The day started bright but with a stiff and distinctly chilly WNW wind, which gradually eased during the day, when broken cloud gave long sunny intervals and pin-sharp light in the afternoon.
Post-dawn migration was much quieter than Tuesday 15th, with 75 minutes on Castle Hill from 07.30 hrs yielding <100 Meadow Pipit, a dozen Linnet and a handful each of Redwing and Chaffinch. Three House Sparrow appeared to be leaving the island quite high to the SE, though we couldn't rule out the possibility that they turned back at some point.
From mid-morning onwards, the East Side afforded shelter for passage hirundines, including 200 Swallow, 15 House Martin and a single late Sand Martin. Small flocks of Siskin flying south (totalling some 90 birds) were also a feature, alongside a steady trickle of Skylark (30) and Meadow Pipit (400 logged, including foraging/resting flocks on top of the island).
Numbers of grounded migrants were well down on 15th, though two Ring Ouzel remained (singles in Millcombe and along the Terrace), together with a scattering of Redwing (25), Song Thrush (12), Blackcap (6), Chiffchaff (9) and Goldcrest (12). Notable sightings included two Teal (Pondsbury), two Merlin in the northern half of the island, a Willow Warbler, a Firecrest, the Treecreeper, the juvenile Rose-coloured Starling (feeding in the chicken run again), six Reed Bunting and a lone Snow Bunting calling in flight over Tibbetts.
The calmer seas and clear light afforded excellent conditions later in the day for watching seabirds feeding and moving off the East Side, with consolidated totals comprising: three Common Scoter, three Manx Shearwater, 54 Gannet, 15 Shag, 140 Kittiwake, two Mediterranean Gull, an adult Black-headed Gull, an adult and 1st-w Common Gull, a Bonxie, a pale-phase Arctic Skua and 200 auk sp.
|Treecreeper, Millcombe, 16 Oct 2019 © Dean Jones|
Thursday 17th October
A strong and gusty southerly wind put paid to any thoughts of standing on Castle Hill to monitor visible migration. Although there were small numbers of Swallow, Meadow Pipit, Chaffinch and Siskin on the move, they were wisely keeping low down in the lee of the East Side as they battled into the headwind. Conditions remained pretty blowy all day, but the wind gradually veered to the SW, and heavy showers developed in the afternoon.
The highlight of the day was the discovery of a first-winter Barred Warbler feeding (together with a small group of Blackcaps) on blackberries, initially just south of the Terrace and later on a bramble clump in the middle of the Terrace Heligoland Trap willow thicket. Whilst enjoying the Barred Warbler, observers were also treated to sightings offshore of a Manx Shearwater, at least four Mediterranean Gulls (still a scarce, if increasingly regular, species for the island), a Bonxie and a juvenile Pomarine Skua, alongside feeding Gannets, Kittiwakes and auks.
Other notable records included a single Cormorant, a Stock Dove (in flight off the Ugly), two Merlin, a male Kestrel, a Common Redstart (Terrace/quarries), Ring Ouzel (Terrace), the Treecreeper, the juv Rose-coloured Starling, the third Lapland Bunting of the autumn (calling as it flew S past Old House South and the Church) and a Snow Bunting over the Terrace.
|First-winter Barred Warbler, Terrace Trap thicket, 17 Oct 2019 © Dean Jones|
Friday 18th October
A really wild day of weather, with the southwesterlies that were already pretty boisterous at dawn getting stronger and gustier during the day and blowing in a rash of showers, some of which were of almost tropical intensity, bringing a mix of huge raindrops, hailstones and the odd rumble of thunder.
The West Side and plateau were completely blown out, meaning that observations were restricted to the East Side, with the sea getting the most attention as observers crammed into the small shelter on the Ugly. An early expedition to the Terrace to try and relocate the Barred Warbler ended in cold and soggy failure, though there were sufficient sunny intervals to tempt the bird out, had it still been present.
Seawatching yielded five Manx Shearwater, an adult & 2nd-w Mediterranean Gull, a 1st-w Common Gull, 3 Bonxies, and a pale-phase Arctic Skua, among the commoner species. Tim Davis found a Short-eared Owl that briefly flew out over the Landing Bay and dropped back into cover below the Beach Road, whilst a Brambling was seen near Blue Bung.
Sighting of the day – and potentially one of the sightings of the year – came late in the afternoon when Martin Elcoate photographed a very pale, sandy wheatear with a prominently contrasting black alula, which appears to be a strong candidate for Lundy's (and indeed Devon's) first Isabelline Wheatear. What was almost certainly the same bird whipped past Martin, James Diamond, Dean Jones and Tim Jones standing on the Ugly at just after 14.00 hrs (almost taking Martin's head off in the process!), and was very briefly seen again in flight on the other side of the valley near Hanmers a few minutes later, by Dean and Tim. However, it was not until after 16.30 hrs that Martin encountered it on the Beach Road just below the Goat Path, when he was able to snatch a few photos, including the one below. The bird flew up the sidelands and appeared to land somewhere below Hanmers, but in failing light and deteriorating weather conditions could not be relocated by Martin, Tim or James (who had quickly responded to a text message from Martin).
|Candidate Isabelline Wheatear, Beach Road, 18 Oct © Martin Elcoate|
Saturday 19th October
A complete change of weather brought a dry day of light WNW winds and blue skies, enabling birds and birders alike to bask in long sunny spells, making it feel positively summery in the shelter of the East Side.
Although there was no immediate pulse of visible migration after dawn, things got going a bit more as the morning wore on, with combined totals of 50 Swallow, 4 House Martin, 25 Skylark, two Grey Wagtail, five alba wagtail, 120 Meadow Pipit, 25 Chaffinch, a Brambling, 30 Goldfinch, 30 Siskin and 40 Linnet, as well as a passing flock of 8 Cormorant, by early afternoon. It was also quickly evident that there had been a significant overnight arrival of grounded migrants, notably Goldcrests, which were all over the place as they filtered south, 150 being a very conservative estimate. Also to be seen were 15 Blackcap, 8 Chiffchaff, 150 Redwing and 40 Robin, whilst a high count of 16 Dunnock also suggested a small influx. Other notable records included a single Yellow-browed Warbler in Millcombe (giving prolonged, close-range views at times) plus a second bird calling in bracken below the Timekeeper's Hut, a Willow Warbler in bracken along the Lower East Side Path, five Ring Ouzel (one in Millcombe and four around the Terrace/quarries), a Fieldfare in Barton Field, the Treecreeper in Millcombe, the Rose-coloured Starling (still feeding in the chicken run), a Reed Bunting and a Snow Bunting. The undoubted highlight was a Quail, only the third on Lundy in the last decade and the first autumn record since 1989, flushed from the Lower East Side Path above White Beach during the late morning.
|Yellow-browed Warbler, Millcombe, 19 Oct 2019 © Martin Elcoate|
|Common and Rose-coloured Starlings, chicken run, 19 Oct 2019 © Martin Elcoate|
Compiled from sightings by Tim Davis, James Diamond, Martin Elcoate, Andy Jayne, Dean Jones, Tim Jones, David Oddy, and Mark & Julia Webber.