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Thursday 24 June 2021

3rd to 23rd Jun – Highest Puffin count for at least 80 years, two moths new to Lundy… and a 'first' for Britain!

It has been a month of superlatives for Lundy birds and other wildlife. What better way to celebrate Midsummer's Day than with a veritable feast of all the latest natural history goings-on in a superb round-up from Lundy Warden Dean Woodfin Jones.
What a momentous month of June it has been so far! Leading on from the last blog, this eventful summer period has seen the island welcome numerous researchers and students, the first school groups of the year for an exciting day of exploration with Education Officer Rosie Ellis, and we’ve also been entertaining lots of visitors with guided walks with the help of our Lundy Ambassadors. Our seabird productivity monitoring has also been keeping us busy, and lots of work has gone into the clearance and upkeep of the island's footpaths – most of which are growing over at a frantic pace as the vegetation makes the most of the long summer days.
It's been a stunning three weeks on the island! © Dean Jones
What's more, the island is looking absolutely stunning at the moment, with swathes of Lundy cabbage, thrift, foxgloves and hogweed in bloom along the slopes and cliffs – all accompanied by an incredible diversity of insects, including clouds of day-flying micro-moths, mobs of Yellow Dung Flies and the cuckoo-spit from numerous leafhoppers coating nearly every frond of bracken in some places. The seas have been particularly clear of late too, allowing superb views of iridescent ctenophores, shimmering sand-eels and moon jellies galore.
Weather-wise, things have been mostly settled, with plenty of sunshine, light winds, clear skies and warm temperatures (between 14°C and 21°C). As always, however, there have been a handful of dull and mizzly days too, particularly on the 9th, 10th, 14th, 19th and 20th when the island was subjected to light drizzle, thick fog and mist from dawn to dusk.
The undoubted birding highlight of this period was the occurrence of Britain’s first Sulphur-bellied Warbler in Millcombe on the 8th. This individual decided to drop in next to the dustbins at the Old Lighthouse – where it was initially picked up by David Price whilst emptying his moth trap!! – instead of heading to its normal breeding range spanning from north-west Afghanistan and south-east Kazakhstan eastwards to central China, from its wintering grounds in northern and central India. A truly astonishing record! A full account of the momentous events of that day, written by David Price, Paul St Piérre and Dean Jones, can be found on the BirdGuides website: https://www.birdguides.com/articles/rarity-finders-sulphur-bellied-warbler-in-devon/
The photo that sparked a Twitter storm... Sulphur-bellied Warbler, Millcombe, 8 Jun © Dean Jones

Some of the lucky few twitchers who arrived on the evening of 8 Jun © Dean Jones

This lost traveller from Asia showed well for the assembled throng but moved
on overnight and was nowhere to be found on 9 Jun, to the disappointment of many... © Dean Jones

Other rarities since the last post include a Subalpine Warbler and a female Hawfinch in Millcombe on the 9th, two birds which provided meagre consolation to the multiple observers who missed out on the Sulphur-bellied Warbler on this date. Due the driech, drizzly conditions on the 9th & 10th, both birds remained in the valley until the 11th at least.

Lundy also managed to jump in on the Rose-coloured Starling invasion bandwagon on the 14th, with Ranger Matt Stritch finding a stonking adult bird in the Camping Field. Unfortunately, this day too was one of the few when the island was cloaked in thick fog, but observers still managed some nice views of the bird as it made its way around the Village and Lambing Shed before disappearing into the murk at around 11:00 hrs.
Rose-coloured Starling in the mist, Bull's Paradise, 14 Jun © Dean Jones

Unsurprisingly, coming further into June, bird migration slowed to but a trickle. Migrants of note from this period included small numbers of Swift which passed overhead most days – some already appearing to be on their way south, with a flock of 15 observed leaving the island towards Hartland Point on the 20th. Singles of Cuckoo were sighted on the 6th, 7th, 8th and 21st, two Collared Doves hung around on the island from the last post up until the 12th, singles of Cormorant and Grey Heron were noted on the 12th and 20th respectively, and a Kestrel was recorded on five dates at the start of the month, but unfortunately there have been no further signs since the 9th – fingers had been crossed for a second year of breeding success after young fledged in 2020.
Cuckoo, 6 Jun © Owen Hodson

Migrant passerines included small numbers of House Martin moving overhead on a number of days (max 13 on the 11th), up to two Willow Warbler on three dates, a single Sedge Warbler singing most days below Government House, providing a nice backing track to our beloved Song Thrush, which is still giving it large from the treetops in Millcombe each morning. Singles of Reed Warbler were noted on the 4th, 16th and 23rd, up to four Whitethroat over ten dates, and singles of Spotted Flycatcher on three dates.
Male Whitethroat singing in Millcombe, 4 Jun © Dean Jones
Furthermore, a Greenland Wheatear was caught and ringed in South West Field on the 6th, singles of Tree Pipit and Yellow Wagtail were noted on the 15th & 12th respectively, and up to three Siskin were noted on three dates (one male of which was in song in Millcombe on the 16th).
Tree Pipit, Millcombe, 15 Jun © Dean Jones
Not to be outshone, a Meadow Pipit in the sharp morning light, Millcombe, 15 Jun © Dean Jones

