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.

Monday, 21 September 2020

20th Sep –Hard going in strong easterlies again

 Richard Campey writes that:

 "Winds started building again overnight, easterly force 6/7. Hazy sunshine, probably coolest day yet but not really a cold wind. Decided on South End to Old Light, then on up to North End. Twice in two days? Madness! It was a fairly birdless walk; not a single hirundine. South End to Quarter Wall I totalled 170 Linnets and four Wheatears. From there to North End, just two additional Wheatears. Off the point, 20 Gannets, three Fulmars, two Shags, five Herring Gulls and male and female Peregrines hunting. Eight Pied Wagtails overhead. Return journey not much more exciting. Another Wheatear and very vocal Peregrines round Tibbetts. Pondsbury birdless and again no hirundines. The 'bother boys' in the form of six Ravens were at High Street Gate. Returned to Vestry 11.45 and two Swallows still feeding young in Church porch.

Spent most of afternoon in and around Millcombe. A lot of effort for very little success. Still a stiff easterly, so everything hiding or blown past at high speed. Later in the afternoon, following a rest in a deckchair round the west side of the Church, it was Millcombe Tops again. Still just too windy for most of the warblers, which were just blurs diving into bushes. Saw a Pied Flycatcher while one was being watched in Millcombe gardens, so that's two. Plus a few Blackcaps, some Goldcrests and three Firecrests above the Casbah. Dean had five! Late afternoon (6pm) walk round South End produced two Wheatears and a Kestrel.

Felt like really hard work today but ending with three Firecrests looking so sharp whizzing about round the Casbah was great. Hoping they stay tomorrow and if the winds die down that I'll get some closer views and that anything else that's been hiding pops out for a feed. The commonest sightings today have been hovering Kestrels, plunging Peregrines and swooping Sparrowhawks."

In addition to those mentioned above, Richard's sightings included 40 Swallow, 3 House Martin, 4 Willow Warbler, 5 Chiffchaff, 4 Blackcap, 1 Whitethroat, 6 Pied Wagtail & 12 Goldfinch.

Saturday, 19 September 2020

19th Sep – First Yellow-browed Warbler & Brambling of the autumn

The latest message-in-a-bottle from Richard Campey begins with a question...

"Had the wind dropped overnight? Yes, by about 2mph! Now due east, Force 6/7. Started off walking South End up to Old Light: very little about. At Old Light, Starling flock of 87 birds, with two Swallows flying around them. Presumably the Starling mob were disturbing insects, as when the Starlings moved, the Swallows stayed with them. Also seen in this area: Peregrine (one male), Sparrowhawk (one female), half-a-dozen more Swallows and a Wheatear.

Then on to Pondsbury. A Grey Heron flew off towards the East Side, heading south. Also a lone Stonechat. Took main track back and encountered a raptor fest, with a Merlin trying to dig a Meadow Pipit out of the bush by Quarter Wall Gate, two Peregrines hunting, two Sparrowhawks and two, possibly three, Kestrels. Four Ravens on High Street Gate, two Linnet flocks on Airfield plus some feeding in the tracks, totalling 90 birds. Surely they will drag in an Ortolan or maybe that elusive Snow Bunting from Thursday (17th)?!

After breakfast, did Lower East Side Path to Terrace; fairly devoid of birds. Then Tibbetts to North End. Nothing much apart from a steady stream of Swallows. Very difficult to estimate numbers but 50 every 20 minutes, roughly. Return via Pondsbury, which had about 100 Swallows flying around and approximately 20 House Martins.

