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Wednesday 2 October 2019

24th to 30th Sep – Birds, seal pups, a fungus foray and a 50th Anniversary celebration

Tuesday 24th September

A day of strong south-westerly winds and frequent showers made for tricky birding conditions. The birding highlight of the day came in the form of a Treecreeper which was found by Mike Jackson in Millcombe Wood in the afternoon.

Other sightings of note include a Grey Heron, a female Sparrowhawk, a Water Rail, 3 Woodpigeon, 60 Swallow, 3 Chiffchaff, 20 Blackcap, 1 Whitethroat, 20 Goldcrest, 4 Robin, 5 Stonechat, a Grey Wagtail, 30 Meadow Pipit, 5 Chaffinch, 5 Goldfinch and 9 Linnet.

Wednesday 25th September

The theme of strong south-westerlies and periodic squalls continued on from yesterday. Highlights include the continued presence of the Treecreeper in Millcombe and a stunning male Common Rosefinch, which ended up in the shelf of Chris Dee’s mist-net – possibly the same bird seen in the Valley on 22nd.

Other birds of note include 2 Teal on Pondsbury, a Water Rail, a Snipe at Brick Field Pond, 4 Woodpigeon, just one Skylark, 50 Swallow, 2 House Martin, 2 Chiffchaff, 20 Blackcap, 2 Whitethroat, 25 Goldcrest, 3 Firecrest, 10 Robin, 2 Wheatear, 1 Pied Flycatcher, 2 alba wagtails, 103 Meadow Pipit, 4 Rock Pipit, 3 Chaffinch, 6 Goldfinch and 13 Linnet.

Thursday 26th September

More strong winds and rain! Unfortunately there was no further sign of the Treecreeper though a juvenile Common Rosefinch – perhaps the same bird as on the 21st – made a brief appearance in Millcombe at around 08:15.

Other sightings include the Grey Heron, a Sparrowhawk, a Water Rail, a flyover Golden Plover, 5 Woodpigeon, a Kestrel, 3 Skylark, 25 Swallow, 1 House Martin, 3 Chiffchaff, 15 Blackcap, 15 Goldcrest, 2 Firecrest, 7 Robin, 1 Stonechat, a Wheatear, 325 Meadow Pipit, 3 Chaffinch, 6 Goldfinch and 95 Linnet.

Friday 27th September

Today saw a shift in the strong winds from south-westerlies to due west and the continued presence of heavy showers throughout the day. The bird of the day came in the form of a young Red-breasted Merganser, which spent most of the late afternoon paddling around the Landing Bay. This is only the 10th record of this superb saw-billed duck for Lundy, a fantastic find! Also present was the first Snow Bunting of the year, photographed along the main track roughly halfway up the island.

Other sightings include the Grey Heron, a female Sparrowhawk, 7 Woodpigeon, 10 Swallow, 2 Chiffchaff, 10 Blackcap, 10 Goldcrest, 1 Firecrest, 2 Robin, 3 Chaffinch, 6 Goldfinch and 11 Linnet.

On the non-avian front, today brought a mass relocation of Atlantic Grey Seal pups, presumably from more cryptic and hostile areas of the island, into the sheltered Landing Bay. Here a total of 7 white-coat pups (6 large pups and a young’un) and 2 weaners managed to escape the strong winds, hefty swell and high spring tides, to the delight of numerous visitors on the island. So far this season the conservation team has managed to find a grand total of 30 pups (already up on 2018's total of 27), though we expect to find a few more in the upcoming weeks.

Grey Seal pup, Landing Bay © Dean Jones

Today also saw a very special event on the island: the first of the annual Fungi Forays! Here, 30 visitors turned up to learn about all things Lundy fungi from the mushroom legends Professor John Hedger and Mandy Dee, and to try their hands at finding specimens across High Street fields and Quarter Wall. All in all, despite the constant battering of strong winds and it being rather early in the season for some emerging fungal fruiting bodies, it was a spectacular morning of exploration, the team manging to find a total of 30 fungal species in two hours, including some stunning specimens of Goblet Waxcap, Azure Pinkgill, Sphagnum Brownie and a pristine example of the beautiful Petticoat Mottlegill.

Saturday 28th September

The strong westerly winds continued, shifting to southerly in the evening. Luckily it stayed dry for most, though turned very wet from about 16:30 onwards.

