About this page...

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, 15 August 2019

11th to 14th August – A trickle of migrants amidst continuing unsettled conditions

Herewith the latest update from Lundy Warden Dean Woodfin Jones, covering the period 11th to 14th August.

The unsettled weather theme has continued with rain, mist and strong winds dominating. There was, however, some lovely settled weather on the 12th which allowed for a small movement of birds and a chance to get the mist-nets up in Millcombe.

Birds of note included: the young Grey Heron that has continued to stay on the island, dining on Mirror Carp and Golden Orfe in Rocket Pole and Quarry Ponds. A Ringed Plover flew over the South End on the 11th, there was a lone Dunlin next to Brick Field Pond on the 14th, a juvenile Cuckoo in Millcombe on the 11th and small numbers of Whitethroat (peak 2 on the 11th), Willow  Warbler (peak 8 on the 12th), Blackcap (2 on the 13th), Sedge Warbler (4 on the 12th), Swallow (6 on the 13th) and a Tree Pipit over Millcombe on the 13th.

Dunlin, Brick Field Pond, 14 August © Dean Jones
Whitethroat mist-netted in Millcombe, 12 August © Dean Jones

Other than these, an adult Chiffchaff was seen feeding some very young fledglings in Smelly Gully on the 11th, possibly a second brood.

The second generation of Small Heath butterflies have started to appear around the island despite the breezy wet weather.

Sunday, 11 August 2019

7th to 10th August – Unseasonable wind and rain...

Warden Dean Woodfin Jones reports on a period that began quietly enough, but which later saw the island battered by some distinctly un-summery weather.

August 7th: A rather pleasant but very quiet day bird wise.

The only birds of note included a small morning arrival of Willow Warbler (12) and Sedge Warbler (4) in Millcombe.

August 8th: A beautiful sunny day for the most part, coupled with light winds from the south (the calm before the storm...).

Birds of note included a Curlew which flew in from the sea next to The Battery, a Water Rail calling from Quarters in the early morning, 4 Swallow, 6 Willow Warbler, 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Sedge Warbler and 2 Blackcap.

August 9th: The wild weather started!

Sea-watching from the Castle Parade and North End throughout the day resulted in 761 Manx Shearwater, 161 Gannet, 16 Fulmar and 3 Guillemot along with small numbers of assorted of gulls. Although I didn’t managed to see any unusual Procellariforms or skuas there were a few nice shorebirds battling through the strong oncoming winds, among them 8 Curlew (including a flock of 7 birds) flying south, low to the water past Rat Island. Shortly after, a lone Dunlin shadowing a Black-tailed Godwit (a Lundy rarity) flew south also and 2 Ringed Plover dropped onto the North End briefly in the afternoon.

Other sightings of note included a juvenile Grey Heron, 3 Willow Warbler, 4 Common Dolphin, 4 Harbour Porpoise and a Sunfish off the North End.

August 10th: A very wild and windy day with the occasional squall and heavy downpour (particularly in the morning).

A morning’s sea-watch from the Ugly revealed some good Manx Shearwater (2,991) and Gannet  (227) passage. Other birds of note included a Ringed Plover calling over the SE Point, 2 juvenile Turnstone hiding from the wind in the short heather at the North End, a Redshank next to Rocket Pole Pond in the evening, the juvenile Grey Heron at Quarry Pond, 10 Swallow, 1 Willow Warbler, 2 Stonechat and a total of 4 Harbour Porpoise (a mother and Calf in the Southern Races and 2 at the North End, one of which was fully breaching from the colossal swell).

Juvenile Turnstone in unusual habitat at North End, 10 Aug © Dean Jones

The turbulent seas off North Light on 10 Aug – no surprise that Oldenburg was cancelled... © Dean Jones

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

31st July to 6th August – Invertebrates and marine life to the fore, but some birds too!

Lundy Warden Dean Woodfin Jones's latest update from the island covers the period 31st Jul to 6th August:

A somewhat quiet week for passage birds but very exciting with regards to a number of the island's non-avian inhabitants and visitors from afar...

On the bird front, Willow Warblers are still trickling through in small numbers most days, though the island was blessed once again with another small fall of birds (71) on August 1st.
Linnet numbers are also continuing to grow with 122 birds around the island on the 4th (which included a flock of 49 birds at Halfway Wall). The island has also seen some good Shag numbers dotted around the coast this week, with 172 recorded on the 4th.

Other birds of note include a Grey Heron over the South East point on the 2nd, two adult Cuckoo on the 31st, the first southbound Tree Pipit of the year (1st), another Spotted Flycatcher on the Terrace on the 1st, a Sedge Warbler in Millcombe on the 1st, two young Kestrel together over Pondsbury on the 4th, as well as small numbers of Swallow (max 17 on the 2nd), singles of Blackcap, and up to five Pied Wagtail, four Stonechat and three Whitethroat each day.  There has also been a very noisy and often conspicuous Water Rail lurking in the long grass outside Paradise Row on a number of dates within this period.

Non-avian highlights:

Like elsewhere in the UK, Lundy saw a superb arrival of Painted Ladies come August 1st, with 284 recorded on this beautiful summer's day (most certainly a gross underestimate as there was a constant stream of these magnificent invertebrates coming off the sea for most of the day), 601 on the 2nd, 172 on the 3rd and 171 on the 4th.

Between the gatherings of Painted Ladies, Caitlin Worsey also managed to find a Clouded Yellow on her butterfly transect on August 1st, as well as increases in some of the island's other Lepidoptera species, including Red Admiral (max 32 on the 1st), Common Blue (4 on the 4th), Small Copper (7 on the 4th), Silver Y (29 on the 2nd), as well as a smattering of Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Large White and Hummingbird Hawkmoths.

The evening of August 2nd also saw a mass emergence of flying ants on the island, particularly along the south coast, Upper East Side Path and the North Lighthouse. Swarms of these spectacular winged beasties were seen swathing vegetation and granite boulders on the day as well as forming thick ant clouds in the air in parts. As always the birds were very happy with this mass emergence of food meaning visitors to the island were treated to some amazing views of House Sparrow, Starling, and Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gull “hawking” mouthfuls of ants whilst on the wing. A truly spectacular sight but difficult to converse about at the time without getting a mouthful of critters myself.

