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Saturday 31 August 2019

27th to 30th August – Black-headed Bunting reappears!

August 27th

A very noticeable clear-out of migrants from the day before, which gave the island a rather quiet feel. Despite this there were still some great birds present on the island, including the first Merlin and Common Redstart of the autumn.

Other sightings of note on this lovely yet breezy day include: a Teal, 2 southbound Cormorant, the Grey Heron, a Kestrel, just 5 Willow Warbler, 3 Chiffchaff, singles of Sedge Warbler and Blackcap, 2 Garden Warbler, 3 Goldcrest, 4 fly-over Tree Pipit, just 1 Pied Flycatcher, 3 Spotted Flycatcher, a single Grey Wagtail, 2 Pied Wagtails (plus 5 fly-over alba types), 184 Meadow Pipit, 2 Chaffinch, 15 Goldfinch and 28 Linnet.

A reasonably settled and dry evening allowed for another Storm Petrel ringing session on the North End too. Here the team managed to catch a total of 39 petrels, 15 of which were either a re-traps or controls.

August 28th

A driech aul day with thick mist and downpours for much of the morning up until 14:00 at least. Sightings of note include the Grey Heron, 7 Woodpigeon, a fly-over Ringed Plover, 2 Willow Warbler, singles of Blackcap, Whitethroat, Pied Flycatcher and Spotted Flycatcher, 2 Goldcrest, a single Pied Wagtail, a fly-over Tree Pipit, 65 Meadow Pipits, 2 Chaffinch, 23 Goldfinch and 120 Linnet.

August 29th
A very windy day throughout, though a pleasantly warm dry day. Birds of note include a Ringed Plover over the church in the afternoon, a Water Rail calling outside Paradise Row, single Swift, 2 Sand Martin, a House Martin, 7 Spotted Flycatcher, 7 Willow Warbler, 2 Chiffchaff, 3 Blackcap and a single Goldcrest.

August 30th

With the winds picking up again overnight, all attention in the morning was focused out at sea. Here a super 2,538 Manx Shearwater were recorded passing Rat Island within 2 hours of observations, along with small numbers of Gannet (63), Razorbill (2), Guillemot (1) and Fulmar (2). The highlight from the morning sea-watch however came in the form of a stunning Sooty Shearwater which passed Rat Island within a flock of Manx at 08:21.

The undisputed bird of the day though had to be the reappearance of the male Black-headed Bunting, this time feeding along the track bordering Brick and Tillage Fields. Found at around 13:35, the bird stuck around for a least an hour and a half, allowing some superb close-up views before disappearing into Tillage Field and out of sight.

Other sightings of note include a fly-over Ringed Plover, the Grey Heron again munching on diving beetles in Quarter Wall Pond, a single male Blackcap, 4 Willow Warbler, 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Whitethroat, 3 Goldcrest and a lone Stonechat on the Terrace.

The Black-headed Bunting reappeared close to Brick & Tillage Fields, 30 Aug © Dean Jones

Report composed of observations from Zoë Barton, Dean Jones, Patrick Keith, Rebecca Taylor, Richard Taylor and Tony Taylor.

Tuesday 27 August 2019

26th August – Black-headed Bunting headlines another superb day of migration

August 26th

Lundy Warden Dean Woodfin Jones sums up a truly spectacular day of early-autumn birding:

Another beautiful summer’s day with next to no wind in the morning, cloudless skies, pleasant temperatures and a fantastic number and diversity of common migrants, mixed in with some truly magnificent rarities.

The day started off well with a very busy morning manning mist-nets, as a superb movement of Willow Warblers made their way through the Valley from about 06:30 to 10:00. Here an estimated 250 birds were thought to have been dotted across the island throughout the day; they were literally everywhere you looked! Within this flurry of Willow Warbler, the Icterine Warbler that has been on the island since the 23rd finally ended up in the shelf of a mist-net in Millcombe Valley in the early morning – the 19th Icterine Warbler to be ringed on the island.

