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Thursday 31 August 2023

Lundy Bird Observatory Update - 17 August to 31 August 2023

Autumn migration continues to move through the gears with a double Hippolais warbler day and plenty of common migrants on show over the last few days. Storm Petrel ringing is now winding down after an eye-opening season. Latest totals currently sit at 538 new birds ringed this year (comfortably exceeding the all-time ringing total of 491 between 1947-2022). Throw in all the re-traps and recoveries and we've handled 642 different individuals(!), and a recent run of controls has also seen birds from France, Jersey and Alderney! Another nice seabird recovery came from a Manx Shearwater re-trapped at the Old Light colony which was originally ringed in its first-year at Wooltack Point, Pembrokeshire in September 2013.

Storm Petrel (foreground) and Manx Shearwater (backgorund) © Luke Marriner 

Turning to passerines, Pied Flycatchers have been recorded in small numbers everyday with a max count of five on 27th. Spotted Flycatcher have been equally present, also peaking at five individuals on 29-30th and Redstart have been pushing through in smaller numbers, with singles logged across the Terrace and Millcombe on 20th, 28th and 30th. Tree Pipit movement overhead has been slow and steady with ones and twos recorded most days. A change of pace came on the 23rd when a Melodious Warbler was trapped and ringed in the valley. A second (unringed) 'Melody' then popped up along the lower east coast on the 27th and an Icterine Warbler graced Millcombe between 27-28th while a Common Nightingale (scarce migrant on Lundy - only the seventh record this century!) skulked around the bracken to the north of the Quarries on 28th.

First-year Melodious Warbler in the hand before being released after ringing © Luke Marriner

First-year Pied Flycatcher © Luke Marriner

Sparrowhawk sightings have continued through the second half of the month with an adult female buzzing around from 21st, appearing at Old Light, Village and Terrace and an adult male joining the scene from 28th. The juvenile Grey Heron continued to the 25th when it was observed flying south along the east coast, catching a thermal over Rat Island and departing for Hartland. Interestingly, a Grey Heron was logged later that evening, so either the bird aborted the crossing or a second individual took its place.

Waders have received modest representation with notable appearances Golden and Ringed Plover heard from beer garden 19th, a Dotterel feeding near Wendy Mitchell Memorial on 22nd, single Whimbrel calling over Millcombe on 23rd, a Snipe at Quarter Wall on 28th and a Redshank moving south on 30th.

Thursday 17 August 2023

Lundy Bird Observatory Update - 16 August 2023

The first passage Tree Pipit of the autumn brightened up an otherwise relatively quiet census route. Two juveniles were ringed in Millcombe and another two passed south overhead. Other notables from the session included an adult female Reed Warbler and two juvenile Whitethroat which had both completed their post-juvenile moult - so presumed migrants rather than our local fledglings. Elsewhere a Sparrowhawk graced VC Quarry and a Curlew was calling over Barton Field/St Helen's Field.

Juvenile Tree Pipit © Joe Parker

Wednesday 16 August 2023

Lundy Bird Observatory Update - 15 August 2023

Balmy summer conditions enjoyed some light wader passage with an summer-plumage Knot taking top spot. Initially picked up feeding along the intertidal in Devil's Kitchen, the moulting adult was later seen in Lametry Bay. A Ringed Plover pressed north over Old Light at midday and 22 Gannet were feeding off the south-east coast. A single House Martin headed south accompanied by 11 Swallow. Another slight arrival of Willow Warbler as 28 individuals flitted about with 2 Spotted Flycatcher on the move.

[Trektellen.org] - Migration counts & captures

Lundy Bird Observatory Update - 14 August 2023

A big clearout of yesterday's Willow Warblers saw numbers drop to a mere 12 individuals, with adults still representing a significant percentage. Few other migrants on show, best of the bunch being 3 Spotted Flycatcher and 5 Sand Martin cruising south. Gannet numbers on the increase with 56 birds actively feeding along the east coast. Plenty of Manx Shearwater action at Old Light where a ringing team monitoring the colony encountered the first wave of fledglings (6 young) and a healthy rate of between-season re-traps.

