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Sunday 29 March 2020

28th & 29th Mar – Colour-ringed Osprey!

A further update from Dean Jones, with news of a cold, windy and consequently rather quiet couple of days, enlivened by an exciting encounter with a colour-ringed Osprey...

Saturday March 28th

Sunshine and clear skies during the early morning, becoming mostly overcast by the afternoon with intermittent sunny spells, but a very cold day due to the continued north-easterlies.

A beautiful but cold morning, looking south past the Church, towards Cornwall, 28 Mar © Dean Jones

A rather quiet day on the bird front, particularly along the east coast and in Millcombe as birds either moved on or hid away from the icy winds in nearby scrub, grassy tussocks and areas of sheltered canopy. Not much in the way of visible migration today either, with the majority of birds hunkering down or feeding in areas of longer sward on the top of the island rather than pushing on.

Due to the tricky birding conditions on the East Side, much of the attention went to the more sheltered west coast, though here too birds were rather inconspicuous. The avian highlight of the day was undoubtedly an Osprey which flew over Brick Field calling as it was being mobbed by a Raven at around 09:30 hrs. The bird then hung in the north-east winds for a few minutes allowing some great but distant views overhead and a few record shots before it drifted north and out of sight. After review of the images I noticed that the bird was sporting a blue darvic ring on its right tarsus and after a quick Google search, it looks like this bird was ringed somewhere in Scotland and was more than likely on its way back from its African winter quarters to its Scottish breeding grounds. Thank you Mr/Mrs Raven for the alert to this beautiful bird’s presence

Osprey mobbed by Raven over Brick Field, 28 Mar © Dean Jones

The Osprey hung in the NE wind for a while © Dean Jones

Cropped version of same photo showing blue colour-ring

Other feathered gems included two Mediterranean Gulls in the Landing Bay, feeding with a group of 14 Common Gulls, and two Jackdaws foraging in the Lower Aerogenerator Field in the afternoon, as well as the stunning male Black Redstart that remained for another day along the cliff-face below the Old Lighthouse.

Other birds of note included eight Teal on Pondsbury, the Quarters Water Rail, five Woodpigeon in Barton Field, 21 Shag, 127 Kittiwake, just two Puffins on the water in Jenny’s Cove within a small raft of Razorbill and Guillemot (no auks on the ledges again this morning), nine Wheatear, 42 Skylark, 84 Meadow Pipit, five Pied Wagtail, three Chiffchaff, only one Goldcrest, three Redwing in Millcombe, one Song Thrush in Brick Field, eight Chaffinch, 11 Goldfinch and 11 Linnet.

Male Wheatear sheltering in the lee of Halfway Wall, 28 Mar © Dean Jones

Sunday March 29th

The icy north-easterlies picked up overnight and raged on throughout the day, resulting in low temperatures again (with wind-chill taken into account, it was barely 1°C!). A beautiful sunny day nonetheless, with a few scattered clouds. Other than the constant howling of the winds as they whipped over the island, it was another very quiet day on the bird front, with very few singing or displaying birds on the plateau and very little in the way of new arrivals chirping and chipping overhead.

A choppy Landing Bay, taking the brunt of the chilly NE winds, 29 Mar © Dean Jones

Highlights include a nice young male Sparrowhawk – the first of the year – hanging on the wind over Millcombe first thing. The two Jackdaws remained in the lower Lighthouse Field for another day and a total of four Common Gulls were seen foraging around the South End of the island throughout the day.

The best of the rest included a lone Cormorant over the Village in the late morning, ten Woodpigeon in Barton Field, the Quarters Water Rail, two Stonechat in South West Field, 20 Skylark, seven Pied Wagtail, 55 Meadow Pipit, six Chaffinch, eight Goldfinch and four Linnet.

Up to four Pied Wagtails were taking shelter outside Paradise Row on 29 Mar – here a fine male © Dean Jones

Friday 27 March 2020

24th to 27th Mar – First colour-ringed Wheatears return, Bullfinch in Millcombe

With many of us unable to follow spring migration ourselves to the extent that we would like, here's the next best thing, with the latest round-up of ornithological goings-on from Lundy Warden Dean Jones, locked down on the island along with just the other residents for company, the last visitors now having left until restrictions are lifted.

Tuesday March 24th

A truly beautiful spring day with sunshine and clear skies for the most part  becoming a bit hazy in the late afternoon, light easterlies in the morning swinging round to strong westerly winds later in the day.

