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Friday 8 December 2023

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This blogspot is no longer active and will continue to be hosted online as an archive. But never fear, all of your favourite island news and more and can now be accessed on the new Lundy Bird Observatory website! We'd like to take this opportunity to thank every contributor for sharing observations and images over the years. Please continue to share your records and media with the Bird Observatory Warden by email.

Happy birding,
The Lundy Bird Observatory Team

Friday 3 November 2023

Lundy Bird Observatory Update 27th Oct - 3rd November

Fairly windy and a lot of rainfall throughout this period with very few birds around or moving on some days. A bit of respite on 30th saw a bit more passage before a series of storms blew in from the Atlantic, with named Storm Ciaran arriving in the evening of the 1st November.

After one previous record on 16th November 1956, just the second Lundy record of Surf Scoter was found off of the east coast on the 27th. The female type bird was initially picked beyond Rat Island but obligingly moved closer into the Landing Bay allowing better observation and confirmation of the ID. Unfortunately, a Great Northern Diver resurfaced beside the scoter and spooked it. The Surf Scoter flew straight back out to sea and was not seen again. An adult female Shelduck was present on census on the flooded ground beside the water tanks on the 3rd. Three Teal were seen over the sea from the east coast on the 1st and later sitting in the calm waters of the Landing Bay. By the 2nd they had joined our single bird up at Pondsbury, and on the 3rd another two birds had joined the flock making a total of six. 

Record shot of female type Surf Scoter in Landing Bay © Andy Jayne

Adult female Shelduck near to the Water Tanks © Angus Croudace

A check of Brazen Ward on the 28th found a flock of 32 Oystercatcher which is the highest count since spring. A single Golden Plover overflew the airfield on 30th and was calling high over Millcombe on the 31st, and heard again over the water tanks on the 3rd.

Nocturnal survey effort continues, made somewhat easier by the changing clocks. Another three Woodcock were ringed on the 30th with two other birds seen and another single flushed in daylight on the Lower East Coast Path. Unfortunately one carcass was found in SW field on the 3rd; likely a Peregrine Falcon kill. Three Jack Snipe were found on the 30th with one ringed, and another was found near Quarter Wall in daylight hours on the 31st. The island is holding a large amount of surface water at the moment with plenty of excellent areas for snipe to roost or feed, so they're turning up all over the place, not just in a few key areas that were typically frequented earlier in the autumn. Barton Field has contained a Jack Snipe on every survey since mid October, but now we're encountering them in places such as the airfield too. High counts of six Common Snipe were recorded on the 30th and the 2nd with two separate observations of a bird being pursued by a Peregrine Falcon on the 29th and 30th. 

The storms have seen seabirds gathering to feed in weather windows in the lee of the island towards the end of this period, with 500 Kittiwake on the 31st and over 1500 on the 1st November. Over 100 Gannet and 80 auks amongst them. Our long staying winter plumage Great Northern Diver was joined by another which retained much of its glorious summer plumage on the 28th. A third bird was also seen with them on the 30th. At least one has been seen daily since. A single Cormorant flew over the island on the 28th, 31st and 1st. A Grey Heron is still picked up occasionally and up to three Water Rail can still be heard calling in Millcombe Valley.

Summer Plumage Great Northern Diver in the Landing Bay © Angus Croudace

We enjoyed excellent island coverage in much of October, but with most visiting birders away, as well as our Bird Obs Warden Joe, the north of the island has contributed far fewer records to the log book. Raptor records are significantly down after fantastic numbers last week. This is likely partially due to reduced coverage but also a result of some raptors having moved on now that the bulk of the migrant passerines and waders that they were feeding on have passed through. Both a male and female Sparrowhawk are still seen occasionally, just one male Kestrel recorded in this period and up to four Peregrine Falcon. At least three Merlin were still present on the 28th, but hereafter none were recorded until a single bird from Tibbet's on the 3rd. After a period of no sightings since the 25th, a Short-eared Owl was again seen in Lighthouse Field on the 31st and watch flying on Castle Hill by two visitors on the 1st. Notably a late Osprey flew south into strong winds a fair distance off of the east coast on the 1st November. This is our fourth record of the autumn and the latest for Lundy by five days, with one previously on 27th October 2001, at a time when the species was no-where near as well established as it is today. It's fantastic to see them thriving in the UK again, and our records this year perhaps reflect this recovery, with previously only one, occasionally two birds recorded on passage in the autumn.

