Bardsey in October – the last full month of 2020

Despite a distinct lack of Easterly winds throughout, October turned out to be very productive on the island. Chaffinch passage did not properly get going, but numbers in the low hundreds were recorded on a few days, along with those of Skylarks and Meadow Pipits. Besides the commoner migrants, Crossbills, Lapland Buntings, and Woodlarks were recorded in low single figures, while Redpolls moved through in their hundreds – a few suspected North-Western Common Redpoll-type birds among them.

We had only one good day of thrush movement, with c.500 Redwings and 150 Blackbirds on the 14th, but a steady trickle was seen after this. Two Ring Ouzels were recorded and, on the 22nd, two Icelandic ‘coburni’ Redwings were caught and ringed at Nant, the first of this race to be recorded this year.

The only mega rarity of the year – an Eastern Yellow Wagtail – came on the 3rd. Found in the Lowlands feeding with the cattle, it remained there until the 6th. A Marsh Warbler was caught and ringed in the Withies on the 15th but was not seen subsequently. Other scarcities this month included two Whooper Swans, one Hen Harrier, three Jack Snipe, two ‘Eastern’ Lesser Whitethroats, at least ten Yellow-browed Warblers, three Firecrests, two Black Redstarts, one Richard’s Pipit, both Short-eared and Long-eared Owls, one Hooded Crow, and a late passage of Hirundines came on the 21st with 389 Swallows and 53 House Martins.

Seawatching was also productive, with several days having prolonged Westerly gales. Cumulative totals include one Red-throated Diver, three Black-throated Divers, one Great Northern Diver, one Great Crested Grebe, one Balearic Shearwater, four Sooty Shearwaters, one Leach’s Petrel, five Pale-bellied Brent Geese, six Pintail, one Goldeneye, four Eider, seven Red-breasted Mergansers, one Grey Phalarope, two Pomarine Skuas, five Arctic Skuas, 23 Great Skuas, one Little Gull, one Sabine’s Gull and one Puffin. The most unusual seawatching record of the year, though, must have been the Nightjar which flew south along the West Coast on the 7th.

At the beginning of November we finally left the island for the winter. It has been a strange year with very few visitors and more isolation than usual and it was strange to get back to the more lockdown life – and witness all the litter left lying about by visitors to the area. 2020 has certainly been different, but there’s been no lack of splendid birds.

There’s also the prospect that Bardsey may become the first ‘blue energy’ island – see

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