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Monday 21 December 2015

End-of-year miscellany

© www.robwilsonphotos.co.uk
I’m writing this just before the Winter Solstice, looking out on yet another unseasonably mild but gloomy, wet and windy day here on the North Devon coast.  The weather has been stuck in this rut for virtually all of November and December, doubtless making life on Lundy challenging for residents and visitors alike – be they human or avian.  There is always a lull in bird news at this time of year, reflecting the end of autumn migration, dwindling daylength and the greater difficulty of getting to the island during ‘helicopter season’.  However, the relentlessly wild weather means that there has been a particular dearth of news in recent weeks, with one of the main items of interest (also weather-related) coming from thouands of kilometres away... Details below.

It just remains to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year; here’s hoping that 2016 is a good one for Lundy birds and birdwatchers!

Tim Jones 

Late-November Black-throated Diver
Philip Lymbery reported a Black-throated Diver off the East Side during the last week of November.  Other notable sightings included a Mistle Thrush on 23rd and a ring-tail Hen Harrier on 26th.

Lundy Shearwaters fall victim to South Atlantic storms
Sadly, three of the Manx Shearwaters ringed as chicks on Lundy in early September this year were washed up dead on the Brazilian coast between 30th October and 9th November.  These deaths appear to be linked to a period of exceptionally stormy weather off the coast of Brazil, which may have hit inexperienced young shearwaters – on their first migration to the South Atlantic winter quarters – disproportionately hard.  There were reports from one Brazilian ornithologist of more than 200 shearwaters being washed up along just one section of coastline during a five-day period.  Lundy Field Society members can read the full story in the next edition of the LFS Bulletin.

BTO NEWS survey
The third national Non-Estuarine Waterbirds Survey (NEWS), organised by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), is taking place between 1st December and 31st January.  Chris Dee and Tim Davis will be covering the whole of Lundy’s shoreline during the last week of January.  Thanks go to the BTO, LFS and Landmark Trust for assisting financially and logistically and to the North Devon NEWS Organiser, Brian O’Leary, for encouragement and support.

Saturday 31 October 2015

Sat 31 Oct - Three Hawfinches!

Today's highlight was three Hawfinches, one flying in off the sea and up Millcombe at 07.20, then two together at the bottom of Millcombe before flying off towards South Light at 07.40, presumed different birds. Also 3 new Firecrests, 10+ Goldcrests, 2 Chiffchaffs, 3 Bramblings and 10+ Redwings. Visible migration was a bit better, with 150+ Chaffinches, 50+ Siskins, 8 Linnets, 20 Meadow Pipits and 10 Skylarks all passing south. News reported by Justin Zantboer.

Friday 30 October 2015

Fri 30 Oct – Hawfinch ringed

Highlights of today, 30th October, reported by Justin Zantboer & Rob Duncan (enjoying an unscheduled extra day on the island thanks to the helicopter being fog-found in Cornwall), were a female-type Black Redstart near the Church, a Hawfinch ringed in Millcombe this afternoon (the first occurrence since one in May last year), plus a Firecrest, 2 Coal Tits, 20+ Goldcrests, 3 Chiffchaffs, 5 Blackcaps and a Lesser Redpoll, all in Millcombe.

Thu 29 Oct – Pomarine Skua, Bonxie & Great Northern Diver headline productive seawatch

Following overnight wind and rain, an early-morning seawatch by Justin Zantboer yesterday, 29th October, in continuing blustery westerlies (a rarity this autumn), produced a juvenile Pomarine Skua flying south past the Landing Bay at 08.05, plus a Bonxie, a Great Northern Diver, 3 Manx Shearwaters, 417 Razorbills, 65 Guillemots, 115 Kittiwakes and 95 Gannets, also all heading south.

This is by far the most productive seawatch of what has otherwise been an extremely quiet autumn due to prevailing weather patterns. The Pomarine Skua is one of just a handful ever seen from Lundy – the first of these, almost unbelievably, being as recently as 2010, though sightings have been almost annual since, nearly all in late October. This probably reflects increased seawatching effort during a previously underwatched period of the autumn, but it also seems likely that 'Poms' are genuinely becoming more regular in Lundy waters.

Landbird highlights later in the day included a Woodcock flushed near Millcombe House and subsequently trapped and ringed; a Short-eared Owl (seen at Pondsbury by Gavin Bennett); a Coal Tit and 3 Firecrests (two of which had been ringed earlier in the week) in Millcombe; 2 Black Redstarts at South Light, with others at Old Light and by the Church; and totals of 3 Blackcaps, 4 Chiffchaffs and 30+ Goldcrests along the East Side between Millcombe and the Terrace. There were very few grounded thrushes or finches and apart from four late Swallows, visible migration was virtually non-existent.

Wednesday 28 October 2015

Wed 28 Oct – Still plenty around but little visible migration

A round-up of notable records for today, 28th October, received from Justin Zantboer and Rob Duncan, includes a ring-tail Hen Harrier ranging between Pondsbury and Quarter Wall, a 1st-winter Merlin, a Ring Ouzel in Millcombe, a female Firecrest ringed in Millcombe, 2 Coal Tits retrapped in Millcombe – both had been ringed on Lundy earlier in October, a Mistle Thrush on Castle Hill, 2 Grey Wagtails heading south, 4 Stonechats, 150+ Redwings, 30+ Song Thrushes, 7 Blackcaps, 7 Chiffchaffs, 30+ Goldcrests and 7 Bramblings. Nearly all of the passerines were concentrated in the south-east of the island, between Millcombe and the Terrace. Visible migration was surprisingly light, given the much improved conditions on Wednesday. Records entered in the log by other observers included 2 Black Redstarts.

Tuesday 27 October 2015

Tue 27 Oct – Variety after the deluge

Following a thoroughly wet start to the day, Justin Zantboer and Rob Duncan report a good variety of migrants including: a first-winter male Merlin again, a first-winter Black-headed Gull feeding with Herring Gulls in the Landing Bay, 7 Guillemots south, 9 Razorbills north, 10 Goldcrests, 2 Firecrests (one of which was trapped and ringed), 2 Coal Tits (both race britannicus), 10 Chiffchaffs, 5 Blackcaps, 1 Ring Ouzel, 10 Fieldfares, 150+ Redwings, 10 Song Thrushes, 100+ Chaffinches and 2 Bramblings. Most birds departed when the weather improved, but the Chiffchaffs seemed to arrive later on. Also entered in the log by other observers were a ring-tail Hen Harrier, a Grey Heron flying past Quarry Beach and a female Black Redstart.

