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Monday 24 April 2023

17th to 23rd April – The magic of migration

Bird Observatory Warden Stuart reviews an excellent week of migration on the island.

A light southeasterly to start the week was followed by three days of strong easterlies. Moderate east and southeast winds blew on 21st and 22nd and the 23rd was a very light northerly. The week was mostly dry with rain towards the end of the week.

Two pairs of Teal were seen on Pondsbury this week. Two Shelduck were on Pondsbury on 22nd.  The third island record of Great White Egret was found on Pondsbury by visiting young birders on 17th and was still present on the morning of 18th. The first Collared Dove of the year appeared on 18th and was joined by a second on 19th. They were both seen up to the 23rd. A Stock Dove was seen on 23rd and unusually a flock of 13 Woodpigeon were counted in Quarter Wall Copse. The first Cuckoo of the year was up by Old Light on 18th.

Great White Egret, Pondsbury © Stuart Cossey

Shelduck, Pondsbury © Stuart Cossey

It was an excellent week for wader migration. The island’s 7th record of Little Ringed Plover was heard and then seen with a Ringed Plover and two Dunlin in Lighthouse Field on 20th. It was then heard calling on the evening of the 21st. Five Purple Sandpiper were still at Brazen Ward on 19th. Whimbrel were seen on five dates including two on 20th, 22nd and 23rd. Ringed Plover were seen or heard on six dates with two on 18th and 23rd. Three Dunlin were seen on 18th and two on 20th and 21st. A late Jack Snipe was seen on the evening of 21st. Three Common Sandpiper were around Rat Island on 21st.

Little Ringed Plover, Lighthouse Field © Luke Marriner

Dunlin, Lighthouse Field © Stuart Cossey

Whimbrel, South West Field© Stuart Cossey

Common Sandpiper, Rat Island © Stuart Cossey

Jenny’s Cove is getting busy with 559 Guillemot, 469 Razorbill and 93 Puffin counted on 21st. Other than our breeding seabirds, a Black-headed Gull was seen on 22nd and a Mediterranean Gull flew past on 19th. A Sandwich Tern was in the Landing Bay on 23rd. A Great Northern Diver was still present in the Landing Bay on 17th.

The wintering female Sparrowhawk was last seen on 20th and the Merlin on the 17th. The pair of Kestrel are regularly being seen along with Peregrines. A Marsh Harrier flew over the island on 17th.

The overnight fog and calm winds made for a superb day of migration on 17th. Totals include 500 Willow Warbler, 74 Chiffchaff, four Reed Warbler, 12 Grasshopper Warbler, five Sedge Warbler, 300 Blackcap, three Whitethroat, a Firecrest and six Goldcrest.  After a full day of ringing in Millcombe a total of 402 birds were processed. Birds cleared out overnight with reduced numbers the rest of the week with 50 Willow Warblers on 18th and 56 on 22nd. Nine Sedge Warblers were present on 22nd along with Reed Warblers on 18th, 21st and 22nd. Up to three Grasshopper Warblers were recorded most days for the rest of the week.  A late Siberian Chiffchaff was ringed in Millcombe on 23rd.

Reed Warbler, Millcombe © Danielle Carbott

Hirundines were moving through in big numbers. There were high counts of 500 Swallows on 17th, 340 on 20th and 600 on 23rd. House Martins and Sand Martins were less frequent with max counts of 200 House Martins on 23rd and 110 Sand Martin on 19th. The first Swifts were seen this week with one on 18th and another on 20th.

There was a small pulse of thrush migration. Ring Ouzel were recorded between 17th and 22nd with a maximum of 12 on 18th, five on 21st and four on 19th and 20th. Six Song Thrush were recorded on 21st including our resident singing male.

Ring Ouzel, West Side © Stuart Cossey

The first Spotted Flycatcher of the year was seen on 22nd. Nine Pied Flycatcher were counted on 17th with three on the 21st. Two were present on 18th and 23rd and singles on 20th and 22nd. A Black Redstart was seen on 17th and 18th and up to 12 Common Redstart were seen on 17th. Other high counts include five Redstart on 18th and six on 21st. A male Whinchat was on the Terrace on 20th. Obvious passage of Wheatear was noted across the plateau. Over 80 were seen on 18th, 21st and 22nd with the majority being the larger and brighter Greenland race.

