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Monday 2 May 2022

25th April to 1st May – Easterlies continue to bring in some interesting birds

 25 April

Clear with strong easterly wind

A few common migrants were seen in Millcombe during the morning census. Two Whitethroat were seen, a Sedge Warbler was singing by Millcombe Pond and female Redstart was up by the Casbah. The morning census continued up the track towards Old Light. A Chiffchaff was seen on the fence line by the gate at the burn site. Further up the track a small warbler was seen flying strongly down the wall. Fortunately it landed briefly on the wall so to see the bright white underparts. The immediate thought was Bonelli’s Warbler. Some record shots were taken before it flew over the other side of the wall and despite a search appeared to have gone. Without hearing a call it is very difficult to determine to species level.  But enough diagnostic features were seen to confirm it was one of these rare migrants to the UK. Western Bonelli’s Warbler breed in Spain, Portugal, France and Italy, whereas the Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler is found in Greece and Turkey during summer.

Bonelli's Warbler, South West Field © Stuart Cossey

Female Redstart, Millcombe © Stuart Cossey

Dunlin, Brick Field © Stuart Cossey

Other birds of note were a Dunlin in the pond in Brick Field, a male Kestrel, a Grasshopper Warber and a male Ring Ouzel. The male Blue-headed Wagtail was joined briefly by a Yellow Wagtail.

26 April

Continued strong easterly wind.

An unseasonal Treecreeper was seen briefly in Millcombe along with a female Pied Flycatcher. Two Shelduck were then seen flying over Benjamin’s Chair and were seen drifting east off the Rattles. From there until Quarter Wall it was mainly Wheatear and Skylark seen. Walking along Quarter Wall an Eastern Subalpine Warbler hopped out of the Brambles. It was a male with a lovely blue-grey back and brick red throat. It was very flighty but was seen well on multiple occasions as it moved along the wall between scrub and then moved off towards the Terrace.

Eastern Subalpine Warbler, Quarter Wall © Stuart Cossey

Pied Flycatcher, Millcombe © Stuart Cossey

Also seen were a male and female Redstart, the Blue-headed Wagtail in Barton Field, a male Greenfinch and two Grasshopper Warblers

27 April

Warm and sunny with a moderate southeasterly wind

The first Mallard Ducklings of the year were spotted and a positively huge number of Wheatears were seen all around the island, with 39 seen on the bird survey, and a total of 140 across the entire island. A Whimbrel and two Swift were recorded along with the 30 Sand Martin, 75 House Martin and 4200 Swallow zooming up both sides of the island. Two Sedge Warblers joined the 10 Willow Warblers and 10 Chiffchaff along with 30 Blackcap and five Common Whitethroat and a Pied Flycatcher. Birds of prey seen included a Kestrel and a Merlin. Two Whimbrel were seen by Tent Field.

Whimbrel, Tent Field © Laura Piratique

In the afternoon the warden team took a journey past Jenny’s Cove to Aztec bay to check on the Kittiwake colonies to be studied. A Ringed Plover was flushed off Middle Park on the way. Nest building was making good progress in some cases and less so in others! Fingers crossed for better productivity for the gulls this year, with 60 spotted at this site but no doubt more over the whole island.

Conservation team at Aztec Bay © Rosie Ellis

The highlight of the day was finding the first egg in one of the nest boxes at the Old Light Manx Shearwater colony.

After a great afternoon with so much to look forward to, we were brought down to earth with a bump with a sighting of a “Substantial rat” in the time keepers hut by a concerned visitor [so far no concrete signs and RSPB have been to check]. The biosecurity plan activated, interviews and the grid set up ensued. Many thanks to all the team for setting up the grid before nightfall. A nervous evening waiting for camera traps, ink traps and nibble marks to confirm or calm our fears.

28 April

A strong cold breeze from the southeast.

A morning survey showed relatively few birds, on the airfield most birds present were huddled in the ditches and out of the way of the wind. The only exceptions were the male wheatears, presumably to defend their turf from a would-be rival. A Water Rail was heard in the valley after a very quiet few weeks.

The camera traps in the time keepers hut had revealed nothing yet and the surveillance grid extended in the quarries area.

Visible migration was much reduced with 3 Swift, 53 Swallow, 14 Sand Martin and five House Martin and one Lesser Whitethroat. The Merlin is still being seen on the island hunting Skylark.

A Puffin survey at 11:30 revealed sixty three birds on the observed slope and 43 out on the water of the cove.

Jenny’s Cove was surveyed, and yielded the usual sightings of Puffin, Razorbill, Guillemot, Kittiwake and Fulmar. A Peregrine was observed amidst the puffin burrows, possibly having claimed a prey item. A few pairs of Wheatear were displaying on the slopes of the cove.

29 April

A light wind from the east

Migration picked up again with a Curlew heard calling over the Church and a total of four Whimbrel. A Tree Pipit, Common Sandpiper and Lesser Whitethroat were seen.  It was a good day for ringing in Millcombe with 16 Sedge Warblers, a Garden Warbler and a Reed Warbler ringed. A swift was observed at southwest point and a Sparrowhawk was present. A Siskin was seen near Brambles Villa.

The camera, ink traps and monitoring stations all revealed nothing but ants, slugs and Pygmy Shrews.

House Sparrow, Village © Zach Wait

30 April

Overcast with a slight wind from the southeast

Morning survey revealed a large array of birds, including a Peregrine, two Grasshopper Warblers and a pair of Kestrels. 18+ Sand Martins were observed and three were ringed in the nets at the Bramble accommodation.  Approximately 150 Swallows were observed throughout the day. A Ring Ouzel was also spotted in the morning near Millcombe, and a Common Sandpiper was spotted near the landing bay. A Hawfinch was noticed flying over Millcombe valley.  A Bar-tailed Godwit was seen at the Devil’s Kitchen by Lundy ambassador Frances Stuart and at around 5pm, a Great Northern Diver was sighted off the East Coast, near the Timekeeper’s Hut.

Sand Martin © Zach Wait

Very relieved with the arrival of Jaclyn Pearson from RSPBs biosecurity for life to check our grid and for signs of rats. Eternal gratitude to Jaclyn, the volunteers along with the Sparrow’s project’s Hope Belsham Clay, Meaghan Kendall and the Boy’s Brigade for their help checking the grid for any signs of rats, a fun evening spent checking bones, driftwood and plastic for any nibble marks, with nothing found.

1 May

Rain and wind from the west

The morning survey showed a variety of birds around the southern quarter, including a Whimbrel and two Lesser Whitethroats. Other waders included a Curlew flying over the Quarries. Four Gannets were observed around the landing bay.

The first Cuckoo of the season was sighted around Millcombe.  A Reed Warbler was ringed and a Tree Pipit heard flying over. A Harbour Porpoise was seen off the jetty. Thankfully there is still no sign of a rat.

Many Thanks to Rob Duncan and  for their sightings, enthusiasm demonstrations and talks for visiting university group and visitors, Jamie Dunning for his help with the morning census, birder’s ear and rhododendron searching and all the boy’s brigade for their help and understanding with the biosecurity monitoring.

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