Monday 26 October 2015

Mon 26 Oct – Classic late autumn migrants

Justin Zantboer, who, together with Rob Duncan, arrived on the island on Monday for a few days' bird ringing, reports a typical mix of classic late-autumn migrants, including a first-winter male Merlin, a Brambling, 9 Fieldfares, 7 Redwings, 2 Blackcaps, 3 Chiffchaffs, 20 Goldcrests and 300 Chaffinches – all in Millcombe. A Coal Tit was heard calling near Brambles, but not seen.

Wednesday 21 October 2015

Sun 18 to Tue 20 Oct – No further sign of the Great Grey Shrike

Mike Jackson who arrived on Saturday 17th October, in time to see the Great Grey Shrike, which was still showing until dusk, reports that it could not be refound the following day. Highlights up to and including Tuesday 20th included: 3 Teal on Pondsbury, male and female Sparrowhawks together in Millcombe, a Merlin at Pondsbury, a Short-eared Owl over South West Field, 20 Blackcaps and 2 Firecrests in Millcombe, and Lesser Redpoll in Millcombe and along the Terrace.

Tuesday 20 October 2015

Rustic Bunting photos posted

Courtesy of John Horton and Ryan Miller, photos of the Rustic Bunting – ringed on 27th September and rediscovered in the field on 30th September – have now been added to the posts for those dates below.

Thanks to both John and Ryan for sharing their good fortune with us!

Saturday 17 October 2015

Sat 17 Oct – Great Grey Shrike, Little Bunting, Yellow-browed Warbler

Today, Saturday 17th October, the Great Grey Shrike was relocated in Millcombe during the morning and showed well all day on the side of the Ugly, feeding mainly on bumblebees, though nearby passerines such as Chaffinches, Goldfinches and Dunnocks were wisely keeping a wary eye on it... This bird was amongst the first to turn up in western Britain from a major influx recorded mainly along the east coast.

The Little Bunting was still present at the western end of Quarter Wall, while a Yellow-browed Warbler was in Lower Millcombe. Thrush numbers were well down, with maybe 100–200 Redwings, 35 Fieldfares and a dozen Song Thrushes. Other species included 6 Reed Buntings, 4 Bramblings, and a Common Gull and a Black-headed Gull (both in the Landing Bay). A ringtail Hen Harrier was seen flying in to the South End, off the sea, late in the afternoon, though whether a new arrival or one of yesterday's birds turning back after leaving the island, was unclear.

Great Grey Shrike on the Ugly. © Tim Davis

Fri 16 Oct – Great Grey Shrike and Dartford Warbler

The first highlight was a Great Grey Shrike briefly over St John's Valley and by the Church in the early morning, when the bird was seen in flight (probably leaving roost), hovering three times at height and then promptly disappearing from view towards the farm, not being seen again for the rest of the day in spite of extensive searching. This is only the 2nd record for Lundy, some 41 years after the first occurrence, on the Terrace, in October 1974! The shrike hunt led to the second Lundy rarity of the day, when a presumed first-winter male Dartford Warbler was found near Quarter Wall, in bracken and scattered gorse just west of the main track gate. This was an 8th record for Lundy and the first since 2008.

Elsewhere, the elusive Little Bunting was still present at the western end of Quarter Wall, 2 Hen Harriers ranged widely across the island, a Short-eared Owl was on Ackland's Moor, and there was one Yellow-browed Warbler in Millcombe. It was another excellent day of migration with 400 Redwings, 130 Fieldfares, 1 Mistle Thrush, 3 Ring Ouzels, 16 Song Thrushes, 10 Stonechats, 9 Blackcaps, 20 Chiffchaffs, 4 Firecrests, 4 Bramblings and 3 Coal Tits logged. Late news –

Record shot of Dartford Warbler 16 Oct © Tim Davis

Male Ring Ouzel in Millcombe, 16 Oct © Tim Jones

Friday 16 October 2015

Thur 15 Oct – Migration in full swing: hundreds of thrushes, Red-breasted Flycatcher

Tim Jones reports another superb day with barely a cloud in the sky and almost no wind. Observations included 600 Redwings, 175 Fieldfare, 25 Song Thrush, 2 Mistle Thrush, 6 Ring Ouzel, 10 Water Rails, 8 Firecrests, 3 Sparrowhawks, 4 Merlins, 2 Hen Harriers (interacting over Quarter Wall pm and at roost nr Pondsbury at dusk), 4 Teal, 1 Lapwing, 50 Swallows, 4 House Martin, 60 Chaffinch, 2 Brambling, 3 Coal Tits. Rarities were represented by a Red-breasted Flycatcher and 2 Yellow-browed Warblers in Millcombe, and (unusual for Lundy) a Reed Warbler.

Record shot of Red-breasted Flycatcher, Millcombe 15 Oct. © Tim Davis
Kestrel hovering over the Terrace, 15 Oct. © Tim Jones
Fieldfare in Millcombe, 15 Oct. © Tim Davis.

Thursday 15 October 2015

Wed 14 Oct – First major winter thrush movement

The birders on the island this week (Tim Jones, Tim Davis, James Diamond, Ivan Lakin, Kevin Rylands and Martyn Roper) report a major arrival of thrushes, with 500 Redwing, 125 Fieldfare, 1 Ring Ouzel, 8 Song Thrush and 4 Mistle Thrush. The first Woodcock of autumn was located on the Terrace. Also present was a Common Rosefinch (fling around Millcombe & St John's Valley during early morning movements of passage migrants), a Little Bunting (western end of Quarter Wall), a Lapland Bunting (calling in flight over Quarter Wall), a Redshank (on Rocket Pole Pond!), 3 Lapwing, 12 Stonechat, 1 Whinchat and 4 Coal Tit. Diurnal migration was light, with only 125 Meadow Pipits and 30 Swallows passing through, but there were an impressive 75 Red Admirals.

