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Monday 27 February 2023

20th to 26th February –Cold weather returns

Moderate westerlies on 20th brought more low cloud and poor visibility. This changed into cold northerlies and easterlies for the end of the week.

A max count of four male and 13 female Mallards were counted across the island on 26th. Nine Teal were still on Pondsbury on 26th. A male Woodpigeon was ‘singing’ in Millcombe on 25th and two were then flushed out of the pines.  Three Golden Plover flew over on 21st and another on the 25th. Woodcock were seen along the East Side and Millcombe on 21st, 22nd and 26th. Two Snipe were seen on 25th and 26th.

Golden Plover, Ackland's Moor © Stuart Cossey

It was good weather for seawatching. Three Great Northern Diver were in the Landing Bay on 21st and two on 22nd. Also on 22nd a Red-throated Diver flew north past the East Coast. 24 Gannets flew past the West Coast on 22nd and 41 were counted on 25th.

The overwintering Sparrowhawk and Merlin are still present. Up to four Peregrine have been counted including a regular pair calling over the Village.

Skylark are occasionally singing but numbers are still low compared to 2022. The first Chiffchaff of the year was heard calling in the Government Willows on 22nd and then seen feeding with Goldcrest in the spruce above Millcombe. Another or the same bird was calling in Millcombe on 26th. A Mistle Thrush was recorded on 21st. Two Redwing were seen on 22nd with one still on 23rd. There was a notable arrival of Stonechat on 25th with nine present within the census area. A Grey Wagtail flew over the Village and landed on the Barn on 24th. A Pied Wagtail has been seen around the Village on 20th, 21st and 25th. Meadow Pipits are also on the move with high counts of 37 on 21st and 65 on 24th. Finch numbers are still low with the overwintering Chaffinch still and only single figures of Linnet passing through.

Skylark, Quarter Wall  © Stuart Cossey

Meadow Pipit, Benjamin's Chair © Stuart Cossey

Male Stonechat, Quarter Wall © Stuart Cossey

This week we said farewell to our short-term volunteer Eleanor. As well as helping out with the morning census, her main role was working on digitising a lot of the historic data in order to protect the important information.

Contributors: Stuart Cossey, Rosie Ellis, Eleanor Grover

Monday 20 February 2023

13th to 19th February –Brief sunshine before the cloud descended

 A dry and mild start to the week. Southwesterlies from the 15th brought low cloud and poor visibility. A moderate northerly on the 19th provided a brief day of sunshine.

Seven Teal were counted at Pondsbury on 16. A Stock Dove flew over the village on 13th and a Woodpigeon was in Millcombe on 16th. Two Water Rail were squealing loudly below Brambles on 15th. 33 Oystercatchers were counted along the Lower East on 16th and nine Purple Sandpiper were still present at Brazen Ward.  A Red-throated Diver was seen close in off the East Side on 17th.

Oystercatchers, Brazen Ward © Stuart Cossey

Purple Sandpipers, Brazen Ward © Stuart Cossey

The first confirmed signs of breeding Raven were identified with nest material collection and a predated egg by Pondsbury on 16th. Herring, Lesser Black-backed and Great Black-backed Gulls are starting to pair up and congregate at breeding sites.

With sunset getting later, after work birding is now a possibility. Incredible behaviour was witnessed in the late afternoon of 14th as a Skylark was heard calling over Millcombe pursued by a Merlin. It then dropped steeply into the pines as a Sparrowhawk and Peregrine joined the hunt. The Sparrowhawk continued the chase through the trees but it is unclear whether the Skylark got away. The overwintering Sparrowhawk is the first since 2019 and with this only happening on a handful of occasions.

The male Song Thrush from 2022 is continuing to sing its heart out in Millcombe. It has a few distinctive phrases which mimic other birds. Hopefully this year it finds a mate and breeding can be confirmed.

Two Pied Wagtail were seen on 13th and 14th and one on 16th. A Grey Wagtail flew out of Millcombe on 15th. A high count of 14 Chaffinch was recorded on 13th. Four Linnet were seen on 14th and two on 15th.

