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Sunday 23 February 2020

14th to 22nd Feb – A gathering of gulls scarce and rare...

It has been truly dreich on Lundy of late, particularly last weekend when Storm Dennis battered through, halting helicopter flights, flattening fences, whipping off roof tiles and preventing the shipping of well-needed fuel and provisions to the island. In fact, not much has changed since Dennis, with a constant flow of gale-force winds from the Atlantic following on since the weekend, along with periods of pelting rain and hail, thick mist and fog, and a wee bit of sunshine on Thursday afternoon.

Despite the nasty weather, it has been a superb period for the bold birders who have managed to get out and brave the storms. This is particularly so for rare and scarce gulls on the island, with a 3rd calendar year (2nd-winter) Yellow-legged Gull being found in Tillage Field on the 18th –  only the second record for the island following an adult bird in May 1999! This rather hefty gull stuck around for at least another day, being seen foraging around the edges of Ackland’s Moor Marsh on the 19th.

Yellow-legged Gull, Tillage Field, 18th Feb © Dean Jones
Yellow-legged Gull, Tillage Field, 18th Feb © Dean Jones
A gathering of gulls, Brick Field, 18th Feb © Dean Jones

A glorious 1st-winter Glaucous Gull was seen hunkering down from the gale-force winds next to Ackland’s Moor Marsh on the 20th where it stayed pretty much all day. Another bird, perhaps the same individual, was seen here again on the 22nd.

Glaucous Gull, Ackland's Moor Marsh, 20th Feb © Martin Thorne
Glaucous Gull, Ackland's Moor Marsh, 20th Feb © Dean Jones
Glaucous Gull, Ackland's Moor Marsh, 20th Feb © Dean Jones

The long-staying 1st-winter Little Gull was again seen foraging in the southern races with a small group of Kittiwakes on the 18th. The next day an adult Little Gull turned up in the Landing Bay, feeding with a small group of gulls below the Ugly. Both were seen close together on the 23rd in the Landing Bay and southern races. In addition, a 4th calendar year ‘Northern’ type Herring Gull (Larus argentatus argentatus) has been present on the island since 20th, mostly seen roosting on Miller’s Cake with other argenteus type Herring Gulls, Lesser Black-backs and a Kittiwake on the 22nd (see photo).

Adult Little Gull, Southern Races, 22nd Feb © DeanJones

'Northern' Herring Gull argentatus with Lesser Black-backed Gull,
Herring Gull and Kittiwake, Millers' Cake, 22nd Feb © Dean Jones

Up to four Purple Sandpipers have been resting around the Devil’s Kitchen area and the Beach Building at high tide on two dates within this period, and nearby up to three Red-throated and six Great Northern Divers have been feeding/sheltering off Rat Island and in the lee of the east coast.

Purple Sandpiper, Rat Island © Martin Thorne
Great Northern Diver, Jetty, 22nd Feb © Dean Jones

Other notable sightings include a female Peregrine stuffing her face with beakfuls of drake Mallard in Barton Field on the 22nd, 16 Teal on Pondsbury on the 20th, an adult Common Gull off Rat Island on the 22nd and a Water Rail on the outside doormat of the Warden’s house on the night of the 17th.

A trickle of brave Meadow Pipit have started to make their way north, with 16 birds seen flittering through the storms on the east coast during the morning of the 21st. Up to four Pied Wagtails have been sheltering from the storms behind the pig enclosures too, and nearby some nice flocks of Skylark have been busily foraging between the tussocks in both High Street and Brick Fields most days (peak count 42 on the 20th). Other passerines include two Song Thrush on the 20th, a Stonechat on the 18th, the lonely Goldcrest, a male and female Chaffinch and a single Goldfinch.

Report composed of sightings from Dean Jones and Martin Thorne.

Friday 14 February 2020

9th to 13th Feb – A breezy week!