Up to seven Chiffchaff are recorded daily, although typically just three in Millcombe and a couple along the east coast. The long staying Yellow-browed Warbler showed very nicely at Quarter Wall on the 27th but has not been seen since. A little more movement on the 30th with 18 Blackcap new in after a couple of blank days in the log book. Similarly for Goldcrest with nine on the 30th and 12 on the 31st. A very showy Firecrest was easily seen and heard from the beach road at Windy Corner on the 29th and 30th, before two were then trapped and ringed on the 31st

Firecrest, Beach Road © Angus Croudace

Another influx of at least 100 Starling joined our longer staying birds on the 30th, but had moved on again by the next day. A Ring Ouzel has been recorded everyday except for the 27th, with two males dropping in below the Timekeeper's Hut on the 30th amongst a small flock of Fieldfare. Fieldfare remained in single figures until the 30th when 70 were recorded in a couple of larger flocks. Around 20-30 have stuck around since, with some birds frequenting the Water Tanks and another flock around the top of Millcombe. We had the second highest count of Redwing for the autumn on the 30th at 110 (after 700 on their big arrival day on the 12th October). Half of these birds erupted out of the beer garden shrubbery and left the island shortly after sunrise. After a couple of blank days at the start of this period, we're recording between five to ten Song Thrush daily since the 30th A flock of ten Blackbird was seen along High Street on the 2nd. A Mistle Thrush was rattling about the village on the 30th and 31st. A single Woodpigeon has been seen in Millcombe on the 31st and 3rd, the first record since the 23rd. 

Excitingly, an adult male Waxwing was picked up on census on the 28th and is still present, favouring the lower gardens in Millcombe, although it was also photographed by the Timekeeper's Hut above the Terrace. It evaded the mist nets at our first try, but another go on the 31st in calmer weather was successful, making this bird the first Waxwing ever to be ringed on Lundy! It is just the sixth record of this species for Lundy. They are an annual visitor to the UK in winter, but some years an 'irruption' sees a huge influx when food is scarce or the weather is unusually harsh in their preferred wintering grounds. It's looking like a Waxwing winter this year, with huge numbers already seen across the east coast of the UK, with a few odd records of smaller numbers or individuals making it as far west as Lundy or Ireland. 

Waxwing among the limited selection of berries currently on offer in Millcombe © Joe Parker

Waxwing in Sycamores above the Battlements © Angus Croudace

Waxwing in the hand © Luke Marriner

A couple of late Swallow with six on the 31st, some of which roosted overnight with three picked up again on the 1st. A single bird was recorded struggling in the gale force winds over the Airfield on the 2nd, and we were pleased to see that it had survived through into the 3rd, flying around the village. The biggest movement of Skylark was a flock of nine on the 30th with a couple of singles otherwise. A big contrast to Skokholm a bit further north who reported several hundred moving through on the 31st! A Woodlark was found sheltering from the 60mph gusts in the heather around Rocket Pole in the morning of the 2nd.

Stonechat numbers have been notably low this week, often in the low single figures. A late Northern Wheatear was in Brick Field on the 30th. Three days in this period have recorded no wagtails of any species, otherwise just a few single Alba/Pied Wagtails recorded with one Grey Wagtail on the 27th.

Chaffinch numbers have been around 225 throughout 27th-31st except for the 29th with 401. This was also likely an undercount as birds were moving in modest numbers but we lacked the coverage to monitor the full extent. Nearby, at Bull Point in excess of 5000 were recorded on the same morning, although we suspect that some showers out to sea to the north of Lundy meant that the birds moved up the Bristol Channel before making the crossing, hence lower numbers over us despite favourable winds. Passage had stopped by the 1st, with just a score or so found feeding on the tracks or in Millcombe. Just four records of Brambling this week, including a female ringed in Millcombe. We noted about 80 Siskin daily until Storm Ciaran after which just single figures were to be found. A small flock of 8 Linnet has been feeding in St Johns Valley this week, with a couple of singles picked up elsewhere. Two Lesser Redpoll on the 27th are currently the last record in the log book, and on the same day three Snow Bunting were seen on the wall around Tibbet's, although sadly have not been resighted.

Male Brambling in Sycamores above Millcombe Pines © Angus Croudace

Female Brambling ringed in Millcombe © Luke Marriner

And finally for this week, a wee video from Storm Ciaran, taken in a very windy SW field.

Thursday 26 October 2023

Lundy Bird Observatory Update 17th - 26th October

The most notable weather patterns this week were some strong easterlies 17th-19th and another period of lighter south-easterlies 22-23rd. The 25th brought light north-easterly winds before they dropped to nothing for the afternoon. More typical autumnal sunshine and showers from south westerlies returned on the 26th.

