Thursday, 18 June 2015

Cretzschmar's Bunting - Bardsey Island

Highlander - Private Charter Boat
When news broke of a Cretzschmar's Bunting on Bardsey I pretty much wrote off being able to twitch it as I had previously looked at the access to the islands and realised it was only by one boat and it was not easy even if planned well in advance. Then I got a phonecall asking if I wanted a space on a boat charter to try and see this stunning bird. I jumped at the chance and before I knew it I was waiting for the Highlander at Pwllheli, Gwynedd. Our merry band of 12 soon boarded the vessel and set sail under the leadership of Ewan Urquhart.
Aboard the Highlander
Just before boarded the boat we had the excellent news that the Bunting had been seen on the seed being put out for it at the lighthouse, this twitch was well and truly on. By chartering our own boat there were a few pros and cons, the main pro was that we essentially had the boat for the day so we could if need be stay for the day on the island if the Bunting wasn't being cooperative. The main two cons were it sailed from Pwllheli which is c18miles further east and thus meant the boat journey was 1.5hrs instead of the 30mins from Aberdaron. The boat journey started off in pleasant fashion as we sped past St Tudwal Island which Bear Gryll's owns and saw a few bits on the way including many Manx Shearwaters in close proximity to the boat. The boat journey then took a turn for the worst when the spray from the speeding Highlander became a gushing torrent from all directions, no matter where you were sitting everyone got soaked!
Bardsey Island Quay
Bardsey Island
 Soon enough however we docked and were met at the quay by the bird observatory wardens and led to where the bird had been frequenting. As luck would have it the bird was on show as soon as we arrived however it was only on the seed for about 30 seconds before it upped and left allowing decent but brief views.
Cretzschmar's Bunting
Cretzschmar's Bunting
 The bird seemed to have a pretty rigid pattern and would come to the seed for perhaps 30 seconds to 2 minutes before taking off and disappearing four about an hour each time. We managed to see the bird about four times in total and when feeding it offered fantastic views although the heat haze played havoc with the photos. We also had the company of a group of five Chough which were calling and whizzing around constantly on the rocky coastline.
Thrift Clearwing - Another tick!
Whilst waiting for the Bunting to show up again I asked Steve the warden where we could look for Thrift Clearwing's as I had seen a couple of things on the net about them being present on the island. Steve went off to see if he could find any and sure enough back he came with this stunning little chap in a pot. What an excellent end to the day on this stunning, if rugged welsh island.
Bardsey Lighthouse - Temporary Home of the Bunting
We eventually left the island about 1.30pm and managed to talk the skipper into taking us around a few of the islands we had passed on the way to Bardsey and he even offered to take us to have a look at Puffin Island. It was again an added extra to a fantastic trip and we managed decent views of Puffin, Razorbill, Guillemot and Kittiwake and Matt even managed to find a 'Bridled' Guillemot which was a first for me in Britain having seen tons of them last month in Finland. The trip back to the Pwllheli was finished off with fantastic views of a small group of Bottlenosed Dolphins which came and had a short playing session off the back of the boat.
'Bridled' Guillemot

Auk Colony



Just a quick note to say thanks to Matt for doing the driving and organising the overnight stay and also to Ewan for organising and offering a space on his charter boat. All round a fantastic day with a good group of lads and well worth the effort.

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