Thursday, 24 April 2014

With clear skies, low winds and mild temperatures, it was a glorious day on the island, although was rather lacking in any significant numbers of common migrants. A male Common Redstart was seen amongst the gorse on the south end first thing; the Turtle Dove remained mobile, residing for the most part near Ty Pellaf; 22 Wheatears and five White Wagtails were scattered about the coast, although a large percentage of the former were breeding birds. Hirundine passage was persistent throughout the day, with tallies over an hour period midday comprising 46 Swallows, eight Sand Martins and four House Martins. A handful of finches moving through amounted to one Greenfinch, two Siskins, 10 Goldfinches and three Lesser Redpolls.

It has now been a week since this fantastic Turtle Dove arrived on the island. In the last few days, it has been favouring the fields around Ty Pellaf. If you haven't been watching Chris Packam's video entries on the hunting that is currently going on in Malta (and the rest of the Mediterranean-see here), then please watch the latest video from last night HERE. At the end of this video, a Turtle Dove is shown having been shot on the side of the head. You can do your bit by either donating to Birdlife Malta, or contacting your local MEP: please follow the links on Chris Packcam's website
There have been more and more butterflies appearing on the island in recent days and weeks- Green-veined Whites (pictured above (C) Mark Carter) are by far the commonest, although Peacocks, Red Admirals and Small Tortoise Shells have all put in an apperances
This is the pupal case, or chrysalis, of a Green-veined White. On the right hand image, you can just about make out where the antenna, three pairs of legs, and forewings were positioned. You can view the full life cycle of a Green-veined White here


Some of the more common migrants which have been all over the island in recent days:
The odd breeding pair of Barn Swallow continues to arrive on the island- this particular pair have taken up residence around the Boathouse. There are now two pairs around the farmyard at Ty Pellaf, although current breeding numbers are relatively low 
 Whimbrels
There has been a large reduction in the number of Greenland-race Wheatears around the island in the last few days- most of the birds today were breeding birds 

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Light rain during the night turned into rather persistent and heavy downpours by the early morning, before finally clearing off around midday. Despite the damp conditions in the early hours, a total of 151 Swallows were logged as they headed Southward, along with a single House Martin and a Tree Pipit. The Iceland Gull was seen around the South Tip early on, and a count of 24 Whimbrels around the South End and The Narrows was the second highest of the year so far. In terms of warblers, a single Grasshopper Warbler, two Sedge Warblers and seven Whitethroats were amongst some 70 phylloscopus warblers. In addition to this, two Hooded Crows were present on the West side, a Common Redpoll was trapped at the observatory, and the Turtle Dove was again seen around Ty Pellaf.

A rather bedraggled Whitethroat- seven were recorded today, which is the highest day total so far this year 
There were plenty more damp and soggy-looking warblers around- this particular bird was a bit of a puzzle at first sight, although it seems to be just a very wet female Blackcap! 
Wheatear (a breeding bird). There was an additional total of 57 Greenland-race birds moving though the island today 
Barn Swallows
This very smart Blossom Underwing was taken from the Nant Withy heath trap in the morning, along with 15 over moths. This species has been recorded just once before on Bardsey: two individuals taken from a moth trap in Cristin Withy on 13 April 2010. This species is thought to be an immigrant to the UK, which would certainly fit the situation here!

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

The day got off to an excellent start at 0730, with the island’s 10th ever Iceland Gull seen amongst a flock of large gulls over the South Tip; this first-winter bird remained around the southern end of the island for the rest of the morning. At around the same time, the year’s first Little Egret flew out of Henllwyn, flying along the South End, before having a brief haggle with the Iceland Gull! The Turtle Dove remained on the island, residing above Ty Pellaf for the majority of the day.

Low cloud cover and light drizzle overnight resulted in a small attraction occurring at the Lighthouse in the small hours- some 60 Manx Shearwaters and 40 passerines (Wheatears, Blackcaps and phylloscs) were recorded. By morning, a good number of warblers and other common migrants were passing through the island, with counts amounting to: one Tree Pipit, 66 Wheatears, three Grasshopper Warbler, one Lesser Whitethroat, one Whitethroat, 22 Blackcaps, 58 Willow Warblers and 27 Chiffchaffs. A minimum of 83 Swallows sped southward over the island, perhaps heading to Ireland (as opposed to the mainland), and these were joined by three Sand Martins and one House Martin.

