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Wednesday 31 July 2019

26th to 30th July – Migrants heading south already

'Hot and sweaty' would be the theme of this period but despite the beautiful summer-like weather, the birding on the island has had much more of an autumnal feel, with numerous species showing obvious southbound passage and birds becoming increasingly gregarious, feeding and moving around the island in small flocks, e.g. flocks of 33 Linnet at Quarter Wall on the 26th and 23 Goldfinch in Millcombe on the 30th. Come the 30th, however, the winds picked up from the west making birding conditions rather tricky.

The Common Buzzard was seen again on the 26th by multiple observers up until around 12:30 pm when it was seen gaining height over St Helen’s Copse before heading out to sea and out of sight. Additionally, a possible Yellowhammer was seen in a flock of Linnet along high street field wall by the Reds contractors as they made their way home from working on the North Lighthouse on the 27th. Unfortunately the bird was not relocated, despite searching.

Common Buzzard mobbed by Herring Gulls over East Side, 26 July © Alex Sydenham

The Willow Warbler fall on the morning of the 27th ended up with at least 95 birds scattered across the island along with four Sedge Warbler as stated in the previous post.

Other birds of note have included: a single Curlew over the Village on the 26th, a fly-over Dunlin on the 27th, four Stonechat on the 26th (an adult male and three juveniles), a pair of Pied Wagtails feeding chicks in Millcombe on the 26th, five Blackcap on the 28th, 19 Willow Warbler on the 28th and two Sand Martin past the Church on the 28th, a Swift off South West Point on the 30th and the first returning Spotted Flycatcher in the Terrace willows.

On the non-birding front, the Warden had yet another very productive night’s moth trapping on the 26th at Benjamin’s Chair, which resulted in yet another new moth species for the island: Aethes francillana, a gorgeous little moth which is rather localised in its distribution, being normally found in coastal habitats where its food plant, Wild Carrot, grows.

The micro-moth Aethes francillana trapped at Benjamin's Chair, 26 July © Dean Jones

An Emperor Dragonfly was seen ovipositing in Quarter Wall Pond on the 28th and no fewer than 12 Giant Tachinid Flies (Tachina grossa) were present along the East Side and Millcombe on the 28th, out on the hunt for Fox Moth and Oak Eggar caterpillars on which to lay their eggs.

Emperor Dragonfly Anax imperator ovipositing in Quarter Wall Pond, 28 July © Dean Jones

Giant Tachinid Fly Tachina grossa Upper East Side Path, 11 July © Dean Jones

Saturday 27 July 2019

5th to 27th July – Summer eases into ornithological autumn

Below is the latest update from Lundy Warden, Dean Woodfin Jones, covering the period 5th to 25th July.  In addition, a stop-press message from Dean this morning, 27th July, brought news of a fall of at least 73 Willow Warblers (the first wave of autumn passage) and four Sedge Warblers, as well as a second brood of Whitethroat fledglings (to add to the one mentioned below).

5th to 25th July: "The avian highlight from this lengthy stint came in the form of a beautiful Common Buzzard which soared in off the sea from Rat Island tailed by a mob of angry Herring Gulls on the 25th. Another highlight was the discovery of an adult Chiffchaff feeding young in the sycamores near The Battlements on the 24th.

Volunteer Assistant Warden Caitlin has been working hard with this year’s seabird productivity monitoring, with the Fulmars and remaining Kittiwakes getting most of the attention now that the Guillemots and Razorbills have left their ledges for the high seas. Additionally Caitlin has been keeping an eye on the few remaining Puffins which are feeding young in burrows in Jenny’s Cove. Puffin counts throughout the period before the main bulk of birds departed include 468 birds (from South West Point to St James’s Stone) on the 7th, and 410 within Jenny’s Cove on the 11th.

Other sightings of note: 37 Oystercatcher on the 5th, most of which were together at Brazen Ward, Swift on five days from the 5th with a maximum of 25 on the 5th, two returning Sand Martin on the 10th and one on the 24th, small numbers of Swallow (Lundy’s breeders were incubating a second brood), singles of House Martin on 5th and 10th, a singing male Willow Warbler on the 5th and a maximum count of five Whitethroat, which includes the Lundy born fledglings."

Whitethroat fledgling, Millcombe, 7 July © Dean Jones

Non-avian highlights:

"The Conservation Team have had a few productive nights trapping moths throughout July and amazingly we’ve managed to catch a few more new species for the island including two Small Marbled and a single Caryocolum vicinella in the trap on the 7th at Benjamin’s Chair. Other migrants on that perfect moth night included a lone Small Mottled Willow, two L-album Wainscot, and a single White Point."

Small Marbled, Benjamin's Chair, 7 July © Dean Jones

"Emperor Dragonflies have also been seen on a number of days throughout the period at Quarter Wall Pond, Quarry Pond, Quarters Pond and the Terrace (munching on a Ringlet butterfly)."

