Sunday, 31 August 2014

Western Bonelli's Warbler!

A day of bright sunshine, low winds and high temperatures saw autumn migration step up a gear. At around 11:30 this morning, a very smart Bonelli's Warbler was discovered feeding very actively in the oak trees at the eastern end of the Plantation. After birders had amassed to the site (all four of them), the bird showed very well for an hour and a half, showing off its brilliant white underparts and bright green wings and rump. After the preferred spot for this phyllosc had passed into shadow, the reduction in insect numbers forced the bird to become a bit more active. The Bonelli's Warbler then started working its way around the Plantation, and was last seen on the eastern edge of the New Plantation, where it managed to elude the open mist nets. Thankfully, the bird called three times after becoming more mobile, which allowed it to be identified as a Western Bonelli's Warbler (due to the 'hueeet'-type call, as opposed to the 'chipp'-type call of the eastern). This represents the 8th record of this species on Bardsey, the last of which was in the exact same place just a day later than this in September 2011.

Amongst the more noteworthy species seen today were two Whinchats, a Tree Pipit, a Pied Flycatcher, a Reed Warblera Greenshank and two Arctic Skuas. There were some very good counts of common migrants too, with passerine totals amounting to: one Sand Martin, 62 Swallows, 25 House Martins, 59 Meadow Pipits, two Grey Wagtails, 51 White Wagtails, 25 Robins, 23 Stonechats, three Sedge Warblers, seven Whitethroats, two Blackcaps, 21 Chiffchaffs, 31 Willow Warblers, 32 Goldcrests and six Spotted Flycatchers.

Western Bonelli's Warbler

Saturday, 30 August 2014

29th August
Gale force winds from the south west meant that there were virtually no new migrants inland, but a few noteworthy species passed by out to sea. Amongst a movement of 2768 Manx Shearwaters and 61 Gannets were an Arctic Skua, a Bonxie, 25 Sandwich Terns, eight Arctic Terns and a Commic Terns, whilst an excellent count of 52 Turnstones was made around the coast.

30th August
After what has felt like weeks of constant stormy weather, it was pleasant to be able to have a respite in much calmer conditions. The gradual easing of the wind throughout the day enabled passerine migrants inland to get on the move again, and it was clear that a small arrival had taken place overnight. Totals for the day amounted to: one Grey Wagtail, five White Wagtails, one Sedge Warblers, one Blackcap, five Whitethroats, 14 Chiffchaffs, 25 Willow Warblers, 12 Goldcrests and three Spotted Flycatchers. Out to sea, the first Grey Phalarope of the year was seen distantly off the North End, whilst an Arctic Skua, 11 Sandwich Terns and three Knots were also recorded.

A juvenile Ringed Plover was trapped and ringed two nights ago, and this adult bird has been residing around The Narrows for the last couple of days 
Juvenile Whitethroat 
Willow Warblers such as this young bird are gradually being replaced in number by Chiffchaffs. From now on, the number of the latter should increase steadily, before becoming the dominate phylloscopus warbler on the island. 
Wren tackling an Earwig 
Agonopterix umbellana

Thursday, 28 August 2014

27th August
It was a very enjoyable morning's birding on the island, with the strong south-easterly winds encouraging a modest movement of migrants over and past the island's coast. In terms of passerines, the movement was dominated by 95 White Wagtails, 143 Swallows and 74 House Martins, whilst other numbers comprised one Skylark, two Sand Martins, one Tree Pipit, two Grey Wagtails, 48 Pied Wagtails and 35 alba Wagtails. It wasn't just passerines on the move though, with plenty of waders and seabirds adding to the visible migration on show throughout the day: one Greenshank, three Teals, five Common Scoters, a Great Skua, 13 Sandwich Terns, 38 Black-headed Gulls, one Common Gull, seven Ringed Plovers, 15 Purple Sandpipers, three Dunlins, two Whimbrels, 12 Redshanks and 30 Turnstones were recorded.

28th August
Continuing the rather blustery theme that has been set in the last 10 days, it was another day of strong winds, this time from the south. Most attention was focussed seaward, and rewards came in the form of an Arctic Skua, 18 Sandwich Terns, one Common Tern, a Little Egret and a probable Black Tern. Inland, 15 Willow Warblers was an increase on yesterday, and two Tree Pipits and a Whinchat were also seen.

