About this page...

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.

Monday 26 February 2018

Commuting Peregrines

During the early afternoon of 16 Feb, Mark Darlaston and Adele Rennells were at Hartland Point to count Red-throated Divers. They watched two Peregrines gaining height, then setting out purposely for Lundy in continual wing-beating flight. Mark says "Having my scope set up I followed them for c15 minutes until they were tiny dots (at 50x mag), then lost them as Lundy appeared in the background. It was a crisp day with very sharp visibility and the resolution was pretty amazing in that I could see sheep grazing and people walking on the top of Lundy through the scope, so I probably had followed the two birds around three-quarters of the way before I lost them. A tentative estimate that a Peregrine would be doing around 30-40mph in a straight purposeful flight like this would see them cover the 11 miles from Hartland Point to Lundy in a bit under 20 minutes. Perhaps a day's foraging flight to the mainland when food is scarcer on Lundy in winter?"

This mirrors a journey in the opposite direction witnessed by Tim Davis & Tim Jones on the morning of 11 Dec 2010, when a pair of Peregrines that had apparently roosted on Lundy overnight circled upwards over the Castle and headed off at height directly for Hartland Point, not deviating until they were lost from sight.

Highlights for 18th to 25th Feb – A mixed bag of winter visitors and early migrants

The following observations are from Dean Jones and Martin Thorne:

Red throated Diver – Two birds were off Rat Island on 18th & 19th; three were off South West Point on 20th; and a single bird was feeding near North Light on 21st.
Black-throated Diver – One was off Shutter Point on 24th (Martin Thorne).
Great Northern Diver – A single bird was present in the Landing Bay on 18th, 19th and 22nd.
Gannet – 3 on the 20th off the SW – very scarce this month.
Hen Harrier – Martin Thorne watched a ringtail quartering east and west over Pondsbury on the afternoon of 25th.
Water Rail – Two on 21st: one calling from the rushes in Barton Field in the morning and another in Millcombe.
Oystercatcher – maximum count 17 on 21st.
Snipe – Singles flushed from the Pondsbury area on 20th & 21st.
Common Gull – A lone adult bird was roosting within a small flock of Herring Gulls off North Light on 21st.
A possible Glaucous Gull – Martin Thorne had a brief glimpse of what looked like a first-winter Glaucous Gull preening itself on The Rattles on 20th. Unfortunately the bird flew off east before he managed to get a closer look. Martin had also reported a possible Glaucous Gull the day before but unfortunately it again did not allow for great viewing as it disappearing into the morning fog near the Castle with three Herring Gulls.
Great-black backed Gull – Birds are back on their breeding promontories including the small colony on Great Shutter Rock.
Woodpigeon – A single bird coming in from the sea near Benjamin’s Chair on 21st was the first of the year.
Merlin – Single birds were seen from the Village area on 21st and 22nd.
Jackdaw – A lone bird was found in Barton Field during the late morning of 22nd (see record shot below).
Skylark – 17 birds on 21st included a flock of 10 next to Halfway Wall.
Fieldfare – One was next to the water tanks on 21st.
Redwing – A flock of 17 was seen in Millcombe on 20th; nine on 21st.
Song Thrush – Six on 21st.
Grey Wagtail – A single fly-over bird heard from South West Point on 21st was the first of the year.
Rock Pipit – 17 recorded on 21st, mostly from the south and west coasts. A single bird was displaying from South West Point on the same day.
Chaffinch – A small arrival of birds included 10 on both 20th & 21st.

Jackdaw in Barton Field, 22 Feb 2018 © Dean Jones

Sunday 18 February 2018

Sat 17th Feb – A taste of spring

"A beautiful spring-like day" on Saturday 17th February brought a host of interesting sightings, including an influx of Skylarks and Meadow Pipits and an exodus of Redwings, showing that spring passage is already getting underway. Another seasonal first was a Buff-tailed Bumble-bee in flight next to the Upper East Side Path. The following records have been compiled from observations by Dean Jones, Grant Sherman & Martin Thorne.

Great Northern Diver: A single bird was feeding in the Landing Bay during the late morning.
Red-throated Diver: Six were feeding/roosting in the Landing Bay.
Guillemot: 1,541 on the ledges between St Mark’s Stone and Jenny’s Cove.
Razorbill: 600 birds, some on ledges but most out at sea.
Kittiwake: 70 birds, some of which were seen on ledges along the west coast.
Iceland Gull: Presumably the same bird that was seen on Fri 16th was again present on Mouse Island. Prolonged views allowed it to be aged as an adult and though Dean noticed apparent differences in head markings, he couldn't be certain that it was a different individual to the one he saw on 19 Jan.
Snipe: Seven between Quarter Wall and Pondsbury.
Merlin: A single female bird was looking for prey in Tillage Field in the early morning and later in St John’s Valley.
Skylark: There was a very noticeable arrival, with 18 counted during the late morning and early afternoon. These included two small, mobile flocks near Castle Parade and 10 birds "singing their hearts out with some superb in-flight territorial disputes between males" in South West Field (2), Ackland's Moor (4) and between Quarter Wall and Halfway Wall (4).
Meadow Pipit: A small arrival of birds – four were in flight between Tillage Field and the Airstrip.
Redwing: "Seemingly the majority of birds from earlier in the week have cleared out" – only six were seen during coverage of likely habitat south of Halfway Wall.

