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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, 23 April 2019

23rd Apr – Pied Crow!

A WhatsApp message from Dean Jones brought news that the Pied Crow, which has been wandering extensively around England and Wales for the last 10 months and which popped up eating sardines in a Clovelly garden yesterday after a 12-day sojourn in Cornwall, had made it to Lundy! Below, a great photo and short video clip from Dean, who said of his subject: "Amazing beast; it's blooming huge!!":

Pied Crow atop the Lundy General Stores, aka 'the Shop', 23 Apr © Dean Jones

Said amazing beast first appeared in East Yorkshire in June 2018, since when it has been in Licolnshire, Norfolk, Essex, East Sussex, North Somerset, Pembrokeshire, Cornwall and the Devon mainland – though not in that order – see map from BirdGuides below:

Pied Crow has an extensive sub-Saharan breeding distribution, as shown in the map below from HBW Alive:

Native range of Pied Crow Corvus albus Source: HBW Alive

Records north of the Sahara, including those in Britain and elsewhere in Europe, are generally considered to be either the result of escapes from captivity, or due to birds hitching a ride on a passing ship. A December 2018 BirdGuides article about the individual that has now paid a visit to Lundy, concluded that the bird's origins "are still clearly up in the air. Showing no obvious signs of plumage wear, and slight peachy feather discolouration when it first appeared consistent with sand-blasting in the Sahara (or further south), it seems worthy of consideration as a ship-assisted or even migrant bird, despite the high escape risk. That said, its confiding nature suggests past affiliation with humans, and it seems unlikely that this long-staying and widely wandering bird will get anywhere near the British list. However, this bird's presence has been widely discussed both in literature and online, and it's arguably surprising that an owner hasn't yet come forward to claim it. Perhaps its origins don't lie in Britain after all..." It will be interesting to see where its next port of call is. Back to Wales, perhaps?

Monday, 22 April 2019

20th to 22nd Apr – Yellow-browed and Eastern Subalpine Warblers

Lundy Warden Dean Woodfin Jones rounds up all the news from three eventful days on the island:

Saturday 20th April

A beautiful sunny, warm day brought with it the first full ship of the season as well as a superb array of migrant birds. Highlights include the female Sparrowhawk, 12 Woodpigeon, only 4 Swallow, 20 Willow Warbler, 15 Chiffchaff, 7 Sedge Warbler, a reeling Grasshopper Warbler in Millcombe, 300+ Blackcap (though this is probably a gross underestimate), 2 Whitethroats, 2 Pied Flycatcher, the first Spotted Flycatcher of the year, a Grey Wagtail in the Devil's Kitchen, 1 White Wagtail in Barton Field, the first Yellow Wagtail of the year at Pondsbury, a Tree Pipit over Millcombe, 5 Chaffinch, 10 Goldfinch and a single Lesser Redpoll over the Village in the evening. The bird of the day, however, came in the form of a Yellow-browed Warbler which was found by Andy Trout in the Sycamores at the top of Millcombe in the mid-afternoon. This is the first spring record for this hardy little Siberian warbler on Lundy, a superb find!

Sunday 21st April

Another sunny and very warm day saw another arrival of migrants including a Merlin, the female Sparrowhawk again, 19 Swallow, a single House Martin, 60 Willow Warbler, 15 Chiffchaff, 5 Sedge Warbler, 6 Grasshopper Warbler, 150 Blackcap, 4 Whitethroat and 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 1 Black Redstart, a female Common Redstart, 4 Pied Wagtails, 1 White Wagtail again in Barton Field, along with a stonking male Yellow Wagtail, 4 Chaffinch, 10 Goldfinch, a single male Greenfinch, 1 Siskin, 3 Lesser Redpoll, 22 Linnet and a female Brambling feeding with the Chaffinch in Barton Field.

Ringing totals = 138 birds: 79 Blackcap, 31 Willow Warbler, 9 Chiffchaff, 5 Sedge Warbler, 3 Grasshopper Warbler, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 1 House Sparrow, 1 Wren, 4 Goldfinch and 1 Greenfinch. 

