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Wednesday 30 September 2020

New photos added to recent blog posts

We have added photos from Richard Campey to the blog posts below for 16th to 22nd September, including this beautifully atmospheric, autumnal portrait of a foraging Firecrest in Millcombe on 21st.
© Richard Campey

Monday 28 September 2020

26th Sep – Blackcaps continue to lead the ringing totals

It was going home day for Chris & Carol Bailie, but prior to departure in the afternon they notched up: "A Bonxie off the West Side at just after 08.00, a Cormorant flying up-Channel past South Light and we put up a Lapland Bunting from South West Field close to where Richard Campey saw one on 22nd. Light but distinct hirundine passage, comprising 60 Swallow and 5 House Martin, and Meadow Pipits on the move too. Also 4 auk sp., a Sparrowhawk, 8 Skylark, additional Blackcaps to those ringed and 18 Siskin."

Meanwhile, Dean Jones noted two Golden Plover over the Village in the morning, 2 Firecrest and 11 Goldcrest in Millcombe along with 3 flyover Lesser Redpoll and 8 Chaffinch. Non-avian highlgihts included 2 Harbour Porpoise were offshore from the Landing Bay

Chris Dee reports that 30 birds were ringed, including 22 Blackcap, 2 Chiffchaff, 2 Goldcrest and a Lesser Redpoll, and that sightings off the East Side in the late afternoon included 60 Kittiwake, 20 Gannet and what seems likely to have been a different Bonxie, given that observations from the North Somerset and North Devon coasts on Saturday morning showed skuas moving through on (presumed) overland passage between The Wash and Bristol Channel – a phenomenon that has been recognised for a number of years, but yet to be explicitly linked to occurrences off Lundy. Watch this space!

Saturday 26 September 2020

25th Sep – Migration continues amidst blustery conditions

Chris Dee writes that:

"Although it was windy on the top of the island, ringing was possible in Millcombe from 7am after early morning rain cleared through. The total of 45 birds ringed included 29 Blackcap, four Goldcrest, two Chiffchaff, three Swallow and a Kestrel. Other sightings in Millcombe were three Lesser Redpoll, a Garden Warbler (seen by Dean Jones) and a Water Rail in Smelly Gully."

Among other species/counts recorded by Chris & Carol Baillie were: 17 Gannet, 14 Shag, an Oystercatcher, six Woodpigeon, 14 Skylark, 12 Swallow, 11 Chiffchaff, three Stonechat, a Pied Wagtail, four Chaffinches, 11 Goldfinches, 12 Siskin, 38 Linnet and the island's second Snow Bunting of autumn, found along the main track near Tibbetts. Chris & Carol also saw two Harbour Porpoise, four Red Admiral, two Small White and 11 Fox Moth larvae.

Warden Dean Jones added to the day's tally with a Golden Plover and a Grey Wagtail over the Village, a "stunning" Great Northern Diver in full breeding plumage offshore from the Landing Bay in the afternoon, and a Lapland Bunting over Paradise Row in the evening.

Thursday 24 September 2020

24th Sep – Wet & windy... but a new (non-avian) species for the island!

The latest daily update comes courtesy of ringing team-leader Chris Dee, who reports that it was:

"Too wet and windy for mist-netting in Millcombe today. When most of the showers had passed I headed out. Lower Millcombe was pretty quiet apart from a single Blackcap and a Water Rail calling in Smelly Gully. Along the Lower East Side Path there were a couple of Chiffchaffs, a Goldcrest and a Stonechat. Flyover records of four (unraced) alba wagtail and a Tree Pipit were noted. Five Red Admirals working their way south in the relative shelter from the strong south-westerlies were augmented by a further two on the Terrace. Elsewhere there were six Skylark on the Airfield and 10 Linnet by the Stonecrusher. Later in the afternoon there were three Dunnock in Millcombe and the usual motley assortment of House Sparrows. On the sea and East Side there were seven Great Black-backed and two Herring Gull. Also one Shag."

Chris & Carol Baillie's sightings were similar, with the addition of three Woodpigeon, a single Lesser Black-backed Gull, three Wheatear, 20 Meadow Pipit, 23 Goldfinch and a further 48 Linnet. Also a single Harbour Porpoise.

Dean Jones adds: "It was indeed a rather quiet bird day all-in-all but I did have a fairly productive morning seawatch from the Ugly. Highlights included a pale-morph Pomarine Skua, three adult Mediterranean Gulls, and singles of ‘commic’ Tern and Manx Shearwater, as well as small numbers of Gannet, Razorbill and Kittiwake and two Harbour Porpoise. Not much else of note, other than a single Firecrest in Quarter Wall Copse, at least 16 Goldcrest in Millcombe and along the Lower East Side Path, and two Kestrel near the Quarries."

In other news, Sue Waterfield found a moth in the shop, which Dean was able to identify as Lundy's first Scarce Bordered Straw, a migrant from southern Europe. Happily the moth was still alive when found and Sue was able to release it promptly.

The Scarce Bordered Straw found in the shop, 24 Sep © Sue Waterfield

23rd Sep – Golden Plovers & Green Sandpiper the best of a quiet day

Today's blogger is Chris Baillie, who writes:

"This morning (Weds 23rd) was a wet and breezy walk to North End for coffee and a seawatch. The weather cleared as I walked up the northernmost slope and the 10 Golden Plovers there to greet me were a real picture. The sea was very quiet bird-wise; I think food may currently be limited around the island. Two Sparrowhawks were busy in the Terrace area and continued to jostle with each other, Peregrines and Kestrels. Hirundines were few today and the general sense is that stuff moved on in good conditions during the last two days but has not really been replaced much. But there is always something going on!"

