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Saturday 27 May 2017

27th May – Red-rumped Swallow

A Tweet this evening from Chris Townend, who has just arrived on Lundy to take part in the latest periodic census of Manx Shearwater burrows, brought news of a Red-rumped Swallow:

The bird was also seen above Quarry Beach by Charles Crundwell, who managed to take several long-distance photos of the bird, two of which are included here.

 Red-rumped Swallow, Quarry Beach, 27th May. © Charles Crundwell

In addition, Richard & Rebecca Taylor report lots of Manx Shearwaters and a Storm Petrel on the crossing from Ilfracombe, with a Swift and a singing Collared Dove on the island this afternoon.

20th to 26th May – Two rarities, continued northward migration & news of breeding birds

 Highlights of the past week have included:
  • A Woodchat Shrike along the Lower East Side Path below Tibbetts on Thursday 25th.
  • A Little Egret (Lundy rarity – see record shot below) in the Landing Bay on Tuesday 23rd as MS Oldenburg was leaving.
  • Confirmation of successful breeding by Teal for the third year running.
  • An extremely good night for Manx Shearwaters on 22nd/23rd, with numerous calling birds over Millcombe and St John's Valley and more than 50 handled in the study colony north of Old Light, including three individuals ringed as chicks on Lundy in 2009 and 2013. One of the Manx Shearwater nestboxes checked on 26th contained an incubating bird.
  • Three immature Cormorants thermalling off North East Point before heading for the Welsh coast on 21st.
  • One or two Whimbrels on several dates and a breeding-plumaged Golden Plover on 21st & 22nd.
  • Continuing northward passage of hirundines (especially on 21st), Swifts, Spotted Flycatchers (peaking at 7 on 22nd) and a handful of warblers, among them two Sedge Warblers and several Chiffchaffs, the latter including two mist-netted birds with prominent pollen 'horns' suggesting that they were recently arrived from habitats well to the south of the UK.
  • A Hobby over South West Field and along the West Side on 21st.
  • An influx of seven Collared Doves on 22nd.
  • Further sightings of colour-ringed Wheatears, bringing to 30 the total number of birds ringed in previous years and re-sighted during 2017.
  • Evidence of at least one territorial Water Rail, with persistent calling at night.
  • House Martins visiting crevices on the eastern side of Old House; landing but no sign of nest building as yet.
  • A pair of nest-building Chiffchaffs and potentially territorial Blackcap, Whitethroat and Willow Warbler (though no females of these species were recorded).
  • 40+ singing Wrens holding territory around the island, including at the North Light and along the West Side.
  • Evidence of a particularly good breeding season for the island's Blackbirds (at least 12 pairs) and Robins (up to 8 pairs).
  • Dunnocks feeding young in Millcombe.
  • Two to three breeding pairs of Pied Wagtail, perhaps four or more pairs of Goldfinch, three Chaffinch territories and Linnets gathering nest material.
Compiled from observations by Ryan Burrell, André & Marie Jo Coutanche, Tim Davis, Chris Dee, Paul & Sue James, Dean Jones, Mike Jones, Tim Jones, Seb Loram, Alan & Sandra Rowland, Ann & Tony Taylor.

 Little Egret, Landing Bay, 23rd May. © Alan Rowland

Friday 19 May 2017

Photos from the first week of May

Below are some great photos from Joanne Wilby, taken during the week of 29 April to 6 May, when Joanne and husband Andrew were part of a working party that stripped fixtures, fittings and untold years worth of accumulated miscellaneous 'items-that-somebody-must-have-thought-might-come-in-useful-one-day' from the Church, prior to the commencement of restoration and renovation works. The birds must have provided light relief! [Click on images for a closer view.]

Dunlins on main track near Halfway Wall, 6th May © Joanne Wilby
Male Whinchat on Tent Field wall below Old Light, 5th May © Joanne Wilby
Female Yellow & Blue-headed Wagtails, Barton Field, 5th May © Joanne Wilby
Male colour-ringed Wheatear near Jenny's Cove, 5th May © Joanne Wilby
Male Pied Wagtail, Barton Field, 5th May © Joanne Wilby
And finally...

A portrait from another working party stalwart, Alan Rowland, of roosting Dunlins at Kistvaen Pond/Rocket Pole Marsh:

Dunlins at Kistvaen Pond, 6th May © Alan Rowland

Wednesday 17 May 2017

16th & 17th May – Golden Oriole reported in Millcombe

Yesterday (16th) two different visitors reported seeing a male Golden Oriole in Millcombe during the afternoon, but Dean, the Lundy Warden, didn't get wind of these sightings until passengers were boarding the ship back to Bideford at 6pm. He hunted for the bird shortly after that but had no joy.

