About this page...

You're now viewing the old Lundy Bird Observatory blogspot. Explore the new website for all your favourite island news and wildlife updates. If you have sightings to report, please consider sharing your observations or photographs with the Bird Obs team here.

Wednesday 27 September 2023

Lundy Bird Observatory Update - 24th - 27th September

Strong winds have prohibited any ringing this week. Despite the large westerly weather systems of late, Luke managed to uncover a Yellow-breasted Bunting between the pigsty and airfield associating with Meadow Pipits. This is a bird breeding in the far east, Siberia, and is the third record for Lundy after two in the 1980s. The large gap in records followed the species' catastrophic collapse in range and population due to massive over-harvesting (for food) in the wintering grounds, particularly in China. As a particularly exciting record, a small twitch assembled on the 26th, but unfortunately it hasn't reappeared for anyone other than Luke, the original finder.

Mega record of a first winter Yellow-breasted Bunting with a Meadow Pipit. © Luke Marriner

At least one Red-eyed Vireo has remained in Millcombe, along with one ringed Wryneck, both seen on the 26th. The Rose-coloured Starling appears to have left us now, with no sightings in the week since the 20th.

Ringed Red-eyed Vireo in Smelly Gully. © Angus Croudace 

At least two Water Rail are still heard calling daily in Millcombe, with an individual heard up near Quarters as well on the 26th. A single Ringed Plover which appears to have been around most of the month was again picked up calling over the east/Millcombe. A Turnstone was seen from the Landing Bay on the 26th. Two Grey Heron are still present.

A seawatch from the castle in the very windy Storm Agnes on the 27th produced around 80 each of Great Black-backed Gull and Gannet heading south down the east coast and then turning into the wind at the castle, as well as two Cormorant, a single Manx Shearwater and most excitingly a single Balearic Shearwater which is the first of the year for Lundy. Lesser Black-backed Gull have started to be picked up a little more this week, with four on the 24th, and 17 on the 26th. 

A female Sparrowhawk is still seen regularly between Old Light and the village, as well as along the east coast. At least two Kestrel and three Peregrine are also still seen regularly.

Skylark started moving through in nice numbers at the end of last week with a peak of 56 on the 22nd. We are still recording about 20 birds south of Quarter Wall each day this week, although these are mostly birds that are sticking around the airfield and SW field - they haven't moved on yet, possibly remaining local until favourable weather presents itself again for them to move on. Meadow Pipit counts have been a couple of hundred each day with large flocks around the airfield.

The small hirundine trickle continues, and we are still surprised not to have had a big day of passage yet, especially seeing as not too far away on the mainland there have been some large movements recorded. The 26th saw our highest totals since the 22nd, with 120 Swallow, 7 Sand Martin and 11 House Martin.

Millcombe has been much quieter since the Blackcap fall last week, with 15 Blackcaps left on the 24th and just two on the 27th. One Chiffchaff has remained in the lower garden, and counts of Goldcrest south of Quarter wall have been around a dozen each day. One Ring Ouzel was picked up on the 24th and 25th. A Spotted Flycatcher has been present since the 25th, with another on the terrace on the 26th. About twelve Crossbills were reported flying low over Millcombe on the 26th. Above Millcombe a Whinchat and Yellow Wagtail remain in Barton's Field, and one Grey Wagtail also flew overhead on the 26th.

Spotted Flycatcher, Millcombe © Angus Croudace

Sunday 24 September 2023

Lundy Bird Observatory Update 18th-23rd September

Strong winds have been a feature of the past week. We watched the weather charts at the start of the week with interest as a fast moving warm front zipped across the Atlantic. Off the back of this system (the remnants of a hurricane) the west coast of UK and Ireland have received a record breaking influx of American vagrants in the past few days, which have all been carried off course by the strong winds. Lundy has shared a small part of the fall with two individual Red-eyed Vireo landing in Millcombe Valley on 20th. One was ringed, and then retrapped three days later having put on one gram of weight. These are the 11th and 12th records for Lundy, the one that entered the nets was the 7th to be ringed, and they are the earliest records by 8 days.