4.30pm and the wind had dropped a fair bit but more importantly it had gone north with a bit of sunshine peeping through. I felt Millcombe would be the place. Walked through the Bue Door and it was promisingly calm. More to the point, there were three Willow Warblers in the tree next to the gate! Feeling a sense of excitement, I entered the valley. In brambles near the tree plantation were Blackcaps, a Whitethroat and a Garden Warbler. About 50 Swallows overhead. Looking across to the Casbah there were Goldcrests and Phylloscopus warblers. And then... a fast-moving small warbler falling through the trees. It fed briefly on a branch towards the edge of the Sycamores and I was watching a Yellow-browed Warbler. Not for long though, as I lost it from view. Saw Sam Bosanquet across the valley, who shouted "Firecrest in pines". I retorted with the Yellow-browed! Searched for another 20 minutes but couldn't relocate it. Did see the Firecrest though. Also in Millcombe two Pied Flycatchers, another three Willow Warblers and a total of 11 Blackcaps.

Finished off by the Rocket Pole and had a Brambling fly-over calling."

Additional species and combined totals from Richard, Chris Baillie and Sam Bosanquet included: Mallard 10, Shag 11, Gannet 5, Dunlin 2, Snipe 4, Woodpigeon 7, Swallow 500, Sand Martin 2, House Martin 30, Skylark 20, Willow Warbler 8, Chiffchaff 8, Goldcrest 8, Robin 6, Redstart 1, Stonechat 6, Starling 200, Meadow Pipit 50, Pied/White Wagtail 8, a Lapland Bunting (found at North End by Sam), Linnet 150 and Goldfinch 30. In addition, Sam found the wing of a Mediterranean Gull.

Friday, 18 September 2020

18th Sep – Challenging birding in near gale-force easterlies

 Richard Campey writes that:

 "The wind steadily picked up overnight and morning broke to a north-easterly Force 6 gusting 7, a bit of cloud cover but eventually sunny. Started the day with two Peregrines – one a very light brown youngster with an indistinct face pattern. Round South End and a new migrant for my trip was a very unapproachable Whinchat. Steady passage of Swallows and one House Martin. Nothing much else of note. Rock Pipit chasing off Pied Wagtail at Rocket Pole and three high-up Yellow Wagtails heading towards Village from Lighthouse Field. Other sightings included 25 Linnets and a couple of Goldfinches."

Combined totals for the day from Richard and Chris Baillie as follows: Mallard 8, Fulmar 1, Gannet 15, Mediterranean Gull (one – an adult heading south past the Landing Bay, seen by Dean Jones), Great Black-backed Gull 8, Lesser Black-backed Gull 2, Herring Gull 7, auk sp. 11, Dunlin 1, Woodpigeon 1, Feral Pigeon 1, a female Merlin (seen by Chris), Peregrine 3, Kestrel 2, Sparrowhawk 2, Raven 7, Swallow 300, House Martin 21, Meadow Pipit 113, Rock Pipit 1, Skylark 10, Willow Warbler 1, Chiffchaff 2, Blackcap 2, Pied Flycatcher 1, Stonechat 3, Whinchat 1, Wheatear 3, Pied/White Wagtail 21 (five definite Whites), Yellow Wagtail (4), Starling 83, Linnet 99, Chaffinch 1, Goldfinch 24. Also 3 Harbour Porpoise and a Common Dolphin.

Thursday, 17 September 2020

17th Sep – An excellent variety of migrants on a sunny but windy day

Thursday 17th saw the persistent mist of the preceding two days replaced by sunny skies and a stiff easterly wind (gusting to Force 7, so more than enough to prevent the Oldenburg from sailing). In spite of a quiet early morning for birds in Millcombe (where a single Blackcap, four Woodpigeons and a few Robins were the highlights), Richard Campey recorded an excellent variety of migrants during the day. These included a Spotted Redshank (presumably the same individual heard late on Wednesday afternoon) calling over the Airfield, together with a Golden Plover and a Dunlin. He also found a Dartford Warbler in gorse scrub near the Rocket Pole at around 09.15 hrs and saw and heard a Snow Bunting calling in flight nearby – the island's first of the autumn. The bunting theme continued with two Lapland Buntings at Quarter Wall, flying south together towards the Village, giving their characteristic dry rattling call followed by a clear "tew".