The island has become a frenzy of hunting raptors this week with Merlin a constant presence. Up to five individuals counted, as well as an autumn high count of five Kestrel. Up to eight Peregrine Falcon were recorded this week, and a male Sparrowhawk has joined the long staying female with the two birds usually seen hunting along the east coast. A ringtail Hen Harrier was present on the 19th and up to two Short-eared Owl have been picked up 21st-25th. Our highlight of this week was undoubtedly a stunning juvenile Pallid Harrier on the 19th, the first record for Lundy. It was seen by many at locations across the length and breadth of the island. It was watched carrying away a Common Snipe and later roosted by Pondsbury, but unfortunately for us was observed leaving the island shortly after dawn on the 20th.

Juvenile Pallid Harrier © Eden Davies

Initial Views of juvenile Pallid Harrier over Quarries © Tim Jones

Juvenile Pallid Harrier © Eden Davies

A single first-winter male Wigeon was present on Barton Field on the 19th and then Pondsbury 20-21st. A few Teal arrived on the 18th with a high count of four. A female type Common Scoter was seen off of Benjamin's Chair on the 18th and then North Light on the 19th. Up to five Water Rail have been heard calling this week, all in Millcombe/St John's except for a bird below St Helen's Copse. Woodpigeon numbers have dropped from eight to zero, likely falling prey to the raptor influx, with at least one carcass found at the north end of the island. 

First-winter male Wigeon at Barton Field © Tim Jones

Common Scoter off of North Light on the 19th © Tim Jones

A single Lapwing was seen on the 23rd with another single bird seen on the 25th around the Airfield. The last date Golden Plover were recorded was the 20th, with two birds heard calling. A single Dunlin was picked up around the island between 16th-20th, usually around the Airfield. The first Woodcock of autumn was ringed on a nocturnal survey on the 17th in south-west field with another two recorded on the 22nd and one bird flushed from Quarry Pond on the 26th. Jack Snipe have become fairly regularly recorded, with five ringed in the past week and a high count of seven on the 20th. Records of Common Snipe have decreased after the large influx in the middle of the month, with typically around eight birds recorded daily in this period. The Redshank continues its stay, although it was recaught on the 18th and worryingly had dropped from 150g to 120g. It has been seen feeding on worms since the 18th though and so is now finding more suitable places to feed than cattle grids and vehicle tracks!

Jack Snipe Barton Field © Luke Marriner

A couple of Common Gull were sighted around the coastline with three below Quarry Beach on the 21st. A flock of 25 Herring Gull with a single Common Gull were loafing in the Landing Bay on the 25th, later seen flying in smaller parties around the north end. A good day count of 30 Lesser Black-backed Gull on the 23rd. A first-winter Yellow-Legged Gull was found feeding on a carcass of an Atlantic Blue-fin Tuna on the 17th, both good Lundy records. We also received a belated report of a fantastic observation this week – a single Chough was seen and heard north of Jenny's Cove by a visiting climber!

A Red-throated Diver was seen from the MS Oldenburg 10 minutes after it departed the Landing Bay on the 21st. A Great Northern Diver has been picked up almost daily since the 21st, feeding off of the Landing Bay. Typically around 40 Gannet are recorded off of the coastline daily. Several records of Cormorant this week, which is a fairly scarce visitor to the island. In this period three on the 19th, six on the 22nd, one on the 23rd and two on the 24th. Up to two Grey Heron have still been seen fishing around the coastline, which is presumably proving more fruitful than Pondsbury – many previous visiting herons have seemed strongly attached to the various small freshwater bodies across the island, often appearing to struggle to find sufficient food for maintaining condition. A small flock of three Grey Heron drifted over Tibbetts from the east on the 24th.

At least two Yellow-browed Warbler were found along the east coast on the afternoon of the 20th, with one bird continuing to the 26th, typically seen in Quarter Wall Copse. A Red-breasted Flycatcher also turned up at Quarter Wall Copse on the 20th, detected late in the day and not seen subsequently. 

Yellow-Browed Warbler Quarter Wall Copse © Angus Croudace

We've seen quite a few late records of some species passing through, likely due to the very mild autumn. It started to feel like September again when another Common Whitethroat, a striking male Common Redstart and a male Pied Flycatcher were picked up on the 22nd! A late Eurasian Reed Warbler was seen regularly in Millcombe 19th-23rd, moving between the back of Millcombe House and the Lower Garden. A single late Whinchat was at Quarter Wall on the 26th. A late Tree Pipit was seen on the deck by Quarry Cottages on the 19th and one was also heard in flight by two observers on the 20th heading north over the Terrace. On the same day a Richard's Pipit was heard and seen in flight leaving the island over the Castle. 

