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Tuesday 27 October 2020

Moorhen & Manx Shearwater recorded at night

MS Oldenburg departs a sun-kissed Landing Bay with her final passengers of 2020, 23 Oct © Dean Jones
With the last passenger sailing of the year marking the turning of Lundy's seasons once more, Tim Jones looks back through night-time recordings he made of birds overflying the Castle a bit earlier in the month. There were some interesting results, although the buffeting easterly winds made it a challenge to pick out quieter calls, even in the relative shelter of those high Castle walls.

Night of 14th – 15th October (20.08–06.42 hrs)
Redwing 104 calls
Song Thrush 5 calls
Skylark 2 calls
Grey Heron 2 calls
Blackbird 1 call
Robin 1 call
Manx Shearwater 1 bout of calling at 23.36 hrs
Oystercatcher 1 call
Night of 15th – 16th October (20.29–06.43 hrs)
Redwing 62 calls
Song Thrush 2 calls
Blackbird 1 call
Sika Deer (this animal was probably not overflying the Castle, given that there were still more than two months to go before Christmas)
Night of 16th – 17th October (20.11–07.11 hrs)
Redwing 13 calls only (in line with the much-reduced numbers of Redwings seen by day on 17th)
Skylark 6 calls (just before first light at 06.55 hrs)
Blackbird 2 calls
Manx Shearwater 1 bout of calling at 01.30 hrs
MOORHEN 1 call at 21.40 hrs (see spectrogram below) – very much a Lundy rarity, being the first for the island since 2009! No doubt others fly through at night completely undetected...
Sika Deer (very vocal, giving their strange, wailing, diver-like call)


The distinctive spectrogram of a calling Moorhen, 16-17 Oct

Monday 26 October 2020

18th to 25th Oct – A rich and diverse array of autumn migrants

Dean Jones brings us up to date with an eight-day roundup of all that's been happening on Lundy.

18th October

A glorious autumnal day! Light south-easterlies and beautiful sunshine for most – becoming overcast for a few hours in the late afternoon but clearing again in the evening – conditions which allowed for some superb star-gazing!  

A rich and diverse day of Lundy birding with numerous star birds including a very vocal first-year Red-breasted Flycatcher at the back of Quarter Wall Copse in the afternoon – the second record of this species for 2020 following a bird found by Paul Holt in the same area on 6th October.

Red-breasted Flycatcher, Quarter Wall Copse, 18 Oct © Dean Jones
Another very exciting find was a Cetti’s Warbler which was trapped and ringed in Millcombe first thing – the 6th record for the island. Additionally, a total of four Yellow-browed Warblers were logged, including two which were trapped and ringed in Millcombe throughout the course of the day (one of the others was an unringed bird busily feeding in the canopy in Quarter Wall Copse).

Cetti's Warbler, Millcombe, 18 Oct © Dean Jones
Lots of excitement offshore too with good numbers of Herring Gull foraging along the east coast (385 logged) accompanied by 18 Mediterranean Gull, one adult Black-headed Gull and 93 Common Gull, the latter being the second highest count ever recorded for this species on Lundy.

The male and female Great Spotted Woodpeckers remained for their fourth day and a total of four Firecrest were scattered across Millcombe and the east coast.

Other birds logged included eight Mallard, ten Gannet, two Water Rail, a male Sparrowhawk, two Kestrel, a single Merlin, six Kittiwake, eight Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 44 Swallow, seven House Martin, five Chiffchaff, 17 Blackcap, six Goldcrest, 180 Starling, 19 Blackbird, 33 Redwing, 14 Song Thrush, 66 Fieldfare, 180 Starling, 22 Robin, three Stonechat, 12 Dunnock, two Coal Tit (including the lingering hiburnicus type), singles of Grey Wagtail and alba wagtail, ten Meadow Pipit, 83 Chaffinch, seven Siskin, six Goldfinch, two each of Linnet and Greenfinch and a single Lesser Redpoll.

Ringing totals: one Cetti’s Warbler, two Yellow-browed Warbler, 15 Blackcap, six Chiffchaff, one Firecrest, two Goldcrest, one Wren, two Redwing, two Blackbird, three Robin, one Greenfinch (36 birds of 11 species).

Non-avian sightings included a Humming-bird Hawkmoth in Millcombe.

19th October

Light south-easterly wind first thing, picking up to a strong SSE wind by the evening – peak gusts 46mph – clear skies and sunshine for most of the day, becoming overcast in mid-afternoon – heavy rain just before midnight.

A much quieter bird day, with the light winds and clear skies on the night of the 18th allowing for a mass exodus of migrants overnight. Despite the reasonably birdless start to the day, Rob Duncan continued to man the mist-nets in Millcombe. Thankfully he did, as by the late morning Rob was rewarded with a superb Little Bunting in one of the Secret Garden nets. This is the 21st record of Little Bunting for the island (of which eight now have been trapped and ringed), with the last being found on 23rd October 2019. Bravo Rob!

Little Bunting, Millcombe, 19 Oct © Dean Jones
Other highlights included a single Yellow-browed Warbler in Millcombe, the first Black Redstart of the autumn outside Bramble Villas, and ten Mediterranean Gull, a Great Skua and 15 Common Gull offshore.

Additional birds logged were 20 Gannet, a male and female Sparrowhawk, one Water Rail, a single Kittiwake, a single Lesser Black-backed Gull, 410 Razorbill, two Kestrel, a single Merlin, five Skylark, singles of Chiffchaff and Blackcap, three Firecrest, six Goldcrest, eight Blackbird, five Fieldfare, three Song Thrush, just one Redwing, 100 Starling, seven Robin, one alba wagtail, 57 Chaffinch, 11 Goldfinch, two Siskin and three Linnet.

Ringing totals: one Little Bunting, one Blackcap, one Chiffchaff, four Goldcrest, one Dunnock, six Chaffinch and one Goldfinch (15 birds of seven species).

20th October

A day of overcast skies, brief sunny spells and a strong SSW wind throughout.

Unsurprisingly the strong winds made birding rather difficult and had most of the birds on the island hidden out of sight in vegetation.

Highlights from this wild day included the male Great-spotted Woodpecker in Millcombe (no sign of the female), a Black Redstart in the Landing Bay and more scarce gull excitement along the east with a total of 29 Mediterranean Gull logged – the highest single count for Lundy on what is becoming an increasingly common species around the island.

Other birds logged included a single Kestrel, 14 Common Gull, 30 Herring Gull, six Lesser Black-backed Gull, three Kittiwake, singles of Chiffchaff and Blackcap, five Goldcrest, one Firecrest, 13 Chaffinch, two Goldfinch, four Siskin and one Linnet.
21st October

A light westerly breeze in the morning, picking up slightly around 13:00hrs, swinging WNW – drizzle first thing, clearing up for a few hours in mid-morning, then drizzle for the rest of the day – heavy showers in late afternoon.

