Monday, 7 January 2013

Patch of the Day - Bardsey Island - Steve Stansfield and Ben Porter

Bardsey Island is a small island (about two by one km) off the Lleyn Peninisula in North Wales. It is an excellent patch, turning up many scarcities and rarities, as well as large numbers of common migrants. The island's list stands on 326, after the recent addition of Citrine Wagtail in October. 
I moved here five years ago with my parents and sister to farm the island, and developed a very keen interest in birding and photography. In 2013, I will be birding the island on my own up until March, when Steve Stansfield (the warden of Bardsey Bird and Field Observatory) returns with his family and assistant warden Mark Carter will also return. I still have A-level school to work away at, and so will not see all of the scarcities and rarities that turn up!

So, back to the species: Among Bardsey's rarer visitros are the first Summer Tanager and Yellow Warbler to have been seen in Britain and Ireland; other American visitors include American Bittern, Sora, Killdeer, Spotted Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, Grey-cheeked Thrush, Eyebrowed Thrush, American Robin, Song Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Blackpoll Warbler and White-throated Sparrows. From the other direction have come River Warbler, Red-flanked Bluetail, Isebaline Wheatear, Collared Flycatcher, Pine Bunting, Rock Bunting, Yellow-breasted Bunting, Black-headed Buntings and Paddyfield Warbler. 

Okay, a very nice list of rares, but not many are likely to turn up in 2013. This year's species list stands at 184, compared to 183 last year, representing the target for next year. This year saw a brilliant run of scarcities in the spring, including Red-rumped Swallow, Bee-eater, Black Kite, Red-breasted Flycatcher, two Greenish Warblers, Woodchat Shrike, Melodious Warbler and Subalpine Warbler, whilst the autumn saw Wryneck, Radde's Warbler, Citirine Wagtail and Little Bunting. Subalpine (both Western and Eastern), Melodious and Icterine Warblers are somewhat of an island speciality, and can almost be expected to turn up each year. 

The more common birds seen on the island include a good selection of wildfowl: two species of Swan,  White-fronted, Bean, Pink-footed, Brent and Barnacle Geese, Long-tailed Duck, Common and Velvet Scoters, Eider and Goldeneye, Pintail and Gadwall. There are three species of Diver and Little Grebe. 
Seabirds are good, with Great Shearwater, Sooty, Balearic and Manx, also Leach’s and Storm Petrel. Little Egret, Spoonbill and Bittern are the best of the herons. Raptors are well covered with Osprey, Hobby, Merlin, Goshawk, Honey, Common and Rough-legged Buzzard, both Black and Red Kites, Marsh and Hen Harriers flying overhead. 

Onto Skuas and Gulls…all four species of Skua have been seen from the 'seawatching deck' in front of the Obs, as have Sabine’s, Little and Med Gull, Glaucous and Iceland Gulls and Little, Black and Caspian Terns among the commoner fair of this genus.

Little, Barn, Long-eared, Short-eared and Snowy Owls have all been seen on the island, in fact all within the boundary of Cristin. 

The best of the rest near passerines include Wryneck and Greater spotted Woodpecker, Hoopoe and Turtle Dove. 

The island is excellent for passerines: some are seen just flying over, like pipits, larks and this year's Red-rumped Swallow. Some, thankfully  stay: both Richard’s and Blyth's Pipits have been seen within the bounds of the observatory and Red-throated on the wall just across the road! All the common wagtails are seen regularly.

There are only five records of Waxwings from the island, the latest being a flock of 16 that graced the northern end of the island a week ago.

The island has an impressive warbler list, including some crackers…like Paddyfield, Marsh, Booted, Icterine and Melodious, Barred and Subalpine Warblers (ten!), Wood, Greenish, Yellow-browed, Pallas’s, Radde’s and Bonelli’s!! Top this off with Firecrest and it’s some list.

Three species of flycatchers are seen regularly, and then with Treecreeper, Nuthatch, four species of Tit, Golden Oriole, Red-backed and Woodchat Shrikes, it’s getting good. We get lots of corvids and their allies, with six species of ‘crow’, two each of Starlings and sparrows.

A good feeding station will always drag in finches too, the best being Hawfinch, Rosefinch and Crossbill. 

So there you have the species of birds encountered on the island. The best sites of the island are Cristin (the observatory-a small site covered in damson bushes); Nant (the most vegetated area of the island to the North with a conifer plantation and three small withies); The Withies (three small withy beds located in the centre of the island often pulling out the goods); and The South End (at the southern end of the island, often receiving large numbers of migrants attracted by Bardsey Lighthouse, and also the first stop-off point for North-bound migrants).

The non-avian life is fantastic too, with over 400 species of moth on the island list, plus cetaceans such as Risso's Dolphins and the shore is peppered with almost 200 Grey Seals for most of the year.

1 comment:

  1. That looks like a cracking patch. Good luck with your A-Levels.