A stunning male Common Redstart at Stoneycroft © Angus Croudace

Typically around a hundred Meadow Pipit were recorded daily at the start of this period, moving over in small groups or individually, with a high count of 394 on the 22nd before numbers decreased more recently with 42 on the 25th and 29 on the 26th. Skylark passage continues with up to about 30 heading south most days although just three on the 26th. The 20th saw a few late hirundines moving through with 230 Swallow and 16 House Martin. Up to 30 Swallow are recorded on most other days although a complete absence on the 19th and 26th are an indication that their passage is petering out. 

About 18 Chiffchaff daily 19th-22nd, dropping to 5 by the 26th. A small arrival of 22 Blackcap on the 22nd although these quickly moved through with just half a dozen remaining on the 26th. Firecrest continue to be seen almost daily, with a high count of five on the 20th, including one that was observed arriving 'in-off' in the company of 25 Goldcrest. There was another large influx of Goldcrest on the 22nd, with 112 recorded and 74 ringed in Millcombe in the morning. The second Treecreeper of the year was heard calling in the bottom of Millcombe on the 21st.

Firecrest ringed in Millcombe © Luke Marriner

We had a noticeable arrival of migrant Robin on the 20th with a high day count of 39. Two Black Redstart were found on the west coast on the 23rd with one bird working its way from Old Light to the Lodge on the 25th. After a small hiatus in records a few Wheatear were sighted at the end of this period, with two daily since the 21st, and a high count of five on the 25th. Single Grey Wagtail over daily since the 22nd with three on the 23rd. Three sightings of White Wagtail on the 19th, 21st and 22nd. 

Female type Black Redstart by Lambing Shed/Lodge © Angus Croudace

As warbler and hirundine passage dwindles, the baton passes over to thrushes and finches. Autumn finch passage on Lundy is a spectacle to behold in the second half of October, with small flocks constantly streaming past the island on some days. Starling also move, with our typical early October counts of slightly over 100 birds joined transiently by flocks of migrants. Several hundred were recorded daily between 18th-26th with two high counts of 414 on the 20th and 478 on the 24th. 

The 20th and 25th saw moderate thrush arrivals. Whilst most days have recorded at least one Ring Ouzel this week, we had a high count of 8 on the 20th and three on the 25th. 40 Fieldfare on the 20th and 51 on the 25th. There were 92 Redwing on the 20th with about 40 most other days, and they can occasionally be heard calling as they pass over at night too. Most notably on the 25th was a large arrival of Blackbird and Song Thrush with day counts of 39 for both species. Mistle Thrush are uncommon on Lundy in autumn and so it was nice to have one at the North End on the 23rd and at least one rattling around the top of Millcombe on the 25th.

Fieldfare Millcombe © Tim Jones

After the first initial push of c1500 Chaffinch already reported on the 16th, we saw this scale up somewhat. A couple of hundred were recorded daily 17th-21st before 550 moved through on the 22nd, 4031 on 23rd and 3114 on 24th! The biggest push coincided with the south-easterlies, which is typical for Lundy. Chaffinch seem to prefer flying into a light to moderate headwind. Valuable ringing records have proven that some – perhaps most – birds passing through Lundy in autumn breed in Fennoscandia or even as far east as Russia. From these breeding grounds they migrate south-west along a relatively narrow corridor through Denmark, Germany and the low countries (in preference to crossing the North Sea) before either crossing the English Channel to the UK and Ireland, or continuing south-west into France and Iberia. The big flocks passing Lundy recently were perhaps readjusting their course to a more south-westerly course, having been pushed further north and west than intended by strong easterly/south-easterly winds.

Siskin scaled up proportionally, with around one hundred daily but 810 on 22nd, 1157 on 23rd and then a drop to 334 on 24th where they were significantly outnumbered by the Chaffinch. Among the finches a couple of Brambling have been picked out on most days, usually detected by their nasal, wheezing call. There was a good high count of 14 on the 23rd. A single Greenfinch was recorded on 17th, 22nd and 25th. Lesser Redpoll have been picked up typically as singles with a couple a day but high counts of five on the 23rd and eight on the 25th. Linnet numbers have dropped significantly from the 168 recorded in early October. We're now only reaching tallies of 20-40 birds recorded daily, with similar numbers of Goldfinch. These are typically in very small flocks with none of the large groupings seen earlier in the season. 

