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Saturday 29 July 2017

27th & 28th July sea-watches

Lundy Warden Dean Jones reports a good sea-watch on the morning of 27th July: “No scarce tubenoses or skuas but around 300+ Manx Shearwaters, 23 Gannets and a handful of Shags and Kittiwakes. Watching the Manxies pass through the stormy sea was breathtaking.”

Dean got out again twice on 28th. The morning’s attempt was thwarted by heavy bouts of rain and mist. As Dean says: “There really isn’t much shelter on the SW point in a Force 7 oncoming wind!” However, a combination of a brief morning watch and an afternoon watch produced some 300 Manx Shearwaters, most of which were moving west, 80 Gannets, a single Fulmar and Guillemot and eight Kittiwakes. In addition, Dean had some amazing views of a Storm Petrel very close in off the South End in the afternoon. “I was able to follow the bird for a few minutes as it navigated the towering swell – definitely the highlight of all the birding I’ve done so far on Lundy; a spectacular show it was!”

Dean also had “some smashing views of five Harbour Porpoises feeding in the SW races in the afternoon, and in the morning a pod of 15 Common Dolphins which included two small calves. One of them was way in front of the rest of the pod, launching itself from the swell, seemingly loving life”.

Wednesday 26 July 2017

17th to 25th July – including successful breeding by Spotted Flycatchers

Dean Jones has scoured the Lundy Field Society logbook for the latest July records from the island. As Dean says, "there have been some really nice birds about of late". Along with a Marsh Harrier, perhaps the best news is of successful breeding by a pair of Spotted Flycatchers for the first time since 1997.

Storm Petrel – two on 3rd July seen offshore from the Oldenburg near Bull Point (Martin Thorne) and one on  25th again from the Oldenburg but much closer to Lundy, about 20 minutes out from the island (Dean Jones).
Cormorant – three on 23rd.
Little Egret – one on 23rd (Mike Thurner).
Whimbrel – one on 18th.
Curlew – one over Rat Island on the evening of 25th.
Black-headed Gull – a single 2nd-year bird in the Landing Bay on 25th (Dean Jones).
Cuckoo – singles on (Martin Thorne) and 24th (Philip & Helen Lymbery).
Swift – four on 17th, one on 18th and three on 24th.
Marsh Harrier – seen on a few occasions from North End to the South Light on 23rd & 24th (Philip and Helen Lymbery) and possibly also on 22nd, though noted in the logbook as a female Hen Harrier but with no supporting text or observer name.
Kestrel – one on 23rd & 24th.
Merlin – one on 23rd, normally a very rare summer visitor on Lundy (Martin Thorne).
Rook – the long-staying bird was near the Quarters pig pen on 23rd (Philip & Helen Lambery).
Swallows & Sand Martins – small numbers on most days.
Willow Warbler – five on 17th, seven on 23rd, three on 24th and one on 25th.
Sedge Warbler – one on 17th and one on 23rd.
Spotted Flycatcher – three fledged young being fed by parents in Quarter Wall Copse on 17th (Dean Jones).
Goldfinch – 12 on 25th, ten of which were juveniles.

With wet and windy weather on 26th July and more of the same forecast for the morning of 27th, Dean is contemplating a sea-watch from the south-west. Watch this space!

Thursday 20 July 2017

Storm Petrel fly past

Steve McAusland, working for MARINElife on board MS Oldenburg on 12th July, reports "a Storm Petrel passing by about an hour out from the island". He wasn't sure if this counted as a Lundy bird tick, but he did say that "it was heading in the direction of Lundy!" Who knows, perhaps it was one of the two birds found at North End on 9th July by Warden Dean Jones using a tape call-back!

9th to 13th July – A confusing Starling!

Thanks to House Sparrow researchers Alfredo Sánchez-Tójar and Antje Girndt for sharing their observations and photos from their recent stay on Lundy.
“On 9th July we observed a male Stonechat sitting on a fence-post along the path from the shop down to Millcombe. On 12th we enjoyed close views of a juvenile Teal by Quarter Wall Pond (photo below) and two others, possibly also juveniles, on Pondsbury. On the same we watched what looked like a juvenile Sand Martin sitting on the fence close to the main track at Quarter Wall (photo below), and also 60+ Linnets (mostly juveniles) on the track from the Black Shed to Old Light.
On our last day, 13th, the whole sparrow team were at the campsite from where we were very lucky to hear a Water Rail (our first on Lundy) calling around Pigs Paradise. We tried, unsuccessfully, to locate it using the ‘scope. 
One or two Chiffchaffs were singing every day in Millcombe. Down by the Heligoland Trap on the Terrace a ringed Dunnock was seen and heard singing on 8th and a singing Whitethroat was there on 12th. We saw a Rook (photo below) on several days, always by the pig-sty on the way to Quarter wall.
Lastly an interesting observation. On 10th we were highly confused by a juvenile Starling. At first we really thought we had found a ‘mega’ as we could not identify a starling-like bird with an orange forehead. After a few minutes we realized that it was feeding from flowers, and the orange forehead was the result of accumulated pollen (photo below). Definitely a very interesting and unexpected behaviour!”
With his House Sparrow fieldwork on Lundy now behind him, Alfredo is currently writing up his PhD thesis. Lundy birders wish you every success, Alfredo!