Flying ants emerged en masse on 2nd Aug, seen here along the Upper East Side Path © Dean Jones

An evening’s sea-watching on a beautifully still day at the North End revealed some decent-sized rafts of roosting and preening Manx Shearwater (c.3,000) offshore on the 2nd. Within and around these gatherings Zoë Barton and I were also treated to some super cetacean action on the glass-like sea. Here we found no less than 23 Common Dolphin (composed of two pods) and 8 Harbour Porpoise (one pod of 7 and a loner) but the obvious highlight of the evening had to be the titanic Minke Whale which approached the island from the north at around 20:30 allowing superb views for about 20 minutes before it moved off west as the sun neared the horizon, a perfect end to a perfect day's monitoring.

A tranquil sunset over North Light on 2nd Aug © Zoë Barton

Finally, a Sunfish was present right next to the Jetty on the 1st (Rob Waterfield & Mike Jones).

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

26th to 30th July – Migrants heading south already

'Hot and sweaty' would be the theme of this period but despite the beautiful summer-like weather, the birding on the island has had much more of an autumnal feel, with numerous species showing obvious southbound passage and birds becoming increasingly gregarious, feeding and moving around the island in small flocks, e.g. flocks of 33 Linnet at Quarter Wall on the 26th and 23 Goldfinch in Millcombe on the 30th. Come the 30th, however, the winds picked up from the west making birding conditions rather tricky.

The Common Buzzard was seen again on the 26th by multiple observers up until around 12:30 pm when it was seen gaining height over St Helen’s Copse before heading out to sea and out of sight. Additionally, a possible Yellowhammer was seen in a flock of Linnet along high street field wall by the Reds contractors as they made their way home from working on the North Lighthouse on the 27th. Unfortunately the bird was not relocated, despite searching.

Common Buzzard mobbed by Herring Gulls over East Side, 26 July © Alex Sydenham

The Willow Warbler fall on the morning of the 27th ended up with at least 95 birds scattered across the island along with four Sedge Warbler as stated in the previous post.

Other birds of note have included: a single Curlew over the Village on the 26th, a fly-over Dunlin on the 27th, four Stonechat on the 26th (an adult male and three juveniles), a pair of Pied Wagtails feeding chicks in Millcombe on the 26th, five Blackcap on the 28th, 19 Willow Warbler on the 28th and two Sand Martin past the Church on the 28th, a Swift off South West Point on the 30th and the first returning Spotted Flycatcher in the Terrace willows.

On the non-birding front, the Warden had yet another very productive night’s moth trapping on the 26th at Benjamin’s Chair, which resulted in yet another new moth species for the island: Aethes francillana, a gorgeous little moth which is rather localised in its distribution, being normally found in coastal habitats where its food plant, Wild Carrot, grows.

The micro-moth Aethes francillana trapped at Benjamin's Chair, 26 July © Dean Jones

An Emperor Dragonfly was seen ovipositing in Quarter Wall Pond on the 28th and no fewer than 12 Giant Tachinid Flies (Tachina grossa) were present along the East Side and Millcombe on the 28th, out on the hunt for Fox Moth and Oak Eggar caterpillars on which to lay their eggs.

Emperor Dragonfly Anax imperator ovipositing in Quarter Wall Pond, 28 July © Dean Jones

Giant Tachinid Fly Tachina grossa Upper East Side Path, 11 July © Dean Jones

Saturday, 27 July 2019

5th to 27th July – Summer eases into ornithological autumn

Below is the latest update from Lundy Warden, Dean Woodfin Jones, covering the period 5th to 25th July.  In addition, a stop-press message from Dean this morning, 27th July, brought news of a fall of at least 73 Willow Warblers (the first wave of autumn passage) and four Sedge Warblers, as well as a second brood of Whitethroat fledglings (to add to the one mentioned below).

5th to 25th July: "The avian highlight from this lengthy stint came in the form of a beautiful Common Buzzard which soared in off the sea from Rat Island tailed by a mob of angry Herring Gulls on the 25th. Another highlight was the discovery of an adult Chiffchaff feeding young in the sycamores near The Battlements on the 24th.

Volunteer Assistant Warden Caitlin has been working hard with this year’s seabird productivity monitoring, with the Fulmars and remaining Kittiwakes getting most of the attention now that the Guillemots and Razorbills have left their ledges for the high seas. Additionally Caitlin has been keeping an eye on the few remaining Puffins which are feeding young in burrows in Jenny’s Cove. Puffin counts throughout the period before the main bulk of birds departed include 468 birds (from South West Point to St James’s Stone) on the 7th, and 410 within Jenny’s Cove on the 11th.

Other sightings of note: 37 Oystercatcher on the 5th, most of which were together at Brazen Ward, Swift on five days from the 5th with a maximum of 25 on the 5th, two returning Sand Martin on the 10th and one on the 24th, small numbers of Swallow (Lundy’s breeders were incubating a second brood), singles of House Martin on 5th and 10th, a singing male Willow Warbler on the 5th and a maximum count of five Whitethroat, which includes the Lundy born fledglings."

Whitethroat fledgling, Millcombe, 7 July © Dean Jones

Non-avian highlights:

"The Conservation Team have had a few productive nights trapping moths throughout July and amazingly we’ve managed to catch a few more new species for the island including two Small Marbled and a single Caryocolum vicinella in the trap on the 7th at Benjamin’s Chair. Other migrants on that perfect moth night included a lone Small Mottled Willow, two L-album Wainscot, and a single White Point."

Small Marbled, Benjamin's Chair, 7 July © Dean Jones

"Emperor Dragonflies have also been seen on a number of days throughout the period at Quarter Wall Pond, Quarry Pond, Quarters Pond and the Terrace (munching on a Ringlet butterfly)."

Emperor Dragonfly eating Ringlet, Terrace, 7 July © Dean Jones

Thursday, 4 July 2019

9th June to 4th July – Golden Oriole & nearly a Roller!