Today’s highlight was the reappearance of the White’s Thrush in Millcombe after remaining hidden in the Valley for three days! The bird was seen by Rob Duncan at around 14:00hrs flying up from the path just below the Casbah, perching briefly on a low branch in a tree before flying up the Valley. The other highpoint included yet another Yellow-browed Warbler trapped and ringed.

Yellow-browed Warbler, Millcombe, 21 Oct © Dean Jones
Other birds recorded were a Golden Plover over the Village, the second Woodcock of the autumn flushed from the Terrace, a single Manx Shearwater offshore, two Water Rail, an adult male Sparrowhawk, a Merlin, ten Kittiwake, a single adult Mediterranean Gull, seven Blackcap, four Chiffchaff, two Firecrest, six Goldcrest, the hiburnicus type Coal Tit, six Swallow, 16 Robin, six Wheatear, four each of Redwing and Fieldfare, 13 Blackbird, two Song Thrush, 10 Dunnock, seven Grey Wagtail flying over after the rain, two Pied Wagtail, 43 Meadow Pipit, 19 Goldfinch, 94 Chaffinch, 14 Siskin, and a single Reed Bunting by Blue Bung.

Ringing totals included the Yellow-browed Warbler, six Blackcap, one Robin, one Redwing, 12 Chaffinch, three Siskin and one Goldfinch (25 birds of seven species).
22nd October

Another glorious, sunny autumn day on Lundy – light north-westerly winds first thing, slacking off to a light westerly breeze by late morning.

A superb day full of migrants! As dawn approached, the calls of Redwing and Chaffinch filled the air, with multiple small flocks moving south overhead up until 10:15hrs or so. Blackcap and Stonechat too were passing in decent numbers, with 59 and 26 birds logged throughout the day respectively.

The day's highlight however was once again the White’s Thrush which, instead of lurking in the undergrowth like it usually does, spent much of the morning feeding on the more open paths, for example next to Government House, and flying around the Valley, allowing multiple superb in-flight views.

Other notable birds included a very showy Woodlark above Benjamin’s Chair, a total of five Yellow-browed Warbler in Millcombe and along the east coast, a female Crossbill which dropped into the pines at the top of Millcombe in the afternoon, a Short-eared Owl which was flushed by the culling team next to Pondsbury in the afternoon, two Mistle Thrush south over the Valley first thing and a late Reed Warbler was trapped and ringed in Millcombe.

Woodlark, Benjamin's Chair, 22 Oct © Dean Jones
Yellow-browed Warbler foraging in ivy in Millcombe's Walled Gardens, 22 Oct © Dean Jones

Other sightings included four Cormorant, three Water Rail, a Golden Plover, singles of Merlin and Kestrel, ten Kittiwake, eight Common Gull, ten Mediterranean Gull, four Lesser Black-backed Gull, 200 Herring Gull, 18 Skylark, 36 Swallow, two House Martin, seven Chiffchaff, 16 Goldcrest, three Firecrest, the hibernicus type Coal Tit, two each of Pied and Grey Wagtail, 19 Meadow Pipit, 17 Blackbird, a Ring Ouzel, 12 Song Thrush, 26 Fieldfare, 278 Redwing,  21 Robin, 13 Dunnock, 300 Chaffinch, 17 Siskin, 37 Goldfinch, 23 Linnet, a single Brambling and two Lesser Redpoll.

Female Chaffinch on Tillage Field wall – one of the many logged on the island today, 22 Oct © Dean Jones
Ringing totals: a Yellow-browed Warbler, one Reed Warbler, 37 Blackcap, one Chiffchaff, five Goldcrest, two Firecrest, one Wren, three Blackbird, two Song Thrush, two Redwing, one Dunnock, two Robin, one Goldfinch, eight Chaffinch, four Siskin, two House Sparrow (73 birds of 16 species).

Non-avian sightings included a Harbour Porpoise off South West Point, a Small Copper butterfly on the Lower East Side Path and a Silver Y in Millcombe.

23rd October

Strong northerly winds in the morning dropping away by 11:00hrs – in mid-afternoon the winds slowly gathered pace again, blowing a gale by late evening – dry and cloudy for the most part other than a bout of heavy rain for around an hour or so shortly after 09:00hrs.

A much quieter day compared to the 22nd, though there were still some great birds to be enjoyed by the last of the season’s day-trippers.

Highlights were another unringed Yellow-browed Warbler in Millcombe, a good candidate for Siberian (tristis) Chiffchaff* and a Garden Warbler, both of which were tapped and ringed in the afternoon.

*NB Subsequent MtDNA analysis of shed body feathers from this bird indicated maternal lineage as P. c. abietinus (Prof. J. Martin Collinson & Thomas Shannon, University of Aberdeen per Dean Jones).

Other birds logged included a young Cormorant on Rocket Pole Pond, singles of Merlin and Kestrel, two Skylark, seven Swallow, one House Martin, 32 Blackcap, two Chiffchaff, five Goldcrest, a lone Firecrest, the hiburnicus type Coal Tit, 69 Redwing, 11 Blackbird, three Song Thrush, five Fieldfare, nine Robin, four Stonechat, the feathered remains of a Common Redstart next to the Quarries, five Dunnock, 12 Meadow Pipit, a Grey Wagtail, 37 Chaffinch, 27 Siskin and ten Goldfinch.

A Merlin looking for some lunch in Barton Field, 23 Oct © Dean Jones
Ringing totals: one Garden Warbler, 20 Blackcap, the Chiffchaff, one Goldcrest, two Blackbird, one each of Robin and Dunnock, six Chaffinch, four Goldfinch and a single Siskin (38 birds of 10 species).

A beautiful thrush-filled sunset to end a superb day's birding, Quarter Wall, 23 Oct © Dean Jones
24th October

Strong westerly/north westerly winds throughout – thick cloud and frequent downpours throughout the day.

Another quiet day on the bird front which wasn’t unexpected due to the wet and very windy weather. Highlights included the White’s Thrush again near the Casbah in Millcombe in the early evening.

Other birds logged were the Cormorant, again on Rocket Pole Pond, singles of Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Merlin, 67 Kittiwake, ten Mediterranean Gull and one Common Gull offshore, four Swallow, a single Blackcap, four Goldcrest, 20 Robin, a Black Redstart in the Landing Bay area, three Stonechat, seven Dunnock, three Grey Wagtail, four Redwing, seven Blackbird, two Song Thrush, 27 Chaffinch, 23 Linnet and two Siskin.
25th October

The strong north-westerly winds continued – cloudy with sunny spells and a number of heavy downpours and hailstorms – conditions which produced some beautiful cloud formations and rainbows.