On the seabird front, the island welcomed some very special guests from the RSPB on the 3rd. Paul St Piérre, Helen Booker, Jaclyn Pearson and Anthony Bellamy arrived on the island to join Lundy seabird legends, David Price and Peter Slader, who arrived a few days prior, for a week of counting each and every cliff-nesting seabird around Lundy’s coastline.
These counts have been carried out every four years since 1981, with the results providing us with great insights into how Lundy’s seabird populations have changed over the last 40 years. One of the most striking results from this survey is how the island's seabirds have recovered since the eradication of rats during the period 2004 to 2006. Most folk who know Lundy know that saying goodbye to the rats has seen an incredible recovery for some species, particularly Manx Shearwater, which are now at least 5,504 pairs strong (at the last survey in 2017/2018) – up from the 297 pairs in 2001. But how have the cliff-nesting seabirds done in comparison?
Well, the results from this month’s survey are incredible! Auks in particular are doing really well on the island with a mind-blowing 9,880 Guillemots, 3,533 Razorbills and 848 Puffins counted. These counts are up significantly from those done immediately prior to the eradication of rats from the island (2,348 Guillemots, 950 Razorbills and 13 Puffins in 2000), illustrating the extent to which these rodents were limiting the numbers of seabirds trying to breed on the island.
Shags, Fulmars and Kittiwakes are all up too from the last full census, which is also very heart-warming – particularly so the Kittiwakes which have undergone a drastic overall reduction in numbers during the 40 years of surveying. Unfortunately, the island's large larids, i.e. Herring, Lesser Black-backed and Great Black-backed Gulls, are down again on previous counts, though the precise extent of this is still to be worked out. The reasons for the decline in gull numbers are likely to be complex, but in the case of Kittiwake, at least, are probably driven in large part by climate change-related shifts in food availability.
So incredibly, all-in-all, including the burrow-nesting Procellariforms (Manx Shearwater & Storm Petrel), there are now over 26,000 seabirds breeding on Lundy – up from 7,351 prior to rat eradication. Truly jaw-dropping stuff! On top of this, the team also managed to confirm a new breeding site for Storm Petrel along the east coast – another species which is taking full advantage of the island now the rats have gone (the first confirmed breeding of Stormies was in 2014). A HUGE thank you to David, Peter, Helen, Paul, Jacqui and AJ for all their hard work – and a HUGE thank you to all of those who have been a part of or helped with the Seabird Recovery Project in some shape or form – you should all be so proud!

On the seabird productivity front, the season is now well and truly in full swing, with thousands of young seabirds hugging the cliffs and slopes awaiting fishy delights from mum and dad. The St Mark’s Guillemots are having another good year, with over 200 developing chicks in the plots now – some of which, from 20th June, have already made the jump to journey out into the high seas! Kittiwake nests are also bustling with young birds – the first chicks appearing in Aztec Bay on the 11th – two days earlier than the first of 2020. Meanwhile, Fulmars are still sitting tight on eggs at Gannets' Rock (currently 31 apparently occupied nests) and Puffins are busy delivering fish to youngsters in burrows (160 to date) at Jenny’s Cove.
St Mark's Stone Guillemots – how many chicks can you spot? 15 Jun © Dean Jones

Digiscoped shot of a Kittiwake with its two chicks, west coast © Dean Jones

Puffins through the digiscope, Jenny's Cove, 16 Jun © Zoë Barton

Manx Shearwaters have also been getting lots of attention throughout this period, with Tim Frayling, Bart Donato and Richard & Rebecca Taylor all heading down to the west slopes for a spot of ringing over four nights. Combined efforts resulted in the capture and ringing of a total of 169 new birds, plus an additional 52 retraps (i.e. ringed on Lundy prior to 2021), including 26 birds which were ringed as chicks (and two which were ringed as chicks as early as 2019)!
The island Conservation Team also managed some time to check in on the shearwater nestboxes on the 17th. Thankfully all six pairs which had been recorded by Tony Taylor in May were all still present and accounted for, with five adults still sitting tight on eggs and another in box D1 with the first fluffy chick of the year!
The first Manx Shearwater chick of the year! West coast nestbox © Dean Jones
Landbirds have also been very busy tending to eggs and young chicks. Wheatears have seemingly had a very productive season, with noisy gangs of young birds on nearly every buttress and drystone wall around the island. The first Linnet (15th), Chaffinch (19th), Pied Wagtail (22nd), Meadow Pipit (19th) and Wren (23rd) fledglings have also been recorded. Successful breeding of Teal was confirmed on the 3rd, with a number of ducklings following mum on the fringes of Pondsbury. Second broods of Starling chicks have also taken wing (15th) and at least three pairs of Swallow are currently on the island, though it seems that only one pair has actually got eggs at the moment.
There are loads of Wheatear fledglings around the island currently. This soggy-bottomed
individual was on Tillage Field wall, 20 Jun © Dean Jones