Avian highlights include the first two Willow Warbler of the year – one of which was heard in full song from the top of Millcombe Wood in the late morning. Additionally, a Jackdaw was seen briefly over Millcombe in the afternoon, a House Martin whizzed past the Village later in the day and a Firecrest was caught and ringed in the Secret Garden in the afternoon. Others birds/migrants of note included two Water Rail, a Snipe over the Village in the early morning, lots of calling Manx Shearwaters throughout the night, five Woodpigeon, three Swallow, four Sand Martin, three Pied Wagtails and three fly-over alba wags, three male Blackcap, 10 Chiffchaff, 18 Goldcrest, a lone Wheatear at the Sourth West Point, five Stonechat, ten Linnet, nine Goldfinch and six Chaffinch.

Two Peacock butterflies and a Small Tortoiseshell were also on the wing in Millcombe.

Woodpigeons feeding in Barton Field, 27 Mar © Dean Jones

Wednesday March 25th

Another beautiful but chilly start to the day – sunshine and clear skies, with breezy easterlies in the morning moving NE by the afternoon.

Highlight of the day was undoubtedly a beautiful female Bullfinch in Millcombe Valley which ended up in the shelf of a mist-net in the Secret Garden around 08:00. Also nearby, at least two Firecrest were seen and heard feeding within the Sycamores above the Gas Shed.

Other sightings of note included: A Great Northern Diver feeding offshore from Quarry Beach, a single Snipe flushed south of Pondsbury, the Ackland's Moor Lapwing, a Water Rail in Smelly Gully, four Woodpigeon, six Sand Martin over Quarter Wall, five Wheatear, 35 Skylark, five Blackcap, eight Chiffchaff, one Willow Warbler, 10 Goldcrest, seven Pied Wagtail, 40 Meadow Pipit, 10 Goldfinch, 4 Chaffinch and seven Linnet.

Ringing totals: the female Bullfinch, 2 Blackcap, 1 Chiffchaff, 2 Goldcrest and 2 Goldfinch.

Thursday March 26th

A very chilly start to the day brought forth by strong easterly/north easterly winds – clear skies and good visibility throughout.

Despite the breezy and nippy morning, some birds – namely Meadow Pipit (79) and Linnet (20) weren’t deterred and pushed on through the winds arriving in small numbers along the South End. Other avian highlights included three Jackdaw foraging with a small gang of Carrion Crow in High Street Field and a Grey Wagtail searching for a meal in Millcombe Pond.

Other sightings/migrants of note included: seven Wheatear, three Sand Martin, four Pied Wagtail, 25 Skylark, just three Goldcrest, two Chiffchaff and two Song Thrush.

A sunny but chilly East Side © Dean Jones

Friday March 27th

Weather very much the same as yesterday, though the north-easterly winds were up slightly compared to yesterday morning – then the wind dropped off to a slight breeze by 15:00.

The morning kicked off to a great start with a stunning male Hen Harrier searching for a meal over Barton Field. Other highlights included an adult Mediterranean Gull in full breeding plumage within a raft of 485 Kittiwake in Jenny’s Cove. Nearby, three Black Redstarts (two female and a crackin male) bobbed around the crags and scree next to the Old Lighthouse and Punchbowl Valley. Finally an adult Black-headed Gull was foraging in the Landing Bay in the evening

Male Black Redstart, below Old Light, 27 Mar © Dean Jones

Other than enjoying the avian highlights above – most of the day was spent looking for colour-ringed Wheatears along the south and west coasts as part of an ongoing Re-trapping Adults for Survival (RAS) scheme. A total of ten Lundy birds were found (four males & six females), along with 16 other unringed birds (ten males & six females), mostly foraging low down on the cliffs along the West Side. Not a bad start for the spring but fingers crossed there are a lot more colour-ringed Lundy birds still to arrive!

Colour-ringed male Wheatear, near Old Light, 27 Mar © Dean Jones

The best of the rest included a Great Northern Diver feeding off South West Point, 20 Oystercatcher, a calling Water Rail, a male Kestrel in an auk-devoid Jenny’s Cove, ten Woodpigeon, two Blackcap (one of which was in full song in the Village first thing), a single Willow Warbler, six Chiffchaff, four Goldcrest, 93 Meadow Pipit, three Pied Wagtails, a Grey Wagtail, 41 Skylark, five Stonechat, six Redwing, eight Chaffinch, ten Goldfinch and 14 Linnet.

Wheatear paradise – Jenny's Cove and the West Side © Dean Jones

Tuesday 24 March 2020

17th to 23rd Mar – First Ring Ouzel and Blackcaps

With spring migration now well under way, Lundy Warden Dean Jones brings us up to date. Below is a selection of recent photos by Dean and Assistant Warden Rosie Ellis.