Icterine Warbler, Millcombe, 26 August © Dean Jones

Then, post late-breakfast, I was making my way to pick up and empty the moth trap when I noticed an odd bird perched upon the roof of Paradise Row at around 11:45... As soon as I put my binoculars up, my eyes were graced with a superb male Black-headed Bunting!! This then led to a very quick and panicked rush home to grab my camera (luckily I only live two doors down from where the bird was perched), and managed to fire off a few quick record shots before the bird disappeared off the roof and down towards the allotments outside Paradise Row. Fortunately, Zoë Barton and I were able to relocate the bird perched on one the end of a raised bed full of Red Onions where it allowed for some smashing close up views before flying off to a nearby dry-stone wall to get a bit of shut eye – obviously knackered from its long journey. Whilst the bird was resting I managed to herd most of the birders on the island up to the allotments where they all managed some decent but somewhat brief views of the bird before it disappeared down towards Millcombe at around 13:00. By this time the bird was looking much more alert and well rested so fingers crossed he’ll manage to find his way to his wintering grounds in western/central India. This is the fourth record of this stunning bunting for Lundy, with the last bird being seen 22 years ago on the 15th July 1997. A very exciting bird to top off what was a truly superb day of Lundy birding!

The male Black-headed Bunting perched on the roof of Paradise Row, 26 August © Dean Jones

The bird stayed in the same general area for over an hour, enabling others to see it © Grant Sherman

The bunting spent time foraging in the allotments outside Paradise Row © Dean Jones

But that wasn’t all... Later on in the afternoon Nicola Saunders (a previous Lundy Warden) managed to find another Wryneck in Jenny’s Cove and between all the birders on the island we managed to find the first Whinchat (a total of six birds in various locations), Collared Dove (one ‘singing’ in Millcombe), Grey Wagtail (a single fly-over) and White Wagtails (five in Tent Field) of the autumn.
It was also a great day for wader passage with singles of fly-over Golden Plover, Ringed Plover and Whimbrel, 9 fly-over Curlew (a flock of 7 over the Old Light in the morning followed by another 2), at least two fly-over Greenshank, a Redshank calling from the Landing Bay and a fly-over Black-tailed Godwit.

Other observations of note includes: 9 Mallard, a lone Grey Heron, 3 southbound Cormorant, 2 Sparrowhawk, a Guillemot in the Landing Bay, 11 Sand Martin, 40 Swallow, 4 Chiffchaff, 7 Sedge Warbler, 1 Reed Warbler trapped and ringed in Millcombe, 8 Blackcap, 1 Garden Warbler, 14 Whitethroat, 4 Goldcrest, 12 Spotted Flycatcher, 70 Wheatear, 10 Pied Flycatcher, 5 Pied Wagtails and 2 Tree Pipit.

Report composed of observations from Zoë Barton, Dean Jones, Patrick Keith, Nicola Saunders, Rebecca Taylor, Richard Taylor, Tony Taylor and Martin Thorne.

Monday 26 August 2019

24th & 25th August – A feast of migrants, common and not-so-common...

24th August

A very warm and sunny day throughout with a stiff SE wind belting in during the morning and afternoon which switched westerly by the evening. Migration has continued to pick up with the first fly-over Yellow Wagtail of the autumn, 5 fly-over Cormorant, 2 Tree Pipit in Millcombe, an increase to 55 Meadow Pipit along the East Side and South End, 2 Swift, 23 Swallow, 3 Chiffchaff, 2 Blackcap, 5 Goldcrest, 3 Spotted Flycatcher and 4 Pied Flycatcher  – including one inside the office perched on the rafters! Visiting ringers ringed two Manx Shearwater chicks from the nestboxes installed at the Old Light colony, and caught an interesting Goldfinch, which was in moult and so probably had summered on Lundy, but had been ringed elsewhere (details to follow later).

One of the Pied Flycatchers, near the top of the 'Steps of Doom', 24 August © Dean Jones

25th August

A spectacular day of beautiful calm weather, species diversity and Lundy rarities.

Highlights included the re-appearance of the Icterine Warbler (last seen on 23rd August) in various parts of Millcombe between 07:00 and 13:20. Additionally, whilst ringing passerines in lower Millcombe, Richard Taylor found a very showy Common Nightingale at the top of Smelly Gully in the late morning, a bird which provided some beautifully clear and prolonged views as it flitted up from the gully to forage on the ground near Millcombe Pond. Then, whilst waiting for the Nightingale to reveal itself again for another view, a Wryneck (perhaps the same bird seen on the 23rd), flew out from Smelly Gully and up to the rocks just behind the Walled Gardens where it hopped around for five minutes or so before disappearing back into the gully. Three super Lundy birds in the span of a few hours!

