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Wednesday 30 July 2014

Day trip 30 July 2014 – Puffin extravaganza

We took advantage of an "earlyish out, lateish back" boat from Bideford for a spur-of the-moment day trip. Light NW wind on the outward crossing, backing to a westerly for the return. In both directions saw several individual adult Guillemots accompanied by recently-fledged (it would be more accurate to say "recently-jumped", as not yet capable of flight) young, perhaps most likely to have come from the Lundy colonies. Only about 20 Manx Shearwaters on the way out, and just one in the evening; many fewer than would normally be expected at this time of year. Maybe inshore waters are too warm this summer for good feeding? Very evident on the island were at least 50 mainly juvenile Willow Warblers, already migrating south and scattered all along the East Side combes, as well as in the bracken inbetween, with a few along dry-stone walls and even out in the middle of St Helen's Field. We didn't have time to spend long in any particular area, and left large parts of the island unvisited, so there could have been many more. Other migrants included two or three Sedge Warblers (Millcombe and Pondsbury), a Chiffchaff (Millcombe), a handful of Sand Martins, and one House Martin. Among 'resident' species, juveniles likely to have been hatched on the island included Robin, Blackbird, Pied Wagtail, Goldfinch & Linnet. A Grey Heron flying over Millcombe as we walked up from the boat was on Pondsbury later on, when it revealed itself to be a first-year bird. The undoubted highlight was an astonishing count of at least 240 Puffins in Jenny's Cove. We arrived there at 2pm, not normally an auspicious time of day for Puffin watching, but could see straight away that there were plenty on both land and water. A Peregrine helpfully flew in at this point, causing all the Puffins to fly out from the sidelands and settle on the water, where they were more easily counted. All appeared to be adults. We didn't have the opportunity to check through the 2014 island logbook in detail, but 240 is certainly an increase on the 2013 peak and seems to be a new post-rat-eradication record and a further boost to restoring Lundy's fortunes as a seabird capital. It's even more remarkable given that we only had time to visit the main site on the island. Who knows how many we missed at other key areas, such as St Philip's Stone, Long Roost, and the north-east coast? That some Puffin chicks are yet to fledge was shown by adults taking food into burrows. By contrast, all Guillemots and Razorbills have fledged and the breeding ledges are virtually abandoned for another year. We saw just one Razorbill on land and a grand total of 8 Guillemots – all adults on the water. Among other sightings were three dragonfly, two damselfly and 8 butterfly species, the latter including Small Copper and Grayling, and around 15 day-flying Oak Eggar moths. All in all, a great day, with almost unbroken sunshine.

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