Chris's sightings for the logbook comprised: 3 Fulmar (past North End), 23 Gannet, 38 Shag, 2 Sparrowhawk, 10 Golden Plover, single Kittiwake & Guillemot, two Woodpigeon, a Kestrel, 3 Peregrine, 7 Raven, just 9 Swallow, 15 Chiffchaff, 3 Blackcap, 7 Goldcrest, one remaining Pied Flycatcher (in Millcombe), 140 Linnet, 8 Siskin and 13 Goldfinch.

Dean Jones adds: "I managed to log three extra Golden Plover over the South End in the drizzle first thing,closely followed by a lone Green Sandpiper. Also 20 Skylark dotted around the island, a single Firecrest above the Gas Store in Millcombe, a Whitethroat next to Millcombe House, a lone Willow Warbler on the Terrace, three House Martin and a single Sand Martin along the east, two White Wagtails in the Camping Field and five Lesser Redpoll. Lastly a Vestal (a migrant moth) was flushed from the long grass above Smelly Gully in the afternoon."

Chris Dee advises that ringing operations couldn't commence until after 10.00am due to rain and only 17 birds were ringed, among them 3 Chiffchaff, 6 Blackcap, 4 Goldcrest and a Grey Wagtail.

Vestal Rhodometra sacraria – good numbers have reached the UK this year, 23 Sep © Dean Jones

Wednesday 23 September 2020

22nd Sep – Wryneck & Lapland Bunting but generally quieter

The highlights of a quieter day, following something of a clear-out of warblers and much-reduced visible migration, were a Wryneck on the Terrace, a Lapland Bunting in South West Field, two Firecrest in Millcombe and a Yellow Wagtail in St Helen's/Barton Fields throughout the day. The Wryneck showed well for around two minutes before disappearing down towards Quarry Beach.
Record shot of the Wryneck along the Terrace, 22 Sep © Dean Jones

Lapland Bunting in typical rough grassland habitat in South West Field, 22 Sep © Richard Campey

It takes a lot of grass seeds to refuel after a flight from the Arctic! 22 Sep © Richard Campey

The Yellow Wagtail that graced Barton Field during the evening, 22 Sep © Dean Jones
Other sightings included:

13 Woodpigeon, 2 Collared Dove, a Water Rail, 2 Sparrowhawk, 2 Kestrel, a Merlin, 5 Skylark, 35 Swallow, 17 Chiffchaff, 8 Blackcap, a Whitethroat, 11 Goldcrest, 3 Pied Flycatcher, a Spotted Flycatcher, 8 Stonechat, 5 Wheatear, 3 Pied Wagtail, one unraced alba wagtail, a fly-over Grey Wagtail (near the Ugly), 55 Meadow Pipit, a Tree Pipit, 8 Linnet, 74 Goldfinch and 32 Siskin.

Four hours of mist-netting in Millcombe yielded 30 new birds, of which 23 were Blackcaps. Also two Chiffchaffs and a Goldcrest.

Sightings on the return crossing from Lundy to Ilfracombe included a feeding frenzy of 200 Gannet, plus two Bonxies.

Compiled from observations by Chris & Carol Baillie, Richard Campey and Dean Jones. Ringing totals supplied by Chris Dee.
Juvenile Blackbird, Martin Harman Jones's memorial bench, Millcombe, 22 Sep © Richard Campey

21st Sep – A busy day of migration after a quiet start

The latest from Richard Campey...
"Nothing like a limp flagpole to start the day! Headed off round South End and Old Light across to Terrace and back along Upper East Side Path. Hardly any birds! A few Chiffchaffs along the Terrace, and one Lesser Redpoll overhead by Quarter Wall. Then Millcombe. Three Firecrests showing, plus a steady stream of Chiffchaffs and a few Willow Warblers. Also Whitethroats and Pied & Spotted Flycatchers. Caught up with Yellow-browed Warbler again and spent time photographing the Pied Flys. Both species of flycatcher were launching themselves from the roof of Millcombe House.
Firecrest among Sycamore leaves near the Casbah, Millcombe, 21 Sep © Richard Campey

 Pied Flycatcher on the lookout for food in calmer conditions, 21 Sep © Richard Campey

A nearby Spotted Flycatcher, Millcombe, 21 Sep © Richard Campey
Late afternoon did Upper East Side Path, Old Light and South End. Added Redstart. Good steady stream of Swallows after 11.00am for the rest of the day. 
A really great day post-10.00am. Tons of birds to look at and always that feeling there was something out there... That'll be Wednesday! In Tavern, about to have last supper, so to speak."
Additional species and overall totals included: a Water Rail, 3 Guillemot, 2 Sparrowhawk, 2 Kestrel, a Merlin, 10 Skylark, 25 Sand Martin, 50 House Martin, 750 Swallow, a Yellow-browed Warbler, 10 Willow Warbler, up to 100 Chiffchaff, 10 Blackcap, 4 Whitethroat, 3 Firecrest, 10 Goldcrest, a Song Thrush, a Spotted Flycatcher, 3 Pied Flycatcher, 1 Redstart, 12 Stonechat, 7 Wheatear, 4 Pied Wagtail, a White Wagtail, 100 Meadow Pipit, 100 Linnet, 5 Lesser Redpoll, 15 Goldfinch, 6 Siskin.
Dean Jones counted 191 Shag – an unusually high number for late September. Dean also adds that: Other avian sightings of note on this beautiful autumnal day included two Collared Doves over the Village in the mid-morning – birds which were seen again later on perched upon the Millcombe Pines by Sam Bosanquet. Sam also had nine Golden Plover on the deck in heathland near John O'Groat’s House, and a Crossbill flying north past the Terrace Trap at around 09:30, followed shortly after by a Tree Pipit. Finally two Redstarts were present near Quarry Pond in the mid-afternoon (Tim Smith) and a Grasshopper Warbler was heard near Pondsbury (Mandy Dee)."
In non-avian news, 60 moths of 25 different species were caught in the Millcombe Heath trap, including two new species for the island! Namely the very localised micromoth Mecyna asinalis and a single Dichrorampha acuminatana. Also present in the trap were the first Brindled Orche and Feathered Ranunculus of the year, as well as a nice variety of migrant species, including two Delicate (the first since 2013), three Silver Y and two L-album Wainscot.
Sam Bosanquet also had a very productive night catching moths by torch and net in areas of Millcombe. Highlights included yet another new species for the island – Pinion-streaked Snout What's more, seven craneflys swept from Gannets' Combe included Lundy's first Tipula rufina. Very well done Sam!

