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Monday 28 October 2013

Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler in Millcombe 28 October

In the last hour of a 10-day stay on the island, Tim Davis and I were lucky enough to find a Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler in Millcombe this morning. Back home this evening and this is the write-up we have done for Steve Waite, the Devon County Bird Recorder, and as a basis for a British Birds Rarities Committee submission. This is the first British record since 2003. Sorry that it goes on a bit, but hopefully of interest. Certainly a memorable day for us.

"After a 10-day birding trip on Lundy and with just 50 minutes to go before they had to report for their helicopter flight back to the mainland, Tim Davis (TJD) and Tim Jones (TAJ) decided to have one last look in Millcombe, the sheltered east-facing valley in the south-east of the island. The whole stay had been dominated by strong, mainly south-westerly winds, which reached gale force, gusting higher, during the morning and early afternoon of 27 October. The media-dubbed “St Jude’s Day Storm” passed over South West England in the early hours of 28th, having moved rapidly across the Atlantic from the eastern seaboard of the USA. Given this meteorological set-up, and knowing that a Ruby-crowned Kinglet had been trapped and ringed on Cape Clear on 27th, TJD and TAJ were keenly aware of the possibility of Nearctic landbirds arriving in western Britain, hopefully including Lundy…

We were walking slowly down the northern side of the valley, through an area of trees and scrub sheltered from the still-strong WNW wind, bringing with it hefty showers and sunny intervals. TAJ saw a passerine fly in and perch on a small branch over the path about 8-9m away. Recognizing it immediately from previous experience of the species in North America, TAJ exclaimed to TJD “Yellow-rumped Warbler!”. The bird flew a short distance to the left (north side) of the path, where a series of robust wooden tree-guards protect young (planted) trees. The bird was using these structures as a series of perches from which to forage, both by sallying and periodically dropping into vegetation. The bird flitted from shelter to shelter, gradually moving up the slope. It then alighted on the trunk of a Turkey Oak, working its way up the tree in a series of hops and short flights. It continued upwards onto the main branches of the tree, before dropping back down onto the ground vegetation and tree shelters once more and from there into a pine tree at the top of the slope, pursued by a Robin. At this point TAJ left to try and alert other visiting birders. TJD walked slowly up the slope to stay with the bird.

The bird dropped down from the pine and landed in low vegetation, temporarily disappearing from view. As TJD slowly continued along a small path towards the bird, it appeared sitting on a plant stem holding in its bill a large bluebottle-type fly, which it took some 15 seconds to consume. During this period, the bird was fully side on, giving excellent views at a range of approximately 4-5m. As soon as it had finished eating the fly, the bird flew in front of and away from TJD, over a low hill and down towards the valley bottom, where it was lost from view.

Size, structure and behaviour: Size approximately similar to a Blackcap. Relatively plump-bodied and long-tailed. Moved by series of short hops and sallies when foraging. Direct flight when moving across valley. Considering its trans-Atlantic origins, the bird appeared in remarkable physical shape, with its plumage in excellent condition and its movements agile. It was clearly feeding well.

Plumage: Bright yellow rump, most obvious in flight. Duller yellow wash to sides of upper breast. Head and mantle with obvious brown cast. Mantle heavily dark-streaked. Contrasting head pattern with brownish crown/nape, darker cheeks and prominent whitish, broken eye-ring or “eye lids”. Pale throat extending onto sides of neck. Underparts pale, heavily flecked/streaked brownish, especially on flanks and upper breast. Wings darker than mantle. Prominent whitish wing bar on greater coverts. Less distinct off-white wing-bar on median coverts. Corners of tail with large whitish patches, really noticeable in flight.

Bare parts: Bill and legs appeared blackish.

Voice: The bird was heard to call at fairly regular intervals – a characteristic sharp “chup”, that both TJD and TAJ recognized.

Both TJD and TAJ viewed the bird through 10 x 42 Zeiss Victory FL binoculars. Total viewing time was about 8-10 minutes.

Both TJD and TAJ have seen hundreds of Yellow-rumped Warblers in North America (particularly in Quebec) and in both spring and fall plumages. Both are 100% confident of the identification.