The unusually showy Nightingale in Millcombe, 25 August © Dean Jones

The Wryneck, competing with the Nightingale for the Warden's attention, Millcombe, 25 August © Dean Jones

Other birds of note included the first Reed Warbler and Garden Warbler of the autumn, a female Teal on Brick Field Pond, 7 Grey Heron (including a flock of six birds and a lone bird in Brick Field), 6 fly-by Cormorant, a fly-over Ringed Plover, a flock of 12 Curlew, a lone Whimbrel calling from the Landing Bay, a Dunlin, 1 Swift, 1 Sand Martin, 60 Swallow, 1 House Martin, a nice arrival of 31 Willow Warbler, 6 Chiffchaff, a single Sedge Warbler, 3 Blackcap, 3 Whitethroat, 7 Goldcrest, 5 Spotted Flycatcher, a lone Stonechat, 11 Pied Flycatcher, a fly-over Yellow Wagtail, 8 Pied Wagtails (as well as 15 unraced flyover alba types) and 4 Tree Pipit.

Juvenile Grey Heron, Brick Field, one of seven recorded on 25 August © Dean Jones

Report composed of observations from Dean Jones, Patrick Keith, Rebecca Taylor, Richard Taylor, Tony Taylor and Martin Thorne.

Stop press...

As users of Twitter and BirdGuides etc. may already be aware, Lundy's Bank Holiday Purple Patch continued on Monday 26th with the trapping of the Icterine Warbler and the sighting of a male Black-headed Bunting on the roof of Paradise Row! Full details to follow in the next blog update! At the time of posting, there had been no further sightings of the bunting since around 13.00hrs on Monday, when it flew towards Millcombe.

Saturday 24 August 2019

21st to 23rd August – Icterine Warbler & Wryneck seen, Storm Petrels ringed – updated

August 21st & 22nd

The stiff westerly winds raged on! Not much to report from either date, other than a small scattering of Willow Warbler, Blackcap and Goldcrest from the Millcombe area, a fly-by Storm Petrel seen from MS Oldenburg on the 22nd (about 30 minutes from Lundy) and an admirable catch of 26 Manx Shearwater on the evening of the 22nd (22 chicks ringed, and 4 adult re-trapped).

August 23rd

The burly westerlies and periodic showers finally gave way to a slight easterly breeze and some beautiful sunshine and warm temperatures.  This much-awaited change in conditions allowed for some great visible migration throughout the day, which included an increase in passage Swallow (66), the first Pied Flycatcher of the autumn (5 in Millcombe and along the Terrace) and two magnificent Devon rarities.

One of five Pied Flycatchers present in Millcombe and along the Terrace on 23 August © Dean Jones

The first of these star birds came in the form of an Icterine Warbler, which was seen at around 13:30 foraging within and upon the scrub at the top of Millcombe, bordering St Helen's/Barton Field. From here, the bird allowed for some smashing but brief views before disappearing for most of the afternoon. Then, at around 17:00, it was relocated slightly south of its original location, flitting through the willows just below Government House.

The Icterine Warbler in the willow plantation just below Government House on 23 August © Dean Jones

Shortly after the initial sighting of the Icterine Warbler, news arrived of a Wryneck just outside Bramble Villas, where it was watched foraging for a meal for 10 minutes or so at around 14.40 before flying up into Millcombe Wood and out of sight.

Other birds of note on this exciting day included: the long-staying Grey Heron, a Water Rail outside Paradise Row, a fly-over Golden Plover, a Whimbrel calling from the Landing Bay, 3 Swift, lone Sand Martin and House Martin, 3 Blackcap, 4 Whitethroat, 5 Willow Warbler, 5 Goldcrest and 8 Chaffinch.

The perfect evening conditions also allowed for a Storm Petrel ringing session at North End. Here, 30 new birds were caught and ringed as well as 9 retrapped or controlled birds* – a superb end to a fantastic day of birds!

Finally, the first Migrant Hawker dragonfly of the autumn was seen quartering around Millcombe in the beautiful afternoon sunshine.

Report composed of observations from Dean Jones, Patrick Keith, Rebecca Taylor, Richard Taylor, Tony Taylor and Martin Thorne.


Tony Taylor adds that seven of the nine Storm Petrels that were already wearing rings had been ringed on Lundy in  2017 and 2018. The other two birds were controls (i.e. they had been ringed elsewhere); details to be confirmed in due course.