Contributors: Stuart Cossey, Rosie Ellis, Eleanor Grover

Monday 13 February 2023

6th to 12th February – More stirrings of migration and the breeding season to come

Eleanor Grover reports on a spring-like week.

Unseasonably sunny weather, with one day of low fog on the 10th. Predominantly light south-easterly winds, switching to south-westerly on the 10th and 11th before reverting to south-east again on the 12th.

Three Teal were present on Pondsbury on the 8th. Also on the 8th, a Stock Dove was present in Millcombe, at one point companionably sharing a branch with a Woodpigeon (singles of which were present in Millcombe on the 6th, 8th and 11th, with one in Quarter Wall Copse on the 9th).

A faint call of Golden Plover was heard on the 8th and two birds were eventually located in Brick Field. Three Snipe were flushed from Pondsbury on the 7th. Singles of this species were startled from where they hid unnoticed near Kistvaen Pond and the water tanks on the 9th and 10th, respectively.

Regular feeding frenzies of Kittiwake have been sighted in the late mornings from the east coast. Outwith these, four Kittiwake were present at nest sites at Jenny’s Cove on the 8th, with a further 24 birds flying close inshore on the 9th. Whilst Jenny’s Cove may seem empty at first glance, the noise soon gives it away and a look through binoculars reveals the white dots to be a mass of seabirds. The constant calls of Guillemot fill the air, punctuated by the growling of Razorbill, cackling Fulmar and the occasional drawn out “kitti-waake”. Total numbers on land on the 8th were 1,918 Guillemot, 486 Razorbill and 46 Fulmar. The Razorbill often sat in couples, renewing their pair bond with behaviours such as preening and copulation. Guillemot – slightly later breeders – appear to be more of a rabble! In amongst the bickering birds a colour-ringed individual was spied returning to a ledge where it had first been spotted in 2021.

Jenny's Cove is getting busier – and noisier – by the day © Eleanor Grover

Off Benjamin’s Chair, too, large rafts of auks are gathering. These mostly comprise Razorbill, with 474 present on the 11th, but just 7 Guillemot. Two Great Northern Diver graced the Landing Bay with their presence on the 11th, one of which was starting to moult into breeding plumage.

The long-staying Jackdaw remained around the Village area. Skylark are being heard almost daily; with a high of three on the 8th and another singing bird on the airstrip on the 9th.

Thrushes fluctuate in numbers on a day-to day basis. Peak counts of 11 Blackbird were noted on both the 11th and 12th. The “cha-cha-cha” of a Fieldfare was heard before the single bird was spotted dropping down into Millcombe on the 8th. Five Redwing were foraging in the same area on the 6th and a single Song Thrush was singing from the valley all week. He was joined by a second singing bird on the 12th and the peak count of Song Thrush was eight birds on the 8th.

Full of eastern promise for the spring to come – sunrise over Millcombe © Eleanor Grover

The call of Stonechats, from whence their name is derived, is an ever increasing sound from amidst the gorse where these birds are often seen in pairs. A single Grey Wagtail was heard flying over Millcombe on the 8th. Three Pied Wagtail were recorded on the 6th, with singles on the 7th, 8th and 11th.

Single fly-overs of Greenfinch (8th) and Goldfinch (7th) were heard once each during the week. Siskin were more regularly recorded: one on each of the 6th, 8th and 12th. Linnet migration has begun – as if turned on by a switch. This species is now recorded on a daily basis, with a high count of 22 on the 6th. One male alighted for just a brief moment, looking resplendent in his pink apparel against the yellow gorse, gleaming in the sunshine. To further delight, he sang out a few brief bars before taking to the wing once more.

From breeding birds to migrants, it seems like it has been all things go this week. Spring is only just around the corner!

Contributors: Rosie Ellis, Eleanor Grover.

Tuesday 7 February 2023

30th January to 5th February – More songsters, a trickle of movement & some brilliant news!