Emperor Dragonfly eating Ringlet, Terrace, 7 July © Dean Jones

Thursday 4 July 2019

9th June to 4th July – Golden Oriole & nearly a Roller!

Lundy Warden Dean Jones reports on yet another very busy but wonderful period on Lundy.

The obvious birding highlight of this period came in the form of a stunning male Golden Oriole in full song at the top of Millcombe on 21st June. Shortly after the bird's beautiful but brief serenade, the Oriole was then seen periodically for about an hour or so mostly in flight as he made his way to and from either side of the valley. The bird stayed until the mid-afternoon at least and was heard calling again by some of the islanders, shortly after which it unfortunately disappeared.

Another smashing observation that must be mentioned was the amazing occurrence of a European Roller which dropped onto the rigging of David Milledge’s boat as he sailed from Milford Haven to the island on 30th June. From David’s email (sent on 4th July) he quotes: “It stayed with us for about two hours, mainly perched on the cross trees high on the mast. He took a few short flights and returned to perch in this period and as we approached Lundy, about 3 miles off, he disappeared presumably to go to the island.” Despite the possibility of this bird making its way to Lundy there were unfortunately no observations of this beautiful bird on the island.

The one that got away! European Roller perched on a yacht 3 miles off Lundy, 30 June © David Milledge

If this exotic visitor had been seen on the island, it would have been the first since August 1949! © David Milledge

On the seabird front, the island’s Guillemots and Razorbills are now disappearing quickly from their breeding ledges, making my west coast walks that little bit quieter. Once again it is looking like another mixed season for our two Kittiwake monitoring sites. At the moment Aztec Bay has lots of fluffy chicks huddled in nests (the first chicks was recorded on 12th June), some of which are starting to obtain their beautiful juvenile markings. Unfortunately once again numbers of nesting birds within our Threequarter Wall site have more than halved since last year. This is a truly sad sight, especially considering the numbers which used to breed on this remarkable chunk of rock. Fingers crossed the few remaining birds will fare better this year and all manage to fledge multiple chicks (only 1 chick fledged from 41 nests at this site in 2018). Only time will tell!

I also managed to get out for a complete wrap around the island’s coast on 9th June. Results from this rather soggy day revealed 113 Shag, 247 Kittiwake, 46 Great Black-backed Gulls, 781 Herring Gull, 243 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 6,415 Guillemot, 1,955 Razorbill and 196 Puffin. Additional to these counts, the Conservation Team also carried out a number of other Puffin counts throughout the period, during which we managed high counts (well, for Lundy standards) of 337 birds on 19th June and 390 on 3rd July. 

On the breeding bird front, successful breeding has now been confirmed for a few more species this year, including Woodpigeon (fledglings in Millcombe on 10th June), Robin (12th June), Pied Wagtail (a pair delivering food to chicks on 3rd July), Blackcap (2 pairs feeding chicks in Millcombe on 29th June) and Goldfinch (19th June). Furthermore a survey of active Starling nests around the Village area and the Old Lighthouse revealed a total of 56 nests, most of which have now fledged numerous noisy chicks from 22nd June.

Fledgling Starling in Millcombe, 24 June © Dean Jones

Additionally, our new Island Ambassador, David Lindo (also known as the Urban Birder), managed to find a pair of Whitethroat feeding chicks at the top of Millcombe on 29th June,  the first confirmed breeding for this species since 1978! Though there have been observations suggesting successful breeding since 1978, none were 100% confirmed, so well done David!

Lundy's newly appointed Ambassador, David Lindo, pictured alongside Warden Dean Woodfin Jones

Other birds of note from the period include: 42 Oystercatcher on 9th June, a single juvenile Grey Heron which arrived on the island on 19th June and has remained until 3rd July at least, singles of Water Rail on 16th & 18th June, a fly-over Dunlin on 2nd July, a Collared Dove on 19th & 23rd June, singles of Cuckoo of seven dates up to 3rd July, small numbers of Swift (max 35 on 3rd July), Swallow (max 10 on 18th June) and House Martin (max 4 on 23rd June), a single Sand Martin (on  2nd July), lone Spotted Flycatchers in Millcombe on seven dates up to 21st June, and 3 Stonechat on 24th.

Juvenile Grey Heron at Pondsbury, searching in vain for fish or amphibians, 24 June © Dean Jones

Like elsewhere in the UK, Lundy was also blessed with a glorious invasion of Painted Lady butterflies come 24th June – 189 (certainly a gross underestimate) of these beautiful beasties were counted in various parts of the island throughout the day. Meadow Browns are also becoming more prevalent on the island with surveys along the east coast revealing good numbers (max 151 on 3rd July). We’ve also seen a number of Odonata appear over the past few days, with Common Darter, Red-veined Darter and Southern Migrant Hawker all making an appearance on the island.

Report composed of sightings from Chris & Carol Baillie, Tom Dickens, Dean Jones, David Lindo, Kirsty Neller, Alan & Sandra Rowland and Caitlin Worsey.