A Lapland Bunting toured the island on the 20th-22nd as seen/heard by many observers. The second Snow Bunting of the autumn was elusive around Middle Park on the 23rd, having first been seen perched atop a prominent rock at Dead Cow Point, where it narrowly avoided the clutches of a Merlin! We're hoping that some more classically confiding individuals drop in before the season is out. Nice Reed Bunting passage has been recorded with between one and six birds daily, usually as singles calling overhead or dropping into favoured areas such as the willows below Government, and Pondsbury/Ackland's Moor/Quarter Wall.

Ringing station in Millcombe with (L-R) Luke Marriner, Joe Parker and Paul Morton © Tim Jones

Monday 16 October 2023

Lundy Bird Observatory Update - 11th - 16th October

Prevailing south-westerlies carrying heavy rainfall overnight start this period. A bright, still and warm day on the 12th played host to our first large thrush passage. The winds subsequently swung north-west causing the temperature to drop on Saturday 14th before then becoming moderate easterlies on 15th-16th.

A single Redshank has been present since the 13th and observed in all sorts of quirky places including the puddle outside Castles on the road; the drainage ditch by the Church; in flight low amongst Millcombe; most notably, stuck in the cattle grid by the Black Shed! Upon discovery, Lundy regulars Julian and Mark quickly enlisted a nearby plank, providing a ramp for it to ascend out of its predicament safely. It was seen feeding again on Barton pond on the 16th, and was caught and ringed on the evening of the 16th - the first Redshank ringing record for Lundy. We are amazed that it hasn't yet met the sharp end of one of our Peregrine Falcons, unlike a single Stock Dove which arrived on the 16th but didn't last beyond lunchtime. 

Redshank Barton Field © Richard Campey

A female Teal has been picked up on Pondsbury each day, with two new in Mallard on the 15th adding to our typical count of 13. A single female Common Scoter was in the Landing Bay on the 16th, with 16 seen on a seawatch on the 13th. An arrival of Water Rail on the 14th led to an autumn high count of five birds, including one above Quarry Beach with the rest in Millcombe. One Lapwing flew around the village around dawn on the 14th. A large amount of Golden Plover arrived with a max count of 29 on the 12th, with one flock joined by a Whimbrel on the 13th on the airfield. Several Jack Snipe arrived on the 13th and have been recorded daily since.

Frequent flocks of Common Snipe were an unusual sight for Lundy, seen all over the island during this reporting period, with a maximum flock size of 26 on the 12th. Singles were flushed all over the island far more regularly than is typical including in Millcombe Wood and the Upper East Coast Path, hinting that there might be a substantial increase in numbers. Another two nights dazzling shone a whole new light on the scale of Snipe passage through Lundy. On the night of the 14th Joe and Luke ringed an incredible 55 Common Snipe as well as single Jack Snipe and five Golden Plover. In one night, this smashes previous all-time records for the island of 46 Common Snipe ringed 1947-2022 and 5 Golden Plover in the same timeframe. On the night of the 15th a further 20 Common Snipe and another Jack Snipe were ringed, and then another 10 Common Snipe and a third Jack Snipe on the 16th! These efforts were all south of Quarter Wall, there were no retraps on the first night and just a couple on the efforts of the next two evenings. Thus, it is clear that Lundy is absolutely swimming in Snipe at the moment! Our logbook reads 55 which is already an record breaking autumn day count, but could numbers even be in excess of 200 in reality?! The previous autumn passage record was a flock of 30 birds in November 1985.

Common Snipe flock over Airfield © Angus Croudace

Common Snipe, Millcombe Drive © Angus Croudace

The 13th and 14th saw a lot of seabirds loafing or feeding off of the island, with 2270 Kittiwake on the 13th and 1000+ on the 14th. A Mediterranean Gull and six Common Gull close in below the Terrace on the 15th. Singles of dark-morph Arctic Skua were seen off of the east on the 14th and the 16th. A Great Northern Diver was again in the Landing Bay on the 11th, 13th and 16th,

Great Northern Diver Landing Bay © Angus Croudace

It has become substantially busier on the raptor front, with several Merlin individuals arriving with the Redwing on the 12th, resulting in a day count of four birds and several daily since. Two Short-eared Owls have been present since the 12th also, although are very unpredictable and elusive, with sightings ranging from the bracken on the east, cliffs in the Landing Bay, gorse in South-west field as well as in the heathland in the north. A ringtail Hen Harrier has been picked up at Quarter Wall/Pondsbury since the 13th. To add to these headliners are our continuing supporting cast of three Kestrel, up to eight Peregrine Falcon and a female Sparrowhawk.

