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Tuesday 28 April 2020

24th to 27th Apr – Two Wood Warblers the star arrivals (plus chocolate!)

24th April

An absolutely stunning summer-like day with wall-to-wall sunshine, clear skies, seabird-covered cliffs and next to no wind. Come 17:00 however, an eerie thick sea-mist rolled in on a chilly easterly breeze which lasted through the night.

A very quiet day migrant-wise with a mass exodus of yesterday’s birds and a lack of new arrivals.

Migrants logged on a day of seabird surveys included a Cuckoo – the second of the spring – ‘singing’ outside Paradise Row at first light, a lone Whimbrel in the Landing Bay, a female Redstart on the Terrace, a White Wagtail in Brick Field, seven Willow Warbler, seven Blackcap, two Goldcrest, a single Song Thrush, a handful of Wheatear along the main track and single-figure counts of Swallow (which included some of our Lundy breeding birds), Sand Martin and House Martin.

Non-avian sightings included three Barrel Jellyfish offshore along the east coast.

25th April

The thick sea-mist and fog remained from the previous evening for most of the morning, but brightening up by the afternoon, with very low winds throughout.

Another very quiet day for migrants, highlights being a flock of 11 Jackdaw in lower Aerogenerator (Lighthouse) Field and a female Merlin hunting Meadow Pipits in Brick Field in the afternoon.

Other migrants logged during another day of seabird surveys included a lone Whimbrel, just three Willow Warbler, two Chiffchaff, six Blackcap, a single Sedge Warbler, one Goldcrest, eight Swallow and small number of Wheatear pushing through.

Auk-covered ledges in Jenny's Cove, 25 Apr © Dean Jones
Over 110 burrows had Puffins taking nesting material down them in Jenny's Cove, 25 Apr © Dean Jones

26th April

Beautifully clear and still first thing, becoming overcast by the late morning, with the wind picking up from the west around 14:00, bringing with it some more clear skies.

A very quiet first few hours of the morning – and then as if someone flicked the migrant switch, a steady stream of birds started to arrive from the south come 08:00.

Highlights were the first Common Sandpiper of the year, scuttling along the low shore in the Devil’s Kitchen, as well as an amazing diversity of migrants throughout, including a total of seven Whimbrel, a lone female Sparrowhawk, the Jackdaw gang again in the Helicopter (Tent) Field, 149 Swallow, 112 Sand Martin, 21 House Martin, two Swift over the Village, a fly-over Tree Pipit, nine White Wagtails (which included a flock of seven in Brick Field), a male Yellow Wagtail in Barton Field, a male and female Redstart, a single Spotted Flycatcher above the Gas Shed, 19 Sedge Warbler, 57 Willow Warbler, 39 Blackcap, 14 Whitethroat, two Garden Warbler, three Chiffchaff, a single Lesser Whitethroat, one Goldcrest (a ringed female which has been present on the island since 18th Apr) and a small number of migrant Wheatear and Linnet.

Common Sandpipe, Devil's Kitchen, 26 Apr © Dean Jones
Female Redstart, Terrace, 26 Apr © Dean Jones

Among 57 birds ringed were (retraps shown in brackets): 19 Willow Warbler, 3 Chiffchaff, 12 Blackcap, 13 Sedge Warbler, 3 Whitethroat, 1 Garden Warbler, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, (1) Goldcrest, 1 Redstart, 1 Blackbird and 1 Goldfinch.

One of 13 Sedge Warblers ringed, 26 Apr © Dean Jones
Lesser Whitethroat, Millcombe, 26 Apr © Dean Jones

Non-avian sightings included at least 15 male Emperor Moths on the wing between Quarter and Halfway Walls.

27th April

A morning of thick sea-mist again, which burnt off by 08:00, with sunshine for the rest of the morning but becoming overcast in the afternoon; next to no wind throughout.

The much-loved MS Oldenburg arrives back from dry dock with lots of goodies
(especially chocolate!) for the islanders, 27 Apr © DeanJones

Another eventful day of migrants with two Wood Warbler – the first of the spring – taking the title of star birds!