Pied Wagtail fledgling near the pigsty, 22 Jun © Dean Jones

Second-brood Starling fledgling, Laundry Garden, 15 Jun © Dean Jones

Adult Dunnock checking that the Warden is keep his distance from newly fledged young!
Millcombe, 14 Jun © Dean Jones

House Sparrow fledgling, Paradise Row, 21 Jun © Dean Jones
Millcombe is full of the calls of young birds, including this juvenile Robin
near the Secret Garden, 21 Jun, © Dean Jones

Away from birds, the first week of June is also the time when the island's endemic Lundy Cabbage is counted along the east slopes and cliffs. Alan & Sandra Rowland from the Lundy Field Society arrived on the 3rd to carry out the 28th annual count of our cherished brassica – the first having been carried out in 1993. These counts consist of both land- and water-based surveys, the latter involving a jaunt along the east coast on the Warden's RHIB on the 7th. Results show an overall increase in the estimated number of flowering plants on the island since 2019 (no survey in 2020 due to Covid-19), with 8,200 flowering plants in total! This is up 3,200 from the 2019 survey and 2,952 flowering plants more than the island average (the maximum number recorded to date was 13,000 in 2014). A huge thank you to Alan and Sandra once again for all their hard work and top-class company!
The Conservation Team with Alan Rowland (centre) all at sea counting brassicas
off the east coast, 7 Jun © Dean Jones

Keep Calm and Count Cabbages! © Dean Jones

Now onto the invertebrates! Emperor Dragonflies are now on the wing, with single insects on the 15th and 16th at Threequarter Wall and Halfway Wall respectively. Small numbers of Blue-tailed and Common Blue Damselflies were noted at Quarter Wall Pond on the 15th.
Butterflies have been on decent form, with the first Meadow Brown of the year on the 12th, good numbers of Common Blue (max 10 on the 7th) and Small Heath (max 75 on the 4th) – particularly on the warm calm days. Painted Lady, Red Admiral, Peacock, Small, Large and Green-veined White have all been logged too in small numbers.
Common Blue resting in the evening light, Upper East Side Path, 3 Jun © Dean Jones
Continuing on the lepidopteran front, the month of June has also seen lots of moth-trapping action, with David Price, Andrew Cleave and the Conservation Team all regularly setting out light-traps. Highlights of recent efforts (other than the discovery of the Sulphur-bellied Warbler!) included three Privet Hawk-moths, two caught on the night of the 16th in Millcombe and the other at Benjamin’s Chair on the 22nd. Although these fantastic, exotic-looking moths are fairly common in the southern half of Britain, these three constituted the first for the island! As the name suggests, the larvae feed on privet and ash trees – which Lundy does have in very small numbers. Have these moths always occurred here though? Moth recording has been carried out ad hoc on Lundy since 1877 and, until now, this species has never been seen here, so perhaps these individuals had been blown over to the island on the recent bout of strong easterlies. The Benjamin’s Chair individual suggests just that. Either way, a fantastic record for the island, and with multiple individuals reaching us this spring, will we be seeing more of this beautiful moth in years to come near its available food plants? Only time will tell!
Privet Hawk-moth, Millcombe, 16 Jun 2021 © Dean Jones

The three trapped so far this month are the first for the island! 16 Jun © Dean Jones
From mega to micro – a single Pseudoswammerdamia combinella micro-moth was found in Millcombe on the 21st, which, like the hawkmoths, was also the first record for Lundy. The discovery of this species was perhaps less of a surprise as the larvae feed on blackthorn – a plant which is plentiful in the valley.
The rather more demure Pseudoswammerdamia combinella was also an island first! 21 Jun © Dean Jones
Although finding a new moth species for the island is always a highlight, it was the strange form of a familiar species which stole the show this period. Opening the moth trap on the morning of the 23rd revealed a peculiarly coloured Buff Ermine – a species which is common and sometimes abundant on Lundy. As you can see from the photos, the animal is sporting the dark colour-form zatima, which is very rare in the wild. Looking closer however, it was only the left side of the moth that was exhibiting this form. This individual is a very rare and unusual tetragametic chimaera – a rare condition that occurs through the fertilization of two separate ova by two sperm, followed by the aggregation of the two blastocyst/zygote stages to form one individual of two halves. Or put simply, an animal which is formed from the merging of two non-identical twins. What a moth!
The rare and bizarre tetragametic chimaera Buff Ermine, Millcombe, 23 Jun © Dean Jones

