The Zoologist/4th series, vol 6 (1902)/Issue 729/The Birds of Bardsey Island, with Additional Notes on the Birds of Lleyn

The Birds of Bardsey Island, with Additional Notes on the Birds of Lleyn  (1902) 
by Oliver Vernon Aplin

Published in The Zoologist, 4th series, vol 6, issue 729 (March, 1902), p. 107–110


By O.V. Aplin, F.L.S.

(Concluded from p. 17.)

I have added the following to my list of the birds of Lleyn:—

Dipper.—One in the river at Afon Wen, May 29th, 1901.

Coal-Tit.—Llanbedrogg, May 27th, 1901.


Redshank.—A pair flew over my head when I was at the Afon Wen meres; they were going to another part of the meres, which cover a good deal of ground, and they may possibly breed there.

Coot.—I counted forty-one old birds on one of the large reedy meres at Afon Wen on May 29th. Messrs. T.A. Coward and Charles Oldham, who were in Lleyn for a few days after I had left, found three or four pairs of Coots at Llyn Glâs fryn, near Pwllheli.

Little Grebe.—To judge from the chattering cries which came from the reeds, this bird is common at the Afon Wen meres. I saw one adult on the open water. These meres presented quite a pleasing scene of bird-life; besides the Coots and Dabchicks, there were numerous Wild Ducks with young broods, Moor-hens, and a pair of Swans. A sandy spit running out into the water was occupied by a pair of Oystercatchers, a Ringed Plover, and a Common Sandpiper; while pair of Redshanks and a calling Whimbrel flew low overhead. Numerous members of the Swallow tribe skimmed over the water, and Sedge-Warblers rattled away in the reeds. A prolonged search might reveal Water-Rails, and perhaps other species. Messrs. Coward and Oldham saw one pair of Dabchicks with young, and at least one other bird at Llyn Glâs fryn.

Goldcrest.—Messrs. Coward and Oldham heard one singing in a small wood at Boduan.

Gannet.—In my former papers I omitted to include the Gannet. Mr. Coward saw an adult bird off Llanbedrogg Head on June 9th, 1887, and others off Nevin. I have several times seen adult Gannets on the other side of Tremadoc Bay in May; they doubtless come from Grassholme to feed.

Great Northern Diver.—Mr. Coward found the dried remains of one in winter dress in Abersoch Harbour. I have no doubt that Divers are not uncommonly to be seen off this coast. I once saw two Great Northern Divers off Barmouth in May, and at that season the Red-throated Diver is not at all uncommon there. One morning I saw as many as nine feeding in the shallows.

I add some notes on Lleyn birds already recorded:—

Peregrine Falcon.—I ascertained the position of the eyrie of another pair which breed annually in Western Lleyn. Mr. Coward saw last year the birds at a previously-recorded eyrie.

Merlin.—Seen by Messrs. Coward and Oldham last year in May at Cilan.

Red-backed Shrike.—On May 23rd, 1901, I found a pair, with a nest and two eggs, in a bramble-bush on the cliffs about half a mile west of Aberdaron; an interesting extension of its known range in this direction; almost in sight of Ireland, where this Shrike is practically unknown.

Mistle-Thrush and House-Martin.—We all three agreed that these birds were more common last year than we had previously known them; the former seems fairly common.

Grasshopper-Warbler.—We heard in the marsh at Abersoch.

Goldfinch.—I noticed at Llanbedrogg, and Messrs. Coward and Oldham at Abersoch and Boduan.

Chough.—Messrs. Coward and Oldham observed it at an inaccessible spot on the north coast.

Whimbrel.—Evidently not uncommon on the spring migration. I saw two alight on St. Tudwal's Island, and several others passing over the district.

Purple Sandpiper.—Reported by the lighthouse-keeper as present on St. Tudwal's Island again this May—about the 24th.

Lesser Tern.—I saw a pair in Hell's Mouth Bay, and another at Abersoch; and Mr. Oldham reported a score in Pwllheli Harbour on June 2nd.

Tern (Common or Arctic).—One or two seen in Pwllheli Harbour on May 29th by Messrs. Coward and Oldham.

