Thursday, 24 July 2014

Autumn migration is really getting under way here on the island now, with this utterly stunning weather encouraging the steady movement of many species past and through the island. Temperatures are barely dropping below 20'C at night at the moment, and the absence of any breeze makes the daytime temperatures almost unbearable.

The 23rd saw a rather odd selection of notable species on the island, namely that of the first Mistle Thrush of the year at Ty Nesaf, a Great Spotted Woodpecker at Nant, and a Green Sandpiper over The Narrows. The latter of this trio was part of the continued arrival and departure of waders on the island, with totals today amounting to three Ringed Plovers, six Dunlins, one Snipe, four Whimbrels, 40 Curlews, six Redshanks and four Common Sandpipers. In terms of passerines, hirundine passage continues to be very tricky to estimate, with breeding birds becoming more mobile and mixing with the passing birds. There were 33 Willow Warblers on the island today, along with a new arrival of three Goldcrests.

In avian terms, it was one of the best days of July so far, with a great selection of oddities and new migrants putting in an appearance around the island. Best of the bunch was a brief sighting of a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull on The Narrows early morning, which is just the second record for Bardsey (the last was in 2009). A Black Guillemot made a quick visit into Henllwyn, whilst the first Marsh Harrier of 2014 glided over the mountain ridge. In other news, warbler numbers continue to increase in the vegetated areas, with a total of one Grasshopper Warbler, seven Sedge Warblers, 56 Willow Warblers and two Goldcrests recorded, along with one Spotted Flycatcher. Out to sea, ten Common Scoters, nine Purple Sandpipers ad two Meditteranean Gulls were seen.

A small flock of adult and juvenile (top two images) Dunlins have been making use of the abundance of food in Solfach recently, although have not ventured into the portable heligoland trap (as yet...) 
The juvenile Little Owls on Pen Crisin continue to give views  
The mist nets around Cristin were set up following the return of warden Steve Stansfield, which allowed about 12 birds to be ringed and processed during the day. Here is a good comparison image showing the difference between a worn adult Sedge Warbler (left) after breeding with a fresh juvenile bird (right) 
The Spectacle 
Caloptilia stigmatella
This Round-winged Muslin was trapped in Cristin Withy, and is new for Bardsey

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

There was a respectable arrival of migrants on the island overnight on the 21st, amounting to the first significant day of autumn passage so far this year. The most apparent southward-bound migrants around were bright juvenile Willow Warblers, with a total of 50 recorded in the island's vegetated areas. A good record concerned three Yellow Wagtails seen on The Narrows and the North End- this is a scarce migrant in the summer months on Bardsey. Other migrants recorded on the island included one Ringed Plover, three Whimbrels, 17 Common Sandpipers, two Collared Doves, 16 Swifts, 17 Sand Martins, two Grey Wagtails, three Sedge Warblers, a Spotted Flycatchers and six Lesser Redpolls.

The 22nd was a somewhat less eventful day, although it was still apparent that migrants were moving through the island. There was a light scattering of 18 Willow Warblers in the vegetated areas of the island, whilst less than eight Swifts and 12 Sand Martins flew overhead during the day. Two Sandwich Terns were seen around The Narrows, along a Greenshank, with a Snipe, three Whimbrels and 12 Common Sandpipers.

This bright male Yellow Wagtail was one of three seen on the 21st- a good record in the summer months on Bardsey. These are the first July records of Yellow Wagtail (flavissima) on Bardsey for at least eight years
Willow Warbler numbers on the island have abruptly increased in the last few days, from just one or two to yesterday's total of 50 birds, and about 20 today 
There are about 150 Linnets recorded on the island every day at the moment- many of them are making use of the seeds in the thistle heads, such as this male

Sunday, 20 July 2014

As autumn creeps ever closer, avian movements are becoming more obvious and one or two noteworthy species are beginning to turn up on the island. The star of the show on the 19th had to go to the fleeting Kingfisher which spent part of the aftrernoon in Solfach. This is the 19th record for Bardsey, after the last was seen very briefly in a gully near the Lighthouse in September 2009. After the thick fog had lifted somewhat on the 19th, a handful of waders were seen, which comprised a Ringed Plover, a Purple Sandpiper, five Dunlins, a Snipe, two Whimbrels, seven Redshanks, a Greenshank and five Common Sandpipers. Two Mediterranean Gulls passed over Henllwyn, a Grey Heron was seen on the South End, and five Swifts and a Sand Martin flew south.