Merlin Quarter Wall © Richard Campey

Short-eared Owl Lighthouse Field © Tim Jones

Merlin double act at the North End © Angus Croudace

Redwing 'tseeped' overhead through the night of the 11th, with counts starting from 6.30am resulting in a total of 700 birds recorded during the day across the island. 47 Fieldfare were amongst them. Since, about ten Fieldfare have been recorded daily and small numbers of Redwing (72 on 13th, and about 20 daily since). Amongst the thrush arrival on the 12th were 16 Ring Ouzel, 22 Song Thrush and one Mistle Thrush.

First-year Male Ring Ouzel in Millcombe (note the worn tail feathers) © Angus Croudace

Ring Ouzel Jenny's Cove © Tim Jones

Some Skylark continue to move overhead with some flocks of up to 20. High day count in this period of 85 on the 12th, but typically 30-50 recorded each day. 530 Meadow Pipit around or over on the 12th with around 150 record daily since. Swallow have milled around again with over a hundred recorded each day but no real devotion to pushing forward. The House Martins observed have almost all been in small flocks that are more clearly pushing south, including a total of 52 on the 14th.

The first Yellow-browed Warbler of the autumn was very elusive in Millcombe on the 15th and almost completely silent. Chiffchaff day counts typically break 20, and we have enjoyed a late Reed Warbler by Millcombe House. On the fine day that was the 12th there was another arrival of Blackcap, with 45 across the island, mostly in Millcombe, around a dozen have stayed for a few days to feed on the now dwindling blackberries. A Lesser Whitethroat showed well on the gorse by Rocket Pole on the 15th, and a late Common Whitethroat was above Smelly Gully on the 14th. A Firecrest was in Millcombe along with two long-staying Spotted Flycatchers. These birds (finally) left in the clear skies of the 14th to continue their long journeys, with the possibility that the flycatchers may well be destined as far as South Africa! Goldcrest counts have typically been 20 with a peak of 37 on the 14th.

Lesser Whitethroat Rocket Pole © Tim Jones

A Black Redstart was at North Light on the 11th. Between one and six Wheatear have been recorded daily in this period. One Grey Wagtail over on the 15th as well as a White Wagtail in Barton Field on the 14th.

White Wagtail Barton Field © Tim Jones

Finally, the 16th was the first day of notable Chaffinch passage this season, with 50 emerging from roost in Millcombe and departing as the sun rose. Throughout the day a fairly constant stream of small flocks were moving south, mostly sheltering from the easterlies in the lee of the west coast. The total figure was c1500 for the day. Among were 4 Brambling (after the first of the autumn was heard on the 11th) and two Greenfinch. A group of four Lesser Redpoll feeding in Millcombe on the 12th, 11 across the island on the 15th and four on the 16th. The first Lapland Bunting of autumn was around Pondsbury on the 16th and a couple of Reed Bunting have passed through each day, with a high count of five on the 14th.

Lesser Redpoll Lower Garden, Millcombe © Angus Croudace

Reed Bunting Pondsbury © Richard Campey

A couple of late Clouded Yellow butterflies, notable Red Admiral passage with over a hundred on the 12th and a couple of Painted Ladies, Small Copper and Hummingbird Hawk-moths each day are the best of the Lepidoptera. 

Small Copper butterfly at North Quarry © Tim Jones

Pale Tussock Moth caterpillar meets a migrant Blackbird © Angus Croudace

The race is on, Merlin vs Sika Doe Pondsbury © Angus Croudace

Tuesday 10 October 2023

Lundy Bird Observatory Update - 3rd - 10th October

 The weather has been fairly consistent for 3-6th October, with moderate winds from the south-west limiting any passage on a large scale over Lundy. The tail end of this week featured much lighter winds and glorious sun on the 8th, with some extended periods of heavy fog on the 9th-10th.

Golden Plover records have been almost daily in this period, with an autumn high count thus far of nine over Millcombe on the 9th, with the flock interestingly led by a single Bar-tailed Godwit, and tailed by a single Snipe! A flock of 24 Oystercatchers was seen at Quarry Beach on the 4th. 

A single Great Northern Diver was in the Landing Bay on the morning of the 7th. On an island-wide seal survey on the 4th two Arctic Skuas were picked up, a pale morph from North Light and a dark morph causing havoc in a Gannet feeding flock east of the Landing Bay. A Mediterranean Gull was picked up in the Landing Bay on the 5th and another off of the east with 115 Kittiwake on the 7th. A first-winter Yellow-Legged Gull was present in the Landing Bay on the 10th. After the fog cleared on the 9th and 10th the seabirds started feeding in earnest, with a lot of Gannet activity - 120 recorded off of the east feeding on the 9th. Our second autumn flock of presumably dispersed, roving Grey Heron was picked up on the 10th, with 17 east of the Landing Bay shortly after dawn making quite the spectacle, albeit at a distance!