Red-eyed Vireo in Millcombe © Luke Marriner

Red-eyed Vireo in the hand at Brambles Villa © Angus Croudace

Up to four Wryneck continued their stay until the 21st, but haven't been picked up since. The last day the Rose-coloured Starling was seen was the 20th, but there's a good chance it is still here - the focus has been on ringing in Millcombe and covering the rest of the island away from the village on the hunt for vagrants! Other miscellaneous records of note this week include a Sandwich Tern heard calling from Millcombe on the 23rd, a first-year Osprey headed south over Rat Island on the 18th. The first-year Barred Warbler which was ringed on the 17th was still present on the 18th around the Lower Garden. A very smart Wood Warbler was caught in Millcombe on the 21st. A Little Bunting was seen feeding with a small flock of Linnet on the track near the Lambing Shed on 23rd. 

Wood Warbler ringed at Millcombe © Brittany Maxted

A record shot of Little Bunting (centre) with Linnet © Angus Croudace

After the strong westerlies, the weather calmed a little bit allowing our more typical migrants to continue their journey south. On the 21st we had a big fall of Blackcap with 350+ on the island and over 160 ringed. The bracken was alive with 'flocks' of them making their way along the east coast and ending up in Millcombe. This number had approximately halved by the 22nd, with birds being ringed on day two mostly lighter and with lower fat and muscle scores. This nicely evidences the trend of stronger birds moving on more quickly, with those in less good form remaining to feed up for a another day or two. 

A small supporting cast of four Common Whitethroat, three Reed Warbler  and three Grasshopper Warbler on the 21st. One of the Reed Warbler had been here a little while, retrapped after originally being ringed a fortnight ago, with a whopping weight gain of 10g - 14.5g, and fat/muscle scores of 1 increasing to 6 and 3 respectively! Willow Warbler numbers have decreased dramatically with 20 on the 18th but none on the 23rd. Chiffchaff numbers have been a little steadier with five on the 18th and four on the 23rd, with a peak of 11 on the 21st

The same ringed Pied Flycatcher and single Whinchat above Millcombe have remained present all week, along with a Yellow Wagtail in Barton's Field. Two late Spotted Flycatcher joined on the 21st and 22nd, and two Grey Wagtail on the 21st. About 8 Wheatear most days with a peak of 17 on the 21st. Three Siskin were picked up both the 18th and 23rd with an additional single on the 19th. There were three Firecrest on the terrace on the 20th, with singles in Millcombe on the 18th and 22nd. Goldcrest have numbered around 20 at the start of the week, but by the 22nd we had 38 birds recorded. A Song Thrush was in Millcombe on the 22nd and the first Ring Ouzel of the season were seen above Government House on the 23rd, with three individuals including one male. 

Skulking Pied Flycatcher which has outstayed all others by over a week. © Angus Croudace

Whinchat still above Millcombe most days (here at the allotments) © Angus Croudace

Ring Ouzel north of Castle Cottage © Chris Blackmore

A bit of a Hirundine push midweek with 450+ Swallow and 54 House Martin on the 21st and 250/70 respectively on the 22nd. There were 13 Sand Martin picked up on the 21st and 31 on the 22nd. Swallows continued to move a little on the 23rd with 110 recorded, but single figures of Martins.

Water Rail have been calling intermittently in Millcombe, with up to two birds calling each day since the 18th. A Teal is still occasionally picked up around Pondsbury/Quarter Wall. The Grey Heron is still regularly seen, often flying over the castle down to the Landing Bay. A flock of 12 Cormorant were seen heading south off of the east coast on the 18th with an identical sized flock also seen on the 21st. 

On the 18th 27 Oystercatcher were picked up moving north along the east coast. A flock of 5 Snipe were in the flash in SW Field on the 20th. A Turnstone was heard and seen flying over St John's Valley on the 21st. Rock Pipits have been sheltering in the village this week, perhaps because of the relentless strong winds on the coast, first from the east, then the west and currently from the south! Five were seen from the Lambing Shed to the church on the 22nd.