In other news, singles of 'Northern' Ringed Plover and Whimbrel were trapped and ringed overnight. The latter of these was fitted with colour-coded Darvic rings, as part of our colour-ringing project on this species. Coincidently, one of last year's colour-ringed Whimbrels actually appeared on the island midday, which we had ringed on the 28th April 2013.

A few mist nets were opened throughout the day, with just over 30 birds finding their way into them. Some of the highlights are shown below...(all images (c) Steve Stansfield)
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After the first Lesser Whitethroat arrived yesterday, this smart bird was trapped and ringed at the observatory mid-morning
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We have had two 'proper'-looking Mealy Redpolls this year, although we continue to catch birds which just don't seem to fit either (as has been the story in the last few springs). Take the top bird here, for example: large white wing bars, and a generally frosty look were somewhat intermediate, and a wing measurement of 72mm places it well inside the range for Lesser Redpoll. Compare the top bird to a normal Lesser Redpoll (lower)
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Some Northern-looking Willow Warblers were also trapped: being noticeable larger in the hand, and looking somewhat greyer, almost like acredula birds
Twenty Manx Shearwaters were collected (alive) from the compound around the lighthouse in the morning; each bird was fitted with a ring, before being released at dusk. Above: some of the island visitors watch on as Steve rings one of the Manx Shearwaters

Conditions were perfect for moth trapping last night: low cloud cover, very little wind, mild temperatures, and a waning moon...the result was a decent catch in the moth traps, with around 25 caught at nant. This included the year's first V-Pug and Marbled Coronet...
Marbled Coronet 
 V-Pug
Spruce Carpet

Monday, 21 April 2014

After a night of very strong, and gusty, easterly winds (reaching 38mph), it was another glorious sunny day, with plenty of migrants moving through. There were two new additions to the Bardsey year list today, namely that of a Cuckoo around the Nant area, and a Lesser Whitethroat above Carreg Bach late in the afternoon. The Cuckoo is two days earlier than the first bird that arrived in 2013, whilst the Lesser Whitethroat is almost two weeks earlier than last year. The earliest ever dates on which these species have arrived on the island are: the 17th of April for Cuckoo, and the 16th of April for Lesser Whitethroat.

In other news, a Pied Flycatcher frequenting the new plantation was just the second so far this year, and other common migrant numbers amounted to 59 Wheatears, two Sedge Warblers, 10 Blackcaps, 10 Chiffchaffs and 36 Willow Warblers. Overhead, hirundine passage was again rather limited, with just 12 Sand Martins, 48 Swallows and three House Martins recorded. The Turtle Dove stayed for its fifth day on the island, and was joined by three Collared Doves.

This very smart Cuckoo spent the day feeding along the fence lines at Nant, although very nearly met its end with the female Sparrowhawk late afternoon, just about managing to out-manoeuvre the feisty predator. The bird seemed to be finding plenty of food- in the top two images, has managed to catch what looks like a Garden Tiger caterpillar. Check out the Cuckoo project, which is being run by the BTO to acquire  a better understanding of what these stunning birds do on migration, and why they are declining so rapidly
 The first Lesser Whitethroat of the year (top), and the second Pied Flycatcher of the year (lower) were amongst a respectable arrival of common migrants on the island 
The Turtle Dove remains rather shy, although seems perfectly happy feeding along the track. The population of Turtle Doves in the UK fell by more than 90% between 1970 and 2010, and continues to decline. Indeed, this species has been one of the most strongly declining bird species across Europe since 1980. The effect of hunting on migration can be at least partly to blame. If you are not aware of the slaughter of migrants that takes place in the Mediterranean region, check out THIS blog, and This video, which outline some of the goings-on, particularly in Malta. Please also have a look at this blog: 'Dove-step'- a 300-mile walk for Turtle Doves 

Sunday, 20 April 2014

There was a distinct chilly feel to the air, largely due to a fresh north east wind, which strengthened towards the end of the day. The third day of sustained Wheatear passage saw numbers climbing to their second highest so far this year: a figure of 89 Wheatears comprised largely Greenland-race birds, some of which were visibly exhausted, sheltering and hiding in bushes and under dense vegetation inland. The first Red Kite of the year drifted eastwards over the mountain in the morning, a female Merlin darted over Henllwyn, and another raptor evaded identification, although could have been a harrier of some kind.

In terms of warblers, the numbers were somewhat disappointing, with lower than 30-figure counts for all of the commoner species; singles of Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler and Grasshopper Warbler were noteworthy. A Yellow Wagtail on The Narrows was presumably the same female as yesterday, whilst seven White Wagtails resided close by. Wader numbers continue to build, albeit rather subtly, with some seven Whimbrels, five Ringed Plovers, five Dunlins and a Common Sandpiper seen between Henllwyn and the South Tip.