At around 11.40 another visiting birder, Chris Baillie (CB), that we had managed to get a message to, had a brief view of the bird in flight as it crossed to trees on the southern slope of the valley. CB is also very familiar with the species, having lived for some years within the Caribbean wintering area. CB left on the same flight as TJD and TAJ."

Update 1 November: Not seen since we left on 28th October, according to the latest information (mid-afternoon, 1st November) from Lundy Warden Beccy MacDonald. Another Yellow-rumped Warbler was reported on 29th in County Galway, Republic of Ireland, while further North American arrivals at west-coast UK sites from Scilly to Rùm have included American Robin, Mourning Dove (first seen 28th) and Hermit Thrush – all presumably associated with the same weather system that brought the Yellow-rumped Warbler to Lundy.

Wind, Rain and Sun

19 - 25 October 2013
On the island for our usual Autumn visit and although the week started quietly for birds the diversity picked up quite soon. Seawatches from North End and The Castle produced Lundy's highest count of Balearic Shearwaters, 26 in one day, plus Great Skuas, juvenile Black Tern, Little Gull and hundreds of Kittiwakes. A more detailed report will follow in due course.
Other notables included Short-toed Lark, Snow Bunting, Lapland Buntings, Ring Ouzels, sightings of at least three different Yellow-browed Warblers, Richard's Pipit and a Red-throated Pipit (still present on 27th).
The usual migration of lots of Chaffinches and Thrushes didn't really happen with only low numbers as opposed to the thousands of Chaffinches seen most Autumns. Goldcrest numbers were also disappointing with only a handful seen on most days, though a Firecrest in Millcombe did liven things up a bit. Lots of birds of prey with Merlin, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and of course Peregrine.
A few pictures below:
 Snow Bunting
 Grey Seal Pup


Thursday 10 October 2013

Red-breasted Flycatchers and good numbers of commoner species

News via Tony Taylor that two Red-breasted Flycatchers were seen today and that some 200 birds (of more usual species!) were ringed on Wedesday (9th) by John Horton and his team.

Wednesday 9 October 2013

Two "firsts" for Lundy!

Ringers on Lundy during the first week of October certainly hit a purple patch! John Horton reports, via Tony Taylor, the trapping, ringing and photographing of a Booted Warbler on 1st and a Blyth's Reed Warbler on 3rd, followed by a Wryneck on 4th and Common Rosefinches on 4th & 5th! Both the Booted Warbler and the Blyth's Reed Warbler would be "firsts" for Lundy, assuming that the records are accepted by the powers that be. I believe that the Blyth's Reed Warbler would also be a first for Devon.

Wednesday 2 October 2013

Sea fog for a whole week hid Lundy from migrants

A team of ringers on Lundy from 21-28 September, led by Chris Dee struggled to catch as many birds as would be usual at this time of year, despite calm conditions. Persistant sea fog and light south-easterly winds for almost the entire week meant very little diurnal migration of Swallows or Meadow Pipits, or if they were migrating they couldn't find Lundy. Highlight of the week was the Wryneck (not trapped) in upper Millcombe and up to two Whinchat in St John's Valley and around the church. Water Rails were vocal in St John's and smelly gully. Four Firecrests were ringed along with three Grasshopper Warblers, and singles of Redstart, Sedge Warbler and Reed Warbler. The House Sparrows seemed to be spending more time in Millcombe than in recent years and Wrens seemed to have had a good breeding season.

Thursday 26 September 2013

First Firecrests of autumn and a Wryneck

Chris Dee, who has been ringing on Lundy since Saturday, reported yesterday, 25th September, that he had trapped three Firecrests to date and that a Wryneck had been seen on 24th & 25th (also reported by Beccy MacDonald on 25th). Commoner migrants, however, had been quite thin on the ground, with even Swallow numbers quite low, in contrast with the strong passage reported from parts of the Devon mainland early this week.

Friday 6 September 2013

Shearwaters thrive...and some rarities drop in!