Spring is starting to pick up pace on the island with the first four Sand Martins of the year on the 18th, a Swallow on the 23rd over Quarter Wall, a Ring Ouzel next to the Stonecrusher on the 21st, small numbers of Wheatear on the 20th, a White Wagtail on the 20th in Tent Field and the first two Blackcap of the spring on the 17th.

Other sightings of note include up to 21 Teal on Pondsbury each day, five fly-over Cormorant on the 22nd, a lone Lapwing on Ackland's Moor every day from the 19th, small numbers of Puffin on a number of dates, a Stock Dove over Middle Park on the 22nd, a female Kestrel on 22nd, four Chiffchaff on the 22nd, singles of Fieldfare and Redwing on the 21st and 22nd, a peak of 19 Goldfinch on the 17th and small numbers of Linnet and Chaffinch moving through on days.

Non-avian news includes the first Peacock butterflies of the year, as well as 10 Black Oil Beetles along the Castle Parade path on the 23rd.

Lundy is currently closed to visitors until at least the end of April. The Landmark Trust's latest statement on the Covid-19 pandemic can be found here

Firecrest, Millcombe, 14 Mar © Dean Jones
Hooded Crow, Brick Field, 14 Mar © Dean Jones
Lapwing, Ackland's Moor, 21 Mar © Rosie Ellis
Ring Ouzel, near the Stonecrusher, 21 Mar © Rosie Ellis
Female Wheatear, Halfway Wall, 23 Mar © Dean Jones
Copulating Black Oil-beetles, Castle Parade, 23 Mar © Dean Jones

Tuesday 17 March 2020

16th Mar – Killdeer: a first for Lundy!

News came in last night of a Killdeer on the island – a first for Lundy! The bird was found by Neil Trout during the late afternoon of Monday 16th March, near Stoneycroft.

On Tuesday 17th, Assistant Lundy Warden Rosie Ellis reported that the island plateau was shrouded in claggy low cloud, with "shockingly poor visibility" and the bird was not seen by those out peering through the murk (in spite of rumours on social media to the contrary). Neil's initial sighting therefore turned out to be both the first and the last.

There have been two previous BBRC-accepted records in Devon, and about three further historical (pre-BBRC) records.

The following is a transcript of Neil's entry in the LFS logbook (see photo below):

"16/3 16.20 to 16.40 hrs. Killdeer. Initially in Stoneycroft Meadow but flew to temporary pond on Ackland's Moor, beyond water tanks. From distance, thought to be a Ringed Plover but closer inspection allowed the following notes to be recorded: – Bulky plover, larger than ringed plover with longer tail. Double wide, black breast bands with lower part of lower breast band more mottled. White breast band between the 2 black bands was a brighter white than the belly. Upperparts mid-brown to greyish brown. Legs greyish flesh. Bill black with length of half the head width. White supercilium flaring towards rear of ear coverts. White on lores extending onto side of face. dark eye with thick black line between eyes, over loral area. White collar broadening onto chin and upper breast. Call a 'Klee-oo'. Flight details too brief to note anything. 10x40 binoculars, down to 30 yards."

Many thanks to the birding community for respecting the closure of Lundy to day visitors and private boats as part of the island's response to the Covid-19 pandemic. It is a shame that events (and indeed the bird's brief stay) conspired to mean that only Neil was lucky enough to see this star bird.

Saturday 14 March 2020

13th & 14th Mar – Hooded Crows, Jackdaw & Firecrests

Lundy Warden Dean Jones reports that there were two Hooded Crows and a Jackdaw on the island on Friday 13th (!), along with a further small push of Stonechats. The morning of 14th brought the first two Firecrests of spring before the fog rolled in. A third Firecrest was found later in the day, along with one of the Hooded Crows, the Jackdaw, and a Glaucous Gull at Jenny's Cove.

Back of camera shot of one of the Hooded Crows

Friday 13 March 2020

1st to 12th Mar – Spring springs: first Puffins, Chiffchaff and... a House Martin!

Buff-tailed Bumblebees are emerging from their long winter slumber to search for a rich nectary breakfast in Millcombe, the calls of courting Teal, ‘singing’ Water Rail and displaying Skylark now serenade us from dawn to dusk and throughout the early hours, while increasing numbers of noisy seabirds are periodically jostling for space upon crammed cliff-faces. So, despite there being very little respite from the frequent downpours and strong winds, spring has finally sprung on the island!