During the afternoon, Richard revisited the scrub near the Rocket Pole. There was no sign of the Dartford Warbler but he did find a Pied Flycatcher. Heading north, he flushed a Jack Snipe on Ackland's Moor, found two Common Snipe at Pondsbury and heard the Spotted Redshank again, calling somewhere in the distance.

A late afternoon return to Millcombe was rather more productive than the morning visit, with sightings including three Sparrowhawks, a Kestrel, two Pied Flycatcher, a Spotted Flycatcher, four Goldcrest and a Willow Warbler

Other sightings during the day included 11 Skylark, 75 Swallow, a Sand Martin, 6 Wheatear and 55 Linnet.

16th Sep – First Spotted Redshank for a decade

Richard Campey reports that the morning of Wednesday 16th saw the island enveloped in thick mist, which cleared only slowly during the afternoon. His records during the day included:

9 Mallard, 4 Gannet, 4 Sparrowhawk (3 females & a male), 1 Golden Plover, 1 Dunlin, 2 Great Black-backed Gull, 1 Lesser Blac-backed Gull, 1 Sandwich Tern, 8 Skylark, 30 Swallow, 1 Sand Martin, 13 Chiffchaff, 5 Willow Warbler, 4 Blackcap, 4 Stonechat, 2 Pied Wagtail and 300 Meadow Pipit.

In addition, Dean Jones heard a Spotted Redshank – a rare species on Lundy – calling four times in flight high over the island at around 17.00 hrs. This is the first record since August 2010!

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

15th Sep – Goshawk in the Mist

Richard Campey arrived on the island on Tuesday 15th and reported light winds and clear visibility until increasingly thick mist rolled in during the afternoon. He spent several hours scouring the Terrace for the Sora – last seen on the afternoon of 13th – but unfortunately with no success. En route to the rail hunt, he encountered 70 Swallows heading south, along with seven Sand Martins and a House Martin. Single Sandwich Tern and Redshank – both good Lundy birds – were calling off the Terrace, the Redshank eventualy being glimpsed on Quarry Beach in gaps between the banks of swirling mist. Other species in the vicinity of the Terrace included 80 Linnets, a male Blackcap, three Willow Warblers and a Chiffchaff, plus a Golden Plover calling overhead. An unexpected highlight was a male Goshawk that flew in off the sea and perched briefly in VC Quarry. Richard comments: "Utterly fierce-looking with dark cap and ear-coverts and prominent white eyestripe adding to the malevolent appearance!" This is only the eighth Lundy record, the last being in May 2013.

Returning to the Village as the visibility deteriorated further, Richard added a female Sparrowhawk and three Wheatears to the list.

Dean Jones recorded a Turnstone over the Village, a flyover Snipe, seven Grey Wagtails, a lone Siskin and also noted the small push of hirundines before the mist arrived, counting 30 Swallows and two House Martins in two minutes from Tibbetts Hill.

Sunday, 13 September 2020

4th to 12th Sep – A 'first' for Lundy, scarce warblers, impressive Swallow & Blackcap migration

UPDATED 15 Sep – see text in blue below.

It has certainly been another changeable period (though not quite as unsettled as of late), with rain on 4th, bright and breezy conditions on 5th, a cool showery morning giving way to sunshine on 6th, cloud and patchy light rain followed by sunshine on 7th, low cloud and drizzly clag enveloping the island for much of 8th and the morning of 9th, a glorious day on 10th, back to clool, cloudy and breezy on 11th, then warm and sunny again on 12th!

