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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.
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.

Tuesday, 20 October 2020

13th to 17th Oct – White-tailed Eagle returns to Lundy after 140 years

Tuesday 13th October
 
Windy throughout, initially from NW, gradually veering more northerly during the day and even a touch of ENE by dusk. Heavy showers in the morning – though many missing the island – becoming more isolated by midday and more or less dry during the afternoon, though more shower clouds around at dusk giving some spectacular light effects.
 
Dramatic evening light looking towards Tibbetts Hill from near Pondsbury, 13 Oct © Tim Jones
 
Visible migration over Millcombe first thing was significantly reduced compared to the morning of 12th, with just 36 Redwing, no Fieldfare at all, and small numbers of passage Meadow Pipit, Chaffinch, Goldfinch and Siskin. The yellowish potential hibernicus Coal Tit was again in Millcombe, whilst the valley also held a few Blackbird, Song Thrush, Blackcap and Chiffchaff, but there had been an overnight noticeable clearout of many migrants.
 
It was therefore a considerable relief that some 20 birders who arrived on a day-trip, hoping to see the White's Thrush, eventually succeeded in doing so (at least for the most part) when the bird eventually revealed itself once more in Millcombe Wood, though views were frustratingly brief.
 
Logged totals for the day included two Cormorant, a female Sparrowhawk, five Water Rail (all calling in various parts of Millcombe), a Golden Plover, seven Snipe, three Merlin, eight Skylark, 30 Swallow, six House Martin, four Chiffchaff, 13 Blackcap, eight Goldcrest, 136 Starling, 14 Blackbird, a lone Fieldfare, three Song Thrush, 36 Redwing, six Stonechat, a Grey Wagtail, 14 alba wagtail, 70 Meadow Pipit, 21 Chaffinch, a Greenfinch, 70 Goldfinch, 20 Siskin and 60 Linnet.

Grey Wagtail, Millcombe Pond © Dean Jones
 
Nocturnal migration recording during the night of 12th/13th from two locations (outside the Barn, and in the south-facing lee of Millcombe perimeter wall between Government House and Blue Bung) yielded 29 Redwing calls, a single Fieldfare call, four Snipe calls and – notably for Lundy – seven Common Scoter calls (recorded from next to the Barn at 23:12hrs).
 
Finally, Nik Ward has provided a summary of his ringing totals for the week 7–13 October:

Swallow 134, Blackcap 61, Goldcrest 48, Goldfinch 20, Siskin 16, Chiffchaff 12, House Martin 9, Blackbird 6, Chaffinch 5, Redwing 4, Song Thrush 4, Wren 4, Yellow-browed Warbler 3, Robin 2, Lesser Redpoll 2, and singles of Garden Warbler, Stonechat, Dunnock, Grey Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Greenfinch – and of course the White's Thrush! Total 337 birds of 22 species, with the highest catch, of 88 new birds, being made on 9th.

Wednesday 14th October

Broken cloud with a stiff NE breeze first thing. Sunny skies for much of the day but the wind increased, making it feel quite raw except in the lee of the West Side and a few other favoured spots.
 
A superb day filled with migrants! Redwing were already calling over the Village before first light and from 07.25 to 09.10hrs there was a steady arrival of birds, some dropping into the valley for a rest before continuing their journeys, others passing right overhead and on towards the mainland. With them were flocks of Chaffinch, a Mistle Thrush, five Song Thrush, six Fieldfare, a few Blackbirds plummeting in from height, 14 Meadow Pipits, two or three Grey Wagtail, five alba wagtail, two Lesser Redpoll and 15 Linnet. A highlight at 08:45hrs was a loose flock of nine Crossbill heading south. Many of the thrushes and most of the Chaffinches appeared to arrive from the west and we speculated that they had found themselves out over the Celtic Sea at daybreak and were now reorientating back towards the mainland.
 
Merlins were cashing in on the abundance of prey, hunting from dawn to dusk, and we again estimated at least three for the day. One was seen leaving the island high to the SE, heading for Hartland but we also noticed one targeting flocks of passage Starlings out over the sea. Starlings themselves were a real feature of the day, with a notable influx resulting in groups scattered across the island.
 
A walk along the West Side to just north of Threequarter Wall revealed continuing overhead movement of passage finches, whilst thrushes were feeding in places sheltered from the wind – e.g. a loose flock of Redwing, Fieldfare, two Mistle Thrush, a Blackbird and a Ring Ouzel, just south of Halfway Wall stile at Jenny's Cove. Bizarrely, a Long-tailed Tit was seen and heard on the nearby sidelands, perched on bracken, then flying south towards the Earthquake! Almost as unusal in terms of location were a Yellow-browed Warbler that spent the day in the lee of the main track wall close to Tillage/Brick Field pig-sty and another that was feeding – together with a small group of Goldcrest and and one or two Chiffchaff – on the sunny, sheltered edge of St Helen's Field, protected by the wall running along the start of the Upper East Side Path and hopping about on the grazed turf picking off insects almost invisible to the human eye.
 
Small Copper basking in the lee of the west sidelands, Jenny's Cove, 14 Oct © Tim Davis
 
There was no sign of the White's Thrush, in spite of the patient vigil mounted by visiting birder Nick Moss, who kept Millcombe Wood under close surveillance throughout the day. Logged totals for the most numerous migrants included 500 Chaffinch, 400 Redwing, 350 Starling, 120 Meadow Pipit and 80 for both Linnet & Goldfinch.

Thursday 15th October

Dry all day. Partly cloudy skies with lengthy sunny spells – especially in the morning; rather cloudier for a time in the afternoon. A stiff ENE wind, force 4–5, gusting 6, but easing back to a more pleasant force 3 by the late afternoon.
 