Lundy Warden Dean Jones reports on yet another very busy but wonderful period on Lundy.

The obvious birding highlight of this period came in the form of a stunning male Golden Oriole in full song at the top of Millcombe on 21st June. Shortly after the bird's beautiful but brief serenade, the Oriole was then seen periodically for about an hour or so mostly in flight as he made his way to and from either side of the valley. The bird stayed until the mid-afternoon at least and was heard calling again by some of the islanders, shortly after which it unfortunately disappeared.

Another smashing observation that must be mentioned was the amazing occurrence of a European Roller which dropped onto the rigging of David Milledge’s boat as he sailed from Milford Haven to the island on 30th June. From David’s email (sent on 4th July) he quotes: “It stayed with us for about two hours, mainly perched on the cross trees high on the mast. He took a few short flights and returned to perch in this period and as we approached Lundy, about 3 miles off, he disappeared presumably to go to the island.” Despite the possibility of this bird making its way to Lundy there were unfortunately no observations of this beautiful bird on the island.

The one that got away! European Roller perched on a yacht 3 miles off Lundy, 30 June © David Milledge

If this exotic visitor had been seen on the island, it would have been the first since August 1949! © David Milledge

On the seabird front, the island’s Guillemots and Razorbills are now disappearing quickly from their breeding ledges, making my west coast walks that little bit quieter. Once again it is looking like another mixed season for our two Kittiwake monitoring sites. At the moment Aztec Bay has lots of fluffy chicks huddled in nests (the first chicks was recorded on 12th June), some of which are starting to obtain their beautiful juvenile markings. Unfortunately once again numbers of nesting birds within our Threequarter Wall site have more than halved since last year. This is a truly sad sight, especially considering the numbers which used to breed on this remarkable chunk of rock. Fingers crossed the few remaining birds will fare better this year and all manage to fledge multiple chicks (only 1 chick fledged from 41 nests at this site in 2018). Only time will tell!

I also managed to get out for a complete wrap around the island’s coast on 9th June. Results from this rather soggy day revealed 113 Shag, 247 Kittiwake, 46 Great Black-backed Gulls, 781 Herring Gull, 243 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 6,415 Guillemot, 1,955 Razorbill and 196 Puffin. Additional to these counts, the Conservation Team also carried out a number of other Puffin counts throughout the period, during which we managed high counts (well, for Lundy standards) of 337 birds on 19th June and 390 on 3rd July. 

On the breeding bird front, successful breeding has now been confirmed for a few more species this year, including Woodpigeon (fledglings in Millcombe on 10th June), Robin (12th June), Pied Wagtail (a pair delivering food to chicks on 3rd July), Blackcap (2 pairs feeding chicks in Millcombe on 29th June) and Goldfinch (19th June). Furthermore a survey of active Starling nests around the Village area and the Old Lighthouse revealed a total of 56 nests, most of which have now fledged numerous noisy chicks from 22nd June.

Fledgling Starling in Millcombe, 24 June © Dean Jones

Additionally, our new Island Ambassador, David Lindo (also known as the Urban Birder), managed to find a pair of Whitethroat feeding chicks at the top of Millcombe on 29th June,  the first confirmed breeding for this species since 1978! Though there have been observations suggesting successful breeding since 1978, none were 100% confirmed, so well done David!

Lundy's newly appointed Ambassador, David Lindo, pictured alongside Warden Dean Woodfin Jones

Other birds of note from the period include: 42 Oystercatcher on 9th June, a single juvenile Grey Heron which arrived on the island on 19th June and has remained until 3rd July at least, singles of Water Rail on 16th & 18th June, a fly-over Dunlin on 2nd July, a Collared Dove on 19th & 23rd June, singles of Cuckoo of seven dates up to 3rd July, small numbers of Swift (max 35 on 3rd July), Swallow (max 10 on 18th June) and House Martin (max 4 on 23rd June), a single Sand Martin (on  2nd July), lone Spotted Flycatchers in Millcombe on seven dates up to 21st June, and 3 Stonechat on 24th.

Juvenile Grey Heron at Pondsbury, searching in vain for fish or amphibians, 24 June © Dean Jones

Like elsewhere in the UK, Lundy was also blessed with a glorious invasion of Painted Lady butterflies come 24th June – 189 (certainly a gross underestimate) of these beautiful beasties were counted in various parts of the island throughout the day. Meadow Browns are also becoming more prevalent on the island with surveys along the east coast revealing good numbers (max 151 on 3rd July). We’ve also seen a number of Odonata appear over the past few days, with Common Darter, Red-veined Darter and Southern Migrant Hawker all making an appearance on the island.

Report composed of sightings from Chris & Carol Baillie, Tom Dickens, Dean Jones, David Lindo, Kirsty Neller, Alan & Sandra Rowland and Caitlin Worsey.

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

25th May to 8th June – A bumper round-up of news

Lundy Warden Dean Jones has provided the following comprehensive update for the period 25th May to 8th June:

"As you can probably tell by the lack of blog updates over the past few weeks (sincere apologies), the busy summer season of visiting school groups, working parties and of course, the monitoring of Lundy’s beautiful and unique assortment of wildlife has now arrived.

Luckily for us the island has continued to provide us with some truly spectacular birds during this period including the Squacco Heron, which lingered around Rat Island until May 31st (allowing some superb views for disembarking visitors) after being re-discovered in this area on April 28th. The island has also had two very brief but exciting visits from two other special birds; a female Red-backed Shrike near St Helen’s Copse on June 6th and a stonking Alpine Swift on June 8th (both found by Chris and Carol Baille).

Squacco Heron, Rat Island, 31 May © Alex Sydenham

Squacco Heron, Rat Island, 28 May © Dean Jones

Other than these rarities, more and more young birds are appearing around the island. For example, in the last few weeks we’ve seen the first Wheatear, Skylark, Dunnock and Linnet fledglings of the year as well as lots of food being delivered to chicks in nests for species such as Chaffinch, Starling, Robin, and Meadow Pipit (some of which should be fledging any day now). We have also been treated to at least one very noisy Water Rail chick in the evenings near Paradise Row, the first confirmed breeding since 2015.