[Trektellen.org] - Migration counts & captures

Adult Willow Warbler © Joe Parker

Sunday 13 August 2023

Lundy Bird Observatory Update - 13 August 2023

Welcome arrival of 173 Willow Warbler this morning, most filtering their way down into Millcombe and feeding across the valley. Eight Spotted Flycatcher, 3 Sedge and Reed Warbler accompanied the action and a trickle of Swallow pressed south, as well as a Sand Martin and 5 House Martin. The juvenile Grey Heron continued to linger around Pondsbury for another day. Unfortunately conditions were too breezy to open any mist-nets despite the fresh arrival of migrants, and the murk has set in for the night. Break into your best rain dance - the island is still in desperate need of a good drenching!

Juvenile Peregrine © Joe Parker
Juvenile Willow Warbler © Joe Parker

Saturday 12 August 2023

Lundy Bird Observatory Update - 12 August 2023

Photos have been shared on a Lundy Facebook group confirming a juvenile Ruff was present at Pondsbury on 9th & 10th August - the post can be viewed on the public group here. Little happening today with force 5 to 6 south-westerlies countering any passerine movements. The damp and dull day was not inspiring for a venture far, but the juvenile Grey Heron was still frequenting Pondsbury and a single Swift battled south. Forecast looking promising from Tuesday onwards, swinging easterly by Thursday!

Wheatear © Joe Parker

Friday 11 August 2023

Lundy Bird Observatory Update - 11 August 2023

Slow going first thing with a lone Swift making the journey south via Quarry Cottages. Two juvenile Blackcap were feeding in Smelly Gully, accompanied by 3 Willow Warbler flitting around the lee of The Ugly. The juvenile Peregrines are becoming more confident on the wing, now regularly seen hurtling towards post-breeding Starling flocks around Ackland's Moor and Old Light. The juvenile Grey Heron continues to skulk around Pondsbury / Punchbowl Valley area and a feeding flock of 16 Gannet circled the east coast while 3,492 Manx Shearwater were moving north during a one hour watch from Gannet's Rock.

Juvenile Peregrine © Joe Parker

Juvenile Grey Heron © Joe Parker

Thursday 10 August 2023

Lundy Bird Observatory Update - 10 August 2023

A modest push of hirundines and Swift at 1pm saw 39 Swift, 6 Swallow, 10 Sand and 3 House Martin all push south in the space of 30 minutes. The juvenile Grey Heron is still kicking about, picked up moving north over Quarry Cottages while seeing in the Oldenburg at midday and a flying ant emergence was drawing in a crowd in the Landing with 78 Herring, 6 Lesser Black-backed and 4 Great Black-backed all capitalising on the new food source. The final Kittiwake nests have now all fledged, leaving only the Fulmars as our remaining cliff-nesters still feeding young. Sadly the thick fog put a stop to any potential Storm Petrel ringing last night, although the winds are picking up again somewhat over the weekend opening up another window to get out seawatching. Late report from guests of a possible Ruff at Pondsbury yesterday evening.

Swift (taken 17 May) © Joe Parker

Wednesday 9 August 2023

Lundy Bird Observatory Update - 09 August 2023

Classic Lundy conditions today with still winds bringing with it localised mist and thick fog rolling in and out through the day. A single Curlew south over Millcombe at 7am later dropped into the Landing Bay and a ringing session in Millcombe continues to be dominated by local fledglings, only migrants being a single Sedge and 3 Willow Warbler. Flight calls of a Green Sandpiper were heard over Barton’s Field in the fog at dusk. Data from a couple of recent Storm Petrel controls has come back revealing one was ringed as an adult on Skokholm, Pembs on 4 Aug 2018 and the other from Porthgwarra, Cornwall on 31 May 2022. Full ringing totals from today's session on Trek below.

