The middle of May saw migrants and breeding birds alike struggling at times in unseasonably cool and sometimes very wet and windy weather (following an extremely dry April), though a few calmer, sunnier days brought pulses of late migration – including some exotic arrivals from the south – and better feeding conditions. So, grab a coffee, sit down and enjoy Lundy Warden Dean Jones's bumper round-up of all the latest news...
Saturday 8th May
A very wet day with periods of heavy rain and low cloud throughout. Winds strong and from the south-east first thing, turning northerly by the mid-morning. Max temperature 12°C.
The bad weather – which led to cancellation of all transportation to/from the island for the day – made for really difficult birding, and whilst out on the usual morning census it was obvious that the birds were finding it difficult too. The heavy downpours grounded a small number of migrants, including a single Spotted Flycatcher and a small number of Swallows, Sand and House Martins in the unusual location of the Landing Bay beach. Sadly, the persistently cool and unsettled weather during the following week meant that passage Swallows, in particular, were struggling to find sufficient food and a number were found dead in the gas store and Casbah (outbuildings in Millcombe), on several dates, whilst others were seen perching weakly on bramble stems or sitting in the middle of paths, clearly in a parlous state.
A Lesser Whitethroat was seen briefly along the Beach Road, and a Swift – which had been grounded next to Government House, though happily still in good health – was taken into care for release post-deluge.
The undoubted highlight of the day, however, was the occurrence of an Osprey above Quarry Beach in the afternoon. Initially picked up by the squawks and cries of numerous gulls and Carrion Crows, and with a Peregrine in tow, the bird quickly flew towards the safety of Quarry Beach before heading back out to sea (into a thick drizzle) after a close run-in with the Warden on Quarry Beach path!
|Distant record shot of the Osprey with some of its gull & corvid retinue, Quarry Beach, 8 May © Dean Jones|
Other birds of note included singles of Whimbrel and Merlin, nine Woodpigeons, three Collared Doves in Millcombe, two Whitethroats and two Chiffchaffs.
Sunday 9th May
Overcast in the morning, becoming brighter by the afternoon — a stiff northerly wind first thing switched to the south-west come late morning. Max temperature 13°C.
Highlights included a Cuckoo, seen by multiple observers as it made its way between St Helen’s Combe and St John’s Valley, a female Black Redstart in VC Quarry, a Lesser Whitethroat in St Helen's Copse, and a total of seven Spotted Flycatchers scattered along the east and in Millcombe. The Swift taken into care due to the previous day’s wet weather was checked over and released in the early morning. Overall, the bird was in great health, sporting a good weight, and it flew off strongly from St John’s Valley, which was a huge relief. What an incredible privilege it was to see this master of the skies up close!
Other birds of note included two Teal, two Swift, nine Woodpigeon, three Collared Dove, a Golden Plover, two each of Whimbrel and Dunlin, 44 Gannet offshore, four Sand Martin, 350 Swallow, 55 House Martin, 12 Willow Warbler, seven Chiffchaff, four Sedge Warbler, 11 Blackcap, four Garden Warbler, three Whitethroat, the male Song Thrush in Millcombe, four Stonechat, a fly-over Yellow Wagtail, 54 Linnet and 13 Goldfinch.
Monday 10th May
Mostly cloudy with a stiff northerly first thing – dropping off and brightening up by the late morning. Max temperature 13°C.
Highlights included a Great Northern Diver in the Landing Bay in the early evening, at least 10 Spotted Flycatcher scattered around the island and two Lesser Whitethroat in Millcombe and along the east.
The best of the rest included a Swift over Quarter Wall Copse, a Stock Dove in upper Millcombe, 37 Oystercatcher (including a roosting flock of 23 birds at Threequarter Wall Bay), two Whimbrel, a Dunlin in South West Field, c100 Manx Shearwater offshore, a male Kestrel, just one Sand Martin, 100 Swallow, 10 House Martin, three Willow Warbler, two Chiffchaff, four Sedge Warbler, 13 Blackcap, three Garden Warbler, two Whitethroat, the Millcombe Song Thrush, six Stonechat, a White Wagtail by North Quarry, a fly-over Tree Pipit, two Chaffinch, 69 Linnet, 13 Goldfinch and singles of Lesser Redpoll and Siskin.
Tuesday 11th May
A mostly overcast day, though a bright start with light south-westerlies first thing, turning easterly by the afternoon – brief light showers at 15:00 hrs. Max temperature 12°C.
The day started off brilliantly with a sub-adult Golden Oriole calling and singing in Millcombe Valley. As with most Golden Orioles on Lundy, the bird was very elusive – providing only brief views, mostly in flight, as it made its way through the canopy at the top of the Valley (with an angry Song Thrush in tow at one point). As more birders arrived in hope of a glimpse, it soon became apparent that there were in fact two birds in the Valley, with views of both a bright yellow bird and the greenish sub-adult found earlier. This is the fourth consecutive year that Golden Oriole has occurred on Lundy, with these two birds being the 15th and 16th individuals to be found on the island in the last ten years!