There were a lot of rainbows between squalls this week. © Angus Croudace

Monday 18 September 2023

Lundy Bird Observatory Update - 13th-17th September

A period of northerly winds overnight saw a fairly substantial fall of Blackcaps on the 13th with over 60 ringed and 76 recorded. However, clear skies and low winds quickly beckoned them onwards and a mass exodus left us with very few birds at the end of the week. Strong easterlies over the weekend brought a few new birds in, but most sensibly hunkered down. In the only short lull on Sunday evening feeding activity resumed, and a stunning first-year Barred Warbler dropped into the slope net in Millcombe.

First-year Barred Warbler ringed in Millcombe on 17th © Anna Sutcliffe

A pair of Teal were present on Pondsbury on the 13th, although just the male has been picked up subsequently at Quarter Wall pond. A Water Rail was heard calling in Smelly Gully on the 13th and 15th. One Cormorant was seen on the 13th. The first-year Grey Heron has still been present each day, with a raiding party of six further first-years riding the thermals along the east coast on the 15th.

Six first-year Grey Heron along the east coast on the 15th © Angus Croudace

In terms of waders, a single Ringed Plover was heard on the 13th. Three Snipe on the 13th including two by Rocket Pole and one at Pondsbury on 15th. A Snipe was also ringed in the night of the 17th. Greenshank single picked up calling as it flew over Millcombe by Tony Taylor on 14th. A Dunlin was feeding on Barton's Pond on the 15th. Two Golden Plover over the Airfield on the 14th and a single calling on 16th and 17th. On the 15th also Joe successfully dazzled and rung a first-year Dotterel at the north end, just the seventh bird ringed on Lundy!

First-year Dotterel ringed at the north end of the island on 15th September © Joe Parker

The northerly winds on the 13th that brought the arrival of Blackcaps also carried hirundines over our shores, with a push of 120 Sand Martin, 136 Swallow, and 67 House Martin. Passage was minimal at the end of the week, but one Swift was picked up over Barton's on the 15th. We're still awaiting a big Swallow push this season, perhaps to come at the end of this week when winds turn more favourable for large scale passage.

Willow Warbler also moved out, with 12 on the 13th, but just 3 of both Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff the rest of the week. A Sedge Warbler was present on the 13th along with three Reed Warbler and five WhitethroatGoldcrest are one of the few migrants that remained when seemingly everything else deserted us, with 18 on the 13th and 14th, and 10 on the 15th. One Garden Warbler was present on the 15th and a Firecrest was feeding in an Oak in Millcombe on the 17th.

We had four Spotted Flycatchers and just one Pied Flycatcher on the 13th before none were recorded on Thursday or Friday. A single of each species was detected over the weekend in Millcombe. Single Whinchat on the 13th, 15th and 17th at Barton's Field. A total of 18 Wheatear were present on the 13th but this had reduced to just a couple at the end of the week. Two Wheatear were ringed on the 17th, including one of the Greenland race leucorhoa.

Whinchat and Meadow Pipit at Barton's. © Angus Croudace

There have been one, sometimes two Yellow Wagtail around the village all week and a Grey-Headed Wagtail (Yellow Wagtail subspecies m.f.thunbergi) in St Helen's Field on the 15th. Two Tree Pipit flew over on the 13th. 

Grey-headed Wagtail m.f.thunbergi in St Helen's Field on 15th. © Shaun Robson

A couple of Wryneck continued their tenure on Lundy on the east and around Millcombe, with one unringed individual also new-in on census at Rocket Pole on the 14th. Two birds at Terrace and Millcombe still on the 17th. The first-year Rose-coloured Starling is also still present around the village.

Numbers are dwindling in the last remaining seabird colonies and a late season Manx Shearwater ringing attempt at North Light only gained three new birds, whilst another fledged bird was located by the Tavern the same night. Another two fledged young turned up in the village on the 17th (see previous blog for an explanation).  Two teams setup at The Battery and North Light mist netting Storm Petrels on the 15th caught 4 birds between them, and although numbers were low, excitingly they included a control. Finally for this week, about 30mins away from Lundy Anna and Steve Sutcliffe observed a dark-morph Arctic Skua from the MS Oldenburg on the 16th. 