The aberrant moth's underside – it was released unharmed after its photocall! © Dean Jones
Other noteworthy moths have included the second record of Garden Pebble and the third record of Agonopterix subpropinquella for the island, both of which were caught in Millcombe. Additionally, good numbers of nationally scarce moths, such as Devonshire Wainscot (three), Barrett’s Marbled Coronet (14) and Thyme Pug (one), were caught at Benjamin’s Chair on the 21st. Migrant moths have included small numbers of Diamond-backed Moths and Silver Y on three dates, along with singles of Hummingbird Hawkmoth along the west coast on the 7th and 15th, Rusty Dot Pearl in the Millcombe Heath Trap on the 19th, and a Bordered Straw near Brazen Ward on the 3rd.
Bordered Straw, Brazen Ward, 3 Jun © Bart Donato

A stunning Mullein moth caterpillar on Balm-leaved Figwort, Millcombe, 16 Jun © Dean Jones

Back out on the high seas, small pods of Common Dolphin have been noted throughout, including a group of five animals riding the bow of the RHIB on the 6th. Around 20 animals were seen offshore from the Landing Bay on the 12th, six off Long Roost on the 13th, and five (perhaps the same animals) along the east coast on the 15th.
Common Dolphin alongside the RHIB, east coast, 6 Jun © Dean Jones
A huge thank you to all who contributed sightings to this bumper blog post: Ben Arkless, Chris & Carol Baillie, Zoë Barton, Anthony Bellamy, Helen Booker, Bart Donato, Rosie Ellis, Tim Frayling, Eleanor Grover, Owen Hodson, Dean Jones, Jaclyn Pearson, David Price, Peter Slader, Paul St Piérre, Matt Stritch, Richard & Rebecca Taylor and Tony & Ann Taylor.
Spawning Mirror Carp, Rocket Pole Pond, 5 Jun © Dean Jones

Saturday 5 June 2021

18th May to 2nd Jun – Late-spring riches, including a Rustic Bunting and two terrestrial invertebrates new to Lundy

Lundy Warden Dean Jones pens a mega-blog covering the busiest period of the island's year.
18th May

Heavy rain throughout the morning and again in the evening, bright and sunny throughout the afternoon with a few odd showers. Light to moderate west/south-west winds throughout. Max temperature 13°C.  

Highlights on this day actually came in the form of some late news of two exciting invertebrates both found on 16th May. The first of these was the fantastic wasp-mimicking beetle Clytus arietis (aptly named the Wasp Beetle) which was found, astonishingly, on a tea-towel in the Barn by LFS Chairman Alan Rowland. Although relatively common in England and Wales, this is the first record of this species for Lundy and the first longhorn beetle (family Cerambycidae) to be found on Lundy as a whole.  
The Wasp Beetle Clytus arietis found in the Barn on 16 May © Alan Rowland
The next exciting invertebrate was a Great Prominent moth (Peridea anceps) which was trapped by light at the Old Light by Stephen O’Donnell. Like the Wasp Beetle, this was also the first record for the island! Bravo Stephen.
Great Prominent moth (Peridea anceps), Old Light, 16 May © Stephen ODonnell

Birds of note from a day spent visiting seabird productivity plots were three Swift, four Woodpigeon, two Whimbrel, a Dunlin, singles of Kestrel and Merlin, 40 Swallow, one Sand Martin, five House Martin, three Willow Warbler, two Chiffchaff, a Blackcap, five Whitethroat, the Song Thrush (still singing away since 11th Apr), a Tree Pipit in the Village, and singles of Siskin and Lesser Redpoll
Finally, the first Small Heath butterfly of the year was on the wing near Pondsbury.   

19th May

A very pleasant day with lots of sunshine, no rain and a light north-west/westerly wind for most – the calm before the storm! Max temperature 13°C.

Things were starting to feel very summer-like due to the beautiful weather and lack of spring migrants. As always though, the island’s breeding birds provided lots of excitement throughout the day with thousands of incubating seabirds along the west cliffs, and Starlings busily building nests in the Village in preparation for second broods. Additionally, the first noisy Blackbird and Goldfinch fledglings of the year were seen haphazardly navigating their new surroundings in Millcombe, and four recently fledged Stonechat young were flittering through the bracken on the eastern edge of Pondsbury in the afternoon.  
A Goldfinch fledgling having a snooze in the Secret Garden, 19 May © Dean Jones

Other sightings of note included 15 Swift, two Woodpigeon, a single Kestrel, seven Sand Martin, 50 Swallow, 13 House Martin, one Willow Warbler, four Chiffchaff, three Blackcap, one Whitethroat, a Lesser Whitethroat singing in Millcombe first thing, the Millcombe Song Thrush, two Spotted Flycatcher and one Lesser Redpoll

20th May

A very wet and windy day throughout with lots of drizzle, bouts of heavy rain and wind exceeding 65mph in the afternoon. Max temperature 12°C.  