This morning (Wednesday 17th), the Golden Oriole was seen flying up St John's Valley from Millcombe at approximately 9.30 am. Dean just missed out, by about 10 minutes, and didn't have any luck catching up with it when he looked in the afternoon. Other birds (all in Millcombe) included a few more Spotted Flycatchers and a Garden Warbler, along with a very late Fieldfare.

Monday 15 May 2017

13th & 14th May – Two 'possibles' and belated news of a 'definite'...

James McCarthy got in touch via Twitter to say that he'd seen between 25 and 30 Spotted Flycatchers on the island on Saturday 13th (one of the higher springtime counts of recent years), along with a Garden Warbler, three Whitethroats and a Blackcap.

The Devon Birds day-trip on Sunday 14th was blessed with fine weather and a short write-up with some photos are to be found on the Devon Birds sightings page here. The account mentions glimpses of a possible Bonelli's Warbler species (which also got a mention on the UK Rare Bird Alert map) and a possible Red-rumped Swallow; it would be great if anyone with further information about these sightings could get in touch – especially as the Lundy Warden, Dean Jones, is off the island for a couple of days.

Today, we opened an email from Dean, sent on Saturday, which contained news of his sighting earlier that morning of an Eastern Subalpine Warbler in Millcombe (just along from the gate at the top of the 'Steps of Doom' to the side of the Ugly). Unfortunately we were not able to report this in time for the Devon Birds trip. Although Dean enjoyed several seconds of very good, close views before the bird flew off, he was unable to relocate it, despite thorough searching for the next 30 minutes before work duties beckoned.

17 May update: Photographs of the "possible Bonelli's warbler species" mentioned above show that it was actually a Garden Warbler feeding high in the sycamores, where it was reportedly flitting around in a Phylloscopus-like manner, showing off its strikingly white underparts. This is a good example of how staging migrants often show unusual behaviour in exploiting the limited habitat and feeding opportunties available on small islands and coastal headlands, meaning extra care is needed with ID, especially if a rarity is suspected. Many thanks to Devon Birds for helping to clear this one up.

Friday 12 May 2017

News on April ringing controls

Updated 17 May: Details are given below of three movements shown by ringing carried out on Lundy by Chris Dee in the third week of April. The first two show rapid movement to and from the island of newly arrived spring migrants, while the third emphasizes the importance of the coastal wetlands of north-west France as autumn feeding-up areas for Sedge Warblers that migrate through Lundy in spring, presumably heading for breeding grounds elsewhere in Britain or Ireland.

Ring no. S327850 Reed Warbler ringed as an adult at Porth Hellick, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly, 18 April 2017; controlled on Lundy, 20 April 2017 and 22 April 2017 (2 and 4 days after ringing; distance 180 km; bearing 40 degrees).

Ring no. Z981823 Sedge Warbler ringed as an adult on Lundy, 20 April 2017; controlled at Hasfield Ham, Gloucestershire, 22 April 2017 (2 days after ringing; distance 188 km; bearing 63 degrees).

Ring no. 7502526 Sedge Warbler ringed as a first-year bird at Tour aux Moutons, Donges (Loire Atlantique), France, 18 August 2015; controlled on Lundy 20 April 2017 (611 days after ringing; distance 468 km from original ringing site; bearing 337 degrees from original ringing site). Very similar movements, involving exactly the same French ringing site, saw Sedge Warblers ringed at Tour aux Moutons in August 2006 and August 2008 controlled on Lundy in April 2009 and May 2007 respectively, while information posted here by the Teifi Ringing Group mentions 12 exchanges of Sedge Warblers between the Teifi Marshes (on the west coast of Wales) and Donges, or vice versa, as of June 2016. Thousands of Sedge Warblers are ringed annually in Donges during the late summer, as part of a long-running ringing and migration programme; over 9,300 were ringed in 2011 alone! These have generated numerous controls in other countries, the great majority in Britain. See the ACROLA website for further information (mainly in French, though some reports have English abstracts).