Other avian delights throughout this period include small numbers of Whitethroat, Spotted Flycatcher, Swallow, House Martin, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Blackcap each day, as well as two Cormorant flying south over the Ugly on the 6th, a Golden Plover on the 26th, a lone Whimbrel on White Beach on the 3rd, a Storm Petrel at the Old Light Manx Shearwater colony on the 27th, at least 1 Kestrel most days, a Merlin on June 1st & 2nd, a Turtle Dove on the Terrace on the 31st and again on the 2nd (where it narrowly avoided the clutches of a Peregrine), a Cuckoo on four dates from various areas of the island including Millcombe, Halfway Wall and Montagu Steps, singles of Collared Dove on three dates from the 1st, a Sand Martin on the 5th, a Garden Warbler on the 26th, a Sedge Warbler on the 25th, a fly-over Yellow Wagtail on the 4th, a Tree Pipit on June 1st, and four Swift on the 31st.

Spotted Flycatcher, Millcombe, 05 Jun © Dean Jones

Visiting ringers Tony, Ann, Rich and Rebecca Taylor have all been keeping themselves very busy re-sighting and colour ringing some of the island’s Northern Wheatears. So far the gang have managed to catch and re-sight good numbers of the island breeding birds and although the final numbers have yet to be crunched, it’s looking like a relatively good year for this iconic Lundy bird. Hiding within the island’s breeding population, Rich and Rebecca also managed to catch and ring a rather late passage Greenland bird (Oenanthe oenanthe leucorhoa) on the 6th, just south of the Forgotten Heinkel bomber on the West Coast. Somehow the gang also managed to conjure up energy for a few late evenings out on the west sidelands catching Manx Shearwaters too. Here the team have managed (so far) to catch and ring 40 new birds and retrap another 44 birds birds which had been ringed on Lundy in previous years, including some ringed here as chicks in 2013 & 2015.

Calling male Wheatear, north of Jenny's Cove, Jun 2019 © Dean Jones

June 6th was a very special day for me as Warden and for the island, as we managed to get out for an afternoon colour ringing Peregrine Falcons, the first ever for the island! If all goes well in the upcoming years, we may be lucky enough to  see these birds return one day to the breed on the island themselves. Visiting this nest site also allowed us to get a better understanding of what this particular pair have been feeding their young on. As you can see from the photo below, seabirds – including Puffin and Manx Shearwater have been the main source of food… as well as the odd Wheatear. A huge huge thank you to Luke Sutton, Seb Loram, Dan Donovan, Simon Fletcher and Carlo Fiori for this unforgettable experience.

Peregrine kill remains 06 Jun © Simon Fletcher

Alan and Sandra Rowland (Lundy Field Society) and Janet Lister (National Trust) also managed a trip out to the island this month in order to count a very special resident on the island, our endemic Lundy Cabbage. Although numbers have yet to be finalised, this year seems to be a super year for flowering plants, particularly on the East Side cliffs! Full results for this year’s cabbage counts will be available in the near future.

Alan Rowland & Dean Jones cabbage counting, 03 Jun © Siân Cann

And last but by no means least, we’ve received DNA results regarding feather samples from this springs unbelievable run of no less than five Subalpine Warblers! The DNA sequencing that was very kindly carried out by Thomas Shannon and Martin Collinson from the University of Aberdeen now shows that we managed to catch an amazing haul of three sub-species of Subalpine Warbler this spring! Unreal! These consisted of three birds of the Eastern race Sylvia cantillans albistriata (which breed in areas within Trieste, Balkans, Greece, Bulgaria, western Turkey), one Sylvia cantillans cantillans Eastern raced bird (breeds in Central and south Italy except Sardinia) and a Western raced bird Sylvia inornata inornata (which breed in Iberia, southern France, extreme north-west Italy). Special thanks to Thomas and Martin for all their help and enthusiasm with regards to these samples.
Lundy has truly delivered the goods this spring, fingers crossed we have some more super birds to come during the next few weeks!

DNA tree for Subalpine Warblers

Report composed of sightings from Chris & Carol Baillie, Andrew Cleave, Dan Donovan, Carlo Fiori, Simon Fletcher, Paddy Keith, Dean Jones, Seb Loram, Luke Sutton, Alex Sydenham, Tony & Ann Taylor, Richard & Rebecca Taylor, Lucy Winder and Caitlin Worsey."

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

28th May – Squacco Heron seen again!

Dean Jones reports that the Squacco Heron was seen again on Tuesday 28th, at around 10.00am, this time on Rat Island.

'Back of the camera' shot of Squacco Heron, Rat Island, 28 May © Dean Jones

Saturday, 25 May 2019

19th to 24th May – Summer shows its hand

Dean Jones writes:

"It has been a truly magical week on our beautiful little island; here on most days since the last post, Lundy has been graced with some stunning sunshine and noticeably warmer temperatures despite cool northerly winds. Now the migrant birds have slowed down to a trickle, it is starting to feel a lot more like summer on Lundy. As I write this post, nearly all of the island's seabirds are either now busy incubating eggs or feeding newly hatched chicks, including our charming little Puffins in Jenny's Cove. Up on the plateau newly emerged Raven, Blackbird and Stonechat fledglings are haphazardously navigating their strange new world and clouds of hundreds of newly emerged Cocksfoot moths are currently flittering around the sun-kissed foliage in Millcombe. 

Raven fledgling, Halfway Wall Bay, 24 May 2019 © Dean Jones

Other than the superb Squacco Heron on the 23rd, birds of note included: a Water Rail which has been calling most nights near Paradise Row, a single Golden Plover on the 23rd, one flyover Ringed Plover on the 23rd, a Dunlin near St Mark's on 22nd, 246 Kittiwake on the 20th (birds are busily building nests and incubating eggs now), the first Guillemot chick of the year on the 24th and the first Puffling of the year on the 20th, at least one Kestrel on most days, a Cuckoo just south of the Quarries on the 22nd, max 50 Swallow on the 23rd, max 24 House Martin on the 23rd, up to 3 Willow Warbler each day, along with up to 4 Chiffchaff, a single Sedge Warbler on the 24th, up to 3 Blackcap on days, Whitethroat (max 4 on the 21st), Spotted Flycatcher (max 7 on the 22nd), a single first calendar-year male Pied Flycatcher on the 22nd, flyover Yellow Wagtails on the 22nd & 24th and a Tree Pipit in Millcombe on the 19th."