Tony Taylor reports that from 24th August to 3rd September, he and Richard and Rebecca Taylor were on the island, "...primarily shearwatering but we did some daytime birding too. The Manx Shearwater work was very successful, with 200 chicks and 52 adults ringed, plus lots of interesting retraps (highlight was one I had ringed as a chick in 2005, when we ringed just 7 birds in total). Yet another year when there have been very noticeably more shearwaters than on the previous year's ringing trip. The crossing on the 24th included 1,000 Manx Shearwaters, 1 Storm Petrel, and 2 Great Skuas. A possible Wryneck was reported on 24th and Rich saw one later in Millcombe (on 26th I think). Rich also ringed an Icterine Warbler in Millcombe on 3rd September (after the boat had already left for Ilfracombe, meaning that day visitors did not have the chance to see it). Not many migrants about: Willow Warblers commonest, with a few Spotted and Pied Flycatchers, one or two Redstarts, Whinchats, Blackcaps, Whitethroats and Chiffchaffs."

Other recent news from wardens Beccy and Aislinn is of a Little Egret around the Landing Bay on 21st August and a Pectoral Sandpiper near the dung heap by the Main Track on 4th & 5th September – see the Lundy Conservation Team's Facebook page for photos.

Monday 22 July 2013

Day trip Saturday 20 July

An extended day trip. Hot and sunny, with the gusty easterly breeze being pleasantly refreshing for a change – in contrast to the bone-chilling easterlies we have so often experienced on Lundy! On the crossing, hundreds of Manx Shearwaters feeding close to the mainland off Morte Point, plus three Puffins about half-a-mile out from the island. We completed coverage of Lundy for the Devon Bird Atlas with a one-hour Timed Tetrad Visit from the Landing Bay up to the Castle, accompanied by Seasonal Assistant Warden Aislinn Mottahedin-Fardo. After completing the TTV we walked along the West Side to Threequarter Wall and back S along the main track and Terrace. At least 50 Puffins in Jenny's Cove (up to 35 on land) and 30 at St Philip's Stone. Several hundred Guillemots still on the ledges at Jenny's. Several Kittiwake chicks about to fledge, with well-developed juvenile plumage and lots of energetic wing-exercising (how do they not fall off?!). There was a trickle of "autumn" (!) migration already, with nine Swifts and five Sand Martins passing through. We didn't get to Pondsbury, but other visitors reported a Green Sandpiper there. Among the breeding landbirds, an adult Pied Wagtail was feeding two well-grown juveniles in Lower Millcombe, a very juvenile Goldfinch with adults in St John's Valley, several family parties of Linnets (particularly in Middle Park), a Meadow Pipit carrying food to a nest site near Hanmers, and a singing Chiffchaff in Millcombe. Butterflies included: 4 Graylings (West Side and the Ugly), 350+ Meadow Browns, 6 Red Admirals, 5 Small Tortoiseshells and 20 Large Whites. Also about 20 male Oak Eggar moths, a few burnet moths (Five-spotted?) whizzing by at high speed and one very smart Rosechafer beetle. Tim Davis & Tim Jones

Monday 15 July 2013

Lundy puffling 2013

Just 3 guillemot chicks and one egg left on my survey ledge. But I did see a puffin chick this morning.

Sunday 7 July 2013

Two guillemot chicks fledged

Two chicks have fledged. Eleanor jumped on Thursday night.

Eleanor on Thursday morning...

... and not there Saturday morning.
Qawser jumped on Saturday night.

Qawser on Saturday morning

... and her mother with a fish this morning.

Thursday 4 July 2013

Two new guillemot chicks have hatched, but one chick was lost.

Highlights: 180 puffins seen on one day. Another 29 guillemot feeds during 5 mornings of observation.

Busy times over the last few days. The Splash-in underwater photography competition was a great success last Saturday. We had Baz & Steve Dambusker and friends playing music in the Marisco Tavern on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

Despite this, I still managed to record 2 hours of guillemot feeding on Thu 27th, Fri 28th, Sun 30th, Mon 1st, Tues 2nd, Wed 3rd. Each hour of video requires an hour to upload to my laptop, plus another hour to convert the file into an mpeg2 file.

However this morning is still foggy, so I'll grab this opportunity to give you an update on the last week's activity.

Wednesday 26/6/13. The trip around the island on the Jessica Hettie was very successful - Shelley counted 56 puffins on the water.

Thursday 27/6/13. The guillemot chicks received 6 feeds, 2 feeds each for chicks E (Eleanor) and S (Stanley), also single feeds for chicks H (Harman) and Q (Qawser). The other four chicks were seen: B (Bevill), C (Christie), I (Irwin) and N (Neville).

