"Our first trip in early April will be remembered for the strong easterly winds that lashed the islands, as well as for spring migrants including Sandwich Tern, Pied Flycatcher and Common Redstart. The fierceness of the winds caused a stricken Oldenburg to be towed away for repairs, stranding about 70 visitors for an extra couple of days. Those same winds also brought a distinct chill to the air. So much so that, for the first time on Lundy, we wished we’d brought gloves!
Strong easterlies meant that Millcombe Valley was often ‘blown out’ by the wind, forcing birds to keep their heads down and making birding at times slow.
However, calm days saw bushes come alive with migrant warblers. Willow Warblers were everywhere. We had a personal maximum count of 36 on the 8th and 12th. Blackcaps came to the island in waves, firstly all males and then mixed with females. Peak count was of 26 on the 8th. However, with plenty of bushes and scrub for cover, the real bird-count could well have been much higher. As we know well from bird ringing, the number seen can often be but a fraction of those actually present.
Passerine highlights for us during the period included a striking male Pied Flycatcher (3rd and 4th), several Common Redstarts including handsome males (8th, 11th, 12th and 13th), a female Black Redstart (6th), and a Firecrest on the 7th. A single Lesser Redpoll (5th and 8th) and 1-2 White Wagtails (8th and 11th) were also present. Amongst more than a dozen Chiffchaffs at any one time was a fleeting bird showing characteristics of the Siberian race, ‘tristis’ (5th); lacking green tones above or yellow below, but with black legs and a solid black bill.
|Male Common Redstart beside Bramble Villas, 12 Apr 2019 © Philip Lymbery|
|Female Common Redstart near The Ugly, 08 Apr 2019 © Philip Lymbery|
|Male Pied Flycatcher on a windy day... 12 Apr 2019 © Philip Lymbery|
A young female Sparrowhawk buzzed the burgeoning passerine flocks on the east coast. A single Kestrel hovered regularly around Millcombe and Castle Hill. The island’s Peregrines patrolled the coastline daily, although their activity levels seemed to vary from day to day. We particularly enjoyed watching a male chasing off a rival before displaying triumphantly over the south with winnowing wingbeats.
|Female Sparrowhawk over Millcombe, 6 Apr 2019 © Philip Lymbery|
Amongst uncommon non-passerine sightings was a single Sandwich Tern in the Landing Bay area on the 3rd, 2 adult Cormorant flying northeast over Castle Hill (5th) and a Stock Dove (12th) around Barton’s Field. Perhaps our favourite was a Curlew calling evocatively whilst flying over Quarter Wall Cottages toward the Devon mainland (8th).
|Record shot of Sandwich Tern, Landing Bay, 3 Apr 2019 © Philip Lymbery|
Although the weather felt wintry - cold, misty, gusty, a sprinkling of rain, even hail - there were more than enough birdlife, sunshine and photo opportunities to keep the motivation high.
Lundy can sometimes be a frustrating place to photograph birds. Those Puffins can be too far away, the Peregrines just won’t play ball, and songbirds can often be little more than a flit of a tail disappearing into a bush full of leaves.
|Female Peregrine playing ball for the camera over the Terrace, 7 Apr 2019 © Philip Lymbery|
|Puffin back on the breeding slopes at Jenny's Cove, 7 Apr © Philip Lymbery|
However, on this trip, the most magic moments happened when the wind subsided to reveal bushes bouncing with birds just waiting to have their picture taken. Normally elusive warblers in such numbers and so unusually showy, you could soak up their features and see the gleam in their eyes.
Then, after dark, was the strangely fascinating sound of Manx Shearwaters, back to breed along the rat-free sidelands.
The weather may not have been mild nor the sun particularly warming, but there is surely nowhere better than Lundy to watch the changing of the seasons.
Although one Swallow does not make a spring, a steady stream heading north from the 4th was a sure sign of better weather on the way. House Martins followed them from the 6th and a rush of Sand Martins came through on the 11th.
As our 18th time on the island concluded with shining sun, it seemed we were leaving just as spring was really hitting her stride."
Philip and Helen Lymbery