Above and below: Wood Warbler, Lower East Side Path, 27 Apr © Dean Jones

Other birds of note included three Whimbrel, the Jackdaw gang again on the roof of Old House South first thing, a Cuckoo at Halfway Wall being ferociously mobbed by Meadow Pipits, a male Kestrel, five Woodpigeon, 83 Swallow, 68 Sand Martin, 19 House Martin, three Swift, 29 Willow Warbler, two Chiffchaff, 19 Blackcap, two Whitethroat, nine Sedge Warbler, two Reed Warbler, a Lesser Whitethroat, a single Goldcrest, three Spotted Flycatcher, two Yellow Wagtail, two White Wagtail, three Stonechat and a small push of Wheatear and Linnet.

Cuckoo, Halfway Wall, 27 Apr © Dean Jones

Twenty-one birds were ringed: 5 Sedge Warbler, 2 Reed Warbler, 9 Willow Warbler, 1 Chiffchaff, 3 Blackcap and a Wren.

Non-avian news included 14 male Emperor Moths on the wing, the first Green Tiger Beetle of the year (Rosie Ellis) and a Barrel Jellyfish in Threequarter Wall Bay.

Lundy is currently closed to visitors. The latest Covid-19 update from the Landmark Trust can be found here.

Friday 24 April 2020

21st to 23rd Apr – Whinchats, Whimbrels and warblers (but not quite a Spectacled Warbler!)

April 21st

Overcast with one or two sunny spells and a strong easterly wind for most – slackening somewhat in the late afternoon.

A very quiet bird day today due to the winds – again most birds were found low down on the west cliffs, thick scrub on the east and in the lee of drystone walls.

Highlights included a decent passage of Swallow throughout the afternoon, despite the winds. Here, 120 birds were recorded pushing north, along with smaller numbers of House Martin (10) and Sand Martin (6).

Other migrants included a White Wagtail on High Street track, a handsome male Ring Ouzel next to Old Light, eight Blackcap, singles of Whitethroat and Willow Warbler and a small movement of Goldfinch and Linnet along the west in the afternoon.

White Wagtail, High Street track, 21st Apr © Dean Jones

April 22nd

Another very windy day, particularly in the morning, easing by the evening. Lots of sunshine (though still rather chilly due to the easterly winds) and clear skies throughout.

Despite Millcombe resembling a tree-lined wind tunnel first thing, there were a few newly arrived migrants sheltering and foraging within the Blackthorn in the lee of the Ugly. These included the second Reed Warbler of the year, a reeling Grasshopper Warbler, four Whitethroat, a female Ring Ouzel and a handful of Blackcap, Willow Warblers and Chiffchaff

On the more sheltered west coast, hirundines once again stole the show with hourly counts of  over 530 Swallow, 30 Sand Martin and 34 House Martin zooming north from around 12:00 onwards.

Other migrants of note included 41 Wheatears – among them at least six Greenland race birds, a stunning male Whinchat sheltering behind the wall on route to the Old Light, a fly-over Tree Pipit in South West Field, a fly-by Yellow Wagtail in Jenny’s Cove, a lone Whimbrel in lower Lighthouse Field, a Ringed Plover on Ackland’s Moor and the first Siskin of the year, calling over Millcombe in the evening.

Male Whinchat, Old Light track, 22nd Apr © Dean Jones
There have been lots of handsome male Linnets singing in South West Field throughout this period,
22nd Apr © Dean Jones

One other bird that's worthy of mention was a very unusual looking Whitethroat in the scrub near the ‘Steps of Doom’. At first glance – as the bird's small dark head popped out from the undergrowth – Zoë Barton and myself thought we had found a nice Lesser Whitethroat. After a few seconds however the bird then revealed itself further, displaying a chestnutty colouration to its wings and a chestnut-brown back, similar to that of a Common Whitethroat.

Alarm bells then started to ring as I realised I was potentially looking at something unusual, as I couldn’t recall ever seeing such a small Common Whitethroat (a female Whitethroat nearby enabled a size comparison) with such a dark head colouration. The bird was very restless, jumping around the scrub in search of a meal in a rather frantic fashion, but luckily we managed to take a few record shots (see below) to help with identification.

