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Monday 23 December 2019

5th to 22nd Dec 2019

The darkest day of the year has come and gone and Lundy is now very much enveloped in a mid-winter embrace.

A squall passing overhead © Dean Jones
Weather wise, it has been another mixed bag but has mostly been wet and windy, give or take a few settled, milder afternoons. In fact so much rain has fallen on the island this month that we have already surpassed the mean total rainfall for December (1971–2018), which has resulted in the island’s shallow soils – particularly on the plateau – becoming absolutely saturated, creating small pools and ponds all over the island and miniature flowing burns along coastal paths. 

Acklands Moor Marsh too has continued to swell, spreading out to areas on both sides of High Street Field wall (to the delight of the gulls), so much so that it is now contending for the title of largest body of freshwater on the island (look out Pondsbury)! 

Ackland's Moor Marsh – all we need now is a visitng Spoonbill from
the nearby Isley Marsh © Dean Jones
But despite the frequent squalls creating less than perfect conditions for birding (it is hard to sneak up on the wary gulls in Brick Field due to the noisy squelches from leaky welly boots), the rain clouds and the afternoon light have provided some beautiful wintery skyscapes at times, complete with breath-taking, technicoloured rainbows on one or two special days. 

Whilst out on my soggy adventures - unsurprisingly being winter - it is noticeably quieter on the island bird wise. Though saying that; there are still some wondrous winter encounters to be had for those willing to venture out in the cold.

Like the numerous conspicuous Rock Pipits which have moved up from their seaside settings to feed between the livestock up and around the farm fields. Flocks of Herring Gull and Carrion Crow have now banded together to chase the Farmer each morning as he lays down feed for the sheep. Up to six dapper drake Teal have been busy pulling out all the moves to an audience of 12 ducks on Pondsbury – spring is already in the air for some! Guillemots have too been periodically gracing their guano enriched podiums, particularly at Long Roost. Then out at sea, we’ve had flocks of feeding Kittiwake, small numbers of Harbour Porpoise, a very late Manx Shearwater (one past the North Lighthouse on the 22nd) and a delightful Great Northern Diver most days - patrolling the shallows of the Landing Bay in hope for a hearty catch.

Other than these, there has been a very small number of Chaffinch present, mostly around the Millcombe area, as well as a pair of Goldfinch which have been frequenting Sue’s feeder - adding a welcome splash of colour to the dreary winter days.

Fieldfare, Redwing and Song Thrush are still trickling through too in small numbers, stopping over briefly in Barton’s Field to probe the damp in fields for juicy Oligochaetes to fuel their remaining journeys south.
Singles of Goldcrest have also been reported on a number of days, somehow finding enough food to sustain their energetic lifestyles in the skeleton canopies in Millcombe and Quarterwall copse. Oh, and the odd Meadow Pipit and up to five Skylark have also been reported on days, hiding out in the lee of towering tussocks further up the island. 

Rudolf the red-breasted Robin - carolling away in Millcombe Valley © Dean Jones
With the holidays just around the corner I would once again like to take this opportunity to say a massive thank you to everyone who visited Lundy this year as well as all those who have contributed sightings to the Lundy Field Society Logbook and the Lundy Birds Blog. It has been a truly spectacular year of birds, birders and happy times.
A very Merry Christmas to you all!

All the very best, Dean Woodfin Jones

P.S. On 23rd Dec there was a first-winter Iceland Gull this morning and 3 Great Northern Divers in the Landing Bay!

Record shot of first-winter Iceland Gull © Dean Jones 

Thursday 5 December 2019

25th Nov to 4th Dec – Glorious sunsets (and birds) as winter arrives

November 25th – December 4th

It is starting to feel much more like winter on Lundy this week, especially now that the Christmas decorations and twinkling fairy lights have come out of storage and dressed around the windows of the General Stores. Christmas cards and presents too are arriving and filling pigeon holes by the sackful, and overnight – with the temperatures dropping to just below freezing – carpets of frost are forming over the last of the decomposing waxcaps on the plateau. 

Weather-wise this week and a bit has been a tale of two halves, with the stormy weather from the last post raging on up to the end of November. Come the turn of the month however, the strong winds dropped to a very welcome breeze, the dreary rain-laden clouds dispersed into beautiful sunshine, and with it, excellent visibility, glorious sunsets and some slightly warmer temperatures during the daylight hours (but not enough to prevent the long-johns from being unpacked from summer storage).

Onto the birds!

Highlights from the period include a passing flock of five Whooper Swan on 3rd December, seen flying south along the east coast by Assistant Warden Rosie Ellis in the late morning.

Whooper Swans, East Side, 3rd Dec © Rosie Ellis

Red-throated Divers have started to arrive off the east coast now too, with two flying south past the Landing Bay on the 28th and one feeding close in to the Ugly on the 2nd. Additional high points include a Lapland Bunting which was seen and heard in flight over Ackland’s Moor on the 1st and singles of Snow Bunting on six days within this period.

A number of Jack Snipe have also graced the island, with singles flushed on the 27th and 29th, and last but by no means least a Lapwing was present on Ackland’s Moor on 1st December – the first since 2nd February (a very poor year for these beautiful birds on Lundy).

The good numbers of feeding Gannet have continued since the last post (max 105 on the 1st), along with good numbers of Herring Gull (max 600 on the 4th) and auks (1,000+ on the 4th) along the east coast most days.

Supplementing these spectacular flocks have been a number Lundy scarcities, such as Common Gull (a first-winter bird on 28th, an adult on the 2nd and 20 birds on the 4th – most of which were adults), Black-headed Gull (an adult on the 28th) and Mediterranean Gull (one adult on the 28th, two on the 2nd and one adult on the 4th).

Other sightings of note include: up to 14 Eurasian Teal on Pondsbury most days, singles of Cormorant – one along the east coast on the 28th and a young bird on Pondsbury on the 2nd – up to three Common Snipe most days, a Golden Plover feeding with a small flock of Fieldfare on Ackland’s on the 1st, two Woodcock on the 1st, a male Sparrowhawk on the 26th, a Kestrel on the 1st, 3rd and 4th, the female Merlin each day, singles of Water Rail most days (though four were seen/heard on the island on the 1st), two Skylark on the 28th and five on the 4th, singles of Chiffchaff on the 27th & 28th, a male Blackcap on the 1st, a Pied Wagtail on the 27th, singles of Black Redstart on three dates, up to three Stonechat each day, a female Brambling on the 26th, 29th and 1st, two Siskin on the 29th, a Linnet on the 28th and small numbers of Meadow Pipit, Goldcrest, Redwing, Fieldfare, Song Thrush, Goldfinch and Chaffinch most days.

Report composed of sightings by Zoƫ Barton, Jamie Dunning, Rosie Ellis, Dean Jones, Andy Trout and Lucy Winder.

Merlin, Main Track, 30th Nov © Dean Jones
Stonechat, Lower East Side Path, 30th Nov © Dean Jones
The end is nigh – apocalyptic sunset! 2nd Dec © Dean Jones
Another glorious sunset, 3rd Dec © Dean Jones