"Red sky in the morning" – dawn over St John's Valley foretold of rain to come, 7 Sep © Tim Jones

St Helen's Copse looming out of the claggy low cloud on 8 Sep © Tim Davis  

MS Oldenburg arriving in glorious sunshine, 12 Sep © Tim Jones

Autumn migration is now in full swing – something that was firmly underlined on 10th, a day of clear skies and light winds, which provided an all-too-brief window of opportunity for birds delayed by the unsettled weather of previous days to pour south. Millcombe was alive with Blackcaps, smaller numbers being seen elsewhere. A conservative estimate of 150 was logged, including a notable 55 ringed. Also on the move in impressive numbers were Swallows – over 2,100 being counted in the space of an hour from 10.00 to 11.00 as they swept past Castle Hill, Benjamin's Chair and South West Point and on out to sea, making for the mainland of Devon and Cornwall. With them were some 60 Sand Martins and a dozen or so House Martins.
Other common migrants seen daily, or almost daily, during the period included Willow Warbler (max 35 on 10th), Chiffchaff (15 on 10th), Whitethroat (10 on 10th), Goldcrest, (12 on 8th), Wheatear (60 on 12th, including several that were almost certainly of the strikingly large and bright Greenland race), Pied Fycatcher (five on 5th), Spotted Flycatcher (eight on 11th), both Pied and White Wagtails (63 on 7th, mostly unraced 'flyovers'), and increasing numbers of Meadow Pipits (350 on 11th). Flocks of Siskins were also seen regularly, most passing through quickly, unusually early in the autumn for a species more typical of mid-October.

Juvenile Willow Warbler, Millcombe, 10 Sep © Shaun Robson

A Spotted Flyctacher makes a meal of a Red Admiral, Millcombe, 10 Sep © Shaun Robson

A Pied Flycatcher is examined by ringer Rosie Hall, Millcombe, 7 Sep © Tim Jones

There was also a welcome scattering of other species on the move, including single Hobby (over Lighthouse Field on 10th), Redstart (near Brambles on 7th), Reed Warbler (Pondsbury on 10th) and Wood Warbler (tumbling through sycamores above the Casbah on 7th), an influx of eight Sedge Warblers on 10th, a few Grey Wagtails and Yellow Wagtails and up to eight Tree Pipits (this high count, diurnally on 10th, coinciding with the biggest hirundine movement of the period). Waders were well represented, including ones and twos of Golden Plover, Ringed Plover, Greenshank and Dunlin, plus 16 Snipe (including a flock of 14 migrants high over the Terrace) on 11th. Two Grey Herons were seen regularly and large numbers of juvenile Shags continued to exploit the rich fishing of the island's inshore waters – a total of 101 being logged on 9th. A Pomarine Skua was seen from MS Oldenburg a few minutes out from the Landing Bay on 5th, whilst three Arctic Skuas (one pale morph, one dark morph and one intermediate!) were harrassing Kittiwakes off the East Side on 7th.

A Greenshank was an unusual visitor to Pondsbury on 6 Sep © Tim Jones
A team of ringers led by Tony Taylor spent five nights clambering around the sidelands in the vicinity of the Manx Shearwater colony between Old Light and the Battery, searching for chicks sitting outside their burrows getting ready to fledge and begin their extraordinary long-distance migration to waters off southern South America. In total, the team managed to ring some 135 'Manxies', of which 126 were chicks and the remaining nine, adults. In addition, they retrapped birds originally ringed on Lundy in August 2014 (one), June 2018 (two) and May 2019 (one). Frustratingly, a night-time ringing expedition to the North End Storm Petrel colony drew a complete blank, which was surprising given that the Storm Petrel fledging period typically continues throughout September, extending into October. If conditions allow, further visits will be made to see if this was a 'one-off' quiet night, or if activity in this area is now finished for the year.
During the murky nights of 7th & 8th, a few fledgling Manx Shearwaters were disoriented by interior lighting of buildings in the Village area, some landing on the grass outside the Tavern, others close to the front doors of suprised island staff. Though the number of birds involved appeared to be quite low, this shows the adverse impact that artifical light can have, especially at times of peak fledging if visibility is also poor due to low cloud or sea-fog. Visiting ringer Richard Taylor was particularly startled to find a 'crash-landed' fledgling shearwater partly concealed in a narrow strip of long grass on the Beach Road, only about 50m from the jetty, moments after stepping ashore from MS Oldenburg on 5th. Rich rescued the youngster from its vulnerable position, kept it in a safe dark place during the remainder of daylight hours, then released it that night, happily none the worse for its unorthodox introduction to a lifetime of mastery of the seas and skies, spanning both northern and southern hemispheres.

