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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 Zoë Barton, Tim Davis, Rosie Ellis, Dean Jones, Tim Jones, Tony Taylor and Kevin Waterfield.

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