Razorbill, 24 May 2019 © Dean Jones

Report composed of observations from Dave & Helen Boyer, Dean Jones, Alex Sydenham and Tony & Ann Taylor.

Friday, 24 May 2019

23rd May – Squacco Heron, a FIRST for Lundy!

Lundy Warden Dean Woodfin Jones writes:

"Seb Loram, Luke Sutton and myself were just finishing up surveying Gannet's Combe, when I noticed five Oystercatchers mobbing a strange-looking bird at the north end of the bay. As soon as I put my bins up, I shouted "Squacco!!". Luke and Seb managed to both get on the bird. The heron then skulked around an area of boulder scree for about five minutes, before moving out of view under an overhang. We waited for ten minutes or so for the bird to reappear, when suddenly, again chased by a number of Oystercatcher, the bird flew out to sea around Gannets' Rock, continuing north and eventually out of sight. It was a seriously beautiful bird!"

This is the first record of Squacco Heron on Lundy; congratulations Dean on another excellent find!

Squacco Heron, Gannets' Bay, 23 May 2019 © Dean Jones

Saturday, 18 May 2019

16th to 18th May – Red-footed Falcon after a couple of quiet days

Thursday 16th May

A generally rather quiet day, with a stiff easterly wind again dropping away to virtually nothing during the late afternoon to give a jaw-droppingly gorgeous sunny and still spring evening. Among the rather few notable observations were a second calendar-year Black-headed Gull that flew through the Landing Bay first thing, nine Dunlins in Middle Park, a Collared Dove sitting on top of Lametor, and three Swifts.

Friday 17th May

A cloudy and at times quite raw-feeling day with some light rain for a time mid-morning, when the cold E or NE wind was quite strong, but backed NNE and became much lighter during the afternoon, though it remained heavily overcast, subduing insect and bird activity alike.

A Great Northern Diver flew north up the East Side of the island at plateau height at 06.45 and a pale-phase Arctic Skua was harrying Kittiwakes off Rat Island around midday. A Garden Warbler performed its rich song for prolonged periods, often at the same time as feeding in sycamores in Millcombe. Also of note were two flyover flava wagtails, and eight Spotted Flycatchers.

Saturday 18th May

A cloudy but virtually windless dawn, gave way to a stunningly beautiful spring day with warm sunshine breaking through by late morning.

Tim Davis and Tim Jones experienced one of their all-time highlights of decades of birding on Lundy when they were lucky enough to spend several hours in the company of a beautiful male Red-footed Falcon. Initially encountered in northbound flight over heathland near Pondsbury, the bird moved on rapidly to Middle Park and disappeared towards North End. The by-now very out-of-breath observers, having run in a seemingly vain attempt to keep up with the falcon, arrived at the vantage point offered by the mound near Threequarter Wall Gate in time to see it disappear towards Gannets' Combe. Resigned to the likelihood that the bird would simply continue moving north and off the island, it was almost unbelievable when it suddenly flew in and perched on a reasonably nearby granite outcrop. The falcon then took up residence for a good three hours on and over the slope between Tibbetts and Threequarter Wall Gate, where it pursued and consumed numerous (probably 50+) Emperor Moths, treating the Tims to a mind-blowing display of graceful aerobatics. A red-faced and sweaty Lundy Warden, Dean Woodfin Jones, hove into view having belatedly received a series of frantic WhatsApp messages, in time to join in the visual feast, along with two lucky day-visiting birders. There have been seven previous Lundy records of this delightful Eastern European raptor, the most recent in May 2003.

The series of record shots below indicate that this bird was an immature, presumed second calendar year, given the extent of underwing barring. At close range some brownish smudging could be seen on the nape.

Male Red-footed Falcon and doomed Emperor Moth, Middle Park 18 May © Tim Jones

Other records during the day included a Cuckoo at Old Light, two Garden Warblers in Millcombe, strong Swallow and House Martin passage, a single Sand Martin, three Swifts and a few Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers, Sedge Warblers and Common Whitethroats.

Compiled from observations by Tim Davis, Dean Jones, Tim Jones, Alan & Sandra Rowland, Trevor Dobie and members of the LFS Conservation Working Party.

Thursday, 16 May 2019

15th May – Hawfinch, Marsh Harrier & Lesser Whitethroat

Reflecting a subtle change in wind direction, there was a distinct southern and eastern componment to birding, with highlights including a vocal but typically wary Hawfinch flying around Millcombe from early morning until at least midday; a male Pied Flycatcher, a singing Lesser Whitethroat and calling Tree Pipit in and around Millcombe; a Cuckoo at North End (St James' Stream), and a female Marsh Harrier, which drifted over Millcombe at 08.55 and was later seen over South End, Tillage/Brick Field (being mobbed by crows), and quartering over Pondsbury. It was last seen flying north over Threequarter Wall at 14.55. Middle Park again held exceptionally high numbers of Dunlin, with probably over 30 present in all, including a single flock of 19, feeding actively on the grazed turf alongside three Ringed Plovers. There were also two Golden Plovers in the north of the island.

Record shot of Marsh Harrier near Pondsbury, 15 May © Tim Jones
Record shot of male Pied Flycatcher in Millcombe, 15 May © Tim Jones

Other sightings during the day included: three Teal, five Collared Doves, 11 Swifts, a male Kestrel, 100+ House Martins, 300+ Swallows, four Willow Warblers (including one feeding along Threequarter Wall), five Chiffchaffs, two Blackcaps, a Whitethroat, and eight Spotted Flycatchers.

Compiled from observations by Tim Davis, Trevor Dobie, Dean Jones, Tim Jones, and Alan & Sandra Rowland.

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

14th May – A wader day

It was yet another sunny, bone-dry day with a keen ESE wind that fell light towards the end of the afternoon.