1st-winter Pied Wagtail outside the Tavern, 14 Oct. © Tim Jones

Wednesday 14 October 2015

Tue 13 Oct – A hiatus in bird migration but a unique dragonfly record...

It was very blowy from the north-east in the morning, but the flag on the Ugly was limp by dusk. A bit of a clear out of migrants and few new arrivals. Combined totals reported as follow: Teal 2, Cormorant 3, Merlin 2, Sparrowhawk 1, Kestrel 5, Lapwing 1, Golden Plover 1, Snipe 5, Bonxie 1 (from Ugly), Woodpigeon 2, Swallow 60, House Martin 10, alba Wagtail 16, Grey Wagtail 1, Meadow Pipit 250, Starling 130, Chiffchaff 9, Blackcap 10, Whitethroat 1, Firecrest 2, Goldcrest 10, Mistle Thrush 3, Song Thrush 2, Redwing 23, Siskin 10, Redpoll 2, Chaffinch 60, Linnet 110, Goldfinch 20, Reed Bunting 3.

Also 1 Vagrant Emperor dragonfly – a first for Lundy: Punchbowl Valley (Ivan Lakin and Kevin Rylands).

Tuesday 13 October 2015

Mon 12 Oct – Plenty of diurnal migration and Hen Harrier

In a consolidated report from the birders on the island this week (Tim Jones, Tim Davis, James Diamond, Ivan Lakin, Kevin Rylands and Martyn Roper), TJ reports an arrival of Goldcrests (45), Robins (29), Song Thrush (6) and Redwings (17). Otherwise, superb diurnal migration, including 40 Skylark, 350 Swallow, 20 House Martin, 7 White Wagtail, 650 Meadow Pipit, 80 Chaffinch, 50 Goldfinch, 9 Siskin, 180 Linnet, 3 Lesser Redpoll, 3 Reed Bunting and a minimum of 500 Starlings. Also a ringtail Hen Harrier, 10 Golden Plover, 2 Lapwing, 5 Firecrest, 2 Coal Tit, 1 Sand Martin, 2 Mistle Thrush, 4 Wheatear. Offshore there were 26 Manx Shearwaters and 20 Kittiwake.

Monday 12 October 2015

Sun 11 Oct – A trickle of thrush migration

There was a small arrival of thrushes, Robins and Starlings overnight, plus diurnal movements of Meadow Pipits, alba wagtails and hirundines.

Counts included 1 Teal, 2 Merlin, 2 Sparrowhawk, 7 Kestrel, 3 Water Rail, 6 Golden Plover, 12 Snipe, 50 Swallow, 12 House Martin, 2 Coal Tit, 5 Stonechat, 2 Wheatear, 16 Robin, 1 Ring Ouzel, 2 Redwing, 1 Song Thrush, 1 Mistle Thrush, 1 Whitethroat, 3 Blackcap, 19 Chiffchaff, 20 Goldcrest, 2 Firecrest, 150 Starling, 150 Meadow Pipit, 12 alba Wagtail, 30 Chaffinch and 2 Siskin.
One of the first Redwings to make landfall on the island this autumn. © Tim Jones

Sunday 11 October 2015

Sat 10 Oct – Difficult birding in easterly wind

After a Great White Egret flying across the mouth of Ilfracombe Harbour from the deck of MS Oldenburg (first seen by Ivan Lakin & Kevin Rylands), Tim Jones and Tim Davis report an excellent crossing with migrating Starlings, Skylarks, Meadow Pipts and Swallows all seen from the boat.

On the island, raptors were represented by 1 Merlin, 1 Sparrowhawk and 4 Kestrel. There were singles of Black Redstart (Quarters) and Common Redstart, and 2 Yellow-browed Warblers in Millcombe. Coal Tit numbers had risen to 3 and 2 Firecrest were still present – all in Millcombe. There was also one Yellow Wagtail, but only small numbers of common migrants: 3 Chiffchaffs, 9 Blackcaps, 12 Swallows and 20 Meadow Pipits. Birding in Millcombe, the East Side copses and along the Terrace was hampered by the gusty easterly wind.

Saturday 10 October 2015

Mon 5 Oct to Fri 9 Oct

Tim Jones and Tim Davis who arrived on the island today, report the following sightings of interest from the LFS logbook over the past few days:

One Grey Heron (8th), 3 Sparrowhawk (5th), 1 Merlin (several dates), 2 Redwing (8th), 1 Pied Flycatcher (8th), 10 Wheatear (9th), 60 Blackcap (8th), 1 Whitethroat (7th), 1 Reed Warbler (8th), 2 Firecrest (8th), 1–2 Coal Tit (daily) and 2 Snow Bunting (8th).

Sunday 4 October 2015

Sun 4 Oct – Another small fall, first Black Redstart of the autumn ringed

John Horton reports that there was another small fall of Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and crests on Sunday 4th October. 35 birds were ringed during the morning, among them a first-year Black Redstart, a Stonechat and two more Coal Tits. Sightings included 2 Sparrowhawks (both males), 2 Water Rails ('Smelly Gully' in Lower Millombe and Brambles), and an influx of c.30 Chaffinches.

Saturday 3 October 2015

Sat 3 Oct – Impressive ringing totals for the week

John Horton has sent through the ringing totals for the week 26th September up to 2pm this afternoon, Saturday 3rd October, which covers an impressive diversity of species and some pretty big numbers too, showing that it was not all about the Rustic Bunting this week! Clearly a lot of migration happening and a lot of birds – especially Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and crests – stopping off on Lundy in spite of the largely clear skies. Treecreeper and Coal Tit are both very scarce on Lundy, not being recorded every year, though there has been something of a nationwide irruption of Coal Tits in recent weeks, so more occurrences on the island can be anticipated. The almost 800 birds ringed comprised:

Swallow 407
Blackcap 235
Chiffchaff 57
Goldcrest 19
Meadow Pipit 15
Firecrest 8
Robin 8
Siskin 6
Wren 6
Sand Martin 5
Chaffinch 5
Willow Warbler 4
Goldfinch 3
Kestrel 3
Stonechat 2
Spotted Flycatcher 1
Ring Ouzel 1
Carrion Crow 1
Rustic Bunting 1
Treecreeper 1
Coal Tit 1
Linnet 1
Woodpigeon 1
Blackbird 1
Song Thrush 1
Reed Warbler 1

Friday 2 October 2015

Fri 2 Oct – Dotterel, Jack Snipe & Lapland Bunting, but no sign of the Rustic Bunting

Martin Kerby reports that today, Friday 2nd October, a juvenile Dotterel was on the Airfield at midday, a Jack Snipe was flushed at the Rocket Pole first thing, and a Lapland Bunting was seen by the Brick Field, but there has been no sign so far of the Rustic Bunting. Evening update: Martin confirms still no sign for the rest of the day, to 6pm at least. Good numbers of Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs have been the main feature of the day among commoner migrants.