This was also a good day for puffins. I counted 53 puffins on the land at St Philip's Stone at 8am, plus 104 puffins on the land at Jenny's Cove at 9am. Alan Rowland was also on the island and counted 23 puffins at Long Roost at 1pm.

Friday 28/6/13. Eight feeds today: Eleanor received 3 feeds, Harman received 2 feeds, with single feeds for Christie, Irwin and Qawser. No feeds seen for Bevill, Neville, or Stanley. It was foggy for 20 minutes during my survey. Fortunately Sony Vegas was able to stretch the light levels so that I still had the full 2 hour coverage. No birds arrived during the fog.

Saturday 29/6/13. Splash-in.

Sunday 30/6/13. Foggy in the morning but I managed to get out at midday. 62 puffins on the land at St Philip's Stone at 1:40pm. 4 feeds were seen (Christie, Eleanor, Qawser and Stanley) and four other chicks were seen Bevill, Harman, Irwin and Neville.

Monday 1/7/13. Another chick has hatched! When I first arrived, the adult at site G was tenting its wings. There were also small pieces of egg-shell on the ledge. Later on, I managed to catch a glimpse of the new chick "Grenville". There were five feeds in my 2 hour watch today - Bevill, Christie, Eleanor, Harman and Irwin received feeds - Grenville, Neville, Qawser and Stanley were feedless.

Tuesday 2/7/13. Six feeds today. I thought that this would be a exceptional morning - I saw 5 feeds in the first hour, but then I sat through 40 minutes of rain with no feeds. Irwin received 2 feeds, Bevill, Grenville, Harman and Stanley all received one feed each. Christie, Eleanor, Neville and Qawser were also present.

Wednesday 3/7/13. Neville has gone. Both parents were at site N this morning but there was no sign of Neville. At 16 days old, Neville would have been capable of "fledging" but the presence of both parents means that either predation or bad communication was responsible.

In guillemots, the chick jumps to the sea before it can fly (giving them the name 'droplings'). The male parent accompanies the chick for the first two months of its life at sea. During this time, the chick learns to fish for itself and the adult is flightless during its moult. Jeremy Greenwood studied the fledging of Lundy's guillemots in July 1962. With a fuller study on Handa (Sutherland, Scotland) he concluded the most fledging deaths result from chick and adult failing to meet each other on the sea. (Greenwood, 1964, Ibis 106, pp.469-481).

On the positive side, another chick hatched today. Chick R (Rene) received a feed. There were 7 other feeds: Eleanor and Harman each received 2 feeds, and there were singles feeds for Bevill, Grenville, and Irwin. Christie, Qawser and Stanley were also seen today.

Rene's first feed

The weather forecast is looking good for the next few days - I'll try to keep you updated. More chicks should be fledging...

Wednesday 26 June 2013

Chick N "Neville" survives.

Chick N was not taken by a Herring Gull it's still alive and breathing this morning. Shelley suggested that I should name the chicks. We decided to call this chick "Neville" after William Neville, brother of King Edward IV, and owner of Lundy 1462-1463.

"Neville" wasn't fed in the two hours that I was at the survey ledge this morning, but there were 6 other feeds. Chicks Q, I, H, C, B and S were all fed this morning. More tomorrow, we're going around the island with Clive Pearson on the Jessica Hettie this afternoon.

Tuesday 25 June 2013

Is this last view of Chick N?

Chick N may have been taken by a gull. 2 minutes after I finished filming, a Herring Gull swooped down and tried to snatch something from the ledge. I couldn't tell whether the gull was successful, the parent didn't look upset, but I'll have to wait until Wednesday morning to find out.

Chick N

In other news: there are now at least 8 chicks on the ledge. Pairs B, C, E, H, I, N(possibly), Q and S all have chicks. Pairs A and M have no chicks or eggs. Pair G and possibly pair F are still sitting on eggs, and I'm still not sure about pairs O, P and R.

Egg G

 There were 5 feeds during my 2 hour survey this morning. Chicks B, I and S were fed once, and Chick F was again fed twice.

More news tomorrow.

Monday 24 June 2013

Guillemot pair D have lost their chick.

