We had our first ‘proper’ fall of spring migrants here on Bardsey yesterday, with warblers moving through the island in good numbers, and good smattering of Wheatears around the coast too.

The day began with a gusty easterly wind and overcast skies – this meant that we couldn’t open up the mist nets until around 9am, but birding prior to this revealed that there were a lot of birds around: it was great to arrive at the Obs and hear the distinctive, rapid ‘tak-tak-tak-tak-tak‘ call of a smart male Ring Ouzel on the mountainside adjacent the garden (the year’s first), and it was clear that Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff numbers in the garden were well into the double figure count. A little while later, Jeff Wragg discovered a smart male Pied Flycatcher lurking in the garden’s Sycamore tree, and it was at this point that we opened up the mist nets, to get some ringing done before the rain arrived.

The first net round went rather well, with both the male Pied Flycatcher and the Ring Ouzel having found their way in! There were a few phyllosc warblers and Blackcaps, but it was brilliant to finally see one of these superb thrushes in the hand (I have never ringed a Ring Ouzel). We managed to catch around 25 birds in the ensuing hour or so, before rapidly closing up as the first of the rain arrived. Whilst closing up the nets, I flushed a Pied Flycatcher into the net – thinking it would be the bird we had just ringed, it came as quite surprise when this male didn’t have a ring on! It was the second first summer male Pied Fly of the day!

This deluge soaked the island in over 15mm of rain for the duration of the day, and made birding a little tricky. The band of rain, however, seemed to have force a significant arrival of birds onto the island, especially in combination with the complete drop in wind speed. Walking down from the obs to my house, Ty Pellaf, was pretty impressive: some 45 phyllosc warblers – a mix of Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs – were fly-catching from most bushes, and carpeting the small veg patch in front of our house; Blackcaps were darting from gorse bush to gorse bush, with 20 along feeding on Owl Midges on our patch!; another male Pied Flycatcher drew attention to itself as it fly-catched from a little way away, and revealed a leg absent of a shiny metal ring, which meant it was the third of the day!; finally, a Common Redstart made a brief appearance on the mountainside, before flying off towards the obs.

The rest of the day continued much on this theme, but with a lot more rain! Further highlights included a Common Sandpiper int he bay (the first of the year), and another Common Redstart. Here are a few images from the day…

This shot pretty much sums up the day, and also the feeling of both birds and birders!

Willow Warblers in the rain
The third, and only un-ringed, Pied Flycatcher of the day – another smart first summer male
It was impressive to see over 20 Blackcaps feeding on a small patch of ground around 4m x 7m!

Meadow Pipit in the rain
This Ring Ouzel was very vocal above the obs, before it found its way into the mist nets. It looked like a first summer male, but sexing 2cy birds can be very tricky, and features such as width of brown fringing on the white band can be difficult to rely on solely
We ringed two stunning male Pied Flycatchers during the morning, and both were first summer birds, with obvious contrast within the coverts, illustrating two generations of the feathers, and the poor quality (brown appearance) of the retained juvenile coverst

Willow Warblers were amongst the most numerous bird ringed
To end the day on a good note, I managed to catch this superb adult Oystercatcher whilst out checking the Cows close to midnight…I have never ringed these beasts, so it was great to have a close view! 
The final tallies for the day are as follows:
– 3 Sand Martins
– 6 Swallows
– 1 House Martin
– 2 Common Redstarts
– 15 Stonechats
– 80 Northern Wheatears
– 57 Blackcaps
– 62 Willow Warblers
– 91 Chiffchaffs
– 22 Goldcrests
– 3 Pied Flycatchers
– 6 Siskins
– 54 Goldfinches
– 6 Lesser Redpolls
– 1 Crossbill

More news and up-to-date sightings on the Obs blog: www.bbfo.blogspot.co.uk

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