See here for details from Mark Bailey of a charter trip being organised to the island from Clovelly tomorrow, Saturday 3rd October, but only if the Rustic Bunting is seen again today. MS Oldenburg is also scheduled to sail from and back to Ilfracombe on Saturday, as normal, departing at 10.00am, returning at 6.00pm – see here for further information.

Any further news about the Rustic Bunting will be posted here as soon as it is available. Please do not phone the island or the Lundy Shore Office; Landmark Trust staff cannot be expected to provide a rare bird information service!

Thursday 1 October 2015

Thu 1 Oct – Rustic Bunting still present

Martin Kerby reports that the Rustic Bunting was still present, this morning, Thursday 1st October, in the same area as Wednesday, though not easy to see as it has been feeding on the edge of the Lighthouse Field, just beyond the gate opposite the stone-crusher.

This evening, Ivan Lakin reported that only two birders made the day-trip to see the bunting, which was obliging for long periods in the area described above, in spite of the wind and glare. Other migrants included at least one Firecrest, a few Goldcrests, 40+ Blackcaps, 3 Spotted Flycatchers, 2 Kestrels, a flyover Siskin, a Grey Wagtail, a Yellow Wagtail (reported by other observers), 10+ Goldfinches, and many Linnets and Meadow Pipits. Ivan passed on his thanks to those who have been sending updates from the island, as well as to the non-birding visitors today who obligingly walked a short detour around the Rustic Bunting, allowing its very happy admirers to get their fill.

Wednesday 30 September 2015

Wed 30 Sep – Rustic Bunting reappears

News just in from Martin Kerby reports that the Rustic Bunting ringed on Sunday has reappeared today, Wednesday 30th September, and has been showing well at times on the track between the helipad and the gate into South West Field, in the area by the now defunct stone-crusher machine. It is confirmed as wearing a ring, so is definitely the same bird as that from the weekend. As Martin says: "Perhaps driven out of where it has been lurking all this time by the heinously strong wind".

These photos were taken at about 11.30am by Ryan Miller. Many thanks for sending them through Ryan!

Rustic Bunting, Lundy, 30 Sep 2015 © Ryan Miller
Showing well on the Tent Field/Lighthouse Field Wall © Ryan Miller
Lundy's first Rustic Bunting since 1994 © Ryan Miller
Originally trapped and ringed on 27 Sep, it reappeared on 30th © Ryan Miller

Tuesday 29 September 2015

Tue 29 Sep – Brent Goose & Richard's Pipit amidst blustery easterlies

John Horton reports things as "very quiet and windy" on Tuesday 29th, with the blustery easterlies (inshore waters forecast for the Bristol Channel ENE 4-6, though MS Oldenburg managed to sail today) no doubt making conditions difficult for either ringing or watching birds. One notable arrival, however, was a Brent Goose in the Landing Bay.

Martin Kerby also describes birding as "hard going today" though he saw the Richard's Pipit briefly again at 09.20, back where it was originally found, just north of the western end of Quarter Wall.

Other sightings today included a Merlin.

Monday 28 September 2015

Mon 28 Sep – No sign of the Rustic Bunting; Richard's Pipit & Ortolan still present

A message this morning (Monday 28th September) from John Horton reported that there had been no sign of the Rustic Bunting so far, though birders present on the island were out looking for it. Additional details have been added to yesterday's post below.

Mist-netting on Monday produced four new Firecrests, a Reed Warbler, a Song Thrush and a Siskin, as well as further Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps. Unusually, two first-year Kestrels were also ringed, both birds being caught in St John's Valley.

Martin Kerby reports (Tuesday morning update) that the Richard's Pipit was relocated on Ackland's Moor on Monday afternoon at 17.20 (when it flew off south) and that the Ortolan Bunting was also still present on 28th in the same general area as before (along main track between the Brick Field and recently cut area adjoining the Airfield), though proving quite elusive, being seen early and late in the day. Four Lapland Buntings and a female Bullfinch were also seen during the day.

Sunday 27 September 2015

Sun 27 Sep – Rustic Bunting ringed; Richard's Pipit & Ortolan Bunting seen

John Horton, who took over the ringing on the island yesterday, reports that a Rustic Bunting was trapped and ringed today, Sunday 27th September. It was mist-netted in Millcombe near Government House and was considered to be a freshly moulted adult male. Also ringed were 2 Firecrests, a Ring Ouzel and... a Carrion Crow! This is the sixth record of Rustic Bunting for the island but the first since October 1994.

Rustic Bunting trapped in Millcombe, 27 Sep 2015 © John Horton
The bird was subsequently relocated on 30 Sep  © John Horton

Martin Kerby reports that a Richard's Pipit was seen around lunchtime just north of Quarter Wall on the West Side, while the Ortolan Bunting was still present in the Brick Field area.

Additional records for Sunday 27 September included: 5 Sparrowhawks leaving the island for the mainland and all in view at the same time, plus a Collared Dove near Government House.

Sat 26 Sep – Ringing totals for the week
Sightings on Saturday 26th September included a Grey Heron, a Golden Plover, 1 or 2 Lapwings, a Sand Martin and a Whitethroat.

The ringing team (Keith Dean, Chris Dee, Sue Sabin, Andy Turner) on the island for the week of Sat 19th to Sat 26th Sep ringed the excellent total of 639 birds, including 269 Swallows, 114 Blackcaps, 110 Goldcrests, 48 Meadow Pipits, 27 Chiffchaffs and 23 House Martins.