One of the day's most noticeable features was by far the biggest Blackbird arrival of the autumn so far, with 70 estimated in Millcombe, and a further 20 elsewhere, giving a logged total of 90, though there were probably significantly more. Early-morning monitoring of visible migration over Millcombe brought at least four Ring Ouzel, four Brambling, two Crossbill, two Hawfinch and a calling Reed Bunting among more common species, the most numerous being Redwing (230 logged for the day), Fieldfare (130), Starling (500) and Chaffinch (180).
 
Tim Davis & James Diamond 'vis mig' from upper Millcombe, 15 Oct © Tim Jones

Fieldfare & Redwing, Barton Field, 15 Oct © Dean Jones

Other notable records included a first-winter male Wigeon (along with two Teal) on Barton Pond, a male and female Great Spotted Woodpecker (together at one point) in Millcombe, at least 30 Blackcap and a single Garden Warbler feeding on blackberries and elder berries in Millcombe, and a Firecrest initially in the pines above Millcombe House, then feeding with Goldcrests and Chiffchaffs on the edge of St Helen's Field.
 
Wigeon, Barton Pond, 15 Oct © Dean Jones

Up to five Coal Tits were seen during the day; the potential hibernicus was trapped in Millcombe during the afternoon (see photos below) at the same time as a standard white-cheeked individual was present in the valley, whilst one was in bracken at St Helen's Combe and two were together in the willows along the Lower East Side Path just south of Quarry Beach. There were also three Yellow-browed Warblers – one in Quarter Wall Copse and two in the Terrace willows. Birds of prey comprised a female Sparrowhawk, three Kestrel, two Merlin and four Peregrine.

The potential hibernicus Coal Tit in the hand, 15 Oct © Tim Jones

Its underparts showed a distinct yellow wash and cinnamon flanks, 15 Oct © Tim Jones
 
Nick Moss's stoic White's Thrush stakeout was finally rewarded by brief views of the bird in Millcombe Wood at around 08.20. Congratulations Nick!

A large flock of gulls gathered off the Landing Bay in the afternoon included at least 250 Herring Gull, 11 Mediterranean Gull, ten Lesser Black-backed Gull, seven Kittiwake and three Common Gull, counted by James Diamond from the deck of the departing MS Oldenburg.

During the evening, Dean Jones and Jamie Dunning explored some of the farm fields by torchlight, locating two Jack Snipe (one of which they were able to capture and ring in Tillage Field) and some 15 Common Snipe.

Jack Snipe, Tillage Field, evening of 15 Oct © Dean Jones

Friday 16th October

Another dry day – though it remained stubbornly overcast for most of daylight hours – with a moderate and chilling E wind throughout.

The first couple of hours of daylight once again saw some good visible and audible passage over Millcombe, with Blackbird featuring prominently for the second day. It was a treat to watch the characteristic 'sculling' flight of individuals and loose groups flying high over the valley, occasionally dropping almost vertically and disappearing straight into the scrub. Redwing, Fieldfare, Starling and Chaffinch were once again the most numerous species, along with smaller numbers of Meadow Pipit, Goldfinch, Linnet and Siskin. Highlights included a handful of Greenfinch, a Brambling, three Ring Ouzels (including a stunning adult, perched unusually confidingly in blackthorn scrub) and a Firecrest feeding in the spruce trees near the Ugly. However, the biggest surprise of the morning was a Woodlark calling in flight as it headed south.

A female Firecrest (perhaps the same as the bird seen earlier) was trapped and ringed in the Secret Garden and a beautiful Yellow-browed Warbler was feeding in the tree tops outside Bramble Villa before flying up St John's Valley, where it zipped around at high speed in the bracken and gorse, first on the side of Castle Hill, then below Big St John's. The male Great Spotted Woodpecker was still present, knocking seven bells out of one of the sparrow nestboxes in Millcombe Wood – in fact the very same nestbox that a long-staying female Great Spot used for roosting during autumn 2018! (See this blog post for 16 & 17 November 2018.)
 
Dean Jones & Jamie Dunning ringing in Millcombe, 16 Oct © Tim Jones

This beautiful Firecrest was among the birds caught, 16 Oct © Tim Jones

Mid-morning Tim Davis & Tim Jones set off from the Village intending to walk to North Light for lunch. They had already been delighted to see and hear a Lapland Bunting in High Street Field when, approaching the wall that runs from the water tanks towards the Airfield, they were treated to the mind-boggling sight of a juvenile White-tailed Eagle flying north at speed – no more than 30m away and low enough to be able to see the bird's upperparts – hotly pursued by two corvids, which they at first took to be Carrion Crows as they looked so small next to the eagle, but which were actually Ravens! In less than a minute the huge raptor had disappeared over a ridge towards the western end of Quarter Wall, leaving its two observers literally shaking and slack-jawed. The Tims made a quick call to alert Lundy Warden Dean Jones. Then, aware that a satellite-tagged White-tailed Eagle from the Isle of Wight reintroduction programme had been seen in the Padstow area the previous day, they phoned the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation, which is spearheading the reintroduction (together with Forestry England). They got through to Roy himself – who worked on Lundy as a teenage seasonal volunteer at the then Lundy Bird Observatory in the late 1950s. Amazingly, Roy was able to confirm that the 'Cornish eagle' was still in Cornwall, having been seen in the Penzance area earlier in the morning. The Lundy bird was a second individual, which had also been roaming the South West in recent days. He would send further details once he had received tracking data in the evening.
 