Over the past twelve days Lundy has been treated to some superb early spring passage – particularly with regards to Meadow Pipit (peak 214 on the 3rd), alba wagtails (peak 23 on the 11th) and Stonechat (peak 36 on the 5th – including a dozen scattered over a small area of South West Field). But once again it has been rare gulls that have stolen the show, with the first-winter Glaucous Gull remaining on the island until the 1st in the Tillage/Brick Field area. Then, amazingly, a second bird – this time a superb adult – was observed preening and resting within a small flock of Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls on Pondsbury on the 5th.

First-winter Glaucous Gull in Brick Field, 1st Mar © Dean Jones

Adult Glaucous Gull with Herring & Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Pondsbury, 5th Mar © Dean Jones

Continuing on the gull theme, up to two Mediterranean Gulls have been recorded on three days within the period as well as a number of Common Gulls on several days – often foraging within some spectacular mixed seabird feeding frenzies e.g. 1,500 Kittiwakes, 1,500 Herring Gulls, 21 Great Black-backed Gulls and 200 auk spp. along the east coast on 2nd.

Nearby, up to nine Red-throated and two Great Northern Divers have been seen periodically offshore – mostly within the Southern Races off Rat Island.

Other notable sightings include the first Puffins of the year! Here a total of 32 birds were counted on the 11th, including eight birds up on ledges in Jenny’s Cove. Additionally up to five passing Cormorant have been recorded most days, two Woodcock were flushed from the Lower East Side Path on the 7th and one from Millcombe on the 8th, there were six Snipe in the Pondsbury area on the 3rd, the first Stock Dove of the spring over Millcombe, also on the 3rd, followed by singles on the 6th and 9th, up to six Woodpigeon, a male Kestrel on three dates, the first House Martin of the spring, sheltering from the strong winds along the Terrace on the 8th (unsurprisingly, one of the earliest sightings on record for the island), the first spring Chiffchaff in Smelly Gully on the 10th, up to five Goldcrest, singles of Black Redstart at Benjamin’s Chair on the 3rd and Halfway Wall on the 5th, the first Grey Wagtail of the spring on the 8th, as well as a small arrival of Robin (12 on the 6th), Chaffinch (peak 7 on the 7th), Goldfinch (six on the 6th), the first Linnet of the year on the 7th, as well as a number of thrushes on some days –  including small numbers of Redwing (peak 8 on the 7th), Song Thrush (4 on the 6th), Fieldfare (singles on two dates) and Blackbird (21 on the 6th).

The first Puffins of the year at Jenny's Cove, 11th Mar © Rosie Ellis

Report composed of sightings from Zoƫ Barton, Tim Davis, Rosie Ellis, Dean Jones, Tim Jones, Tony Taylor and Kevin Waterfield.

Sunday 1 March 2020

23rd to 29th Feb – Gulls, 'Purps' & Jackdaws

Things are starting to feel a bit like groundhog day with regards to the weather as the near incessant stream of storms and gale-force winds continue to push in from the Atlantic.

Highlights from this period include the 1st-winter Glaucous Gull again which has been observed in numerous locations around the island up until the 27th at least. Both the adult and 1st-winter Little Gulls have also remained, foraging together in close within the Landing Bay on the 26th.

1st-winter Glaucous Gull, Tillage Field, 26th Feb © Dean Jones
1st-winter Glaucous Gull, Tillage Field, 26th Feb © Dean Jones
1st-winter Glaucous Gull (foreground), Brick Field, 26th Feb © Dean Jones

Continuing the marine theme, two Purple Sandpipers were feeding along the shore at low tide in Gannets’ Bay on the 23rd, and up to two Red-throated and three Great Northern Divers have also been logged offshore from the east coast on some days. Come the afternoon of the 26th, a super flock of 1,267 Kittiwakes arrived out of nowhere along the east coast in search of a meal, a flock which harboured a nice adult Mediterranean Gull in its midst. This spectacular sight was rather short-lived however as shortly after their arrival the flocks were pushed far offshore, disappearing from the island and out of view. On the afternoon of the 27th however, the flocks returned and in slightly stronger numbers (1,316) and in the company of 10 Common Gulls and an adult Black-headed Gull.

Other Lundy scarcities include a Jackdaw, calling from Millcombe Wood on the 26th, joined by a second bird on 27th. Other sightings of note include the first three Cormorant of the year on the 23rd, a Woodcock on the 23rd, a female Reed Bunting next to Pondsbury on 23rd, small numbers of passage Meadow Pipit (33 on the 27th), Pied Wagtail (5 on the 27th), Skylark (peak 51 on 27th), Stonechat (4 on 2 days), as well as singles of Fieldfare and Redwing on 26th pushing through the storms.

Report composed of sightings from Rosie Ellis, Dean Jones, Martin Thorne and Steve Wing.