There is a lot of truth in the saying 'There’s never a dull day on Lundy’! Over the past eleven days we’ve welcomed the first day-trippers to the island from the 14th, carried out lots of socially distanced guided walks, doted on our most recent addition to the Lundy Pony family, undergone some firefighting training and facilitated a very special visit from the BBC – more on the latter in the next few weeks – and that’s even before we consider the heaps of interesting and exciting wildlife sightings that have been logged!
|'Chantam Kittiwake III' – the latest recruit to the Lundy Pony gang – with her mother 'Annie', 18 Jul © Dean Jones
|Playing with fire... The team undergoes firefighter training at Rocket Pole Pond, 15 Jul © Ash Garfoot
Following on from the last post, the weather has been much more pleasant, settled and summer-like throughout most of this period – give or take a few wet and misty spells on a few days. This was particularly so during Friday and Saturday past, where the winds dropped off to nothing, temperatures rose and the clouds dissipated, which allowed for some superb stargazing come the evening.
|A glorious summer's day near the Devil's Slide, 10 Jul © Dean Jones
|The clear nights have afforded some superb views of Comet NEOWISE © Ash Garfoot
As always during the summer months, it was the seabirds that stole the show over the last week and a bit. The island's Guillemots and Razorbills have near all but left us for another season, with only a few of either species hanging on along the west coast at present (only 64 Guillemots and a single Razorbill were on the cliffs between Jenny’s Cove and Aztec Bay on the 19th, following a count of 2,033 and 455 birds respectively on the 10th). Guillemot productivity studies have also finished for another year, with all of the St Mark’s Stone birds leaving the site by the 12th. Although the final results still need to be double-checked, 2020 seems to have been a great year for productivity, with at least 165 chicks managing to fledge from 217 breeding pairs – a record for this site!
|One of just two Guillemot chicks remaining in the productivity plot on St Mark's Stone, 10 Jul © Dean Jones
|Going, going... GONE! A very empty St Mark's Stone productivity plot, 12 Jul © Dean Jones
|Perhaps the last close encounter of the season; our Razorbills will spend the rest of the year at sea,
10 Jul © Dean Jones
From one auk to another – a number of the island' s Puffins are still busy yo-yoing to and from Jenny’s Cove with bills full of sandeels for young chicks, though in much smaller numbers compared to the start of the month, now that most of the young have left their comfortable burrows for the high seas. Around the corner, most of our young Kittiwakes have been fattening up and strengthening wings in preparation for their maiden flights. The first took to the wing in Aztec Bay on the 19th. Unfortunately, we have lost another four nests and a heart-wrenching 12 chicks over the two productivity sites since the last blogpost, mostly due to either hungry Lesser Black-backed Gulls, competition with siblings and/or falling from crumbling and crowded nests. All fingers and toes are crossed for the remaining 106 chicks!
|Some of the Kittiwake ledges in the Aztec Bay colony are getting rather crowded... 11 Jul © Dean Jones
|Kittiwakes roosting on the slopes of Pyramid Rock, 15 Jul © Dean Jones
One of the ultimate highlights from each season is popping down to visit the Manx Shearwater nestboxes along the west coast (30 boxes in total). Visits are particularly exciting at this time of year as the first of the very fluffy chicks start to appear inside. The wardening team headed out on the 11th to see how many of the seven breeding attempts recorded in the boxes earlier in the year had made it through to the chick stage. Lucky for us, all seven boxes were still occupied and contained either a young chick or an adult bird still sat tight on a soon-to-hatch egg – exciting stuff!
|One of the adorable Manx Shearwater chicks nestled in its box, 11 Jul © Dean Jones
The team managed a trip out to the North End for a spot of Storm Petrel ringing on the 16th. Here a total of 35 birds were caught through the night, 31 of which were new birds. Three were retraps (all birds ringed on Lundy on 23.08.19) and one control (a bird ringed elsewhere, details to follow in due course). The team also managed to catch several Manx Shearwater, so all-in-all a very productive and enjoyable night's ringing.
