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Tuesday 19 January 2021

1st to 19th Jan – The year begins in style with some classic midwinter Lundy birding

The first ornithological bulletin of 2021 from Lundy's Warden Dean Woodfin Jones has made it through the wind, rain and murk currently engulfing the island  – and indeed much of the country – as Storm Christoph makes his presence felt. And what a start it has been to the birding year, with an excellent range of species, including one or two surprises...
Weather-wise, the year started off splendidly with the first week of January being a dry, chilly but pleasant period with light to moderate north-easterly winds. Despite the deceptive wind chill, temperatures on the island stayed above 1°C throughout, though it was still cold enough for a few short hail storms and brief flurries of snow on one or two days. Things gradually warmed up from the 7th, as the winds shifted from the north-east to the west. 
During this time, before the storms arrived, islanders were treated to a couple of really lovely winter days, complete with singing Skylarks and Blackbirds as well as the first House Sparrow taking nest material into one of the nestboxes in the Farmyard. Spring is already in the air for some! Since then, the westerlies have been moderate for most though, in typical Lundy fashion, but picked up to gale force on a number of days including today (19th) with speeds of 40+ mph on the 11th, 12th, 15th & 16th. The change of winds also brought with it some precipitation, with a few light showers daily from the 11th and one or two days of thick mist and heavy rainfall (16th, 18th & 19th).
A beautifully calm winter's day along the east coast, 10 Jan © Dean Jones
Birding highlights since New Year’s Day include a very confiding Snow Bunting which has been seen foraging along either the Main Track or Old Lighthouse track (depending on the wind direction) since the 7th.
Male Snow Bunting, Main Track, 9 Jan © Dean Jones
Out at sea – post chilly easterlies at the start of the month – small numbers of Red-throated Divers started to arrive and forage offshore from the 6th, since when they have been recorded almost daily, with ten birds on the 7th being the highest count of the year so far. Nearby, a single Great Northern Diver has been making use of the rich feeding grounds between the Landing Bay and Halfway Wall Bay on six dates, and a very unseasonal Manx Shearwater turned up on the 13th along the east in search of a meal within the choppy swell.

Kittiwakes too have been gathering in some spectacular numbers as of the 13th, with a high count of 2,300 birds together offshore on the 16th, as well as the odd scarcer gull, including Mediterranean Gull (single adult on 2nd) and small numbers of Common Gull on three dates (max three on the 15th).
Part of the large Kittiwake flock off the East Side, 16 Jan © Dean Jones
Up on top, the island was blessed with a stunning male Black Redstart at Benjamin’s Chair on the 9th and 10th. Additionally, the hiburnicus type Coal Tit and hardy Firecrest from last year have held on, adding a bit of variety on a number of days to the morning census in Millcombe Valley.
Male Black Redstart, Tent Field above Benjamin's Chair, 9 Jan © Dean Jones
The cold weather at the start of the month provoked a small movement of Golden Plover and Lapwing to the island, with maxima of three and eight birds respectively on the 10th. Good numbers of gulls too are making use of the in-fields, namely Herring Gull (max 310 on the 3rd), Great Black-backed Gull (20 on the 16th) and the odd Lesser Black-backed Gull (max four on the 2nd and 3rd).

A single Jack Snipe was flushed from a juncus-lined ditch on Ackland's Moor on the 7th, during what was one of my soggy evening walks via torch-light. Good numbers of Common Snipe too have been sighted in the evenings, including 18 in Lighthouse Field and on Ackland's Moor on the 14th. A Common Snipe caught on the night of the 7th/8th turned out to be a retrap that had been ringed on Lundy by Ellie Zantboer in October 2016!

Other sightings of note included: a count of 10 Teal next to the water tanks on 7th January; up to four  Water Rail, which have been hiding out in various parts of Millcombe Valley throughout; a single Woodpigeon in Quarter Wall Copse on the 10th; up to nine Skylark, some of which have been periodically bursting into song from the 7th; a Chiffchaff that turned up briefly in Millcombe on the 16th; and decent  numbers of Rock Pipits which have been using the farm fields (max 29 on the 16th), along with small numbers of Meadow Pipit and a single Pied Wagtail on the 5th.
Stonechat too have been present in small numbers on days (max two on the 10th), as well as Chaffinch (max four), two Goldfinch on the 2nd, and assorted thrushes, namely Blackbird (16), Song Thrush (16) and Redwing (11) on a number of days within the period.
Male Stonechat, Lower Lighthouse Field, 15 Jan © Dean Jones