My first visit to the ledge since Thursday resulted in one loss and one gain. The loss was Chick D. I'd seen this chick fed twice last week. Today its parents were bringing fish to an empty ledge. 2011 was the only year that I've seen this pair raise a chick to "fledging".

The gain was chick B. Today was the first day that I'd seen the second parent returning to the ledge, so it was difficult to tell whether they had a chick or an egg. Their fish disappeared quickly, confirming the presence of a chick.

In total there were 8 feeds this morning. Chicks E, I, & H all received two feeds. Chick Q had a single feed.

Chick N was also seen, or at least I saw its beak poking out from under its parent's wing. More news tomorrow.

Sunday 23 June 2013

Guillemot pair F do have an egg

The strong winds have kept me away from the ledges, but it has meant that I've been able to review my previous footage. I found this on the the tape from the 14th June:

That little blue shape in the centre of the image? That's a egg that I hadn't noticed. I'd seen this pair without an egg on the 4th June, but I'd assumed that it was too late in the season for them to lay another egg.

Common Guillemots can lay a second egg if the first is lost, and occasionally a third egg if the second is also lost. Replacement eggs are usually laid ~15 days after the lost of the previous egg and are around 6% lighter than first eggs.

It will be a race against time for this pair. By the time their egg hatches sometime between 10th and 14th July, most of the other chicks will have gone to sea. This will mean less birds on the ledge and more opportunities for predators.

The winds are lighter tomorrow morning - and for the next few days. I'll let you know how the chicks are doing.

Friday 21 June 2013

Foggy today but 4 feeds yesterday morning.

I arrived at St Philip's Stone this morning and I couldn't see the sea. It has given me a chance to catch up with yesterday's filming.

I saw 4 feeds yesterday; chicks D and N were both fed once, and chick H had two feeds.

I didn't see any new chicks, but guillemot B was sitting with "drooped-wings" this is sometimes a sign that a chick is present.

The weather forecast says that there are NW gale force winds on the way - it looks like Monday morning before I get to film again. I hope that all is well with the chicks over the weekend.

Wednesday 19 June 2013

More Guillemot chicks hatched

More Guillemot chicks have hatched, making at least 6 chicks on my provisioning ledge this morning. I saw 5 feeds and I saw a couple of the chicks for the first time.

You just get a glimpse of this chick highlighted with the circle. This chick is at least 4 days old. It was this chick that got the first observed feed of the 2013 season on the 16th June.

As we don't have a colour-ringing scheme on Lundy, I identify the Guillemots by their relative positions on the ledge. The pair at this location, Site E, has successfully raised chicks every year since 2010.

These are the positions of the Guillemots in 2008. So far in 2013 I've identified chicks at sites D, E, H, I, N and Q (and apart from chick H, all of these chicks received fish this morning). A, F and M have either not laid eggs this year or have lost them. B, C, G, O, P, R, and S are either still sitting on eggs or are doing a very good job of hiding their chicks.

More updates soon, it looks like there is rain on the way, so I'm not sure when I'll be able to film again.


Tuesday 18 June 2013

3 Guillemot chicks fed this morning.

Seabird breeding season is my favourite time on Lundy. The highlight for me is when the auks start to bring back fish for their young. Puffins and Razorbills with beaks crammed full of Sand-eels or Guillemots with just a single fish.

I've been watching the Guillemots provision their chicks since 2006. The first year I just used a telescope, but since then I've been filming the ledges as well.

This particular ledge is near St Philip's Stone on the west coast. Today, I know that there are at least 3 chicks, and I'm expecting more to hatch any day. It looks like there could be 13 chicks when they've all hatched.

Things seem to be slightly behind this year. On this day last year there were 11 chicks on this ledge and they received a total of 15 feeds from their parents in 2 hours. This is an exceptionally  high rate - usually a chick will receive one fish in 4 hours.

Monday 10 June 2013

Sightings 11th - 25th May 2013

During a couple of weeks of mixed weather I managed to identify 42 species, mostly all the usual suspects. At Jenny's Cove up to 30 Puffins were seen on the land at any one time. Some were collecting nest material, but none returning from the sea were bringing in food. Peregrines were also active in various locations with at least one nest with a chick. There was a lot of activity on top of the island from Meadow Pipits, Skylarks and Wheatears, but a number of people commented on the fact that not a single Stonechat had been seen. Swallows, House Martins and Swifts were flying over the top of the island daily, and good numbers of Spotted Flycatchers were active around Millcombe and the east side. Lesser Redpolls were also frequently spotted.
The highlight for me was seeing an Osprey flying north over the island on the 15th. Four were seen by various observers during my stay.