The eagle leaves its incredulous observers behind, Ackland's Moor, 16 Oct © Tim Jones

With no further sign of the eagle, the Tims continued north, deciding to go via the Terrace. On the way, they met Assistant Warden Rosie Ellis and Ranger Matt Stritch working on the fenceline near Quarry Cottages, whilst Dean Jones was already on the Terrace, having spent time up on the plateau frantically (but fruitlessly) scanning for a 'flying barn door'! Continuing on, the Tims had just passed VC Quarry, when looking up at two dog-fighting Kestrels, Tim D saw a much bigger, more distant raptor – the White-tailed Eagle soaring high from the direction of Tibbetts Hill and out over Halfway Wall Bay! With a combination of running, shouting and jumping like a demented jack-in-the-box, Tim J managed to draw Dean's attention and he sprinted the several hundred metres at Olympic pace. Rob & Kathryn Joules also arrived, curious about all the commotion, and all five observers were then treated to prolonged views of the eagle as it soared east towards the North Devon mainland, then drifted back towards the island, eventually being almost directly overhead, just off the East Side, though very high up and best watched by lying flat on the ground and looking straight up! Through a combination of a dodgy phone signal and more running, Dean managed to get his colleagues Rosie and Matt onto the eagle, before it suddenly gathered pace and headed off south-east back to the mainland, being lost to binocular view more or less directly in line with Hartland Point Lighthouse at 13:08hrs.

Heading out east over Halfway Wall Bay at about 12:35 hrs © Dean Jones

Soaring high above the Terrace... © Tim Jones

...the eagle eventually turned for the mainland © Tim Jones
 
Roy Dennis emailed the next day, attaching the map below (reproduced with kind permission) and confirming that eagle G471, released in August this year, had left the mainland to fly out to Lundy at 10:20hrs, roughly 35 minutes before it was first seen by the Tims. It flew out north of the island before returning to rest for a time near North Light – where it was seen by one of the Trinity House team currently working on the lighthouse as it flew below him; what a sight that must have been!
 
Satellite track of White-tailed Eagle G471 on its day-trip on 16 Oct © Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation

This hugely exciting record comes some 140 years after the last known White-tailed Eagle to have occurred on Lundy was shot in about 1880. Also a juvenile bird, its stuffed and mounted skin is held in the collection of Ilfracombe Museum. Writing in The Birds of Lundy in 2007, the Tims had commented that "...there is a glimmer of hope that White-tailed Eagles may one day return to Lundy". How privileged they felt to bear witness to that day. Let's hope that the reintroduction programme, still in its early days, means that these magnificent birds will, before too many more years have passed, become a regular sight around the island once again.

The day still held one or two surprises – though not quite comparable with the excitement of the eagle – with a female Common Scoter on the sea off North Light, and what was highly likely to be a second Woodlark calling over the Terrace at 13.20hrs (Dean Jones), then seen and heard well on the west sidelands just north of Halfway Wall at 16.30hrs (Tim Davis & Tim Jones). Other notable sightings included the Wigeon, still at Barton Pond, the possible hibernicus Coal Tit in Millcombe, and another Firecrest in the Quarries.
 
Fruiting body of Golden Spindles Clavulinopsis fusiformis South West Field, 16 Oct © Tim Jones

Saturday 17th October

Broken cloud first thing gave a fiery orange sunrise casting an ethereal light over Millcombe and the Village. From mid-morning, blue skies and sunshine made it feel very warm in shelter away from the still chilly E wind that backed more SE during the afternoon.

Another stunning sunrise, 17 Oct © Tim Jones

An ethereal orange light was cast over Millcombe, 17 Oct © Tim Jones
 
Unsurprisingly, a much quieter day. Visible migration was noticeably much reduced, with tens rather than hundreds of thrushes, though there were still good numbers of Chaffinch passing through – about 300 between 07:30 and 08:45hrs. Incongruously interspersed with the arriving winter migrants were a group of seven House Martin, whilst six Swallow were in the same binocular view as a flock of Fieldfare at 07:35hrs!

The male Great Spotted Woodpecker was still in Millcombe and the Wigeon flew into the small pond in St Helen's Field. There were two Coal Tit (including the possible hibernicus) in Millcombe. A Yellow-browed Warbler showed well as it fed amongst ivy flowers near Government House Pond at lunchtime, and a Curlew was calling in flight over the Landing Bay. Dean Jones patiently sifted through the large feeding flock of gulls off the East Side, coming up with totals of 500 Herring Gull, 75 Common Gull, 30 Great Black-backed Gull, 23 Mediterranean Gull, 20 Kittiwake, two Black-headed Gull, 30 Gannet and a Bottlenose Dolphin!
 
Three birders came over on a day-trip for the White's Thrush (not seen since the morning of 15th).  Unfortunately, two of them engaged in unacceptable behaviour tantamount to harassment of the bird, including persistently playing tape lures, even after having been asked by the Warden to stop. You (and Lundy) know who you are. On a more positive note, the thrush was retrapped during routine mist-netting by Rob Duncan during the evening. It was found to be in good health and to have put on significant additional fat reserves since first being caught on 8th October.

Observations by Alison & Nick Blinston, Martin Bond, Tim Davis, James Diamond, Jamie Dunning, Rosie Ellis, Dean Jones, Tim Jones, Nick Moss, Matt Stritch, Nik Ward and Bill, Jennie & Michael Williams.

Monday, 12 October 2020

10th to 12th Oct – White's Thrush still present and much else...

Saturday 10th October

A stiff NW wind throughout the day, blowing in a few scattered showers.

The lumpy crossing from Ilfracombe was very quiet birdwise, with single 1st-year Mediterranean Gull (close to the mainland) and a dark-phase Arctic Skua the highlights, alongside a handful of Guillemots and Kittiwakes and a couple of Gannets.

The White’s Thrush was relocated in Millcombe Wood during the afternoon and showed several times in flight across the valley, always returning to favoured areas of Millcombe Wood and the tree-planting enclosure below Government House on the north side of the valley. It was seen well, including by two North Devon birders who’d braved the elements on a day trip.