Richard Taylor with his protégé rescued from the Beach Road, 5 Sep © Tim Davis

It was another exceptional period for rare and unusual birds on the island, with the first Magpie since 1996 seen briefly near the Black Shed on 5th by visiting ringer and birder Shaun Robson. Shaun was blissfully unaware just how rare this commonplace mainland species is on Lundy – until a roomful of dropped jaws and one or two choice words greeted his announcement at that evening's review of the day's sightings! Even this exceptional record was eclipsed by Dean Jones's discovery during the late afternoon of 12th of Lundy's first ever Sora, clambering through brambles near the Terrace Heligoland Trap. Dean was able to pick up the very tired but alert and not emaciated transatlantic wanderer – doubtless blown off course by the strong jet stream of preceding days – check it over, take a few pictures and release it nearby in an area with good cover, fresh water and an abundance of invertebrate food. Dean returned early on the morning of 13th but didn't find any sign of the rail. UPDATE: The Sora was seen again at the Terrace by Conservation Team volunteer Ben Hanson at around 4pm on Sunday 13th. It was feeding actively and appeared to be in better condition. Dean Jones searched the area early and late on Monday 14th but there was no further sign. Checks on Tuesday 15th also drew a blank, though visibility was poor during the afternoon as thick mist set in.
Lundy's first Sora, found among brambles on the Terrace, 12 Sep © Dean Jones

The unexpected visitor was checked over and released nearby © Dean Jones

A juvenile, this was only the second live Sora recorded in Devon © Dean Jones
Other less rare but still notable records included Icterine Warbler in Millcombe on 5th, a Marsh Warbler in St John's Valley on the 6th, a Dartford Warbler (only the tenth for the island) on 10th, a juvenile Red-backed Shrike in the vicinity of the Terrace on 12th, and a Treecreeper (slightly less than annual on Lundy) in Millcombe, daily from 7th. Finally, the first two Lapland Buntings of autumn were calling over South West Field on 12th.

Icterine Warbler, 'Secret Garden', lower Millcombe, 5 Sep © Richard Taylor

Marsh Warbler, St John's Valley, 6 Sep © Tim Jones

Dartford Warbler, about 200m SSW of Pondsbury, 10 Sep © Richard Taylor
Juvenile Red-backed Shrike, Terrace, 12 Sep © Richard Taylor

Non-avian news
Silver Ys and a few Hummingbird Hawk-moths were typical for the time of year and the sheltered East Side combes and copses held small numbers of butterflies in spells of sunshine, with Painted Lady, Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell, Small Heath, Common Blue and Small, Green-veined and Large Whites all recorded. Dragonflies were represented by Migrant Hawker, Emperor and Common Darter. Atlantic Grey Seals continued to delight both day-visitors and stayers alike, whilst stag Sika Deer were looking resplendent ahead of the impending rut.

Sika Deer stag, upper Millcombe, 6 Sep © Tim Davis

Report compiled from observations by Tim Davis, Rosie Hall, Dean Jones, Tim Jones, Marie & Shaun Robson, Rebecca & Richard Taylor and Tony Taylor.


Thursday, 3 September 2020

18th Aug to 3rd Sep – Stormy weather, spectacular wildlife

Lundy Warden Dean Woodfin Jones sums up a period during which the often turbulent – and distinctly un-summer-like – weather provided the backdrop to more remarkable records of birds, moths and marine invertebrates, including two 'firsts' for the island...