A rainbow shines through a hailstorm over the Village, 25 Oct © Dean Jones
Another quiet bird day due to the weather, with a very similar cast of migrants as for the previous day. Highlights included the White’s Thrush showing well in Millcombe again, a ringed Yellow-browed Warbler in Millcombe Wood, and a Great Skua and two adult Mediterranean Gulls offshore.

Other birds noted were the Cormorant, again on Rocket Pole Pond, two Water Rail, two Snipe (one of which was trapped and ringed in Brick Field in the evening), 60 Kittiwake, two each of Skylark and Swallow, a single Blackcap, two Firecrest and a handful of Goldcrest, the hiburnicus type Coal Tit, 10 Robin, three Grey Wagtail, four Redwing, five Blackbird, two Song Thrush, 20 Chaffinch, three Goldfinch and three Siskin.

Report composed of sightings from Ed & Vick Crane, Rob Duncan, Dave Fairhurst, Hugo Fletcher, Dean Jones and Ali Sheppard.

Tuesday 20 October 2020

13th to 17th Oct – White-tailed Eagle returns to Lundy after 140 years

Tuesday 13th October
Windy throughout, initially from NW, gradually veering more northerly during the day and even a touch of ENE by dusk. Heavy showers in the morning – though many missing the island – becoming more isolated by midday and more or less dry during the afternoon, though more shower clouds around at dusk giving some spectacular light effects.
Dramatic evening light looking towards Tibbetts Hill from near Pondsbury, 13 Oct © Tim Jones
Visible migration over Millcombe first thing was significantly reduced compared to the morning of 12th, with just 36 Redwing, no Fieldfare at all, and small numbers of passage Meadow Pipit, Chaffinch, Goldfinch and Siskin. The yellowish potential hibernicus Coal Tit was again in Millcombe, whilst the valley also held a few Blackbird, Song Thrush, Blackcap and Chiffchaff, but there had been an overnight noticeable clearout of many migrants.
It was therefore a considerable relief that some 20 birders who arrived on a day-trip, hoping to see the White's Thrush, eventually succeeded in doing so (at least for the most part) when the bird eventually revealed itself once more in Millcombe Wood, though views were frustratingly brief.
Logged totals for the day included two Cormorant, a female Sparrowhawk, five Water Rail (all calling in various parts of Millcombe), a Golden Plover, seven Snipe, three Merlin, eight Skylark, 30 Swallow, six House Martin, four Chiffchaff, 13 Blackcap, eight Goldcrest, 136 Starling, 14 Blackbird, a lone Fieldfare, three Song Thrush, 36 Redwing, six Stonechat, a Grey Wagtail, 14 alba wagtail, 70 Meadow Pipit, 21 Chaffinch, a Greenfinch, 70 Goldfinch, 20 Siskin and 60 Linnet.

Grey Wagtail, Millcombe Pond © Dean Jones
Nocturnal migration recording during the night of 12th/13th from two locations (outside the Barn, and in the south-facing lee of Millcombe perimeter wall between Government House and Blue Bung) yielded 29 Redwing calls, a single Fieldfare call, four Snipe calls and – notably for Lundy – seven Common Scoter calls (recorded from next to the Barn at 23:12hrs).
Finally, Nik Ward has provided a summary of his ringing totals for the week 7–13 October:

Swallow 134, Blackcap 61, Goldcrest 48, Goldfinch 20, Siskin 16, Chiffchaff 12, House Martin 9, Blackbird 6, Chaffinch 5, Redwing 4, Song Thrush 4, Wren 4, Yellow-browed Warbler 3, Robin 2, Lesser Redpoll 2, and singles of Garden Warbler, Stonechat, Dunnock, Grey Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Greenfinch – and of course the White's Thrush! Total 337 birds of 22 species, with the highest catch, of 88 new birds, being made on 9th.

Wednesday 14th October

Broken cloud with a stiff NE breeze first thing. Sunny skies for much of the day but the wind increased, making it feel quite raw except in the lee of the West Side and a few other favoured spots.
A superb day filled with migrants! Redwing were already calling over the Village before first light and from 07.25 to 09.10hrs there was a steady arrival of birds, some dropping into the valley for a rest before continuing their journeys, others passing right overhead and on towards the mainland. With them were flocks of Chaffinch, a Mistle Thrush, five Song Thrush, six Fieldfare, a few Blackbirds plummeting in from height, 14 Meadow Pipits, two or three Grey Wagtail, five alba wagtail, two Lesser Redpoll and 15 Linnet. A highlight at 08:45hrs was a loose flock of nine Crossbill heading south. Many of the thrushes and most of the Chaffinches appeared to arrive from the west and we speculated that they had found themselves out over the Celtic Sea at daybreak and were now reorientating back towards the mainland.
Merlins were cashing in on the abundance of prey, hunting from dawn to dusk, and we again estimated at least three for the day. One was seen leaving the island high to the SE, heading for Hartland but we also noticed one targeting flocks of passage Starlings out over the sea. Starlings themselves were a real feature of the day, with a notable influx resulting in groups scattered across the island.
A walk along the West Side to just north of Threequarter Wall revealed continuing overhead movement of passage finches, whilst thrushes were feeding in places sheltered from the wind – e.g. a loose flock of Redwing, Fieldfare, two Mistle Thrush, a Blackbird and a Ring Ouzel, just south of Halfway Wall stile at Jenny's Cove. Bizarrely, a Long-tailed Tit was seen and heard on the nearby sidelands, perched on bracken, then flying south towards the Earthquake! Almost as unusal in terms of location were a Yellow-browed Warbler that spent the day in the lee of the main track wall close to Tillage/Brick Field pig-sty and another that was feeding – together with a small group of Goldcrest and and one or two Chiffchaff – on the sunny, sheltered edge of St Helen's Field, protected by the wall running along the start of the Upper East Side Path and hopping about on the grazed turf picking off insects almost invisible to the human eye.
Small Copper basking in the lee of the west sidelands, Jenny's Cove, 14 Oct © Tim Davis
There was no sign of the White's Thrush, in spite of the patient vigil mounted by visiting birder Nick Moss, who kept Millcombe Wood under close surveillance throughout the day. Logged totals for the most numerous migrants included 500 Chaffinch, 400 Redwing, 350 Starling, 120 Meadow Pipit and 80 for both Linnet & Goldfinch.