Other rare birds for Lundy (though not quite in the same league as the White’s Thrush!) were the two Barnacle Geese still at Pondsbury (where they were grazing on the short turf just N of the wetland in the afternoon) and a single Coal Tit in Millcombe. Single Yellow-browed Warblers were seen in Millcombe and in the sallows near the Terrace Trap.
 
Barnacle Geese grazing on one of the small islands in Pondsbury, 10 Oct © Dean Jones

Later in the day the geese ventured onto the fringing grassland, 10 Oct © Tim Jones
 
Other records included: single Water Rail, Oystercatcher, Golden Plover & Snipe, two Woodpigeon, two Merlin, a Peregrine, two Skylark, 30 Swallow, 10 House Martin, a Chiffchaff, eight Blackcap, a Garden Warbler (trapped & ringed in Millcombe), six Goldcrest, 12 Blackbird, a Song Thrush, five Redwing, 10 Robin, two Stonechat, a Wheatear (at the Castle), five alba wagtail, 10 Meadow Pipit, two Chaffinch, a female Greenfinch (trapped & ringed in Millcombe), four Goldfinch, 10 Siskin and a lone Reed Bunting.


Sunday 11th October

A gorgeous autumn day, with broken cloud at dawn, becoming increasingly sunny during the morning and early afternoon; clouding over gradually later on. NNW wind still quite blowy first thing, dropping away in the afternoon.

The Village & Castle Hill in the late afternoon sun, 11Oct © Tim Jones
 
The White’s Thrush was once again star bird, being seen in Millcombe on several occasions during the day, in the same areas of the valley as on 10th. It’s furtive habits meant that it took time, care and patience to see well, but it gave itself up properly just before dusk, perching on an open branch near the Casbah for a minute or two.

Also notable were the two Barnacle Geese grazing on one of the islands in Pondsbury, a Dotterel calling in flight over the Upper East Side Path near Quarter Wall (Dean Jones & Zoë Barton), two Yellow-browed Warbler (Millcombe and the Terrace), a Ring Ouzel near the intersection of Quarter Wall and 'Pointless Wall' (James Diamond), and the Coal Tit again in Millcombe & St Helen’s Combe. When seen well, the Coal Tit appeared to have a distinct yellowish suffusion to its cheeks and underparts, a feature particularly (though apparently not exclusively) associated with birds of the Irish race P. a. hibernicus.
 
Coal Tit with yellowish suffusion to cheeks and underparts, St Helen's Copse 11 Oct © Tim Jones

Another view of the Coal Tit © Tim Jones

Other records included: a female Teal on Barton Pond, three Cormorant, two Sparrowhawk, the autumn peak so far of five Water Rail (all in Millcombe!), single Golden Plover and Snipe, a steady N-bound movement of mainly immature Herring Gull totalling at least 140, three Lesser Black-backed Gull, one Kestrel, two Merlin, three Peregrine, two Sand Martin, 200 Swallow, 30 House Martin, four Chiffchaff, 10 Blackcap, 20 Goldcrest, 120 Starling, 18 Blackbird, five Song Thrush, 10 Redwing, 22 Robin, five Stonechat, 14 Dunnock, two Grey Wagtail, two Pied Wagtail and 12 unraced ‘albas’, 190 Meadow Pipit, six Rock Pipit, 20 Chaffinch, the ringed female Greenfinch, 72 Goldfinch, 20 Siskin, 28 Linnet and two Lesser Redpoll.

Non-avian sightings included: a Comma – a scarce species on Lundy, recorded less than annually – a Small White, two Small Copper & 15 Red Admiral; also a Ruby Tiger (moth) caterpillar in Millcombe, a Devil’s Coach-horse beetle on the Lower East Side Path and, two of the day’s real highlights – a Blue-fin Tuna seen breaching three times about 200-300m off the Terrace at 14.25 hrs (Dean Jones) and a Vagrant Emperor dragonfly (as rare as its name suggests!) found and photographed on the main track between Tibbetts and Threequarter Wall by Bill, Jennie & Michael Williams.
 
Vagrant Emperor, 11 Oct © Jennie Williams

Monday 12th October

Overcast and increasingly claggy, windy & drizzly during the morning; much drier and brighter in the afternoon. A stiff SW veering round to NW then pretty much due N by the end of the day.

Redwings were calling from first light and in spite of the conditions, flocks totalling c.200 were seen over Millcombe and the Ugly between 07.20 and 09.00. Also five Fieldfare and a sixth was outside Paradise Row first thing.

Tim Davis had a gripping close-up encounter with the White’s Thrush, perched just a few metres from him in Millcombe Wood at 10.20, whilst a pale wheatear found by James Diamond on the granite boulder slopes running down from below Quarry Pond and the Timekeeper’s Cottage to the Terrace/Lower East Side Path and seen intermittently in the late afternoon was initially thought to be an Isabelline Wheatear. Sadly expert examination of photos on return to the mainland showed a number of features, including prinmary projection, consistent with Northern Wheatear.

The day’s other notable sightings included the female Teal again, at least one Grey Heron (singles at Pondsbury and in flight near the Church), a juvenile Cormorant, two Sparrowhawk, two Water Rail, four Oystercatcher, a Golden Plover, two Merlin, three Peregrine, two Coal Tit (Millcombe & Quarter Wall Copse), 50 Swallow, 10 House Martin, a late Willow Warbler (Smelly Gully), 15 Chiffchaff, three Yellow-browed Warbler (Millcombe, Quarter Wall Copse, and the gully running down from Quarry Pond), 20 Blackcap, a Firecrest (Quarter Wall Copse), 20 Goldcrest, 120 Starling, a Ring Ouzel (above White Beach), 20 Blackbird, five Fieldfare (the first of the autumn), 10 Song Thrush, 200 Redwing, 40 Robin, a late adult male Common Redstart, a first-winter Whinchat (both the 'start and the ‘chat on the fenceline between Millcombe & St Helen’s Field), five Stonechat, a Northern Wheatear, 14 Dunnock, two Grey Wagtail, six alba wagtail, 30 Meadow Pipit, 15 Chaffinch, the ringed female Greenfinch, 40 Goldfinch, 25 Siskin and 10 Linnet. There was no further sign of the two Barnacle Geese.

