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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.
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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.

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

22nd to 30th Jun – Breeding Kittiwakes continue to decline but better news for auks & landbirds

The end of lockdown is nigh! It has been all hands to the pump this week to get the island ready for its grand re-opening on the 4th of July. All the island staff have now come off furlough and have been busily cleaning properties, strimming paths and working through documentation and equipment to keep everyone safe during their visits to the island. Despite the lengthy 'to do' list, daily monitoring and recording has continued as usual, as summarised below by Lundy Warden Dean Jones.

There's a bench in there somewhere! Lots of strimming of paths & seating areas to be done
in Millcombe in time for reopening on Saturday 4th July... © Dean Jones

Weather-wise, this week has been a tale of two halves. To begin with, the island was graced with some glorious summer weather, complete with high temperatures (up to 25°C at times) and a light easterly breeze for most. Come Saturday 27th, however, the winds picked up to a strong SW gale (it’s been gusting at speeds of 43mph pretty much since last Friday afternoon), bringing with it periods of heavy rain and light squalls – conditions which mostly lingered until the evening of the 29th.

Despite the wind and rain, the seabirds are still ticking along with their busy breeding season; in fact some species like our Guillemots are actually nearing the end of their time on the island. On the St Mark’s Stone productivity plot, most of the brave Guillemot chicks have now made the jump, leaving all but a few breeding pairs with young chicks or late/unfertile eggs. The same goes for the Razorbills, with most of the obvious pairs in Jenny’s Cove and Aztec Bay now escorting young birds on the high seas rather than on or near the island.

Guillemot chicks getting ready to jump from the breeding ledges on St Mark's Stone, 23 Jun © Dean Jones

Kittiwakes too are still keeping busy with nearly all of the 105 nests in the productivity plots now containing young chicks. On 24th, the wardening team managed to get around the island on the Warden's RHIB to take photographs and count Kittiwake nests along the west coast. Despite there being a bit of swell, the team managed to count and photograph all the colonies between Jenny’s Cove and Threequarter Wall. Results show that there have been reductions in the number of nests in each of the colonies this year – 308 apparently occupied nests in total were counted, 41 fewer nests than in 2019. The greatest reductions have actually been from within the productivity plots (the Jenny’s Cove colonies were only down one nest ), particularly at Threequarter Wall Buttress where there are only 18 active nests at present, 11 down on the 2019 totals and a staggering 94-nest reduction over the last ten years. It’s obviously been a tough year for these birds with already an overall drop in the number of breeding pairs at the start of the year, followed by quite a few lost nests during the breeding season, due mainly to three prolonged periods of strong westerly winds.

Lundy all at sea! Team Kittiwake's view from the Warden's RHIB, looking north off Threequarter Wall buttress,
24 Jun © Dean Jones

Some of the Kittiwake chicks are growing up fast! Aztec Bay, 23 Jun © Dean Jones

On a more upbeat note, to cheer ourselves up from a rather worrying Kittiwake survey and to relieve ourselves from the effects of the baking sun, the members of Team Kittiwake treated themselves to a short snorkel session along the east coast to cool down. As soon as we got in the water we were joined by six very inquisitive Puffins that swam directly over to us to check out our weird-looking head-gear and colourful flippers. The birds then spent a few minutes diving and swimming around us underwater less than a metre away – incredible stuff! What a huge and unexpected privilege it is was to get this sneaky peak into the underwater lives of these incredible seabirds.

Seeing Puffins close up underwater was definitely
a highlight of the week, 24 Jun © Dean Jones

Other breeding bird news includes a pair of Spotted Flycatchers currently incubating four eggs in an old Swallow nest in Millcombe. ‘Spot Flys’ are a rather scarce breeder on Lundy, with only one confirmed record of breeding since 1997 – a pair that were seen feeding recently fledged young in Quarter Wall Copse in 2017. Although there have been several potentially territorial pairs recorded during the summer months since then, none was confirmed as having bred, so this year's nest is a very welcome find. All being well, in three or four weeks, we will be seeing some healthy young birds feeding-up for their maiden journey to coastal West Africa.

One half of the Spotted Flycatcher pair nesting in Millcombe, 28 Jun © Dean Jones

This period also saw the first Blackcap fledglings of the year, on 24th, when three recently fledged birds were heard and seen calling to their parents for grub in upper Millcombe. This species has only recently gained breeding status here on Lundy; in fact these young birds will make up the fourth known record of successful breeding on the island – the first of which was as recently as 2016.

Blackcap fledgling in Millcombe, 24 Jun © Dean Jones

The east coast Whitethroats have also successfully fledged young chicks, all of which have now disappeared into the bracken-rich slopes of the East Side. The annual post-breeding flocks of young Linnets have started to form too, further up the island, with up to 17 juveniles present at Halfway Wall on a number of dates. Additionally there have been lots of other birds cracking on with their second broods, including Pied Wagtails – one pair of which has made a cosy wee nest in one of the compost bins on the island  – Dunnocks and Blackbirds to name but a few, as well as Starlings, which should see their second broods fledge shortly. The Church porch Swallow nest is now full to bursting with four young chicks huddled together, all of which should take to the wing in the next day or two.

Juvenile Chaffinch snoozing in the warm sunshine at the start of the week, Paradise Row, 23 Jun © Dean Jones

Unsurprisingly, being late June, migrants have been thin on the ground. We did however have a few good days of Swift passage during the fair weather, with a peak count of 62 birds on the 24th. Other migrants of note included up to two Collared Doves on a number of dates and the male Willow Warbler still singing his wee heart out on a daily basis in Millcombe.

With the warm and settled weather at the start of the week, the island saw some decent numbers and variety of Lepidoptera too. This included the first Ringlet butterfly and Five-spot Burnet moth of the year on the 24th, up to two Hummingbird Hawk-moths on three dates, as well as small numbers of Grayling, Small Tortoiseshell, Painted Lady, Common Blue, Large White and Red Admiral butterflies. Meadow Brown numbers are also growing, with a peak of 123 in Millcombe and along the east coast on the 24th.

We also had a productive few nights' moth trapping before the foul weather hit, a total of 403 moths of 80 species being caught over three nights between the 22nd and 26th. Highlights included three new species for the island! A Cream Wave and the micro-moths Eucosma campoliliana and Anarsia spartiella, as well as the first Small Magpie, Small Blood-vein, Brussels Lace, Common Emerald and Swallow-tailed Moth of the year.

Eucosma campoliliana – a new micro-moth for Lundy, 23 Jun © Dean Jones
Anarsia spartiella was also new for the island! 23 Jun © Dean Jones

In addition, the traps also contained a small numbers of migrant species, such as Dark Sword-grass, Silver Y and L-album Wainscot most nights, as well as nationally rare/scarce moths, among them  Devonshire Wainscot, Barrett’s Marbled Coronet and the micro-moth Nothris congressariella.

Other wildlife sightings of note included singles of Emperor Dragonfly at Quarter Wall Pond and a pod of 12 Common Dolphins feeding close in to St Mark’s Stone on the 26th.

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