With the turn of the month, autumn has well and truly arrived on the island. Days are noticeably shorter, bird migration has picked up pace, a smorgasbord of fungal fruiting bodies is emerging across the island and the lush-green foliage in Millcombe has quickly browned and wilted due to the recent storms, and is at present cascading beautifully through the valley.

Wet and very windy has been the main theme of this period, which included two big, named storms, Ellen and Francis, which battered the island with gusts of up to 63mph on the 20th and 25th respectively. Unsurprisingly, the high winds created some spectacular swell here in the Channel, particularly during Storm Francis, which in turn prevented staying visitors from getting home for an extra three nights! Luckily, however, damage to infrastructure on the island was minimal, though Ellen and Francis both took with them a number of gates and fence posts, as well as some small sections of drystone wall and, very sadly, two of the big trees at the back of Millcombe Wood.

Storm Ellen picking up steam off North End, 20 Aug © Dean Jones

Storm Francis made seawatching difficult on the west coast, Dead Cow Point, 25 Aug © Dean Jones

Splash & Dash! MS Oldenburg had a tricky landing in NE winds on 29 Aug © Dean Jones

Strong northerly and north-easterly winds and the occasional shower or heavier downpour followed on after Francis up until the 29th (apart from a short-lived spell of peaceful and sunny weather on the afternoon and evening of the 26th). From the 30th, however, visitors were treated to three days of beautiful, settled, sunny and warm weather – conditions which also brought with them a wonderful and diverse little flutter of avian migrants. So, without furher ado, on to the birds…

The end of August, in particular, provided some spectacular sightings, some of which have been mentioned already in the superb notes by visiting ringers Tim Frayling, Bart Donato and Mark Worden. During five days spanning the 23rd to 28th, the team managed to catch and ring an excellent 123 Manx Shearwater (as well as eight other Lundy retraps) and a grand total of 30 Storm Petrels (plus 18 Lundy retraps and two controls – i.e. birds ringed elsewhere) on that spectacular evening on the 26th. We’ve now heard back from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) regarding those controls, the first being ringed on the island of Skokholm, Pembrokeshire on 17 Jul 2019, and the other at Annagh Head, Mayo, Ireland on 16 Aug 2014. Magic stuff gang – very well done!

The Manx Shearwater nestboxes were visited again on the 24th to see how many of this year’s breeding attempts have been successful. Here, five of the seven boxes which had incubating birds at the start of the season now have healthy young birds close to fledging – all of which are now sporting shiny new rings!

One of the shearwater chicks from the nestboxes near Old Light, 24 Aug © Dean Jones

In addition to our spectacular breeding shearwaters and petrels, the obvious star bird of the period was the young Bridled Tern (only the second record for Lundy and Devon, and the first of a live individual – if accepted by BBRC), closely followed by Lundy’s fifth Sabine’s Gull, both of which were present offshore from the Landing Bay on the 26th (see earlier blog post for further details).

Additional sightings of note within this period included a flurry of juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls around the island, with single birds noted on the 24th and 28th and two together sheltering from Storm Francis in the Landing Bay on the 25th. Furthermore, on another wet and wild morning, the first two Balearic Shearwaters of the year zoomed past Rat Island accompanied by 1,684 Manx Shearwater (in two hours of observations) on the 20th. Then, ending the month in spectacular fashion, the second Melodious Warbler of the year graced the Terrace willows briefly on the 31st.

The second Melodious Warbler of the autumn, Terrace, 31 Aug © Dean Jones

Other Lundy scarcities included two juvenile Mediterranean Gull and two Sandwich Tern off the North End on the 20th, as well as records of up to two Black-headed Gull on four dates. There has also been a nice variety of waders over the island recently, including a Greenshank over the Old Light Manx colony on the 24th, fly-over Green Sandpipers on the 31st and 2nd, two Common Sandpiper on the 26th, singles of Turnstone and Redshank on 1st, two Whimbrel, two Golden Plover and a single Ringed Plover on the 2nd, and small numbers of Snipe and Dunlin on a number of dates.