Wednesday 21 August 2019

15th to 20th August – First Fulmar fledges but migration remains sluggish

Dean Woodfin Jones (Lundy Warden), looks back on an often wet and windy few days, 15th to 20th August:

The burly westerlies and showers have continued for the majority of this period with the exception of a beautiful calm and dry morning on the 20th. Unsurprisingly in these conditions it has been very quiet up on the island's plateau, with many birds seeking shelter out of sight in the undergrowth, dry-stone walls and along the East Sidelands.

The highlight of the period came in the form of an adult winter Mediterranean Gull, which flew west past the North Lighthouse at around 13:00 on the 18th.  Other than this Lundy rarity, the rest of the afternoon’s seawatch, post Grey Seal survey, was rather quiet with only a handful of passing Gannet, Manx Shearwater, Fulmar and Kittiwake along with three Harbour Porpoise foraging between the Hen and Chickens.

Other sightings of note include the first fledging Fulmar on the 17th from Gannets' Rock (though there are still a number of big fluffy chicks on ledges), a female Teal on Brick Field Pond on the 15th, a Ringed Plover over the South End on the 19th, the young Grey Heron again at Pondsbury on the 15th, 15 Swallow and 3 Sand Martin on the 18th, the first two Goldcrest of the autumn on the 15th, two Spotted Flycatcher looking for breakfast in the Secret Garden sycamore on the 20th and up to two Stonechat along the East Sidelands on a number of days.

Spotted Flycatcher in the morning light, Secret Garden, lower Millcombe, 20 August © Dean Jones

Finally, we've also had the continued presence each day of small numbers of Blackcap (peak 4 on the 20th), Whitethroat (peak 3 on the 18th), Willow Warbler (peak 8 on the 18th) and Chiffchaff (2 on the 20th).

Thursday 15 August 2019

11th to 14th August – A trickle of migrants amidst continuing unsettled conditions

Herewith the latest update from Lundy Warden Dean Woodfin Jones, covering the period 11th to 14th August.

The unsettled weather theme has continued with rain, mist and strong winds dominating. There was, however, some lovely settled weather on the 12th which allowed for a small movement of birds and a chance to get the mist-nets up in Millcombe.

Birds of note included: the young Grey Heron that has continued to stay on the island, dining on Mirror Carp and Golden Orfe in Rocket Pole and Quarry Ponds. A Ringed Plover flew over the South End on the 11th, there was a lone Dunlin next to Brick Field Pond on the 14th, a juvenile Cuckoo in Millcombe on the 11th and small numbers of Whitethroat (peak 2 on the 11th), Willow  Warbler (peak 8 on the 12th), Blackcap (2 on the 13th), Sedge Warbler (4 on the 12th), Swallow (6 on the 13th) and a Tree Pipit over Millcombe on the 13th.

Dunlin, Brick Field Pond, 14 August © Dean Jones
Whitethroat mist-netted in Millcombe, 12 August © Dean Jones

Other than these, an adult Chiffchaff was seen feeding some very young fledglings in Smelly Gully on the 11th, possibly a second brood.

The second generation of Small Heath butterflies have started to appear around the island despite the breezy wet weather.

Sunday 11 August 2019

7th to 10th August – Unseasonable wind and rain...

Warden Dean Woodfin Jones reports on a period that began quietly enough, but which later saw the island battered by some distinctly un-summery weather.

August 7th: A rather pleasant but very quiet day bird wise.

The only birds of note included a small morning arrival of Willow Warbler (12) and Sedge Warbler (4) in Millcombe.

August 8th: A beautiful sunny day for the most part, coupled with light winds from the south (the calm before the storm...).

Birds of note included a Curlew which flew in from the sea next to The Battery, a Water Rail calling from Quarters in the early morning, 4 Swallow, 6 Willow Warbler, 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Sedge Warbler and 2 Blackcap.

August 9th: The wild weather started!

Sea-watching from the Castle Parade and North End throughout the day resulted in 761 Manx Shearwater, 161 Gannet, 16 Fulmar and 3 Guillemot along with small numbers of assorted of gulls. Although I didn’t managed to see any unusual Procellariforms or skuas there were a few nice shorebirds battling through the strong oncoming winds, among them 8 Curlew (including a flock of 7 birds) flying south, low to the water past Rat Island. Shortly after, a lone Dunlin shadowing a Black-tailed Godwit (a Lundy rarity) flew south also and 2 Ringed Plover dropped onto the North End briefly in the afternoon.

Other sightings of note included a juvenile Grey Heron, 3 Willow Warbler, 4 Common Dolphin, 4 Harbour Porpoise and a Sunfish off the North End.