Common Whitethroat – note the dark head colouration, 'Steps of Doom',
22nd Apr © Dean Jones
Common Whitethroat, 'Steps of Doom', 22nd Apr © Dean Jones
Common Whitethroat, 'Steps of Doom', 22nd Apr © Dean Jones
Common Whitethroat, 'Steps of Doom', 22nd Apr © Dean Jones

As you can see from the images, the colouration, particularly the head pattern, somewhat resembles a Spectacled Warbler (even more so in the field), a species which we were considering when watching the bird. Upon closer inspection however, you can see that this bird has a long primary projection compared to its tertial length (Spectacled Warbler should only be a third of the length, and Whitethroat more than half), dark centred greater coverts (though this wasn’t always obvious as you can see from some of the images – again resembling Spectacled Warbler), and was an all-round (bill, underparts and legs) duller bird than you would expect for a male Spectacled Warbler in breeding plumage.

Despite the bird not turning out to be a potential mega for the island and for the county [only one previous Spectacled Warbler, on Dartmoor in June 1999], this Whitethroat was an interesting bird nonetheless. I later shared these images with a number of friends and all agreed that they had never seen a Whitethroat quite like this one – thus I thought I would share the experience here. It just goes to shows that there is always something new to learn and see – even with familiar species!

April 23rd

A beautifully sunny and clear day, with strong and chilly easterly winds in the morning dropping to nothing by the late afternoon.

Highlights included the first three Spotted Flycatcher of the year (all in Millcombe) and a fantastic variety of other migrants including a Curlew (the first of the spring also), two Whimbrel, two female Pied Flycatcher, a stunning male Redstart, 18 Willow Warbler, three Chiffchaff, 32 Blackcap, eight Whitethroat, a single Garden Warbler, five Sedge Warbler, 46 Wheatear (of which there were at least nine Greenland birds), a female Whinchat on the Pointless Wall, two Song Thrush and a Reed Bunting in Millcombe.

Spotted Flycatcher, Millcombe, 23rd Apr © Dean Jones

Female Pied Flycatcher (and below), High Street, 23rd Apr © Dean Jones
This lady was very happy to have lots of photos taken of her © Dean Jones
Sedge Warbler, Terrace, 23rd Apr © Dean Jones

Hirundines also put in another great show with 780 Swallow, 130 Sand Martin and 11 House Martin logged.

Monday 20 April 2020

17th to 20th Apr – More 'firsts' for the year, including Cuckoo & Swift

17th April

A day of strong easterly winds, frequent showers – particularly in the late morning – and a few spells of heavy rain. The first drop of rain in nearly four weeks!

Unsurprisingly, due to the poor weather conditions, it was a rather quiet day on the Lundy bird front. There was very little shelter for anything along the east coast, so most of the birds logged were from sheltered spots along the west coast. These included a fine male Pied Flycatcher and a Ring Ouzel in Jenny’s Cove, a single Whitethroat and Redstart feeding within the boulders down on The Battery slope, a lone Grasshopper Warbler reeling in in the brambles at the top of the 'Steps of Doom', small numbers of Swallow low on the west cliffs, two Song Thrush and the female Merlin with a Wheatear in its talons at Quarter Wall.

A Dunnock serenading from his windswept perch along the Upper East Side Path, 17 Apr © Dean Jones

The escaped Black Kite from yesterday was seen again this afternoon, battling through the strong winds and hordes of upset gulls in Jenny’s Cove, and later seen over the Village by Sue Waterfield.

18th April

A windy and cold start to the day, warming up in the afternoon as the wind speed eased and the skies cleared.

Birding highlights included the reappearance of the female Hawfinch (on Sue Waterfield’s feeders!), and the first Lesser Whitethroat and Cuckoo of the year – both seen on the Terrace.

The year's first Cuckoo, Terrace Quarry willows, 18 Apr © Dean Jones

Other migrants included three Whimbrel, 42 Swallow, singles of House and Sand Martin, two female Redstart, a fly-over Tree Pipit, three Grasshopper Warblers, five Sedge Warblers, five Whitethroat, 18 Blackcap, 44 Willow Warbler (including one very grey, pale acredula type bird), three Chiffchaff, 40 Wheatear (including three candidates for the Greenland race leucorhoa), four Ring Ouzel, three Song Thrush and 71 Linnet.

Ringing totals from a brief afternoon's ringing included: Whitethroat 2, Sedge Warbler 2, Blackcap 3, Willow Warbler 5, Blackbird 1, Goldcrest 1 and Goldfinch 1.