Unusually for Lundy, which has limited suitable habitat, waders were very much to the fore throughout the day, with a Redshank calling in flight over the Ugly early in the morning and the same or another flying along the East Side, calling and singing as it went, mid-afternoon; two Greenshanks in flight over Middle Park; a minimum of 20 Dunlins (but possibly up to 30) sporting a wide range of plumages and scattered in small groups of up to nine, across much of the island (including the Airfield, Pondsbury, Middle Park and North End, as well as two flying low over the sea off the West Side); groups of three and five Ringed Plovers in Middle Park, the larger group accompanied by two Dotterels; a single Whimbrel in Brick/Tillage Field; and a Common Sandpiper at the Devil's Kitchen.

Dunlins feeding in Middle Park, 15 May © Tim Jones

A Hen Harrier headed north over Tillage Field (mobbed by two crows as it went); another French-ringed Sedge Warbler was controlled in Millcombe (adding to the others trapped in recent weeks); there were two Spotted Flycatchers in Millcombe, plus a further two along the Terrace; two Whinchats in Middle Park; and two female-type Black Redstarts amongst the rocks at North End. Also recorded were three Collared Doves, a single Turtle Dove (Millcombe) nine Swifts, 55 House Martins, 150 Swallows, low single-digit counts of Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Common Whitethroat and Blackcap, and two Grey Wagtails.

Turtle Dove, Millcombe pines, near Blue Bung, 15 May © Tim Jones

Compiled from observations by Tim Davis, Chris & Mandy Dee, Trevor Dobie, Merylyn Hedger, Dean Jones, Tim Jones, and Alan & Sandra Rowland.

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

13th May – Dotterel at North End

Another day of unbroken sunshine and wind from an easterly quarter, beginning SE but backing more to the E or NE during the day. Given the clear conditions, tail wind and a waxing moon, numbers of grounded migrants were low, with two Willow Warblers, 10 Chiffchaffs, two Sedge Warblers, three Blackcaps, five Common Whitethroats, a Garden Warbler, a scattering of Greenland Wheatears, and three Spotted Flycatchers the best on offer.

North End yielded a veritable cavalcade of waders by Lundy standards, including 4 Dunlins, 2 Ringed Plovers, a Whimbrel and a Dotterel (the only one of the spring thus far). A further two Dunlins were seen elsewhere.

Dunlin and Ringed Plover near the top of the Devil's Slide, NW Lundy, 13 May © Tim Davis

Record shot of Dotterel, North End, 13 May © Tim Davis

Visible migration was much less impressive than 24 hours previously, with counts of Swallow and House Martin down to 160 and 68 respectively, just a single Swift, and one Yellow Wagtail.

Also noted were the female Sparrowhawk, a Collared Dove, the male Kestrel, two family parties of fledged Ravens, a pair of Stonechats feeding young, 98 Linnets, and a Lesser Redpoll.

Compiled from sightings by Tim Davis, Chris & Mandy Dee, Dean Jones, Tim Jones, and Alan & Sandra Rowland.

Sunday, 12 May 2019

10th to 12th May – Biggest Swallow and House Martin passage of the spring

Friday 10th May

Records included two Cuckoos, five Swifts, 500 House Martins, four Willow Warblers, 10 Chiffchaffs, 13 Blackcaps, two Garden Warblers, three Whitethroats and three Spotted Flycatchers.

Saturday 11th May

A moderate north or north-westerly wind blew throughout the day, making it feel cold in spite of the largely sunny skies. The crossing from Ilfracombe was unusually quiet for the time of year, with not a single Manx Shearwater seen, though a Cory's Shearwater was reported close to the North Devon mainland duing the return crossing in the evening. Rob Duncan and David Kightley came to the end of their three-week ringing trip, closing it out in style with the trapping in Millcombe of Lundy's fifth Subalpine Warbler of the spring, this one a female Eastern. Also of note were: the long-staying female Sparrowhawk, a calling Cuckoo, seven Woodpigeons, six Swifts, a Sand Martin, 30 House Martins, a singing Willow Warbler in Millcombe, three Chiffchaffs, a Sedge Warbler (Milllcombe), two Blackcaps, a Goldcrest, a Spotted Flycatcher, a female Common Redstart (on the wall of South West Field near the stonecrusher), a male Stonechat (carrying food next to the Beach Road), and a single Siskin (Millcombe/St John's Valley).

Female Eastern Subalpine Warbler, Millcombe, 11 May © Dean Jones

Tail of female Eastern Subalpine Warbler, Millcombe, 11 May © Dean Jones

Sunday 12th May

After a cold start, with a stiff NE breeze, the sun shone strongly all day and the wind fell away completely by dusk. There were few grounded migrants, but the strongest hirundine passage of the spring got going by mid-morning and lasted until around 17.30. Dean & Philip Jones made timed spot counts of between 101 and 141 Swallows per minute passing north along the West Side from 10.00 to 14.00 hrs, whilst Tim Davis & Tim Jones counted a minimum of 516 birds over the plateau and along the West Side, mainly later in the afternoon. Consolidated counts suggest a conservative estimate of 4,000-5,000 Swallows for the day. Also notable were: two Teal, flyover Ringed Plover (one) and Dunlin (two), a Snipe at Quarter Wall Pond, 62 Puffins (on the water at Jenny's Cove at about 15.30), a male Kestrel, an immature male Merlin, a single Sand Martin, several hundred House Martins, a Willow Warbler, four Chiffchaffs, a Sedge Warbler (Quarter Wall Pond), three Blackcaps, two Whitethroats, a pair of Stonechats, and two Yellow Wagtail (male at Threequarter Wall and female at South End).

Friday, 10 May 2019

8th & 9th May – Variable conditions but super birding

Lundy Warden Dean Jones reports on two very different days weather- and bird-wise.

8th May

Strong winds and heavy showers dominated the majority of the day, which unfortunately led to a very bumpy crossing from Bideford to the island and consequently, a number of very green-faced visitors hiding in the Tavern post arrival of the ship. Conditions did improve by the early evening however, which allowed Rob and David to get some of the nets open for an hour or so in Millcombe. Despite the very poor weather there were still some good migrants out there for those brave enough to venture out in the storm.

