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Wednesday 1 April 2020

30th & 31st Mar – More Jackdaws and an unlucky Woodcock

Dean Jones provides an end-of-month update on the latest avian and other goings-on on Lundy...

March 30th

Another chilly but sunny start to the day, becoming cloudy by the mid-afternoon – strong north-easterlies throughout much of the morning which slackened off significantly by early afternoon.

Due to the less than desirable birding conditions for most, the day was spent ticking off jobs on the to-do list. These included taking willow cuttings to plant and bulk out the St John’s Valley bird-ringing site, tidying up the Millcombe Valley tree nursery (lots of mulch mats flapping around in the wind) and completing this month’s rodent bait station checks.

Although the chances of a rat or mouse managing to reach Lundy now is very slim with the island being closed to visitors, it is still very important to check each box thoroughly every month – particularly for rats which are very good swimmers – to ensure none have made it to the island from any of the passing ships. There are 70 stations dotted across the island, each of which houses a little block of either chocolate or peanut butter flavoured wax designed to entice any rodent to go into the station and leave its tell-tale teeth marks and droppings. If a box does house signs of a rat or mouse, it allows us to pinpoint the rough area of incursion and catch any possible harmful rodents before they breed and spread across the island and predate any young seabirds, such as Puffins, or ground-nesting birds. Luckily for us and the birds, there were no signs of any rats or mice on the island today, rather a few little droppings deposited in a few boxes by our endearing native Pygmy Shrews.

The Warden checking a rodent monitoring station at the South Light – one of the 70 around the island © Zoë Barton

Avian highlights from this beautiful spring day included a Red-throated Diver and a Great Northern Diver close into the Landing Bay in the morning, a flock of 14 Jackdaw which parachuted into the Tent/Helicopter Field in mid-afternoon and two Common Gull feeding offshore from Rat Island. Note: The Jackdaw flock is highest count since a record-breaking 31 arrived on 18 Oct 2007.

The Jackdaw flock in the Tent/Helicopter Field, 30th Mar © Dean Jones

Other birds of note included the Quarters Water Rail, eight Woodpigeon in Barton Field, the male Sparrowhawk again in Millcombe, two more colour-ringed Wheatear at the Castle, two Stonechat, 20 Skylark, 81 Meadow Pipit, seven Pied Wagtail, three Chiffchaff, one Blackcap, only one Goldcrest, three Song Thrush, five Chaffinch, 15 Goldfinch and 10 Linnet.

Non-avian news included a Barrel Jellyfish in the Landing Bay and four Black Oil Beetles on Lametor.

Black Oil Beetle on track next to South Light, 30th Mar © Dean Jones

March 31st

Blustery north-easterlies with sunny spells again this morning gave way to clear skies and a breeze by the late afternoon.

Despite their being an obvious lack of birds on the plateau first thing, the morning took an interesting turn once I realised that seven of the nine Highland Cattle had broken through Quarter Wall fence and were making their way along the Upper East Side Path. After cutting off their route just before the northern border of Barton Field – I managed to rustle the herd back in the direction of Quarter Wall.

From here, as the hairy beasts made their way back along the path above White Beach, the leading steer flushed a Woodcock from the undergrowth which subsequently made a beeline for cover further south. However this didn’t go unnoticed and as soon as the bird flushed, a female Peregrine, which had been hanging in the wind, swooped down and gave chase. After a couple of seconds of spectacular aerial manoeuvring, the Peregrine closed in and managed to catch the Woodcock just a few metres away from where I was standing. Although I felt bad for the poor Woodcock which had just become the Peregrine's breakfast – thanks to the pesky cattle – I also felt blessed to have witnessed the island’s top predator in action. What a bird!

The gang reunited! 31st Mar © Dean Jones

Other avian highlights from the day included another Red-throated Diver off Rat Island, a different bird from the one seen yesterday based on the extent of its breeding plumage, seven Jackdaw in High Street Field and a 3rd-calendar-year Mediterranean Gull and eight Common Gull foraging in the Southern Races.

Further sightings of note were three Teal on Pondsbury, the Quarters Water Rail, the male Sparrowhawk again in Millcombe, nine Puffin on the water in Jenny’s Cove, 134 Guillemot on ledges and 304 Razorbill mostly offshore, eleven Wheatear, two Stonechat, 34 Skylark, 81 Meadow Pipit, three Pied Wagtail, one Chiffchaff below Benjamin’s Chair, one Song Thrush, six Chaffinch, seven Goldfinch and 16 Linnet.

Non-avian sightings included a single Harbour Porpoise off Rat Island.

Jackdaws, a Carrion Crow and Starlings enjoying the evening sun on St Helen's Church, 31st Mar © Dean Jones
Sika Deer in South West Field trying to shelter from the north-east winds, 31st Mar © Dean Jones

Please note that the Landmark Trust has updated its advice regarding the Covid-19 outbreak. The latest statement, dated 30 March, can be found here.

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