Non-avian sightings included the first two Lundy Cabbage plants in bloom in Smelly Gully.

19th April

Light easterly winds for the first few hours, picking up again around 10:00, short-lived spells of fog on top of the island first thing, becoming sunny and clear by the late morning.

Another glorious sunrise, Millcombe, 19 Apr © Dean Jones

It was another fantastic day for migrants on the island with four new species making their way onto the year list. The first of these came in the form of a Reed Warbler in the shelf of a mist-net first thing – a bird which was already sporting a BTO ring from somewhere else in the UK! Update: This bird was originally ringed at Nanjizal, Land's End, Cornwall on 8th July 2019.

More firsts included a Swift over Battery Slope in the afternoon, a Garden Warbler which was caught and ringed in the Secret Garden, and two Whinchats in South West Field.

Male Whinchat, South West Field, 19 Apr © Dean Jones

It was another decent day for hirundine passage with at least 429 Swallow, nine House Martin and 33 Sand Martins passing north throughout the day.

Other migrants included a Whimbrel in the Landing Bay, a stunning male Redstart caught and ringed in Millcombe, a fly-over Tree Pipit, four Grasshopper Warblers, nine Whitethroat, 30 Blackcap, 45 Willow Warbler, four Chiffchaff, 30 Wheatear (including two candidates for the Greenland race leucorhoa), a female Ring Ouzel in St John's Valley, three Song Thrush (which includes at least two nominate philomelos-raced birds) and 73 Linnet.

Ringing totals (retraps in brackets): Reed Warbler (1), Whitethroat 1, Garden Warbler 1, Grasshopper Warbler 1, Sedge Warbler 1, Blackcap 5, Willow Warbler 9, Chiffchaff 1, Redstart 1, Dunnock (1), Chaffinch 1 and Goldfinch 1.

The first Garden Warbler of the year, caught in
the Secret Garden, 19 Apr © Zoë Barton
Grasshopper Warbler, Millcombe, 20 Apr © Zoë Barton
Male Redstart, Millcombe, 19 Apr © Zoë Barton

Non-avian news included the first Red Admiral of the year, basking on the Terrace, and a number of newly emerged sundew plants.

The first Red Admiral of the spring, Terrace, 19 Apr © Dean Jones

20th April

A beautiful sunny spring day, though very windy – more so in the afternoon.

A quiet bird day due to the hefty easterly winds, conditions again which had most of the birds hiding out of sight in dense scrub/tussocks or low down on the West Side cliffs.

Best of the bunch today included a Rook – the first of the year – in the upper Aerogenerator Field, a female Ring Ouzel in St John’s Valley for her second day, a handful of Whitethroat, Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Swallow, Sand Martin and House Martin, and singles of Chiffchaff and Goldcrest.

Female Ring Ouzel, St John's Valley, 20 Apr © Dean Jones

Lundy is currently closed to visitors as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The latest update from the Landmark Trust, dated 14 April, can be found here.

Friday 17 April 2020

14th to 16th Apr – Ring Ouzels, a Hawfinch – and an escaped Black Kite!

14th April

A nippy and windy day (easterlies again), particularly in the morning.

Highlights from what was a rather quiet bird day included a decent push of Swallow throughout, with 122 birds recorded – most of which were flying low down on the west cliffs.

It was also a good day for Ring Ouzel with three birds present: a female in Millcombe and a male and female together near Old Light. Some small flocks of Linnet too (73) were pushing on through the winds.

Female Ring Ouzel, near Old Light, 14 Apr © Dean Jones

Other sightings of note included four Woodpigeon, a single Snipe, the female Sparrowhawk, three each of Sand and House Martin, ten Blackcap, just three Willow Warbler, seven Chiffchaff, one Goldcrest, 20 Skylark, two Pied Wagtail, 74 Meadow Pipit, five Dunnock, three Robin, 47 Wheatear (including four more colour-ringed birds), six Blackbird, three Chaffinch and 11 Goldfinch.

15th April

A cool but beautiful spring day with moderate to light easterly winds.

A great day for migrants, particularly Swallow (312) and Wheatear (92), the latter of which included a number of Greenland-raced birds.

