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Saturday 11 April 2020

8th to 10th Apr – Hoopoe tops a superb few days!

Dean Woodfin Jones sums up three wonderful spring days on Lundy. Thank you Dean for enabling the rest of us to experience the island vicariously through your wonderful words and photos during these strange times!

Wednesday 8th April

A cloudy and very still start to the day, becoming very sunny, hazy, warm and slightly breezier from the east in the afternoon.

A truly beautiful spring day today and with the arrival of the pink Super Moon yesterday evening, the island saw one of the lowest tides of the year today, dropping to just 0.18m around midday! The perfect opportunity to get the wellies on and explore the lower shores and to carry out the annual cup coral counts in the Devil’s Kitchen.

A super-low tide caused by a super pink moon! The Jetty and Landing Bay on 8 Apr © Dean Jones

Lundy is one of the best places to see cup corals in the country, be it from the shore at a good low tide, or by diving around the island. In fact Lundy is one of the only places where you can see all five species that occur around the coast of the UK.

Just two of these species occur in the lower littoral of the Devil’s Kitchen, the Scarlet and Gold Cup Coral Balanophyllia regia and the Devonshire Cup Coral Caryophyllia smithii. Surveys have been carried out on Lundy pretty much annually since 1984, providing insights into how healthy these small intertidal colonies are and how they change over the years. Results from today’s survey showed that the total number of coral over the three sites is up on last year, with the team managing to find a total of 199 Scarlet and Gold Cup Corals (177 in 2019) and 9 Devonshire Cup Corals (8 in 2019) – hooray! Only one of the three colonies showed a slight reduction in the number of corals present, but only slightly, and the third site – a much newer site for these amazing Cnidarians – had more than doubled in size, very encouraging stuff.

Scarlet and Gold Cup Coral colony, Devil's Kitchen, 8 Apr © Dean Jones

On top of that the team also saw lots of other amazing marine beasties such as Cornish Suckerfish, Spiny Starfish, thousands of Porcelain Crabs, the rare and unusual hyroid Candelabrum cocksii and a recently deceased Cuckoo Ray which later became lunch for the Rat Island Great Black-backs.

And that's not all! Whilst pottering along the shore within one of the shallow gullies running the length of the Kitchen, keen eyed Rosie Ellis (Education Officer) managed to find another small colony of 21 Scarlet and Gold Cup Corals bringing the total for the day to 220 – bravo Rosie!

Cuckoo Ray Leucoraja naevus, Landing Bay, 8 Apr © Dean Jones

Now onto the birds!

Avian highlights from a morning's birding included a spectacular little fall of Willow Warbler (90) and Blackcap (31) along the south and east coasts of the island. Furthermore, the first Ringed Plover of the year flew over the island calling loudly in the late morning and a gorgeous female Sparrowhawk was watched coming in off the sea from above Benjamin’s Chair.

The female Sparrowhawk that flew in off the sea from the south, 8 Apr © Dean Jones

Other sightings included nine Manx Shearwater foraging off the east coast in the afternoon, the Quarters Water Rail, four Woodpigeon, one Kestrel, 21 Swallow, two Sand Martin, two House Martin, four Chiffchaff, two Goldcrest, 18 Skylark, nine Pied Wagtail and two fly-over alba wags, 12 Dunnock, three Robin, two male Stonechat, six Wheatear, ten Blackbird, four Redwing, two Chaffinch, 16 Goldfinch and 46 Linnet.

Other non-avian highlights include a Holly Blue butterfly on the wing on the Lower East Side Path, as well as a small number of Peacocks in Millcombe.

Thursday  9th April

The day started off with a beautiful sunrise enhanced as its rays reflected off a glass-like sea. Barely a breath of wind blew throughout the day – other than a slight breeze from the east in the afternoon – perfect conditions to encourage migrants to make their way north.