Juvenile Teal. © Alfredo Sánchez-Tójar
Sand Martin. © Alfredo Sánchez-Tójar
Male Linnet. © Alfredo Sánchez-Tójar
Rook. © Alfredo Sánchez-Tójar
'Orange-headed' Starling. © Alfredo Sánchez-Tójar

Wednesday 19 July 2017

2017 summer fieldwork update

Dean Jones reported the finding of two rings from Peregrine kills on 12th July, whilst out with researchers Luke Sutton and Seb Loram. One was from a freshly predated Manx Shearwater ringed as an adult in 29th August 2011. The other ring, an AA ring inscribed HRC365 and found in a pellet on the West Side, came from a very unexpected prey item for a Peregrine: a Long-tailed Tit ringed by Rob Duncan on 3rd April 2016. It was one of a small flock that was on the island that spring, and was perhaps most likely predated when flying along the East Side or even heading off towards the mainland.

Luke Sutton remarks: “Over the seven years I have been studying Peregrine diet in Devon these are the first remains/pellets I've found with rings. So to get two in the space of five minutes was unusual. I've recorded Long-tailed Tit once before at a South Devon coastal site – not much of a meal at just 8 grams! Elsewhere, the remains of a Razorbill pullus found in a Peregrine territory on the West Side suggests that this prey item was taken off a breeding ledge. We have now finished our fieldwork on Peregrine diet. Over the past four seasons we've collected more than 500 prey samples, the largest sample size for any study on coastal Peregrine diet in the UK. Data analysis will start over the winter with the aim of having a paper written by this time next year for publication. My thanks to Seb (Loram) and Ryan (Burrell) for putting in the time and effort to help collect such a substantial sample size.”

Tony Taylor reports an excellent season for breeding Wheatears, in spite of the grim weather during Richard & Rebecca Taylor’s second week on the island in early June. A total of 99 colour-ringed birds were located in the study area (extending from Castle Hill to Halfway Wall), with 51 birds newly colour-ringed (two of them ringed as chicks in 2016) and 48 from previous years. 61% of last year’s birds were re-sighted – a good survival rate for the species – and this may rise if the study team catch up with other birds next year. The estimate for the whole island in 2017 is 121 breeding pairs, the highest so far.

Manx Shearwaters
Tony Taylor arrives on Lundy on 15th August to start the annual autumn ringing programme, which runs from mid-August through to mid-September.

1st to 15th July – Highlights

Lundy Warden Dean Jones provides an update on bird sightings during the first half of July.

Teal – two juveniles on Quarter Wall Pond on 8th.
Fulmar – 64 on 2nd.
Manx Shearwater – 110 past The Battery in a ten-minute count on 12th.
Storm Petrel – two found by tape call-back at North End on 9th.
Gannet – lots throughout the month with a high of 23 off Mouse Island on 14th.
Cormorant – one below Puffin Slope on 9th & 12th.
Grey Heron – singles on 2nd & 6th (Alan & Sandra Rowland) and two juveniles on 7th flying south from St Mark’s Stone.
Water Rail – one calling from Quarters Pond on 13th.
Puffin – 253 on 1st.
Kittiwake – 236 during a ‘round-the-island’ count on 12th and 202 off St Mark’s Stone on 2nd.
Herring Gull – 295 during a ‘round-the-island’ count on 12th.
Lesser Black-backed Gull – 123 during a ‘round-the-island’ count on 12th.
Black-headed Gull – a single juvenile in Gannets’ Bay on 9th.
Common Gull – an adult perched on Mouse Island on 12th.
Great Black-backed Gull – 44 during a ‘round-the-island’ count on 12th.
Woodpigeon – five from 4th–6th.
Collared Dove – one on 4th.
Swift – four on 5th, ten on 6th & six on 9th.
Rook – still present, seen by a number of people on 2nd, 4th, 7th, 8th, 10th & 12th.
Swallow – small numbers on most days, with 11 on 5th.
House Martin – a single bird on 4th.
Sand Martin – one on 12th and three on 13th.
Chiffchaff – an adult and three juveniles on 3rd.
Whitethroat – a single male singing below the Terrace on 2nd, 9th & 12th.
Stonechat – a male on 9th.
Pied Wagtail – a pair with three chicks in the Landing Bay on 15th.
White Wagtail – one female on 9th.
Linnet – 60 on 12th, the highest count of the month to date.