Pied Flycatcher, Barton Field © Reuben Veal

Greenland Wheatear, South West Field © Stuart Cossey

Greenland Wheatear, South West Field © Stuart Cossey

The male Blue-headed Wagtail was seen again on 17th along with two other Yellow Wagtail. A single female was seen on 21st. Up to four White Wagtail were seen during the week and there was a high count of 16 alba wagtail on 17th.Five Tree Pipit were also noted on 17th with one on 18th, three on 20th and 22nd and four on 21st.

Yellow Wagtail, Lighthouse Field © Stuart Cossey

Blue-headed Wagtail, Barton Field © Reuben Veal

A Serin flew along the West Side with three Goldfinch on 20th. Two Greenfinch were seen on 23rd and a Siskin was seen on 17th. Single Lesser Redpoll were counted on 17th and 21st. A high count of 35 Goldfinch were counted on 17th. 196 Linnet were counted on 23rd, 183 on 21st and 135 on 17th.

In non-avian news, a Painted Lady and Peacock were seen on 17th and a Red Admiral on 20th.

Contributors: Stuart Cossey, Luke Marriner, Rosie Ellis, Chris Dee, Rackie Powell, Rob Duncan, David Kightley, Rueben Veal, Harry Hiscox, Will Pearce, Jake Belton, Ellie Holley, Danielle Austin, Henry Pagem Owen Davies, Sian Davies, Beth Newark, Iona Cunningham-Eurich, Stephan Cheung, Nathan Williams, Alex Liddle

Monday 17 April 2023

10th to 16th April – First Pied Flycatcher, Whitethroat and Sedge Warbler

Strong southwesterly winds to start the week including force 10 winds from the west on 12th with rain showers. Moderate easterly winds on 14th rain in the morning. Moderate north on 15th switched to a moderate southerly on 16th.

Six Teal on 11th was the highest count of the week. Two Racing Pigeon flew over the Village on 15th. Eight Woodpigeon have been seen around Millcombe all week with a high count of eight on 10th. A Water Rail was heard by Pondsbury on 11th. A Jack Snipe was seen on 10th. A Redshank downed during the storm on 12th was seen up to 16th. A Whimbrel and Ringed Plover were seen on 16th.  

Redshank in 60mph+ winds, South West Field © Stuart Cossey

Redshank in calmer conditions, High Street Field © Stuart Cossey

A Sandwich Tern was in the Landing Bay on the afternoon of 12th. The Great Northern Diver is still present, being seen on 12th and 16th. 700+ Manx Shearwater were counted rafting off the East Coast on 10th.

A male and female Sparrowhawk were seen on 10th and again on 14th. The female was seen the rest of the week with just a male on 16th. The pair of Kestrel have also been seen all week and appear to be setting up a territory along the East Coast. The female Merlin is still on the island doing well feeding on the migrating passerines.

After being held up by the strong southwesterly winds, hirundines passage boomed on the 14th to 16th. 584 Swallow were counted on 14th with 1300 on 15th and 1000 on 16th. Sand Martin and House Martin numbers were lower, peaking on 15th at 44 and 100 respectively.

The calmer weather on 15th and 16th also increased the number of other migrants. 40 Willow Warbler were counted on 15th and 100 on 16th. Blackcap numbers were also high with 25 on 15th and 84 on 16th. The 16th also saw the first Sedge Warbler and Whitethroat of the year ringed in Millcombe. The first Grasshopper Warbler of the year was a brave individual singing by Pointless Wall during the storm on 12th. A male Firecrest was ringed on 16th.

A male Ring Ouzel was seen along the East Side on 11th. A male Redstart was by the Water Tanks on 10th and a female was seen on 16th. The full island count of Wheatear on 16th was estimated at 120. The first Pied Flycatcher of the year was a male by Gannet’s Combe on 16th. There were three Yellow Wagtail on the 16th including a male Blue-headed Wagtail in Barton Field. A White Wagtail was seen on 15th. Single Tree Pipit were heard on 10th, 11th and 14th with two on 15th.

Male Ring Ouzel, East Side © Stuart Cossey

Male Redstart, Water Tanks © Luke Marriner

A female Bullfinch was seen in Millcombe on 12th. A Siskin was heard on 14th. Linnet were noticeably moving with 124 Linnet counted on 15th and 140 on 16th. A flock of 26 Goldfinch were seen around the Village on 16th.

In non-avian news, the first Painted Lady butterflies have been seen. In the moth trap were two very early Marbled Coronets and an overwintering Brindled Ochre which usually flies in September and October.

