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Saturday 1 August 2020

20th to 31st Jul – Melodious Warbler and Thresher Shark top the bill

Herewith the latest instalment from Lundy Warden Dean Woodfin Jones, covering the last 12 days of July and detailing a mouthwatering series of wildlife highlights, from marine mammals to scarce migrant birds and new moth species for the island.

Breeding Atlantic Grey Seals are hauling out en masse, migrant birds destined for the warmer winter climes of Africa are trickling through the island more and more each day, the island's Starlings are currently wheeling around the Village in a single flock of up to 100 birds and the bracken up on the plateau is now starting to wilt and brown. As we approach the busy month of August, signs of early autumn are now starting to show their face.

Weather-wise, the period started off gloriously with two days of beautiful sunshine, a slight northerly wind and comfortable temperatures of up to 18C. Unfortunately, the wind then picked up from the west, bringing with it prolonged periods of low cloud, fog, drizzle and the occasional downpour. On the 27th the weather became truly wild, with gale-force westerlies peaking at 47mph battering the island for much of the day. Come the following day, however, the sun made a delightful comeback, the winds subsided and temperatures rose (peak 23C on the 30th) – conditions which have pretty much continued up until present.

The gorgeous weather returns – a perfect sunrise from Millcombe, 29 Jul © Dean Jones

Blue skies, crystal-clear waters and temperatures of 23C
– the perfect weather for a day-trip to Lundy, 30 Jul © Dean Jones

It has been another superb period for marine wildlife sightings, with multiple pods of Common Dolphin being logged from Lundy’s shores on three dates, including three separate pods totalling 50 animals on the 21st. Other highlights included two Minke Whale on the 30th, which were seen travelling in tandem from MS Oldenburg as she approached Bull Point, and the first Atlantic Grey Seal pups of the year are starting to arrive around the coast too, though the first was unfortunately found dead offshore from the South End on the 22nd.   

Although seeing dolphin and fluffy, 'whitecoat' seal pups from the island on any given day is a treat, it was a fish that has topped the list of marine highlights during this period. On the evening of the 21st, whilst checking in on the Puffin productivity plot in Jenny’s Cove, attention was diverted offshore to a pod of Common Dolphin around 20 animals strong. Whilst watching these animals chasing shoals of fish with numerous plunging Gannet in tow, a huge splash caught the eye of myself and Zoë Barton. Luckily, we both managed to train our optics just in time to see a Thresher Shark leap completely out of the water about 20m west of the dolphin pod. We could barely believe our eyes! The fish then fully breached another two times, allowing us to get clear views of its bizarre, elongated upper caudal fin before it disappeared back into the blue – a magical end to what was another superb day on Lundy.  

On a slightly different marine-related note, Lundy’s cliffs are now devoid of Razorbills and all but a small handful of late-breeding Guillemots and Puffins are still tending to chicks in one or two parts of the island.

All but a handful of Guillemot chicks have yet to jump at Aztec Bay, 26 Jul © Dean Jones

Additionally, another eight Kittiwake nests have successfully fledged young since the last blog post. If the rest manage to avoid the hungry Lesser and Great Black-backed Gulls, they too should fledge in the next week or so, give or take a few younger chicks from late/replacement broods – fingers crossed!

Kittiwake fledglings exploring their new world, Aztec Bay, 26 Jul © Dean Jones

This Great Black-backed Gull did not look impressed with the antics of nearby Shags,
27 Jul © Dean Jones

The numbers of portly Fulmar chicks at Gannets' Rock has now increased from 12 to 15 as of the 28th, and the post-breeding rafts of Shag are now starting to form around the island, with a gathering of 71 birds noted offshore from the Quarries on the 22nd.  

Continuing with the birds, the island has also been blessed with some nice late-summer migration throughout this period, with the obvious highlight being a gorgeous first-year Melodious Warbler which was caught and ringed in Millcombe on the 31st – the 33rd Melodious Warbler to be ringed on Lundy. What a bird!