One of 92 Wheatears logged today, Benjamin's Chair, 15 Apr © Dean Jones

Additionally, the first Whimbrel of the year made an appearance below North Light in the afternoon, a male Ring Ouzel was hopping around the cliffs near Pilot’s Quay with a female Black Redstart, and a female Merlin was chasing Meadow Pipits and Linnets near Pondsbury in the late morning.

Black Redstart, near Pilot's Quay, 15 Apr © Dean Jones

Other sightings of note included 30 Manx Shearwater feeding off North End, the Quarters Water Rail, four Woodpigeon, the female Sparrowhawk again, a female Kestrel, eight Sand Martin, 38 House Martin, two Sedge Warbler, 12 Blackcap, 16 Willow Warbler, two Chiffchaff, two Goldcrest, 19 Skylark, four Pied Wagtail, three unraced alba wags, a single White Wagtail in Barton Field, 62 Meadow Pipit, ten Dunnock, three Robin, a female Stonechat, three Blackbird, four Song Thrush, three Chaffinch, 13 Goldfinch and 41 Linnet.

Non-avian sightings included five Harbour Porpoises off North End.

16th April

A lovely, warm spring day complete with blue skies, a light easterly wind and a good selection of migrants.

A beautiful spring day along the west coast, looking north from Dead Cow Point, 16 Apr © Dean Jones

Highlights included a female Hawfinch resting on the allotment wall after a run-in with the Pied Wagtail pair. The bird was seen again later in the afternoon foraging in Millcombe Wood.

Female Hawfinch, Paradise Row allotments, 16 Apr © Dean Jones

Other birds of note were the first Dunlin of the spring – a total of six birds in two flocks in South West Field. Two more Whimbrel dropped in later in the day, one in Barton Field and the other on Ackland’s Moor. Two more Ring Ouzels were found along the west coast (both males), two fly-over Tree Pipits were also recorded, as well as a decent passage of 143 Linnet throughout the morning – which included a flock of 60 over the Camping Field.

Two of the six Dunlin in South West Field, 16 Apr © Dean Jones

Whimbrel, Barton Field, 16 Apr © Dean Jones

Another run-in that must be mentioned was the surprising occurrence of an escaped Black Kite (sporting jesses, though these are hidden on the photos below) which decided to take a wee rest on the allotment wall outside Paradise Row in the late evening. Despite its captive origin, the kite created much excitement in the Village, with Paradise Row turning into one giant bird hide, most of the Lundy residents enjoying the bird from their kitchen and living room windows!

Black Kite, Paradise Row allotments, 16 Apr © Dean Jones

Black Kite, Paradise Row allotments, 16 Apr © Dean Jones

Other sightings included a lone Sandwich Tern in the Landing Bay, the Quarters Water Rail, a fly-over Ringed Plover, seven Woodpigeon, the female Sparrowhawk still, two Kestrel, a female Merlin, good numbers of auks on ledges, including 89 Puffins in Jenny’s Cove, 37 Swallow, one House Martin, two Sand Martin, a single Whitethroat, 21 Blackcap (quite a few hiding on the West Side from the easterly winds), 24 Willow Warbler, one Chiffchaff, three Goldcrest, 38 Skylark, 10 Pied Wagtail, five White Wagtail in Barton Field, 82 Meadow Pipit, three Dunnock, four Robin, one Stonechat, 45 Wheatear, 11 Blackbird, four Song Thrush, two Chaffinch and 25 Goldfinch.

Sandwich Tern, Landing Bay, 16 Apr © Dean Jones
Female Merlin, main track near Pondsbury, 16 Apr © Dean Jones
Male Blackcap, Battery Slope, 16 Apr © Dean Jones
Resident male Blackbird enjoying the morning sunshine in a shelterd spot in Millcombe, 16 Apr © Dean Jones

Non-avian sightings included another Holly Blue butterfly in Millcombe, the first Small Whites (2) of the year, a Barrel Jellyfish offshore from Miller’s Cake and five Black Oil Beetles on the Castle Parade track.

Monday 13 April 2020

11th to 13th Apr – Blackcap fall; first Pied Flycatchers & Whitethroat

Saturday 11th April

Another glorious and warm spring day complete with blue skies, minimal wind and a good selection of migrants.

