Friday, April 29, 2011

The northerly winds have continued and the number of migrants passing through has dropped considerably. But the diversity remains exciting with Spotted FlycatchersGrasshopper Warblers, Sedge Warblers, Blackcaps, Garden Warblers, Whitethroats, Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers all passing through along with a few hirundines and plenty of Wheatears. Today's highlight came in the form of the second Subalpine Warbler of the year. The bird was another male, but this time of the western form, cantillans. It appeared in the garden heligoland when trapping a Sedge Warbler and makes us wonder what else must be skulking through the garden unnoticed.

Compared with last weeks Subalp, this nominate male lacks the deep brick-red throat, instead having a peachy cinnamon orange wash which extends right down the flanks. The brown, well-worn flight feathers and coverts suggest this is a first year bird. (c) Richard Brown

An early start is the best way to catch the Grasshopper Warblers feeding out in the open. It seems strange to see them in Gorse but there is little else in the way of vegetation on the South End. Irish Sea coasts have traditionally seen particularly good numbers of spring Grasshopper Warblers and this year seems no exception. (c) Richard Brown

Common Whitethroats and Garden Warblers have also been trickling through. (c) Richard Brown

Monday, April 25, 2011

A change to northerly winds has brought a halt to the large numbers of birds being recorded. But a drake Shoveler heading west at sea was the first since 2006 and a new 30 foot net erected in Carreg Reedbed trapped 11 White Wagtails and a Swallow as they came into roost last night. 

Two Lapland Buntings are still hanging on in the Northwest Fields. (c) Richard Brown

Seven Spotted Flycatchers have been recorded so far this spring. (c) Richard Brown

A few Common Redstarts are still trickling through. (c) Richard Brown

High double figure counts of Wheatear are being recorded daily. These two birds nicely illustrate the difference between a full adult bird (which has replaced all the feathers of the wing with nice black feathers during a full moult), and a first year bird (which has only replaced a few inner greater coverts and retains the wing feathers it grew in the nest). (c) Richard Brown

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The last couple of days have seen a continuation of the excellent spring we've had so far. The first Pied Flycatchers, Spotted Flycatchers, Reed Warbler and Turtle Dove of the year have all passed through and good numbers of common migrants have been logged. Whitethroat numbers have reached 16, Blackcap 18, Chiffchaff 8, Willow Warbler 65, Grasshopper Warbler 21 and Sedge Warbler 76. Scarcer migrants have included a few Tree Pipits, Yellow Wagtails (including the first Blue-headed Wagtail of the year), Garden Warblers and Common Redstarts. The second Marsh Harrier of the year, this time a cream-crown, briefly crossed the island.

Scarcer migrants trapped have included two first-year male Pied Flycatchers and a few Garden Warblers (c) Richard Brown

The second Marsh Harrier of the year. The wing could be interpreted as showing six fingers, and at a distance was reminiscent of Black Kite, but the tail and positioning of the wings when gliding, gave the identity away. (c) Richard Brown

Following a beautiful day on Friday, a band of rain and cloud reached the island just as the night set in. An attraction was almost inevitable but the large number of passerines we expected did not arrive. But just over 100 Manx Shearwater circled the tower during the night and we trapped 39. We also trapped small numbers of Sedge Warbler, Whitethroat and Grasshopper Warbler along with a Knot. The Knot was the first to be trapped since 2008 and took the number of species ringed on the island in 2011 to 42. 

One of the Manx Shearwater attracted last night and Rich letting it go. Manx Shearwater need a long run up or a strong breeze to get airborne so we have to launch the birds into the air to get them back out to sea where they can feed for the day. (c) Richard Brown and Giselle Eagle. 

This Knot dropped down at Giselle's feet as she was reaching to pick up a Sedge Warbler. Despite its encounter with the Lighthouse, the bird flew to the coast when released and began to feed in the saturated ground. (c) Giselle Eagle.

Every lighthouse attraction is documented. We record measures of weather and visibility along with the numbers of birds attracted, trapped and killed. (c) Richard Brown

Drinker moths have only been recorded on the island in the last few years. This caterpillar, found by Giselle, is probably the first evidence that they are now breeding here. (c) Giselle Eagle

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Fine weather and really good numbers of birds have meant that we have been flat out censusing the island and ringing. By far the best bird of today was a smart male Subalpine Warbler found above the farm. Quite why Bardsey is such a fantastic place for catching up with this species is something of a mystery, but this is about the sixth Subalp I've seen in just over three years here. Yesterday a Twite, rare on the island, joined the Linnet flock in the Northwest Fields. But it's the number of birds passing through that has made the last few days so exciting.

The deep red colouration to the throat which extends downwards only slightly beyond the breast shows this to be an albistriata of Southeast Europe. (c) Richard Brown

Hundreds of Wheatear, a high percentage looking like leucorhoa birds from Greenland and Iceland, have been passing across the island and up the mountain. Over twenty Grasshopper Warbler and Blackcap are being recorded each day and we have already ringed more Blackcap than we do in an average year. Today over 70 Sedge Warbler have passed through and Willow Warbler numbers are again in the high seventies. Scarcer migrants include three Whinchat, three Ring Ouzel, a late Redwing, three Tree Pipit, three Lapland Bunting, a Yellow Wagtail and a ringtail Hen Harrier

Three Whinchat were logged during the morning census. (c) Richard Brown

The number of Whitethroat passing through has also crept into double figures. (c) Richard Brown

Sadly not all iberian chiffchaffs are Iberian Chiffchaffs! This Spanish ringed Chiffchaff was controlled at Nant. (c) Giselle Eagle

On Solfach the number of White Wagtails has been consistently around 50, but the turnover of birds is quite high with double figure flocks departing northwards. We have been using the portable Heligoland Trap I made a few years ago and managed to catch nine new White Wagtails and a control yesterday. 