Heron.—I am told that there is a heronry near Pwllheli. Herons are generally to be seen in Abersoch Marsh; on May 26th two rose from the marsh, one of which held in its bill a wriggling eel about a foot and a half long.

Shag.—More breed on the islands (where they are quite safe) than I thought. I saw several on their nests in the cave; others I saw on their nests at Pen y Cîl.

Great Black-backed Gull.—A pair has been known to breed on Careg ddu, and another on the mainland at the far end. One can never be certain of finding a particular nesting spot occupied in any particular year.

Guillemot.—I visited, in a boat, a small colony in Ogof urel (? uriel), at Pen y Cîl, on May 24th. The birds on the ledges were all facing the sea, and probably had not laid their eggs. A local name used here and on Bardsey is "Aron" or "Arron." It is probably onomatopœtic. I have never previously met with this curious name in use, although I believe I have seen it in print somewhere. However, I have searched in a great many books, old and new, without finding it.

Mr. Coward, to whom I am again indebted for the valuable notes he made, has given me particulars of the great breeding station of sea-birds on the Bird Rock near Nevin, which I have not yet visited. It is three or four hundred feet high. Near the top are Cormorants and a few Herring-Gulls; lower down, Guillemots and Razorbills in thousands, and below them again great numbers of Kittiwakes. Jackdaws, Carrion-Crows, and Rock-Pipits were among the other birds noticed. No Lesser Black-backed Gulls were seen, but a pair of Larus marinus haunted a small stack, which, however, held neither eggs nor young. As far as I am aware, the Lesser Black-backed Gull is rare in Lleyn, and I know of no instance of its breeding in the district. Mr. Coward saw one between Pwllheli and Llanbedrogg on June 3rd, 1887, and two on Llanbedrogg Head four days later. Herring-Gulls used to breed on the headland there, but the part of the cliff they bred on has since been quarried away. I have only very occasionally seen the Lesser Black-backed Gull in Lleyn in May and June.

The Lesser Whitethroat and Ray's Wagtail must be struck off the Lleyn list for the present. The inclusion of the former rests on the identification of a single egg found in a nest near Abersoch. Mr. Coward submitted the egg at the time to a high authority, who confirmed his identification of it. He has recently been kind enough to show the egg to me, and I believe it is only an abnormal egg of the Common Whitethroat. Neither Mr. Coward nor I have ever been able to see or hear the bird in Lleyn. I have also Mr. Coward's authority for saying that the record of Ray's Wagtail is doubtful. He has again referred to his notes, and he finds that he only included the bare name of this species in his list of birds seen at Abersoch in 1887, with no particulars; and that with regard to the Nevin bird in 1895, there is a note of interrogation against the name. In the light of our later investigations, we have therefore decided to strike the name out of the list.

Pennant, in his 'Tours in Wales,' mentions that the Rev. Hugh Davis, of Beaumorris, was witness to "a very uncommon wreck of sea-fowl" in 1776. He saw the beach near Criccieth for miles together covered with dead birds, especially those kinds which annually visit the rocks in summer, such as Puffins, Razorbills, Guillemots, and Kittiwakes; of the last there were many thousands. Other birds mentioned were Tarrocks [the Kittiwake in immature dress], Gannets, Wild Geese, Barnacles, Brent Geese, Scoters, and Tufted Ducks. The frost from Jan. 6th until Feb. 2nd in that winter had been very severe. In October, 1884, I saw thousands of Scoters off the Merioneth coast.

I do not think that Lleyn, as an ornithological district, should be considered to extend further east than about the mouth of the Afon Dwyfawr on the south, and perhaps the headland called Trwyn y Tâl on the north coast. Further east the country becomes more luxuriant and wooded on the south towards Criccieth, and more mountainous on the north. And at Tremadoc I have met with birds, such as the Blackcap and Pied Flycatcher, which belong to the avifauna of Eastern Carnarvon and Merioneth, but not to that of Lleyn, so far as I know. I have often wondered that the Sheld-drake does not breed among the sand-hills between Llanbedrogg Head and Penrhyn Du, but I have never seen it there. It may, however, turn up between Criccieth and Pwllheli. At and near Portmadoc I have seen pairs in the middle of May.

This work was published before January 1, 1927, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.