Thursday 15th October

Dry all day. Partly cloudy skies with lengthy sunny spells – especially in the morning; rather cloudier for a time in the afternoon. A stiff ENE wind, force 4–5, gusting 6, but easing back to a more pleasant force 3 by the late afternoon.
One of the day's most noticeable features was by far the biggest Blackbird arrival of the autumn so far, with 70 estimated in Millcombe, and a further 20 elsewhere, giving a logged total of 90, though there were probably significantly more. Early-morning monitoring of visible migration over Millcombe brought at least four Ring Ouzel, four Brambling, two Crossbill, two Hawfinch and a calling Reed Bunting among more common species, the most numerous being Redwing (230 logged for the day), Fieldfare (130), Starling (500) and Chaffinch (180).
Tim Davis & James Diamond 'vis mig' from upper Millcombe, 15 Oct © Tim Jones

Fieldfare & Redwing, Barton Field, 15 Oct © Dean Jones

Other notable records included a first-winter male Wigeon (along with two Teal) on Barton Pond, a male and female Great Spotted Woodpecker (together at one point) in Millcombe, at least 30 Blackcap and a single Garden Warbler feeding on blackberries and elder berries in Millcombe, and a Firecrest initially in the pines above Millcombe House, then feeding with Goldcrests and Chiffchaffs on the edge of St Helen's Field.
Wigeon, Barton Pond, 15 Oct © Dean Jones

Up to five Coal Tits were seen during the day; the potential hibernicus was trapped in Millcombe during the afternoon (see photos below) at the same time as a standard white-cheeked individual was present in the valley, whilst one was in bracken at St Helen's Combe and two were together in the willows along the Lower East Side Path just south of Quarry Beach. There were also three Yellow-browed Warblers – one in Quarter Wall Copse and two in the Terrace willows. Birds of prey comprised a female Sparrowhawk, three Kestrel, two Merlin and four Peregrine.

The potential hibernicus Coal Tit in the hand, 15 Oct © Tim Jones

Its underparts showed a distinct yellow wash and cinnamon flanks, 15 Oct © Tim Jones
Nick Moss's stoic White's Thrush stakeout was finally rewarded by brief views of the bird in Millcombe Wood at around 08.20. Congratulations Nick!

A large flock of gulls gathered off the Landing Bay in the afternoon included at least 250 Herring Gull, 11 Mediterranean Gull, ten Lesser Black-backed Gull, seven Kittiwake and three Common Gull, counted by James Diamond from the deck of the departing MS Oldenburg.

During the evening, Dean Jones and Jamie Dunning explored some of the farm fields by torchlight, locating two Jack Snipe (one of which they were able to capture and ring in Tillage Field) and some 15 Common Snipe.

Jack Snipe, Tillage Field, evening of 15 Oct © Dean Jones

Friday 16th October

Another dry day – though it remained stubbornly overcast for most of daylight hours – with a moderate and chilling E wind throughout.

The first couple of hours of daylight once again saw some good visible and audible passage over Millcombe, with Blackbird featuring prominently for the second day. It was a treat to watch the characteristic 'sculling' flight of individuals and loose groups flying high over the valley, occasionally dropping almost vertically and disappearing straight into the scrub. Redwing, Fieldfare, Starling and Chaffinch were once again the most numerous species, along with smaller numbers of Meadow Pipit, Goldfinch, Linnet and Siskin. Highlights included a handful of Greenfinch, a Brambling, three Ring Ouzels (including a stunning adult, perched unusually confidingly in blackthorn scrub) and a Firecrest feeding in the spruce trees near the Ugly. However, the biggest surprise of the morning was a Woodlark calling in flight as it headed south.

A female Firecrest (perhaps the same as the bird seen earlier) was trapped and ringed in the Secret Garden and a beautiful Yellow-browed Warbler was feeding in the tree tops outside Bramble Villa before flying up St John's Valley, where it zipped around at high speed in the bracken and gorse, first on the side of Castle Hill, then below Big St John's. The male Great Spotted Woodpecker was still present, knocking seven bells out of one of the sparrow nestboxes in Millcombe Wood – in fact the very same nestbox that a long-staying female Great Spot used for roosting during autumn 2018! (See this blog post for 16 & 17 November 2018.)
Dean Jones & Jamie Dunning ringing in Millcombe, 16 Oct © Tim Jones

This beautiful Firecrest was among the birds caught, 16 Oct © Tim Jones

Mid-morning Tim Davis & Tim Jones set off from the Village intending to walk to North Light for lunch. They had already been delighted to see and hear a Lapland Bunting in High Street Field when, approaching the wall that runs from the water tanks towards the Airfield, they were treated to the mind-boggling sight of a juvenile White-tailed Eagle flying north at speed – no more than 30m away and low enough to be able to see the bird's upperparts – hotly pursued by two corvids, which they at first took to be Carrion Crows as they looked so small next to the eagle, but which were actually Ravens! In less than a minute the huge raptor had disappeared over a ridge towards the western end of Quarter Wall, leaving its two observers literally shaking and slack-jawed. The Tims made a quick call to alert Lundy Warden Dean Jones. Then, aware that a satellite-tagged White-tailed Eagle from the Isle of Wight reintroduction programme had been seen in the Padstow area the previous day, they phoned the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation, which is spearheading the reintroduction (together with Forestry England). They got through to Roy himself – who worked on Lundy as a teenage seasonal volunteer at the then Lundy Bird Observatory in the late 1950s. Amazingly, Roy was able to confirm that the 'Cornish eagle' was still in Cornwall, having been seen in the Penzance area earlier in the morning. The Lundy bird was a second individual, which had also been roaming the South West in recent days. He would send further details once he had received tracking data in the evening.
The eagle leaves its incredulous observers behind, Ackland's Moor, 16 Oct © Tim Jones

With no further sign of the eagle, the Tims continued north, deciding to go via the Terrace. On the way, they met Assistant Warden Rosie Ellis and Ranger Matt Stritch working on the fenceline near Quarry Cottages, whilst Dean Jones was already on the Terrace, having spent time up on the plateau frantically (but fruitlessly) scanning for a 'flying barn door'! Continuing on, the Tims had just passed VC Quarry, when looking up at two dog-fighting Kestrels, Tim D saw a much bigger, more distant raptor – the White-tailed Eagle soaring high from the direction of Tibbetts Hill and out over Halfway Wall Bay! With a combination of running, shouting and jumping like a demented jack-in-the-box, Tim J managed to draw Dean's attention and he sprinted the several hundred metres at Olympic pace. Rob & Kathryn Joules also arrived, curious about all the commotion, and all five observers were then treated to prolonged views of the eagle as it soared east towards the North Devon mainland, then drifted back towards the island, eventually being almost directly overhead, just off the East Side, though very high up and best watched by lying flat on the ground and looking straight up! Through a combination of a dodgy phone signal and more running, Dean managed to get his colleagues Rosie and Matt onto the eagle, before it suddenly gathered pace and headed off south-east back to the mainland, being lost to binocular view more or less directly in line with Hartland Point Lighthouse at 13:08hrs.