Birds of note included: a Turtle Dove in Millcombe, a Cuckoo ‘singing’ from within the Landing Bay in the evening, 15 Swallow, 20 House Martin, 1 Swift, 5 Willow Warbler, 4 Chiffchaff, a Garden Warbler, 2 Blackcap, a Grasshopper Warbler and 4 Sedge Warbler.

Ringing totals: 12 Swallow, 1 Blackcap, 3 Willow Warbler, 1 Chiffchaff and 3 Sedge Warbler.

9th May – a super day's birding despite the strong westerly winds!

A beautiful, sunny yet windswept day, particularly for the first few hours of the morning. Despite the burly north-westerlies, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Meadow Pipit and Linnet have all been preparing nests today and some of the island-visiting migrants arrived in some impressive numbers, namely Spotted Flycatcher (80), Whitethroat (45) and Sedge Warbler (31).

Other birds of note included: a Whimbrel on the Upper East Side Path, a flyover Dunlin, a stunning Cuckoo in Millcombe Wood, 8 Woodpigeon, 50 Swallow, 54 House Martin, 7 Swift, a White Wagtail in Barton Field, a pair of Stonechat, a male Whinchat (see photo below) at Quarry Pond, 1 Grasshopper Warbler, 6 Blackcap, 11 Willow Warbler, 7 Chiffchaff, 15 Goldfinch and 54 Linnet.

Ringing totals: 15 Spotted Flycatcher, 3 Blackcap, 15 Whitethroat, 22 Sedge Warbler (including another French-ringed bird), 1 Grasshopper Warbler, 7 Willow Warbler, 2 Chiffchaff, 1 Goldfinch and 1 Linnet.

Male Whinchat, Quarry Pond, 9th May © Dean Jones

Report composed of sightings by Zoë Barton, Rob Duncan, Dean Jones, David Kightley and Sue Waterfield.

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

7th May – A good day's ringing

Rob Duncan and David Kightley report a busy day's ringing, with a total of 62 birds newly ringed, including a Wood Warbler, a northern 'acredula'-type Willow Warbler and three Spotted Flycatchers. In addition, they controlled three Sedge Warblers – two French-ringed birds and one British-ringed. Away from Millcombe and St John's Valley they encountered a male Whinchat near the stonecrusher, Whitethroats at Stoneycroft and the Rocket Pole area, plenty of Swallow and House Martin movement and two Swifts.

Wood Warbler, Millcombe, 7 May © Rob Duncan

Ringing totals: 15 Willow Warbler, 9 Chiffchaff, 1 Wood Warbler, 6 Blackcap, 15 Sedge Warbler, 10 Whitethroat, 3 Spotted Flycatcher, 3 Goldfinch.

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Details of recent ringing controls

Tony Taylor has provided the following details, just received from the BTO, for three recent 'controls' – captures on Lundy of birds that had been ringed elsewhere, including two birds that were originally ringed on the same day in August last year, at two different sites in Pembrokeshire. All three were controlled on Lundy by Rob Duncan and David Kightley within the last 10 days.

Willow Warbler ring number KYN356 – ringed as a first-year bird on Skokholm, Pembrokeshire, 30 August 2018. Controlled on Lundy, 29 April 2019 (time since ringing 242 days; distance between place of ringing and Lundy 74 km; direction SE, bearing 145°).

Lesser Whitethroat ring number AAC9100 – ringed as a first-year bird at Kilpaison Marsh, Rhoscrowther, Pembrokeshire, 30 August 2018. Controlled on Lundy, 23 April 2019 (time since ringing 236 days; distance between place of ringing and Lundy 62 km; bearing SSE, 155°).

Sedge Warbler ring number Paris 7447202 – ringed as an adult female at Le Bonhomme, St-Philbert-de-Grand-Lieu, Loire-Atlantique, France, 5 August 2015. Controlled on Lundy, 30 April 2019 (time since ringing 1,364 days; distance between place of ringing and Lundy 505 km; NNW, 335°).

Note that the entry below for 2nd May has been updated to include a sound recording of the Continental Coal Tit singing.

Monday, 6 May 2019

6th May – Influx of warblers, including yet another Eastern Subalpine Warbler

The flags on top of the Church and on the Ugly hung limp for much of the morning, with a very light NE veering all the way round to NW and strengthening slightly in the afternoon, whilst hazy sunshine took the edge off the continuing underlying cold, making it feel postively warm at times.

There was a noticeable influx of warblers, with singing Grasshopper and Garden Warblers in Millcombe at first light and numbers of Sedge Warblers and Whitethroats also up. As well as in Millcombe, Grasshopper and Sedge Warblers were seen at Stoneycroft, and Quarters hosted a Sedge Warbler.

A Cuckoo flew north near Quarters soon after dawn, whilst other migrants included a Dunlin, two Golden Plovers, a male and female Common Redstart, a female Black Redstart, more than a dozen Swifts and at least three Spotted Flycatchers. The Turtle Dove of the last few days was still present in Millcombe and around the farmyard, but there was no sign of the Continental Coal Tit, which seems to have left the island during the day yesterday, 5th May.

The biggest surprise of the day was another male Eastern Subalpine Warbler (Lundy's fourth Subalpine Warbler and third Eastern since 22nd April) found feeding among Sycamore flowers near Brambles, mid-afternoon. It flew across the valley towards the slopes of the Ugly and later turned up in a mist-net – see photos below. It was aged as a second calendar-year bird and though the tail is heavily worn, white extending along the shaft is discernible on the second outermost tail feather on the right-hand side (though see the cautionary note about reliance on this feature alone in this month's British Birds magazine). Other features are also consistent with Eastern Subalpine Warbler of the race albistriata. The wing-length of this individual was 65mm.

Male Eastern Subalpine Warbler, Millcombe, 6th May © Rob Duncan

Male Eastern Subalpine Warbler, Millcombe, 6th May © Rob Duncan

Ringing totals: 43 birds, of which, Willow Warbler 5, Chiffchaff 6, Sedge Warbler 10, Grasshopper Warbler 1, Blackcap 5,  Garden Warbler 1, Lesser Whitethroat 1, Whitethroat 4, Eastern Subalpine Warbler 1, Meadow Pipit 1, Linnet 2, Goldfinch 2.

