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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.

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