highly unusual juvenile White Wagtail on Solfach, with four Goldfinches and a Collared Dove lingering from previous days. Whimbrels were up to four, with a single Curlew on the Narrows and, most notably, a Common Sandpiper along the West Coast.

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) - © Elliot Montieth
We were delighted to see our first Thrift Clearwings of the year today, with ten of this very scarce coastal moth on Pen Cristin and five around the East Side. Also around the east side, the micro Lobesia littoralis was abundant, with 500+ estimated! Two Speckled Woods were again seen in Nant, continuing our great year for this very recent colonist, while the first adult Six-spot Burnets of the year were also on the wing.

Another glorious sunset over Bardsey; both the Wicklow Mountains in Ireland and the whole of Cardigan Bay to the south were visible in astonishing detail on a stunning evening - © Liam Curson

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Despite the time of year, bits and bobs continue to be seen that indicate a bit of movement. Nothing too unusual was seen today, but we had two Chiffchaffs, a Goldfinch and a Collared Dove on the ground, and a single Turnstone in Henlwyn. Overhead a single Sand Martin was seen at Cafn, with ten House Martins during the day and a Lesser Redpoll south over the South End at 10:00. A Kestrel, probably the same bird from yesterday, was seen over Pen Cristin. Meanwhile, there was an excellent count of 103 Puffins from here as well, our highest of the year so far.
A Razorbill chick from the East Side yesterday, extremely close to fledging! 

Friday, 16 June 2017

Mid-June can be a slightly confusing time of year, as you try and work out whether the handful of new arrivals are tardy spring migrants or the vanguard of autumn! That was definitely the case today, with several birds likely to fit each category. Among good candidates for late spring migrants were a single acredula type Willow Warbler in the Withies, and two Turnstones heading North. Meanwhile, three Starlings, 10 southbound Sandwich Terns, two Curlews and an extremely dapper breeding plumage Golden Plover on the South End were much more likely to be early autumn migrants and failed breeders. To complete the picture, three Whimbrels included one colour-ringed bird that has been resident on the island since September 2016! Presumably a first-summer that couldn't be bothered to migrate.

Meanwhile, a couple of other arrivals like a Black-headed Gull North through the Narrows, a Kestrel on Pen Cristin, a Lesser Redpoll in the Plantation and three Collared Doves roaming the island were harder to categorise, and could easily relate to early post-breeding dispersal or failed breeders from the near mainland.

The highlight of extensive work around the East Side, including ringing plenty of Guillemot and Razorbill chicks, was a Storm Petrel found in a nest burrow. Several areas positively reeked of their "old book" smell, and hopefully our survey work planned for the next few weeks will shed some more light on the size of the current breeding population.
Ruby-tailed Wasp, © Ben Porter

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Another interesting midsummer's day, with a few new arrivals noted. On the sea an Arctic Skua North in the morning was an obvious highlight, while 138 Manx Shearwaters were logged. In the early hours, a single Storm Petrel was tape-lured and ringed on Pen Cristin.

The first returning Lapwing was another sign of autumn, while a Cuckoo was the most notable land migrant of the day. Given the attention it was receiving from Meadow Pipits, what odds that it laid an egg and we'll see another juvenile fledge in late summer? Also of interest was a single Spotted Flycatcher at the Plantation, while 43 Swallows included a few birds moving south through the island, alongside six House Martins.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

A day on the Gwylans meant coverage was limited, but nontheless a surprising amount was seen. I hate to break it to you, but it's definitively autumn now! Our highest passage of Swifts of the year, with 94 heading south, was by far the morning's highlight. Amongst them were 26 House Martins also heading south, and a Grey Heron moving in the same direction high overhead, while two 1st-summers were on Henllwyn. A group of five Sandwich Terns passed North past Solfach, and in the evening a Buzzard arrived from the North over the mountain. Three Curlew were also seen around today. On land a few migrants were noted, including most notably a Lesser Whitethroat at Nant. A single Spotted Flycatcher was also seen at the Plantation.