Unsurprisingly due to the tough weather conditions, it was a quiet day on the birding front. Naturally, with weather like this, it was the sea that got most of the attention, but despite the blustery conditions – which can often bring some scarcer seabirds to Lundy’s shores – there wasn’t an awful lot of note other than a handful of Gannet, auks and Manx Shearwater.  

Birds onshore, particularly hirundines, were having a hard time in driving winds and pelting rain, with a number of Swallow and House Martin grounded along the beach road and Millcombe track.  
Among the birds struggling in the strong winds and rain on 20 May were a Swallow and a House Martin
grounded on the Beach Road © Paul Dean
Birds logged included the first Turnstone of the year, photographed by Paul Dean in the Landing Bay, two Golden Plover along the east coast, 10 Swallow, seven House Martin, two Chiffchaff, a single male Blackcap, two Spotted Flycatcher and the Millcombe Song Thrush – still singing his heart out despite the driving wind and rain!  
A Turnstone with an Oystercatcher in the Landing Bay, 20 May © Paul Dean

21st May

Another grey, noticeably cooler, wet and very windy day – winds peaking at 60mph from the west in the early afternoon. Max temperature 10°C.

Another quiet day for birds due to the strong winds and rain. The island too is starting to show the effects of the past two days, with the winds and salt spray causing the newly emerging leaves on trees in Millcombe to wilt and die. The bracken and Lundy Cabbage along the east coast too received a bit of a battering despite the westerly origins of the wind.  

Sightings of note were three Storm Petrels together passing Rat Island in the late afternoon, an adult Black-headed Gull offshore from Landing Bay earlier in the day, and small numbers of Gannet which were putting on a spectacular show in the Landing Bay as they plunged from height very close to shore.
Plunging Gannet in the Landing Bay, 21 May © Paul Dean

Fly-by Fulmar, 21 May © Paul Dean

Other sightings included more Stonechat fledglings, this time above White Beach, singles of Garden Warbler (Millcombe), Blackcap, Whitethroat and Lesser Redpoll.

22nd May

A light westerly wind and more rain first thing, brightening by mid-morning – conditions which provoked the emergence of numerous Cocksfoot (Glyphipterix simpliciella) and Cydia ulicetana moths within the wildflowers and gorse at the top of Millcombe – the winds then picked up as the evening approached. Max temperature 11°C.  

Avian highlights included a conservative estimate of 50 Swift overhead through the course of the day. Additionally, two Turnstone were observed in the Landing Bay and the first of the Raven fledglings were on the wing below Benjamin’s Chair.
Another highlight was welcoming Tony and Ann Taylor to the island, both of whom will be spending the next couple of weeks colour-ringing Wheatears along the south and west cliffs as part of the island's long-running Retrapping Adults for Survival (RAS) project.  
Other sightings of note included four Woodpigeon, one Collared Dove, a single Dunlin, a fly-by Cormorant, 20 Swallow, one House Martin, two each of Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Whitethroat and Sedge Warbler (all in Millcombe), our beloved persistent Song Thrush, three Stonechats, 16 Goldfinch and a Lesser Redpoll.  

23rd May

Wet and windy was the theme today with heavy rain and gale-force south-westerlies for the majority of the afternoon. Max temperature 11°C.

A very quiet day for birds with very little of note, the principal sightings a Collared Dove, two Chiffchaff, a Blackcap singing in Quarter Wall Copse, a single Whitethroat in St Helen’s Copse, the Millcombe Song Thrush (still singing despite the conditions!) and two Lesser Redpoll.  

24th May

Sunshine and showers in the morning, turning overcast by the afternoon with a few bouts of rain – wind strong from the west/south-west. Max temperature 11°C. 
A calm and blue East Side after the rain, 24th May © Dean Jones
Birds logged included two Teal, a Collared Dove leaving the island on a north-easterly course, six Woodpigeon, 15 Swallow, five House Martin, singles of Whitethroat and Sedge Warbler, two Chiffchaff, a single Willow Warbler, three Spotted Flycatcher, one Stonechat, the first Wheatear fledglings of the year along the west, the Millcombe Song Thrush, two Lesser Redpoll and a single Siskin
A male Siskin in Millcombe, 24 May © Dean Jones
The first Painted Lady of the year was also on the wing at the Terrace.
Cocksfoot Moths on Mayweed, Beach Road 24 May © Dean Jones

25th May

Strong westerly winds and grey skies in the morning – some bright and sunny spells in the afternoon but mostly grey with intermittent light showers. Max temperature 11°C.

Birds logged today included the second Common Sandpiper of the year calling from the shore near Shutter Rock, four Woodpigeon, just 10 Swallow, a Blackcap, two Chiffchaff, a Sedge Warbler, two Reed Warbler, a Lesser Whitethroat in Millcombe, two Spotted Flycatcher, and three each of Stonechat and Lesser Redpoll.