Mecyna asinalis – a first for Lundy! Millcombe, 21 Sep © Dean Jones

The first two Delicate Mythimna vitellina since 2013, Millcombe 21 Sep © Dean Jones

The first Brindled Ochre Dasypolia templi of the year, Millcombe, 21 Sep © Dean Jones

Continuing on the insect front, Sam also had a Hornet near Old Light – only the second record for Lundy following an insect seen flying round the Laundry Room privet last year.

179 Atlantic Grey Seals were recorded during a round-the-island trip in the Warden's RHIB in the afternoon – a count that included nine white-coat pups! This brings the total number of pups found this year so far to an excellent 34.

The seal pupping season is now in full swing, 21 Sep © Dean Jones

This seal pup has obviously just had a bumper feed of milk! East coast, 21 Sep © Dean Jones

Monday 21 September 2020

20th Sep –Hard going in strong easterlies again

 Richard Campey writes that:
"Winds started building again overnight, easterly force 6/7. Hazy sunshine, probably coolest day yet but not really a cold wind. Decided on South End to Old Light, then on up to North End. Twice in two days? Madness! It was a fairly birdless walk; not a single hirundine. South End to Quarter Wall I totalled 170 Linnets and four Wheatears. From there to North End, just two additional Wheatears. Off the point, 20 Gannets, three Fulmars, two Shags, five Herring Gulls and male and female Peregrines hunting. Eight Pied Wagtails overhead. Return journey not much more exciting. Another Wheatear and very vocal Peregrines round Tibbetts. Pondsbury birdless and again no hirundines. The 'bother boys' in the form of six Ravens were at High Street Gate. Returned to Vestry 11.45 and two Swallows still feeding young in Church porch.

Spent most of afternoon in and around Millcombe. A lot of effort for very little success. Still a stiff easterly, so everything hiding or blown past at high speed. Later in the afternoon, following a rest in a deckchair round the west side of the Church, it was Millcombe Tops again. Still just too windy for most of the warblers, which were just blurs diving into bushes. Saw a Pied Flycatcher while one was being watched in Millcombe gardens, so that's two. Plus a few Blackcaps, some Goldcrests and three Firecrests above the Casbah. Dean had five! Late afternoon (6pm) walk round South End produced two Wheatears and a Kestrel.

Goldcrest, 20 Sep © Richard Campey

Kestrel off South End, 20 Sep © Richard Campey

Felt like really hard work today but ending with three Firecrests looking so sharp whizzing about round the Casbah was great. Hoping they stay tomorrow and if the winds die down that I'll get some closer views and that anything else that's been hiding pops out for a feed. The commonest sightings today have been hovering Kestrels, plunging Peregrines and swooping Sparrowhawks."

In addition to those mentioned above, Richard's sightings included 40 Swallow, 3 House Martin, 4 Willow Warbler, 5 Chiffchaff, 4 Blackcap, 1 Whitethroat, 6 Pied Wagtail & 12 Goldfinch.
Male Stonechat, 20 Sep © Richard Campey

Dean Jones adds:
"There was a decent push of Meadow Pipits along the west coast first thing despite the winds (240 logged south of Halfway Wall). Also logged were two Grey Wagtails (one in Millcombe and one off the South End first thing), two Snipe flushed along the west, and a fly-over Reed Bunting near Jenny’s Cove in the late morning. Finally, there was a single Spotted Flycatcher in Millcombe in the afternoon and two White Wagtails in Barton Field."
Non-avian sightings include a Migrant Hawker dragonfly resting on bracken next to the forgotten Heinkel.

Saturday 19 September 2020

19th Sep – First Yellow-browed Warbler & Brambling of the autumn

The latest message-in-a-bottle from Richard Campey begins with a question...

"Had the wind dropped overnight? Yes, by about 2mph! Now due east, Force 6/7. Started off walking South End up to Old Light: very little about. At Old Light, Starling flock of 87 birds, with two Swallows flying around them. Presumably the Starling mob were disturbing insects, as when the Starlings moved, the Swallows stayed with them. Also seen in this area: Peregrine (one male), Sparrowhawk (one female), half-a-dozen more Swallows and a Wheatear.

Then on to Pondsbury. A Grey Heron flew off towards the East Side, heading south. Also a lone Stonechat. Took main track back and encountered a raptor fest, with a Merlin trying to dig a Meadow Pipit out of the bush by Quarter Wall Gate, two Peregrines hunting, two Sparrowhawks and two, possibly three, Kestrels. Four Ravens on High Street Gate, two Linnet flocks on Airfield plus some feeding in the tracks, totalling 90 birds. Surely they will drag in an Ortolan or maybe that elusive Snow Bunting from Thursday (17th)?!
Linnet blowing in the wind... 19 Sep © Richard Campey
After breakfast, did Lower East Side Path to Terrace; fairly devoid of birds. Then Tibbetts to North End. Nothing much apart from a steady stream of Swallows. Very difficult to estimate numbers but 50 every 20 minutes, roughly. Return via Pondsbury, which had about 100 Swallows flying around and approximately 20 House Martins.

