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Thursday 6 August 2020

1st to 6th Aug – Yellow-legged Gull arrival; first mixed fall of autumn migrants

It has been another mixed bag of weather this week, which started with glorious sunshine, high temperatures and gentle winds for the most part, up until the 3rd. Come the afternoon of the 4th, however, things turned rather foul, with the winds picking up to near gale-force by 13:00, bringing with them bouts of rain (particularly on the 5th) and some very poor visibility due to prolonged periods of low cloud and mist. Luckily, things seem to be turning the other way again, with barely a breath of wind this morning (6th) – though the muggy, misty conditions have lingered into the mid-afternoon.

A glorious settled day along the East Side, 3 Aug © Dean Jones

This week, the title of star bird(s) goes to three juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls that arrived on the back of the south-west storms on the 5th. The first of these appeared at the end of a delightful morning’s seawatch from the Ugly. Here, the gull was initially seen swooping close into the east coast, from the north, then hanging in the stiff south-westerly over Rat Island for a few minutes – providing great views – before it disappeared around the South End with a number of juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gulls. The other two Yellow-leggeds, again both juveniles, were seen moving along the west coast by Jamie Dunning during an evening seawatch. If accepted, these will be the third, fourth and fifth records for the island.  

Other sightings of note included a Great Skua past Rat Island on the 1st, a single Storm Petrel foraging in the southern races on the 5th, accompanied by some good numbers of Manx Shearwater (2,677 flying west in two hours of observations). Additionally, singles of Grey Heron were logged on the 2nd and 4th, single fly-over Ringed Plovers were seen or heard over the south of the island on the 1st & 6th, two Whimbrel flew along the West Side on the 5th, an adult Black-headed Gull was offshore from Rat Island on the 4th, and lone Puffins were seen out at sea on the 1st and 5th.

Single figures of Willow Warbler have been logged this week on three dates, though come the morning of the 6th it was obvious there had been a small fall, with 55 birds present in Millcombe and along the east coast first thing and a conservative estimate of 110 for the day by the time other parts of the island had been covered. This arrival was accompanied by 23 Sedge Warbler and 8 Spotted Flycatcher, though the first southbound 'Spot Fly' of the year had been logged a couple of days earlier, a single bird on the 4th. Accompanying the grounded migrants on the 6th was a single Swift overhead. A notable feeding flock of 90 Linnet was around Threequarter Wall on the 2nd.

One of the Willow Warblers logged this week, fueling up on aphids outside Paradise Row, 3 Aug © Dean Jones

The first southbound Spotted Flycatcher of the year, Barton Field, 4 Aug © Dean Jones

Moths & butterflies

The obvious lepidopteran highlight of the week was the first Convolvulus Hawk-moth of the year, which turned up in a basket full of shopping left outside the General Stores on the 1st (giving the deliverer, Richard Goodman quite the fright)!

Other highlights included yet another new record for the island, the micromoth Celypha striana which was trapped in the Millcombe Heath trap on the 4th, as well as the first Magpie, Oak Eggar and Double Line moths of the year – the latter of which is a nationally scarce species in the UK.

This beautiful Oak Eggar was a highlight of this week's moth trapping, 4 Aug © Dean Jones

Marine mammals

Marine mammals once again put on a great show this week. Sightings included a small pod of seven Common Dolphin offshore from St Mark's Stone on the 2nd and a super-pod of 50 animals offshore from the Landing Bay on the 4th – a group including a very young calf that couldn’t have been more than a few months old! Finally, up to six Harbour Porpoise were recorded on two dates – all from the southern races – and 189 Atlantic Grey Seals were hauled out along the east coast on the 4th – the highest count so far this year.

189 Grey Seals were along the east coast on 4th – here a small portion of those at Mousehole & Trap © Dean Jones

Report composed of sightings from Jamie Dunning, Richard Goodman, Dean Jones and Sophia Upton.

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