In other news, three more Pacific Oysters (Magallana gigas) were found around the Jetty in the afternoon. These invasive molluscs – which naturally occur on the Pacific coast of Asia – were first reported on Lundy in the summer of 2020. They were introduced into Britain in the 1960s for aquaculture and it was assumed that the waters around the UK were too cold for this species to reproduce. Unfortunately, they got this very wrong and now these oysters are causing quite a problem in a number of areas in southern England, particularly in sheltered estuarine habitats, with some completely taking over parts of the shore, reducing native biodiversity and displacing native oyster and mussel beds. 
Pacific Oyster © Dean Jones
As Lundy is so exposed, we don’t think the Pacific Oyster population will get to this point, but we ask any visitors who are down on the shore and happen to come upon one, to report it to the Conservation Team so it can be removed before reproducing.  
Full moon over the North Devon coast – the wereboggits will be out tonight! 25 May © Dean Jones

26th May

Light westerlies first thing gradually picked up to a moderate wind by mid-afternoon – dry and sunny throughout. Max temperature 12°C.

With such wonderful weather, the day was spent down the west cliffs checking on all the productivity plots to see how they have fared after all the wind and rain. It was a truly stunning day on the slopes, with Rose Chafers galore on the wing, sheets of Thrift and other coastal wild flowers, and the raucous calls and fishy scents of thousands of breeding seabirds.  

At the St Mark’s Guillemot plot, things were looking very damp with the formation of numerous pools and puddles in some of the sections of the islet. Unfortunately, as in previous years, this has led to the abandonment of half-a-dozen eggs, particularly in the centre of the colony. Luckily though, as a whole the colony seems to be doing very well, with over 230 other incubating birds still present – some of which are in new, previously unused areas and thus indicative that the population here is still growing.

Kittiwakes emerged relatively unscathed, unlike in some years when nests sited lower down in the colonies get washed away at times of strong south-westerly winds.  

Small numbers of Herring Gull chicks were also present but mostly hidden away under mum and dad as the wind picked up through the afternoon. The undoubted highlight from this seabird-filled day was the first of the island's Puffins delivering fish to young at both Jenny’s Cove and St Peter's. The pufflings have arrived!  

Other birds of note included a Kestrel at the Terrace, 126 Kittiwakes near St Mark’s, five Sand Martin, 100 Swallow, 90 House Martin, four Chiffchaff (including one collecting nest lining in Millcombe), two Whitethroat, singles of Blackcap and Sedge Warbler, three Spotted Flycatcher, a female Yellow Wagtail in Barton Field, a fly-over Tree Pipit, the Millcombe Song Thrush and two Lesser Redpoll.  
The day ended with a superb blood supermoon, 26 May © Dean Jones

27th May

Clear skies and a light south/south-easterly wind first thing – short-lived bouts of sea-mist then rolled in shortly after 07:30 hrs before becoming beautifully clear and warm – the wind had shifted to the west by the evening, though still very light. Max temperature 15°C.

Today saw a small arrival of migrants, notably six Swift, a raft of 500 Manx Shearwater off the west coast in the evening, two Kestrels together over the west coast, a single Collared Dove, a conservative estimate of 140 Swallow and 75 House Martin (lots of them riding high on the thermals), six Whitethroat, a Lesser Whitethroat below Government House, three Chiffchaff, two Willow Warbler (including one acredula-type bird in Millcombe), seven Spotted Flycatcher, singles of Yellow Wagtail and Tree Pipit overhead and two Lesser Redpoll.

Additionally, the first Dunnock fledglings of the year were pestering their parents in Smelly Gully throughout the day, and very excitingly our long-staying, constantly singing Song Thrush was seen with another bird in a sycamore at the top of Millcombe! The two birds seemed very happy to share the tree together – so hopefully this newcomer is a female looking for a mate. Only time will tell!  
One of the first Dunnock fledglings of the year, Smelly Gully, 27 May © Dean Jones

Today was also a day of intertidal exploration and a very special one at that, as visiting us on a day-trip was Lundy legend and marine biologist extraordinaire, Dr Keith Hiscock! Accompanied by Education Officer Rosie Ellis, they set off post-arrival of the Oldenburg to explore the rockpools, caves, gullies and overhangs of the Devil’s Kitchen on what was a day of good tides. Highlights from Keith’s trip included the iridescent algae, Cystoseira tamariscifolia (commonly known as Rainbow Weed), berried (meaning carrying eggs) Montagu’s Crabs, the sea slug Archidoris pseudoargus, Five-bearded Rocklings and a smorgasbord of other sponges, sea-squirts, algae, molluscs and crustaceans.
Rosie Ellis exploring the arch under Rat Island, 27 May © Keith Hiscock

The sea slug Archidoris pseudoargus, Rat Island, 27 May © Keith Hiscock
Red Ripple Bryozoan (Watersipora subatra), Rat Island, 27 May © Keith Hiscock
Whilst exploring one of the sea caves in Rat Island, Keith sadly discovered another invasive species new to the island, the encrusting bryozoan Watersipora subatra, also known as Red Ripple Bryozoan. Unlike the Pacific Oyster (see above), the origins of this invasive invertebrate are still unknown, though the Gulf of Mexico has been suggested as a potential native range. Luckily this species is not an aggressive coloniser like Pacific Oyster and shouldn’t affect the native diversity of the area in any substantial way. A massive thank you to Keith for anothert great day down on the shore!  