4.30pm and the wind had dropped a fair bit but more importantly it had gone north with a bit of sunshine peeping through. I felt Millcombe would be the place. Walked through the Bue Door and it was promisingly calm. More to the point, there were three Willow Warblers in the tree next to the gate! Feeling a sense of excitement, I entered the valley. In brambles near the tree plantation were Blackcaps, a Whitethroat and a Garden Warbler. About 50 Swallows overhead. Looking across to the Casbah there were Goldcrests and Phylloscopus warblers. And then... a fast-moving small warbler falling through the trees. It fed briefly on a branch towards the edge of the Sycamores and I was watching a Yellow-browed Warbler. Not for long though, as I lost it from view. Saw Sam Bosanquet across the valley, who shouted "Firecrest in pines". I retorted with the Yellow-browed! Searched for another 20 minutes but couldn't relocate it. Did see the Firecrest though. Also in Millcombe two Pied Flycatchers, another three Willow Warblers and a total of 11 Blackcaps.

Finished off by the Rocket Pole and had a Brambling fly-over calling."

Sam Bosanquet adds that: "A number of Lepidoptera were sheltering on Long Roost, including Large & Small Whites, Red Admiral and the migrant moth Rush Veneer. A young Cormorant flew over, heading north, and a pair of gull wings with fresh blood on the bones proved to belong to a 1st-winter Mediterranean Gull. As I walked back past Gannets' Combe a Lapland Bunting flew up “tik-a-tik” and then landed in an open area to give good views. The large, rare lichen Roccella fuciformis on the Mousehole & Trap was new for Lundy, and a surprise given how many lichenologists have visited the island. Even more surprising was the gametophyte of Killarney Fern on the ceiling of Queen Mab’s Grotto – also new for Lundy. The wind had dropped a bit by the time I returned to Millcombe, which held at least one Redstart and a Garden Warbler as well as the Firecrest which I called out to Richard." 

Additional species and combined totals from Richard, Chris Baillie and Sam Bosanquet included: Mallard 10, Shag 11, Gannet 5, Dunlin 2, Snipe 4, Woodpigeon 7, Swallow 500, Sand Martin 2, House Martin 30, Skylark 20, Willow Warbler 8, Chiffchaff 8, Goldcrest 8, Robin 6,  Stonechat 6, Starling 200, Meadow Pipit 50, Pied/White Wagtail 8, Linnet 150 and Goldfinch 30.

A team of ringers, led by Chris Dee, arrived on the island today. Chris reports that two Chiffchaffs were ringed in Millcombe, whilst three Manx Shearwaters were ringed at the Old Light breeding colony.

Friday 18 September 2020

18th Sep – Challenging birding in near gale-force easterlies

Richard Campey writes that:
"The wind steadily picked up overnight and morning broke to a north-easterly Force 6 gusting 7, a bit of cloud cover but eventually sunny. Started the day with two Peregrines – one a very light brown youngster with an indistinct face pattern. Round South End and a new migrant for my trip was a very unapproachable Whinchat. Steady passage of Swallows and one House Martin. Nothing much else of note. Rock Pipit chasing off Pied Wagtail at Rocket Pole and three high-up Yellow Wagtails heading towards Village from Lighthouse Field. Other sightings included 25 Linnets and a couple of Goldfinches."
Yellow Wagtail glowing in the sunlight, 18 Sep © Richard Campey
Combined totals for the day from Richard and Chris Baillie as follows: Mallard 8, Fulmar 1, Gannet 15, Mediterranean Gull (one – an adult heading south past the Landing Bay, seen by Dean Jones), Great Black-backed Gull 8, Lesser Black-backed Gull 2, Herring Gull 7, auk sp. 11, Dunlin 1, Woodpigeon 1, Feral Pigeon 1, a female Merlin (seen by Chris), Peregrine 3, Kestrel 2, Sparrowhawk 2, Raven 7, Swallow 300, House Martin 21, Meadow Pipit 113, Rock Pipit 1, Skylark 10, Willow Warbler 1, Chiffchaff 2, Blackcap 2, Pied Flycatcher 1, Stonechat 3, Whinchat 1, Wheatear 3, Pied/White Wagtail 21 (five definite Whites), Yellow Wagtail (4), Starling 83, Linnet 99, Chaffinch 1, Goldfinch 24. Also 3 Harbour Porpoise and a Common Dolphin.
Sam Bosanquet adds that: "Jenny’s Cove provided some shelter from the easterlies, and held a wheeling flock of 25+ House Martin. The lower reaches of Punchbowl stream were even more sheltered, and there was an interesting-looking wing-flicking warbler around the rocks. Good ‘scope views eventually revealed it to be an out-of-context Garden Warbler. An amazing beetle-fest under a dead crow in the small quarry* south of VC Quarry included at least ten different species, with the big Creophilus maxillosus the highlight."
*Known to many regular Lundy birders as 'Rüppell’s Quarry' after one of the island's most famous rare birds, a Rüppell’s Warbler that occurred there in June 1979).

