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You're now viewing the old Lundy Bird Observatory blogspot. Explore the new website for all your favourite island news and wildlife updates. If you have sightings to report, please consider sharing your observations or photographs with the Bird Obs team here.

Tuesday 28 April 2015

Colour-ringed Wheatears – Can you help?

As some readers will be aware, Wheatears have been colour-ringed on Lundy for the last couple of years as part of the BTO's Retrapping Adults for Survival (RAS) scheme. This work, led by regular Lundy ringers Tony Taylor and Richard Taylor, has already come up with interesting results, not least a record-breaking estimate of 115 pairs for the island's breeding Wheatear population in 2014.

Photo: © Tony Taylor
The study is continuing in 2015 and visiting birdwatchers are invited to contribute by reporting details of any colour-ringed Wheatears they see. Most colour-ringing has been carried out along the island's south-west coastline, between the Castle and the Battery, but marked birds may be seen elsewhere. Please try to record as much information as possible, including:
  • Date
  • Location
  • Ring combination right leg
  • Ring combination left leg
  • Sex
  • Behaviour (e.g. singing / carrying food / entering nest site)
  • Photos – much appreciated too
Photo: © David Back
For each leg, please remember to state if you are reporting the sequence of rings starting from the top of the leg reading down; or from the bottom of the leg, reading up! The male Wheatear above, photographed in May 2014, would be recorded as: right leg = striped pale-green-and-black, over metal ring; left leg = red over green, reading down from the tops of both legs.

Sightings can be contributed either by writing them in the Lundy Field Society (LFS) logbook kept in the Tavern, or online (see Facebook link below). Results have been published in the LFS Annual Reports for 2013 and 2014 (latter in preparation), distributed free to LFS members.

Further information about the project can be found on this dedicated Facebook page.

Finally, over time (especially given that Wheatears winter south of the Sahara under strong African sun!), some of the colour rings start to fade, e.g. red becomes paler, while some of the banded rings lose definition. If you are unsure of the exact colours, please still report your sighting, giving as much information as possible.

Saturday 25 April 2015

Highlights of a week on the island. Saturday 4th to Saturday 11th of April

Photo taken through the window of Old House North.
Monday 6th April 2015

In the gorse at the very top of Millcombe, near the gate.
Monday 6th April 2015

on track just past Quarter wall
Tuesday 7th April 2015

Off the north end of the island
Tuesday 7th  April 2015

Near the Old Light
Wednesday 8th April 
On stone wall near Tibbetts
9th April 2015

On fence near the village
Thursday 9th April 2015

One of three birds in the landing bay area
Thursday 9th April 2015
on the fence at the top of Millcombe
Thursday 9th April 2015

Thursday 9th April 2015

A Lundy Rarity
Caught and ringed by Rob Duncan in Millcombe
Friday 10th April 2015

Along the side of Millcombe House
Friday 10th April 2015

In the garden of Old House North and the Radio Room
Saturday 11th April 2015

Monday 20 April 2015

Hoopoe remains?

Here are a couple of shots (without flash) of the presumed Hoopoe leg and body feathers found in upper Millcombe on Saturday 18th April. One photo au naturel, the other alongside an imperial and metric scale (all mod cons here). Note the feather in the centre of the shots tinged with salmon pink, and similar – though slightly darker – fringes to the feathering above the tarsal joint. Comparison of the leg size and structure with published images and measurements seems consistent with the initial ID, but it would be good to get feedback from anyone experienced in handling Hoopoes, or who perhaps has access to museum skins. It would be equally interesting to hear from anybody who thinks these are NOT Hoopoe remains...

Update: Feedback so far suggests that it is not a Hoopoe leg, but rather that of a Redwing, which would certainly explain the presence of the pinkish-looking feather. It has also been suggested that the leg is too thin to be that of a Hoopoe and is in fact much more thrush like. The feathering at the top of a Hoopoe's leg would also be very pale or whitish; not the dark feathering seen here. Circumstantially, a Redwing was seen close to where the remains were found, on 15th April...

Saturday 18 April 2015

17th & 18th April 2015 – Trouble with the East wind

The strong easterly wind prevented MS Oldenburg from sailing on Saturday 18th, so it was choppers to Hartland for both Paul Holt and Tony John who left the island today. The same gusty east wind conspired to make birding difficult and mist-netting impossible in Millcombe on Friday and Saturday, so there is a corresponding lull in news. Yesterday brought the first Reed Warbler of the spring, seen by Paul in upper Millcombe, while Tony saw a Snipe at Pondsbury. A Pied Flycatcher was in Millcombe today. There still seemed to be plenty of Phylloscopus warblers and Blackcaps around, but not the numbers of earlier in the week, though many birds were doubtless keeping their heads down due to the windy conditions.