[Trektellen.org] - Migration counts & captures

Willow Warbler © Joe Parker

Lundy Bird Observatory Update - 08 August 2023

The weather could not make up it's mind today, switching between thick mist and blue skies within the blink of a eye. Scuzzy conditions early doors made for slim pickings on census, with 3 Willow Warblers providing a splash of colour within the murk. We've received a couple of interesting reports from visitors from the last two days, namely a Kingfisher flashing past Montagu's Steps on 7th and 2 Basking Shark slowly cruising north along the south east coast today! Drizzling after midnight brought an early finish to the evening's Storm Petrel session at North Light which resulted in 16 new birds ringed, plus a Lundy re-trap and 2 British controls - totals up on our Trek page below. 

[Trektellen.org] - Migration counts & captures

Glorious views of the Church from Benjamin's Chair

Monday 7 August 2023

Lundy Bird Observatory Update - 07 August 2023

At last, a drop in wind strength welcomed the first suitable day of the autumn to open up the Millcombe mist nets! Plenty of juveniles on the wing and a steady stream of young Linnet coming down to Millcombe stream kept the session ticking over through the morning. Of the 11 Willow Warbler trapped it was a near 50:50 split of adult to young age ratio. A Spotted Flycatcher feeding around the valley evaded the mist nets, unlike the adult Sedge Warbler which was loitering around the Lower Garden. Full ringing totals from the morning's session can be viewed on our shiny new Trektellen page (link below). Over time I plan to upload historic Lundy ringing totals onto 'Trek', but for now this will remain more of a winter season task.

Adult Sedge Warbler © Joe Parker

Juvenile Wheatear © Joe Parker

Sunday 6 August 2023

Lundy Bird Observatory Update - 06 August 2023

A busy Bideford sailing left little room for birding beyond census. The morning rounds largely consisted of the local breeders, with the only migrants in the form of 9 Willow Warbler. The Millcombe Swallow pair are going for a second brood in the Gas Store, busying themselves with sourcing fresh nesting material. A colour-marked Wheatear flitting around the Landing Bay confirmed that some of the local breeders are still knocking about, albeit vastly outnumbered by the number of juveniles on the wing. Elsewhere, a juvenile Grey Heron skulked around Pondsbury and another Storm Petrel ringing session gently ticked over through the evening with another 19 new birds, 2 between-year Lundy re-traps and a new control - although the clear night sky and bright moon saw a significant drop in the number of 'stormies' coming in to the colony.

Storm Petrel © Luke Marriner

Saturday 5 August 2023

Lundy Bird Observatory Update - 05 August 2023

Force 10 westerlies were always going to mean one thing - seawatching! The postponed Oldenburg sailing made way for a day of staring down the swell to study seabirds effortlessly navigate the gale force conditions offshore. Among the 767 Manx Shearwater pushing SW against Storm Antoni early morning were 4 Storm Petrel, 88 Gannet, 5 Kittiwake and 2 intrepid Swift. Things then moved up a gear during a stint from Old Light early afternoon when a Sooty Shearwater pushed north at 1:48pm (first record since 2019), accompanying a further 1237 Manx Shearwater, 146 Gannet, 46 Kittiwake, 23 Fulmar and a single Storm Petrel by 3pm. Turning to the land, three Sand Martin ran circuits around an otherwise quiet Millcombe with most passerines choosing to hunker down for the day.

Sand Martin © Joe Parker

Friday 4 August 2023

Lundy Bird Observatory Update - 04 August 2023

A nice array of migrant passerines were flitting around Millcombe this morning including 27 flying lemons (fresh, first-year Willow Warblers), 2 Spotted Flycatcher favouring the sycamores and singles of Reed, Sedge and Garden Warbler skulking around the lower garden. High pitch zree and trilling calls from the Goldcrest family party continue to whisper across the valley and local ChiffchaffBlackcap and Whitethroat (including a pristine, recently fledged juvenile) busied themselves feeding up ahead of tomorrow's foul weather. The island's Woodpigeon count has risen slightly to 8 individuals and post-breeeding Shag feeding groups are beginning to build with 42 actively feeding around the Landing Bay. Tomorrow's forecast may look bleak to some - but it has seawatching and shearwaters written all over it!

