It has been a pretty busy few weeks here on the island, and I can’t quite believe how quickly time has gone – as it always seems to in summertime on Bardsey! There have been a lot of visitors staying in the island’s houses, with even more day-visitors arriving and departing on the calmer days; birding has been superb, with some great arrivals and movements of migrants, bringing with them some pretty smart rarities too; we’ve had several young birders over at Bardsey Bird and Field Observatory, including Elliot Montieth, George Dunbar and Will Langdon taking part in this year’s Next Generation Birder’s week, followed by Espen Quinto-Ashman and Ephraim Perfect this week; I’ve been trying to get some snorkelling and swimming in when I’ve had a spare moment, seeing as it such a superb time of year to explore the coast and marvel at the wonders of the underwater world; and there are always the usual jobs to be helping out with on the farm too.
So it’s been a good few weeks, and I thought I’d try and do a quick blog post to sum up some of the recent events…
The Ling Heather has been blooming on the mountain, attracting in hundreds of Bumblebees – mostly Bombus hortorum and Bombus pascuorum – along with my Dad’s busy Honey Bees harvesting for this year’s crop
Juvenile Willow Warblers make up the bulk of the large arrivals of common migrants at the end of August – we had a pretty amazing arrival of 731 Willow Warblers on the 23rd August!
Spotted Flycatchers have been passing through in good numbers too – the same monster Willow Warbler day saw 68 Spotted Flycatchers sallying forth from every available perch and fenceline on the island!
We’ve had a couple of pretty crazy days for rarities: the first was my Birthday, on the 17th August. Starting with a juvenile Long-eared Owl in Cristin Withy, Mark then found a Western Bonelli’s Warbler in the Plantation – in the exact same place that I found one two years ago! We got some great views, before trapping and ringing the smart phylloscopus…later in the morning Steve Stansfield came across a Citrine Wagtail on the Narrows, which unfortunately just passed through without stopping off on our ponds…there were plenty of migrants around too, including a flock of Green Sandpipers
Our second mega birding day was dominated by Hippos – not the huge four-legged artiodactyls, but the small bill-clacking warblers in the Hippolais family. The day started with Steffan finding an Icterine Warbler skulking in the depths of the Plantation – the first since 2011! As we were gathered around looking for this eastern wanderer, Steve spotted an Ortolan Bunting chilling out in the open next to a Chaffinch! This smart juvenile Emberizia showed incredibly well, sunning itself in the morning sunshine.
The rest of the day was a bit of blurr, but the result was basically an Observatory garden full of hippolais warblers: we think we ended up with THREE Melodious Warblers and possibly two Icterine Warblers! It spent all afternoon to work out what was going on, but it really was great to have Icterine Warbler and Melodious Warbler in the same view at times, comparing and contrasting these subtly different species.
A pretty cool day
Some warblers (from left to right)…Melodious, Western Bonelli’s, Icterine and Willow Warbler
In other news, we have managed to catch a good 30 or so Storm Petrels during the night, including several controls
There have been some brilliant sunsets recently, with calm weather prevailing for two weeks or so. This pair of Oystercatchers made for a nice silhouette against
Some late broods of Swallows have been fledging recently, lining up in chattering bunches on fences around the island, frequently being visited by the busy parents. It is great to see the impressive aerial acrobatics when adults give their food passes to chicks mid-flight too!
It’s been a somewhat frustrating few weeks on the moth-trapping front, with several of my heath traps malfunctioning, and thus putting me out of action for a time. I managed to cross some wires in a couple of the traps and have got them into working order now, which is great. Day-flying species have included migrants like Rush Veneers, Silver Ys and the odd Hummingbird Hawkmoth, but the moth traps have been filled with the classic autumn family: rustics. Square Spot Rustics, Flounced Rustics, Common Rustics, Rosy Rustics, Six-striped Rustics…. a lot of rustics.
In amongst the common lepdioptera fare have been some great surprises: no fewer than THREE Convolvulus Hawkmoths have found their way to the island, including two on one day! Square-spot Darts, Canary-shouldered Thorns, Marbled Beauty, Annulet, Garden Pebble (the first on Bardsey since 1999) and Bee Moth have been some of the highlights.
One of three Convolvulus Hawkmoths that have made it to Bardsey this August – amazing considering there are fewer than 20 island records of this continental wanderer
From left to right: Marbled Beauty, Garden Pebble and Sallow
In other news, I’ve had some good fun pursuing a few long-term photography projects, and also trying out a bit more filming. One day I had the fortune of observing several Grey Seals within one of the island’s coastal caves at high tide. I am very pleased with the images I managed to capture, but here is a bit of video of the playful bull blowing bubbles…
Staying on the Grey Seal theme, here are a couple of images from a fun snorkelling encounter with seven or eight very inquisitive individuals in one of the island’s bays
the delightful Autumn Ladie’s Tresses (a small orchid only around three or four inches high) are springing up all around the island, encouraged by specific grazing regimes in certain pastures to keep the vigorous grasses at bay
I’ll end with a couple of wader shots…wader numbers and passage has been brilliant this year, with a sustained high number of species like Turnstones feeding around the Narrows at high tide. We’ve had as many as 80 birds on the beach, with 70+ most days, which is a superb number
Turnstone – an adult moulting out of summer plumage
That’s all for now – I hope to start blogging a bit more in the coming weeks, although I expect to be fairly busy once I return to uni in Falmouth from the 12th onwards. I’m certainly looking forward to heading down to the south-west and seeing what the coast around Cornwall will have to offer.