Heading out east over Halfway Wall Bay at about 12:35 hrs © Dean Jones

Soaring high above the Terrace... © Tim Jones

...the eagle eventually turned for the mainland © Tim Jones
Roy Dennis emailed the next day, attaching the map below (reproduced with kind permission) and confirming that eagle G471, released in August this year, had left the mainland to fly out to Lundy at 10:20hrs, roughly 35 minutes before it was first seen by the Tims. It flew out north of the island before returning to rest for a time near North Light – where it was seen by one of the Trinity House team currently working on the lighthouse as it flew below him; what a sight that must have been!
Satellite track of White-tailed Eagle G471 on its day-trip on 16 Oct © Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation

This hugely exciting record comes some 140 years after the last known White-tailed Eagle to have occurred on Lundy was shot in about 1880. Also a juvenile bird, its stuffed and mounted skin is held in the collection of Ilfracombe Museum. Writing in The Birds of Lundy in 2007, the Tims had commented that "...there is a glimmer of hope that White-tailed Eagles may one day return to Lundy". How privileged they felt to bear witness to that day. Let's hope that the reintroduction programme, still in its early days, means that these magnificent birds will, before too many more years have passed, become a regular sight around the island once again.

The day still held one or two surprises – though not quite comparable with the excitement of the eagle – with a female Common Scoter on the sea off North Light, and what was highly likely to be a second Woodlark calling over the Terrace at 13.20hrs (Dean Jones), then seen and heard well on the west sidelands just north of Halfway Wall at 16.30hrs (Tim Davis & Tim Jones). Other notable sightings included the Wigeon, still at Barton Pond, the possible hibernicus Coal Tit in Millcombe, and another Firecrest in the Quarries.
Fruiting body of Golden Spindles Clavulinopsis fusiformis South West Field, 16 Oct © Tim Jones

Saturday 17th October

Broken cloud first thing gave a fiery orange sunrise casting an ethereal light over Millcombe and the Village. From mid-morning, blue skies and sunshine made it feel very warm in shelter away from the still chilly E wind that backed more SE during the afternoon.

Another stunning sunrise, 17 Oct © Tim Jones

An ethereal orange light was cast over Millcombe, 17 Oct © Tim Jones
Unsurprisingly, a much quieter day. Visible migration was noticeably much reduced, with tens rather than hundreds of thrushes, though there were still good numbers of Chaffinch passing through – about 300 between 07:30 and 08:45hrs. Incongruously interspersed with the arriving winter migrants were a group of seven House Martin, whilst six Swallow were in the same binocular view as a flock of Fieldfare at 07:35hrs!

The male Great Spotted Woodpecker was still in Millcombe and the Wigeon flew into the small pond in St Helen's Field. There were two Coal Tit (including the possible hibernicus) in Millcombe. A Yellow-browed Warbler showed well as it fed amongst ivy flowers near Government House Pond at lunchtime, and a Curlew was calling in flight over the Landing Bay. Dean Jones patiently sifted through the large feeding flock of gulls off the East Side, coming up with totals of 500 Herring Gull, 75 Common Gull, 30 Great Black-backed Gull, 23 Mediterranean Gull, 20 Kittiwake, two Black-headed Gull, 30 Gannet and a Bottlenose Dolphin!
Three birders came over on a day-trip for the White's Thrush (not seen since the morning of 15th).  Unfortunately, two of them engaged in unacceptable behaviour tantamount to harassment of the bird, including persistently playing tape lures, even after having been asked by the Warden to stop. You (and Lundy) know who you are. On a more positive note, the thrush was retrapped during routine mist-netting by Rob Duncan during the evening. It was found to be in good health and to have put on significant additional fat reserves since first being caught on 8th October.

Observations by Alison & Nick Blinston, Martin Bond, Tim Davis, James Diamond, Jamie Dunning, Rosie Ellis, Dean Jones, Tim Jones, Nick Moss, Matt Stritch, Nik Ward and Bill, Jennie & Michael Williams.

Monday 12 October 2020

10th to 12th Oct – White's Thrush still present and much else...

Saturday 10th October

A stiff NW wind throughout the day, blowing in a few scattered showers.

The lumpy crossing from Ilfracombe was very quiet birdwise, with single 1st-year Mediterranean Gull (close to the mainland) and a dark-phase Arctic Skua the highlights, alongside a handful of Guillemots and Kittiwakes and a couple of Gannets.

The White’s Thrush was relocated in Millcombe Wood during the afternoon and showed several times in flight across the valley, always returning to favoured areas of Millcombe Wood and the tree-planting enclosure below Government House on the north side of the valley. It was seen well, including by two North Devon birders who’d braved the elements on a day trip.

Other rare birds for Lundy (though not quite in the same league as the White’s Thrush!) were the two Barnacle Geese still at Pondsbury (where they were grazing on the short turf just N of the wetland in the afternoon) and a single Coal Tit in Millcombe. Single Yellow-browed Warblers were seen in Millcombe and in the sallows near the Terrace Trap.
Barnacle Geese grazing on one of the small islands in Pondsbury, 10 Oct © Dean Jones

Later in the day the geese ventured onto the fringing grassland, 10 Oct © Tim Jones
Other records included: single Water Rail, Oystercatcher, Golden Plover & Snipe, two Woodpigeon, two Merlin, a Peregrine, two Skylark, 30 Swallow, 10 House Martin, a Chiffchaff, eight Blackcap, a Garden Warbler (trapped & ringed in Millcombe), six Goldcrest, 12 Blackbird, a Song Thrush, five Redwing, 10 Robin, two Stonechat, a Wheatear (at the Castle), five alba wagtail, 10 Meadow Pipit, two Chaffinch, a female Greenfinch (trapped & ringed in Millcombe), four Goldfinch, 10 Siskin and a lone Reed Bunting.

Sunday 11th October

A gorgeous autumn day, with broken cloud at dawn, becoming increasingly sunny during the morning and early afternoon; clouding over gradually later on. NNW wind still quite blowy first thing, dropping away in the afternoon.

The Village & Castle Hill in the late afternoon sun, 11Oct © Tim Jones
The White’s Thrush was once again star bird, being seen in Millcombe on several occasions during the day, in the same areas of the valley as on 10th. It’s furtive habits meant that it took time, care and patience to see well, but it gave itself up properly just before dusk, perching on an open branch near the Casbah for a minute or two.

