Sunday, 29 March 2015

Unfortunately, the weather has taken a turn for the worse in the last two days, with a strong south-westerly wind accompanying occasional rain showers and relatively low temperatures- not in any way ideal conditions for our returning migrants. In fact, there was very little evidence of any new passerine arrivals during either of the two days: just two Wheatears were recorded on the 28th, followed by six on the 29th; Chiffchaffs increased from just two on the 28th to four on the 29th; and Goldcrest numbers also increased somewhat from six on the 28th to 24 on the 29th. Sea passage dominated in terms of avian movements, with the following counts noted: four Fulmars, 63 Manx Shearwaters, five Gannets and three Common Scoters on the 28th, followed by seven Fulmars, 90 Manx Shearwaters, 35 Gannets, 93 Kittiwakes, 92 Guillemots, 29 Razorbills and a Puffin on the 29th.

Northern Wheatears- most of the birds present on the island now are on territories and paired up, eyeing up cracks in the walls and burrows where they may begin building nests in the coming weeks

Carrion Crows (above), Ravens, Magpies and Choughs are all working busily on their nests, taking gorse twigs bag and forth to their respective nest sites, followed some days later by sheep's wool and other nest lining materials

Linnet numbers are increasing on the island now, although all birds are still remaining together in loose flocks. Some of the males are beginning to show their breeding plumage

Oystercatcher. Images (c) Ben-

Friday, 27 March 2015

On the whole, the 27th was a pleasant day, with a definite feel of  'the calm before the storm' in the air. A warmer southerly wind was coupled with clear skies for most of the day. The numbers of migrants on the island, however, remained relatively low: 99 Meadow Pipits were seen during the day, although a single flock of 48 are likely to be the only true migrants; four Scandinavian Rock Pipits were amongst the nominate petrosus in Solfach; a Song Thrush was present in the Ty Pellaf Wetlands; just nine Chiffchaffs and 14 Goldcrests were seen in the vegetated areas; and the male House Sparrow and a Lesser Redpoll flew overhead. Singles of Merlin and Jack Snipe were also recorded.

A selection of images of Scandinavian Rock Pipits in Solfach from the last two weeks. After a large drop off in numbers, there seems to be something of an increase at the moment, with four today

A couple of nominate breeding Rock Pipits

Thursday, 26 March 2015

A day with stronger north-westerly winds and some rain overnight saw a rather limited smattering of migrants on the island. In terms of passerines, there were two Scandinavian Rock Pipits on Solfach, two Wheatears were present to the south, seven Chiffchaffs and eight Goldcrests were seen at Nant, and two Starlings and a Reed Bunting were also recorded. A pair of Ringed Plovers had returned to an area of scree just to the west of Solfach, which is a promising start to their breeding season.



Many Oystercatchers have paired up and separated off to their respective territories around the coast

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

A glorious sunny day with calm winds and clear skies saw a few migrants on the move, which included 307 Meadow Pipits, one Black Redstart, 15 Chiffchaffs, 29 Goldcrests and five Rooks. It was a reasonable day for sea passage, with a flock of five Canada Geese in Traeth Ffynnon, and three Red-throated Divers, one Great Northern Diver, 11 Gannets, one Common Scoter, two Black-headed Gulls and 11 Kittiwakes out to sea.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

The year's first Blackcap in Cristin garden was perhaps the highlight of a somewhat colder and breezier day, whilst other passerine migrants comprised two Skylarks, 164 Meadow Pipits, three Scandinavian Rock Pipits, one Grey Wagtail, a Black Redstart and a House Sparrow. Out to sea, three Manx Shearwaters, nine Gannets, four Common Scoters, 35 Guillemots and 16 Razorbills were recorded, with singles of Merlin, Buzzard, Water Rail, Jack Snipe and Whimbrel also present.

There seem to be three pairs of Little Owls around the island this year, with one above Ty Pellaf on Pen Cristin, another above Plas and another at the North End. The Plas pair have been showing quite well on occasion

A small flock of Starlings have been present on the island for the last few days

Its looking like a great year for Stonechats on the island, with many more pairs having arrived in the recent influx of migrants- there are now around ten pairs present, scattered from the South End to Nant in a mixture of habitats

Monday, 23 March 2015

The wind continued to swing around from the south-east, and by the end of the day was settled in the north-west; a small amount of precipitation overnight, coupled with a moderately stronger wind, seemed to encourage some migrants to make landfall on the island. Totals for the day include three Skylarks, 136 Meadow Pipits, one Grey Wagtail, one Sand Martin, 13 Stonechats, seven Wheatears, one Fieldfare, three Redwings, 32 Chiffchaffs, 32 Goldcrests and one Reed Bunting

The light winds in the last few days have meant we've been able to erect all the mist nets up around the island, and as migrants begin to arrive we have also been giving them some use! Nant has been the most productive place in the last few days, with a total of 50 new birds ringed, plus a control and a handful of retraps. 

The Nant ringing station

Goldcrests have been the most numerous species ringed, and amongst all the new birds was a single already bearing a ring. This was in fact a 'control', that appears to have been ringed on Skokholm just a few days ago

Goldcrests can be aged fairly easily by the shape, texture and colour of the tail at this time of year: the adults (age 6- on the left) have very broad tail feathers, with rounded tips, and a very glossy texture. In comparison, last year's juveniles (age 5- right hand bird) have very pointy tail feathers, with a looser texture and brown colouration

Chiffchaffs have been increasing in numbers in the ringing totals, with about 14 ringed today. This included several individuals with 'pollen horns'- above

again, many Chiffchaffs can also be aged on the tail: adults (age 6- left in the image above) have similarly glossy feathers, with rounded tips and generally quite a broad appearance. The younger birds (age code 50- right in the photograph) have rather knackered feathers which (for the most part) look very worn and brown, with narrower tips

The wings of Chiffchaffs (in particular the greater coverts) are also useful for ageing, as can be seen in the image above, with an adult picture above, and last year's juvenile below. Notice the contrasting shapes of both the secondaries and primaries- much broader on the adult, all the way to the tip, and again the darker and more glossy colouration of the adult feathers

Sunday, 22 March 2015

A switch in the wind direction to the south-east provoked something of a renewed movement of migrant birds, most obviously with Meadow Pipits flying southward passed the South End in the early hours (a total of 391 were recorded). Other fly-overs comprised the year's first Stock Doves, with a flock of four; 10 'alba' Wagtails, two Greenfinches, two Siskins, nine Goldfinches and two Lesser Redpolls. On terra firma, a small selection of migrants comprised 10 Wheatears, a Fieldfare, five Chiffchaffs and 33 Goldcrests. A good day for sea passage, and something that is likely to increase as the wind strengthens in the following few days, saw two Great Northern Divers, a diver sp., four Fulmars, 12 Gannets, 24 Common Scoters, two Common Gulls, five Kittiwakes and three large geese sp., perhaps the Canada trio from a few days ago.

Shags are now busy collecting nesting material from the sea's surface, and clumsily building their nest- a pile of twigs- on the various ledges around the East Side

Some exciting news this year is that we appear to have three pairs of Ravens on the island, all of which are showing signs of nesting. This is a great turn out, and amazing considering the close proximity of each pair to each other.
For more images, visit

Saturday, 21 March 2015

A day of light winds from the north, clear blue skies and chilly temperatures made birding very pleasant, but migrant numbers continued to struggle somewhat. There was a good count of 185 Meadow Pipits around the island during the day, and 17 Stonechats and 11 Wheatears were recorded around the coast and in the lowlands. Other passerine migrants around included single Redwing and Song Thrushes, six Chiffchaffs, 23 Goldcrests, nine Goldfinches and three Lesser Redpolls. A single Red-throated Diver, 17 Common Scoters and one Puffin flew past out to sea, and a handful of Manx Shearwaters gave their haunting calls overhead after dusk. Best of the rest were represented by single Buzzard, Merlin and Kestrels, plus five Purple Sandpipers around the Narrows and two Jack Snipes and three Common Snipes flushed from the wetlands.

Common Buzzard

Peregrine Falcon

Dunnocks all over the island are now spending a lot of their time displaying with their flashy wings, and trying to attract females

Some landscapes from the last few days (c) Steve Stansfield

Friday, 20 March 2015

Another lovely calm day began with the excitement of the solar eclipse, which thankfully occurred with clear blue skies around, allowing a true appreciation of this amazing event. With the low northerly winds continuing, there were plenty of new migrants around: the first two Puffins of the year were seen off the North End; a total of 15 Wheatears were scattered around the coast, along with three Skylarks, 252 Meadow Pipits, one Grey Wagtail, 35 Pied Wagtails, the year’s first two White Wagtails and 16 Stonechats; a moderate finch passage in the morning included the year’s first Bullfinch at Nant, plus 31 Goldfinches, 35 Linnets, one Siskin, one Lesser Redpoll and one Reed Bunting; Goldcrest numbers had finally climbed to a higher total of 34, with a small figure of eight Chiffchaffs also present; and thrush numbers were up to two Fieldfares, and singles of Song Thrush and Redwing. Elsewhere on the island, singles of Merlin, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel were seen, and two Water Rails were present in the lowlands. A large gathering of large gulls in Solfach at high tide involved some 81 Herring Gulls, a Lesser Black-backed Gull, one Black-headed Gull and three Common Gulls.

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Bullfinch- the first spring bird for a couple of years, the last being a probable escaped male, bearing a ring of non-scientific origin. (C) Mark Carter

A handful of images of the solar eclipse

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Its been a great couple of days on the island, with plenty of migrants arriving and moving through. The weather has remained very settled and extremely pleasant, with a light north-east wind accompanying clear blue skies- the weather is certainly making it feel like spring, and is encouraging a more noticeable movement of migrants than the conditions last week.

The first Sand Martin of the year was perhaps the highlight of the 18th, although the following day a total of three were recorded flying North over the island. Other visible migration on the 18th included three Skylarks, 265 Meadow Pipits, a Grey Wagtail, a Jackdaw and a Reed Bunting. On the 19th, there was a reduced movement of migrants overhead, but there were sightings of two Greenfinches, the year's first House Sparrow and two Fieldfares. One of the main points of interest during this period was that of the chat and thrush movement: the 18th saw excellent figures of 18 Robins, 20 Stonechats, 25 Wheatears and two Song Thrushes; these figures decreased somewhat on the 19th to just seven Robins, 13 Stonechats, 15 Wheatears, a Black Redstart, four Song Thrushes and a Redwing. Warblers started arriving in earnest during this period too, with 21 Chiffchaffs and 30 Goldcrests on the 18th, decreasing to 10 and 12 respectively the following day. The first Dunlin of the year was seen in Solfach on the 18th, and two Common Snipe on this date had increased to three on the 19th, along with four Jack Snipe (one of which was trapped and ringed). Raptors have been represented by a single Kestrel on the 18th and 19th, a Buzzard on the 18th, and the usual Sparrowhawks lurking around.

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This smart male House Sparrow was trapped at Cristin on the 19th- the first of the year and still a rare bird on the island

The first few Goldcrests of the year have been trapped and ringed in the last few days


There are some stunning male Wheatears around the coast at the moment, and numbers continue to build: a count of 25 on the 18th was the peak movement. There are very few females amongst the arrivals as yet

Stonechats moved through in excellent numbers on the 18th, with a single flock of seven seen on the Narrows! A total of 20 were seen on the island on the 18th


Goldcrests have been arriving in small numbers, although we should expect to see higher figures than this at the time of year