Monday, April 30, 2012

It’s been over three weeks since we returned to Bardsey. In that time we have had a few decent days of birding but, as with the rest of the country, a lot of things seem to be in low numbers. The persistent Northerly wind hasn’t been very favourable for spring passage, although many birds have still battled through the headwind, including a Chiffchaff caught by Giselle which had been ringed at Portland six days previously. Phyllosc numbers have been good at times with 221 Willow Warblers on the 21st and 55 Chiffchaffs on the 2nd being the highest counts so far, but the totals for April are well down on average. Blackcap numbers have also been impressive with 160 on the 20th being the busiest day. Four male Redstarts and two drabber females, along with a male and female Pied Flycatcher, have passed through and a couple of Whinchats have been in the lowlands. Up to three Cuckoos, including two singing males, have lingered and a few Ring Ouzels have chacked along the mountain. The number of Grasshopper Warblers, Goldcrests and Whitethroats has been very disappointing, with only three of the latter so far recorded. Overhead, the first few Swifts of the year have occurred this week and three attempted to roost on the ringing hut this evening. Tree Pipit numbers reached five today, but the first Yellow Wagtail of the spring is yet to pass over. Two Snow Buntings have moved through, the second of which was a stunning male in nearly full breeding colours. Wader passage has been steady with single figure counts of Common Sandpiper, single figure counts of Ringed Plover, including a couple of diminutive tundrae birds, and up to 68 Whimbrels. Any east in the wind and sea passage gets rather minimal, however a few Great Northern Divers, Red-throated Divers and a Little Gull have passed. By far the scarcest bird of the period has been a Woodlark which spent the afternoon near the Chapel.

The first spring Woodlark since 2004 spent the afternoon of the 8th in the muddy field by the Chapel. (c) Richard Brown

This is the smartest Snow Bunting we’ve found in the last five springs; however we sometimes don’t even get a spring record so it’s probably not saying much. The latest spring departure date for Bardsey is the 22 June, recorded in 1970. If we found this stunning male then, the bill would be black and the brown feathering over the central crown would have worn to white. (c) Richard Brown

This, the first of this seasons' Redstarts, was only present for a few minutes before it headed off up the mountain. Since then two males have lingered around the Plantation and today a male was sheltering from the wind in the rocks below the South End hide (c) Richard Brown

Wheatear passage has increased significantly this week with 403 on the 28th the maximum count. The majority of the birds are of the Greenland form leucorhoa, and are probably getting ready for a mammoth non-stop journey across open ocean. If they are breeding in North East Canada then they will cover roughly 1500 miles! Thanks to Birding World for that gem. (c) Richard Brown

The 29th was pretty much a wash out with heavy rain for the majority of the day. But the pools that it created are proving rather popular with the waders, particularly this Dunlin which was happily dunking its head in to remove the grubs from the turf below. (c) Richard Brown

A couple of male Cuckoos have been singing around Nant for the last few days. Their role in the UK will be a brief one as they have none of the parental responsibilities of most other birds. Their goal will be the female that has also lingered for the last few days. She has been seen up on the mountain bothering the Meadow Pipits but whether she is parasitising broods or just intimidating the locals is so far unclear. There have been only two confirmed breeding records since 1970. (c) Richard Brown


  1. Interesting stuff, and great photos. I keep watching the Bardsey log, and wonder what might come our way here at Cemlyn. Yesterday, a change from NE winds to E (briefly) bought a big increase in numbers of migrants. Think there might be a bit of a 'rush' when the winds change. Breeding terns very slow arriving too.

  2. Hey David. The first to the third were really good days here with lots of common migrants and the Red-rumped Swallow thrown in. Could still do with a few more scarcities mind. Hope to see you out here this year