Friday 25 September 2015

Fri 25 Sep – Another Ortolan and major hirundine passage

Andy Jayne reports that an Ortolan Bunting was found early this afternoon by Richard Castle. Andy relocated the bird by the Brick Field silage/muck heap at 17.15 and it was still there when he left at 18.45. Given the gap of nine days and the different location, it seems highly likely that this was an additional bird to those seen 11–16 September. One of Andy's record shots is below and comparison of plumage details with the photos from 11 Sep appears to confirm this is indeed a new bird.

Friday also saw a very busy day's ringing for the team, with Chris Dee reporting that 326 birds were ringed, including 232 Swallows and 23 House Martins. Altogether an estimated 5,000 Swallows and 100 House Martins and 500 Meadow Pipits passed through during the day, making it the biggest diurnal movement so far this autumn. Other sightings included a Merlin, a Reed Warbler, a Garden Warbler, 12 Stonechats, 3 Whinchats, 2 Firecrests, a Yellow Wagtail, 4 Spotted Flycatchers, a Lesser Redpoll and flyover Golden Plover and Tree Pipit.
Ortolan Bunting, Brick Field, 25 Sep. © Andy Jayne
Whinchat, Quarter Wall, 25 Sep. © Andy Jayne

Thu 24 Sep – Ring Ouzel & Grasshopper Warbler

Migrant highlights from Thursday 24th September, reported by Chris Dee and Andy Jayne, were: 1 Ring Ouzel, 2 Whinchats, 7 Stonechats, 1 Grasshopper Warbler, 2 Firecrests, 4 Spotted Flycatchers, a Pied Flycatcher and a Lesser Redpoll. There were fewer Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests than on 23rd, and very few Wheatears, but an increase in Meadow Pipits.

Thursday 24 September 2015

Wed 23 Sep – Blackcaps & Goldcrests arrive in force

There was a significant overnight influx on 22nd/23rd September, with an estimated 70 Blackcaps and 100 Goldcrests present on Wednesday 23rd. The supporting cast included 1 Golden Plover, 1 Sand Martin, 1 Firecrest, 1 Whitethroat, 2 Spotted Flycatchers, 1 Pied Flycatcher, 3 Stonechats, 2 Whinchats, 1 Yellow Wagtail and 5 Siskins. Two Teal were still on Pondsbury. Thanks again to Chris Dee and Andy Jayne for updates.

Tuesday 22 September 2015

Tue 22 Sep – Another small fall of warblers & crests

An update from Chris Dee reports that the overnight rain preceded another modest arrival of nocturnal migrants; inbetween the morning showers the team ringed 17 Blackcaps, 7 Chiffchaffs and 14 Goldcrests. Single Firecrest and Garden Warbler were still present, along with 3 Siskins and a Lesser Redpoll. There were 2 Teal on Pondsbury. Andy Jayne was aboard MS Oldenburg for this morning's crossing from Ilfracombe, which sounds as if it was uncomfortably rough in a north-westerly blow and against the flood tide... A Bonxie, about halfway across, was the only notable sighting.

Mon 21 Sep – Lesser Whitethroat

Chris Dee reports the following highlights on Monday 21 Sep: 1 Garden Warbler, 1 Lesser Whitethroat (perhaps surprisingly, given the good coverage of the island over the last few weeks, this was only the second of the autumn), 1 Sparrowhawk and 2 Kestrels. A late Manx Shearwater chick was ringed before heavy rain set in overnight.

Sunday 20 September 2015

Sun 20 Sep – New ringing team in place

A new ringing team arrived on the island on Saturday to take over from Tony Taylor, Richard Taylor and others. Chris Dee reports that birds ringed today included a Firecrest, a Tree Pipit and a Stonechat. The Dunlin was still present, along with 2 Kestrels, 1 Yellow Wagtail, 70 Linnets and a single Siskin. A pod of at least 10 Common Dolphins was seen off the East Side by the LFS work party that also arrived on Saturday.

Saturday 19 September 2015

Fri 18 & Sat 19 Sep – Kingfisher & Lapland Bunting

On Friday 18th September there were fair numbers of Blackcaps (25), Goldcrests (25) and Chiffchaffs (8) in Millcombe. Two Yellow Wagtails landed in St Helen's Field. A Kingfisher that flew past Tim Jones at North Light landing/seal steps seems likely to have been the bird seen by Sue & Rob Waterfield in the same area on 13th. These are the first sightings since 2009 and constitute only the 15th occurrence of Kingfisher since organised bird recording on the island was started by the Lundy Field Society in the late 1940s! Also at North Light, a Grey Heron flew north-east, and there was a Turnstone flying around the rocks. A very tame Dunlin was feeding successfully in pools along the main track between Quarter and Halfway Walls, the lack of a ring showing it was a different bird to that photographed on 16th. Also around: 1 Golden Plover, 1 Firecrest, only 190 Swallows after Thursday's rush, 2 Whinchats, 3 Stonechats and 5 Spotted Flycatchers.

On Saturday 19th, a Lapland Bunting (the first of the autumn) was seen and heard in Middle Park by Rich & Rebecca Taylor, while Tim Davis & Tim Jones flushed a Green Sandpiper from one of the temporary freshwater pools at North End and saw a Merlin fly across Gannets' Combe. A Black-headed Gull passed by North Light. There were still plenty of Blackcaps and Goldcrests in Millcombe, along with a Ring Ouzel, at least 4 Spotted Flycatchers and 2 Pied Flycatchers. Also recorded were 220 Meadow Pipits, at least 800 Swallows (including large numbers feeding on a massive hatch of flying ants). A Lesser Redpoll was calling over Millcombe first thing, while other calling flyover migrants included at least 3 Tree Pipits, 4 Grey Wagtails and several small groups of Siskins. The presence of Painted Ladies, Red Admirals, Silver Ys and 3 Migrant Hawker dragonflies (the latter all in the vicinity of North Light) showed that passage was not restricted to birds.

