Sunday, 28 December 2014

It has been a lovely couple of days on the island, although the weather today was just stunning: very low winds from the east, clear blue skies, a slight chill to the air and excellent visibility. It is clear that the snowfall on the mainland has already started pushing waders and thrushes West in search of soft ground to feed on. This was evident with a moderate increase in thrush numbers over the last few days: 16 Blackbirds, two Fieldfares, 11 Song Thrushes and three Redwings were present today. Birding was very enjoyable today, with a nice selection of noteworthy species on show, including Red-throated Diver, Great Northern Diver, Mediterranean Gull, Jack Snipe and Sparrowhawk.

The stunning lighting this morning made for some nice photographs. I focussed in particularly on a juvenile Shag in Cafn, which was very approachable. As it swam back and forth across the small channel, it provided many different opportunities for images- experimenting with the different angles for lighting  was quite fun. Some of the results are below.

This will be the last post I will make from Bardsey Island for the next two months or so, as I will be leaving the island tomorrow and heading off to Ecuador in a week. I will be volunteering at a bird lodge in the north-western part of the country. I hope to update the blog with a few posts whilst I'm out there, so watch this space.

A mix of lichen species on a rock at the North end of the island
A small mushroom amongst some moss

This juvenile Shag could well be the smae individual featured in my previous post. It is an  unusually tame individual, which could perhaps meant that it is weak and unable to find enough food. It provided some good photographic opportunities just after sunrise this morning

Grey Seal bull in the early morning light

Stonechats: female in top two images, and male in bottom two

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Christmas pictures

Well, first of all a very Happy Christmas from Bardsey Island! After what has felt like weeks of gloomy, overcast skies and stormy weather, the sun has finally made a break through in the last two days and allowed for some good photographic opportunities. I spent some of yesterday on Solfach, photographic the usual Choughs, Carrion Crows, Magpies, Rock Pipits and Hooded Crow feeding on the rotting seaweed. There were a lot of Guillemots moving out to sea (over 3000 yesterday), but unfortunately the seas had calmed down quite significantly, and so there were no interesting seascapes to photograph. Today has been very pleasant, and I managed to get some pleasing images of a juvenile Shag in Henllwyn.

Juvenile Shag in Henllwyn. Unfortunately these youngsters can take a significant battering in the winter months. You can usually expect to find at least five wash up dead over the course of the winter, and I have already seen one carcass on the beach. This individual was very tame, which may not be too good a sign

Choughs continue to feed on insects in the rotting seaweed pile on Solfach


This Hooded Crow has been present since the late autumn, and is the second consecutive winter on Bardsey that this species has decided to take up residence here

Carrion Crows


Common Gull

Over 40 Rock Pipits have been present on Solfach, and at least 35 were there yesterday. Unfortunately it has been too windy to get the Heligoland Trap out and continue the island's colour-ringing project on this species

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

RSPCA Young Wildlife Photography Awards

The RSPCA photography awards for young people took place in the tower of London a few days ago, where I would have been if the weather hadn't been too rough to get off Bardsey! I was pleased to hear that one of my images came Runner Up in the 16-18 category. The image was of a Gannet flying over some (yep, you guessed it)...rough seas on Bardsey, back in 2012. The overall winner for this competition was a fantastic back-lit portrait of a Grey Seal by Owen Hearn. You can browse the images at the following link: RSPCA photography awards- 2014 gallery.

Quite a few of the short-listed and winning images for my category and the one below were taken by a number of young photographers who are a member of the group 'Young Wildlife Photographers UK'. I have just recently joined this group, which connects via social media like Facebook, and it is great to see such fantastic images coming from all over the UK. Please take a look at the 'YWPUK' website here, and give them a 'Like' on facebook here.

This is my image of a Gannet that came runner up. I took this in July 2012, when a period of strong winds churned the seas up produced some spectacular seascapes


Since early December, the weather has taken a rather windy and dull deviation from the pleasant conditions we were experiencing in November. The last week has been incredibly dull and gloomy, and the constant strong winds have produced some large seas. Unfortunately the lighting has been appalling for photography, and so I have very few decent images of the recent storms that are any good. Here is a small selection from the 22nd.

Looking north-east from Solfach towards Bardsey Mountain. A very grey scene

Looking out from Solfach Hide

Kittiwake and Herring Gull


Black-headed Gull and Kittiwake

Herring Gull at a low shutter speed (1/60)

Herring Gulls at low shutter speeds (1/60th)


Friday, 19 December 2014

Recent News

The weather over the last two weeks has almost consistently been windy and overcast, which isn't terribly conducive for photography to say the least! However, the skies have cleared every now and then and allowed for some images to be taken. In terms of birding, it has been slow going: there have been two late Manx Shearwaters passing by out to sea this month, and a Great Skua on the 19th is also very late. A handful of Chiffchaffs have chosen to overwinter on Bardsey (the first time they have done so since 2007), but I'm sure some of them are regretting that now! Otherwise, the usual flock of up to 34 Choughs continues to feed on Solfach, whilst the Oystercatcher and Curlew flocks have been maxing out at about 60 each. A single Whimbrel has been hiding amongst the Curlews too.

Here is a short composite of videos taken on Bardsey Island this year. These were mostly taken with a Canon 7D and Canon 300mm F4 lens. 

Some pictures from the week:

A Yellow Dung Fly in the morning light

A female Chaffinch feeding on some late winter berries
It is proving to be a very good winter for overwintering Stonechats, with at least seven pairs present. This is a smart male
One of the unfortunate Chiffchaffs which has decided to overwinter. Will the gamble pay off?

Blue Tit