On the passerine front, the last week-and-a-bit has been magic for soundbound flycatchers, namely Spotted Flycatcher, which has been recorded on seven dates since the 20th (max 10 on the 24th and 1st) and Pied Flycatchers on four dates (max 10 scattered around the island on the 1st).

One of 10 Pied Flycatchers gracing the island on 1 Sep, this one in Millcombe © Dean Jones

Willow Warbler passage is now slowing to a trickle, though Blackcap numbers have started to pick up in the last week (max 14 on the 31st). We’ve also had a few more southbound Tree Pipits and Grey Wagtails over the past few days, as well as a number of firsts for the autumn including Goldcrest (28th), Yellow Wagtail (31st), White Wagtail (31st) and Song Thrush (2nd).

Finally, there’s been a small push of hirundines on the days of better weather, as well as the odd southbound Swift (max 17 on 1st Sep). Wheatear, Meadow Pipit, Chaffinch and Robin too have been gathering and moving through in small numbers.

Common birds such as Robin have also been on the move in small numbers, 2 Sep © Dean Jones

Lepidoptera highlights

Again, unsurprisingly due to the strong winds, butterfly sightings been rather few and far between, but since the storms have passed, 10 species have been recorded in small numbers, including a second generation of Small Copper, Small Heath and Common Blue as well as good numbers of Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell, a smattering of Painted Lady and a single Grayling on the 31st.

Moth-related highlights included a Hummingbird Hawkmoth in the Laundry Room on the 26th, a Nutmeg (Anarta trifolii) in the Millcombe Heath trap on the 31st – only the second record for the island and the first since 2011! Additionally, yet another new species for the island turned up in the Valley on the 24th – the SPECtacular Dark Spectacle (Abrostola triplasia)!

Dark Spectacle Abrostola triplasia, new for Lundy, 24 Aug © Dean Jones

Recent trapping efforts have also resulted in the first Copper Underwing and Frosted Orange of the year, as well as a small number of migrant moths such as Rusty-dot Pearl, Dark Sword Grass and good numbers of Silver Y.

Marine sightings

August was also a very exciting period for wildlife sightings beneath the waves and upon the low shore – the most notable of these being the mass arrival of thousands of breeding and moulting Spiny Spider Crabs (Maja squinado) in the Landing Bay!

The arrival was particularly evident just before Storm Ellen, when you literally could not see the seabed whilst snorkelling due to the mass aggregations of crabs jostling and clambering for the safest spot to moult and subsequently breed – once they’d freed themselves from their epiphyte-rich exoskeletons. Lundy marine expert Keith Hiscock, who was over at the start of this period and who has been visiting, monitoring and helping to protect Lundy waters for more than 40 years, said he’s never seen or heard of this spectacle occurring around Lundy before. This gathering was therefore quite a rare sight for the island! Fingers crossed the animals don’t wait another 40 years to provide staff and visitors with this superb underwater spectacle again.

Heaps of moulted Spider Crab exoskeletons washed up in the Landing Bay, 18 Aug © Dean Jones

This was the scene just below the Jetty, 18 Aug © Dean Jones

Another marine highlight, but one that is much more inconspicuous (and indeed slimier) than the Spider Crabs, was the discovery of a number of Celtic Sea Slugs (Onchidella celtica) in the Devil’s Kitchen by eagle-eyed Assistant Warden Rosie Ellis on the 21st. Although relatively common, albeit restricted in its distribution, in the South West, these superb little molluscs collectively constituted the first record for Lundy. Bravo Rosie!