Tuesday 12 September 2023

Lundy Bird Observatory Update - 9th-12th September

The easterly winds continued over the weekend before switching to prevailing south-westerly on Monday 11th and a moderate northerly on Tuesday 12th.

It's been a rollercoaster of a weekend, burning the candle at both ends (and in the middle) with nets open at dawn in Millcombe and a late night Storm Petrel/Manx Shearwater session in between two nights of dazzling effort which concluded with a Hoopoe and a Common Snipe.

Second year Hoopoe ringed © Adam Day

After a slow autumn on the raptor front, the past few days have seen single sightings of first year Marsh Harrier in off and north at the Terrace on the 10th, first year Osprey in off and then south at Millcombe on the 11th and Hobby briefly around the Landing Bay on 11th. Our visiting ringers Adam Day and Rory Akam are credited with all of these records, so we're very glad to have them on the island.

We continued to swarm with Wryneck, with four individuals ringed to date, and at least a fifth unringed bird observed on the 12th. Stayers in Brambles Villa were even able to admire and photograph a Wryneck from their living room. The Rose-coloured Starling is still present, although there have been no further sightings of the Pintail. 

First year Wryneck from Brambles Villa Living Room © Clive Couzens

Two Golden Plover separately at opposite ends of the island on the 11th, a Ringed Plover over the east on the 11th, Dunlin on Barton's Pond on 10th and around High Street on 12th, single Snipe everyday except 11th and finally a Common Sandpiper heard from North Light in the night of the 8th make up waders observations for this period. Small Herring Gull movements noted with 23 on the 11th. At this time of year our breeding Herring Gulls have dispersed, leaving birds roaming between feeding groups. Small movements such as this are typically recorded throughout the autumn before our local birds return on in a couple of months to over winter around the island. Two first year Grey Heron were present on the island on 11th.

Ringed Plover south of Half-way Wall. © Clive Couzens (Photograph taken on 7th Sept)

Hirundine counts remain as a trickle thus far, with peak counts of 15 Sand Martin, 10 House Martin, 12 Swallow on the 11th. There were three Swift feeding over the airfield all afternoon on the 9th too.

Nice arrival of 24 Chiffchaff, 26 Common Whitethroat on the 9th along with a Hoopoe over by Quarter Wall. A couple of Sedge, Garden and Reed Warblers have been picked up most days and a Grasshopper Warbler was ringed on the 10th. Blackcap have averaged 20 most days, except for the 11th which was much quieter with only six detected. Willow Warbler were similar in their abundance, with c.40 most days, but only a dozen on the 11th. We're still picking up Firecrest, with a peak of four on the 11th. There was a small arrival of Goldcrest on the 12th with 21 recorded. A Treecreeper, the first for the year, was also recorded on the 11th. A Bonelli's Warbler sp. showed very nicely on the Terrace on the 10th. No call was heard and so it is very difficult to nail it as western or eastern based on plumage alone.

Bonelli's Warbler sp. Terrace. © Angus Croudace

Common Redstart were present on the Terrace everyday. Flycatcher numbers have slowly been dropping off, with 16 Spotted Flycatcher and 10 Pied Flycatcher on the 9th, and just 3 and 5 respectively on the 12th. Whinchat have also been moving out with only three on the 9th and a single on the 10th. Along with the noticeable influx of Whitethroat, Northern Wheatear were abundant again on the 9th, with a count of 15 recorded likely an underestimate. The same Wheatear was caught and ringed in SW field on the 9th and 11th whilst dazzling and it's weight had increased by just over 2g, which is just under 10% of it's overall body weight. It's great to see hard data evidencing these birds feeding up before they embark on the next leg of their migration, which is only possible with the insights of the BTO ringing scheme. Some of the Wheatears were of the Greenland race leucorhoa, which are noticeably chunkier and well-marked in the field.