Wednesday 10 May 2017

7th to 10th May – Sunday migrant rush followed by midweek lull

The clear skies, much lighter winds and higher temperatures of Sunday 7th gave a window of opportunity for delayed migrants to flood north. In line with observations along the mainland coast of North Devon, Swallows were particularly abundant, with a "highly conservative" estimate of 1,000 entered in the Lundy logbook, alongside 400+ House Martins and 100+ Sand Martins. Grounded night migrants included 11 Whitethroats, a Lesser Whitethroat, 5 each of Sedge Warbler, Garden Warbler and Blackcap, 9 Willow Warblers, 5 Chiffchaffs, 3 Whinchats and a Spotted Flycatcher. The Bar-tailed Godwit was still in the Pondsbury area, whilst other waders were represented by 4 Dunlins at the Rocket Pole (see photo of breeding-plumaged bird below) and 3 Whimbrels. A Buzzard (presumably the same bird as during the first week of May) was also seen. The fine weather brought out good numbers of butterflies, among them Small, Green-veined and Large Whites, Red Admirals and Small Tortoiseshells.

Breeding-plumaged Dunlin © Dean Jones
Monday 8th was much quieter, with the more notable sightings comprising: 1 Cormorant, 3 Dunlins, 4 Whitethroats, 5 Sedge Warblers, 1 Wood Warbler (see photo below), 2 White Wagtails and 2 Spotted Flycatchers.

Wood Warbler, 8 May © Dean Jones
The quieter theme continued into Tuesday 9th, which featured a Merlin, 3 Swifts, 4 Sedge Warblers, 3 Whitethroats, a handful of Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers and a Spotted Flycatcher. Dean Jones noted the first fledglings from among the 37 active Starling nests located by Tim Jones last week. Zoë Barton's discovery of a stunning female Emperor Moth sitting on the doorstep of the shop (see photo below, after relocation to a safer spot!) was undoubtedly the sighting of the day though.

Female Emperor Moth, 9 May © Dean Jones
Writing on Wednesday 10th, Dean reported a further quiet day birdwise, with the exception of an arrival of 8 Spotted Flycatchers – the first real influx of the spring – and 2 White Wagtails.

Thanks to Dean for forwarding counts from the log to enable this update.

Sunday 7 May 2017

6th May – Hard going in strong easterlies

Cold and blustery easterlies once again prevented any ringing and made birding a challenge, except well down over the western sidelands or a few other strategic sheltered spots. There were distinctly fewer migrants than on Friday, especially on the Swift, hirundine and warbler fronts, but still some good birds to be seen, among them: a Kestrel, 10+ Dunlins (including a flock of six seen by Alan Rowland at North End), a Ringed Plover, two Whimbrels (South West Field), a Snipe (at Widow's Tenement Pond), 5 Swifts, 51 Swallows, 16 House Martins, a female White Wagtail (sidelands below South West Field), two flava Wagtails, including a female Blue-headed (M. f. flava) and a female Yellow (M. f. flavissima) in St Helen's/Barton Fields, 2 Whinchats (Tent Field/South West Field wall and Rocket Pole area), a male Whitethroat (Millcombe), a male Blackcap (Smelly Gully), 3 Sedge Warblers (Stoneycroft, Tent Field wall and Smelly Gully), a handful of Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs, and a female Pied Flycatcher (Millcombe)

A look at the weather map showed why there had been so few overnight arrivals and such little visible migration by day, with rain in the English Channel effectively blocking most migration from the continent.

MS Oldenburg did a 'Splash & Dash', taking advantage of a drop in the wind to do a quick turnaround late in the day, for staying passengers only.

Yellow Wagtails & Lundy Pony, Barton Field, 5 May © Tim Jones

Male Yellow Wagtail, Barton Field, 5 May © Tim Jones

Female Blue-headed Wagtail, Barton Field, 6 May © Tim Jones

5th May – Big movement of Swifts and hirundines

It was too windy (from the East) on Friday for any ringing to take place, which was frustrating for Rob Duncan & David Kightley on their last full day as there were plenty of migrants around... The highlight was a big passage of Swifts and hirundines, including minima of 145 Swifts, 565 Swallows, 123 House Martins and 30 Sand Martins, with flocks of Swifts arriving into the West Side and crossing the middle of the island towards the north-east, whilst the hirundines tended to stay lower into the lee of the West Side all the way north. Also recorded were: 1 Kestrel, 1 Merlin, 7 Dunlins, 2 Ringed Plovers, 1 Bar-tailed Godwit (Pondsbury), 1 Common Sandpiper (bottom of Montagu Steps), 2 or 3 Cuckoos, 40 Willow Warblers,  5 Chiffchaffs, zero Blackcaps (!), 1 Garden Warbler, 5 Whitethroats, 1 Sedge Warbler, 3 Whinchats (Airfield wall and wall between Old Light and Lighthouse Field), 2 Redstarts, 2 Spotted Flycatchers, 7 Yellow Wagtails (including up to 4 together in St Helen's/Barton Fields), and 2 Tree Pipits (calling in flight over Ackland's Moor and at Quarter Wall).