Friday 16 February 2018

Highlights for Sat 3rd to Fri 16th Feb – Skylarks start to sing; another Iceland Gull

After a 'blank week', when Lundy Warden Dean Jones was off-island and there were no logbook entries from visitors, highlights during the last few days have included:

Red-throated Diver – six present in the Landing Bay on 12th at around 14:00, followed by four on 15th and six again on 16th; Great Northern Diver – one feeding close in to Rat Island on 14th; Shag – a small southward passage of 13 birds, plus an additional three feeding birds in the Landing Bay, all seen from the Ugly on 12th; Water Rail – Dean reports "rather quiet as of late but I saw two birds chasing each other in Smelly Gully on 15th"; Snipe – three flushed near Quarter Wall on 12th; Iceland Gull – one, thought to be a 3rd-winter bird, was found on Mouse Island, by Martin Thorne, during the early afternoon of 16th (it flew off around Rat Island after being harassed by Herring Gulls, but reappeared in the Landing Bay just 50m off the jetty!); Skylark – two were in South West Field on 15th and this year's first reports of singing birds came from there on 16th and from near the Water Tanks on the same day; Blackbird – max 10 on 15th (Dean notes that numbers of both Blackbirds and Song Thrushes seem to have dropped again); Redwing – 22 scattered between Barton Field and Millcombe on 12th and 14 in Barton Field on 15th; Song Thrush – max seven on 15th; Black Redstart – one below Benjamin's Chair on 15th; and Goldfinch – two birds still regularly around the village area.

The Iceland Gull is the second record for 2018, but only the 10th ever for the island, and follows the sighting of an adult – and therefore a different individual – in Tillage Field on 19 January.

Observations by Dean Jones and Martin Thorne.

Saturday 3 February 2018

Highlights for Tue 30th Jan to Fri 2nd Feb

On Tuesday 30th Jan, Tim Davis and Tim Jones walked the entire island perimeter (including all the ins and outs...) counting birds as they went, starting from the Castle at 8am and getting back there at just after 4pm, after (according to Apple) some 13km and 21,397 steps. Unfortunately, the last section, from the Battery, back south to the Castle, was plagued by incoming thick clag and rain, so sightings for this part of the circuit were negligible. On the plus side, it was calm and sunny on the outbound route via the East Side to North End, and dry and bright along most of the West Side as far as Quarter Wall. The most unexpected sighting was of a female Goldeneye, flying north over the East Side of the island near Tibbetts at around 10.15am. We wondered if it had been on Pondsbury earlier in the morning. There was a single Great Northern Diver again in the Landing Bay and one Red-throated Diver off North Light among feeding Razorbills, Kittiwakes and other gulls. There were 279 Fulmars on the breeding ledges on the north side of Gannets' Rock, at Long Roost and in Jenny's Cove, while Grant Sherman's early morning count of 961 Guillemots on the ledges from Jenny's to St Mark's Stone, when added to what the Tims saw at sites further north, gave a total of just over 1,100 – almost all in full breeding plumage. Conversely, the 38 Razorbills we saw were all in winter plumage and remained offshore. Other higher counts included 40 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 66 Great Black-backed Gulls and 720 Herring Gulls, as well as 27 Oystercatchers (mainly on the East Side) – the only wader species encountered, and 21 Rock Pipits. The island's breeding Shags have yet to return in any number, with only five seen all day. An adult Cormorant coming into breeding plumage flew north off the East Side and the Coal Tit was in St Helen's Copse as we passed through early on.

Sunrise over South Light on 30 Jan – the start of the perimeter walk © Tim Jones

The last day of January brought blustery NW winds and heavy showers, while February started cold and bright, with plenty of sunshine but a chilly northerly wind, which at least gave a chance for a very soggy island to start drying out. Notable sightings included: four to five Red-throated Divers off Rat Island/South Light on 31st, three Water Rails in Millcombe on 1st, 11 Snipe on 1st, two female-type Black Redstarts at Benjamin's Chair on 31st, two Fieldfares on 2nd and two Meadow Pipits, also on 2nd. The lone overwintering Coal Tit and pair of Goldfinches continued to be seen daily, but there was no sign of the Firecrest after 29th (though it may simply have taken to deeper cover as colder conditions arrived). The same change in the weather, with clear skies at night and a good tail wind for anything wanting to make the short hop to Hartland, seemed to have prompted a partial exodus of thrushes, with numbers of Blackbirds and Redwings noticeably reduced by the end of our visit. On the other hand, numbers of Skylarks appeared to be building up slowly as the first breeding birds return to take up their territories; an almost complete absence, despite thorough searching, was a noticeable feature until the last two or three days. We watched one (first picked up distantly through a telescope whilst seawatching) fly in off the sea at North Light on 30th.

Skylark near Dead Cow Point on 26 Jan © Tim Jones

Flushes of flowering Snowdrops in Millcombe and Primroses in abundance at Quarter Wall Copse, alongside singing Wrens, Robins, Dunnocks, Song Thrush (sub-singing in Millcombe) and Starlings, and a pair of Ravens carrying sticks to their nest site along the East Side on 1st gave a distinct feeling of approaching spring.

Singing male Starling at Barton Cottages, 2 Feb © Tim Jones