Tuesday, 15 April 2014

It was another stunning day of clear skies, low winds and high temperatures; the calm weather encouraged a trickle of migrants to move through the island during the day, although the numbers were not as high as have been experienced on the south coasts of the UK in the last few days (see here).

Warbler numbers had increased since yesterday, with totals standing at: one Grasshopper Warbler, 25 Blackcaps, 17 Chiffchaffs and 31 Willow Warblers. In the late afternoon, the first Whitethroat of the year was discovered in the bramble bushes near the Limekiln, which is two days earlier than the first of 2013. Although still pronounced, hirundine passage was somewhat less than yesterday, with 17 Sand Martins, 39 Swallows and seven House Martins logged during the day. A total of 12 White Wagtails around the Narrows is the highest gathering of the year, and a single Scandinavian Rock Pipit was also seen amongst them late afternoon. Two Common Gulls around the Narrows were the first for some time, which a total of four Whimbrels is the highest count so far this year.

A good number of the island's breeding Wrens have been seen carrying nesting material to their nest sites in recent days, and the usual dawn chorus comprises mostly of their surprisingly loud song. This particular singing male seemed to prefer showing off his dancing abilities, as opposed to his vocalisations...
Some more images of this particularly flexible Wren
 Blackcaps continue to move through in reasonable numbers, and many are also finding their way into the mist nets at the Observatory
There seem to be two pairs of breeding Blue Tits on the island this year- each individual has been fitted with a ring. Two of the individuals, however, were ringed back in 2010 and 2011, and have been present on the island every since

Monday, 14 April 2014

A rather glorious spring day saw clear skies and a nagging northerly wind persisting for the third consecutive day on the island; however, the passage of most migrants were very slight, with hirundines being the most numerous passing birds. Similar totals to yesterday saw 132 Swallows, eight Sand Martins and five House Martins logged in the space of an hour or so, although this sustained movement throughout the day would have amounted to a figure closer to 500 or more had observers been in the field for most of the day. The morning census revealed some four White Wagtails and five Wheatears around the coast; six Blackcaps, 4 Chiffchaffs, eight Willow Warblers and six Goldcrests in the gardens; and two Lesser Redpolls overhead.

A handful of Goldcrests arrived on the island overnight- some were seen moving through rapidly, whilst others spent a little time feeding frantically around (and on) the Damson flowers in Cristin Garden
Did you know? Goldcrest's scientific name, Regulus regulus, is Latin for Prince or Kinglet, referring to the golden crowns possessed by most members of the family Regulidae. 
 Blackcaps continue to move through in small numbers, many feeding on the nectar of the Damson and Apple Blossoms
The non-breeding flock of Oystercatchers in Henllwyn has diminished to virtually none at all, with most birds  having dispersed around the coast to their respective breeding territories.

It's all happening at the obs

Even though spring migration is in full swing and mornings are filled doing census work and ringing...

... there is still lots of practical work to be done at the Observatory. 

Over the past few weeks staff and volunteers have been getting the building is ready for this seasons guests who are due to arrive next week. 

As you will have seen, Todd, Bevan and Mike have been here for two weeks and left yesterday stop they have made great inroads into a rather large workload we had. Mark and Steffan have been busy getting the Observatory ready, painting and preparing rooms, cleaning and tidying.

 Todd and his team have been fitting new skylights.


Todd constructed a replacement hide on for Solfach at home in the West Midlands and transported it in kit form to the island where he Bevan and Mike assembled it on the beach. 

During winter months heavy rain penetrated the roof at Christine bringing down a portion of the upstairs ceiling on the landing. 
Steve spent his morning fixing the problem...

We now just need the filler to dry and the new ceiling to be painted. 

Todd, being a professional roofer, spent some time trying to find the source of the problem and fix the leak on the chimneys. 
Steve has spent a lot of his time, between working on the report, ordering seo plies of cleaning products and loo rolls for the season. 
Also thanks to a generous donation specifically for improvements to the obs. he has been sourcing and ordering mountains of duvets, pillows, suggest, pillow cases, duvet covers and curtains from Dunelm. 

Mike and Bevan painted all the gutter brackets in the courtyard. 
And Todd followed fixing in the new guttering. 
Connor's new school room is nearing completion...

Todd and the gang left yesterday after two weeks hard work. 

They were replaced by our next volunteers, Fiona and Rob Bithell who got straight on with sorting out the from garden. 
And Steve finished off boxing in the skylights. 
These now need a lick of paint and are then ready to go!

Mark and Steffam spent part of today monitoring chough nests. 

And Steve has been putting the finishing touches to the 2013 report ...

Then at 3pm all the residents and volunteers gathers on the narrows to do a clean up of the beach and surrounding areas. During the winter lots of sea-born rubbish is washed up on the beaches. The strong winds blow it ashore and all over the fields. However a couple of hours and we had three large bags full of rubbish which will leave the island to be processed on the mainland. 
And everyone was treated to tea, coffee and some fantastic cakes (thanks Ben, not just good at taking bird pics eh!) at the farm. 
We have also been collecting the accumulation of scrap metal that has built up at the obs over the past decade, this will also be leaving the island soon for recycling. 
And the Rayburn has been cleaned out and de-coaked, but is still in need of a full service!
So that is a brief round up of getting things ready for the start of the season.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

After starting off as a rather gloomy, cold and windy day, the clouds cleared, leaving clear blue skies and leading to another very pleasant day. The numbers of migrants around remained quite low, in comparison to a few days ago, although a decent passage of hirundines southward over the island in the afternoon amounted to some 217 Swallows and 15 Sand Martins. An increase in the number of Blackcaps around saw 21 individuals on the island, concentrated at Ty Pellaf and Nant; nine Chiffchaffs, nine Willow Warblers and five Goldcrests were also seen.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Virtually all of the migrants from yesterday's fall had cleared away overnight, leaving a very small percentage on the island. A brisk south-westerly meant that many were also keeping a lower profile than yesterday's birds, although small totals of three Blackcaps, seven Chiffchaffs and 26 Willow Warblers were counted. A small movement of hirundines saw 22 Swallows and one Sand Martin passing overhead, whilst nine Wheatears were scattered around the coast.