Other marine highlights included at least 30 Common Dolphin in small groups, and five Harbour Porpoise offshore along the west coast.  

28th May

Overcast and a few light showers first thing, giving way to beautiful blue skies for the rest of the morning – overcast again in the afternoon, with a few light showers shortly after 15:00 hrs – next to no wind throughout other than a slight easterly/north-easterly breeze. Max temperature 13°C.

With another good low tide, the second intertidal survey of the year was carried out in the Devil’s Kitchen. It was a fascinating afternoon learning how the rockpools have changed in the eight weeks since the last survey (see blog entry for 30th Mar to 1st Apr), with changes in the abundance and composition of algae and invertebrates, particularly in the pools lowest on the shore. Highlights from the survey included the striking Blue-rayed Limpet, a handsome Palio nothus sea slug, Light-bulb Sea Squirts, and singles of Rock Goby and Long-spined Scorpion Fish in Rockpool G.  
The sea slug Palio nothus, Devil's Kitchen, 28 May © Dean Jones
The superbly camouflaged Rock Goby, Devil's Kitchen, 28 May © Dean Jones
On top of the very enjoyable afternoon on the shore, it was another day with a nice spread of avian migrants. Birds of note included two Teal in Barton Field, a fly-over Cormorant, two Golden Plover, the Kestrel pair, nine Woodpigeon, three Collared Dove, 38 Swallow, 23 House Martin, a single Willow Warbler, four Chiffchaff, one Blackcap, a Garden Warbler in Millcombe, seven Whitethroat, two Sedge Warbler, four Reed Warbler scattered around Millcombe and the lower East Side, our beloved Millcombe Song Thrush (sadly with no sign of the second bird recorded the day previous), nine Spotted Flycatcher, three Stonechat and two Lesser Redpoll.
A male Wheatear on the Terrace, 28 May © Dean Jones
The first Robin fledglings of the year were bobbing around Millcombe Pond in the early morning.
29th May

A calm and sunny start to the day, becoming cloudy and a tad damp by the late morning and afternoon – light east/north-easterly winds in the morning, becoming progressively windier by the afternoon. Max temperature 17°C.

This was another spectacular day to be on Lundy, primarily due to another arrival of more special guests! On the ship today were Richard and Rebecca Taylor who, along with Tony and Ann Taylor, have come to catch and colour-ring the island's breeding Wheatears. Also on board were Seb, Dan and Fletch, also known as 'Team Peregrine', who were over for the day to retrieve camera-traps left on breeding ledges in 2019 and, hopefully, colour-ring some chicks. Rich and Rebecca hit the ground running, catching four birds along the west cliffs in the afternoon (with plenty more still to be caught in the next few days).  
The West Side slopes are now awash with sea pinks, here looking north to the Devil's Slide, 29 May © Dean Jones
Team Peregrine managed to visit two sites but unfortunately found that the breeding season was rather late this year for this iconic Lundy raptor, one nest containing two chicks around 12 days old, and the other with just one chick about a week old. Although the birds were too young to colour-ring, it was still a fantastic day along the cliffs. We are super-excited to see those camera-trap images too!  

Birding highlights other than the Peregrines and Wheatears included a Hobby, seen passing the island by Richard and Rebecca Taylor in South West Field, and a Cuckoo calling below Quarry Beach.

Other sightings of note were six Swift, five each of Woodpigeon and Collared Dove, 30 Swallow, 15 House Martin, four Whitethroat, three Blackcap, four Chiffchaff (including a male singing in Gannets' Bay), a Goldcrest in Millcombe (the first since 28th Apr), two Spotted Flycatcher and two Lesser Redpoll.

30th May

A stunning day of sunshine, blue skies and a light east/south-east breeze throughout. Max temperature 17°C.

The undoubted highlight came in the form of a first-summer Common Rosefinch which was first heard singing from the sycamores behind the Gas Store in Millcombe at around 08:00 hrs. From here, after providing brief views through the canopy, the bird then shot off up the Valley after a run-in with a territorial pair of Goldfinch, and went into stealth mode. It wasn’t until the evening that the bird was seen again – turning up miraculously in a whoosh-net fired by Jamie Dunning (our resident House Sparrow researcher from Imperial College London), whilst targeting what he thought were just a half-dozen unringed sparrows. What a surprise he had when he started to extract the birds!
The first-year Common Rosefinch caught in the Lodge garden, 30 May © Dean Jones
Other highlights from this spectacular late-spring day included a Crossbill flying around the Millcombe area, a female Black Redstart above the Battery and a vocal male Cuckoo singing in Millcombe/St Helen’s Copse periodically throughout the day.  