Also notable were the two Barnacle Geese grazing on one of the islands in Pondsbury, a Dotterel calling in flight over the Upper East Side Path near Quarter Wall (Dean Jones & ZoĆ« Barton), two Yellow-browed Warbler (Millcombe and the Terrace), a Ring Ouzel near the intersection of Quarter Wall and 'Pointless Wall' (James Diamond), and the Coal Tit again in Millcombe & St Helen’s Combe. When seen well, the Coal Tit appeared to have a distinct yellowish suffusion to its cheeks and underparts, a feature particularly (though apparently not exclusively) associated with birds of the Irish race P. a. hibernicus.
Coal Tit with yellowish suffusion to cheeks and underparts, St Helen's Copse 11 Oct © Tim Jones

Another view of the Coal Tit © Tim Jones

Other records included: a female Teal on Barton Pond, three Cormorant, two Sparrowhawk, the autumn peak so far of five Water Rail (all in Millcombe!), single Golden Plover and Snipe, a steady N-bound movement of mainly immature Herring Gull totalling at least 140, three Lesser Black-backed Gull, one Kestrel, two Merlin, three Peregrine, two Sand Martin, 200 Swallow, 30 House Martin, four Chiffchaff, 10 Blackcap, 20 Goldcrest, 120 Starling, 18 Blackbird, five Song Thrush, 10 Redwing, 22 Robin, five Stonechat, 14 Dunnock, two Grey Wagtail, two Pied Wagtail and 12 unraced ‘albas’, 190 Meadow Pipit, six Rock Pipit, 20 Chaffinch, the ringed female Greenfinch, 72 Goldfinch, 20 Siskin, 28 Linnet and two Lesser Redpoll.

Non-avian sightings included: a Comma – a scarce species on Lundy, recorded less than annually – a Small White, two Small Copper & 15 Red Admiral; also a Ruby Tiger (moth) caterpillar in Millcombe, a Devil’s Coach-horse beetle on the Lower East Side Path and, two of the day’s real highlights – a Blue-fin Tuna seen breaching three times about 200-300m off the Terrace at 14.25 hrs (Dean Jones) and a Vagrant Emperor dragonfly (as rare as its name suggests!) found and photographed on the main track between Tibbetts and Threequarter Wall by Bill, Jennie & Michael Williams.
Vagrant Emperor, 11 Oct © Jennie Williams

Monday 12th October

Overcast and increasingly claggy, windy & drizzly during the morning; much drier and brighter in the afternoon. A stiff SW veering round to NW then pretty much due N by the end of the day.

Redwings were calling from first light and in spite of the conditions, flocks totalling c.200 were seen over Millcombe and the Ugly between 07.20 and 09.00. Also five Fieldfare and a sixth was outside Paradise Row first thing.

Tim Davis had a gripping close-up encounter with the White’s Thrush, perched just a few metres from him in Millcombe Wood at 10.20, whilst a pale wheatear found by James Diamond on the granite boulder slopes running down from below Quarry Pond and the Timekeeper’s Cottage to the Terrace/Lower East Side Path and seen intermittently in the late afternoon was initially thought to be an Isabelline Wheatear. Sadly expert examination of photos on return to the mainland showed a number of features, including prinmary projection, consistent with Northern Wheatear.

The day’s other notable sightings included the female Teal again, at least one Grey Heron (singles at Pondsbury and in flight near the Church), a juvenile Cormorant, two Sparrowhawk, two Water Rail, four Oystercatcher, a Golden Plover, two Merlin, three Peregrine, two Coal Tit (Millcombe & Quarter Wall Copse), 50 Swallow, 10 House Martin, a late Willow Warbler (Smelly Gully), 15 Chiffchaff, three Yellow-browed Warbler (Millcombe, Quarter Wall Copse, and the gully running down from Quarry Pond), 20 Blackcap, a Firecrest (Quarter Wall Copse), 20 Goldcrest, 120 Starling, a Ring Ouzel (above White Beach), 20 Blackbird, five Fieldfare (the first of the autumn), 10 Song Thrush, 200 Redwing, 40 Robin, a late adult male Common Redstart, a first-winter Whinchat (both the 'start and the ‘chat on the fenceline between Millcombe & St Helen’s Field), five Stonechat, a Northern Wheatear, 14 Dunnock, two Grey Wagtail, six alba wagtail, 30 Meadow Pipit, 15 Chaffinch, the ringed female Greenfinch, 40 Goldfinch, 25 Siskin and 10 Linnet. There was no further sign of the two Barnacle Geese.

A particularly confiding Yellow-browed Warbler spent time at Millcombe Pond in the afternoon, feeding in the willow bushes, on the mud and on nearby grass. What a jewel of a bird!
Yellow-browed Warbler, Millcombe Pond, 12 Oct © Dean Jones

It showed at close range, at times dropping down to feed on the mud... © Dean Jones

...or on the grass between the pond and the walled gardens © Tim Jones

During the night of 11th/12th, recording of nocturnal migration by James Diamond yielded 45 Redwing calls between 22.53 hrs and dawn.
Observations by Nick & Alison Blinston, Paul Bullock, Dave Churchill, Tim Davis, James Diamond, Darrin Dowding, Ken Ebsworthy, Dean Jones, Tim Jones, Jon Turner & Nik Ward.

Friday 9 October 2020

8th to 9th Oct – The White's Thrush reappears ... in a mist-net!

Dean Jones updates us on the exciting happenings on Lundy over the past two days.
8th October

Thick drizzle first thing clearing up by 08:00 – overcast for the rest of the morning giving way to some lovely and sunny weather in the afternoon – moderate winds from the west during the early morning which quickly slacked off to a light wind by the late morning/early afternoon.

Unfortunately there were no additional sightings of the White’s Thrush from yesterday but a superb day of Lundy birding none the less, with a nice variety of scarce birds logged. Highlights were a Yellow-browed Warbler on the Terrace alongside two Firecrest, the Barnacle Geese pair on Pondsbury for their second day, a Short-eared Owl flushed near the Steps of Doom, three Lapland Buntings at Threequarter Wall and a Great Skua offshore harassing a small flock of Kittiwakes and two adult Mediterranean Gulls.

Other sightings included ten Gannet, a Sandwich Tern seen from the Oldenburg on approach to the island, 60 Kittiwake, two Snipe, a Grey Heron, two Merlin, a Sparrowhawk, four Skylark, 150 Swallow, 20 House Martin, singles of Blackcap and Chiffchaff, twelve Goldcrest, three Song Thrush, two Redwing, twelve Blackbird, two Wheatear, 22 Stonechat, a single Whinchat, ten Robin, small numbers of passage Meadow Pipit, the Millcombe Grey Wagtail, six Siskin, 110 Goldfinch, 14 Linnet, one Lesser Redpoll and two Reed Bunting.
A total of 49 birds were trapped and ringed, including 28 Swallow, five House Martin, 12 Goldcrest, one each of Blackcap, Blackbird, Stonechat and Grey Wagtail.

9th October

Overcast first thing, followed by a brief downpour then overcast – sunshine with cloud for the afternoon with one or two heavy showers – winds picked up from the north-west by mid-morning and remained moderate/strong throughout the day.

