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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.

Sunday, 13 September 2020

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

UPDATED 24 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 reported twice on Sunday 13th – first at about 11.30am, when it was seen by visitors Sandie & Mark West on the Lower East Side Path north of Quarter Wall Copse; then at around 4pm, back at the Terrace, by Conservation Team volunteer Ben Hanson. In the morning it was "at first thought to be dead or injured as it was lying on the ground with its wing out to the side... but it got up at lightning speed and shot into brambles on the seaward side of the path". When seen in the afternoon, it was feeding actively and appeared to be in better condition than when originally found on 12th. 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.


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