Thursday 4 May 2017

4th May – Yellow Wagtail and flycatchers brighten a quieter day

Tim Jones reports a quieter day for birds. Only one Teal was observed (on Pondsbury), but there was a single Cormorant, and one Buzzard and one Kestrel were still present. Wader numbers increased, with 3 Dunlin and 4 Whimbrel. The Collared Dove count reached 4. At least 14 Swift passed through and a female Yellow Wagtail was located in St Helen's Field. Also present was a female Redstart, 2 female Pied Flycatchers (at the Stonecrusher and the Ugly) and the first Spotted Flycatcher of the year (in Millcombe). Warbler numbers were further depleted as birds presumably moved on: 1 Grasshopper Warbler, 1 Sedge Warbler, 1 Garden Warbler, 6 Blackcap, 4 Chiffchaff and 3 Willow Warbler.

Wednesday 3 May 2017

3rd May – Hoopoe in Gannets' Combe

News for Wednesday 3rd May from Tim Jones on behalf of everyone birding on the island follows.

Tim Davis found a Hoopoe in Gannets' Combe during an all-island perimeter count of large gulls which revealed 535 Herring Gull, 299 Lesser Black-backed Gulls and 114 Great Black-backed Gulls, including 34 apparently occupied Great Black-back nests. The ENE wind made it difficult to get mist-nets open safely in Millcombe, so there was little ringing, but there were few grounded migrants in evidence anyway. Reported were 3 Teal, 4 Cormorant, a Buzzard, a female Merlin, 2 Kestrels. Migrant waders were represented by 1 Dunlin, 1 Bar-tailed Godwit and 2 Whimbrel. Warbler numbers were lower: 1 Grasshopper Warbler, 2 Sedge Warbler, 1 Garden Warbler, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 8 Whitethroat, 10 Chiffchaff and 5 Willow Warbler. There was a male Stonechat on the Terraces, raising the possibility of breeding again this year. Hirundine passage comprised 350 Swallow, 20 Sand Martin and 15 House Martin.

The non-ornithological highlight was a count of 5 male Emperor Moths

Tuesday 2 May 2017

2nd May – Good hirundine passage and possible Iberian Chiffchaff

Tim Jones and Tim Davis report an overnight clear-out of migrants with few new arrivals, but a good day for hirundine passage.
A tristis-type Chiffchaff was ringed and a potential Iberian Chiffchaff was also caught and ringed in Millcombe by Rob Duncan. Elsewhere there were 3 Teal, the Red-necked Grebe, 5 Cormorant, a Buzzard, 3 Kestrel, and a Merlin. The Bar-tailed Godwit was located on Pondsbury and there were also 3 Whimbrel and a Dunlin. Seabird counts included 340 Kittiwake and 2200 Guillemot. Presumed long-staying, but unusual Lundy birds included a Collared Dove and a Fieldfare. In a better day for hirundine migration, counts of 350 Swallow, 40 Sand Martin and 20 House Martin were recorded. There were also 3 Swift and 5 White Wagtails. Other migrants included 2 Redstart, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 8 Whitethroat, a Garden Warbler, 6 Blackcap and 3 Sedge Warbler. A brood of newly-fledged Blackbirds was in Smelly Gully.

Monday 1 May 2017

1st May – Stock Dove, Short-eared Owl and singing Rosefinch

Tim Jones and Tim Davis report (on behalf of many staying observers) fewer migrants with poor early weather improving through the day. Jon Turner was on the Bank Holiday Monday day-trip and his observations are also included.

Four Teal were present, as was the long-staying Red-necked Grebe. Raptors comprised a Buzzard, a Sparrowhawk, 2 Kestrel, a Bar-tailed Godwit in South West Field, and a Dunlin. In Jenny's Cove there was an impressive count of 92 Puffin on land. Diurnal passage included 5 Swift, 50 Swallow, 6 House Martin and 10 Sand Martin. A single Stock Dove was observed and the Collared Dove count rose to 2. A Short-eared Owl was located near Pondsbury, 2 Jackdaws were in the Lighthouse Field and a late Redwing was seen to fly out of Millcombe.

In the morning only, a Common Rosefinch was heard singing in Millcombe and a Lesser Redpoll was present there too. Counts of other migrants included 6 Redstart, a Grassshopper Warbler, 5 Sedge Warbler, a Garden Warbler, 2 Lesser Whitethroat, 6 Whitethroat and small numbers of Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler.