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This page is run by volunteer contributors as a source of news for everyone interested in the birds of Lundy, in the Bristol Channel, UK.
If you have news to report, please consider signing up as a contributor or send in your sightings here.
See also the companion website The Birds of Lundy for comprehensive updates to the 2007 book of the same name.
Bird recording and ringing on Lundy are coordinated by the Lundy Field Society and general information about visiting the island can be found here.

Thursday, 18 April 2019

Chiffchaff ringing movement

Tony Taylor has recently received notification from the BTO of the following control (meaning recapture and release) of a Lundy-ringed Chiffchaff, showing fairly rapid onward movement to the coast of Co. Wexford during spring migration almost exactly a year ago. What's more the bird was actually ringed by a son of the island of Ireland, none other than Lundy's Warden, Dean Jones!


In summary, it was ringed on 20 April and recaptured on Great Saltee, some 171 km NW of Lundy, just over a week later on 28 April. When ringed, examination of the bird's plumage indicated that it had been hatched in 2017, so was undertaking its first spring migration. At 55mm the bird's wing length suggests that it was most likely a female.

Monday, 15 April 2019

Wheatear colour-ringing update

Freshly returned from a week's fieldwork from 6th to 13th April, Tony Taylor reports on the latest instalment of the long-term study of Lundy's breeding Northern Wheatears

"Ann and I spent five or six hours each day looking for Wheatears from what shelter we could find in the cold east winds, mainly on the West Side but with some shorter spells on the south coast. We recorded 28 different colour-ringed birds, as well as seeing several others too briefly or distantly for individual identification. They tended to be feeding out of sight on the lower slopes and cliffs, and plenty of patience was needed for reasonable views.

We saw several birds we know well from past seasons, including the male at Benjamin's Chair and the ‘Dad of the year 2018’ near Montagu Steps. Of the 28 seen, one bird was originally ringed in 2015, seven in 2016, eight in 2017 and twelve in 2018. The jump in numbers between ’15 and ’16 ties in with the unusually low winter survival rate we recorded that year. We hope there will be plenty more colour-ringed birds arriving soon, for us and others to find later in the season. Please do send us your sightings!

In general the established pairs seemed settled on their territories and busy feeding, but we saw several spectacular bouts of displaying, chasing and fighting, including one which involved two males and three females that were all within a couple of metres of each other.

Up to about 20 unringed birds were around the fringes of the plateau in our study area (south of Halfway Wall). They seemed to be a mix of potential Lundy breeders and migrants heading further north."

How to report sightings of colour-ringed Wheatears on Lundy: Each bird has a standard BTO metal ring plus a striped ring (which signifies the Lundy project) on one leg, and two colour rings on the other leg. Please take care to note which rings are on which leg and make sure you specify the order of rings on each leg. The bird in the photo below, for example, would be recorded as: "Left leg, striped over metal; Right leg, yellow over green". Please record sightings in the  LFS Logbook in the Tavern, via the Lundy Wheatear Study Facebook page, or email them directly to Tony Taylor using the link here. In addition to the ring sequence, date, time and specific location, the bird's sex and any notable activity (e.g. singing, mating, nest-building, feeding young) would also be useful. Photos are particularly welcome.

Lundy colour-ringed Wheatear © Elisabeth Price

2nd to 13th Apr – Chill winds and a flood of spring migrants

Philip & Helen Lymbery have kindly contributed the following vivid account of their recent 12-day visit to the island, from 2nd to 13th April:

"Our first trip in early April will be remembered for the strong easterly winds that lashed the islands, as well as for spring migrants including Sandwich Tern, Pied Flycatcher and Common Redstart. The fierceness of the winds caused a stricken Oldenburg to be towed away for repairs, stranding about 70 visitors for an extra couple of days. Those same winds also brought a distinct chill to the air. So much so that, for the first time on Lundy, we wished we’d brought gloves!

Strong easterlies meant that Millcombe Valley was often ‘blown out’ by the wind, forcing birds to keep their heads down and making birding at times slow.

However, calm days saw bushes come alive with migrant warblers. Willow Warblers were everywhere. We had a personal maximum count of 36 on the 8th and 12th. Blackcaps came to the island in waves, firstly all males and then mixed with females. Peak count was of 26 on the 8th. However, with plenty of bushes and scrub for cover, the real bird-count could well have been much higher. As we know well from bird ringing, the number seen can often be but a fraction of those actually present.

Passerine highlights for us during the period included a striking male Pied Flycatcher (3rd and 4th), several Common Redstarts including handsome males (8th, 11th, 12th and 13th), a female Black Redstart (6th), and a Firecrest on the 7th. A single Lesser Redpoll (5th and 8th) and 1-2 White Wagtails (8th and 11th) were also present. Amongst more than a dozen Chiffchaffs at any one time was a fleeting bird showing characteristics of the Siberian race, ‘tristis’ (5th); lacking green tones above or yellow below, but with black legs and a solid black bill.

Male Common Redstart beside Bramble Villas, 12 Apr 2019 © Philip Lymbery

Female Common Redstart near The Ugly, 08 Apr 2019 © Philip Lymbery

Male Pied Flycatcher on a windy day... 12 Apr 2019 © Philip Lymbery

A young female Sparrowhawk buzzed the burgeoning passerine flocks on the east coast. A single Kestrel hovered regularly around Millcombe and Castle Hill. The island’s Peregrines patrolled the coastline daily, although their activity levels seemed to vary from day to day. We particularly enjoyed watching a male chasing off a rival before displaying triumphantly over the south with winnowing wingbeats.

Female Sparrowhawk over Millcombe, 6 Apr 2019 © Philip Lymbery

Amongst uncommon non-passerine sightings was a single Sandwich Tern in the Landing Bay area on the 3rd, 2 adult Cormorant flying northeast over Castle Hill (5th) and a Stock Dove (12th) around Barton’s Field. Perhaps our favourite was a Curlew calling evocatively whilst flying over Quarter Wall Cottages toward the Devon mainland (8th).

Record shot of Sandwich Tern, Landing Bay, 3 Apr 2019 © Philip Lymbery

Although the weather felt wintry - cold, misty, gusty, a sprinkling of rain, even hail - there were more than enough birdlife, sunshine and photo opportunities to keep the motivation high.

Lundy can sometimes be a frustrating place to photograph birds. Those Puffins can be too far away, the Peregrines just won’t play ball, and songbirds can often be little more than a flit of a tail disappearing into a bush full of leaves.

Female Peregrine playing ball for the camera over the Terrace, 7 Apr 2019 © Philip Lymbery
Puffin back on the breeding slopes at Jenny's Cove, 7 Apr © Philip Lymbery

However, on this trip, the most magic moments happened when the wind subsided to reveal bushes bouncing with birds just waiting to have their picture taken. Normally elusive warblers in such numbers and so unusually showy, you could soak up their features and see the gleam in their eyes.

Then, after dark, was the strangely fascinating sound of Manx Shearwaters, back to breed along the rat-free sidelands.

The weather may not have been mild nor the sun particularly warming, but there is surely nowhere better than Lundy to watch the changing of the seasons.

Although one Swallow does not make a spring, a steady stream heading north from the 4th was a sure sign of better weather on the way. House Martins followed them from the 6th and a rush of Sand Martins came through on the 11th.

As our 18th time on the island concluded with shining sun, it seemed we were leaving just as spring was really hitting her stride."

Philip and Helen Lymbery

Saturday, 13 April 2019

12th April – Hirundine passage picking up

Chris Baillie reports:

"Strong Swallow movement through late morning to mid-afternoon. Fair smattering of House Martins (40 logged) and Sand Martins (19 logged). Male Redstart in Millcombe. Female Sparrowhawk still present and a male yesterday (11th). Willow Warblers over the island in moderate numbers (50 logged). Cormorants in two groups passed N today. Pair of Teal on Pondsbury."

Auk counts by Dean Jones totalled: 4,543 Guillemots, 2,396 Razorbills and 207 Puffins.

In other news, last autumn's Lundy records of three major rarities have now all been accepted by the British Birds Rarities Committee, namely the Green Warbler (7th Oct), Red-eyed Vireo (19th Oct) and American Robin (26th Oct).

Friday, 12 April 2019

6th to 11th Apr – Ring Ouzel, Rook, Redpoll, Redstarts & Reed Bunting

The last few days have seen a wide range of migrants passing through, albeit it in small numbers, in often clear conditions with a chilly E wind. Highlights for the period 6th to 11th have included:

Three pairs of Teal on Pondsbury, a Curlew on 8th, 68 Puffins on 10th, a Merlin on 8th & 11th, a Rook on 6th & 8th, a trickle of hirundine passage – with a peak Swallow count of 54 on 7th, a steady passage of Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps, a single Firecrest on 6th, a male Ring Ouzel feeding on the slopes above Jenny's Cove on 10th, single Black Redstarts on 6th & 10th, Common Redstarts on 8th (3 birds) and 11th (2), a Greenfinch on 6th, a Redpoll on 8th and a Reed Bunting on 6th.

Compiled from sightings by Dean Jones, Philip Lymbery, and Ann & Tony Taylor.

Tony also reports that fieldwork for the ongoing Wheatear colour-ringing study has been very productive so far.

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

30th Mar to 2nd Apr

Andrew Cleave and Michael Foord report on their sightings for the period.

Saturday 30th March
After a day's delay due to thick fog at Hartland Point it was possible to get to the island in beautiful sunny conditions. At the South End the Skylarks were singing and several Wheatears were found, although none appeared to have colour-rings. A party of six Cormorants, in good breeding plumage, flew in from the south and headed north up the East Side. These may have been the same birds that were seen at Hartland Point earlier in the morning. The two Ringed Plovers were still present in South West Field, spending most of their time feeding near one of the streams. Small numbers of warblers were feeding along the walls and around Rocket Pole Pond; they all appeared to be Chiffchaffs.

Sunday 31st March 
Another sunny day, and a walk to the North End produced many more Wheatears and still more Chiffchaffs, with many of them seen feeding on the ground. There was an obvious passage of Swallows and Sand Martins, with a single House Martin seen eventually. At Jenny's Cove there were no auks to be seen, but at least 150 Kittiwakes were very active and very vocal, making repeated visits to the cliffs and then returning to form rafts offshore.

Monday 1st April 
Sunny and slightly less breezy. There appeared to have been a significant fall of warblers overnight, with Blackcaps being found in every likely spot in Millcombe and along the Terrace. Almost every individual was a male and there may have been over 50 birds noted in a walk along the East Side towards Tibbetts and back to the Village via Pondsbury, where more Blackcaps were found feeding amongst Purple Moor Grass. Similar numbers of Chiffchaffs were present, and at least two Willow Warblers were heard singing. A smart male Ring Ouzel flew out of the Quarries and landed on a wooden gate in the Tillage Field. A commotion amongst the gulls and corvids alerted us to a female Marsh Harrier which flew high over the island and headed out to sea towards the mainland. 

Tuesday 2nd April 
The breezy conditions had returned but in the shelter of the Quarries there were still plenty of Blackcaps feeding, with a few more females spotted. A male Pied Flycatcher was present in St Helen's Copse. The return boat trip to Ilfracombe was quite lively in Force 6 conditions but there was plenty to see, with rafts of Guillemots and Razorbills, smaller numbers of feeding Kittiwakes and Fulmars and some close encounters with Manx Shearwaters.

Peregrine © Andrew Cleave

Raven © Andrew Cleave

Sunday, 31 March 2019

25th to 30th March

As already posted the highlight was the two Red Kites over Ackland's Moor (26th).

Red Kites

A total of 39 Manx Shearwaters moved north off the east side on the evening of 25th and, although there were no more sightings, a number of birds were heard around the south end on following nights. Up to six Teal were noted at Pondsbury and nine breeding-plumage Cormorants flew north (26th). As well as the usual Peregrine sightings, a single female Sparrowhawk and male Kestrel were also noted. A Ringed Plover was present most days (with two on 30th) and a Curlew remained around the south of the island, often on St. Helen's Field. Single Golden Plover and Snipe were also present on 26th.

Curlew

Large numbers of auks were present at the breeding sites. I counted 166 Puffins in Jenny's Cove (26th) with 140 there on 28th plus another six just north of St.Philips Stone. Although not counted, there were some large rafts of Razorbills close inshore on the east side. A Stock Dove was in St.Helen's Field (25th). Sand Martins moved north each day with a maximum of 55 on 26th. Up to seven Swallows were noted with a single House Martin on two dates. Chiffchaffs peaked at 30 or more on 26th with just one or two Willow Warblers and up to five Blackcaps noted most days. A Firecrest was in Millcombe (26th), but much more unexpected was a Treecreeper flitting between rocks in Jenny's Cove the same day. Thrushes included a Ring Ouzel in Millcombe and St.Helens Field (30th), a Mistle Thrush by Quarry Pond (25th) and three Redwings in Millcombe (29th). A female-type Black Redstart was at the Terrace and a first-summer male was around Stoneycroft and Old Light (27th). Two female Stonechats were between Quaterwall and Pondsbury (26th-27th) and two White Wagtails were often present around the village. Two Siskins paused briefly (27th) and a Brambling flew over just after sunrise on 28th. A female Reed Bunting was at 'Pigs Paradise" (25th) and by the Rocket Pole (27th).