|The calm before the stormies... Sunset from North Light, 16 Jul © Zoë Barton
|One of the 35 Storm Petrels caught at North End on the night of 16 Jul © Dean Jones
Finally on the seabrd front, more and more Shag chicks are making their way to the low shore, and the Fulmar productivity plot at Gannets’ Rock is quickly filling up with portly chicks (12 present so far, as of the 19th).
|We might have to change the name of Gannets' Rock to Fulmar Rock! © Dean Jones
In other breeding-bird news... sadly, due to the poor weather prior to this period (which made finding and catching food very tricky for a lot of our breeding landbirds) our four beloved Spotted Flycatcher chicks were found dead in their nest on the 10th, not the best way to start off the morning's census.
Happily, not all the island's nestlings were affected in the same way. Highlights included a second pair of Blackcaps feeding young in the Walled Gardens on the 9th, and the Chiffchaff pair that have been holding territory in lower Millcombe this summer were seen feeding a single fledgling on the 14th. A number of Blackbirds, Stonechats and Dunnocks have also been seen feeding recently fledged young throughout this period and our Kestrel chicks are still going strong and have been exploring various parts of the island since fledging.
|Waiting for Mum & Dad... a Blackcap chick eager for another beakful of invertebrates, 9 Jul © Dean Jones
In addition to all the wonderful breeding bird action as of late (minus our Spot Flys), Lundy has also been treated to a small flurry of southbound migrants this past week or so. These included small numbers of Swift on four dates – with a peak count of 46 birds on the 11th – as well as the first Willow Warblers of the autumn, where up to 12 birds have been logged in Millcombe and along the east coast each day since the 14th. Furthermore, a number of Grey Heron have also arrived on the island, with a single bird turning up in Barton Field on the 10th, followed by three past St Mark’s Stone on the 12th and single birds at Pondsbury on the 13th, 14th and 15th. A Curlew flew over the Airfield on the afternoon of the 16th and finally, a juvenile Cuckoo spent most of the afternoon dodging angry Meadow Pipits below the Ugly on the 15th.
|Grey Herons off St Mark's Stone, 12 Jul © Dean Jones
|Juvenile Cuckoo below the Ugly, 15 Jul © Dean Jones
In contrast to all the bird action, it has been a rather quiet period for butterflies and day-flying moths despite all the warm summer weather. Highlights included the first Gatekeeper and Comma butterflies of the year along the east coast and in Middle Park respectively.
The moth trap has been relatively quiet too but we have managed to record a few more 'firsts for the year' like Dark Fruit-tree Tortrix, Lackey, Common Footman, Fan-foot and Buff Arches. Additionally, a second generation of Early Thorns are now on the wing and a migrant Diamond-back Moth turned up in the Millcombe Heath trap on the 16th.
|Buff Arches Habrosyne pyritoides – a highlight of recent moth-trapping efforts, 16 Jul © Dean Jones
Despite numerous searches – and attempts to attract adults in with a pheromone lure – the team haven’t managed to find any adult Lunar Hornet Moths post-discovery of a number of empty larval cases on 7th July (see previous blogpost). Maybe next summer!
Looking out to sea, visitors and staff have been treated to some superb cetacean action over the past few days. Chris and Sharron Blackmore from the Lundy Field Society have been over to carry out their annual seawatch surveys from Castle Parade. They managed to find a number of small pods of Common Dolphin on the 11th and 12th as well as up to six Harbour Porpoise each day – a superb effort, bravo! We also received news from the Oldenburg on the 11th that a big pod of over 100 Common Dolphin were foraging and playing around the bow of the ship, to the delight of many on board, about an hour out from Bideford. Following on from this, islanders Sue and Alice Waterfield saw numerous pods off the west coast on the 12th, adding up to around 100 individuals – surely the same animals that had been seen from the ship a day earlier. Other marine wildlife included six Aequorea forskalea jellyfish washed up in the Landing Bay on the 15th.
Report composed of sightings from Zoë Barton, Chris and Sharron Blackmore, Jamie Dunning, Rosie Ellis, Dean Jones, Mike Jones, Alan & Sandra Rowland, Emily Trapnell and Michael Williams.