A persistent bank of fog lay over the island throughout much of the day on the 20th, only disappearing towards the mid-afternoon. A juvenile Willow Warbler at Nant, is now the fifth of its kind to arrive on the island, although we can expect to see these arriving in their hundreds in the following month or so. Two Sandwich Terns were seen in Solfach, and a Whimbrel was present here too.

The family of Little Owls on Pen Cristin have been showing fantastically well for visitors in recent weeks. After remaining so conspicuous for three months (so much so that there were just one or two sightings of them up to May), the adults and two juveniles have been giving great views in the mature gorse bushes around Pen Cristin 
The last few broods of Wheatears have been fledging in the last few days 
Juvenile Peregrine Falcons from the two pairs on the island have been getting to grips with their power of flight, terrorising the fledged Chough chicks, Oystercatcher flocks and Ravens around the island
 There are plenty of Six-spot Burnets still on the wing- alive (top) and dead (bottom)- feeding on the Thistle heads and Hard head flowers along the trackside. The numbers, however, are much lower than last year, with just 20 records a day at the moment.

The conditions at the moment are perfect for moths: warm, humid and no wind. This, coupled with the low cloud cover and moonless nights, have brought a vista of new species and decent hauls to the moth traps and day-flying censuses. The highlights from the moth traps, in island terms, have included the first Light Emerald for Bardsey, the second Minor Shoulder-knot for the island, and the first Zeiraphera isertana and Aspilapteryx tringipennella for Bardsey! In addition to these scarcities, a brilliant find on the wild thyme on the slopes of Pen Cristin was this Tebenna micalis...
Tebenna micalis is a scarce immigrant from Southern Europe, that can become temporarily established in certain areas. The distribution maps for this species show few records straying into North Wales, and a scan on the North Wales Lepidoptera database indicates that there is just one previous record in North Wales. This species feeds on Common Fleabane, which is a very common plant on Bardsey
Marbled Green 
Zeiraphera isertana
Aspilapteryx tringipennella

Friday, 18 July 2014

It was an excellent couple of days on the island, with mixed weather conditions encouraging the first notable movement of southward-going migrants on the 18th. A calm and clear day on the 17th saw three Little Egrets flying south along the West Side in the early hours, which were followed by a further two birds later on. The first Black-tailed Godwit of the year similarly sped southward over the South End, whilst a Buzzard, two Grey Wagtails, 17 Swifts and a Sand Martin were also seen overhead.

Thunderstorms and some impressive lightning strikes were coupled with very strong easterly gusts overnight on the 18th, with temperatures barely dipping below 20'C. A steady trickle of hirundines and swifts over the island throughout the day saw a total of 12 Sand Martins, 23 House Martins, 40 Swallows and 11 Swifts logged. Two bright juvenile Willow Warblers at Cristin and Nant would seem to be migrants, whilst wader movements during the day involved a Ringed Plover, two Snipe, five Dunlin, a Sanderling, three Whimbrels, three Common Sandpipers and a Lapwing.

Armed with a new catch box (after the previous one was washed away with Solfach hide overwinter), the portable Heligoland trap was set up on Solfach on the 17th, with the aim of catching some of the Rock Pipits, Wheatears and Pied Wagtails which have been feeding on the beach...
Two Wheatears have been trapped and ringed so far, both juveniles such as this bird 
Six Rock Pipits have been trapped and fitted with colour rings as part of our on-going project into their winter dispersion on the island and further a field (as well as shedding some light on the origins of the birds which arrive during winter time and look very much like littoralis birds 
This Emperor Dragonfly-now about the fifth so far this year- was discovered on Pen Cristin on the 17th, happily munching away on an unfortunate bee. 
Linnet (top) and Meadow Pipit (lower) in the early morning light 
This lucky Pied Wagtail fledgling managed to procure a massive female Northern Eggar, which it then spent ten minutes trying to tear to bits and digest 
Endotricha flammealis

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Some very large tides following the recent full moon meant that high tide on both days forced waders onto a small section of coastline around The Narrows. This meant that a total of 11 species of waders were seen during this period, comprising a single Lapwing on the 15th, and one Ringed Plover, one Sanderling, seven Purple Sandpipers, six Dunlins, a Whimbrel, 28 Curlews, two Redshanks, five Common Sandpipers and three Turnstones on the 16th. Aside these, a pod of six Risso's Dolphins on the 15th gave fantastic views, showing well to the east of the South End.