Golden Plover, Airfield © Angus Croudace

Whilst it was too windy to ring in Millcombe early in the week we were out dazzling every night, with great success. Seven Common Snipe have been ringed. Using the thermal has been invaluable in helping us record how many snipe we actually have, with daytime records typically of single birds. Now that quite a few are ringed, with further effort across the autumn and winter, we'll be able to get a better handle on how many birds stick around for a while, or whether there is much turnover of individuals. We're also looking forward to mid-October, when we should begin to pick up Jack Snipe, which are two thirds the size of Common Snipe and flush much much later, and are thus very tricky to find! Another 6 Wheatear as well as over 20 Skylarks have also been ringed in these sessions, which have focused on SW Field, Brick Field and the Airfield, with one foray north to Middle Park. Notably a Common Redstart was also caught near to the Stonecrusher on the evening on 4th, two days after it was first found on a morning census.

In the light winds at the end of the week we could open the nets in Millcombe. The most productive session was on the 9th, when we caught 51 Siskin and a dozen other common migrants, as well as another Red-eyed Vireo which had been picked up in the field by Luke in the morning. This bird weighed 20.3g, a lot more than the previously ringed bird at 15.6g. It's clearly been feeding well since arriving (presumably) among the large UK influx two weeks ago, before arriving in Millcombe.

Red-eyed Vireo caught and ringed in Millcombe © Angus Croudace

Male Siskin caught and ringed in Millcombe © Luke Marriner

Unsurprisingly, the Pied Flycatcher caught in Millcombe on the 2nd with very low fat and muscle scores stuck around until the 6th, selecting to feed up around the Oak below the Beach Road. Spotted Flycatchers can also still be seen feeding from the tops of the Sycamores in Millcombe daily, with a max count of five on the 9th. At least one Firecrest has picked up in Quarter Wall Copse and or Millcombe daily, with a high count of 7 on the 7th. The first Black Redstart of the season appeared in the Lodge garden on the 8th. 

A late Tree Pipit was heard calling from the Terrace as it moved south on the 6th, and two Siskin were picked up on the 4th and the 6th. As the winds changed later in the week Siskin numbers increased dramatically with at least 60 each day 8th-10th. As the east coast of the UK witnessed a huge autumn fall after favourable strong easterly winds, we also received our first thrushes, although in somewhat more modest quantities with five Fieldfare, three Redwing and a Song Thrush arrived on the 9th. A single Greenfinch arrived into Millcombe on the 9th too, and has remained present on the 10th.

Spotted Flycatcher, Millcombe © Angus Croudace

Firecrest in lower Millcombe © Angus Croudace

Our first Merlin of the autumn also finally arrived on the 4th October, a month later than last year's first on the 5th September. The third first year Osprey of the autumn headed south on the 7th, seen along the east coast, and fortuitously flying directly over the M.S. Oldenberg as it was boarding, allowing all of our visitors excellent views too.

Merlin, Three-quarter Wall © Luke Marriner

A second Ortolan Bunting of the autumn was picked up in Millcombe on the 7th behaving as if it had just arrived, moving about the valley a lot and associating with various other finches. It was found again feeding with Meadow Pipits around Acklands Moor on the 8th in the morning. It showed very well on both occasions, and was calling frequently. A Snow Bunting was found around the west end of Three-quarter Wall on the 4th, and offered only two very brief flight views. Reed Bunting singles were in Millcombe on the 5th and above Benjamin's Chair on the 10th. A ringed Wryneck was seen in Millcombe on the 8th as well, the first sighting since the 29th.

Ortolan Bunting, © Angus Croudace

Ringed Wryneck below Millcombe House © Luke Marriner

In terms of other common migrants, Water Rail continue to call in Millcombe daily, with three recorded on the 10th. We're still picking up good numbers of Skylark with a high count of 54 on the 8th. A couple of Chiffchaff were picked up each day until the winds changed when they numbered around 15 each day from the 8th. Goldcrest numbers have declined in two stages - the week started with an influx of 41 after which we tended to record about 20, and finishing with just four on the 10th. A few late Reed Warblers arrived at the end of the week, with a high count of three on both the 8th and 9th, two of which were caught and ringed. Swallow counts are typically about 60 each day all week, with a few bunches of House Martin, including 44 on the 8th. No Sand Martin since two on the 4th. Wheatear numbers are much reduced, with just four on the 10th. 