A particularly confiding Yellow-browed Warbler spent time at Millcombe Pond in the afternoon, feeding in the willow bushes, on the mud and on nearby grass. What a jewel of a bird!
 
Yellow-browed Warbler, Millcombe Pond, 12 Oct © Dean Jones

It showed at close range, at times dropping down to feed on the mud... © Dean Jones

...or on the grass between the pond and the walled gardens © Tim Jones

During the night of 11th/12th, recording of nocturnal migration by James Diamond yielded 45 Redwing calls between 22.53 hrs and dawn.
 
Observations by Nick & Alison Blinston, Paul Bullock, Dave Churchill, Tim Davis, James Diamond, Darrin Dowding, Ken Ebsworthy, Dean Jones, Tim Jones, Jon Turner & Nik Ward.
 

Friday, 9 October 2020

8th to 9th Oct – The White's Thrush reappears ... in a mist-net!

Dean Jones updates us on the exciting happenings on Lundy over the past two days.
 
8th October

Thick drizzle first thing clearing up by 08:00 – overcast for the rest of the morning giving way to some lovely and sunny weather in the afternoon – moderate winds from the west during the early morning which quickly slacked off to a light wind by the late morning/early afternoon.

Unfortunately there were no additional sightings of the White’s Thrush from yesterday but a superb day of Lundy birding none the less, with a nice variety of scarce birds logged. Highlights were a Yellow-browed Warbler on the Terrace alongside two Firecrest, the Barnacle Geese pair on Pondsbury for their second day, a Short-eared Owl flushed near the Steps of Doom, three Lapland Buntings at Threequarter Wall and a Great Skua offshore harassing a small flock of Kittiwakes and two adult Mediterranean Gulls.

Other sightings included ten Gannet, a Sandwich Tern seen from the Oldenburg on approach to the island, 60 Kittiwake, two Snipe, a Grey Heron, two Merlin, a Sparrowhawk, four Skylark, 150 Swallow, 20 House Martin, singles of Blackcap and Chiffchaff, twelve Goldcrest, three Song Thrush, two Redwing, twelve Blackbird, two Wheatear, 22 Stonechat, a single Whinchat, ten Robin, small numbers of passage Meadow Pipit, the Millcombe Grey Wagtail, six Siskin, 110 Goldfinch, 14 Linnet, one Lesser Redpoll and two Reed Bunting.
 
A total of 49 birds were trapped and ringed, including 28 Swallow, five House Martin, 12 Goldcrest, one each of Blackcap, Blackbird, Stonechat and Grey Wagtail.

9th October

Overcast first thing, followed by a brief downpour then overcast – sunshine with cloud for the afternoon with one or two heavy showers – winds picked up from the north-west by mid-morning and remained moderate/strong throughout the day.

Undoubtedly today’s highlight was the reappearance of the White’s Thrush in a shelf of a mist-net in the Secret Garden. The bird was ringed and released by Nik Ward near the Secret Garden and subsequently viewed by Paul Holt in Millcombe Wood at around 08:00. The bird then went back into stealth mode and wasn’t seen again for the rest of the day.
 
White's Thrush, Millcombe, 9 Oct © Dean Jones

White's Thrush, upperwing, Millcombe, 9 Oct © Dean Jones

White's Thrush, underwing, Millcombe, 9 Oct © Dean Jones

White's Thrush, tail, Millcombe, 9 Oct © Dean Jones

What a gorgeous bird! © Dean Jones

Other sightings of note included the two Barnacle Geese still on Pondsbury, two Yellow-browed Warbler trapped and ringed in Millcombe, two Firecrest (one in Millcombe and the other in Quarter Wall Copse), amongst good numbers of Goldcrest (83 logged).

Also logged were two fly-over Golden Plover, 37 Razorbill, 20 House Martin, 50 Swallow, 20 Blackcap, seven Chiffchaff, five Song Thrush, 11 Blackbird, 25 Robin and small numbers of Meadow Pipit, Siskin, Goldfinch, Chaffinch and two Lesser Redpoll.

A total of 89 birds, including the White’s Thrush, were trapped and ringed (as well as five others re-trapped from previous days shown in brackets): 26 (1) Swallow, one House Martin, 18 Blackcap, two Yellow-browed Warbler, three Chiffchaff, 22 Goldcrest, one (1) Blackbird, one Song Thrush, (1) Grey Wagtail, one Meadow Pipit, four Goldfinch, two Lesser Redpoll, six (2) Siskin and one Chaffinch.
 

Thursday, 8 October 2020

1st to 7th Oct – White's Thrush the crowning glory of a rich and varied week

Dean Jones reviews the happenings of the last seven days on Lundy, which culminated in the finding of Lundy's second White's Thrush. Let's not waste any more time...
 
1st October

Moderate westerly winds in the morning picking up and shifting south-west around 14:00 – overcast for the most part – frequent drizzle and light showers by mid/late-afternoon.

The day's highlight came in the form of three Yellow-browed Warblers, two of which were trapped and ringed in Millcombe in the late morning, followed by another feeding in Quarter Wall Copse shortly after noon.
 