Pied Hoverfly (Scaevia pyrastri)
The first returning Purple Sandpipers of the autumn were recorded today. Purple Sandpipers were found to have an interesting breeding system from a study in Svalbard. A single male was found to be responsible for most parental care of hatchlings, and yet the female did not have any more mates (i.e. is not polyandrous).  
 There are plenty of young Oystercatchers around the coast at the moment. Did you know? There are two main techniques that Oystercatchers use to acquire their diet of bivalves such as mussels: some birds use a 'stabbing' technique, whereby they sneak up on open molluscs and severe the adductors with their bill before the mollusc can 'clam up'; other birds are 'hammerers', which shatter one shell of the mollusc with a rapid series of powerful blows, before the adductors are cut and the meat is removed from within. Young Oystercatchers such as this one mostly have to learn such a technique by observing their parents 
Nettle Taps (Anthophila fabriciana)  are an abundant micro moth present around patches of Nettle at the moment

Monday, 14 July 2014

It has been a mixed couple of days in terms of the weather: calm winds and sunny skies prevailed throughout the 13th, whilst a low pressure front nudging in on the 14th brought strong southerly winds and a drizzly mist. The composition of avian species and numbers during this period did not, however, follow suite. Waders on show remained much the same: a single Dunlin on the 13th increased to four on the 14th; two Whimbrels were seen at high tide on the 13th, whilst 20 Curlews, six Redshanks, a Ringed Plover and two Common Sandpipers on the 14th was a higher count than the previous day. Two Little Owls were seen above Ty Pellaf on the evening of the 13th, and a good count of 5021 Manx Shearwaters was reached on the 14th. The recently emerged clutch of three Shelduck chicks in Solfach has already been reduced to zero after just two days.

Juvenile Choughs 
Juvenile Raven 
The two pairs of Peregrines on Bardsey have now fledged two chicks each. Interestingly enough, the second juvenile from the south pair (bottom two images) did not fledge until the 12th. That is a total of 10 days later than the first chick fledged from the nest! This is a rather bizarre record, considering such a large gap between the two young birds 
Graylings are present in reasonable numbers on the mountain ridge at the moment, with 16 recorded on the 13th

Saturday, 12 July 2014

The 11th was yet another gloriously sunny day, and saw temperatures rocket into the 20s in the absence of a breeze. Non-passerines of note seen during the day included a Grey Heron, 27 Common Scoters, three Dunlins, a Whimbrel, 22 Curlews, six Redshanks, three Common Sandpipers, and 12 Black-headed Gulls. Passerine migrants were thin on the ground, although a total of 16 Swifts and one Sand Martin headed south over the south end. A slight increase in wind strength and the arrival of drizzly rain on the 12th made for a change of scene. Nine Sand Martins flew south over Pen Cristin in the early hours, and there was a similar scattering of waders around The Narrows at high tide.

The daily censuses around the island continue to reveal large numbers of fledged young and juveniles, and it continues to prove as one of the best breeding seasons for almost every species on the island. Numbers of some of the commonest species yesterday were recorded as: 75 Meadow Pipits, 46 Rock Pipits, 27 Wheatears and over 100 Linnets.

Oystercatchers continue to pester anyone who ventures within about 100 metres of their progeny, even when their chicks are fully fledged! Daily counts of Oystercatchers are around 120 at the moment, although only 10 to 20 of these are juveniles
Auks such as these smart Puffins are feeding chicks at the moment 
This very richly-coloured Little Owl belongs to the Pen Cristin pair, which have successfully reared one juvenile 
The Whitethroats at Carreg Bach are busy rearing their second brood, and are finding plenty of food to satisfy demand

The Beautiful Carpet was discovered in Ty Capel mid-afternoon on the 11th, and is a new species for Bardsey. This is now the 17th species to be added to the Bardsey lepidoptera list this year 
The two main species of tortrix that regularly turn up in the moth traps are Dark Fruit-tree Tortrix (Pandemis heparana-left) and Rose Tortrix (Archips rosana- right). This comparison shows the main differences between the two species, with P. heparana on the left, and A. rosana on the right. Note the shorter, fatter and more angular appearance of Rose Tortrix
It is shaping up to be a record year for Pyrausta despicata around the island's coast. Hundreds of moths have been seen within 100 metres transect lines, indicating the presence of thousands on the island. A minimum of 350 were seen on the South Tip alone yesterday afternoon
Moth-fly, Pericoma fuligilosa
This crazy-looking beast is a spider look-alike, but is in fact a member of the Harvestmen species. More specifically, it is Phalangium opilio, and is one of the most widespread species of harvestmen in the world. It occurs as a native species in Europe and Asia, but has been introduced into North America, North Africa and New Zealand