Autumn migration update

Autumn migration seems to be very slow this year: in most years, the numbers of bright yellow juvenile Willow Warblers begins to rise from mid-July onwards, as birds begin their southward migration to Sub-Saharan Africa. Occasionally these numbers can reach peaks of 1000 (2nd August 2011) in early August. However, this year has seen very low numbers, with counts barely rising into the double figures during the whole of July and first part  of August. These lower than average numbers were mirrored in other species such as Sedge Warblers and White Wagtails, whilst hirundines have had some good passage days during the last few weeks. Most of this is down to the weather, with very unsettled conditions bringing windy and wet weather for prolonged periods during the summer.

The last week has seen a slight change, with calmer conditions encouraging some bigger arrivals and interesting sightings. On the 14th we had an arrival of almost 400 Willow Warblers, accompanied with 34 Spotted Flycatchers, two Garden Warblers, one Blackcap, four Chiffchaffs, five Whitethroats and three Goldcrests; in addition, recent days have seen Tree Pipits, Whinchats, Yellow Wagtail, Song Thrush and Short-eared Owl stopping off on the island. With the recent new moon, the high tides have brought a good deposit of seaweed onto Solfach, which has in turn encouraged a good number of waders to its shore. Peak counts have included 10 Ringed Plovers on the 16th, 25 Dunlins on the 15th, three Bar-tailed Godwits and a Whimbrel on the 17th, 32 Curlews on the 16th, 11 Redshanks, six Common Sandpipers and 12 Turnstones on the 17th, whilst scarcer visitors comprised a female Ruff (14th-16th), Green Sandpiper (17th), and three Bar-tailed Godwits (17th).

Sightings of rarer visitos to the island have been frequent in the last week: a single Great Crested Grebe off the coast on the 12th was surprisingly followed by a flock of five on the 13th- this is a very rare bird on the island, with no records for over 10 years before 2014! A Greater Spotted Woodpecker on the 13th was a good record too, and this bird stayed for a few days in the more wooded areas of the island. On the 16th, a large white bird was picked up flying south-west a mile or two off the coast. After a while, it became clear that it was an egret of some kind, and judging by the size, a Great White Egret! The island third record!

After a stunning few days, the weather looks to be breaking up in the following week, which will bring a good selection of seabirds past the coast, but conversely will not favour the arrivals of the smaller migrants on the island. Here is a selection of images from the last couple of weeks:

An adult and juvenile Oystercatcher roost amidst the breaking waves

many of the Turnstones are smart summer-plumaged birds

Willow Warblers are by far the most numerous migrant on land at the moment, but 90% are now adult birds (above). We have missed out on the large movement of bright juvenile birds that takes place earlier in the month. 

Juvenile Sedge Warbler

Whinchat- there have been a couple of birds present in the last week

Linnet numbers have increased substantially in recent days and weeks, with daily counts over 320 at the moment. Many are feeding in the oat and borage mix planted at the north end

the female Ruff spent a good few days feeding amongst the waders in Solfach

juvenile Dunlin

A Grey Heron flying in front of the buildings of Bardsey Bird and Field Observatory


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