Lesser Redpoll






Tuesday 28 May 2013

A pair of Golden Plovers in Tillage field.

Walking back from the North end we spied a pair of Golden Plovers in Tillage field.
Also a male Black Redstart at Long Roost

Monday 20 May 2013

Seabird activity

19 May 2013

Grant Sherman's surveys of the seabird cliffs on the island include:

 "1245 Guillemots on my survey ledges this morning. A lot of birds sitting hunchbacked on the St Philip's Stone sites (presumably sitting on eggs). Not as many on the Jenny's Cove sites - however I did get a photo of this egg. 

13 Puffins on the land and 5 on the water at St Philip's Stone.
35 Puffins on the land and at least 10 on the water at Jenny's Cove

around 4 or 5 hundred Razorbills but I didn't do a proper count. 

Some Kittiwakes were collecting grass and turf for nest material. "

Tuesday 14 May 2013

Devon Birds daytrip and other recent snippets

For news of the Devon Birdwatching & Preservation Society's "bracing" daytrip on 12th May – including the first Dotterels of the year – visit the Devon bird news website http://www.devonbirds.org/news/bird_news/devon_bird_news

In other recent news from the island, a Hoopoe was reported in the first week of May and the remains of a Golden Oriole, perhaps the same bird reported towards the end of April, were found on 8th.

Tuesday 7 May 2013

The end of an era...

Some regular readers of this blog may already be aware that James Leonard, denizen of the Radio Room and indefatigable contributor to the Tavern logbook, passed away on 28 April after suffering a stroke. For the past decade, James was a frequent visitor to Lundy, often to be encountered birdwatching around Millcombe and latterly – since the arrival of his mobility scooter – more widely about the island. His final voyage from Lundy back to his North Devon home was on 18 April; it is hard to believe that this larger-than-life character and his instantly-recognizable handwriting (pencil only!) are gone forever. The end of an era indeed.

Tim Davis & Tim Jones

James aboard MS Oldenburg in October 2011

Recent Sightings 27 April - 4 May 2013

Received from Chris Baillie -

April 27th -29th was mostly dominated by northerly winds, cool and cloudy. The large number of Willow Warblers ringed earlier in the week were soon gone, replaced by a slow but steady trickle to the end of our stay on May 4th.  Nights became clear, and few migrants stayed long. Chiffchaff, Whitethroat, Sedge, Reed and Grasshopper Warblers were noted in single figures. Hirundine passage was modest, one Redstart but no Flycatchers or Swifts were seen, whilst Siskin, Goldfinch, Linnet and Meadow Pipit flocks were small and few. Wheatears (with a small proportion of Greenland) kept up a steady flow, and some began to assert territories. Pied Wagtail, Blackbird, Robin, Starling, Wren and Linnet were all noted food-carrying. Singles of Dunlin and Turnstone were seen over the Landing Bay, Whimbrel were recorded most days, and one of two Great Northern Divers remained for several days. The highlight was a female Goshawk over the terraces on May 2nd.

Highest count for Puffins was 67 on May 2nd and probably represented more than 70. Later that day 150 Shags congregated around Common Dolphins off the West Side, but then did not follow them. Only a handful of other seabirds joined the gathering, although plenty were within sight.

Wednesday 24 April 2013

Golden Oriole and images of some of last week's highlights

News from the island, via the Lundy Conservation Team's Facebook page, is that a Golden Oriole was seen yesterday, Tuesday 23rd April.

Below are photos of some of last week's highlights from Paul & Helen Bolland and Rachel Shaftman & Jonny Taylor:

Arctic Tern from MS Oldenburg, April 2013. © Paul Bolland
Common Buzzard, 20 April 2013. © Paul Bolland
Osprey being mobbed, East Side, 20 April 2013. © Paul Bolland

Long-tailed Skua, Middle Park, 16 April 2013. © Rachel Shaftman/Jonny Taylor
Long-tailed Skua, Middle Park, 16 April 2013. © Rachel Shaftman/Jonny Taylor