Raven, 18 Sep © Richard Campey

Stag Sika Deer, 18 Sep © Richard Campey

Thursday 17 September 2020

17th Sep – An excellent variety of migrants on a sunny but windy day

Thursday 17th saw the persistent mist of the preceding two days replaced by sunny skies and a stiff easterly wind (gusting to Force 7, so more than enough to prevent the Oldenburg from sailing). In spite of a quiet early morning for birds in Millcombe (where a single Blackcap, four Woodpigeons and a few Robins were the highlights), Richard Campey recorded an excellent variety of migrants during the day. These included a Spotted Redshank (presumably the same individual heard late on Wednesday afternoon) seen and heard calling in flight over the Airfield, together with a Golden Plover and a Dunlin. He also found a Dartford Warbler in gorse scrub near the Rocket Pole at around 09.15 hrs and saw and heard a Snow Bunting calling in flight nearby – the island's first of the autumn. The bunting theme continued with two Lapland Buntings at Quarter Wall, flying south together towards the Village, giving their characteristic dry rattling call followed by a clear "tew".

During the afternoon, Richard revisited the scrub near the Rocket Pole. There was no sign of the Dartford Warbler but he did find a Pied Flycatcher. Heading north, he flushed a Jack Snipe on Ackland's Moor, found two Common Snipe at Pondsbury and heard the Spotted Redshank again, calling somewhere in the distance.
Pied Flycatcher in the unusual setting of gorse by the Rocket Pole, 17 Sep © Richard Campey

A late afternoon return to Millcombe was rather more productive than the morning visit, with sightings including three Sparrowhawks, a Kestrel, two more Pied Flycatcher, a Spotted Flycatcher, four Goldcrest and a Willow Warbler.

That's more like it! Pied Flycatcher in Millcombe, 17 Sep © Richard Campey
Other sightings during the day included 11 Skylark, 75 Swallow, a Sand Martin, 6 Wheatear and 55 Linnet.
Sam Bosanquet adds: "Whilst poking around looking for bryophytes in Juncus by the reservoirs I disturbed a Sedge Warbler. Red Admiral and Small Copper were sheltering from the easterlies in the Battery stream gully. Leafmines and spinnings on Blackthorn near the Blue Bung were one of two Parornix moths, either new for Lundy, but without larvae they couldn’t be ID'd to species level."

16th Sep – First Spotted Redshank for a decade

Richard Campey reports that the morning of Wednesday 16th saw the island enveloped in thick mist, which cleared only slowly during the afternoon. His records during the day included:

9 Mallard, 4 Gannet, 4 Sparrowhawk (3 females & a male), 1 Golden Plover, 1 Dunlin, 2 Great Black-backed Gull, 1 Lesser Blac-backed Gull, 1 Sandwich Tern, 8 Skylark, 30 Swallow, 1 Sand Martin, 13 Chiffchaff, 5 Willow Warbler, 4 Blackcap, 4 Stonechat, 2 Pied Wagtail and 300 Meadow Pipit.

In addition, Dean Jones heard a Spotted Redshank – a rare species on Lundy – calling four times in flight high over the island at around 17.00 hrs. This is the first record since August 2010!
This Linnet was sunning itself after the fog lifted, 16 Sep © Richard Campey

Wednesday 16 September 2020

15th Sep – Goshawk in the Mist

Richard Campey arrived on the island on Tuesday 15th and reported light winds and clear visibility until increasingly thick mist rolled in during the afternoon. He spent several hours scouring the Terrace for the Sora – last seen on the afternoon of 13th – but unfortunately with no success. En route to the rail hunt, he encountered 70 Swallows heading south, along with seven Sand Martins and a House Martin. Single Sandwich Tern and Redshank – both good Lundy birds – were calling off the Terrace, the Redshank eventualy being glimpsed on Quarry Beach in gaps between the banks of swirling mist. Other species in the vicinity of the Terrace included 80 Linnets, a male Blackcap, three Willow Warblers and a Chiffchaff, plus a Golden Plover calling overhead. An unexpected highlight was a male Goshawk that flew in off the sea and perched briefly in VC Quarry. Richard comments: "Utterly fierce-looking with dark cap and ear-coverts and prominent white eyestripe adding to the malevolent appearance!" This is only the eighth Lundy record, the last being in May 2013.

Returning to the Village as the visibility deteriorated further, Richard added a female Sparrowhawk and three Wheatears to the list.

Dean Jones recorded a Turnstone over the Village, a flyover Snipe, seven Grey Wagtails, a lone Siskin and also noted the small push of hirundines before the mist arrived, counting 30 Swallows and two House Martins in two minutes from Tibbetts Hill.

Sunday 13 September 2020

4th to 12th Sep – A 'first' for Lundy, scarce warblers, impressive Swallow & Blackcap migration

UPDATED 24 Sep – see text in blue below.

It has certainly been another changeable period (though not quite as unsettled as of late), with rain on 4th, bright and breezy conditions on 5th, a cool showery morning giving way to sunshine on 6th, cloud and patchy light rain followed by sunshine on 7th, low cloud and drizzly clag enveloping the island for much of 8th and the morning of 9th, a glorious day on 10th, back to clool, cloudy and breezy on 11th, then warm and sunny again on 12th!

"Red sky in the morning" – dawn over St John's Valley foretold of rain to come, 7 Sep © Tim Jones

St Helen's Copse looming out of the claggy low cloud on 8 Sep © Tim Davis  

MS Oldenburg arriving in glorious sunshine, 12 Sep © Tim Jones

Autumn migration is now in full swing – something that was firmly underlined on 10th, a day of clear skies and light winds, which provided an all-too-brief window of opportunity for birds delayed by the unsettled weather of previous days to pour south. Millcombe was alive with Blackcaps, smaller numbers being seen elsewhere. A conservative estimate of 150 was logged, including a notable 55 ringed. Also on the move in impressive numbers were Swallows – over 2,100 being counted in the space of an hour from 10.00 to 11.00 as they swept past Castle Hill, Benjamin's Chair and South West Point and on out to sea, making for the mainland of Devon and Cornwall. With them were some 60 Sand Martins and a dozen or so House Martins.
Other common migrants seen daily, or almost daily, during the period included Willow Warbler (max 35 on 10th), Chiffchaff (15 on 10th), Whitethroat (10 on 10th), Goldcrest, (12 on 8th), Wheatear (60 on 12th, including several that were almost certainly of the strikingly large and bright Greenland race), Pied Fycatcher (five on 5th), Spotted Flycatcher (eight on 11th), both Pied and White Wagtails (63 on 7th, mostly unraced 'flyovers'), and increasing numbers of Meadow Pipits (350 on 11th). Flocks of Siskins were also seen regularly, most passing through quickly, unusually early in the autumn for a species more typical of mid-October.