Some Wheatears at North End were incredibly bright after their moult. © Tim Davis
This Dunlin showed no fear of people as it fed along the main track. © Tim Jones

Thursday 17 September 2015

Thu 17 Sep – An estimated 3,000 Swallows pass through

Two Yellow-browed Warblers were located in St Helen's Copse and at the Terrace trap and good numbers of Blackcap were present again (18 ringed by Tony Taylor and team). Eleven Goldcrests were also ringed in Millcombe. Hirundine passage included an estimated 3,000 Swallows in a constant stream along the East Side from mid-morning until early afternoon and 60 Sand Martins. Elsewhere on the island there was a Golden Plover (Lighthouse Field) and a Redshank (calling in flight as it crossed low over the Landing Bay). Also reported from the Millcombe area were a Tree Pipit, a Garden Warbler and a Firecrest. There was a Merlin, two Sparrowhawks (m & f) were still present, although only 3 Kestrels compared to the 6 seen on 16th. Tony Taylor's team continued to locate and ring Manx Shearwater chicks emerging from their burrows after dark.

Wed 16 Sep – A good arrival of nocturnal migrants

One Ortolan Bunting was still present in the Lighthouse Field and close to the water tanks on 16 Sep and there was a major passage of White Wagtails (estimated 100, mainly around the South End in the first three hours of the morning) and Swallows (estimated at 1,000). Consolidated observations from birders on the island indicated a good arrival of nocturnal migrants comprising 45 Willow Warblers, 40 Blackcaps, a Redstart, 11 Whinchats, 50 Wheatears, 2 Sedge Warblers, 12 Whitethroats and 20 Spotted Flycatchers. There were still 2 Firecrests in Millcombe and also a Dunlin (which, tantalisingly, was carrying a ring), a Ringed Plover and a Curlew on the island. Raptors included 6 Kestrel and 2 Sparrowhawk.

A Dunlin at North End sported a ring... © Dave Chown

Wednesday 16 September 2015

Tue 15 Sep – Balearic Shearwater & Grey-headed Wagtail

Tim Jones and Tim Davis report that the thunbergi-type Yellow Wagtail was still in the Lighthouse Field. A Balearic Shearater was seen off the Castle, the Buzzard was still present along the East Side and 2 Wood Warblers were in Millcombe and St Helen's Copse respectively. Other sightings include a Pied Flycatcher, 3 Firecrest, 5 Spotted Flycatcher, 6 Whitethroat, 12 Willow Warbler, 7 Chiffchaff, 12 Blackcap, 19 alba Wagtail, at least 4 definite White Wagtails and 3 Whinchat. Hirundine passage included 120 Swallow and 9 each of House Martin and Sand Martin. There were also 45 Wheatear, 400 Linnet and a migrating flock of 18 Cormorants over Old Light.
A Starling singing from Stoneycroft chimney brought a touch of spring. © Tim Jones

Tuesday 15 September 2015

Mon 14 Sep – Plenty of birds ahead of a stormy day

Tim Jones and Tim Davis report plenty about in a short-lived early dry spell on 14th September before strong westerlies and heavy rain set in. One Grey Heron, 1 Buzzard, 2 Sparrowhawk, 2 Tree Pipit, 3 Yellow Wagtails (one showing characteristics of Grey-headed Wagtail M. f. thunbergi) in the Lighthouse Field, 50 alba Wagtails, 4 Grey Wagtails, 4 Spotted Flycatcher, 1 Pied Flycatcher, 2 Whinchat, 1 Whitethroat, 5 Blackcap, 1 Garden Warbler, 12 Willow Warbler, 6 Chiffchaff, 1 Wood Warbler, 30 Swallows, 7 House Martin, and 3 Sand Martin.
Wood Warbler in Millcombe. © Dave Chown

Sunday 13 September 2015

Sun 13 Sep – Ortolan still present and... a Kingfisher!

Tim Jones and Tim Davis report one Ortolan Bunting remaining on the island (Lighthouse Field), along with a Buzzard over the East Side, a Treecreeper (found by Dave Chown in "Rüppell's Quarry" along the Terrace, but not seen subsequently) and 2 Sparrowhawks. There had been an overnight clear-out of warblers and Wheatears, but still remaining were 2 Whinchat, 2 Firecrests and several Spotted Flycatchers. Also reported were a Yellow Wagtail, 40+ alba Wagtail, 400 Linnet, 200 Meadow Pipit and 5 Grey Wagtail. At North Light Quay a Kingfisher – a real Lundy rarity, much scarcer than Ortolan Bunting (!) – was found by island staff Rob and Sue Waterfield. Two Manx Shearwater chicks were ringed in the evening at the Pilot's Quay colony.

Buzzard & Raven over East Side. © Dave Chown
Treecreeper along the Terrace. © Dave Chown
Whinchat in St Helen's Field. © Tim Davis

Saturday 12 September 2015

Sat 12 Sep – Ortolans still present

After a rough crossing Tim Jones and Tim Davis report 2 Ortolan Buntings in the same area of the Lighthouse Field as yesterday and a Grasshopper Warbler near Benjamin's Chair found by Richard Taylor. A small arrival of common migrants included 30 Wheatear, 5 Spotted Flycatcher, 15 Willow Warbler, a Pied Flycatcher, a Whinchat and a Whitethroat.

One of the Ortolans was particularly bright. © Dave Chown

Friday 11 September 2015

Fri 11 Sep – Three Ortolans and two late Swifts

Three Ortolan Buntings were found by Dave Chown today, Friday 11th September, feeding in a recently cut area of the Lighthouse Field. Also present: a Merlin and two very late Swifts.

The Ortolans regularly perched on nearby walls. © Dave Chown
The presence of three Ortolans is confirmed (just!) in this photo. © Dave Chown

Tue 1 Sep to Thu 10 Sep – shearwater ringing, Great Spotted Woodpecker and a trickle of migrants

No sooner did I write about the lack of recent news, than a comprehensive update arrived from David Price, reporting on the results of the first half of this year's autumn Manx Shearwater ringing effort. David, wife Elisabeth, Peter Slader, A J Bellamy and Nik Ward were on the island from 1–9 September, along with Jeremy Barker on 9th.

An excellent 158 shearwater chicks were ringed – the highest total of young ringed over a comparable period since rat eradication, suggesting that the Lundy colony has had a good breeding season and is continuing to grow. Tony Taylor is leading a group that took over from David's shearwater team on 10th.