Spotted Flycatcher © Joe Parker

Wheatear © Joe Parker

Thursday 3 August 2023

Another long overdue Lundy Bird Observatory update - 18th June - 3rd August

Right, here goes another long overdue update. There are never enough hours in the day - despite aiming for daily updates at the beginning of my post, unfortunately my intentions did not last long! After some time taken to focus on my health, more regular updates will now resume.

Cuckoo © Alan Revel

So without further ado, here are some of the notable records to grace this magical island over the past few weeks. Cormorant have been evident with a max count of 4 on 27 June. Grey Heron were logged on 19 June and 6-12 July involving two different juveniles. A highly unusual record of a singing Tree Pipit in Millcombe on 21 June was remarkable, with the valley also featuring a Cuckoo between 29 June and 4 July. A single Turtle Dove was logged on 28 June and 1 July, feeding in village briefly and later seen around Brambles. A Curlew flew south past North Light on 22 June and autumn wader passage kicked off with a Common Redshank at Pondsbury on 10 July. The site since pulled in a Green Sandpiper on 25 July and Common Snipe on 26 July. Common Sandpiper are grossly under recorded but individuals have been seen at Brazen Ward on 21 July (2), North Light on 24 July (1) and Battery Point 26 July (1). A European Golden Plover occupied the Airfield between 23 and 27 July while Aztec Bay featured a Mediterranean Gull on 24 July.

Juvenile Peregrine © Alan Revel.

Seawatching has provided some excitement at times. There was a big Manx Shearwater movement along the Bristol Channel in early July and an hour's stint along the south east and west of the island involved 13,360 individuals on 3 July! The end of the month enjoyed outrageous numbers of Cory's Shearwater along southern Ireland and south-west England. Lundy joined in on the action on 31 July when only the second island record powered passed Dead Cow Point at 8:34PM. Elsewhere, 2 Common Scoter moved south along Jenny's Cove on 11th July. With the exception of our Fulmars and a few late Kittiwake, our breeding birds have largely left after a successful breeding season. The last lingering Puffins can be seen offshore with a bit of luck, but these will be the last sightings now until next spring.

Storm Petrel © Luke Marriner

Coupled with an all island Storm Petrel census to get a handle on the currently unknown population size, we've increased our efforts ringing 'stormies' at known sites and are blown away with the success rate. For context, up until the end of 2022 our 10-year average catch rate had been 23 new birds a year. This season (so far) our ringing totals sit at 400(!) new birds ringed, 36 previous year retraps and 32 controls, 4 of which have been caught on Lundy in previous years. These staggering numbers are raising more questions than answers at the moment, but it's certainly a great indicator that these secretive seabirds are doing far better initially thought.

Latest Storm Petrel controls and recoveries from 2023. Note: We're still waiting to hear back about an individual we trapped on 25 July that was originally ringed on Jersey! Map produced using Stephen Vickers' superb Controls and Recoveries Plotter.

Passerine migration is starting to move through the gears with the first Willow Warbler of the autumn arriving on 19 July. Small numbers continue to push through and a mini fall on 25 July involved 43 Willow Warbler and a Spotted Flycatcher. Millcombe has enjoyed a Grasshopper Warbler on 17 July, Garden Warbler and 6 Sedge Warbler on 1 August. The Goldcrest pair fledged 3 young in Millcombe Pines on 14 July and a mobile juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker flitted along the Terraces and Millcombe between 12-16 July. The Millcombe Rosefinch was last recorded on 18 June.

Juvenile Wheatear © Alan Revel

Water Rail breeding was confirmed at Pondsbury with young heard calling in early hours of 19 June and again on 27 July. Max counts of the more regular species include 41 Swift moving south on 24 June, 5 Sand Martin on 12 July, 10 House Martin on 17 July and 36 Swallow on 27 July. Juvenile Starling are now out in force with a max count of 174 logged on 24 June and the Lundy House Sparrow population has doubled - the new recruitment of this years young has seen the population rise to 42 individuals. Post-breeding Linnet flocks are also starting to form again with 200 regularly being recorded around Old Light and the Airfield since mid-July.