A Yellow Wagtail was present on the 9th and 10th, with the first two Grey Wagtail of the season around on the 9th-12th. A couple of Tree Pipit continue to be picked up each day. A large flock of 180 Linnet has been seen for several days feeding around Pondsbury and a visitor captured a sound recording of a Nightingale in the Bracken below the Terrace on 12th.

It's also that time of year where young Manx Shearwaters are successfully fledging and leaving the  colony. However, for a few the lure of the Marisco Tavern is too much! Between dusk and midnight (after which the diesel generators switch off for the night) the lights of the Tavern attract a handful of birds each year. Upon landing in the vicinity of the Tavern, the flat ground makes it difficult for them to alight again - the steep cliffs of the colonies are a vital part of getting them airborne when they fledge. They scuttle into cracks, crevices or corners around the Tavern buildings when dawn comes, but they're not always as well hidden as they might think! These birds are rescued when found in the morning. We take the opportunity to ring them and then that evening return them to a burrow in the colony to aid them in their next flight attempt. They would naturally filter down to the cliffs again themselves under the cover of darkness, but our helping hand gives them a shortcut (they are famously awkward when manoeuvring on land), and also moves them out the way of the daytime pedestrian traffic in the busy village.

Friday 8 September 2023

Lundy Bird Observatory Update - 5th-8th September

The settled weather has continued this week, winds remaining as light easterlies apart from a much gustier morning on the 5th. The 5th was very quiet, but the week got much more exciting on the 6th-8th, with four Wryneck on the island for two days as well as a first-year Woodchat Shrike on the 6th.

First year Woodchat Shrike Barton's Field © Angus Croudace

First year Woodchat Shrike on Sycamore above Millcombe Pines © Angus Croudace

Now that we're into the swing of autumn numbers of Sylvia warblers are starting to rise, with about a dozen Blackcap and Whitethroat typically pushing up Millcombe. Counts of 41, 65 and 40 Willow Warblers on the 6-8th, with a noticeable switch to juvenile birds rather than the adults that dominated the earlier counts in the season. A couple of Reed Warblers, Chiffchaff and Common Redstart seen each day, and one Sedge Warbler on the 6th (Pondsbury) and 8th (Millcombe pines). There was a small push of Firecrest, with five on the 6th. Last year the highest Firecrest count was three on the 9th September, with other counts of three later in October. The push this week is likely to represent local mainland breeders, with Scandinavian birds forming the bulk of our passage in October. 

Firecrest, Millcombe © Angus Croudace

Flycatchers have been a jov to watch, with the east side positively buzzing with them. Max counts of 22 and 45 Spotted Flycatcher on the 6th and 7th and 18 and 24 Pied Flycatcher on the same dates. For comparison, last year peak counts of Pied Flycatcher were 6 in early September, and max count of Spotted Flycatcher was 20. This is a great comparison which shows the impact of the sustained easterly winds that we have been experiencing. Seven Whinchat on the 7th and 11 on the 8th are great signs of more autumn migrants moving through, as are Tree Pipit (two over Millcombe on the 7th, and at least four over the island on the 8th). One or two Siskin have also been heard flying over Millcombe two since the 6th.

Spotted Flycatcher above Millcombe © Angus Croudace

One Swift and one Sand Martin over on the 6th along with a small push of 250 Swallows. Five House Martin on the 7th were accompanied by a trickle of 60 Swallow. A Collared Dove was seen over Millcombe and on the roof of the barn on the 6th. The autumn has been slow on the raptor front, with only one female Sparrowhawk seen on the 5th, 6th and 8th.

Two Golden Plover over Millcombe on the 7th, with five Ringed Plover also recorded north of Quarter Wall. One Common Snipe at Pondsbury on the 5th and 6th and three on the 8th. An east coast seal survey also turned up a Common Sandpiper at Brazen Ward and two Turnstone at North Light, as well as a count of 26 Oystercatcher. Wader passage is vastly under-recorded on the island and opportunities such as accompanying the marine team on seal surveys is a great excuse to pick up some of these birds. Another Common Sandpiper was heard from Millcombe in the evening on the 8th. A Grey Heron has still been observed most days.