Other highlights included the Storm Petrel mentioned in the previous post. Over 100 passerines were ringed by day (though weather conditions were too settled for there to have been large numbers of grounded migrants), mainly Goldcrests, Willow Warblers and Blackcaps, but also a Firecrest, two first-winter Tree Pipits and both Spotted and Pied Flycatchers (likewise young of the year). On 9th Elisabeth found a juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker in Millcombe. This Lundy rarity was subsequently trapped and ringed on 10th. Also present on 10th (reported by Tony Taylor) were: 5 Teal, 2 Grey Herons, 3 Firecrests, 1 Pied Flycatcher, 3 Spotted Flycatchers and 10 Siskins.
Great Spotted Woodpecker, Millcombe, 9 Sep 2015. © Elisabeth Price

Storm Petrel & juvenile Cuckoo

After a dearth of recent news, comes word that a Storm Petrel was trapped and ringed by Jeremy Barker on Wednesday night (9 September). The bird was tape-lured but is one of the latest such records for Lundy; perhaps further evidence of the island's recently established status as a breeding site for this elusive seabird.

The juvenile Cuckoo photographed below was in Millcombe in late August, so might have been a locally bred bird, but in the absence of earlier reported sightings (at least, any that we have heard about so far), it seems more likely to have been a passage migrant from elsewhere.

Juvenile Cuckoo, Millcombe, 23 August 2015. © Sue Waterfield

Friday 28 August 2015

A scarce Lundy wader drops in...

Lundy Warden Beccy MacDonald and Assistant Warden Chloë Nicholson have been watching this juvenile Ruff outside Barton Cottages this morning. Ruff is a very rare bird on Lundy – two on 10 September last year were the first since 2007! Further photos are posted on the Lundy Conservation Team's Facebook page.

Juvenile Ruff, 28 August 2015

There have been a lot of Ruff about in the last couple of weeks; the graph below shows the August 2015 spike in BirdTrack reporting rates nationally (red line) over and above the past two years, perhaps associated with the recent unsettled UK weather grounding migrants that set off from NE Europe in fine conditions.

BirdTrack national reporting rates for Ruff www.birdtrack.net

Tuesday 18 August 2015

Shearwater spectacular

The waters around Lundy were the focus for one of the teams deployed for today's Balearic Shearwater and Bottlenose Dolphin survey (#swsurvey) of the whole SW peninsula coordinated by RSPB and MARINElife. Seven surveyors (Annette Dutton, Dave Chown, James McCarthy, Kevin Bainbridge, Steve McAusland, Tim Davis & Tim Jones) left Ilfracombe this morning on Obsession II, with two of us being dropped off on the island to scan from land (taking over from island resident and Guillemot expert Grant Sherman, who covered the early shift), while others performed a series of pre-defined GPS transects at sea.

We didn't manage to find any Balearic Shearwaters, which seem not to reach the Bristol Channel until September or October, but an estimated 10–20,000 Manx Shearwaters gathered in a spectacular 'feeding frenzy' off the East Side in the early afternoon and six Bottlenose Dolphins (including a calf) were off the West Side, seen from Shutter Point. The team also had multiple sightings of Common Dolphins and Harbour Porpoises, while additional seabirds included Gannets, Kittiwakes, Shags, Fulmars, a few Common Terns, small numbers of Guillemots – some now sporting winter plumage – and (during one of the transects) a single Storm Petrel.

On the island, en route to and from our various seawatching points, we saw a Pied Flycatcher (Millcombe), one Sand Martin (Castle), 9 Cormorants (including a migrating flock of 8 heading south along the East Side), a Grey Heron (East Side), a Kestrel (South West Field) and a few Willow Warblers. But it was the amazing concentration of Manx Shearwaters that will live long in the memory. Thanks to Andrew Bengey, skipper of Obsession II, for a superb day.

The survey team at Ilfracombe (R–L): Kevin, Annette, Dave, Steve, James & Tim D
The team had the island surrounded!

Tuesday 4 August 2015

Lundy Peregrine Project

For updates from Luke Sutton on the Lundy Peregrine Project, a long-term research initiative looking at the population dynamics and foraging behaviour of Lundy's magnificent falcons, follow @LundyPeregrine on Twitter. The project operates under relevant permits in close consultation with the Lundy Warden.

This image is from a Lundy Peregrine Project camera trap. ©Luke Sutton

Wednesday 29 July 2015

25th July – Common Scoter in the Landing Bay

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Steve McAusland photographed this female Common Scoter in the Landing Bay last Saturday, 25th July.

Most Common Scoters are only seen in flight as passage migrants past the island; it is rare for one to settle so close to shore. Perhaps this individual was resting up after the recent unsettled weather.

Friday 24 July 2015

Amazing Chaffinch ringing control

This record of a 2009 Lundy-ringed Chaffinch recaptured in Norway in 2012 was of interest in its own right:
  • First-year female Chaffinch ringed on Lundy on 14 October 2009 (ring no. L026586); controlled (= recaptured) at Bømyra, Randaberg, Rogaland, Norway (a few km NW of Stavanger) on 23 April 2012 (922 days from date of ringing; 1,086 km from place of ringing; bearing 37°).
But remarkable news came in recently that Chaffinch L026586 was controlled again in April this year... at exactly the same place in Norway! Now in her seventh calendar year – a venerable age for a Chaffinch, given that typical lifespan is 3 years – she has presumably undertaken 12 long-distance migrations (six in autumn and six in spring) between her Scandinavian breeding site and winter quarters in the British Isles or further SW. What a bird!

Chances are that Bømyra is the bird's breeding area (or very close to it), since the odds of a Chaffinch on migration being captured twice at the same place must be vanishingly small (if anybody knows of evidence to the contrary, please get in touch!). Certainly online satellite images suggest that there is plenty of potential Chaffinch breeding habitat in the area.

Tuesday 21 July 2015

14th to 18th July – Additional sightings

In addition to the singing Storm Petrel and Mediterranean Gull sighting reported in previous posts, Tony Taylor has sent through the following sightings from his short stay on the island from 14th to 18th July :

Teal – 5 on Pondsbury on 15th & 17th; thought to comprise an eclipse adult and four juveniles, presumably from this year's first known sucessful breeding on Lundy.
Grey Heron – 1 on 16th.
Collared Dove – 1 singing in Millcombe on 18th.
Swift – 1 on 16th.
Sand Martin – 1 on 17th.
Stonechat – adult male giving persistent alarm calls south of Pondsbury.
Chiffchaff – up to 2 at St Helen’s Copse.

