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Saturday 6 June 2020

30th May to 5th Jun – Seabirds, fledglings & moths galore, plus a singing Rosefinch!

Pour a glass of something nice, find somewhere comfy to sit, and immerse yourself in a whole week's worth of Lundy wildlife, thanks to a bumper update from Warden Dean Woodfin Jones. When does that man sleep?!

30th May

Overcast with sunny spells – light easterlies in the morning picking up in the late afternoon – perfect conditions for a full wrap around the island's coast to count cliff-nesting seabirds!

A beautiful day for counting seabirds! The West Side looking south from Long Roost, 30 May © Dean Jones

Birds logged included 191 Fulmar, 89 Shag (some of which had large chicks in their nests at Long Roost), a Whimbrel at the Castle, 28 Oystercatcher, 330 Kittiwake, 7,637 Guillemot, 2,384 Razorbill, 397 Puffin, the Quarters Water Rail, three Woodpigeon, a single Swift, a Kestrel hunting in Tent Field, 14 Raven (there have been four successful nests this year), 26 Skylark, 11 Swallow, two House Martin, a singing Willow Warbler in Millcombe, four Blackcap, five Whitethroat, eight Blackbird (including singing males in Gannets’ Combe and Threequarter Wall Bay), five Spotted Flycatcher, four Stonechat, the first Dunnock fledglings of the year in Smelly Gully, 54 Wheatear (including the first fledgling of the year waiting on a meal from Dad at Halfway Wall), 69 Meadow Pipit, 21 Rock Pipit, three Chaffinch, 12 Goldfinch and 47 Linnet.

"What's that funny smell?" First Dunnock fledgling of 2020, 'Smelly Gully' (lower Millcombe), 30 May © Dean Jones

And the first freshly minted Wheatear of the year at Halfway Wall, 30 May © Dean Jones

Non-avian sightings included the first Meadow Brown butterfly of the year on the Lower East Side Path, two Silver Y, hundreds of Turnip Sawfly on the wing at North End and a Black Rabbit in Gannets’ Combe – the first for many years, due to myxomatosis.

May 31st

Stiff easterly winds in the morning, dropping to a gentle breeze by the evening – clear skies and sunshine for most, give or take a few cloudy spells.

Highlights from another wonderful day of Puffin and Fulmar productivity studies included a pair of Bullfinch foraging in the Turkey Oaks behind Bramble Villas. Additionally, there were lots of new fledglings around the island, including the first Goldfinch fledglings in Millcombe and Meadow Pipits at the Quarries.

Auks in Jenny's Cove, 31 May © Dean Jones

Other birds logged included four Woodpigeon, a Collared Dove, one Kestrel, 20 Skylark, seven Swallow, one each of Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff, five each of Blackcap and Whitethroat (the latter all singing males), four Spotted Flycatcher, four Stonechat, five Pied Wagtail, five Chaffinch, 12 Goldfinch and a handful of Linnet.

Today also saw a small arrival of Red Admiral along the east coast and Millcombe, and the first Hummingbird Hawk-moth of the year – feeding on the Red Valerian in the Secret Garden.

1st June

An absolute scorcher of a day! Clear skies and wall-to-wall sunshine and very little in the way of wind throughout.

The day’s avian highlight was a first-year male Common Rosefinch singing in Millcombe first thing. Although views of the bird were brief and distant, this handsome chap sang his heart out for around 20 minutes or so before going quiet and disappearing into the canopy. A real treat to start the day!

The rest of the day was spent down the cliffs surveying Kittiwakes at Aztec Bay and Threequarter Wall and Guillemots at St Mark’s Stone.

So far our Kittiwakes are doing OK with most now sitting on complete clutches. Saying that, there are still a number of late nests where birds have yet to lay, along with a few re-builds where nests have been lost due to strong winds or poor nest-building. All in all, it looks as though it may be a poor year for productivity, with both sites showing reductions in nest numbers. Currently over both sites there are 112 active nests, down 20 nests since last year.

The Guillemots at St Mark’s Stone are faring very well, however, with the first chicks appearing today and at least 200 other birds incubating eggs – a figure which is up slightly on the 2019 totals.

Other birds of note included a Sparrowhawk, three Woodpigeon, one Collared Dove, 211 Kittiwake (Aztec Bay and Threequarter Wall Buttress), a Swift, three Willow Warbler (all singing birds in Millcombe and the Terrace), three Blackcap, three Whitethroat, four Spotted Flycatcher and five Swallow.

On the non-avian front, it was a very productive evening of moth-trapping on the night of 30th/1st, with 228 individuals of 41 different species turning up in the Millcombe Heath trap. Highlights included two new species for the island: the stunning micro-moth Tinea semifulvella and a Grey Arches!

The handsome micro-moth Tinea semifulvella – a first for Lundy, 1 Jun
© Dean Jones

Grey Arches Polia nebulosa was also new for Lundy, 1 Jun © Dean Jones

Also in the trap were two nationally rare/scarce moths: Nothris congressariella (2) and Barrett’s Marbled Coronet (1), as well as a number of firsts for the year, including several Light Emeralds, singles of Sandy Carpet, Clouded Silver, Lime-speck Pug and Green Carpet. Nothris congressariella occurs only at a handful of sites in the UK. It feeds on Balm-leaved Figwort – itself an extremely localised plant.