Would you look at the bill on that! Melodious Warbler, Millcombe, 31 Jul © Dean Jones

Other avian sightings of note included a few southbound waders like Green Sandpiper on the 20th and 30th, two Redshank that were on Rat Island on the 29th, singles of Whimbrel logged on the 19th and 29th, a lone Curlew on the 22nd and 23rd, and a summer-plumaged Dunlin on the 19th.

Furthermore, singles of Cuckoo were logged on the 19th and the 23rd, a Collared Dove on the 20th and 21st, up to four Grey Heron on nine days, and small numbers of passage Swift (max 28 on the 21st), Swallow, Sand and House Martin on a number of dates. Additionally, the first southbound Sedge Warbler was seen at Quarters Pond on the 21st, followed by another lone bird on the 26th and two on the morning of the 29th (caught and ringed).  

Willow Warbler have also been passing through each day since the last post with a max of 45 birds present in Millcombe, the Village and the East Coast on the 22nd. A single Storm Petrel was seen passing Rat Island on the 25th and two Mediterranean Gulls – a juvenile in the Landing Bay on the 27th and an adult flying west past Rat Island on the 28th – have also been logged.

And the winner of cutest bird of 2020 goes to... this Chiffchaff fledgling! 20 Jul, © Dean Jones

Second broods of Meadow Pipit fledglings have also taken to the wing over the past week
– this one pictured in Millcombe © Dean Jones

Raven at Barton Field trying to keep cool in the hot mid-day sun, 30 Jul © Dean Jones

Butterflies and moths  

Thirteen different species of butterfly have been recorded within this period, highlights including second-generation Small Copper and Holly Blue (male) – both single insects found on the 21st.

This period has also seen an increase in the number of Five-spot Burnet (max 25 on the 19th) and Six-spot Burnet (max 100 on the 22nd) moths across the island, as well as the arrival of a few Hummingbird Hawk-moths – one on the 21st and two 22nd.

Copulating Six-spot Burnets, Middle Park, Jul 2020 © Dean Jones

Small numbers of other moths have been turning up in the Millcombe Heath trap too. 72 species have been caught since the last post, two of which were new records for the island! Namely a Dot Moth (Melanchra persicariae) which was caught on the 26th and a Yponomeuta species (a group of micromoths of which some can only be identified to species level by finding their larvae on the particular foodplant(s) used by the individual species) caught on the 30th.  

Dot moth Melanchra persicariae – a new record for Lundy, 26 Jul © Dean Jones

Yponomeuta species – a genus of moths new to Lundy, Millcombe, 30 Jul © Dean Jones

Other than these very welcome additions to the Lundy moth list, the Millcombe Heath trap has also produced the first Twenty-plume Moth, Dingy Footman, Rosy Footman, Antler, Least Underwing and Blastobasis adustella of the year.  

Rosy Footman Miltochrista miniata added a splash of colour to the moth trap on 23 Jul
© Dean Jones

Other moths are less colourful but equally impressive, like this superbly camflouged
Mottled Beauty Alcis repandata, 23 Jul © Dean Jones

And that's not all! Keen-eyed Sam Bosanquet, who spent six days on the island searching for and identifying numerous bryophytes, diptera and moths (and everything else for that matter), also managed to find three more new micromoths for the Lundy list, as well as a number of others that haven’t been recorded for more than a decade. The new species included Parornix anglicella and Stigmella hybnerella, both identified from leaf mines on Hawthorn in Millcombe, as well as a Cnephasia tortrix species at John O’Groats (species-level identification to be confirmed). Very well done Sam!

A glorious, soothing sunset, post-Thresher Shark excitement! 21 Jul © Dean Jones

Report composed of sightings from: Zoë Barton, Sam Bosanquet, Jamie Dunning, Rosie Ellis, Derek Green, Peter Hayes, Dean Jones, Kevin Waterfall and Mark & Julia Webber.

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