Undoubtedly today’s highlight was the reappearance of the White’s Thrush in a shelf of a mist-net in the Secret Garden. The bird was ringed and released by Nik Ward near the Secret Garden and subsequently viewed by Paul Holt in Millcombe Wood at around 08:00. The bird then went back into stealth mode and wasn’t seen again for the rest of the day.
White's Thrush, Millcombe, 9 Oct © Dean Jones

White's Thrush, upperwing, Millcombe, 9 Oct © Dean Jones

White's Thrush, underwing, Millcombe, 9 Oct © Dean Jones

White's Thrush, tail, Millcombe, 9 Oct © Dean Jones

What a gorgeous bird! © Dean Jones

Other sightings of note included the two Barnacle Geese still on Pondsbury, two Yellow-browed Warbler trapped and ringed in Millcombe, two Firecrest (one in Millcombe and the other in Quarter Wall Copse), amongst good numbers of Goldcrest (83 logged).

Also logged were two fly-over Golden Plover, 37 Razorbill, 20 House Martin, 50 Swallow, 20 Blackcap, seven Chiffchaff, five Song Thrush, 11 Blackbird, 25 Robin and small numbers of Meadow Pipit, Siskin, Goldfinch, Chaffinch and two Lesser Redpoll.

A total of 89 birds, including the White’s Thrush, were trapped and ringed (as well as five others re-trapped from previous days shown in brackets): 26 (1) Swallow, one House Martin, 18 Blackcap, two Yellow-browed Warbler, three Chiffchaff, 22 Goldcrest, one (1) Blackbird, one Song Thrush, (1) Grey Wagtail, one Meadow Pipit, four Goldfinch, two Lesser Redpoll, six (2) Siskin and one Chaffinch.

Thursday 8 October 2020

1st to 7th Oct – White's Thrush the crowning glory of a rich and varied week

Dean Jones reviews the happenings of the last seven days on Lundy, which culminated in the finding of Lundy's second White's Thrush. Let's not waste any more time...
1st October

Moderate westerly winds in the morning picking up and shifting south-west around 14:00 – overcast for the most part – frequent drizzle and light showers by mid/late-afternoon.

The day's highlight came in the form of three Yellow-browed Warblers, two of which were trapped and ringed in Millcombe in the late morning, followed by another feeding in Quarter Wall Copse shortly after noon.
Yellow-browed Warbler, ringed 1 Oct © Justin Walker

Other sightings included a Merlin near Threequarter Wall, 105 Swallow, 16 House Martin, three Skylark, ten Blackcap, five Chiffchaff, a single Firecrest on the Terrace, 39 Goldcrest, eight Blackbird, 14 Robin, eight apiece of Stonechat and Dunnock, a Whinchat next to Quarters, 68 Meadow Pipit, a Grey Wagtail in Millcombe Pond, 17 Siskin, 13 Goldfinch, four Linnet, seven Chaffinch and a single fly-over Lesser Redpoll

A classic sound of autumn –  a territorial Robin ticking away in Millcombe, 1 Oct © Dean Jones
2nd October

Storm Alex makes himself known! A day of gale-force north-easterlies and near constant drizzle throughout. 
A choppy Landing Bay with strong north-easterly winds made for tricky sea-watching, 2 Oct © DeanJones
Unsurprisingly, not much of note due to the very wet and windy conditions. Sightings included 16 Gannet, a single Manx Shearwater and two Harbour Porpoise foraging offshore. Landbirds up top were few and far between, with only a handful of Goldcrest, Blackcap, Robin, Siskin, Goldfinch and a single Lesser Redpoll in Millcombe being logged.

3rd October

Another very windy day with winds peaking at 43mph from the north/north-east shortly after midday – conditions which unsurprisingly prevented the Oldenburg from sailing – a rather wet and drizzly morning, clearing up slightly by the afternoon, give or take a few brief showers.

Despite the wet start and strong winds, a good number and diversity of birds were moving through the island. This was particularly evident post-drizzle as Millcombe became alive with the tecking calls of Blackcap. Here, 80 birds were logged in the Valley alone and, coupled with a number of other scattered birds in the more windy areas of the island, an estimated total of around 100 birds were noted. Other highlights included a Snow Bunting foraging on the main track – a bird which stuck around for most of the day. The first two Ring Ouzel of the autumn were logged by Paul Holt on the Upper East Side Path in the afternoon. Goldfinch too were moving in good numbers, with 113 logged throughout the day, and lastly, four Greenfinch and a single Garden Warbler were seen in Millcombe in the afternoon.

Other birds logged included a Golden Plover over the Village, a Snipe in South West Field, two Water Rail in Millcombe, a Kestrel at Halfway Wall, three Woodpigeon, 61 Swallow, 23 House Martin, three Chiffchaff, 11 Goldcrest, six Blackbird, four Song Thrush, ten Robin, eight Stonechat, a single Wheatear, four Dunnock, 50 Meadow Pipit, the Millcombe Pond Grey Wagtail, ten Pied Wagtail, 17 Siskin, 82 Linnet, seven Chaffinch and three Lesser Redpoll.

4th October

Another driech old day with winds peaking at 54mph from the north-west – a near constant downpour throughout the morning and early afternoon, giving way to a light drizzle by 15:00.

Despite the less than ideal conditions, there were still some decent birds about for those brave enough to venture out into the storm.

Sightings included a first-winter Black-headed Gull over the Quarries, a single Manx Shearwater offshore, 16 Razorbill, 35 Kittiwake, three Lesser Black-backed Gull, a single Merlin, a Water Rail calling from Smelly Gully, three Woodpigeon, four House Martin, three Swallow, 37 Blackcap, five Chiffchaff, 18 Goldcrest, eight Blackbird, seven Robin, three Stonechat, two Pied Wagtail, the Grey Wagtail, five Chaffinch, 15 Goldfinch, a Lesser Redpoll and two apiece of Greenfinch, Linnet and Siskin.

5th October

Strong north/north-westerly winds continue – a dry start followed by drizzle and the odd sunny spell after 10:00.

The title of star birds today goes to a flock of 25 Barnacle Geese which were seen flying low to the water by Hope Simpson and Rosie Ellis at North End. This is the first record of this species on Lundy since 2002 and the joint highest count for the island following a flock of 25 birds on 3rd November 1968! Bravo Hope and Rosie!

Fifteen of the 25 Barnacle Geese that flew past the North End, 5 Oct © Rosie Ellis
Other high points included two Blue Tits in the Ugly/St Helen’s Copse area – the first to be seen on the island since 2015! A Great Northern Diver was seen in flight offshore from the Landing Bay in the afternoon, and a total of six Black-headed Gulls were logged throughout the day – four adults offshore and two first-winter birds on the Jetty/Tillage Field.

A first-winter Black-headed Gull on the Jetty, 5 Oct © Dean Jones...