Turnstones in the late evening light.  
A flock of 20 or so Gannets spent most of the day feeding off the West Side
A single Grey Heron continues to take up residence on the island, finding small aquatic prey in the various rock pools around the coast
Juvenile Stonechat
Autumn Ladie's Tresses (a small orchid) have appeared in their thousands around the island this year. Particularly good places for seeing this species are on Pen Cristin and in the Dynogoch Fields 
Some of the contents of the Barn Owl pellets found in one of the out houses at Nant earlier this year. Common Shrew on the left, with red-tipped teeth, and two Field Mice skulls and jaws on the right

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

August 25th:
With the recent new moon producing some high spring tides, there have been some notable gatherings of waders on the rocks around The Narrows at high tide recently. Today's counts amounted to: one Ringed Plover, two Knots, eight Purple Sandpipers, two Dunlins, three Whimbrels, 56 Curlews, seven Redshanks and 46 Turnstones. Two Teals flew past The Narrows in the early hours, and a Red-breasted Merganser was reported from the South Tip. In other news, there were virtually no new migrants noted from inland, although a single Goldcrest and seven Willow Warblers were recorded, along with one Swift.

August 26th
It was a day of very strong easterlies, with gusts of up to 40 mph recorded in the early morning. A few seawatching sessions in the morning yielded three Arctic Skuas- the first for several weeks- as well as five Common Scoters, 12 Fulmars, 935 Manx Shearwaters, 34 Gannets, 44 Kittiwakes and a Sandwich Tern. It was very difficult to find any passerines in the wind-battered vegetation inland, although a single Spotted Flycatcher was found at Nant.

Hairbells have been emerging in localised areas around the island over the last week or so
A Spotted Flycatcher was trapped and ringed at Cristin on the 20th, and weighed 14.1 grams. It was retrapped on the 24th, weighing just a single gram more. However, when it was retrapped again on the 25th, it had managed to increase its body weight to 15.1 grams (despite the grim weather).
Spotted Flycatchers are a Red listed breeding species in the UK, with a population decline noted over the last 20 years. Did you know that the maximum recorded age for this species in eight years?
(C) Bob Norman
Some of the highest counts of Grey Seal for the year have been recorded recently around the Narrows and South End. The highest count of the month was of 195 individuals on the 20th. It won't be too long before the pups appear on the shingly beaches. (C) Bob Norman
The Manx Shearwater chicks continue to grow in size in their earth burrows. Some of the chicks weigh more than 400 grams, which is considerably more than that of the adults. Still, I think I would want fat reserves as large as that if I was planning to fly to South America for the winter... (C) Mark Carter

Some images taken over the last two days (all pictures (c) Ben Porter):
There was a large swell rolling in from the west on Tuesday, and the very strong easterly gusts created some dramatic seascapes as the crests of the waves were blown back 
The Little Owl family on Pen Cristin has dispersed somewhat now, although one or two individuals have been seen in the gorse bushes every now and then. This adult showed quite well after the torrential downpours had ceased, and the evening sun emerged 
It is still surprising how many fledglings are emerging from the bushes and trees around the island. A new brood of Goldfinches has just fledged from a nest in Nant Withy (making it by far the best breeding season for this species on Bardsey), and the occasional Linnet chick (above) has fluttered out of its nest site in the gorse bushes 
Juvenile Magpie making use of some parasites on a ram lamb 
Curlews, with Ty Nesaf, The Abbey and Celtic crosses in the background 
Juvenile Dunlin 
There have been a couple of Red Knots around The Narrows in recent days. Generally it has been a very poor year for this species on Bardsey- there have been fewer than 10 records all year. Last year, in contrast, there were 28 individuals recorded before the end of August.
Some of the highest counts of Turnstones so far this autumn were recorded in the last few days, with a flock of 41 logged yesterday.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

There was a decided change in the weather overnight, as dawn broke to hardly a breath of wind and clear skies. However, by the late afternoon, the wind had increased from the south-east and a large rain front was advancing. It was a very pleasant morning for the daily censuses, and it was good to see a small amount of visible migration going underway. Two Sand Martins, 80 Swallows, 30 House Martins, a Tree Pipit, a Grey Wagtail, 41 Pied Wagtails and six White Wagtails flew over The Narrows and The South End in the morning. A total of two Whinchats, two Sedge Warbler, six Chiffchaffs, 11 Willow Warblers, seven Goldcrests and four Spotted Flycatchers were noted in the island's coastal gorse, willow beds and gardens. In terms of non-passerines, five Common Scoters flew past at sea, two Sandwich Terns were present on Carreg Yr Honwy, a single Knot and Dunlin remained in Solfach, and a small selection of raptors comprised three Sparrowhawks and a Kestrel.

 Willow Warblers continue to move through in small numbers
As many as three Sparrowhawks have been touring the island, keeping watch for unwary fledglings and other passerines 
Juvenile Stonechats 
Episyrphus balteatus- a common hoverfly that inhabits gardens and hedges across the UK
This smart Canary-shouldered Thorn was trapped in The Withies 
Migrants are on the move at the moment, with the odd Silver Y turning up in the light traps, along with daily records of Rusty Dot Pearl 
The first Sallow of the year was trapped near Cristin Withy, along with a Pale Mottled Willow and Crescent