Contributors: Stuart Cossey, Luke Marriner, Rosie Ellis, Tony & Ann Taylor, Chris Dee, Rackie Powell, Rueben Veal, Harry Hiscox, Will Pearce, Jake Belton, Ellie Holley, Danielle Austin, Henry Pagem Owen Davies, Sian Davies, Beth Newark, Iona Cunningham-Eurich, Stephan Cheung, Nathan Williams, Alex Liddle

Monday 10 April 2023

3rd to 9th April – First Hobby, Redstart, Tree Pipit and Ring Ouzel

Moderate winds from the east and southeast to start the week. Rain showers and moderate southwesterlies on 5th and 6th before switching back to the southeast at the end of the week.

A total of seven Teal were counted on Pondsbury on 3rd and eight on 9th. Three Canada Geese were seen flying north then south past Jenny’s Cove at around 7:30 on 4th. They were then seen flying north over the Village before turning south and heading off over Millcombe. What is likely to be the same three Canada Geese were seen flying south over Castle Hill on 8th.

Canada Geese, Village © Stuart Cossey

Stock Dove was seen at Jenny’s Cove on 7th and then flying over the Village on 8th. The number of Woodpigeon has increased to nine. A few waders are on the move with a Golden Plover past Jenny’s Cove on 3rd. Also on 3rd, a Dunlin was seen at the Earthquake and a Snipe and Jack Snipe by Quarter Wall Pond. Six Purple Sandpipers remained at Brazen Ward on 3rd. A Ringed Plover was seen in Brick and Tillage Fields on 7th and 8th. The first Whimbrel of the year was in Barton Field on 9th.

Purple Sandpiper, Brazen Ward © Stuart Cossey

Jack Snipe, Quarter Wall © Luke Marriner

The first Puffin productivity survey took place this week and a total of 235 Puffins were seen at Jenny’s Cove. Numbers of Guillemot and Razorbill still remain low. A Great Northern Diver was in the Landing Bay on 6th. Two Cormorant were seen along the East Side with Shag on 3rd, possibly a sign that they may breed this year? Another two flew over Millcombe on 9th.

The female Sparrowhawk and Merlin are still being seen frequently. There were two records of Buzzard, two flew south along the East Side on 3rd and a pale bird flew south over the Village on 8th. The pair of Kestrel have been seen together around the island. Possibly the best bird of the week is a Hobby, first seen on the Old Hospital on 5th, it has been seen up to the 9th above the Terrace and Millcombe. A total of 43 Carrion Crow were counted on 4th and included a flock of ten which were seen flying south off Benjamin’s Chair.

Hobby, Old Hospital © Luke Marriner

There has been steady hirundines passage on most days. Only one Swallow was seen on 5th but this increased on 6th and 7th when 101 and 240 Swallows were counted respectively. 169 Sand Martin were counted on 7th. House Martin numbers are still low with a high count on 14 on 7th. Willow Warblers are now a constant sight in Millcombe with high counts 32 on 7th and 30 on 8th. Chiffchaff are still frequent with a high count of 20 on 8th. The first Garden Warbler of the year was seen in Millcombe on 8th and a maximum of six Blackcap were counted on 7th. The male Firecrest ringed on 1st was seen up to 4th and a new bird was ringed on 9th. Goldcrest numbers have dropped and remained in single figures for the whole week.

Willow Warbler, Quarter Wall © Stuart Cossey

The first Ring Ouzel of the year was a male seen up by the North End. A Black Redstart was b Earthquake on 6th and a male Redstart was on the Terrace on 8th. A total of 49 Wheatear were counted on 3rd, 27 on 4th and 39 on 7th. A White Wagtail was seen again on 3rd and the first Tree Pipit of the year was heard over Millcombe on 9th. There has been a noticeable movement of finches including 14 Goldfinch on 3rd and 15 on 8th. 105 Linnet were counted on 3rd and 79 on 7th. A Siskin was in Millcombe on 5th and 6th and a female Bullfinch was heard on 8th and before being seen on 9th.

Linnet, Rocket Pole © Stuart Cossey

In non-avian news, a Holly Blue was seen in Millcombe on 3rd. More common butterflies being seen at the moment are Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell and Red Admiral. The moth trap has been successful this week with Common Quaker and Early Grey the most common. Surprisingly a Brindled Beauty on the 9th was the first record of the island. This moth is one of the most abundant species in woodland in April in mainland Devon.