Juvenile Willow Warbler, Millcombe, 10 Sep © Shaun Robson

A Spotted Flyctacher makes a meal of a Red Admiral, Millcombe, 10 Sep © Shaun Robson

A Pied Flycatcher is examined by ringer Rosie Hall, Millcombe, 7 Sep © Tim Jones

There was also a welcome scattering of other species on the move, including single Hobby (over Lighthouse Field on 10th), Redstart (near Brambles on 7th), Reed Warbler (Pondsbury on 10th) and Wood Warbler (tumbling through sycamores above the Casbah on 7th), an influx of eight Sedge Warblers on 10th, a few Grey Wagtails and Yellow Wagtails and up to eight Tree Pipits (this high count, diurnally on 10th, coinciding with the biggest hirundine movement of the period). Waders were well represented, including ones and twos of Golden Plover, Ringed Plover, Greenshank and Dunlin, plus 16 Snipe (including a flock of 14 migrants high over the Terrace) on 11th. Two Grey Herons were seen regularly and large numbers of juvenile Shags continued to exploit the rich fishing of the island's inshore waters – a total of 101 being logged on 9th. A Pomarine Skua was seen from MS Oldenburg a few minutes out from the Landing Bay on 5th, whilst three Arctic Skuas (one pale morph, one dark morph and one intermediate!) were harrassing Kittiwakes off the East Side on 7th.

A Greenshank was an unusual visitor to Pondsbury on 6 Sep © Tim Jones
A team of ringers led by Tony Taylor spent five nights clambering around the sidelands in the vicinity of the Manx Shearwater colony between Old Light and the Battery, searching for chicks sitting outside their burrows getting ready to fledge and begin their extraordinary long-distance migration to waters off southern South America. In total, the team managed to ring some 135 'Manxies', of which 126 were chicks and the remaining nine, adults. In addition, they retrapped birds originally ringed on Lundy in August 2014 (one), June 2018 (two) and May 2019 (one). Frustratingly, a night-time ringing expedition to the North End Storm Petrel colony drew a complete blank, which was surprising given that the Storm Petrel fledging period typically continues throughout September, extending into October. If conditions allow, further visits will be made to see if this was a 'one-off' quiet night, or if activity in this area is now finished for the year.
During the murky nights of 7th & 8th, a few fledgling Manx Shearwaters were disoriented by interior lighting of buildings in the Village area, some landing on the grass outside the Tavern, others close to the front doors of suprised island staff. Though the number of birds involved appeared to be quite low, this shows the adverse impact that artifical light can have, especially at times of peak fledging if visibility is also poor due to low cloud or sea-fog. Visiting ringer Richard Taylor was particularly startled to find a 'crash-landed' fledgling shearwater partly concealed in a narrow strip of long grass on the Beach Road, only about 50m from the jetty, moments after stepping ashore from MS Oldenburg on 5th. Rich rescued the youngster from its vulnerable position, kept it in a safe dark place during the remainder of daylight hours, then released it that night, happily none the worse for its unorthodox introduction to a lifetime of mastery of the seas and skies, spanning both northern and southern hemispheres.

Richard Taylor with his protégé rescued from the Beach Road, 5 Sep © Tim Davis

It was another exceptional period for rare and unusual birds on the island, with the first Magpie since 1996 seen briefly near the Black Shed on 5th by visiting ringer and birder Shaun Robson. Shaun was blissfully unaware just how rare this commonplace mainland species is on Lundy – until a roomful of dropped jaws and one or two choice words greeted his announcement at that evening's review of the day's sightings! Even this exceptional record was eclipsed by Dean Jones's discovery during the late afternoon of 12th of Lundy's first ever Sora, clambering through brambles near the Terrace Heligoland Trap. Dean was able to pick up the very tired but alert and not emaciated transatlantic wanderer – doubtless blown off course by the strong jet stream of preceding days – check it over, take a few pictures and release it nearby in an area with good cover, fresh water and an abundance of invertebrate food. Dean returned early on the morning of 13th but didn't find any sign of the rail. UPDATE: The Sora was reported twice on Sunday 13th – first at about 11.30am, when it was seen by visitors Sandie & Mark West on the Lower East Side Path north of Quarter Wall Copse; then at around 4pm, back at the Terrace, by Conservation Team volunteer Ben Hanson. In the morning it was "at first thought to be dead or injured as it was lying on the ground with its wing out to the side... but it got up at lightning speed and shot into brambles on the seaward side of the path". When seen in the afternoon, it was feeding actively and appeared to be in better condition than when originally found on 12th. Dean Jones searched the area early and late on Monday 14th but there was no further sign. Checks on Tuesday 15th also drew a blank, though visibility was poor during the afternoon as thick mist set in.
Lundy's first Sora, found among brambles on the Terrace, 12 Sep © Dean Jones

The unexpected visitor was checked over and released nearby © Dean Jones

A juvenile, this was only the second live Sora recorded in Devon © Dean Jones
Other less rare but still notable records included Icterine Warbler in Millcombe on 5th, a Marsh Warbler in St John's Valley on the 6th, a Dartford Warbler (only the tenth for the island) on 10th, a juvenile Red-backed Shrike in the vicinity of the Terrace on 12th, and a Treecreeper (slightly less than annual on Lundy) in Millcombe, daily from 7th. Finally, the first two Lapland Buntings of autumn were calling over South West Field on 12th.