Other sightings of note included a Swift, five Woodpigeon, the South West Field Dunlin, nine Sand Martin, 310 Swallow, 20 House Martin, three Willow Warbler, three Chiffchaff, seven Sedge Warbler, six Blackcap, singles of Garden Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat, three Whitethroat, the Millcombe Song Thrush, nine Spotted Flycatcher, a Pied Wagtail collecting nest material in Barton Field, a fly-over Tree Pipit at the water tanks, four Chaffinch, 28 Linnet, seven Goldfinch and singles of Siskin and Lesser Redpoll.
Wednesday 12th May
Overcast with moderate northerlies in the morning, brightening up and wind dropping off by the afternoon — rain in the late afternoon/evening. Max temperature 12°C.
Highlights included the greenish sub-adult Golden Oriole again in Millcombe first thing, the first Grey Heron of the year along the east coast (being harried by gulls and corvids) and at Pondsbury, and a male Cuckoo in song at the Castle in the morning.
Other birds logged were a Swift, four Woodpigeon, two Collared Dove, a Water Rail calling from Smelly Gully, two Golden Plover (including a stunning male ‘northern’ altifrons raced bird), seven Whimbrel, a single Snipe flushed above North Lighthouse, 245 Kittiwakes building nests along the west coast, 70 Puffin, a young male Peregrine near Threequarter Wall, 30 Skylark, five Sand Martin, 200 Swallow, 30 House Martin, a single Willow Warbler, three Chiffchaff, two Sedge Warbler, a Reed Warbler at Quarter Wall Pond, six Blackcap, two Whitethroat, 16 Blackbird, the Millcombe Song Thrush, four Spotted Flycatcher, two Stonechat, 48 Wheatear, a female Yellow Wagtail and a White Wagtail both in Brick Field, 76 Meadow Pipit, three Chaffinch, 70 Linnet, 19 Goldfinch and one each of Siskin and Lesser Redpoll.
Non-avian sightings included the first Small Copper butterfly of the year and a Black Rabbit below Constable Rock.
Thursday 13th May
A chilly and overcast start, becoming warmer and brighter as the day went on — light north-easterly/northerly winds throughout. Max temperature 12°C.
Highlights included the Golden Oriole for his third day in Millcombe.
|Colour-ringed male Wheatear (green over yellow R, stripe over metal L), South End, 13 May|
Tony Taylor advises that this bird was originally ringed on Lundy in 2018 © Tim Jones
Other sightings of note included six Woodpigeon, one Collared Dove, a singing Water Rail near Quarter Wall, four Golden Plover in South West Field, a single Whimbrel, the South West Field Dunlin, a female Kestrel, just 22 Swallow, 12 House Martin, two Willow Warbler, three Chiffchaff, four Sedge Warbler, six Blackcap, three Whitethroat, the Millcombe Song Thrush, a single Spotted Flycatcher, 50 Wheatear (including four colour-ringed birds along the South End and in South West Field), a female Yellow Wagtail in Barton Field, 45 Linnet, eight Goldfinch, a Greenfinch in Millcombe (the first of the year), a male and female Siskin and a lone Lesser Redpoll.
Friday 14th May
A grey and drizzly start and end to the day, cloudy with sunny spells in-between — light northerlies in the morning swinging south by the evening. Max temperature 12°C.
Highlights included Golden Oriole again in Millcombe, a Wood Warbler on the edge of Quarter Wall Copse (the first of the year), a female Cuckoo being mobbed by Meadow Pipits between the Terrace and Quarter Wall Copse, and a female Whinchat near Threequarter Wall.
|On a cool, damp morning the Wood Warbler at Quarter Wall Copse was feeding at ground-level,|
working its way gradually north along the sidelands, 14 May © Tim Jones
|The orioles were typically shy & elusive... 14 May © Tim Jones|
|These very distant record shots are of the obvious sub-adult, feeding in upper Millcombe,|
but photographed from near the gas store in lower Millcombe, 14 May © Tim Jones
Other sightings of note were two drake Teal on Pondsbury, two Swift, two Woodpigeon, a Water Rail at Quarter Wall, 16 Oystercatcher, three Whimbrel, 218 Kittiwakes tending to nests, a female Kestrel, a Merlin over the Village, two Sand Martin, 240 Swallow (including the return of two of our Lundy breeders at St Helen’s Church), 21 House Martin, 12 Willow Warbler, five Chiffchaff, three Sedge Warbler, one Reed Warbler in the Secret Garden, five Blackcap, three Whitethroat, 25 Blackbird!, the Millcombe Song Thrush, a single Spotted Flycatcher, three Stonechat, 50 Wheatear, two Yellow Wagtail, four Chaffinch, 28 Linnet, three Lesser Redpoll, 10 Goldfinch and three Siskin.