 With a stronger breeze, and chillier conditions, there were fewer insects about for the newly-arrived migrants to re-fuel on. A handful of Blackcaps at Nant, however, spent most of the day feeding on the nectar of the Damson flowers- a nectivorous habit that they acquire during their migration
Did you know? The latter half of the Blackcap's scientific name, Sylvia atricapilla, translates to ater= black and capillus= capped
Three pairs of Wheatears have settled down on The Narrows and the South End, one of which has been observed gathering nesting material already.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Despite the absence of any low cloud cover or drizzle overnight, a widespread arrival of common migrants had taken place in the calm conditions, making for a fantastic day of birding on the island.

Although the numbers of passerine migrants were a real highlight during the day, some particularly noteworthy sightings included the following: the year's first Pied Flycatcher was discovered in the green lane mid-morning, which is the earliest this species has arrived on the island since one on 7 April 1985; equally early was a Common Redstart discovered at Nant, a week earlier than last year; the first two Ring Ouzels of the year were discovered above Nant, which is conversely a rather late arrival on the island; and the year's first Short-eared Owl of the year graced the west side, before giving open views on one of the earth banks.

The most obvious arrival on the island was that of the multitude of phylloscopus and sylvia warblers, which were particularly concentrated around the withies, Cristin and Nant. Ringing throughout the day gave an indication of just how many birds were actually moving through, and so the following figures are still likely to be large underestimates: 156 Blackcaps, 292 Willow Warblers, 31 Chiffchaffs and three Grasshopper Warblers are the totals at the moment, although these will likely be updated later on.

In addition to the movement of warblers, virtually every other type of common migrant was also on the move! The first 'real' hirundine passage so far this year took place in the calm and sunny conditions, with some 98 Swallows and 35 Sand Martins whizzing northward. Finch passage was also evident, and a Parisian-ringed Lesser Redpoll indicated to the extent of some of the bird's movements. A Common Redpoll was also seen amongst some eight Lesser Redpolls, 21 Goldfinches, two Siskins and a Greenfinch.

Willow Warblers (top two images) were scattered all over the island, moving through the vegetated areas rapidly as the day progressed. Chiffchaffs (lower) were much less numerous.

A total of 120 birds were trapped and ringed during the day, 104 of which were ringed before 10am. Willow Warblers and Blackcaps were, predictably, the most abundant species turning up in the mist nets, although there were plenty of other species to break the monotony of the phyllosc and sylvia domination!

This rather smart Mealy Redpoll was the second to be ringed this year, appearing to be a much heftier bird in the hand than the usual Lesser Redpolls (left hand bird in bottom image), and bearing paler ground colour and wing bars. A wing of 76mm on the Common Redpoll was 6mm longer than the bird on the left (c) Steve Stansfield

This rather stunning male Lesser Redpoll also found its way into the mist nets (c) Steve Stansfield

Continuing on the Lesser Redpoll theme, one bird had already been ringed, but not by ourselves...a little further scrutiny revealed that this particular bird had been ringed by a French scheme, with 'Museum Paris' giving a rather  obvious clue as to the bird's origins. This is the first foreign 'control' that we have trapped so far this year (c) Steve Stansfield

Comparison between male and female Blackcap, although note the atypical dark blotching in the crown feathering of the female bird (c) Steve Stansfield

Thursday, 10 April 2014

It was another beautiful sunny day on the island, with a small passage of migrants taking place from the early hours. Willow Warbler numbers increased to at least 43 birds, 25 of which were trapped and ringed at the observatory during the day; other warblers comprised eight Blackcaps, 15 Chiffchaffs and six Goldcrests, which were distributed from the coast through to the conifers at Nant. Towards the coast, the highest count of White Wagtails so far this year saw five smart birds frequenting the fields, along with seven Wheatears. Hirundine passage was rather insignificant, with just six each of Sand Martin and Swallow recorded. The first Great Northern Diver for several weeks flew south in the early hours, along with the year's first Sandwich Tern, one Red-throated Diver and six Common Scoters.

White Wagtail numbers have remained in their single figures for the past two weeks, with five smart birds around the Narrows today being the highest count so far this year.

A handful of mist nets were open at Cristin throughout the day, although most of the birds were trapped within an hour or two of dawn. At least 30 birds were trapped throughout the day, including a Linnet, a Meadow Pipits, a handful of Goldfinches, and of course a fair number of phylloscopus warblers...
It looks set for another record Goldfinch year in terms of the ringing. Last year saw a new record of 230 Goldfinches, which broke the previous record of 209 set in 2010. The large passage of finches, such as Goldfinches, in the last few years seems to be a fairly recent occurrence. (c) Steve Stansfield
Continuing on the carduelis theme, this young male Linnet trapped in the observatory garden was just the second so far this year (c) Steve Stansfield
Goldcrests (top) were trapped in small numbers, with weights as low as 4.9 indicating passage birds. A new (unringed) Wren also found its was into the nets; considering that most Wrens on the island already bare rings, this bird could well be a migrant (c) Steve Stansfield
The calm, cloudy nights recently have produced some decent catches in the Heath Trap at Nant. Hebrew Characters (above) have been featuring most frequently, although Common Quakers are equally common at the moment