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Sunday 24 May 2020

19th to 23rd May – A veritable array of spectacular wildlife!

Dean Jones reports on another five days of birding and wildlife activity on our favourite island.

19th May

Thick mist during the early hours becoming clear but overcast around 08:00 hrs – sunshine by the late morning which continued through the afternoon – south-west breeze throughout.

Today saw a superb north-bound passage of hirundines with 1,794 Swallow, 471 House Martin and 36 Sand Martin logged throughout the day. Other highlights included a Great Northern Diver offshore from Quarry Beach, a Cuckoo being mobbed by Meadow Pipits whilst perched on the Tillage Field fence, a Tree Pipit flying over Middle Park in the late morning, and three Spotted Flycatcher along the east coast. The first Robin fledglings of the year were making a racket in the Walled Gardens in Millcombe.

A thrift-covered North End – one of the best places to watch spring hirundine migration on the island © Dean Jones
Great Northern Diver, off Quarry Beach, 19 May © Dean Jones

Other sightings included a first-year Cormorant at North End, six Woodpigeon, one Kestrel, two Willow Warbler, three Chiffchaff, two each of Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler and Blackcap, two Swift, 20 Skylark, 30 Meadow Pipit, 11 Goldfinch, 37 Linnet and four Chaffinch (two breeding pairs).

A good selection (25 species) and number (101) of moths turned up in the Heath trap in Millcombe last night. Among them were four Dark Sword Grass, another Vine’s Rustic, the first Cream-spot Tiger, Peppered Moth, White Ermine and Large Yellow Underwing of the year, and a good number of Bright-line Brown-eye (43 in total).

Cream-spot Tiger, Millcombe, 19 May © Dean Jones
The expertly camouflaged Peppered Moth, Millcombe, 19 May © Dean Jones

20th May

Shortly after sunrise, a thick mist rolled in on an easterly breeze, coming and going sporadically through the morning up until midday – winds then switched to the south-west, bringing with them some beautiful sunshine between a few cloudy spells – thunder and lightning offshore to the south shortly after midnight.

Sea mist rolling out of the Landing Bay, 20 May © Dean Jones

Another spectacular day of Lundy birding, topped off by a beautiful female or sub-adult male Golden Oriole in Millcombe – the second record so far this spring following a singing adult male in Millcombe on 8th May. As these birds tend to be rather shy, observations were again limited to brief fly-bys as the bird moved from both sides of the valley.

A record shot of the Golden Oriole in Millcombe, 20 May © Dean Jones

Additionally, the Conservation Team enjoyed a fairly productive evening of Manx Shearwater ringing along the west coast. Here a total of 22 birds were caught, which included 13 new birds and nine retraps (birds caught and ringed in previous years), the oldest of which was a bird ringed as an adult in 2008.

Other sightings from another wonderful day of Kittiwake and Guillemot surveys included the first of the island's breeding Wheatear and Rock Pipit collecting food for nestlings along the south and east sidelands. Yet another pair of Chaffinch were seen building a nest in Millcombe (bringing the total number of breeding pairs this year to three). Also logged were four Woodpigeon, a singing Collared Dove in Millcombe,  a Golden Plover on the Airfield (Rosie Ellis), 41 Swallow, seven House Martin, a Swift over Tibbetts in the afternoon, a Willow Warbler singing in Quarter Wall copse, two Chiffchaff, three singing male Whitethroat, four Blackcap, one Sedge Warbler, two Tree Pipit, a lone Spotted Flycatcher on the Terrace, eight Goldfinch and 17 Linnet.

Out at sea, Andrew Bengey and the Obsession II crew, who delivered lots of yummy fresh fruit and veg to the island today, were joined by a Minke Whale about halfway across from Ilfracombe. The whale accompanied the boat for around 10 minutes, along with numerous Common Dolphin!

Finally, the Heath moth-trap was deployed at Benjamin’s Chair last night. It proved to be a less fruitful night of catching than the previous night, with just 23 moths of nine different species caught. Highlights were two apiece of Cream-spot Tiger and Fox Moth, and two early Northern Rustics.

21st May

Another misty start to the day which thankfully cleared by 07:30 hrs – overcast for a few hours in the morning before the sun came out and temperatures rose – a light south-west breeze for the most part, picking up to near gale force by the end of the evening.

Most of the day (post-mist) was spent watching Puffins at Jenny’s Cove. A total of 297 burrows have now been mapped, and although we expect the first of the 'pufflings' to hatch in the very near future, there were still a number of birds collecting nest material and excavating new burrows in the study plot.

Birds logged today included the first Starling fledglings in the Farmyard, a male Cuckoo singing his heart out on the Terrace for most of the morning and afternoon, a Kestrel hovering over Castle Parade, five Woodpigeon (including one bird in Jenny’s Cove), a singing Collared Dove on the Tavern roof, 35 Swallow, 13 House Martin, two singing Chiffchaff, the three territorial male Whitethroat, three male Blackcap, one Sedge Warbler, a Tree Pipit over the Church in the morning, a lone Spotted Flycatcher, four Stonechat, nine Goldfinch and 22 Linnet.

The year's first Starling fledgling, Farmyard, 21 May © Dean Jones

One of this year's breeding pairs of Chaffinch are currently incubating eggs in a rather unusual
nest attached to the side of a dead branch in Millcombe, 21 May © Dean Jones

Non-avian sightings included the first Blue-tailed Damselfly of the year at Quarter Wall Pond.

22nd May

Gale force south-west winds throughout – sunshine for most of the day with a few overcast periods.

Unsurprisingly, due to the strong winds, it was a much quieter day bird-wise. As the team couldn’t get out along the west coast cliffs for seabird surveys, most of the day was spent checking in on breeding birds along the east coast and catching up with paperwork and data entry.

Birds logged included a late adult Mistle Thrush in Barton Field, the Quarters Water Rail, eight Woodpigeon, two Collared Dove, six Swallow, three House Martin, four Blackcap, three Whitethroat, singles of Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff, five Chaffinch, 18 Goldfinch and 12 Linnet.

23rd May

Another day of strong south-west winds, clear skies and sunshine.

Not an awful lot of note bird-wise other than a single Spotted Flycatcher and two singing Willow Warbler in Millcombe, another pair of Stonechat collecting food for nestlings along the east coast (bringing the total number of breeding pairs this year to four), a fly-over Swift, the three territorial male Whitethroats again, 17 Goldfinch and a handful of Swallow and House Martin.

Hundreds of Round-leaved Sundews are now adding a splash of colour to the boggy areas of the island
– here's one from the Quarries, with its invertebrate prey, 23 May © Dean Jones

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

1 comment:

  1. Great shot of the Oriole well done
    Excellent reporting as per usual, wish I was there
    Iachi da