...however it's not often you see Black-headed Gulls on top of the island like this, here in the Tillage Field, 5 Oct © Dean Jones
In addition, a first-winter Common Gull was also present offshore from the Landing Bay briefly in the afternoon, a Snow Bunting was again on the High Street track (probably the same bird from 3rd Oct), two Firecrest were on the Terrace and good numbers of both Goldcrest (40) and Stonechat (17) were recorded by Paul Holt along the east coast.
Snow Bunting, High Street Field, 5 Oct © Dean Jones
Other birds noted were one each of Fulmar and Manx Shearwater, 17 Gannet, 35 Kittiwake, four Lesser Black-backed Gull, two fly-over Golden Plover, 15 Oystercatcher, two Water Rail in Millcombe, two Woodpigeon, a Sparrowhawk, a handful of both Swallow and House Martin, 20 Blackcap, 10 Chiffchaff, eight Blackbird, three Song Thrush, one Redwing, ten Robin, three Wheatear, 57 Meadow Pipit, the Millcombe Grey Wagtail, 24 Chaffinch, 41 Linnet, 25 Siskin and two each of Greenfinch and Lesser Redpoll.

Most of the Swallows were either resting close to or even on the ground, evidently
knackered from the relentless rain and winds, Millcombe, 5 Oct © Dean Jones

Non-avian sightings included a grand total of 191 Atlantic Grey Seals along the east coast, a count which included two new white-coat pups! This brings the total number of white-coats this year to a record-breaking 45! – and we’re still only in the first week of October. A huge thank you to Volunteer Assistant Wardens Ben Hanson and Sophia Upton for all their expert seal spotting and hard work this year.
It's that time of year again when lots of seal pups turn up in the Landing Bay to seek shelter from the storms, 5 Oct © Dean Jones

6th October

Overcast for most of the day other than a beautiful but brief sunny spell in the afternoon – gale-force westerlies throughout.

Highlights included a very showy and vocal Red-breasted Flycatcher – a bird which was expertly found by Paul and Jackie Holt in Quarter Wall Copse shortly after 15:30. Here the bird favoured a single Alder low down in the copse which allowed some superb and prolonged views for the rest of the afternoon. Additionally, Paul also found a Yellow-browed Warbler in Millcombe in the late morning – the eighth record so far this autumn!
Red-breasted Flycatcher, Quarter Wall Copse – the bird performed superbly, allowing
clear prolonged views during the afternoon, 6 Oct © Dean Jones

Other birds logged on this beautiful but windy autumnal day were, two Manx Shearwater, 17 Gannet, 39 Kittiwake, singles of Merlin and Sparrowhawk, three Woodpigeon, 15 Swallow, eight House Martin, 28 Goldcrest, five Blackcap, 12 Blackbird, 10 Robin, two Greenfinch, 22 Siskin and a single Lesser Redpoll.

7th October

Moderate westerly winds first thing, slacking off by the mid-morning – beautiful sunshine and near clear skies up until afternoon – some light rain in the evening.

Undoubtedly the day's star bird came in the form of a very unexpected White’s Thrush in upper Millcombe around 07:45. Here's an account of the morning:

As the sun rose and the light improved, I set off towards the Ugly with my scope to get a brief morning’s sea-watch in before my day of Warden-related duties beckoned. I had just passed Government House and on towards the north end of the tree nursery when I noticed a small, loose gathering of Blackbirds in and around the scrub at the top of the Valley. There had obviously been a small arrival of thrushes overnight so I was on high alert for other species like Redwing, Song Thrush and, if lucky, the first Fieldfare of the autumn.

It was then, as I slowly pottered down the wooded path towards the Ugly, that I noticed a large, pale thrush shoot up from an area of thick, berried brambles onto a branch of a Turkey Oak in front of me. As I raised my binoculars my first but brief impression was that I had found a young Mistle Thrush due to the bird’s size. Quickly though, I noticed the bird's jizz was different to that of any Mistle Thrush I had seen – the bird looking taller, more elongated and longer-billed. Then, through the dim light of the canopy, my eyes adjusted to see the bird's bold scaling pattern on its underparts and its strong white eye-ring. My heart started racing! I quickly reached for my camera to try to get some shots but before I could, the bird took flight up the valley, and in doing so displayed its beautiful black and white striped underwing. My legs turned to jelly!

Noting where the bird had flown to, I ran quickly up to the path immediately above and parallel to the one I was on, and advanced to the area delicately so not to disturb the bird. As I approached a large area of brambles and gorse, the bird suddenly appeared on the path in front of me. It was here that I managed to see the bird's features clearly, but I only managed one awful record shot (below) before the bird crept nervously into the scrub and out of sight. As you can see from the photo, the bird's back was a golden grey-brown and entirely boldly scaled, similar to its underside but with finer scaling on the back of the neck and head. Its wings were tinged a richer buff-brown colour, while its primary coverts and tips to its flight feathers were a much darker brown/black.

Record shot of the White's Thrush in upper Millcombe – hopefully the bird
will show itself again to allow for some better photos! 7 Oct © Dean Jones

The bird then flew out of the scrub and down the wooded slope – and luckily was seen by a number of other birders in the Valley at this time. After that it appeared to fly into an area of thick scrub at the top of the Valley and remained there out of sight – the last time the bird was seen (08:30). White's Thrush is known to be very shy, hiding away in dense vegetation for prolonged periods of time. Hopefully, it’s still lurking out there somewhere and will show itself again for all the other visiting birders on the island who missed it. Only time will tell!
If accepted, this will be the second record of White’s Thrush following a first-year male, also in Millcombe, on 15th Oct 1952, a bird which lingered until 8th Nov.

Additional highlights from today – other than the White’s – included two Barnacle Geese on Pondsbury in the afternoon (Shaun Barnes) and into the early evening, two Lapland Bunting logged just north of the west side of Halfway Wall (Paul Holt), a Reed Bunting (the second of the autumn) present in Millcombe first thing, and a Firecrest seen and heard moving through in bracken below the Ugly shortly before noon.

Barnacle Geese in the evening rain, Pondsbury, 7 Oct © Dean Jones
Other birds noted were an immature Cormorant low over the Village, two Woodpigeon, 150 Swallow, four House Martin, 14 Blackcap, two Chiffchaff, 26 Goldcrest, 110 Meadow Pipit, a White Wagtail in Barton Field, two Grey Wagtail, 17 Skylark passing south over the Village in the morning, six Wheatear, 10 Robin, four Stonechat, 11 Dunnock, 20 Blackbird, three Song Thrush, 14 Chaffinch, 70 Goldfinch, 43 Linnet, one Greenfinch, ten Siskin and a Lesser Redpoll.

Report composed of sightings from Shaun Barnes, Chris Dee, Darren Dowding, Ken Ebsworthy, Rosie Ellis, Paul & Jackie Holt, Dean Jones, Bob & Fi Medland, Hope Simpson, Sophia Upton and Justin Walker.