This week in pictures

This last week has seen a pretty mixed bag of weather conditions, from sweltering heat and settled winds at the start of the week to a blasting south-westerly wind and dramatic rain showers whipping through in the last few days.

It’s consequently been a pretty varied few days for the wildlife on the island: whilst migrant passerines like Willow Warblers and Sedge Warblers started passing through in the calm weather, the focus was turned seaward to passing shearwaters, gannets and waders as the strong winds set in.

Here is a selection of images to summarise a few of the highlights from this week…

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Bardsey mountain has sprung into a vibrant patchwork of colours as a variety of wildflowers come into bloom…the purples and pinks of Bell and Ling Heather, and the bright yellow of Hawksbeards and Western Gorse

 

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We’ve had 86 breeding pairs of Oystercatchers around the island this year, which have produced an estimated 26 fledged juveniles. It’s great seeing adult birds showing their chicks the tricky business of prizing molluscs like limpets off rocks, before proceeding to chisel out the juicy reward

 

Autumn migration in mid-summer is all about waders for me, and the recent high tides following new moon forced a great selection onto the high-tide roost beside Solfach, including some of the first returning Purple Sandpipers thus far…

 

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The weather earlier in the week was perfect for carrying out a few timed butterfly surveys for Butterfly Conservation’s ‘Big Butterfly Count’  initiative which runs until 6 August. I recorded some 45 Graylings on the East Side in the space of 15 minutes for one! This meadow brown was soaking up the early morning sun at Nant

 

It was time for the monthly Dung Beetle samples to be taken from various sheep and cow poos in some of the island’s pastures – always a thoroughly exciting activity (I’m actually serious! Dung Beetles are awesome)

We found five different species in the Cow Pat sample, including the first of this year’s adult hefty Dor Beetles: a species called Geotrupes spiniger, which digs sizeable tunnels beneath the pat where its young will be provisioned and reared. The sheep dung was less thrilling, with just three species being Aphodius sphacelatus, Aphodius fimetarius and Aphodius ater. Plenty more on these cool creatures on the DUMP project

 

 

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A wonderful aggregation of delicate Harebells is currently adorning a rather specific 2×2 metre circular patch of the island’s hillside. This patch appears on an annual basis – being perennial species – though we’ve never seen it quite this dense and vibrant

 

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The moth traps have been experiencing something of a lull in nightly catches recently, although it’s been great to see the first Drinker Moths (above) appearing. This is a cracking male, with its bipectinate antenna; the female moth is a third larger still, and bright yellow in colour. The antenna and colouration are traits shared in common with many of the members of the Lasiocampidae moth family.

 

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An elusive juvenile Cuckoo appeared mid-week, darting around the Withies and Observatory garden with an entourage of curious Meadow Pipits and Swallows in pursuit. We are fairly convinced that a Cuckoo chick seen earlier this summer probably hatched out from the island – most likely from a Meadow Pipit nest

 

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Bardsey is seemingly populated by just a single species of Orthoptera: the Field Grasshopper (Chorthippus brunneus). The dry grassland on the mountain is currently teeming with these jumpy critters, which are now in their adult form after moulting through a series of smaller nymph stages

 

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The glorious weather earlier in the week stimulated a mass emergence of flying ants: these being the winged queens of the colonies making their nuptial flight to mate with drones. Whilst you might think a variety of songbirds such as swallows might make use of this airborne bonanza, it is actually gulls that seem to delight at this occasional event. It’s quite amusing to watch hundreds of Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls stomping around fields snapping up these tiny morsels of food. It must be worth the energy expended in catching them!

 

The still conditions and fiery sky on Tuesday evening was enough to tempt a late evening row out into the bay. Jack Barton (a friend from my university course staying the week) and I eased out into the bay and drifted out amongst the bottling Grey Seals in my small rowing boat; the still air meant every snort and splash could be heard as they relaxed in the gentle swell.

 

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Contrasting to the vivid purple of the heather, there is also a carpet of bright yellow Hawksbeard flowers on the mountain and coast at the moment, although the flower heads only burst open once the sun has climbed into the sky

 

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After the first stage of my Manx Shearwater tracking study, I need to make weekly checks to see how the pairs are progressing through their breeding season. Most now have fluffy chicks of varying sizes: some barely 200grams, whilst others heavier than their sleek parents at 456grams!

 

Taking advantage of the calm and cloudy night on Tuesday, I headed out at 11pm with staff of Bardsey Bird Observatory to try catching some Storm Petrels. Blasting out their unique song to try and entice birds into a mist net, we managed to trap some 13 birds. We also retrapped a Manx Shearwater which turned out to be 32 years old!

 

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A rainbow over Bardsey’s South End, with my house in the foreground

It looks set to be a pretty stormy week, so fingers crossed for exciting passage of seabirds over the tumultuous seas

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