Icterine Warbler, 'Secret Garden', lower Millcombe, 5 Sep © Richard Taylor

Marsh Warbler, St John's Valley, 6 Sep © Tim Jones

Dartford Warbler, about 200m SSW of Pondsbury, 10 Sep © Richard Taylor
Juvenile Red-backed Shrike, Terrace, 12 Sep © Richard Taylor

Non-avian news
Silver Ys and a few Hummingbird Hawk-moths were typical for the time of year and the sheltered East Side combes and copses held small numbers of butterflies in spells of sunshine, with Painted Lady, Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell, Small Heath, Common Blue and Small, Green-veined and Large Whites all recorded. Dragonflies were represented by Migrant Hawker, Emperor and Common Darter. Atlantic Grey Seals continued to delight both day-visitors and stayers alike, whilst stag Sika Deer were looking resplendent ahead of the impending rut.

Sika Deer stag, upper Millcombe, 6 Sep © Tim Davis

Report compiled from observations by Tim Davis, Rosie Hall, Dean Jones, Tim Jones, Marie & Shaun Robson, Rebecca & Richard Taylor and Tony Taylor.


Thursday 3 September 2020

18th Aug to 3rd Sep – Stormy weather, spectacular wildlife

Lundy Warden Dean Woodfin Jones sums up a period during which the often turbulent – and distinctly un-summer-like – weather provided the backdrop to more remarkable records of birds, moths and marine invertebrates, including two 'firsts' for the island...

With the turn of the month, autumn has well and truly arrived on the island. Days are noticeably shorter, bird migration has picked up pace, a smorgasbord of fungal fruiting bodies is emerging across the island and the lush-green foliage in Millcombe has quickly browned and wilted due to the recent storms, and is at present cascading beautifully through the valley.

Wet and very windy has been the main theme of this period, which included two big, named storms, Ellen and Francis, which battered the island with gusts of up to 63mph on the 20th and 25th respectively. Unsurprisingly, the high winds created some spectacular swell here in the Channel, particularly during Storm Francis, which in turn prevented staying visitors from getting home for an extra three nights! Luckily, however, damage to infrastructure on the island was minimal, though Ellen and Francis both took with them a number of gates and fence posts, as well as some small sections of drystone wall and, very sadly, two of the big trees at the back of Millcombe Wood.

Storm Ellen picking up steam off North End, 20 Aug © Dean Jones

Storm Francis made seawatching difficult on the west coast, Dead Cow Point, 25 Aug © Dean Jones

Splash & Dash! MS Oldenburg had a tricky landing in NE winds on 29 Aug © Dean Jones

Strong northerly and north-easterly winds and the occasional shower or heavier downpour followed on after Francis up until the 29th (apart from a short-lived spell of peaceful and sunny weather on the afternoon and evening of the 26th). From the 30th, however, visitors were treated to three days of beautiful, settled, sunny and warm weather – conditions which also brought with them a wonderful and diverse little flutter of avian migrants. So, without furher ado, on to the birds…

The end of August, in particular, provided some spectacular sightings, some of which have been mentioned already in the superb notes by visiting ringers Tim Frayling, Bart Donato and Mark Worden. During five days spanning the 23rd to 28th, the team managed to catch and ring an excellent 123 Manx Shearwater (as well as eight other Lundy retraps) and a grand total of 30 Storm Petrels (plus 18 Lundy retraps and two controls – i.e. birds ringed elsewhere) on that spectacular evening on the 26th. We’ve now heard back from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) regarding those controls, the first being ringed on the island of Skokholm, Pembrokeshire on 17 Jul 2019, and the other at Annagh Head, Mayo, Ireland on 16 Aug 2014. Magic stuff gang – very well done!

The Manx Shearwater nestboxes were visited again on the 24th to see how many of this year’s breeding attempts have been successful. Here, five of the seven boxes which had incubating birds at the start of the season now have healthy young birds close to fledging – all of which are now sporting shiny new rings!

One of the shearwater chicks from the nestboxes near Old Light, 24 Aug © Dean Jones

In addition to our spectacular breeding shearwaters and petrels, the obvious star bird of the period was the young Bridled Tern (only the second record for Lundy and Devon, and the first of a live individual – if accepted by BBRC), closely followed by Lundy’s fifth Sabine’s Gull, both of which were present offshore from the Landing Bay on the 26th (see earlier blog post for further details).

Additional sightings of note within this period included a flurry of juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls around the island, with single birds noted on the 24th and 28th and two together sheltering from Storm Francis in the Landing Bay on the 25th. Furthermore, on another wet and wild morning, the first two Balearic Shearwaters of the year zoomed past Rat Island accompanied by 1,684 Manx Shearwater (in two hours of observations) on the 20th. Then, ending the month in spectacular fashion, the second Melodious Warbler of the year graced the Terrace willows briefly on the 31st.

The second Melodious Warbler of the autumn, Terrace, 31 Aug © Dean Jones

Other Lundy scarcities included two juvenile Mediterranean Gull and two Sandwich Tern off the North End on the 20th, as well as records of up to two Black-headed Gull on four dates. There has also been a nice variety of waders over the island recently, including a Greenshank over the Old Light Manx colony on the 24th, fly-over Green Sandpipers on the 31st and 2nd, two Common Sandpiper on the 26th, singles of Turnstone and Redshank on 1st, two Whimbrel, two Golden Plover and a single Ringed Plover on the 2nd, and small numbers of Snipe and Dunlin on a number of dates.