Yellow-browed Warbler, ringed 1 Oct © Justin Walker


Other sightings included a Merlin near Threequarter Wall, 105 Swallow, 16 House Martin, three Skylark, ten Blackcap, five Chiffchaff, a single Firecrest on the Terrace, 39 Goldcrest, eight Blackbird, 14 Robin, eight apiece of Stonechat and Dunnock, a Whinchat next to Quarters, 68 Meadow Pipit, a Grey Wagtail in Millcombe Pond, 17 Siskin, 13 Goldfinch, four Linnet, seven Chaffinch and a single fly-over Lesser Redpoll

 
A classic sound of autumn –  a territorial Robin ticking away in Millcombe, 1 Oct © Dean Jones
 
2nd October

Storm Alex makes himself known! A day of gale-force north-easterlies and near constant drizzle throughout. 
 
A choppy Landing Bay with strong north-easterly winds made for tricky sea-watching, 2 Oct © DeanJones
 
Unsurprisingly, not much of note due to the very wet and windy conditions. Sightings included 16 Gannet, a single Manx Shearwater and two Harbour Porpoise foraging offshore. Landbirds up top were few and far between, with only a handful of Goldcrest, Blackcap, Robin, Siskin, Goldfinch and a single Lesser Redpoll in Millcombe being logged.

3rd October

Another very windy day with winds peaking at 43mph from the north/north-east shortly after midday – conditions which unsurprisingly prevented the Oldenburg from sailing – a rather wet and drizzly morning, clearing up slightly by the afternoon, give or take a few brief showers.

Despite the wet start and strong winds, a good number and diversity of birds were moving through the island. This was particularly evident post-drizzle as Millcombe became alive with the tecking calls of Blackcap. Here, 80 birds were logged in the Valley alone and, coupled with a number of other scattered birds in the more windy areas of the island, an estimated total of around 100 birds were noted. Other highlights included a Snow Bunting foraging on the main track – a bird which stuck around for most of the day. The first two Ring Ouzel of the autumn were logged by Paul Holt on the Upper East Side Path in the afternoon. Goldfinch too were moving in good numbers, with 113 logged throughout the day, and lastly, four Greenfinch and a single Garden Warbler were seen in Millcombe in the afternoon.

Other birds logged included a Golden Plover over the Village, a Snipe in South West Field, two Water Rail in Millcombe, a Kestrel at Halfway Wall, three Woodpigeon, 61 Swallow, 23 House Martin, three Chiffchaff, 11 Goldcrest, six Blackbird, four Song Thrush, ten Robin, eight Stonechat, a single Wheatear, four Dunnock, 50 Meadow Pipit, the Millcombe Pond Grey Wagtail, ten Pied Wagtail, 17 Siskin, 82 Linnet, seven Chaffinch and three Lesser Redpoll.

4th October

Another driech old day with winds peaking at 54mph from the north-west – a near constant downpour throughout the morning and early afternoon, giving way to a light drizzle by 15:00.

Despite the less than ideal conditions, there were still some decent birds about for those brave enough to venture out into the storm.

Sightings included a first-winter Black-headed Gull over the Quarries, a single Manx Shearwater offshore, 16 Razorbill, 35 Kittiwake, three Lesser Black-backed Gull, a single Merlin, a Water Rail calling from Smelly Gully, three Woodpigeon, four House Martin, three Swallow, 37 Blackcap, five Chiffchaff, 18 Goldcrest, eight Blackbird, seven Robin, three Stonechat, two Pied Wagtail, the Grey Wagtail, five Chaffinch, 15 Goldfinch, a Lesser Redpoll and two apiece of Greenfinch, Linnet and Siskin.

5th October

Strong north/north-westerly winds continue – a dry start followed by drizzle and the odd sunny spell after 10:00.

The title of star birds today goes to a flock of 25 Barnacle Geese which were seen flying low to the water by Hope Simpson and Rosie Ellis at North End. This is the first record of this species on Lundy since 2002 and the joint highest count for the island following a flock of 25 birds on 3rd November 1968! Bravo Hope and Rosie!

Fifteen of the 25 Barnacle Geese that flew past the North End, 5 Oct © Rosie Ellis
 
Other high points included two Blue Tits in the Ugly/St Helen’s Copse area – the first to be seen on the island since 2015! A Great Northern Diver was seen in flight offshore from the Landing Bay in the afternoon, and a total of six Black-headed Gulls were logged throughout the day – four adults offshore and two first-winter birds on the Jetty/Tillage Field.

A first-winter Black-headed Gull on the Jetty, 5 Oct © Dean Jones...

...however it's not often you see Black-headed Gulls on top of the island like this, here in the Tillage Field, 5 Oct © Dean Jones
 
In addition, a first-winter Common Gull was also present offshore from the Landing Bay briefly in the afternoon, a Snow Bunting was again on the High Street track (probably the same bird from 3rd Oct), two Firecrest were on the Terrace and good numbers of both Goldcrest (40) and Stonechat (17) were recorded by Paul Holt along the east coast.
 
Snow Bunting, High Street Field, 5 Oct © Dean Jones
 
Other birds noted were one each of Fulmar and Manx Shearwater, 17 Gannet, 35 Kittiwake, four Lesser Black-backed Gull, two fly-over Golden Plover, 15 Oystercatcher, two Water Rail in Millcombe, two Woodpigeon, a Sparrowhawk, a handful of both Swallow and House Martin, 20 Blackcap, 10 Chiffchaff, eight Blackbird, three Song Thrush, one Redwing, ten Robin, three Wheatear, 57 Meadow Pipit, the Millcombe Grey Wagtail, 24 Chaffinch, 41 Linnet, 25 Siskin and two each of Greenfinch and Lesser Redpoll.

Most of the Swallows were either resting close to or even on the ground, evidently
knackered from the relentless rain and winds, Millcombe, 5 Oct © Dean Jones

 
Non-avian sightings included a grand total of 191 Atlantic Grey Seals along the east coast, a count which included two new white-coat pups! This brings the total number of white-coats this year to a record-breaking 45! – and we’re still only in the first week of October. A huge thank you to Volunteer Assistant Wardens Ben Hanson and Sophia Upton for all their expert seal spotting and hard work this year.
 