Other sightings of note were a drake Teal on Pondsbury, a Kestrel near Dead Cow Point, one Golden Plover, 17 Woodpigeon, two Collared Dove, 17 Swallow, nine House Martin, two Willow Warbler, eight Chiffchaff, three Blackcap, eight Whitethroat, two Garden Warbler, three Sedge Warbler, five Reed Warbler, a Goldcrest next to Government House, five Spotted Flycatcher, the Song Thrush and three Lesser Redpoll.
One of five Spotted Flycatchers logged on 30 May © Dean Jones
31st May

Another day of blue skies and plenty of sunshine – light east/south-easterly winds for most until the evening when it picked up a bit – a warm day throughout with temperatures reaching 20°C by the afternoon.  

The title of star bird was a Turtle Dove found by Richard and Rebecca Taylor next to the Lambing Shed in the late afternoon. Sadly this beautiful bird, which was once a regular spring migrant to the island, has become a very noteworthy bird in recent times as they have become increasingly scarce owing to their rapid decline (93% since the 1970s) in Britain.   

Another highlight was the presence of the first Guillemot chicks of the year at St Mark’s Stone! 
The first Guillemot chicks of the year, St Mark's Stone, 31 May © Dean Jones
Other sightings of note were a single Swift, seven Woodpigeon, four Collared Dove, 30 Gannet along the west (with lots of feeding activity close inshore), 159 Kittiwake, 210 Puffin in Jenny’s Cove and St Peter’s, 16 Swallow, 15 House Martin, seven Chiffchaff, five Whitethroat, two Blackcap, singles of Sedge and Reed Warbler in Millcombe, and three Lesser Redpoll.

1st June

Partial cloud and sunshine and light east/south-easterly winds throughout. Max temperature 22°C – a scorcher of a day.

Another exciting day of birds, with a stonking adult female/first-year male Rustic Bunting taking the crown of star bird of the day. Initially found by Tony Taylor in Barton Field just before 14:00 hrs, the bird continued to feed there for the best part of 40 minutes, allowing most of the visiting birders on the island to see it. The bunting then flew off down the field and, despite some searching, was not relocated. Bravo Tony!
Record shot of the Rustic Bunting in Barton Field, 1 Jun © Dean Jones
Other sightings of note included half-a-dozen incubating Manx Shearwaters in their cosy nestboxes along the west, three Woodpigeon, nine Collared Dove (the highest count so far this year), just 10 Swallow, three each of Chiffchaff and Whitethroat, two Blackcap, singles of Sedge and Reed Warbler singing in Millcombe, the Millcombe Song Thrush and a lone Lesser Redpoll.
Sedge Warbler singing in Millcombe, 1 Jun © Dean Jones

2nd June

Overcast and light easterly winds in the morning, becoming sunny and warm in the afternoon – the wind changed to the south-west come the evening, bringing with it cooler temperatures and bouts of sea mist. Max temperature 20°C.

The day's highlight, though somewhat frustrating, was the occurrence of a Hippolais warbler in Millcombe mid-morning. Unfortunately, views were too brief to determine the species 100% (though some features, along with its shy, secretive behaviour, pointed to it being an Icterine Warbler) as the bird rapidly flicked through the thick canopy in one of the Millcombe pines before shooting off up the Valley and out of sight.

Additional highlights were a male Cuckoo and Tree Pipit in St Helen’s Copse, the first Oystercatcher chicks of the year (on Rat Island), a late Pied Flycatcher and the first Carrion Crow fledglings of the year in Millcombe.

A male Cuckoo takes some time off, St Helen's Copse, 2 Jun © Dean Jones
Put me back in the nest! A grumpy Carrion Crow fledgling, Millcombe, 2 Jun © Dean Jones
Other sightings included three Collared Dove, a handful of Swallow, one House Martin, four Chiffchaff, two each of Sedge Warbler and Blackcap, six Whitethroat, the Millcombe Song Thrush, a Spotted Flycatcher and three Siskin.

Non-avian sightings included the first Diamond-backed Moths of the year along the Upper East Side Path and a number of Red Admiral, Painted Lady, Common Blue, Large White and Green-veined White butterflies on the wing. 
There were plenty of Red Admirals on the wing on the evening of 2 Jun ...
... and a few Painted Ladies too © Dean Jones
A huge thank you to everyone who submitted sightings throughout this period! Report composed of sightings from Ben Arkless, Belinda Cox, Paul Dean, Jamie Dunning, Jennifer Earl, Rosie Ellis, Eleanor Grover, Keith Hiscock, Dean Jones, Peter McCopper, Stephen O’Donnell, David Price, Alan & Sandra Rowland, Peter Slader, Richard & Rebecca Taylor and Tony & Ann Taylor.