Compiled from observations by Sam Bosanquet, Tim Davis, Rob Duncan, Dean Jones, Tim Jones and David Kightley.

Sunday, 5 May 2019

5th May – Swifts increase, Hooded Crow and Western Subalpine Warbler

Much lighter winds – though still from a chilly direction backing from NE to NW during the day – and long spells of unbroken sunshine meant that today was somewhat more springlike for birds and birders alike.

Starlings were once again prospecting for nest sites around the Village, farm and Old Light, having joined together in a single large flock for much of the last week; there was a modest overnight influx of warblers; and the island recorded by far its highest Swift count of the year so far, with at least 15 passing north.

Other migrant totals included: 9 Sand Martin, 150 Swallow, 100 House Martin, 30 Willow Warbler, 9 Sedge Warbler, 7 Whitethroat, 30 Blackcap, a Garden Warbler and a Spotted Flycatcher. The single Turtle Dove and Collared Dove continued to feed together near the Lambing Shed, whilst the Continental Coal Tit was still singing in Millcombe during the morning, but observed flying high to the East several times, making a curious shrill call, and was not seen or heard later in the day; has it left the island?

A Hooded Crow flew NW with six Carrion Crows early in the morning, and a likely hybrid hirundine, showing some characteristics of Red-rumped Swallow, was seen around the head of Millcombe and the Village during the afternoon. Most surprising of all, the male Western Subalpine Warbler ringed in Millcombe on 1st May reappeared in Millcombe during the late afternoon.

The female Sparrowhawk was soaring off the East Side, where a male Kestrel and single Merlin were also seen, and a Cormorant flew south.

Ringing totals: 40 birds ringed, of which, Woodpigeon 1, Willow Warbler 10, Chiffchaff 4, Sedge Warbler 6, Blackcap 14, Garden Warbler 1, Whitethroat 3, Wren 1, Blackbird 1.

In spite of the chilly breeze, the sunshine seemed to trigger an emergence of male Emperor Moths, with at least 28 over the heathland between Quarter and Halfway Walls. In Middle Park, a sample transect recorded more than 1,200 plants of Small Adder's-tongue Fern Ophioglossum azoricum.

Compiled from observations by Zoë Barton, Sam Bosanquet, Tim Davis, Rob Duncan, Dean Jones, Tim Jones and David Kightley.

4th May – Winter makes a late comeback

A strong, bitingly cold NE wind, leaden skies and a squally early-morning shower made it feel decidedly more like mid-winter than late spring for a time. The underlying temperature remained unseasonably low all day, but the cloud gave way to blue skies and almost unbroken sunshine from late-morning onwards, and it felt pleasantly warm in any shelter, notably on the west sidelands. Given the Arctic origins of the air, migration had slowed to little more than a trickle of hirundines (100 Swallows, 15 House Martins and 2 Sand Martins logged), and single-digit counts of warblers, including Willow Warbler (4), Chiffchaff (2), Blackcap (4) and Whitethroat (1). The Continental Coal Tit continued to sing in Millcombe, the Turtle Dove was still around the Village and upper Millcombe and a Tree Pipit in Millcombe was also thought to be an individual lingering from previous days. A Spotted Flycatcher was feeding well in shelter on the northern side of upper Millcombe. Other sightings included 1 Whimbrel, 5 Pied Wagtails and a Lesser Redpoll. There was no ringing due to the direction and strength of the wind, which made the mist-net sites in lower Millcombe and St John's Valley unuseable. On the non-avian front, there were 13 Green-veined Whites (flying in sheltered sunny corners here and there), 2 Red Admirals, a male Emperor Moth and a Green Tiger-beetle.

Turtle Dove, farmyard, May 2019 © Richard Campey

Compiled from observations by Richard Campey, Tim Davis, Rob Duncan, Dean Jones, Tim Jones and David Kightley.

Friday, 3 May 2019

3rd May – Yellow Wagtail & Jackdaw in a chilly northerly

Today saw a chilly NW wind veering more northerly by the end of the afternoon, with largely overcast skies, but some welcome sunny spells later on. Hirundine passage was again a feature, with another early peak in Swallow movements, in particular, during the first two or three hours of daylight. Logged estimates were 500 Swallows and 200 House Martins, plus five Sand Martins. There were only small numbers of warblers in evidence, with 20 Willow Warblers (including several very 'washed out', grey, acredula-type birds of presumed north-eastern origin), 12 Chiffchaffs, 5 Blackcaps, and single Whitethroat, Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler and Grasshopper Warbler.

On top of the island, the Turtle Dove and Collared Dove were still around the farmyard and Bull's Paradise, whilst a calling Jackdaw flew over South West Field in the late afternoon. A female Yellow Wagtail spent much of the day in Brick Field, associating with the Highland Cattle and showing brilliantly well in the clear late afternoon sunshine.

Female Yellow Wagtail, Brick Field, 3 May © Richard Campey

Female Yellow Wagtail, Brick Field, 3 May © Richard Campey

A real highlight was confirmation of the return of a colour-ringed Wheatear to its breeding territory on the sidelands just south of Quarter Wall Copse, for its eighth successive year, having originally been ringed as a a second calendar-year bird in 2012!

Other sightings included 6 Teal, 10 Mallards (with a total of 30 ducklings in three broods in Lighthouse Field, Millcombe and Pondsbury), mating Great Black-backed Gulls (Shutter Point), 2 Collared Doves, 9 Woodpigeons, 2 Kestrels, a male Stonechat (at Pondsbury), and mating Chaffinches in Millcombe.

Male Stonechat, Pondsbury, 3 May © Richard Campey

Ringing totals: 24 birds ringed including Willow Warbler 7, Chiffchaff 4, Sedge Warbler 1, Reed Warbler 1, Blackcap 1, Wren 1, Robin 1, Goldfinch 8.

Compiled from observations by Richard Campey, Tim Davis, Rob Duncan, Dean Jones, Tim Jones and David Kightley.