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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.

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