It's that time of year again when lots of seal pups turn up in the Landing Bay to seek shelter from the storms, 5 Oct © Dean Jones

6th October

Overcast for most of the day other than a beautiful but brief sunny spell in the afternoon – gale-force westerlies throughout.

Highlights included a very showy and vocal Red-breasted Flycatcher – a bird which was expertly found by Paul and Jackie Holt in Quarter Wall Copse shortly after 15:30. Here the bird favoured a single Alder low down in the copse which allowed some superb and prolonged views for the rest of the afternoon. Additionally, Paul also found a Yellow-browed Warbler in Millcombe in the late morning – the eighth record so far this autumn!
 
Red-breasted Flycatcher, Quarter Wall Copse – the bird performed superbly, allowing
clear prolonged views during the afternoon, 6 Oct © Dean Jones


Other birds logged on this beautiful but windy autumnal day were, two Manx Shearwater, 17 Gannet, 39 Kittiwake, singles of Merlin and Sparrowhawk, three Woodpigeon, 15 Swallow, eight House Martin, 28 Goldcrest, five Blackcap, 12 Blackbird, 10 Robin, two Greenfinch, 22 Siskin and a single Lesser Redpoll.

7th October

Moderate westerly winds first thing, slacking off by the mid-morning – beautiful sunshine and near clear skies up until afternoon – some light rain in the evening.

Undoubtedly the day's star bird came in the form of a very unexpected White’s Thrush in upper Millcombe around 07:45. Here's an account of the morning:

As the sun rose and the light improved, I set off towards the Ugly with my scope to get a brief morning’s sea-watch in before my day of Warden-related duties beckoned. I had just passed Government House and on towards the north end of the tree nursery when I noticed a small, loose gathering of Blackbirds in and around the scrub at the top of the Valley. There had obviously been a small arrival of thrushes overnight so I was on high alert for other species like Redwing, Song Thrush and, if lucky, the first Fieldfare of the autumn.

It was then, as I slowly pottered down the wooded path towards the Ugly, that I noticed a large, pale thrush shoot up from an area of thick, berried brambles onto a branch of a Turkey Oak in front of me. As I raised my binoculars my first but brief impression was that I had found a young Mistle Thrush due to the bird’s size. Quickly though, I noticed the bird's jizz was different to that of any Mistle Thrush I had seen – the bird looking taller, more elongated and longer-billed. Then, through the dim light of the canopy, my eyes adjusted to see the bird's bold scaling pattern on its underparts and its strong white eye-ring. My heart started racing! I quickly reached for my camera to try to get some shots but before I could, the bird took flight up the valley, and in doing so displayed its beautiful black and white striped underwing. My legs turned to jelly!

Noting where the bird had flown to, I ran quickly up to the path immediately above and parallel to the one I was on, and advanced to the area delicately so not to disturb the bird. As I approached a large area of brambles and gorse, the bird suddenly appeared on the path in front of me. It was here that I managed to see the bird's features clearly, but I only managed one awful record shot (below) before the bird crept nervously into the scrub and out of sight. As you can see from the photo, the bird's back was a golden grey-brown and entirely boldly scaled, similar to its underside but with finer scaling on the back of the neck and head. Its wings were tinged a richer buff-brown colour, while its primary coverts and tips to its flight feathers were a much darker brown/black.

Record shot of the White's Thrush in upper Millcombe – hopefully the bird
will show itself again to allow for some better photos! 7 Oct © Dean Jones


The bird then flew out of the scrub and down the wooded slope – and luckily was seen by a number of other birders in the Valley at this time. After that it appeared to fly into an area of thick scrub at the top of the Valley and remained there out of sight – the last time the bird was seen (08:30). White's Thrush is known to be very shy, hiding away in dense vegetation for prolonged periods of time. Hopefully, it’s still lurking out there somewhere and will show itself again for all the other visiting birders on the island who missed it. Only time will tell!
   
If accepted, this will be the second record of White’s Thrush following a first-year male, also in Millcombe, on 15th Oct 1952, a bird which lingered until 8th Nov.

Additional highlights from today – other than the White’s – included two Barnacle Geese on Pondsbury in the afternoon (Shaun Barnes) and into the early evening, two Lapland Bunting logged just north of the west side of Halfway Wall (Paul Holt), a Reed Bunting (the second of the autumn) present in Millcombe first thing, and a Firecrest seen and heard moving through in bracken below the Ugly shortly before noon.

Barnacle Geese in the evening rain, Pondsbury, 7 Oct © Dean Jones
 
Other birds noted were an immature Cormorant low over the Village, two Woodpigeon, 150 Swallow, four House Martin, 14 Blackcap, two Chiffchaff, 26 Goldcrest, 110 Meadow Pipit, a White Wagtail in Barton Field, two Grey Wagtail, 17 Skylark passing south over the Village in the morning, six Wheatear, 10 Robin, four Stonechat, 11 Dunnock, 20 Blackbird, three Song Thrush, 14 Chaffinch, 70 Goldfinch, 43 Linnet, one Greenfinch, ten Siskin and a Lesser Redpoll.

Report composed of sightings from Shaun Barnes, Chris Dee, Darren Dowding, Ken Ebsworthy, Rosie Ellis, Paul & Jackie Holt, Dean Jones, Bob & Fi Medland, Hope Simpson, Sophia Upton and Justin Walker.

Wednesday, 7 October 2020

7th to 9th Oct – White’s Thrush! UPDATED

Lundy Warden Dean Jones found a White’s Thrush in Millcombe early on the morning of 7 Oct. It was elusive, not being seen after 08.30 hrs on 7th and not at all on 8th (in spite of thorough searching by multiple observers), but then turned up in a mist-net, also in Millcombe, on the morning of Friday 9th. Here are the 'back of camera' record shot that Dean managed on 7th and the bird in the hand, after ringing by Nik Ward, on 9th!

