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This page is run by Lundy Bird Observatory (LBO) as a source of news for everyone interested in the birds and wildlife of Lundy, situated 12 miles out in the Bristol Channel, UK. If you have sightings to report, please consider sharing your observations or photographs with the Bird Obs team here. While you're here, check out the companion website The Birds of Lundy for comprehensive updates to the book of the same name (Davis & Jones, 2007). All bird recording and ringing activities on Lundy are coordinated by LBO and general information about visiting the island can be found here.

Saturday, 25 August 2018

11th to 24th Aug – The first 'fall' of autumn migration

The following comprehensive roundup of recent sightings, covering the period 11 to 24 August, has been compiled by Lundy Warden Dean Jones:

Not much has changed here weather-wise since my last post. Strong westerly winds and prolonged bouts of mist have dominated this period, meaning that most of the birding attention had been focused on the sea rather than within the mobile soggy clag that had been cloaking the island's plateau. Things were looking great for a potential Lundy seabird rarity but unfortunately these seawatch sessions all ended in a bit of an anti-climax, as despite the effort made, the island was only rewarded with a small number of passing Manx Shearwater, Fulmar, Kittiwake and Gannet throughout (unlike other areas in the UK during this period) as well as good numbers of Harbour Porpoise on some days foraging close to the island.

There was one morning however, Thursday 23rd, that stood out from the rest, following an evening of clear skies coupled with sporadic rainfall and a light NW breeze. These conditions provided the island with a fantastic fall of migrants come daybreak, particularly Willow Warbler, Whitethroat and Spotted Flycatcher, which were all grounded in decent numbers. It’s mornings like this that all birders yearn for, possibly even more so for island birders, marooned on their little rocks unable to jaunt down the road or over to the next county to follow news of a decent twitch!

Highlights of the period include:
  • The first of the Fulmar chicks have now fledged from the island leaving all but a few reluctant birds hanging on in a few areas. The highest count of the period involved 56 birds on 23rd, most of which were sheltering together on the water just off from North East Point.
  • Storm Petrel: 2 seen from MS Oldenburg during the crossing on 11th.
  • Cormorant: A lone bird was seen perched on Gull Rock on 17th.
  • Shag: 108 on 13th (all juvenile birds resting on the Landing Bay beach), 132 on 14th, and 138 on 19th were the highest counts of the period.
  • Grey Heron: A lone bird was seen flying low over the Village on 20th and another on 21st (more than likely the same bird).
  • Water Rail: 2 on 20th, 21st & 24th, calling loudly from Quarters Pond and Smelly Gully. 3 on  23rd (one calling from Quarters Pond and 2 calling to each other in Smelly Gully).
  • Common Sandpiper: 1 calling from below the Ugly on 24th.
  • Pomarine Skua: 1 spotted by MarineLife surveyors from MS Oldenburg on 11th.
  • Woodpigeon: 2 or 3 recorded most days from the Millcombe/Quarter Wall Copse areas. A small arrival of 10 birds on 23rd.
  • Kestrel: 2 on 13th, 19th & 23rd and singles on 12th, 14th and 21st. 
  • Peregrine: Only 1 record submitted for this period of a bird hunting Wheatears in South West Field on 23rd.
  • Goldcrest: 5 on 20th were the first of the autumn, followed by 4 on 21st, 1 on 23rd and 4 on  24th.
  • White Wagtail: The first of the autumn was an adult male bird feeding in Barton Field on  23rd.
  • Tree Pipit: 3 on 13th, singles on 17th, 20th & 24th, 7 over on 21st and 2 on 23rd (all seen/heard over Millcombe/the Village). 
  • Stonechat: Successful breeding confirmed with a pair of birds feeding chicks just North of St Helen's Copse. 
  • Sand Martin: A single bird was quartering in Millcombe on the afternoon of 23rd.
  • Swallow: The first obvious south-bound passage was recorded on 21st with 10 birds heading south past Lamentor.
  • Cuckoo: A single bird was present in and around the Terrace on 19th.
  • Chiffchaff: 1 or 2 birds recorded most days. Highest count of the period was 4 birds on 23rd.
  • Willow Warbler: Between 1 and 14 birds have been recorded most days. Highest count of the period by far was 128 on that magical migrant morning (23rd).
  • Blackcap: Between 1 and 3 birds recorded most days.
  • Garden Warbler: 3 on 23rd were the first of the autumn.
  • Whitethroat: 1 on 21st and 9 on 23rd (Millcombe & Lower East Path).
  • Sedge Warbler: Singles on 21st, 22nd & 23rd, all from the Millcombe area.
  • Song Thrush: A very noisy youngster was calling from the top of Smelly Gully on 19th.
  • Spotted Flycatcher: The first of the autumn was at Quarter Wall on 13th, closely followed by a second on 14th along the Terrace, 2 on 19th in Millcombe and 14 on 24th – Millcombe/Lower East Path/Quarries.
  • Pied Flycatcher: One on 13th and 14th (possibly the same bird), busily catching bugs at the top of Smelly Gully.
  • Wheatear: Small numbers recorded on most days. Highest count was 14 on 23rd.
  • Some lovely mixed finch flocks are still flittering around the island. These gatherings have been predominantly composed of Linnet (highest count 78 birds on 17th) along with small numbers of Goldfinch (highest count 25 on 14th).
Willow Warbler, Millcombe, 13th August © Dean Jones

Non-avian highlights:

A total of 5 Convolvulus Hawkmoths have been recorded on the island since the night of the 11th. The first of these spectacular beasts was seen nectaring from flowers outside Paradise Row on what was a rather wet and windy night. This was then followed by two feeding together in the same place the following evening and another at the Tavern, which flew into Ash Garfoot, the barman, giving him one heck of a fright! Ten days later (22nd) another of these monster moths turned up again in the Tavern, beingh caught and released by Ash after a few quick photos.
Convolvulus Hawkmoth, Marisco Tavern, 21st August © Ash Garfoot

Moth trapping continued as usual; highlights included one specimen of the very odd looking Pale Prominent, a Tawny Speckled Pug, along with the first Small Phoenix, Frosted Orange and Copper Underwing of the year.

A Migrant Hawker dragonfly was also recorded on the 23rd narrowly escaping the beak of a hungry Spotted Flycatcher.

Finally, from the cliff-tops to the sea... During the night of 21st a small select band of brave Lundy staff headed down to the jetty for a late-night swim (at 22:00 hrs) after rumours of bioluminescent algae putting on a show the night before near Brazen Ward. The team were treated to a spell-binding aquatic light display as the waters of the bay were thick with these remarkable little glowing  organisms. As Zoë Barton put it, “It was like swimming through the Milky Way”; definitely a contender for the best night yet on Lundy 2018!

Report composed of sightings from: Zoë Barton, Jenny Clark, Esther Fritzel-Armitage, Maggie Gamble, Ash Garfoot, Joshua Harris, Amanda Jones, Dean Woodfin Jones, Katherine MacKinnon & Emily Trapnell.

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