August 10th: A very wild and windy day with the occasional squall and heavy downpour (particularly in the morning).

A morning’s sea-watch from the Ugly revealed some good Manx Shearwater (2,991) and Gannet  (227) passage. Other birds of note included a Ringed Plover calling over the SE Point, 2 juvenile Turnstone hiding from the wind in the short heather at the North End, a Redshank next to Rocket Pole Pond in the evening, the juvenile Grey Heron at Quarry Pond, 10 Swallow, 1 Willow Warbler, 2 Stonechat and a total of 4 Harbour Porpoise (a mother and Calf in the Southern Races and 2 at the North End, one of which was fully breaching from the colossal swell).

Juvenile Turnstone in unusual habitat at North End, 10 Aug © Dean Jones

The turbulent seas off North Light on 10 Aug – no surprise that Oldenburg was cancelled... © Dean Jones

Wednesday 7 August 2019

31st July to 6th August – Invertebrates and marine life to the fore, but some birds too!

Lundy Warden Dean Woodfin Jones's latest update from the island covers the period 31st Jul to 6th August:

A somewhat quiet week for passage birds but very exciting with regards to a number of the island's non-avian inhabitants and visitors from afar...

On the bird front, Willow Warblers are still trickling through in small numbers most days, though the island was blessed once again with another small fall of birds (71) on August 1st.
Linnet numbers are also continuing to grow with 122 birds around the island on the 4th (which included a flock of 49 birds at Halfway Wall). The island has also seen some good Shag numbers dotted around the coast this week, with 172 recorded on the 4th.

Other birds of note include a Grey Heron over the South East point on the 2nd, two adult Cuckoo on the 31st, the first southbound Tree Pipit of the year (1st), another Spotted Flycatcher on the Terrace on the 1st, a Sedge Warbler in Millcombe on the 1st, two young Kestrel together over Pondsbury on the 4th, as well as small numbers of Swallow (max 17 on the 2nd), singles of Blackcap, and up to five Pied Wagtail, four Stonechat and three Whitethroat each day.  There has also been a very noisy and often conspicuous Water Rail lurking in the long grass outside Paradise Row on a number of dates within this period.

Non-avian highlights:

Like elsewhere in the UK, Lundy saw a superb arrival of Painted Ladies come August 1st, with 284 recorded on this beautiful summer's day (most certainly a gross underestimate as there was a constant stream of these magnificent invertebrates coming off the sea for most of the day), 601 on the 2nd, 172 on the 3rd and 171 on the 4th.

Between the gatherings of Painted Ladies, Caitlin Worsey also managed to find a Clouded Yellow on her butterfly transect on August 1st, as well as increases in some of the island's other Lepidoptera species, including Red Admiral (max 32 on the 1st), Common Blue (4 on the 4th), Small Copper (7 on the 4th), Silver Y (29 on the 2nd), as well as a smattering of Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Large White and Hummingbird Hawkmoths.

The evening of August 2nd also saw a mass emergence of flying ants on the island, particularly along the south coast, Upper East Side Path and the North Lighthouse. Swarms of these spectacular winged beasties were seen swathing vegetation and granite boulders on the day as well as forming thick ant clouds in the air in parts. As always the birds were very happy with this mass emergence of food meaning visitors to the island were treated to some amazing views of House Sparrow, Starling, and Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gull “hawking” mouthfuls of ants whilst on the wing. A truly spectacular sight but difficult to converse about at the time without getting a mouthful of critters myself.

Flying ants emerged en masse on 2nd Aug, seen here along the Upper East Side Path © Dean Jones

An evening’s sea-watching on a beautifully still day at the North End revealed some decent-sized rafts of roosting and preening Manx Shearwater (c.3,000) offshore on the 2nd. Within and around these gatherings Zoë Barton and I were also treated to some super cetacean action on the glass-like sea. Here we found no less than 23 Common Dolphin (composed of two pods) and 8 Harbour Porpoise (one pod of 7 and a loner) but the obvious highlight of the evening had to be the titanic Minke Whale which approached the island from the north at around 20:30 allowing superb views for about 20 minutes before it moved off west as the sun neared the horizon, a perfect end to a perfect day's monitoring.

A tranquil sunset over North Light on 2nd Aug © Zoë Barton

Finally, a Sunfish was present right next to the Jetty on the 1st (Rob Waterfield & Mike Jones).