Mostly dry week with mild temperatures, especially in the sun. Moderate winds from the north-west to start the week, rapidly dropping off to light westerlies and swinging round to easterlies and south-easterlies by the 4th.

Teal numbers peaked this week at 13 on the 1st. The Greylag Goose remained throughout the week, still shunned by its domestic counterparts. A single Woodpigeon was in Millcombe on the 4th; it was singing and was joined by a second bird on the 5th. The shrieks of Water Rail continue to pierce the early mornings, from both Smelly Gully and up near Government House.

The high count of Oystercatchers for the week was 22 on the 1st. A single Woodcock was startled from St Helen’s Copse on the 31st. One Jack Snipe and two Snipe were flushed from Pondsbury on the 1st, with a further 3 Snipe sighted on the 5th.

In terms of sea-watching, Kittiwakes were less frequent than the previous week, with a high of 100 on the 30th. The larger gulls are starting to return to their breeding colonies, with peaks of 13 Great Black-backs and 370 Herring Gulls counted on the 1st. Seven Lesser Black-backed Gulls were also sighted amongst the gull flocks on the 1st.

Auks too are returning in greater numbers to their ledges. At Jenny’s Cove, 206 Guillemots and 63 Razorbills were present on the 31st, along with 100 Fulmar. Mixed-species rafts have started to congregate off Benjamin’s Chair, with 297 ‘auk spp.’ counted on the 4th. Shag numbers rose considerably on the 5th, reaching a total of 25.

Raptors were a regular sighting throughout the week, with the more frequent Sparrowhawk, Merlin and Peregrines being joined by a single Kestrel on the 30th. The long-staying Jackdaw extended its visit, joining a feeding flock of 33 Carrion Crows in Barton Field on the 1st.

More Skylarks made an appearance: one on the 1st and four on the 5th, the latter date including the first singing bird of the year. The small flock of Goldcrests at Quarter Wall Copse were joined by the first Firecrest of the year on the 31st, flitting rapidly through the trees as if in a feeding frenzy. A Black Redstart was seen briefly at Benjamin’s Chair on the 1st – perhaps it has been hiding down there all winter. A single Redwing was present on the 5th, along with a single Pied Wagtail. A ‘fly-over’ Siskin was recorded on the 1st, whilst at least 6 Linnets were heard (and seen!) flying over on the 5th. These small movements inspire hope of the faint beginnings of the upcoming spring passage. It will be exciting to see what the next week brings!

Contributors: Stuart Cossey, Rosie Ellis & Eleanor Grover.

Finally, as many regular readers of the blog will already have seen on social media, we are delighted to confirm that Lundy was officially accredited as a Bird Observatory at the AGM of the Bird Observatories Council, held at BTO headquarters in Thetford on 4th February.

Technically, it's a re-accreditation, as Lundy was part of the network of British & Irish Bird Observatories from the formation of the Lundy Field Society in 1946 until 1973, when financial pressures meant that LFS was no longer able to fund its critical support for the bird observatory warden, and membership ceased.

During his time as Lundy Warden, Dean Jones enthusiastically started the process of regaining observatory accreditation, crucially restarting a regular daily bird census over a fixed route on the south of the island – this, together with a regular programme of bird ringing, being at the core of observatory functioning. On Dean's departure, the initiative was taken up by Rosie Ellis and Stuart Cossey, with support from the Lundy Company management and advice from Tim Davis, Chris Dee & Tim Jones on behalf of LFS.

The new Lundy Bird Observatory will be run by the Lundy Company, through the island's Conservation Team, with LFS represented on the observatory organising committee. Accreditation is provisional, with full accreditation being granted after successful completion of a three-year probationary period, giving all parties the opportunity to make adjustments as the new arrangements bed in.

More details about the UK Bird Observatories Network can be found here. Regular updates from Lundy Bird Observatory are posted on Twitter; simply search for @LundyBirds. This blog will also be rebranded to become part of the Observatory's regular communications and engagement activities.

Congratulations to all involved and here's to an exciting new chapter in Lundy ornithology and birding!