Monday 22nd April

Slightly cooler day today compared to the weekend due to the strong easterly winds, though all in all, still very sunny and pleasant. The highlight of the day was undoubtedly the presence of an Eastern Subalpine Warbler which turned up in a shelf of a mist-net in Millcombe and was subsequently ringed by David Kightley. The bird turned out to be a first calendar year male and was in good health and carrying a small amount of fat. This is the 19th record of Subalpine Warbler for the island.

Other birds of note included the female Sparrowhawk hunting Woodpigeon in Quarter Wall Copse, a male Kestrel, a Dunlin on South West Point, a Collared Dove in the Village, the first Cuckoo of the year, only 8 Swallow, 1 House Martin, 22 Willow Warbler, 9 Chiffchaff, the first Garden Warbler of the year, 53 Blackcap, 5 Whitethroat, 2 Yellow Wagtail, a Tree Pipit over Millcombe in the early morning, a female Stonechat at Quarter Wall, 3 Chaffinch, 14 Goldfinch, a Siskin, 2 Lesser Redpoll, 51 Linnet and the female Brambling.

Ringing totals = 54 birds: 30 Blackcap, 1 Garden Warbler, 10 Willow Warbler, 5 Chiffchaff, 2 Goldfinch, 2 Meadow Pipit and singles of Goldcrest, Woodpigeon, Whitethroat and of course the Eastern Subalpine Warbler.

Unsurprisingly with all this sunny weather we have also had some nice diurnal Lepidoptera sightings this weekend, with Peacock butterflies, Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Green-veined White, Small White, Orange-tip, Painted Lady, Silver Y and Emperor Moth all on the wing.

Report composed from sightings from Chris & Mandy Dee, Rob Duncan, David Kightley, Neil & Andy Trout and Dean Woodfin Jones.

1st calendar-year male Eastern Subalpine Warbler, Millcombe, 22 Apr 2019 © Dean Jones
Female Brambling, Millcombe, 22 Apr 2019 © Dean Jones
Male Orange-tip on Bluebell, Millcombe, 22 Apr 2019 © Dean Jones

Saturday, 20 April 2019

14th to 20th Apr – More firsts for the year and a decent warbler fall

After a slow start to the week, when a fresh and chilly easterly no doubt hampered both ringing and observation, Chris & Mandy Dee report an improvement over the last couple of days or so as the wind eased and backed more to the SE, importing much warmer air. Highlights earlier in the week included a Whimbrel at North End on Wednesday 16th, two Ring Ouzels, a Sedge Warbler and a Siskin on Thursday 17th, when Dean Jones also saw a male Redstart. The 17th also saw a moderate arrival of Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers and Blackcaps, and 58 birds were ringed. Friday 18th was a better day still, with new arrivals including a Lesser Whitethroat, two Common Whitethroats, three Sedge Warblers, a Tree Pipit and another Ring Ouzel, along with excellent numbers of Blackcaps (69 ringed) and Willow Warblers (21 ringed) and smaller numbers of Chiffchaffs. Lundy staff member Pete Lambden saw an Osprey along the East Side during the morning.

Dean adds that other sightings during the week have included:
  • A reeling Grasshopper Warbler outside Government House on the 15th and another outside Old School/Blue Bung on the 16th.
  • Tree Pipits on the 17th & 19th (both over Millcombe).
  • Collared Dove in the Village on the 18th and another (more than likely the same bird) was heard singing in Millcombe on the morning of the 19th.
  • A female Merlin looking for a meal around Pondsbury on the afternoon of the 14th.
  • Small numbers of hirundines on most days, max 7 Sand Martins, 59 Swallows and 3 House Martins on the 17th.
  • A female Whitethroat in the ivy next to Government House on the 17th (with a very shiny ring on it but not one of Chris Dee's).
  • Female Goldcrest on the 17th.
  • Song Thrush on the Terrace on the 19th (showing continental characteristics – perhaps the same bird Philip Lymbery saw a few days ago)?
  • Linnet, max 51 on the 19th
Saturday 20th saw a further (and even bigger) fall of Blackcaps and a total of 130 birds (all species) were ringed.