On the passerine front, the last week-and-a-bit has been magic for soundbound flycatchers, namely Spotted Flycatcher, which has been recorded on seven dates since the 20th (max 10 on the 24th and 1st) and Pied Flycatchers on four dates (max 10 scattered around the island on the 1st).

One of 10 Pied Flycatchers gracing the island on 1 Sep, this one in Millcombe © Dean Jones

Willow Warbler passage is now slowing to a trickle, though Blackcap numbers have started to pick up in the last week (max 14 on the 31st). We’ve also had a few more southbound Tree Pipits and Grey Wagtails over the past few days, as well as a number of firsts for the autumn including Goldcrest (28th), Yellow Wagtail (31st), White Wagtail (31st) and Song Thrush (2nd).

Finally, there’s been a small push of hirundines on the days of better weather, as well as the odd southbound Swift (max 17 on 1st Sep). Wheatear, Meadow Pipit, Chaffinch and Robin too have been gathering and moving through in small numbers.

Common birds such as Robin have also been on the move in small numbers, 2 Sep © Dean Jones

Lepidoptera highlights

Again, unsurprisingly due to the strong winds, butterfly sightings been rather few and far between, but since the storms have passed, 10 species have been recorded in small numbers, including a second generation of Small Copper, Small Heath and Common Blue as well as good numbers of Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell, a smattering of Painted Lady and a single Grayling on the 31st.

Moth-related highlights included a Hummingbird Hawkmoth in the Laundry Room on the 26th, a Nutmeg (Anarta trifolii) in the Millcombe Heath trap on the 31st – only the second record for the island and the first since 2011! Additionally, yet another new species for the island turned up in the Valley on the 24th – the SPECtacular Dark Spectacle (Abrostola triplasia)!

Dark Spectacle Abrostola triplasia, new for Lundy, 24 Aug © Dean Jones

Recent trapping efforts have also resulted in the first Copper Underwing and Frosted Orange of the year, as well as a small number of migrant moths such as Rusty-dot Pearl, Dark Sword Grass and good numbers of Silver Y.

Marine sightings

August was also a very exciting period for wildlife sightings beneath the waves and upon the low shore – the most notable of these being the mass arrival of thousands of breeding and moulting Spiny Spider Crabs (Maja squinado) in the Landing Bay!

The arrival was particularly evident just before Storm Ellen, when you literally could not see the seabed whilst snorkelling due to the mass aggregations of crabs jostling and clambering for the safest spot to moult and subsequently breed – once they’d freed themselves from their epiphyte-rich exoskeletons. Lundy marine expert Keith Hiscock, who was over at the start of this period and who has been visiting, monitoring and helping to protect Lundy waters for more than 40 years, said he’s never seen or heard of this spectacle occurring around Lundy before. This gathering was therefore quite a rare sight for the island! Fingers crossed the animals don’t wait another 40 years to provide staff and visitors with this superb underwater spectacle again.

Heaps of moulted Spider Crab exoskeletons washed up in the Landing Bay, 18 Aug © Dean Jones

This was the scene just below the Jetty, 18 Aug © Dean Jones

Another marine highlight, but one that is much more inconspicuous (and indeed slimier) than the Spider Crabs, was the discovery of a number of Celtic Sea Slugs (Onchidella celtica) in the Devil’s Kitchen by eagle-eyed Assistant Warden Rosie Ellis on the 21st. Although relatively common, albeit restricted in its distribution, in the South West, these superb little molluscs collectively constituted the first record for Lundy. Bravo Rosie!

Rosie Ellis holds a Celtic Sea Slug, 21 Aug © Keith Hiscock

A closer view of a Lundy marine 'first'! © Keith Hiscock

We’ve also seen an increase in the number of Atlantic Grey Seals around the island, with a grand total of 218 animals along the east coast on the 24th – the highest count of the year and the third highest count ever for the island (the all-time record standing at 239 animals in August 2011)! The reason for this arrival is of course to breed. So far, Team Seal (composed of volunteers Sophia Upton and Ben Hanson) has managed to find and collect data on 10 pups along the east coast, as well as to gather re-sighting information on two breeding adults from our photo identification project!

Lots of heavily pregnant female seals are getting ready to pup, South End, 28 Aug © Dean Jones

Early pups are already at the portly weaner stage, 31 Aug © Dean Jones

This is a particularly vulnerable time for our seal pups so we ask that anyone who is visiting the island and who sees a pup or any hauled-out animals to please keep your distance! For information on the best way to view seals safely and to learn about the impacts of disturbance on these beautiful marine mammals, click on the following link to the Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust's website: https://www.cornwallsealgroup.co.uk/2016/09/give-pups-space/

Unfortunately, cetacean sightings have been rather scarce of late, with just four Harbour Porpoise noted offshore from Rat Island on the 27th, and seven Common Dolphin and five Harbour Porpoise moving south past South West Point on the 31st.

Finally, after the strong north-east winds on the 29th, around 30 small aggregations of the Buoy Barnacle (Dosima fascicularis) were blown into the Landing Bay area on the 30th, alongside small numbers of the strange but very beautiful hydrozoan, the By-the-wind Sailor (Velella velella).

Let’s hope the rest of September proves just as – or even more – exciting; we'll let you know in due course!

Report composed of sightings from Zoë Barton, Bart Donato, Rosie Ellis, Tim Frayling, Ben Hanson, Keith Hiscock, Dean Jones, Sophia Upton, Sue and Alice Waterfield and Mark Worden.