White's Thrush, Millcombe, 7 Oct © Dean Jones
 
The bird was ringed on 9 Oct © Dean Jones


There has been one previous record of White's Thrush on Lundy – a first-year male, also in Millcombe, was first seen on 15th Oct 1952 and stayed until 8th Nov.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOR ANYONE WISHING TO VISIT THE ISLAND:

The island's passenger vessel has a limited capacity due to current Covid-19 restrictions.

If visiting Lundy, face masks must be worn at all times when entering the island's General Stores or the Marisco Tavern.  

Many thanks to everyone for your understanding and cooperation.

 

Thursday, 1 October 2020

27th to 30th Sep – The year's first Dotterel and a breaching Bluefin Tuna!

Dean Jones swings back into action on the blog with all the news from the last four days of September. Ringing numbers provided by team leader Chris Dee.

September 27th

Light to moderate northerly winds in the morning, shifting north-westerly in the mid-afternoon. A dry day with clear skies for most.

The title of star bird of the day went to a juvenile Dotterel (the first of the year) which was photographed by Lundy Ranger Matt Stritch in South West Field in the late afternoon.
 
A record shot of the year's first Dotterel, in South West Field, 27 Sep © Matt Stritch 
 
Other sightings of note included a Whinchat in South West Field, a single Firecrest foraging in the Terrace willows, a light passage of hirundines comprising 400 Swallow, 20 Sand Martin and 42 House Martin. Skylarks too were moving in small numbers throughout the morning, with 17 logged overhead. Additional sightings included a Water Rail in Smelly Gully, seven Chiffchaff, 40 Blackcap, 20 Goldcrest, 16 Robin, 12 Dunnock, three Stonechat, 88 Meadow Pipit, six Chaffinch, 46 Goldfinch, just 20 Linnet, six fly-over Redpoll and nine Siskin.

Whinchat, South West Field, 27 Sep © Dean Jones
 
A total of 64 birds were ringed in Millcombe, including five Chiffchaff, 25 Blackcap, seven Goldcrest and 20 Swallow.
 
September 28th

A light to moderate westerly wind in the morning swinging north-westerly by the evening. Clear but overcast for the first hour or so in the morning, followed by a thick mist and fog which enveloped the island for most of the day – give or take a few clearer spells.

A much quieter bird day with most of yesterday’s migrants having cleared out overnight and, of course, reduced visibility due to the weather.

Highlights included a huge Bluefin Tuna which was seen fully breaching just offshore from Rat Island during a brief, mist-free spell just after noon. 

Other sightings of note included the first Redwing of the year in Millcombe, two Water Rail in Millcombe, a lone Snipe, a single Willow Warbler in the Laundry Garden Privet, seven Swallow, three Goldcrest, eight Pied Wagtail in the Camping Field, twelve Goldfinch, four Siskin and two fly-over Redpoll.

Eight birds were ringed before the mist descended, among them four Blackcap and two Chiffchaff.

Finally, 30 moths of 17 species were caught in the Millcombe Heath trap. Highlights were singles of Delicate and Silver Y and the second record of Mecyna asinalis for the island.

September 29th 
 
A glorious autumn day complete with spectacular sunrise, clear skies and a slight northerly breeze.
 
Lundy's East Side in all its autumn splendour, 29 Sep © Dean Jones
 
A nice variety and number of migrants today, with two Yellow-browed Warblers the stars of the day – one in Millcombe and another foraging in the Terrace willows.

One of the two Yellow-browed Warblers present on the island, Terrace, 29 Sep © Dean Jones
 
Hirundines also put on a great show, particularly between 10:00 and 12:00 hrs. Totals for the day came to a conservative estimate of 2,500 Swallow, 15 Sand Martin and 150 House Martin.

Other sightings included a fly-over Cormorant, two apiece of Woodpigeon and Water Rail, a Merlin and a female Sparrowhawk having a quarrel over the Terrace, 14 Skylark, two Grey Wagtail, three Pied Wagtail (plus two other fly-over unraced birds), 300 Meadow Pipit (which included two nice flocks of 85 birds in High Street and 60 in Lower Lighthouse Field), 15 Blackcap, four Chiffchaff, 10 Goldcrest, seven Wheatear (including one large Greenland-type bird), a single Stonechat, 16 Robin, nine Dunnock, 25 Goldfinch, six Chaffinch, 37 Linnet and two each of Lesser Redpoll and Siskin.
 
This excellent candidate for the leucorhoa (Greenland and Iceland) race of Northern
Wheatear dropped into Paradise Row this morning, 29 Sep © Dean Jones


Dunnock in the beautiful morning light, Millcombe, 29 Sep © Dean Jones
 
A total of 60 birds were caught and ringed throughout the day, including 12 Blackcap, five Goldcrest and 39 Swallow.

Non-avian sightings included five Harbour Porpoise in the Southern Races in the evening.

September 30th

A very wet day with frequent squalls, periods of thick mist and one or two heavy downpours up until the mid-afternoon, followed by sunny spells and light showers. Strong to moderate south-west/westerly winds throughout.

Very difficult birding conditions for most of the day due to the very poor weather. The only sightings of note were a fly-over Ringed Plover first thing, a female Sparrowhawk, one Woodpigeon, 75 Swallow, a single House Martin, 14 Goldcrest, four Chiffchaff, a lone Blackcap, 22 Robin, two Stonechat, 80 Meadow Pipit, and a Grey Wagtail in Millcombe Pond.
 
A Grey Wagtail braving the rain, 30 Sep © Dean Jones