More migrant moths found their way into Tony's trap at Little St John's, with four Dark Sword-grass and a Diamond-back Moth on the night of Thursday 16th/Friday 17th.

Finally, on a sad note, a pile of feathers and a leg found at the top of Millcombe this morning (18th) seem likely to be the remains of a Hoopoe... Whether the same bird as seen at Mousehole & Trap and Gannets' Combe recently, or another individual from the remarkable April influx to Britain & Ireland, we will never know for sure.

Thursday 16 April 2015

16th April 2015 – Whitethroats & Sedge Warblers make landfall

A lively north-easterly sprang up overnight, which made conditions for ringing and birding difficult at times in Millcombe and along the East Side, though the wind eased down considerably in the afternoon. The island was still dripping in migrants, with minima of 150 Willow Warblers and 80 Chiffchaffs, while an estimated 200 Blackcaps were to be found anywhere and everywhere, from South West Field and Stoneycroft, down over the west sidelands, all along Quarter Wall, around Pondsbury, to Quarry Pond, the Terrace and Millcombe, and even out in the open fields and moorland. Together with the Phylloscs and Blackcaps were the first four Whitethroats of the spring, five Sedge Warblers (after the first on 10th), several Grasshopper Warblers (including a reeling bird in Millcombe), a female Pied Flycatcher feeding in the shelter of a sunny rock buttress down over the sidings near the Battery, at least three Common Redstarts (1m, 2f), one female Black Redstart, several White Wagtails and two early-morning fly-over Tree Pipits. Hirundine passage was notably lighter than yesterday, however. Lundy scarcities included a Rook cawing as it flew round and round high over the Village during the afternoon and a 1st-summer Black-headed Gull in the Landing Bay shortly before Oldenburg sailed. Other sightings of interest included 2 Teal on Pondsbury, 12 Puffins on the water at Jenny's Cove and a Dunlin and Common Sandpiper around Rat Island. Merlin, Sparrowhawk and Redshank all put in appearances again.
Observers: Paul Holt, Tony John and Tim Jones. Photos below: Tim Jones.

Blackcap in Millcombe
Whitethroat in Stoneycroft garden
Willow Warbler on gate in St Helen's Field

15th April 2015 – A raft of migrants after a foggy start

Tim Jones reports the following highlights for Wednesday 15th April, a day which started with the island shrouded in fog: 500 Swallows, 130 House Martins and 45 Sand Martins, along with one Swift, seen by Paul Holt. Warblers were fewer in number but still plentiful: 200 Willow Warblers, 150 Chiffchaffs and 60 Blackcaps. Tony John saw a Dunlin at Quarters Pond and Tim found a Redshank in Brick Field. The Black Guillemot was still in the Landing Bay, and a Cormorant in breeding plumage was at North End (though unlikely to be breeding there!). Among raptors were four Kestrels, one or two Sparrowhawks and a couple of Merlins. Other counts included 45 Wheatears and 125 Linnets. Black Redstarts were seen at North Light and in VC Quarry, with a Common Redstart close to a Hoopoe (probably the one seen at Mousehole & Trap on 12th) feeding in Gannets' Combe. A Shelduck and several Whimbrels (calling in the mist, but not seen) passed off the East Side, while a Redwing graced St Helen's Field briefly.

Tony John's actinic moth-trap run until midnight at Little St John's on the night of 14th/15th lured in seven Dark Sword-grass and a Bordered Straw, in addition to resident species such as Early Thorn.

Hoopoe in Gannets' Combe – Tim Jones

Tuesday 14 April 2015

14th April 2015 – Warblers all over the island

Paul Holt, Tony John and Tim Jones enjoyed an excellent first day on Lundy, reporting a significant fall of warblers all over the island. Minimum estimates are 300 Willow Warblers, 200 Chiffchaffs and 100 Blackcaps. Other highlights were the Black Guillemot in the Landing Bay, a Sandwich Tern in the same area, two Grasshopper Warblers in Millcombe and on the Terrace, and a male Pied Flycatcher and a male Bullfinch in Millcombe. Other sightings included 12 White Wagtails and a trickle of hirundines. Tony John, ringing in Millcombe, caught a Dutch-ringed Chiffchaff in the Secret Garden. Butterflies for the day were few, just 3 Green-veined Whites and a single Peacock.

12th April 2015 – Hoopoe on East Side

Tim Jones reports a record in the Lundy Field Society Logbook for 12th April of a Hoopoe seen by Phil and Pat Johnson at Mousehole & Trap.

Update (25th April): We received a call from Phil Johnson (many thanks, Phil), who confirmed that he and Pat flushed the Hoopoe at Brazen Ward about 13.00 hrs. It flew a short distance and appeared to stay in the area, though could not be relocated by other observers a short time later.