White Wagtails on Solfach. The top bird, a first year male, has an orange ring above its British BTO ring on its right leg, and yellow over pink over red on its left leg. (c) Richard Brown

The portable Heligoland Trap on Solfach and Giselle ringing a White Wagtail. (c) Richard Brown

Wader numbers continue to increase with ten Dunlin, nine Ringed Plover, five Turnstone, four Common Sandpiper and eight Whimbrel also in and around Solfach. A Sanderling this morning was the first of the year.

Sanderling, Dunlin, Ringed Plover and Turnstone were busy feeding at the waters edge. (c) Richard Brown

Monday, April 18, 2011

Whilst news from the mainland seems to involve sunbathing and barbecues, the weather here has been rather variable with long periods of dense fog interspersed with sun. But the birds have kept arriving with Whinchat and Lesser Whitethroat making their first appearances. The full moon has meant that there have been no birds attracted to the light but the morning survey is still busy with good numbers of Wheatears, Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and Grasshopper Warblers. Finches continue to pass overhead and it was no surprise when the first Common Redpoll of the year turned up in a catch of Lesser Redpoll at the Obs. Scarcer migrants include daily sightings of Tree Pipit, Ring Ouzel and Lapland Bunting.

Tree Pipit sightings on Bardsey are typically of birds giving their buzzing flight call as they pass overhead. So a singing bird in the top of the Plantation was nice to hear. (c) Richard Brown

Redpoll continue to pass noisily overhead. Of those that come down all but one have proven to be Lesser Redpoll, including this smart male. (c) Richard Brown

Large numbers of Herring Gull have been following the plough. (c) Richard Brown

Two Bar-tailed Godwit toured the South End. Whimbrel numbers had increased to eight yesterday and the first Common Sandpipers of the year arrived today. (c) Richard Brown

Friday, April 15, 2011

This morning we awoke to the sound of a Grasshopper Warbler singing in the Lighthouse Garden. Opening the garden net caught a few Willow Warblers and the Gropper. At the Obs the first Garden Warbler of the year skulked through the Damsons and over 25 Phylloscs were trapped. Elsewhere on the island over 100 Willow Warblers were logged and Hirundine passage has increased, with over 60 Swallows and 6 House Martins passing through. Blackcaps, Sedge Warblers and Grasshopper Warblers are present in smaller numbers and two Lapland Bunting remain at the North End. The Hooded Crow we first found in March is now an almost daily visitor.

Both juvenile and adult Grasshopper Warblers undergo a full moult in their African wintering grounds and so look identical at this time of year. The lines across the tail, which might be considered growth bars in other species, are a plumage feature present on all birds. (c) Richard Brown

A Clouded Drab was in the Cristin moth trap. Frequent through most of Britain they seem quite scarce here. (c) Richard Brown

Wellies are a must in the Withies at the moment as the morning dew carpets the Horsetails and Marsh Marigolds (c) Giselle Eagle

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Strong winds and rain have dominated for the last few days. The number of migrants has likewise taken a downturn but there are still daily double-figure counts of Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Blackcap as they move through the island. Sedge Warblers are singing in the Withies and the odd Grasshopper Warbler is also reeling. Hirundine passage has slowed to a trickle. The bulk of the migrants at the moment are finches with over fifty Goldfinch being recorded most days along with good numbers of Linnet and Lesser Redpoll.

Record numbers of Goldfinch were logged in 2010. This year looks set to follow suit. (c) Richard Brown

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Another gloriously sunny day on Bardsey, and with little wind we mist netted at the Obs and then Nant. At the Obs a number of Lesser Redpoll were caught, along with phylloscs and a stunning male Redstart. There were up to five Ring Ouzels on the hillside just above and Grasshopper Warblers continue to fill the island with their far-carrying song.

This first year male Redstart was one of three at the Obs. (c) Richard Brown

At Nant the catch was predominantly phylloscs.The first White Wagtail and Whitethroat to be ringed this year added some variety. The earliest Whitethroat recorded on Bardsey up until this year was on 9th April (1961 and 2002). The record fell this year by a single day. (c) Richard Brown

Hirundines continue to pile through the island. This morning we were watching Swallows and Sand Martins around the narrows, some of which were enjoying a quick pitstop on the boat trailer. (c) Richard Brown

Saturday, April 9, 2011

We woke up to glorious sunshine! A few migrants were hanging around the south end, including a Tree Pipit and a few finches, mainly Redpoll, Goldfinch and Linnet. Rich also had a brief flyover Yellow Wagtail. Emptying the moth trap was the highlight of the morning because I (Giselle) have paid little attention to moths in the past, so everything is quite new to me (I no longer just think of them as bat food). In the afternoon we saw our first Grasshopper Warbler and Common Redstart of the year and caught a few common migrants as we put the nets up in the Withies.

This Grasshopper Warbler was one of two recorded today. (c) Richard Brown

A female Blackcap caught in the heligoland trap today and bearing a huge pollen horn. The massive deposit was probably collected during migration but the dusting of yellow is from closer to home. The Damson blossom in the obs garden to be exact. (c) Richard Brown

There were two Brindled Ochre in the trap. We know that this is a female as only the ladies overwinter. The adult moths do not feed. (c) Richard Brown

A Herald. This is another species of moth which has hibernated through the winter. The larval foodplants include Willows which are plentiful on Bardsey. (c) Richard Brown