Wednesday, October 24, 2012

It's been a fantastic few days, although frustrating at times. The beautiful clear skies that saw such Bardsey scarcities as Red Kite, Hen Harrier and Hooded Crow drift across to our shores continued into the night, before a light drizzle and total darkness descended. The conditions were perfect for a lighthouse attraction and it was no surprise at 0200 when the first Redwings started calling. The night of the 22nd/23rd saw a total of 102 Redwings, three Fieldfares, 13 Blackbirds, 10 Song Thrushes, two Black Redstarts, 195 Starlings, a Robin, four Goldcrests, a Chiffchaff, a Snipe, a Woodcock and a Manx Shearwater attracted. That Spurn had more birds attracted to their moth trap (and remembering that Bardsey Lighthouse is visible for roughly 43km), highlights a slight difference in the numbers of birds passing down each coast of the UK at the moment. It was still an impressive spectacle however, and using the diversionary lights through the night we managed to keep fatalities down to just two Redwings. The murk continued the next day but it was soon clear that a few more exciting birds had also reached our shores. A pipit with a rather short, buzzing call toured the lowlands before vanishing. It certainly sounded Olive-backed Pipit-like, but is yet another bird to get away this year. A Little Bunting showed very briefly for one observer before doing a similar disappearing act. Surely these birds couldn't be leaving the island. But then a Richard's Pipit showed that birds could definitely move straight through in the gloom by coming in past the Lighthouse, straight up the island, and out to sea to the North. A supporting cast of five Yellow-browed Warblers, three abietinus-type Chiffchaffs, a Firecrest, five Black Redstarts, a Long-eared Owl and a rather eastern looking Lesser Whitethroat all made for exciting birding.

Up until this season 62 Yellow-browed Warblers had been ringed on Bardsey. A further five have been ringed so far this autumn. (c) Richard Brown

The classic Bardsey view: a large pipit with a long tail flies over and gives a loud, hoarse shreep a few times before keeping on going. There have been five such flyovers so far this year. The Richard of the bird's English name is Richard of Luneville, a French naturalist and collector. (c) Richard Brown

The top photo is the Long-eared Owl Rich found a couple of days ago. Good news for Bardsey's youngest birder is that it isn't in wing moult (so he can have the lower bird on his self-found list). The second Long-eared Owl of the year flushed into the Obs garden and hit a mist net set up to catch a couple of Yellow-browed Warblers. It is the 21st adult Long-eared Owl to be ringed on Bardsey. The primary moult suggests an adult bird. (c) Richard Brown

A rather eastern-looking Lesser Whitethroat. Not as short winged and fine-billed as minula, it looks good for a halimodendri/blythi type bird. Lots of white in the tail, rather blunt winged and an occasional Mistle Thrush-like rattle to the call. (c) Richard Brown

Sunday, October 14, 2012

It isn't too often that Bardsey feels like Southeast Asia. But today you could be forgiven for thinking it might be (as long as you ignore the hail stones). A new Yellow-browed Warbler, a flyover Richard's Pipit, a brief re-sighting of the Citrine Wagtail and a Radde's Warbler at Nant, all helped to take the mind off the chill. The Radde's Warbler was the fifth for Bardsey and the first since 30 October 2006.

The only other Bardsey records were on 29 October 1987, 18 October 1990, 29 October 2006 and most recently on 30 October 2006. Radde was an apothecary but also an explorer and naturalist. He discovered one of these stunning, lumpy phylloscs in a kitchen garden in central Asia. It was on 22 September 1856 but it wasn't until 1863 that he formally described it and named it after himself. (c) Richard Brown

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A very damp mist type wetness has hung over the island for most of the day. But it hasn't all been bad. We'll let the pictures do the talking.

The long-awaited and oft-predicted first for Bardsey. This stunning first-year Citrine Wagtail has spent the day delighting all comers around the Narrows. Although it has headed off high on a few occasions, it continues to return to Solfach, perhaps because the mainland has not been visible. (c) Richard Brown

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The weather has looked very promising for the last few days but it has so far been rather quiet on the birding front. There has been plenty of time to hypothesise about what we would have had, had Ireland not been in the way that is. But it has been very pleasant, a reasonable finch and Skylark passage giving proceedings a nice autumnal feel. The Barred Warbler lingered for a few days, although proved very illusive, and one of the Yellow-browed Warblers continued to flit about at Nant. Our annual autumn steak-dinner Birdrace with Skomer is hotting up; they took an early lead but such cripplers as Greylag Goose, Wigeon, Barn Owl, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Redstart, Song Thrush, Jackdaw, Starling and Reed Bunting have brought us neck and neck.

The second Yellow-browed Warbler of the autumn to be trapped. Interestingly, this bird lacks the dark bases to the secondaries associated with this species and thus looks a little Hume's-like in the wing. However the two broad wingbars of the same colour as the pale yellowish supercilium, the very dark centres to the tertials, pale legs, greenish crown and call all pointed to the much commoner species. (c) Richard Brown

This Redstart turned up at the Lighthouse yesterday and then spent at least some of last night flying in the beams with a small number of Goldcrests and a Starling. During the day it was spending most of its time in the nettle patch where it was making the most of the Red Admiral caterpillars. Up until 1997, there had been 356 ringing recoveries. Only 62 had been retrapped by ringers; approximately 100 were deliberately killed by humans and roughly 40 were taken by domestic predators. So cat lovers everywhere can point to the importance of their moggies as a useful tool in understanding Redstart movements. (c) Richard Brown

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Well it's been a little while coming, but Yellow-browed Warblers finally made it to Bardsey today. There were at least two; one at the Obs and one we trapped and ringed at Nant. Either a third bird, or more likely the Obs bird working North, turned up at Nant with a wave of Goldcrests bearing rings added at the Obs. A couple of Garden Warblers and a few Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps joined the hoards of franticly gleaning Goldcrests. Approximately 120 migrants were trapped whilst reasonable numbers of Skylarks, Meadow Pipits, Chaffinches and Goldfinches passed over head.

Following only a single record in 2011, it was nice to again see a couple of these little stunners of the Siberian taiga. It is likely that this bird is a female; the tail was 38mm in length (males typically have tails of 40mm or longer) and the wing chord was 54mm (males are usually at least 55mm long). We feel that the scientific name inornatus is a little harsh; this little female is neither plain or unadorned. It has been suggested that so many of these fantastic phylloscs turn up in Western Europe that they might not really be vagrants at all, but rather birds from an enterprising population eminating from the Western Urals who, by overwintering here, save themselves the extra 2000km or so that they would have had to have travelled to reach Southeast Asia. (c) Richard Brown