April update – migration underway!

It has been a busy few days on the island, with settled weather encouraging some good arrivals of migrants – particularly Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Wheatears and Blackcaps, but also some reasonable hirundine passage over land on the clearer days: high counts so far have comprised 30 Sand Martins on the 3rd,  23 Swallows on the 4th and five House Martins on the 2nd. New arrivals since my last post have included Sandwich Tern on the 2nd, a smart Twite hidden amongst the usual Linnet flock on the 3rd, and a passing Glaucous Gull on the 5th. Finch passage has stepped up a gear during the calm spell too, with good counts on the 3rd  comprising 37 Chaffinches, 42 Siskins, 207 Goldfinches, 117 Linnets and seven Lesser Redpolls – some of which we managed to catch at the obs.

The weather has currently taken a turn to the breezy side of things, but it remains bright and sunny with the odd shower, and good numbers of phylloscs are finding shelter in the island’s gardens and vegetated areas. We are all hoping that the forecast predication of consistent easterlies is going to materialise at the weekend and into next week, but for now here are some images from the sunny and migrant-filled days of April so far…

Phylloscopus warblers are arriving in earnest now, with Willow Warbler increasingly featuring in daily counts. The ratio of Chiffchaffs:Willow Warblers remains more or less equal at the moment, although this is likely to tip in favour of the latter as we progress through spring. The highest counts for each species have so far been 72 Chiffchaffs on 3rd April and 111 Willow Warblers on 4th April
(as a footnote, and for those interested, these images were taken in our polytunnel, where as many as six phylloscs decided to make use of a bounty of small flies! I have never seen so many inside our polyntunnel, but they were perfectly happy and allowed for some interesting photo opportunities!)
Wheatear numbers continue to rise too – there haven’t been any Greenland-race birds as yet, but these have already been recorded further north up the coast at Hilbre. A superb sighting today involved a Darvic-ringed bird on the South End, which turned out to have been ringed on 29/07/2015 on the Calf of Man!
A recent wave of Stonechat arrivals included some superb males, which spent much of the sunny day singing their hearts out and song-flighting. Amongst the impressive vocabulary of the birds were Sandwich Tern, Grey Wagtail and Peregrine Falcon!

Auks continue to return sporadically to the East Side cliffs, although are gradually becoming more established and spending fewer absent days out to sea. I used a slow shutter speed of 1/80th sec to capture the movement of this Guillemot
Blackcap numbers are on the increase, with 35 on the 3rd being the highest count thus far.
Moths have been well-represented over the last few days, particularly due to the current new moon and settled conditions. The highlight so far has been this superb male Oak Beauty in the Ty Capel heath trap, which is only the second record for Bardsey!
Otherwise, the usual fair of Early Greys and Early Thorns, Common Quakers, Red Chestnuts, Hebrew Characters, Mottled Greys and Double-striped Pugs have been finding their way into the traps…
Early Thorn

It was cool to come across a small colony of social bees a few days ago, which seemed to have recently emerged from a handful of small holes in the earth bank. They were Andrena bicolor, which is a relatively widespread species, but one which I have not seen before

this odd-looking Robber Fly (Asilidae) was present nearby, but I have no idea which species it is!
Some of the Chiffchaffs moving through have possessed these curious-looking ‘pollen horns’ – best seen on birds trapped for ringing. These horns are formed from the build up of pollen and nectar that accumulate on the feathers of the forehead when birds feed on a variety of flowering plants on their way up through the Mediterranean region

we trapped a couple of Meadow Pipits a few days ago – one was an age 5 (first summer bird – top in the image above), whilst the other was age 6 (adult – lower left, with neat tips to the median coverts and small ‘tooth’ indents at the tip). Note the length of the hind-claw, which is typically longer than 11mm in Meadow Pipits, compared to <9mm in Tree Pipits

We were fortunate enough to have a net full of finches during a ringing session on the 3rd…amongst them were 11 smart Siskins, which provided great practice for ageing these stunning finches. Note the brown, pointy tail feathers of the first summer, compared to the broad, glossy and blunt-tipped remiges of the adult

As an end to this post, I thought I’d post a few images from a rubbish pick-up which we carried out on Saturday. Everyone on the island turned up to help clear away the repulsive build-up of plastic waste which has been blowing in with the wind and tides throughout the winter. We managed to fill FOUR dumpy bags with the stuff – a brilliant effort that really does make the island look a good sight better, and hopefully a little safer for wildlife, as this sad example below illustrates…

The results of the rubbish pick-up
Why we have the need to paying more attention to fishing and plastic waste in our seas – this young female Grey Seal turned up yesterday with this large green mesh around its head. A real shame, and we will see what can be done if it continues to appear on the shore


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