There have been small numbers of wagtails recorded, with a single Grey Wagtail on the 8th and 10th. A couple of Pied Wagtail most days and a couple of small groups of Alba (Pied/White) Wagtails in flight, totalling 13 birds moving on the 8th. Chaffinch numbers remain below ten. Two Grey Heron and female Sparrowhawk are still present, and one Teal has been seen on Pondsbury on the 4th and 9th.

A misty west coast on the 9th as the island appeared above the fog © Angus Croudace

Monday 2 October 2023

Lundy Bird Observatory Update - 28th - 2nd October

The 28th was a fine, sunny day, but strong winds have continued this week. They have mostly been southerly meaning that even Millcombe Valley, typically sheltered from the prevailing winds, was blustery with limited activity much of the time. The island was cloaked in a clingy mist for the entirety of 1st October. Come the 2nd, the mist lifted, revealing an eerily still morning where finally ringing in Millcombe could resume before the mist returned late afternoon. 

60 Blackcaps, 20 Goldcrests and a rather late Pied Flycatcher were all ringed on the 2nd. The flycatcher was scored low on fat and muscle, which is perhaps telling of it's late arrival. Conditions here are still very mild with a lot of insects still very active so there should be plenty of food to allow this bird to feed up and improve it's condition for the onwards journey.

Throughout this week two Water Rail continue to call in Millcombe and a Grey Heron is seen daily moving between waterbodies. A Golden Plover was heard around the airfield on the 29th-30th. On the 29th a single Ringed Plover was on the ground at the north end, along with a Dunlin. Another Ringed Plover was heard flying over Millcombe on both the 29th and 30th. 

Three Cormorants were seen out to sea on the 28th, and another three flew south over the airfield on the 29th - could these be the same individuals? Interestingly earlier in the month 12 Cormorants were seen flying south off of Rat Island, whilst four days later another 12 were picked up. It's difficult to know if these are again repeat sightings of this fairly scarce Lundy visitor, or just coincidences! A seawatch on the still morning of the 2nd produced quality if not quantity, with two Arctic Skua heading north as well as Great Northern Diver.

Three Cormorant heading south, seen from the Airfield. © Angus Croudace

A high count of 40 Rock Pipit was recorded on the 28th, with a few around the village but most picked up on the west coast on the plateau above Brazen Ward. This could be a mixture of migrant birds dropping onto the plateau, or perhaps a more local movement of our local breeders seeking more shelter for the winter. We had high counts of 566 Meadow Pipit and 39 Skylark on the 29th in this period. An evening dazzling on the 29th caught 11 Skylark, along with one of the 21 Wheatear recorded on the same date.

Four buntings have been added to the Lundy year list in just over a week, with an Ortolan Bunting picked up on census near the Stonecrusher on 30th. Much alike the Little and Yellow-breasted Buntings from earlier in the week, despite concerted efforts it was not refound later in the day. Reed Bunting singles were recorded both in Millcombe and at Pondsbury on the 2nd.

Reed Bunting, Pondsbury © Angus Croudace

The 29th saw another push of hirundines including 594 Swallow and 132 House Martin. Among them Chris Baillie picked up a juvenile American Cliff Swallow, a vagrant visitor that, if accepted, will be the first record of this species for Lundy. This record is part of a major influx to the Western Palaearctic this autumn after they were initially displaced by strong winds on the North American continent in late August.

We've had another two waves of Blackcaps this week after just seven being left on the 28th; 78 on the 30th and 100 on the 2nd. A second young Barred Warbler of the autumn was seen around the top of Millcombe on the 29th. Luke also managed to catch and ring our long-staying Whinchat, which never strays far from Barton's Fields. On the 2nd two Common Crossbills were observed coming into Millcombe and feeding in the pines for ten minutes before departing as quickly as they arrived.

Common Crossbill, Millcombe Pines © Angus Croudace

First winter female Whinchat © Nicola Dunkin

The first Lesser Whitethroat of Autumn was picked up in the willows on the Terrace on the 28th and refound at Quarter Wall on the 29th. A Sedge Warbler was present at Pondsbury on the 28th and a Reed Warbler on the 2nd. A couple of Spotted Flycatchers have been hanging on in Millcombe, with a high count of three on the 29th. Two Tree Pipit were seen on the 29th, one on the ground in SW field, and the other calling around Millcombe. On the 30th six Siskin were bombing around Millcombe first thing, with another two singles picked up later in the day. Another single Song Thrush was seen in Millcombe on the 29th and a Firecrest was in Smelly Gully on the 1st, the first since the 22nd.

Lesser Whitethroat, Quarter Wall © Joe Parker

Wheatear, Stonecrusher © Joe Parker