Thursday, 18 April 2019

Chiffchaff ringing movement

Tony Taylor has recently received notification from the BTO of the following control (meaning recapture and release) of a Lundy-ringed Chiffchaff, showing fairly rapid onward movement to the coast of Co. Wexford during spring migration almost exactly a year ago. What's more the bird was actually ringed by a son of the island of Ireland, none other than Lundy's Warden, Dean Jones!

In summary, it was ringed on 20 April and recaptured on Great Saltee, some 171 km NW of Lundy, just over a week later on 28 April. When ringed, examination of the bird's plumage indicated that it had been hatched in 2017, so was undertaking its first spring migration. At 55mm the bird's wing length suggests that it was most likely a female.

Monday, 15 April 2019

Wheatear colour-ringing update

Freshly returned from a week's fieldwork from 6th to 13th April, Tony Taylor reports on the latest instalment of the long-term study of Lundy's breeding Northern Wheatears

"Ann and I spent five or six hours each day looking for Wheatears from what shelter we could find in the cold east winds, mainly on the West Side but with some shorter spells on the south coast. We recorded 28 different colour-ringed birds, as well as seeing several others too briefly or distantly for individual identification. They tended to be feeding out of sight on the lower slopes and cliffs, and plenty of patience was needed for reasonable views.

We saw several birds we know well from past seasons, including the male at Benjamin's Chair and the ‘Dad of the year 2018’ near Montagu Steps. Of the 28 seen, one bird was originally ringed in 2015, seven in 2016, eight in 2017 and twelve in 2018. The jump in numbers between ’15 and ’16 ties in with the unusually low winter survival rate we recorded that year. We hope there will be plenty more colour-ringed birds arriving soon, for us and others to find later in the season. Please do send us your sightings!

In general the established pairs seemed settled on their territories and busy feeding, but we saw several spectacular bouts of displaying, chasing and fighting, including one which involved two males and three females that were all within a couple of metres of each other.

Up to about 20 unringed birds were around the fringes of the plateau in our study area (south of Halfway Wall). They seemed to be a mix of potential Lundy breeders and migrants heading further north."

How to report sightings of colour-ringed Wheatears on Lundy: Each bird has a standard BTO metal ring plus a striped ring (which signifies the Lundy project) on one leg, and two colour rings on the other leg. Please take care to note which rings are on which leg and make sure you specify the order of rings on each leg. The bird in the photo below, for example, would be recorded as: "Left leg, striped over metal; Right leg, yellow over green". Please record sightings in the  LFS Logbook in the Tavern, via the Lundy Wheatear Study Facebook page, or email them directly to Tony Taylor using the link here. In addition to the ring sequence, date, time and specific location, the bird's sex and any notable activity (e.g. singing, mating, nest-building, feeding young) would also be useful. Photos are particularly welcome.

Lundy colour-ringed Wheatear © Elisabeth Price

2nd to 13th Apr – Chill winds and a flood of spring migrants

Philip & Helen Lymbery have kindly contributed the following vivid account of their recent 12-day visit to the island, from 2nd to 13th April:

"Our first trip in early April will be remembered for the strong easterly winds that lashed the islands, as well as for spring migrants including Sandwich Tern, Pied Flycatcher and Common Redstart. The fierceness of the winds caused a stricken Oldenburg to be towed away for repairs, stranding about 70 visitors for an extra couple of days. Those same winds also brought a distinct chill to the air. So much so that, for the first time on Lundy, we wished we’d brought gloves!

Strong easterlies meant that Millcombe Valley was often ‘blown out’ by the wind, forcing birds to keep their heads down and making birding at times slow.

However, calm days saw bushes come alive with migrant warblers. Willow Warblers were everywhere. We had a personal maximum count of 36 on the 8th and 12th. Blackcaps came to the island in waves, firstly all males and then mixed with females. Peak count was of 26 on the 8th. However, with plenty of bushes and scrub for cover, the real bird-count could well have been much higher. As we know well from bird ringing, the number seen can often be but a fraction of those actually present.