Dean Jones provides the latest update from Lundy:

Like elsewhere in the UK, things have been a tad breezy on Lundy this week – particularly on Sunday where winds clocked in at 70mph at 14:00 on the island’s weather station as the brunt of Storm Ciara arrived at our shores. Things then calmed down somewhat on Wednesday morning and afternoon, which made for some pleasurable birding and seawatching. This break in the weather was short-lived however, with the winds picking up steam again in the evening, bringing with it some heavy rainfall. Thursday was a pleasingly dry day but very windy as the next Storm – Storm Dennis – starts to make himself known.

A hefty swell in Jenny's Cove, 13th Feb © Rosie Ellis

Unfortunately for us but luckily for them, there have been no further signs of the Greenland White-fronted Geese since Storm Ciara hit on the 8th. Fingers crossed they got off the island safely before the foul weather hit.

Other interesting and notable sightings include a recently deceased adult Grey Phalarope found on the Lower East Side Path above White Beach by Mr & Mrs Vincent on the 11th. It was very unfortunate to find this bird dead rather than paddling happily around the surface waters of the Landing Bay. It just goes to show how difficult of late it has been out there in the Atlantic for some of our seabirds – but still, it was a treat to get the chance to take in all the amazing features of this gorgeous little bird up close.

Grey Phalarope, found on Lower East Side Path, 11th Feb © Dean Jones
Grey Phalarope wing © Dean Jones
Grey Phalarope legs © Dean Jones

Other noteworthy news includes the reappearance of the first-winter Little Gull along the east coast during an exciting seawatch from the Ugly on the 12th. Luckily the winds brought the bird rather close into the Landing Bay, allowing some of the best views yet of this smashing little gull, as well as a few shaky digiscope shots. Other birds feeding out at sea on this date include four Mediterranean Gull, an adult Black-headed Gull, five Common Gull, 320 Kittiwake, some good numbers of Herring Gull and auk spp, a raft of 60 Shag and singles of Red-throated and Great Northern Diver.

1st-winter Little Gull, of the East Side, 12th Feb © Dean Jones

And lastly, a stunning Lapland Bunting was found feeding in Brick Field within a flock of 45 Skylark yesterday afternoon (13th). Singles of Chiffchaff and Goldcrest are continuing to brave the storms in Millcombe, being joined by a single Song Thrush on the 12th & 13th.

Lapland Bunting, Brick Field, 13th Feb © Dean Jones
Lapland Bunting with Skylark, Brick Field, 13th Feb © Dean Jones

Sunday 9 February 2020

Jan 26th to Feb 8th – stormbound Greenland Whitefronts!

The latest winter highlights from Lundy Warden Dean Jones include three Greenland (flavirostris) White-fronted Geese, initially found grazing on the Airfield, just north of the water tanks, on 26th Jan. Obviously they are enjoying their time up there as they have remained on the island since – though they might be regretting it now that Storm Ciara has picked up steam!

White-fronted Geese, Airfield, 26th Jan © Dean Jones
White-fronted Geese, Airfield, 26th Jan © Dean Jones

A first-winter Little Gull was seen foraging offshore along the east coast on 28th Jan, perhaps the same bird seen earlier in the month, on 20th. Also the presence of some spectacular flocks of feeding seabirds continued up until the end of January – including up to 10 Mediterranean Gulls, 29 Common Gulls, peak counts of 2,766 Kittiwakes and 2,113 auk spp on 29th, a Cormorant on 29th and a Great Northern Diver on three dates within the period.

Red-throated Divers have also been seen almost daily throughout the period, with a peak count of 17 seen on 27th – seven birds were present offshore along the east coast yesterday (8th).

Other than these star birds, it has been much of the same with regard to other Lundy winter residents, though there have been some signs of spring passage in the past few days, Shag numbers increasing along the east coast (32 on 8th Feb), Lesser Black-backed Gulls periodically staging in breeding areas (52 around Miller’s Cake on 29th), Skylark moving through in small flocks (30 on 8th Feb) and a small arrival of Meadow Pipits in some of the farm fields.

A least one Chiffchaff and up to two Goldcrests have continued to sustain themselves in Millcombe throughout the period, being joined by a Redwing on 29th Jan and a Fieldfare yesterday (8th).