Saturday 15th May
Cloudy with showers again in the morning, brightening up somewhat later in the day, though mostly overcast — light/moderate south-easterlies throughout the early hours, turning northerly by dawn. Max temperature 12°C.
The undoubted highlight was the discovery of a male Subalpine Warbler (probably Eastern) by Tim Jones near the Gas Store in Millcombe. Sightings of this rare bird were unfortunately rather brief and despite extensive follow-up searching, the bird could not be relocated. If accepted, this will be the 24th record of Subalpine Warbler for the island. Bravo Tim!
Additional highlights included Golden Oriole for the fifth consecutive day, and a Cuckoo in Millcombe/St Helen’s Copse for most of the day. Careful comparison of another snatched oriole record shot showed a much brighter bird than that photographed on 14th, indicating that both birds from 11th had remained on the island, though they were never seen (or heard together) after their arrival day!
There was plenty of breeding bird action too with the first Kittiwake egg of the year in Aztec Bay, and Chaffinches copulating, Wrens building nests, Robins delivering food to nestlings and a Dunnock removing faecal sacs – all in the Millcombe area.
Other sightings of note included four Woodpigeon, two Golden Plover in Brick Field, two Whimbrel, a female Kestrel, 80 Swallow, 21 House Martin, two Willow Warbler, five Chiffchaff, four Sedge Warbler, two Reed Warbler (including a very interesting pale bird in Smelly Gully, perhaps of eastern origin), six Blackcap, one Garden Warbler, five Whitethroat, the Song Thrush singing away, seven Spotted Flycatcher, a White Wagtail in Barton Field, two Chaffinch, 20 Linnet, 15 Goldfinch and a single Lesser Redpoll.
|The washed-out, greyish Reed Warbler in Smelly Gully, 15 May © Tim Jones|
(detailed examination of many other photos ruled out all other species)
Sunday 16th May
Heavy rain in the morning gave way to some beautiful weather by 11:00 hrs — light south-westerly winds early on dropped away and shifted to a light north-westerly by the afternoon. Max temperature 12°C.
A slightly quieter day for migrants. Highlights included two Sanderling on the far side of Rat Island in the afternoon – the second record so far this spring – and a male Cuckoo calling in St Helen’s Copse.
Other birds of note included a Great Northern Diver in the Landing Bay, two Whimbrel, a Golden Plover in Brick Field, a Snipe at Pondsbury, a female Kestrel, 110 Swallow, 11 House Martin, two Blackcap, two Whitethroat, four each of Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Sedge Warbler, a female Yellow Wagtail in Barton Field, a White Wagtail in the Camping Field, the Millcombe Song Thrush, seven Spotted Flycatcher, 40 Linnet (including a few pairs building nests in Millcombe/St John’s), 10 Goldfinch and two Lesser Redpoll in Quarter Wall Copse.
|Female Starling doing a bit of housekeeping in preparation for a possible second brood,|
Barton Cottages, 16 May © Dean Jones
There was no sign of the Golden Oriole.
Monday 17th May
Overcast during the morning — light showers throughout the early afternoon, becoming bright and sunny by mid-afternoon — light north-westerly/westerly winds throughout. Max temperature 12°C.
A very quiet day for migrants, though the antics of thousands of breeding seabirds made for a very exciting day nonetheless. Nearly all of the usual St Mark’s Guillemots are now carefully tending to eggs on this spectacular granite islet, though unfortunately we have already lost a few eggs this season due to the recent heavy rain which flooded some of the lower ledges. More and more Kittiwakes are also putting the finishing touches to their nests. Fulmars were meticulously arranging little stones and vegetation around themselves on their breeding ledges. And good numbers of Puffins were to-ing and fro-ing from burrows in Jenny’s Cove.
The island’s Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls are also cracking on with the breeding season, though as a whole these birds seem to be having quite a protracted season, with eggs not far off hatching in some nests while others are just starting to collect nest material.
Birds of note were a Short-eared Owl flushed from the Rocket Pole area in the evening, a Swift over Ackland’s Moor, a female Kestrel over Middle Park, 104 Puffin in Jenny’s Cove and Aztec Bay, 151 Kittiwake, 50 Skylark (the mapping of territories so far this year suggests that 2021 might be a bumper one for this species), 30 Swallow, 10 House Martin, two each of Blackcap and Whitethroat, four Chiffchaff, two Song Thrush (including a very grey continental type bird at VC Quarry), 30 Wheatear, 28 Linnet and a single Siskin.
Non-avian sightings included a Slow-worm near Pondsbury, one of the furthest north yet reported on the island.
Report composed of sightings from Ben Arkless, Dave, Helen & Niki Boyer, Richard Campey, Jamie Dunning, Tim Davis, Rosie Ellis, Eleanor Grover, Sue James, Dean Jones, Tim Jones, Sandie Robbens, Matt Stritch, Rob Waterfield and Adam Waters.