Brindled Beauty © Stuart Cossey

Contributors: Stuart Cossey, Luke Marriner, Rosie Ellis, Shaun Barnes, Chris Baillie, Nick Elliott

Monday 3 April 2023

27th March to 2nd April – Strong movement of hirundines

Started the week with light easterlies before the strong southwesterlies and rain returned up to the 31st. Sunshine with moderate to light northerly winds to start April.

Mallard have started to pair off with total numbers now becoming harder to count. Up to three Teal are still present on Pondsbury consisting of one male and two females. A Greylag Goose flew over Castle Hill on the morning of 27th. Two other geese, possibly Greylag, flew north over Middle Park later on 27th. A Stock Dove was recorded from 28th to 31st and there was a high count of 14 Woodpigeon on 31st. A summer-plumage Black-headed Gull was seen with the Herring Gulls in High Street Field during bad weather on 31st.

A full island walk on 27th resulted in counts of 3083 Guillemot, 1510 Razorbill, 201 Puffin and 150 Fulmar. Two Great Northern Divers were seen on 27th and 2nd with only one in the Landing Bay on all other dates. Cormorants are frequently noted flying over the island, including five on 27th and six on 28th, but two breeding plumage birds roosting with Shags along the East Side could suggest an attempt at nesting this year. Only two Purple Sandpipers were seen at Brazen Ward on 29th.

Cormorants, East Side © Tim Jones

Razorbills and Puffins, Jenny's Cove © Tim Jones

The female Sparrowhawk continues to be seen around the Village and a smaller male was seen on 2nd. The female Merlin is more elusive but is often seen beyond Quarter Wall. It appears a pair of Kestrel has returned with both calling and displaying over Millcombe on 29th. The number of Jackdaw increased to three on 27th when a pair joined the long-staying individual in Brick Field. All three were seen up to 1st, with only our single bachelor/bachelorette seen on 2nd!  A Rook flew over the Nook in the Village in the early evening of 2nd.

Female Sparrowhawk © Tim Jones

Hirundine passage has really picked up with high counts of 68 Sand Martin counted on 27th and 340 on 2nd. Swallow numbers were also increasing with 28 on 27th, 48 on 30th and 160 on 2nd. There are much fewer House Martin with only six on 1st and one on 2nd.

Twenty-four Chiffchaff were counted on 27th and 20 on 28th. This peaked on 2nd with a total of 51. Willow Warblers also arrived on 2nd with 54 counted, the first double-digit count this year. A small number of Blackcap are being recorded with the highest count of five on 2nd. The male Firecrest continued to be seen in Millcombe all week and was ringed on 1st. Goldcrest numbers varied with high counts of 26 on 27th and 23 on 2nd. Likely the final spring record of Redwing was on 27th, with one in Millcombe. A young male Song Thrush joined our resident male by singing its short and less impressive repertoire on 31st and 1st.

Willow Warbler, Millcombe © Luke Marriner

Firecrest, Millcombe © Luke Marriner

There was a full island count of 63 Wheatear on 27th, including multiple colour-ringed birds. Pied Wagtail and White Wagtail continue to push through the island. Thirteen confirmed Pied Wagtail were seen in the fields on 27th with 17 on the 29th and 11 on 2nd. Flyover wagtails which could not be identified to race were also counted with a high count of 18 seen or heard on 27th. Two Continental White Wagtails were seen around the farm fields on 27th and 30th with one on 28th and 2nd. Meadow Pipits appear to be slowing down with the majority of birds recorded now in small pre-breeding groups or singing males on territory. The highest count was 172 on 27th. Goldfinch and Linnet passage increased on the 2nd with 102 Linnet and 24 Goldfinch flying over, including flocks seen heading towards Wales off the North End.

Colour-ringed Wheatear, West Coast © Tim Jones

In non-avian news, butterfly sightings on 2nd included two Small White, two Small Tortoiseshell, a Painted Lady and a Peacock. A Hummingbird Hawk-moth was seen by Quarter Wall. In the moth trap on 29th were two Pearly Underwing; a migrant moth to the UK with very few March records.

A Harbour Porpoise was off South West Point on 28th and two swam past the Castle on 2nd.

Contributors: Stuart Cossey, Luke Marriner, Rosie Ellis, Tim Davis, Tim Jones, Chris Baillie, Steve Rosser