The Gwylans were excellent as always, with good numbers of Puffin, Shag and Herring Gulls on Ynys Gwylan Fawr, although Great Black-backed Gulls seemed to be in particularly low numbers, with poor productivity this year. Both many Shags, Guillemots, Razorbills, Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls were ringed; mostly juveniles but a few adults of the two Auks.
Photos from the Gwylans today; juvenile Shag and Guillemot © Ben Porter

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Most of the day was spent working round the East Side again, with the result that good seabird counts were made, but little else was noted. Final tallies for the Seabirds include 67 Shags, 242 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 618 Herring Gulls, 1068 Razorbills, 1308 Guillemots and 58 Puffins. The colony is properly busy now, with many species on chicks and some even having fledged young. Most intriguing are the Shags, and their notoriously protracted breeding season, with many young now fully fledged but some pairs having only just laid eggs! One puzzling sighting was the presence of Shag eggs in two nests that had already fledged young earlier in the season! We're not aware of Shags having second broods, so it seems most likely that other birds have taken over the now-empty nests of the earliest few pairs.
Razorbill with Sandeels, © Ben Porter
While it looks like potentially a poor year for Razorbill numbers compared to recent years, a good number of chicks and eggs were seen, with plenty like the above bringing in healthy portions of Sandeels for their young!

Elsewhere seawatching produced a lower total of 427 Manx Shearwaters. A few hirundines were on the move heading south, among them 45 Swallows, 10 House Martins and a single Sand Martin. We've suspected for a few days that autumn had already arrived, but it's presence was gratefully confirmed with a Curlew heading south out to sea in the evening; traditionally failed breeders of this species are amongst the very earliest of return migrants. Three Whimbrels were also seen, as were three Goldfinches.
A Cinnabar was the highlight of day-flying insects, only the 13th or 14th record for the island, but several have been seen this year already. A Painted Lady  was also seen. Most exciting in the moth trap was what we suspect to be a Feathered Beauty, which would be a first record for the island.

Monday, 12 June 2017

The first day in weeks that felt remotely summery, albeit with a strong wind, may also have been the first on which some autumnal Hirundine passage was noted, with 58 Swallows, 19 House Martins and two Sand Martins. Though hirundines heading south are open to interpretation on Bardsey, and these birds could also be late spring migrants making their way to Ireland, as many southbound birds earlier in the spring were assumed to be. Definitely still an arriving migrant was a Spotted Flycatcher in the Withies, while three Goldfinches were in the Wetlands.

Out to sea it was another spectacular morning for Manx Shearwaters with 3419 recorded in total. Also moving in decent numbers were 61 Gannets and 15 Fulmars. The Bar-tailed Godwit on the Narrows was present for it's fifth day, alongside three Whimbrels.

Survey work around the East Side resulted in good counts of 1238 Razorbills, 180 Lesser Black-backed Gulls and 51 Puffins. We found plenty of nest platforms of both Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, but not many juveniles; which may well indicate a poor season for raising young for the Gulls.  Meanwhile, on the insect front the only notable sightings were three Speckled Woods at Nant, and two Red Admirals.
Herring Gull adult and chick; © Ben Porter

Sunday, 11 June 2017

A mostly sunny day, but strong wind kept most of the birds down. As is often the case in summer, most interest was out to sea, where 1733 Manx Shearwaters, 67 Gannets, 21 Puffins and 19 Fulmars (including one "dark-looking" bird) were seen. Meanwhile on the Narrows there were three Whimbrels and the Bar-tailed Godwit for it's fourth day.
The only other new arrivals were a Collared Dove at the Plantation, and singles of Swift and Starling heading North through the island. Overall, a pretty quiet day!