In addition, a fledged Puffling (young Puffin) was seen during the crossing from Lundy to Bideford on 18th.

Mandy Dee saw a Common Sandpiper at Brazen Ward on 17th and Swallows are nesting in the Church porch.

Saturday 18 July 2015

18th July – Mediterranean Gull

Tony Taylor and Chris & Mandy Dee saw an adult Mediterranean Gull flying around the Landing Bay just after they had boarded MS Oldenburg for the journey back to Bideford this evening (Saturday 18th July). Remarkably, this is only the second record of Med Gull for Lundy, with the first as long ago as August 1978! Incidentally, one of the observers those 37 years ago was... Tony Taylor! Although Mediterranean Gulls have become such a regular feature of mainland birding in recent years, including here in North Devon, where three-digit counts were made in 2014, this has not so far been reflected on Lundy; perhaps in part because relatively few birders visit the island during late summer, but that is not the whole story. Black-headed Gulls, with which Med Gulls commonly associate, have always been scarce on Lundy in spite of their abundance on the nearby mainland, so perhaps it is more the case that both species are very much birds of inshore waters, only passing Lundy in very small numbers from time to time. Whatever, this is a remarkable record, not least because it seems so long overdue. Will it mark the opening of the floodgates, or will we wait until 2052 for the next one?!

Friday 17 July 2015

4th to 11th July – Additional sightings

Andrew Jewels reports the following notable records for 4th to 11th July:

Sparrowhawk – one, Castle Hill; unusual in July (11th)
Black-tailed Godwit – one at Pondsbury; a Lundy rarity (10th)
Common Sandpiper – 3 on Landing Beach; southbound passage clearly under way (6th)
Woodpigeon – fledgling in Millcombe; first proof of breeding this year (8th); also reported by Alan & Sandra Rowland
Starling – 52 on wall by Tavern garden; indication of good numbers post breeding (4th)
Goldfinch – 5 juveniles begging for food from adult below Blue Bung; first proof of breeding this year (8th)

Thursday 16 July 2015

15th/16th July – Singing Storm Petrel

Tony Taylor reports a Storm Petrel singing for prolonged periods on the West Side last night, 15th/16th July. This is the first time that 'song' (if you are unfamiliar with the sound, find a clip online and you will discover why I used inverted commas!) has been heard on Lundy and comes from close to where the island's first ever Storm Petrel chick was discovered last autumn. See also the entry on the Lundy Conservation Team's Facebook page.

Monday 13 July 2015

4th & 7th July – Great Shearwaters from MS Oldenburg

Andrew Jewels saw a Great Shearwater from MS Oldenburg on the way over to Lundy on Saturday 4th July at about 09.30hrs, approximately 90 minutes out from the island (thanks for the excellent logbook entry Andrew!).

In addition, Martin Thorne of Morte Wildlife Group posted this entry in Devon Bird Sightings reporting two probable Great Shearwaters on the return crossing from Lundy to Ilfracombe during the evening of Tuesday 7th July.

So, definitely worth keeping an eye open, both from the boat and from the island itself, as we head into the main season for large shearwaters off the South West coast...

Thursday 25 June 2015

12 Guillemot chicks on my Provisioning ledges

I'm getting lots of video from my Guillemot provisioning ledge at St Philip's Stone. 12 chicks have hatched so far, an another two pairs may produce a chick before the end of the season. My new computer should be delivered soon, more pictures when I can process the video...


Saturday 20 June 2015

News for Monday 15th & Tuesday 16th June

Our last two days on the island for this trip... The 15th saw the Stock Dove, Grey Heron and two male Cuckoos remaining on the island, a Cormorant (surprisingly scarce on Lundy) and a handful of Swallows (15), House Martins (4) and Swifts (7) passing through, and the female Teal still accompanied by four ducklings.  A female Mallard led a late brood of freshly hatched ducklings past the helipad just before dusk on 15th.  We did not see the Rose-coloured Starling again (note photo below is from 14th), but did not search thoroughly for it.  Good numbers of Red Admirals and Painted Ladies were seen once again, with totals of 51 and 48 respectively entered in the log.  Also a Hummingbird Hawk-moth near Stoneycroft.

Moth-trapping on the night of 15th/16th brought an interesting array of species, including an L-album Wainscot, two Northern Rustics, Mullein Wave and, surprisingly, a Red Admiral, suggesting that some migrant butterflies are still active at night.  Eight Common Dolphins were close in off the South End during the evening of 15th, with a few attendant Gannets and Kittiwakes.

On 16th, both Cuckoos were still around the Millcombe/St John's area.  Also in Millcombe were a sub-singing male, possibly territorial, Blackcap, a Spotted Flycatcher and a Chiffchaff gathering nesting material, while a Sedge Warbler was sub-singing at the mouth of 'Smelly Gully'.  The Stock Dove was still around the Farm.  At Jenny's Cove there were not many Puffins to be seen on either land or water, but two Swallows whipped through, showing that some migrants are still heading north, while others, such as non-/failed breeding waders, will be heading back south any day... A few 'record shots' follow below.

Tim Davis & Tim Jones

Rose-coloured and Common Starlings on top of Church at sunset
Cuckoo at St John's Valley crossroads
Grey Heron at Quarry Pond
Mallard with brood near helipad
Stock Dove in Tillage Field

Wednesday 17 June 2015

Images from last week

6 to 13 June – images from Richard Campey

Manx Shearwater from MS Oldenburg on crossing to Lundy
Fulmar in Jenny's Cove

Fledgling Wheatear at South End

Red Admiral and Painted Lady wing-flashing each another along Upper East Side Path

Adult male Wheatear at Punchbowl Valley

Stonechat at Pondsbury
Meadow Pipit with food

Puffins in Jenny's Cove (viewed from a long way off and enlarged )

Adult female Wheatear at Quarter Wall

Bridled Guillemot at Seal Steps North End

Soays clashing heads