The first-year Rose-coloured Starling continued to 7th, seen with the other starlings as often as it is alone around the village and Millcombe. The Pintail has been present until the 7th, spending more time around Pondsbury than Millcombe.

In terms of ringing effort, the light winds since the 6th have meant that the mist nets in Millcombe have been open each day with highlights of three Wryneck ringed (one was caught in the Heligoland trap on the Terrace). A couple of pleasant evening sessions on the 7th and 8th picked up a dozen flycatchers. Our visiting ringers continue to ring about 20 Manx Shearwater over on the west coast, with a couple of Storm Petrels picked up too.

Wryneck, Millcombe © Angus Croudace

Monday 4 September 2023

Lundy Bird Observatory Update - 1st - 4th September

Clear skies and bright, dry days meant that despite consistent easterlies the first two days of September started fairly quietly, with common migrants trickling through and morning censuses fairly low on numbers. However, working the lower east in the afternoon produced superb results on Sunday 3rd, with a memorable day including highlights of a Western Bonelli's Warbler, Melodious Warbler and Wryneck on the Terrace (along with Spotted Flycatcher, Pied Flycatcher and 2 Common Redstart). Millcombe wasn't to be left out, with the first Whinchats of the season just above around Barton's Field, a Firecrest in the pines, and a juv Rose-Coloured Starling flying from the church to below Government early evening. Wryneck, 2x Firecrest and Rose-Coloured Starling all present for a second day on the 4th.

Western Bonelli's Warbler, St Helen's Copse © Luke Marriner

Wryneck, Terrace © Angus Croudace

Ringed Plover singles were heard by quarter wall on census on the 2nd and 3rd, with a second heard moving over Gannets Bay on the 3rd. Single Golden Plover heard on the 2nd, and single Dunlin over the village on 3rd and 'in-off' at the Ugly on the 4th. Common Snipe flushed from Rocket Pole on 1st, flying over Quarter wall on 2nd, and flushed from Pondsbury on 4th. A Pintail has been seen every day since the 1st, moving between fresh water bodies and the Landing Bay, most memorably on Millcombe pond, and shortly after in the top shelf of a Secret Garden mist net (albeit too briefly to retrieve)!

Black-headed Gull flew north along the west on the 2nd. Grey Herons have been seen on 1st (adult at Barton's Field) and 3rd (juv at Pondsbury). Ringtail Hen Harrier moving north of Quarter Wall on 2nd, but has not been seen since.

Firecrest, Millcombe © Luke Marriner

Pied Flycatcher © Luke Marriner
Skylark picked up on the 3rd and 3 on the 4th, and a small hirundine movement with 2 each of Sand and House Martin and 71 Swallow on the 3rd and 4 House Martin, 39 Swallow on 4th. Birds appeared to drop in throughout the day on Sunday 3rd, with a final total of 82 Willow Warblers after just a couple on census in early morning and totals of 7 on the previous 2 days. Also recorded on Sunday 3rd were 10 Blackcap, 1 Garden Warbler, 3 Whitethroat, 8 Goldcrest, 7 Spotted Flycatcher, 2 Common Redstart and 2 Whinchat. The first Yellow Wagtail of the season was recorded on census on the 3rd and 4th and 10 alba Wagtails were also recorded on the 3rd and 4th. 2 Tree Pipit singles over Millcombe on 3rd and another two on the 4th. Monday the 4th was very busy with Spotted Flycatchers, with 23 recorded, and one Pied Flycatcher.

Nets were open in Millcombe for all of Friday and several hours on Saturday/Sunday before winds increased, although capture rate was fairly slow, with about 60 common migrants and local breeders ringed. A group of visiting ringers have been putting some effort into the Manx Shearwaters, with a couple of dozen chicks ringed each night.

Spotted Flycatcher © Luke Marriner

First-year Rose-Coloured Starling, Millcombe © Luke Marriner