Sunrise over a glass-like sea – looking over Millcombe and the Landing Bay, 9 Apr © Dean Jones

New additions to the year list today included the first Sedge Warbler of the year singing in the Secret Garden first thing. Nearby a Grasshopper Warbler was reeling away in St John’s Valley for most of the morning, and a stunning male Common Redstart was present on the fence in Barton Field.

Male Common Redstart perched on the fence of Barton Field, 9 Apr © Dean Jones

Other than these star birds, Willow Warbler were present again in good numbers with at least 50 birds dotted around the island, as well as a super arrival of Blackcap, with 75 birds logged. Three White Wagtails were also noted from Brick Field and an Icelandic Redwing was hoaking for a meal between the pony apples in Barton Field.

Some of the fall of about 75 Blackcaps, resting incongruously on Barton Field fence! 9 Apr © Dean Jones

Other sightings of note included a Great Northern Diver in the Landing Bay first thing, a Snipe flushed from South West Field, four Woodpigeon, one Kestrel, 14 Swallow, one Sand Martin, three House Martin, seven Chiffchaff, two Goldcrest, 17 Skylark, 80 Starling, three Pied Wagtail and three fly-over alba wags, 76 Meadow Pipit, six Dunnock, three Robin, two Stonechat, 20 Wheatear (including four candidates for the Greenland race leucorhoa), eight Blackbird, four Redwing, three Chaffinch, 16 Goldfinch and 50 Linnet.

Ringing totals (53 birds caught): Blackcap 22, Willow Warbler 23, Chiffchaff 6, Goldcrest 1 and Dunnock 1.

Friday 10th April

Another hazy start to the day becoming lovely and clear in the afternoon – slight to moderate easterlies throughout.

Another fantastic day of Lundy birding! The title of star bird today has to go to the Hoopoe which was initially flushed from the main track next to Pondsbury at around 11:45. From here it showed very well for a few minutes or so before disappearing in the long sward above the Quarries. The bird was then seen again later in the afternoon feeding back along the main track (Rosie Ellis).

Hoopoe, by the main track, near Pondsbury, 10 Apr © Dean Jones

Other highlights included the first Tree Pipit of the year calling from a height over Millcombe first thing. Later on a Common Buzzard was seen being harassed by a pair of Ravens over Quarter Wall. Two stunning male flavissima Yellow Wagtails were also present in High Street Field, another Sandwich Tern was foraging in the Landing Bay during the late afternoon. Finally, a small arrival of three Song Thrush was recorded across the island.

Buzzard being mobbed by one of the resident Ravens over Quarter Wall, 10 Apr © Dean Jones

Male Yellow Wagtail in High Street Field, 10 Apr © Dean Jones

Other sightings from the south and east coasts included the first two broods of Mallard ducklings on Rocket Pole Pond and Barton Pond, four Woodpigeon in Millcombe, one Kestrel, just three Swallow, three Sand Martin, four House Martin, 25 Blackcap, ten Willow Warbler, four Chiffchaff, one Goldcrest, 22 Skylark, five Pied Wagtail and two fly-over alba wags, one White Wagtail in Brick Field, 98 Meadow Pipit (including a flock of 54 in tent field), eight Dunnock, three Robin, one Stonechat, four Wheatear, nine Blackbird, five Redwing, two Chaffinch, ten Goldfinch and 30 Linnet.

Non-avian sightings included the first Large White of the year in Millcombe.


  1. As far as I'm aware the Cuckoo Ray is very rare. I've consulted my inshore boat angling chums and none of us has even seen one let alone caught one. This one probably fell foul of a Seal. Good enough to play with, not good enough to eat!
    Thanks to all for the great regular updates for those of us unsure when our next Lundy adventures will be!

  2. Hi
    Norman Briden heard a Golden Oriole at Fremington last week. So it may be they are on the way to you!
    Karen Sims Devon Birds Data Manager

    1. Golden Oriole /.,,.. beautiful looking bird

  3. The Hoopoe bird is beautiful.. where do you think it came from ? Lovely photos.I live in Northam.. not too far !!