The locals were treated to yet another spectacular sunrise, 11 Apr © Dean Jones

Highlights included a super fall of 110 Blackcap and 53 Willow Warbler – mostly from the south and east coasts of the island. The first two Pied Flycatchers of the year also made an appearance with a female in the Terrace Willows and a lovely male in Millcombe Wood. Another Jackdaw flew over the Villlage in the afternoon and two Grasshopper Warblers were reeling in Millcombe and St Johns first thing along with three nearby Sedge Warblers. The Buzzard remained for another day – seen soaring over High Street Field in the afternoon and seven White Wagtails were foraging in Barton and Brick Fields throughout the day.

One of the first two Pied Flycatchers of 2020 – a female in the Terrace willows, 11 Apr © Dean Jones

One of the 110 Blackcaps logged on 11 Apr © Dean Jones

The Buzzard remained for another day – here over the High Street, 11 Apr © Dean Jones

Other sightings of note from the south and east coasts included the long-staying Great Northern Diver in the Landing Bay first thing, four Woodpigeon, the female Sparrowhawk, two Kestrel together over the Quarries, just one Swallow, two Chiffchaff, one Goldcrest, 19 Skylark, eight Pied Wagtail and another unraced fly-over alba wag, 94 Meadow Pipit (including a flock of 57 birds in Tent Field), three Dunnock, three Robin, two Stonechat, four Wheatear, three each of Blackbird, Redwing and Song Thrush, a single Fieldfare, three Chaffinch, seven Goldfinch and 49 Linnet.

Unfortunately there was no further sign of the Hoopoe from yesterday.

Ringing totals: Blackcap 30, Willow Warbler 17 and Chiffchaff 2.

Non-avian news includes the first Silver Y of the year and two Rabbits in the Upper East Side Path – the first seen in quite some time!

Sunday 12th April

Thick fog for the first few hours, clearing by 10:00am to give way to some more lovely sunshine for most of the rest of the day, other than a few hazy/foggy spells in the afternoon. South and westerly breeze to start, turning easterly again by mid-morning.

A much quieter feel to the island today due to the mass departure of Blackcaps – just eight logged. It was still a very enjoyable day of birding on the island, however, with a Grasshopper Warbler reeling from a fog-cloaked Millcombe during the first few hours. Later in the day two Jackdaws flew over the Village calling loudly (it has been a great spring for records of this scarce corvid this year). A male Common Redstart was catching insects from its Quarter Wall perch and lots of nest-building was observed among the Starlings and Linnets.

Raven on the lookout for a meal at Halfway Wall, 12 Apr © Dean Jones

Other sightings of note included 27 Mallard (23 ducklings in total so far), the long staying Great Northern Diver in the Landing Bay first thing, five Woodpigeon (including a lone bird hiding from the Peregrines at Halfway Wall), two Water Rail, 1,500 Guillemot on ledges in Jenny’s Cove, 400 Razorbill, 68 Puffin, four Swallow, two Sand Martin, 27 Willow Warbler, two Chiffchaff, two Goldcrest, 25 Skylark, six Pied Wagtail, two unraced fly-over alba wags and a lone White Wagtail in Barton Field, 89 Meadow Pipit, seven Dunnock, three Robin, three Stonechat, six Wheatear, ten Blackbird, three Redwing, three Chaffinch, 14 Goldfinch and 39 Linnet.

Easter ducklings – a female Mallard and her brood, St John's Valley, 12 Apr © Dean Jones

Monday 13th April

The shorts, T-shirt and peaked cap were swapped for long trousers and woollies today due to a hefty easterly wind which peaked at gale force around midday. It was very hard going on the birding front, particularly in the morning, as there wasn’t much shelter on the island at all (the wind blew the specs off my face on the west coast path!). Unsurprisingly most of the birds remained very inconspicuous for most of the day – migrants logged included the first Whitethroat of the year in Millcombe, four Willow Warbler, three Blackcap, singles of Chiffchaff, Goldcrest and Redwing, a lone White Wagtail in Barton Field and a small arrival of Goldfinch (24) – which included a flock of 16 underneath Sue Waterfield’s feeder.

Gale-force easterlies made for difficult birding... © Dean Jones

Some of the 24 Goldfinches logged on 13 Apr, underneath Sue Waterfield's feeder © Dean Jones

The latest update from the Landmark Trust concerning the Covid-19 pandemic and Lundy can be found here.