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Sunday 10 May 2020

7th to 10th May – Golden Oriole and... Rustic Bunting!

News of an action-packed few days from Warden Dean Woodfin Jones:

7th May

A windy start to the day becoming very still by the mid-afternoon – sunshine and clear skies throughout.

Highlights from another great Lundy bird day included the first Turtle Dove of the year – singing its heart out in Millcombe in the mid-afternoon. Nearby a female Cuckoo was calling in the scrub between Government House and Old School in the morning, and it was another good day for Spotted Flycatchers with 12 logged across the island.

Other sightings of note included three Cormorant flying south over Millcombe in the afternoon, two Whimbrel in the Landing Bay, a fly-over Dunlin, a small arrival of Woodpigeon along the east (9), two Collared Dove in the Village, one Kestrel, five Blackcap, two Garden Warbler, two Reed Warbler in Millcombe (one which was caught and ringed), 14 Whitethroat, 13 Sedge Warbler, nine Willow Warbler, two Chiffchaff, 152 Swallow, 52 Sand Martin, 48 House Martin, two Swift, a single Stonechat, eight Pied Wagtails, 15 Goldfinch (including a pair of collecting nest material in Millcombe) and 25 Linnet (including a few pairs also collecting nest material).

Garden Warbler, Terrace willows, 7 May © Dean Jones

One of the two Reed Warblers in Millcombe on 7 May © Dean Jones

Resting hirundines below Hanmers, 7 May © Dean Jones

Non-avian sightings included clouds of Cocksfoot Moths Glyphipterix simpliciella in Millcombe and along the Beach Road and a Silver Y flushed from the Lower East Side Path.

Cocksfoot Moths on Oxeye Daisy, Beach Road, 7 May © Dean Jones

8th May

Another beautiful still, calm day; sunshine, hazy in the morning, becoming overcast by the early afternoon.

The unquestionable highlight of the day came in the form of a male Golden Oriole which was singing and calling in Millcombe just above the Casbah first thing. Although the bird was being very vocal, I didn’t managed to actually see it until later in the day due to the now lush-green canopies in Millcombe providing perfect camouflage. Luckily though, come the afternoon, Tom was driving down the Valley in his ATV, after his umpteenth lamb check of the day, and flushed the bird, allowing brief but spectacular views in flight. Thanks Tom!

Coming a close second was a spectacular pod of c.60 Common Dolphin off the east coast in mid-morning. This big group – which included a number of small calves – spent around 30 minutes feeding only a few hundred metres offshore from the Terrace before moving north and out of sight. A brilliant start to the day.

Other birds logged included 35 Shag along the east coast (obviously lots of food about today), a lone Whimbrel, another small arrival of Woodpigeon along the east (11), four Collared Dove, eight Blackcap, a Reed Warbler in the Terrace willows, two Whitethroat, seven Sedge Warbler (including a bird sporting a ring from elsewhere in the UK), seven Willow Warbler, six Chiffchaff (which included a nice abietinus-type bird), 30 Swallow, five Sand Martin, three House Martin, a single Swift, two Pied Wagtail, six Spotted Flycatcher, a Whinchat below the Terrace, 10 Goldfinch and 12 Linnet.

Collared Doves on the Laundry Room roof, 8 May © Dean Jones

Possible abietinus Chiffchaff. It called on release and sounded better for this race than tristis, Millcombe, 8 May © Dean Jones

The rest of the morning was spent finding and counting Starling nests around the Village, Church and the Old Lighthouse. So far there are 48 active nests – most of which have big noisy chicks in them – a figure which is unfortunately down on the 2019 total (56). There were a few birds still collecting nest material around the farm, however, so fingers crossed this figure will increase by the end of the spring.

Male Starling  – we are so lucky to have such beautiful birds nesting all around us here in the Village, 8 May © Dean Jones

Non-avian sightings included another Silver Y on the Lower East Side Path, six male Emperor Moths around Pondsbury and a Barrel Jellyfish in Halfway Wall Bay.

Ringing totals from a quiet morning session included: 2 Sedge Warbler (including the control bird), 1 Blackcap, 3 Willow Warbler, 3 Chiffchaff and a Goldfinch.

9th May

Another beautiful summer-like day with wall-to-wall sunshine and a very light easterly breeze.

Highlights included the male Golden Oriole for his second day (much showier today but I still didn’t manage a photo), a rather tatty Common Buzzard over the Village, two Common Sandpiper foraging along the shoreline in the Landing Bay, two Pied Flycatcher having a wash in the stream next to the Casbah and two female Common Redstart flitting around the Quarries.

The best of the rest included a lone Whimbrel, six Blackcap, six Whitethroat, ten Sedge Warbler, three Willow Warbler, just one Chiffchaff, 18 Swallow, two House Martin, two Pied Wagtail, three Stonechat (including a female bird delivering food to chicks on the east coast), a big Greenland-type Wheatear on the main track and nine Spotted Flycatcher.

Spotted Flycatcher,  Bramble Villa, 9 May © Dean Jones

Non-avian sightings included the first Common Blue of the year next to the Beach Road.

Good numbers of the micro-moth Cydia ulicetana were flying around the sunlit gorse on the East Side, 9 May © Dean Jones

10th May

A beautiful, sunny and clear morning with a light north-east breeze, becoming cloudy and very windy by the early afternoon.

It was a rather quiet start in Millcombe first thing, with very few migrants moving up the Valley and into the mist-nets. A secretive Lesser Whitethroat near the Walled Gardens got the heart racing and a few singing Sedge Warbler and a fly-over Tree Pipit raised the spirits during empty net rounds. Then as the forecast predicted, the wind picked up and the nets had to be furled.

It was then – as I was tying up the last of the nets in the Secret Garden – that I heard a bird “zitting” high up on the Sycamore in the heart of the garden. Luckily I could just about see its head through the canopy and, as I raised my binoculars, I was immediately met with a beautiful chestnut-and-white face pattern – the markings of a female Rustic Bunting!

The bird then flew around the Valley for a few minutes or so, perching briefly again in the trees next to Millcombe House before flying towards St John’s Valley and out of sight. This is the first spring record of this beautiful bunting for Lundy and the seventh overall – the last of which was on 1st October 2015.

Other birds of note from today included two Whimbrel, the fifth Cuckoo of the spring – singing in Millcombe in the early afternoon (Sue Waterfield), two Collared Dove, two Kestrels (defending a possible breeding territory from passing Carrion Crow), eight Blackcap, four Whitethroat, two Sedge Warbler, five Willow Warbler, five Chiffchaff, 29 Swallow, three House Martin, a single Sand Martin, three Pied Wagtails, a male Yellow Wagtail in Brick Field, three Spotted Flycatcher and 30 Linnet.

Record shot of the female Rustic Bunting, Millcombe, 10 May © Dean Jones

Cropped copy of the same image © Dean Jones

Non-avian news included the first Small Heath of the year next to the Tennis Lawn and a Slow-worm and two Rosechafer beetles on the Terrace.

Ringing totals from a brief morning session before the wind got up included: 2 Blackcap, 3 Chiffchaff, 1 Willow Warbler, 1 Whitethroat, 1 Linnet, 1 Robin and a retrap House Sparrow.

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

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