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Sunday 5 April 2020

1st to 5th Apr – An exceptional influx of Jackdaws (and much else besides!)

Wednesday 1st April

The strong north-easterly faded overnight to a breeze come morning. It was still very cold for the first few hours of the day, though a number of sunny spells allowed some relief from the cold.

Not much in the way of visible migration for the first few hours other than a small number of Linnet 38 (including a flock of 17 in the Camping Field) and a small fall of Redwing (11). There was, however, lots of cetacean activity with at least 15 Common Dolphin and five Harbour Porpoise feeding off South West Point at around 7:30am.

Redwing at Jenny's Cove, 1 Apr © Dean Jones

A few more Jackdaw joined the St Helen's Tower gang, reaching 11 birds by the evening. Two Red-throated Diver were foraging together offshore from the Landing Bay first thing and a Great Northern Diver was loafing off the Terrace. This morning also saw the first three-figure Puffin count of the year, with 184 birds on land and on the water between the Battery and Pyramid Slope.
Come the afternoon, the wind dropped away to near nothing, triggering a little flurry of Willow Warbler (11), Chiffchaff (23) and Wheatear (18) – including a few more colour-ringed birds at Quarter Wall.

Chiffchaff at Quarter Wall Pond, 1 Apr © Dean Jones

Willow Warbler on the Terrace, 1 Apr © Dean Jones

Other birds recorded included 21 Manx Shearwater feeding off South West Point this morning, just 15 Fulmar, the Quarters Water Rail, four Woodpigeon, 30 Kittiwake, 877 Razorbill, 1,760 Guillemot (lots of auk activity on the ledges today), 27 Skylark, 98 Meadow Pipit, five Pied Wagtail, two Blackcap, four Goldcrest (including one calling in Jenny’s Cove), 12 Dunnock, seven Robin, two male Stonechat, six Blackbird, four Chaffinch and 13 Goldfinch.

Ringing totals (retraps in brackets): Willow Warbler 8, Chiffchaff 9, Blackcap 2, Wren 1 (1) and Robin (1).

Thursdsay 2nd April

A day of moderate north-westerlies. Overcast in the morning, giving way to beautiful clear skies by the afternoon. Still rather nippy in the wind, particularly in the morning, but much warmer than the past few days.

A beautiful spring day at Quarter Wall Copse, 2 Apr © Dean Jones

Avian highlights today included a spectacular flock of 59 Jackdaws which drifted over the South East Point around 13:00 hrs. From here, the gang moved around the island for a few hours, resting briefly in Barton Field, Millcombe and the Church Tower before heading north and out of sight. This is the highest spring count of this canny corvid for the island, with the previous record being 53 birds on April 25th 1948, and the third-largest all-time count (record 250 birds on 20th October 1983).

Two very handsome male Ring Ouzels – one in Barton Field and one at Quarter Wall – were a very welcome addition to the day list too.

The Arrival –  Jackdaws over South East Point, 2 Apr © Dean Jones

The Arrival – part of the exceptional flock of 59 Jackdaws © Dean Jones

Male Ring Ouzel in Barton Field, 2 Apr © Dean Jones

Other birds along the South End and the Lower East Side Path included a Great Northern Diver (Rosie Ellis), the Quarters Water Rail, four Woodpigeon, 14 Skylark, 47 Meadow Pipit, three Pied Wagtail, eight Blackcap, 16 Chiffchaff, eight Willow Warbler, four Goldcrest, eight Dunnock, four Robin, three Stonechat, two Wheatear, six Blackbird, 16 Redwing, a lone Fieldfare, four Chaffinch, 12 Goldfinch and three Linnet.

Non-avian news: Along the sheltered and sun-kissed east coast this afternoon there was lots of queen bumblebee activity, with at least 30 Buff-tailed Bumblebees, one White-tailed and two Common Carder Bees noted. Butterflies were also on show today, with three Peacocks along the East Side, a Small Tortoiseshell in Millcombe and the first Green-veined White of the spring on the Terrace. Finally, a total of three Barrel Jellyfish were recorded along the east.

Friday 3rd April

A cold and overcast start to the day, coupled with a light south-westerly breeze, becoming warm and sunny by the afternoon.

Despite the better conditions for passage, it was a rather quiet day on the migrant front. A small push of Pied and alba Wagtails (14 birds) was observed first thing, as well as small numbers of Willow Warbler (8) and Chiffchaff (12) in Millcombe. Eleven of the Jackdaws from yesterday – perhaps the original Church Tower gang – were present in Barton Field during the mid-morning. Six Swallows were also recorded making their way north throughout the day, and a female Greenfinch was calling from the Laundry Garden privet in the late afternoon.

Other birds include the Quarters Water Rail, four Woodpigeon, 25 Skylark, 54 Meadow Pipit, two Blackcap, six Goldcrest, five Dunnock, three Robin (including one bird gathering nesting material in Millcombe), three Wheatear, seven Blackbird, two Redwing, four Chaffinch, 14 Goldfinch and six Linnet.

Guillemots, Razorbills & Puffins on their breeding ledges at Jenny's Cove, 1 Apr © Dean Jones

Ringing totals (retraps in brackets): Willow Warbler 4, Chiffchaff 5 (1), Blackcap 1, Goldcrest (1), Wren (1) and a House Sparrow (1).

Saturday 4th April

Sunny spells, prolonged overcast periods and a stiff southerly wind, turning south-easterly by the evening.

Birding highlights from today included a very handsome male Merlin – the first of the spring – hunting Meadow Pipits in Barton Field in the afternoon. Further up the island, a Great Northern Diver was rafting upon the hefty swell offshore from the Terrace. The Church Tower Jackdaws remained on the island for the first few hours of the day before they were seen gaining height and disappearing north over the Village, and a small fall of Phylloscopus warblers was noted, most of which were foraging inconspicuously in some of the more sheltered areas of the island.

A rather worn Peacock basking on the Terrace, 2 Apr © Zoë Barton

Sightings of note included the Quarters Water Rail again, eight Woodpigeon, two Kestrel together over the Terrace, a Sparrowhawk in Millcombe first thing, 17 Swallow, two House Martin over Quarter Wall, a single Sand Martin, 24 Skylark, 40 Meadow Pipit, two Pied Wagtail, three Blackcap, 19 Willow Warbler, 11 Chiffchaff, six Goldcrest, 12 Dunnock, five Robin, five Blackbird, three Chaffinch, 14 Goldfinch and 23 Linnet.

Sunday 5th April

Strong south-easterly winds today picking up to near gale force by the afternoon – lots of sunshine still between bouts of cloud.

A pretty quiet day today on the bird front as the strong winds enveloped the island. However, there were a few nice birds skulking around in the more calm and sheltered pockets, including a handsome male Firecrest in the elder next to the Gas Shed.

Firecrest by the Gas Shed in Millcombe, 5 Apr © Dean Jones

Other sightings included 82 Manx Shearwater past Rat Island in the early morning (30 mins of observations), five Woodpigeon, a female Kestrel being mobbed by two Peregrine on the East Side, just five Swallow, 27 Skylark, 29 Meadow Pipit, two Pied Wagtail, three Blackcap, 12 Willow Warbler, five Chiffchaff, five Goldcrest, eight Dunnock, five Robin, four Blackbird, three Chaffinch (including one female collecting sheep’s wool in Millcombe for her nest), 16 Goldfinch and 26 Linnet.

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