Sightings include the Grey Heron, a Sparrowhawk, a Water Rail, 2 flyover Golden Plover, 7 Woodpigeon, 2 Kittiwake, 5 Skylark, 43 Swallow, 3 Chiffchaff, 5 Blackcap, 9 Goldcrest, 2 Firecrest, 8 Robin, 1 Stonechat, 2 White Wagtails at Paradise Row, 10 Chaffinch and Goldfinch.

Sunday 29th September

A very wet start to the day gave way to some lovely sunshine by late morning, with strong west/south-west winds throughout.

Today marked a very special day for the island: the start of the Landmark Trust's new 50-year lease of the island from the National Trust. Supplementing this, 50 years ago on this day also marked the 50th anniversary of the original lease, which saw huge developments to the island to ensure its extraordinary character remained, as well as warranting the island accessibility for visitors, and that its rich history and wildlife, above and below the waves, was protected for future generations to enjoy.
Although the original plan for the day was to get a boatful of VIPs over for a day of festivities, Mother Nature had another plan, strong winds preventing our beloved Oldenburg from sailing. However, we managed to ferry a small fraction of the original guest list over via the island's helicopter service, and in spite of the blustery weather and reduced the numbers of visitors, the day turned out splendidly. Everyone who did manage to get over was treated to a lovely service in St Helen’s Church, some spectacular speeches by the island's General Manager and associated Directors, a free bar in the Square, and a knees-up in the Tavern with the Devon-based folk legends the Dambuskers.

Despite the lure of ever flowing prosecco and delightful desserts in the Wheelhouse, a small number of birders did manage to get out between events. By the afternoon the winds were well and truly battering through, which unsurprisingly made the birding up on the island somewhat tricky – thus the sea got most of the attention throughout the day.

Sightings from the Ugly between 15:30 and 17:15 included 3 adult Arctic Tern, an adult Common Tern, 5 distant ‘commic tern’, 3 Arctic Skua amongst good numbers of Kittiwake (229), Shag (23), Razorbill (231) and Gannet (30). The highlight however from this very exciting seawatch had to be the adult Pomarine Skua, which whipped in from the south in late afternoon to harass a number of Kittiwakes for their crop. In addition to this stunning bird, a first-winter Little Gull was also found and watched for around 30 minutes or so as it foraged between the swell in the bay – only the 7th record of this gorgeous little gull for the island.

Other sightings include 2 Teal, a calling Water Rail, a flyover Golden Plover, a Great Skua past Rat Island in the morning, the Grey Heron in the Landing Bay, 5 Woodpigeon, a Kestrel, 2 Skylark, 14 Swallow, 1 House Martin, 2 Chiffchaff, just 2 Blackcap, 5 Goldcrest, 5 Robin, 7 Stonechat, 1 Pied Wagtail, 130 Meadow Pipit, 2 Goldfinch, 29 Linnet and the Snow Bunting again along the main track.

Snow Bunting, High Street, 29th Sep © Alex Sydenham

Monday 30th September

Despite the very breezy south-westerly winds, an overcast sky and frequent downpours, today was surprisingly very good for passage. Meadow Pipits put on quite the show with at least 476 birds passing the island between the bouts of rain. Today also saw the arrival of the first Redwing (6) of the year, perched upon the Barn roof within a flock of Starling, as well as the first decent arrival of Chaffinch (22) of the autumn. Also present was a second Snow Bunting (this time a male), joining the female bird who has been on the island since Friday 27th, both along the main track.

Blackcap (41) and Goldcrest (51) also made landfall, mostly in the island's sheltered bays, copses and valleys, in the calmer and clear overnight conditions.

Other sightings include a calling Water Rail, a Sparrowhawk, the Grey Heron in the Landing Bay, 13 Kittiwake, 19 Great Black-backed Gull, 2 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 2 Guillemot, 32 Razorbill, 4 Woodpigeon, 2 Kestrel, 9 Skylark, 6 Swallow, 1 House Martin, 6 Chiffchaff, a lone Willow Warbler, a single Firecrest, the first Song Thrush of the autumn, a Spotted Flycatcher in Millcombe, 9 Robin, 1 Stonechat, 5 Wheatear, 1 Pied Wagtail, 3 alba wagtails, 11 Goldfinch,  50 Linnet.

Report composed of sightings from Derek Baggott, Chris & Carol Baillee, Zoë Barton, Richard Breese, Andrew Cleave, Chris & Mandy Dee, Simon Dell, Mike Jackson, Dean Jones, Bob Medland, Claire Mitchell, Ben Rousseau, Alan & Sandra Rowland and Joanne Wilby.

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