There have been relatively few moths turning up in the moth traps recently; mostly due to a combination of the recent full moon and the cool and clear nights. Numbers have started increasing in the last two days, with 11 Hebrew Charcaters, three Common Quakers and the first Garden Carpet of the year taken from the Nant heath trap last night...
 Hebrew Characters are by far the commonest moth at the moment
 The first Garden Carpet of the year was attracted to the Nant moth trap
These Lackey moth caterpillars have emerged from their spun 'tents' in the last few days. These little fellas hatched from their eggs earlier in the spring, establishing the tent of silk soon after. It is crucial for the tent to be situated in direct view of the sun, since the caterpillars need to elevate their temperature to at least 15'C (below which digestion cannot occur). On particularly cold mornings, the caterpillars may group together into tight 'aggregates'; remarkably, the temperature inside these aggregates is commonly as high as 30'C warmer than the surroundings. These 1st, or perhaps 2nd instar caterpillars will shed their skins several times before reaching full size, then forming a pupae, ready to emerge as adult moths in July and August.
A great diversity of plant life has emerged over the last few weeks, with Bracken shoots, Marsh Marigold flowers, Cuckoo flowers and much, much more adding a bit of colour to the island

Saturday, 19 April 2014

It was another productive day’s birding, with a change in the wind direction to the east giving a more promising feel to the day. By far the highlight of the day was a fantastic White Stork; first seen over the Lighthouse being harassed by a dozen Oystercatchers at midday, the bird then battled eastwards into the freshening wind. Eventually, the bird flew high and east over the mountain top, in the direction of the Lleyn Peninsula. This is just the second White Stork to be seen on Bardsey, the last being in 1995. This particular bird could well be the same individual reported over both Caernarfon and South Stack two days ago.

In other news, a good crop of 74 Wheatears was scattered around the island; 19 White Wagtails, a Tree Pipit, ten Whimbrels and a Common Sandpipers were also seen around the coast, whilst 74 Swallows, 21 Sand Martins and four House Martins sped northward throughout the day. Inland, two Whitethroats were seen in the withies and wetlands, whilst two Grasshopper Warblers, two Sedge Warblers, 37 Willow Warblers, 14 Chiffchaffs and 13 Blackcaps were in similar localities. Elsewhere, the Turtle Dove was again present at the North End, showing very well on the track near Plas mid-morning, and the first Yellow Wagtail of the year arrived into the field near Ty Pellaf late afternon.

The superb White Stork, just the second for Bardsey. The first record was on 2nd May 1995. There were reports of a single White Stork over Caernarfon and South Stack two days ago
 The very smart Yellow Wagtail, which arrived on the island late in the afternoon. The bird spent the rest of the day feeding amongst the sheep near Ty Pellaf
As well as the Turtle Dove, which remained between Plad and Nant for most of the day, this Collared Dove was found hiding away in Ty Pellaf garden 
There were some stunning Greenland-race Wheatears around

Friday, 18 April 2014

It was another glorious sunny day on the island, with plenty of migrants moving through. It was certainly apparent, however, that a large clear-out of warblers had also taken place overnight. Migrant passage was dominated by Wheatears today, with the largest numbers of the year so far recorded around the coasts and fields inland: totals amounted to 108 Greenland Wheatears. Hirundine passage was also much more pronounced than previous days, with a steady passage of bird throughout the day amounting to 45 Sand Martins, 161 Swallows and seven House Martins. These figures are likely to be large underestimates, since this count was taken from a single hour period between 1230 to 1330. The star of the day had to go to the superb Turtle Dove, which remained shy around the Nant area, showing best in the early morning and late evening. A Continental Song Thrush was seen in Carreg Reed Bed, two Sandwich Terns resided in Solfach for the afternoon, and just a single Whimbrel was present in Solfach.

A continual stream of Swallows northward over the island took place throughout the day, in the calm and clear conditions. A single pair at Ty Pellaf has also been observed carrying nesting material into one of the barns, although it is a little worrying that there is just a single pair at that site at the moment 


The rather beautiful Turtle Dove remained shy for most of the day at Nant, although returned to the field near Ty Capel in the late evening. The bird seemed very content, feeding voraciously amongst the dried cow pats...

 Two Sandwich Terns spent the afternoon in Solfach
Rather belated news from yesterday afternoon, this Bateleur flew south over the island in the late afternoon...(!) (ok, ok, so its just a tail-less Buzzard...)