Rosie Ellis holds a Celtic Sea Slug, 21 Aug © Keith Hiscock

A closer view of a Lundy marine 'first'! © Keith Hiscock

We’ve also seen an increase in the number of Atlantic Grey Seals around the island, with a grand total of 218 animals along the east coast on the 24th – the highest count of the year and the third highest count ever for the island (the all-time record standing at 239 animals in August 2011)! The reason for this arrival is of course to breed. So far, Team Seal (composed of volunteers Sophia Upton and Ben Hanson) has managed to find and collect data on 10 pups along the east coast, as well as to gather re-sighting information on two breeding adults from our photo identification project!

Lots of heavily pregnant female seals are getting ready to pup, South End, 28 Aug © Dean Jones

Early pups are already at the portly weaner stage, 31 Aug © Dean Jones

This is a particularly vulnerable time for our seal pups so we ask that anyone who is visiting the island and who sees a pup or any hauled-out animals to please keep your distance! For information on the best way to view seals safely and to learn about the impacts of disturbance on these beautiful marine mammals, click on the following link to the Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust's website: https://www.cornwallsealgroup.co.uk/2016/09/give-pups-space/

Unfortunately, cetacean sightings have been rather scarce of late, with just four Harbour Porpoise noted offshore from Rat Island on the 27th, and seven Common Dolphin and five Harbour Porpoise moving south past South West Point on the 31st.

Finally, after the strong north-east winds on the 29th, around 30 small aggregations of the Buoy Barnacle (Dosima fascicularis) were blown into the Landing Bay area on the 30th, alongside small numbers of the strange but very beautiful hydrozoan, the By-the-wind Sailor (Velella velella).

Let’s hope the rest of September proves just as – or even more – exciting; we'll let you know in due course!

Report composed of sightings from Zoë Barton, Bart Donato, Rosie Ellis, Tim Frayling, Ben Hanson, Keith Hiscock, Dean Jones, Sophia Upton, Sue and Alice Waterfield and Mark Worden.

'Nocmigging' on Lundy

As a recent inductee to the mysterious world of recording nocturnal migration (or 'nocmigging'), I took my trusty sound recorder to Lundy during a recent three-night stay, from 8-11 August. The small, battery-operated digital recorder was deployed from just before dark to just after dawn on all three nights, and I reviewed the resultant sound files on a laptop after returning to the mainland, using the free-to-download 'Audacity' software. This essentially enables you to scan recordings visually and to fairly rapidly pick out any potential bird calls to listen back to, without having to sit for hours-on-end listening to everything in real time – which would clearly be impractical, not to say unhinged! This takes a degree of patience and experience and some calls have to be let go, unidentified – much like some birds glimpsed distantly or in poor light during the daytime.

Such considerations notwithstanding, the results were striking. Apart from the expected locally breeding Manx Shearwaters, Oystercatchers and gulls, I recorded the calls of five wader species: Common Sandpiper and Green Sandpiper (both on two nights), as well as single-night appearances by Ringed Plover, Dunlin and Curlew. Of these, only Ringed Plover was recorded by day during my visit (also a calling 'flyover' bird). The third and final night brought the only evident passerine migrant, a Tree Pipit calling late in the night, just as dawn was about to break.

Click here to listen to the Green Sandpiper recorded on 8-9 Aug

Here is a graphical representation of the same Green Sandpiper calling as it flew over St John's Valley under cover of darkness in the wee small hours:

Spectrogram of calling Green Sandpiper 8-9 Aug 2020

Jamie Dunning, currently conducting PhD research into Lundy's much-studied resident House Sparrow population, also did some nocturnal sound recording during his post-Lockdown visit to the island in July. Though primarily focusing on Manx Shearwaters and Storm Petrels, Jamie's efforts also picked up Common Sandpiper at Jenny's Cove on 7 July, Common Scoter and Whimbrel overflying the Village on 12 July, and a Green Sandpiper over the Village on 30 July.

These experimental forays into nocmigging on Lundy give glimpses of the kind of results that more systematic night-time recording might deliver, particularly during the main spring and autumn migration periods.

Tim Jones