Sunday 12 April 2015

Black Guillemot in Landing Bay area Monday 6th April 2015

The Black Guillemot was at times very difficult to locate during our week on the island, but we did manage to find it in the Landing Bay area on the morning of 6th April between 8 & 9.30am at high tide. It was a long way out and difficult to watch for the first 45 minutes, but then it moved in a bit closer towards the island and I was able to get a few photos of it,  but still at some distance out.

Wryneck caught in Millcombe – 8th April

I was lucky enough to be in Millcombe when Rob Duncan caught and ringed the Wryneck on the morning of the 8th of April. Here are a couple of photos taken of the bird just before Rob released it. It was an absolutely stunning bird.

Saturday 11 April 2015

11th April 2015 – First Grasshopper Warbler ringed

A Grasshopper Warbler was trapped on Rob Duncan's final day's ringing, Saturday 11th April – another 'first' for the year. Redstart still present, but generally few signs of new movement. The Black Guillemot was still in the Landing Bay.

10th April 2015 – First Sedge Warbler & Pied Flycatcher, plus a Lundy rarity...

A phone message from Rob Duncan, kindly using the notoriously coin-munching Tavern pay-phone (his text messages having stopped arriving, doubtless lost at sea somewhere in the Bristol Channel), reported 44 birds ringed on Friday 10th April. These included the first Sedge Warbler of the year and a Blue Tit – a Lundy rarity for which April is, perhaps surprisingly, one of the peak months. Sightings in Millcombe included 4 male Redstarts and a female Pied Flycatcher, the latter also the first of the year. Of 207 birds ringed from 8th to 10th, inclusive, 60 were Blackcaps. Manx Shearwaters have been much in evidence at night, calling around the Landing Bay and South End.

9th April 2015 – First Redstarts

69 birds were ringed on Thursday 9th April, including 24 Blackcaps, as well as 2 Song Thrushes and a Robin, both species showing characteristics of continental breeding populations. Other migrants logged included 2 Redstarts and 4 Ring Ouzels, 4 White Wagtails, 150 Wheatears and three Sandwich Terns.

Thursday 9 April 2015

8th April 2015 – Spring migration gathers pace

In addition to the Wryneck (see below) Rob Duncan reports 94 birds ringed on Wednesday 8th April; mainly Willow Warblers, but also 20 Blackcaps, suggesting a good movement of the latter (though breeding territories here on the North Devon mainland appear largely unoccupied as yet). Sightings of note during the day included 7 Ring Ouzels, 5 Bullfinches, a Scandinavian Rock Pipit (potentially the first for Lundy), 2 Dunlin and 140 Wheatears, though fewer hirundines. Manx Shearwaters were calling over the Landing Bay on the night of 7th/8th.

Wednesday 8 April 2015

8th April 2015 – Wryneck

A further message just in from Rob Duncan: a Wryneck was trapped and ringed in Millcombe today, 8th April.

There has been a significant influx of Wrynecks into western England and Wales in the last day or two, including several on Scilly and two ringed on Skokholm (on 7th), just a migrant's hop from Lundy.

6th & 7th April 2015 – Phylloscopus warbler fall

A message from Rob Duncan, who arrived on Lundy on Tuesday 7th April, relays news of a large fall of Phylloscopus warblers (i.e. Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers) witnessed by Martyn Roper on Monday 6th, with 300 moving through the Terrace/quarries area in the space of two hours. Also on Monday were 3 Ring Ouzels and 8 Blackcaps. Tuesday was a lot quieter (to Rob's regret!), with a few Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps, mainly on the plateau, due to sea-mist around the sidelands and combes. There were also two Bullfinches (a Lundy rarity) of which Rob trapped and ringed one (a female). Hirundine numbers increased, with 42 House Martins and 155 Swallows. Offshore, the Black Guillemot was still present and there was a count of 27 Puffins. Also one Sandwich Tern; another species that is only occasionally recorded around the island.

Saturday 4 April 2015

4/4/15 First Puffins reported on Lundy...

... by Cathy and other members of the Lundy Field Society working party. Around 30 Puffins were seen at Jenny's Cove at 10am on the land, going into burrows, on the sea, and flying between the land and sea.

I thought about going to Jenny's this morning, but decided to go to the Ugly instead to try to see the Black Guillemot. No luck there. I'll be out at Jenny's tomorrow with the video camera...

It was good to see members of MARINElife this afternoon. Today was the first day of their 2015 season of marine surveys from the MS Oldenburg. Their Lundy sightings blog is here.

Friday 3 April 2015

2nd April 2015 – Black Guillemot in the Landing Bay

A post by Beccy MacDonald on the Lundy Conservation Team's Facebook page reports news of a Black Guillemot in the Landing Bay yesterday, 2nd April. This is the fourth consecutive year that Black Guillemots have been recorded in this area and it seems likely that the same returning individual is involved – though this year's arrival is more than a month ahead of previous seasons, so it will be interesting to see if it sticks around.