The extremely localised micro-moth Nothris congressariella,
1 Jun © Dean Jones

The nationally scarce Barrett's Marbled Coronet Conisania andalusica,
1 Jun © Dean Jones

2nd June

Another scorcher of a day!

Not an awful lot to note from another day of Puffin surveys, other than the first Linnet fledglings of the year in South West Field, a single Spotted Flycatcher in Millcombe, three Whitethroat, singles of Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff and another Hummingbird Hawk-moth feeding along South West Point.

3rd June

A day of overcast, with moderate northerly winds throughout. We also managed to get a bit of rain in the late afternoon and evening, albeit only a brief shower. This was the first drop of rain for some time; in fact only 15.1mm fell throughout the whole of May – mostly in the form of drizzle and mist rather than actual rainfall. Looking back through our records (1971–2019), this will be the second driest May on record for Lundy (only 2.8mm fell in May 1991) – 39.7mm below the May average for the island.

With the very welcome overcast conditions providing less heat haze and therefore better visibility, today was spent roaming up and down the cliffs along the south and west coasts looking for colour-ringed Wheatears as part of an ongoing RAS project on the island (see blog post for 24th to 27th March for further details). Some of these birds are very good at hiding, particularly those that nest lower down on the sidelands and cliffs. However, at this time of year when they are feeding large nestlings or recently fledged chicks, they become much more conspicuous as they come up to the top of the island to forage for invertebrates.

We also managed a visit to the Manx Shearwater nestboxes this afternoon to try and catch the few missing partner birds currently incubating eggs.

Avian highlights – other than the shearwaters and Wheatears – included a fly-over Crossbill in Millcombe first thing. Other than this magic bird, sightings were very similar to the previous day, with a number of singing warblers, a Spotted Flycatcher in Millcombe and a Swift over the Village in late afternoon.

The moth trap was again very productive overnight (2nd/3rd), with 373 moths of 25 different species – most of which were Bright-line Brown-eye (186) and Heart & Dart (117). Among all these common brown jobbies, however, a further three new species for the island were caught, including Marbled White Spot, the micro-moth Acrobasis suavella and a rather surprising Sycamore – the latter is a species that is very localised here in the South West and, going by the National Biodiversity Network Atlas, absent from North Devon, so this individual was quite the find.

Sycamore Acronicta aceris – another new moth for Lundy!
3 Jun © Dean Jones

4th June

Overcast with intermittent sunny spells and a stiff SW wind – picking up more so in the evening – light showers in the evening also.

Another wonderful morning was spent watching the island's Puffins bringing fish to their chicks in Jenny’s Cove – part of our annual productivity studies. There were good numbers of birds – their bills chock full of sandeels – most of which were seen rushing down their burrows from flight in order to avoid the hungry Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls which are also nesting on this slope.

By mid-morning, the productivity slope was covered in birds! It’s hard to think that this time 15 years ago there were only five Puffins counted on the whole island – none of which were present in Jenny’s Cove. Whereas today there were 115 birds running around, fighting and affectionately billing on the productivity slope, and 317 birds in total between the Battery and the Pyramid – a truly incredible recovery of numbers since the eradication of rats was confirmed in 2006.

Puffins galore! It's great to see their recovery since the eradication of rats from the island, 4 Jun © Dean Jones

Just below the Puffin slope, Welsh-born Guillemot 'Red 0114' (see blog post for 1st to 3rd May) was still sat tight on its egg, which should be hatching very shortly. Amazingly, there was another colour-ringed bird not far from Red 0114 today. This bird was wearing two unmarked orange rings on its left leg and a metal ring on its right. Fingers crossed we’ll hear back shortly about where this individual has come from – watch this space!

Puffins don't have a monopoly on orange legs! The new colour-ringed Guillemot at Jenny's Cove, 4 Jun © Dean Jones

The rest of the day was spent looking for more colour-ringed Wheatears and making another visit to the Manx Shearwater nestboxes.

Colour-ringed male Wheatear 'red over green' (right leg) at Pilot's Quay, 3 Jun © Dean Jones

Other birds of note included two Chiffchaff together in Millcombe (fingers crossed we’ll have another breeding attempt this year), 44 Wheatear between Jenny’s Cove and Old Light, most of which were recently fledged birds, and two Spotted Flycatcher in Millcombe.

5th June

Moderate north-westerlies picking up by the late evening, cloudy for most but with a few sunny spells by the late morning and some more rain in the evening.

It was a bit too windy for seabird surveys, unfortunately, so instead the day was spent looking for more colour-ringed Wheatears in sheltered parts of the south-west of the island, and then catching up with paperwork and data-entry.

More and more cute Wheatear fledglings are appearing across the island – these at the Battery, 5 Jun © Dean Jones

Birds logged included a lovely male Siskin on the feeders outside Paradise Row (Sue Waterfield), a single Spotted Flycatcher in Millcombe, and two each of Whitethroat, Blackcap, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff.

94 moths of 21 species were caught in the Millcombe Heath trap overnight on 4th/5th. Highlights included yet another Vine’s Rustic and the first L-album Wainscot of the year.

Finally, the first Painted Lady of the year was on the wing below the Castle.

Lundy is currently closed to visitors due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The latest information from the Landmark Trust (dated 4th June) can be found here.

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