Passerine highlights for us during the period included a striking male Pied Flycatcher (3rd and 4th), several Common Redstarts including handsome males (8th, 11th, 12th and 13th), a female Black Redstart (6th), and a Firecrest on the 7th. A single Lesser Redpoll (5th and 8th) and 1-2 White Wagtails (8th and 11th) were also present. Amongst more than a dozen Chiffchaffs at any one time was a fleeting bird showing characteristics of the Siberian race, ‘tristis’ (5th); lacking green tones above or yellow below, but with black legs and a solid black bill.

Male Common Redstart beside Bramble Villas, 12 Apr 2019 © Philip Lymbery

Female Common Redstart near The Ugly, 08 Apr 2019 © Philip Lymbery

Male Pied Flycatcher on a windy day... 12 Apr 2019 © Philip Lymbery

A young female Sparrowhawk buzzed the burgeoning passerine flocks on the east coast. A single Kestrel hovered regularly around Millcombe and Castle Hill. The island’s Peregrines patrolled the coastline daily, although their activity levels seemed to vary from day to day. We particularly enjoyed watching a male chasing off a rival before displaying triumphantly over the south with winnowing wingbeats.

Female Sparrowhawk over Millcombe, 6 Apr 2019 © Philip Lymbery

Amongst uncommon non-passerine sightings was a single Sandwich Tern in the Landing Bay area on the 3rd, 2 adult Cormorant flying northeast over Castle Hill (5th) and a Stock Dove (12th) around Barton’s Field. Perhaps our favourite was a Curlew calling evocatively whilst flying over Quarter Wall Cottages toward the Devon mainland (8th).

Record shot of Sandwich Tern, Landing Bay, 3 Apr 2019 © Philip Lymbery

Although the weather felt wintry - cold, misty, gusty, a sprinkling of rain, even hail - there were more than enough birdlife, sunshine and photo opportunities to keep the motivation high.

Lundy can sometimes be a frustrating place to photograph birds. Those Puffins can be too far away, the Peregrines just won’t play ball, and songbirds can often be little more than a flit of a tail disappearing into a bush full of leaves.

Female Peregrine playing ball for the camera over the Terrace, 7 Apr 2019 © Philip Lymbery
Puffin back on the breeding slopes at Jenny's Cove, 7 Apr © Philip Lymbery

However, on this trip, the most magic moments happened when the wind subsided to reveal bushes bouncing with birds just waiting to have their picture taken. Normally elusive warblers in such numbers and so unusually showy, you could soak up their features and see the gleam in their eyes.

Then, after dark, was the strangely fascinating sound of Manx Shearwaters, back to breed along the rat-free sidelands.

The weather may not have been mild nor the sun particularly warming, but there is surely nowhere better than Lundy to watch the changing of the seasons.

Although one Swallow does not make a spring, a steady stream heading north from the 4th was a sure sign of better weather on the way. House Martins followed them from the 6th and a rush of Sand Martins came through on the 11th.

As our 18th time on the island concluded with shining sun, it seemed we were leaving just as spring was really hitting her stride."

Philip and Helen Lymbery

Saturday, 13 April 2019

12th April – Hirundine passage picking up

Chris Baillie reports:

"Strong Swallow movement through late morning to mid-afternoon. Fair smattering of House Martins (40 logged) and Sand Martins (19 logged). Male Redstart in Millcombe. Female Sparrowhawk still present and a male yesterday (11th). Willow Warblers over the island in moderate numbers (50 logged). Cormorants in two groups passed N today. Pair of Teal on Pondsbury."

Auk counts by Dean Jones totalled: 4,543 Guillemots, 2,396 Razorbills and 207 Puffins.

In other news, last autumn's Lundy records of three major rarities have now all been accepted by the British Birds Rarities Committee, namely the Green Warbler (7th Oct), Red-eyed Vireo (19th Oct) and American Robin (26th Oct).