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Another pretty quiet day. On the Narrows a Bar-tailed Godwit was quite possibly the same seen on the 8th, while a Sanderling was new in, and two Whimbrels remained. A Grey Wagtail was on the South End in heavy mist in the morning, and one Goldfinch was around Nant. Otherwise, very quiet on another windy and rain day. It's somewhat hard to believe it's two years to the day since the sixth Cretzschmar's Bunting for Britain was found here! Today was mostly a day for office work, we're all itching for a good, calm field day now!

argy-bargy between Kittiwakes and Guillemots on the East Side several days ago; photo by Ben Porter

Friday, 9 June 2017

With today being a changeover day, little of note was seen as staff were busy, and visitors only arrived in the afternoon. New in were six Goldfinches and a Collared Dove, whilst a Chiffchaff in the Withies was potentially a migrant. A small southward passage of House Martins was evident during the morning, numbering 17. Meanwhile the only waders seen were three Whimbrels on the South End. With calmer conditions and limited time, seawatching produced little more than a trickle of Manx Shearwaters and Gannets, at a fraction of the numbers seen in recent days.

Our second second brood (if that makes any sense!) of Moorhens was found in the back garden today, another three very young chicks meaning there are now six tiny, bald-scalped little balls of fluff scampering around the Obs.

Three Red Admirals and a Large White were noted today, but little else was noted on a quiet day. However, the rare sunshine and calm conditions for most of the day were much appreciated! It sadly does not look like lasting for long.
A cracking sunrise over Cristin several mornings ago; the sort of thing you have time to appreciate when there isn't a deluge of migrants! 

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Another wild and stormy day, with most eyes out to sea and visitors scoring the most interesting birds of the day. One of our guests at the Obs pulled out the obvious bird of the day, a fine Storm Petrel moving south past the North End. Despite being regularly trapped during concerted ringing efforts at night, this tiny waif is seldom seen by seawatchers of Bardsey, so this constitutes an excellent record. Seawatching also produced 2099 Manx Shearwaters, 119 Gannets and a single Puffin, though little else of note.

Meanwhile, visitors staying in one of the Bardsey Island Trust houses reported a Bar-tailed Godwit at the North End in the evening, the days other unusual sighting. Also on the wader front the Common Sandpiper was in Solfach for its second day, and four Whimbrels, two Curlews and two Turnstones were seen. The only passerine migrant seen was a single Willow Warbler in the garden at Cristin.

The breeding season is now well underway, with several species on their second broods. Dunnocks behind the toilets are taking food to their second brood of the season, while the front garden Moorhens had three very small chicks.

On a rainy and windy day, very little of note was seen among the few insects that braved the conditions.

One great success of late has been the recovery of the first GPS tag deployed on a Manx Shearwater, as part of Ben Porter's (the old author of this blog, before he went off the island to Uni) master's project. During the days this Manxie was out of it's burrow foraging (while it's mate took its turn incubating their egg), it travelled as far as the south-eastern shore of the Isle of Man! We hope for more fascinating insights into the lives of our Shearwaters as the season progresses. Below is a visual reproduction of the journey this Shearwater made.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Today saw another day of strong winds, followed by heavy rain in the afternoon. Unfortunately, migrants out to sea had slowed down considerably only one Fulmar, 321 Manx Shearwaters, 22 Gannets, 98 Guillemots, 12 Razorbills and two Puffins made their way past the island. However, six Arctic Terns passing the West Coast early on were a pleasant surprise.

Puffin on the East Side

Oystercatcher battling the strong winds and sea spray

Inland, Collared Doves now numbered two, resident hirundines included 30 Swallows and 10 House Martins, whereas Warblers numbered four Sedge Warblers, four Whitethroats, a Blackcap and three Chiffchaffs

Swallow feeding in the meadow

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Strong winds and occasional showers battered the island today, which pushed a good number of birds out to sea past the island. A total of 16 Fulmars, 2390 Manx Shearwaters, 156 Gannets, eight Common Scoters, two Sandwich Terns, 588 Guillemots, 80 Razorbills and four Puffins were logged! On the Narrows today were two Whimbrels and four Curlews.

 Whimbrel on the rocks on the North End

 Gannet passing by out to sea

Oystercatcher in the thrift

Birds inland consisted of a Collared Dove, two Little Owl, 30 Swallows and three House Martins. Other breeding migrants included 12 Wheatears, five Sedge Warblers, three Whitethroats, a Blackcap and a Chiffchaff.