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Monday 16 October 2023

Lundy Bird Observatory Update - 11th - 16th October

Prevailing south-westerlies carrying heavy rainfall overnight start this period. A bright, still and warm day on the 12th played host to our first large thrush passage. The winds subsequently swung north-west causing the temperature to drop on Saturday 14th before then becoming moderate easterlies on 15th-16th.

A single Redshank has been present since the 13th and observed in all sorts of quirky places including the puddle outside Castles on the road; the drainage ditch by the Church; in flight low amongst Millcombe; most notably, stuck in the cattle grid by the Black Shed! Upon discovery, Lundy regulars Julian and Mark quickly enlisted a nearby plank, providing a ramp for it to ascend out of its predicament safely. It was seen feeding again on Barton pond on the 16th, and was caught and ringed on the evening of the 16th - the first Redshank ringing record for Lundy. We are amazed that it hasn't yet met the sharp end of one of our Peregrine Falcons, unlike a single Stock Dove which arrived on the 16th but didn't last beyond lunchtime. 

Redshank Barton Field © Richard Campey

A female Teal has been picked up on Pondsbury each day, with two new in Mallard on the 15th adding to our typical count of 13. A single female Common Scoter was in the Landing Bay on the 16th, with 16 seen on a seawatch on the 13th. An arrival of Water Rail on the 14th led to an autumn high count of five birds, including one above Quarry Beach with the rest in Millcombe. One Lapwing flew around the village around dawn on the 14th. A large amount of Golden Plover arrived with a max count of 29 on the 12th, with one flock joined by a Whimbrel on the 13th on the airfield. Several Jack Snipe arrived on the 13th and have been recorded daily since.

Frequent flocks of Common Snipe were an unusual sight for Lundy, seen all over the island during this reporting period, with a maximum flock size of 26 on the 12th. Singles were flushed all over the island far more regularly than is typical including in Millcombe Wood and the Upper East Coast Path, hinting that there might be a substantial increase in numbers. Another two nights dazzling shone a whole new light on the scale of Snipe passage through Lundy. On the night of the 14th Joe and Luke ringed an incredible 55 Common Snipe as well as single Jack Snipe and five Golden Plover. In one night, this smashes previous all-time records for the island of 46 Common Snipe ringed 1947-2022 and 5 Golden Plover in the same timeframe. On the night of the 15th a further 20 Common Snipe and another Jack Snipe were ringed, and then another 10 Common Snipe and a third Jack Snipe on the 16th! These efforts were all south of Quarter Wall, there were no retraps on the first night and just a couple on the efforts of the next two evenings. Thus, it is clear that Lundy is absolutely swimming in Snipe at the moment! Our logbook reads 55 which is already an record breaking autumn day count, but could numbers even be in excess of 200 in reality?! The previous autumn passage record was a flock of 30 birds in November 1985.

Common Snipe flock over Airfield © Angus Croudace

Common Snipe, Millcombe Drive © Angus Croudace

The 13th and 14th saw a lot of seabirds loafing or feeding off of the island, with 2270 Kittiwake on the 13th and 1000+ on the 14th. A Mediterranean Gull and six Common Gull close in below the Terrace on the 15th. Singles of dark-morph Arctic Skua were seen off of the east on the 14th and the 16th. A Great Northern Diver was again in the Landing Bay on the 11th, 13th and 16th,

Great Northern Diver Landing Bay © Angus Croudace

It has become substantially busier on the raptor front, with several Merlin individuals arriving with the Redwing on the 12th, resulting in a day count of four birds and several daily since. Two Short-eared Owls have been present since the 12th also, although are very unpredictable and elusive, with sightings ranging from the bracken on the east, cliffs in the Landing Bay, gorse in South-west field as well as in the heathland in the north. A ringtail Hen Harrier has been picked up at Quarter Wall/Pondsbury since the 13th. To add to these headliners are our continuing supporting cast of three Kestrel, up to eight Peregrine Falcon and a female Sparrowhawk.

Merlin Quarter Wall © Richard Campey

Short-eared Owl Lighthouse Field © Tim Jones

Merlin double act at the North End © Angus Croudace

Redwing 'tseeped' overhead through the night of the 11th, with counts starting from 6.30am resulting in a total of 700 birds recorded during the day across the island. 47 Fieldfare were amongst them. Since, about ten Fieldfare have been recorded daily and small numbers of Redwing (72 on 13th, and about 20 daily since). Amongst the thrush arrival on the 12th were 16 Ring Ouzel, 22 Song Thrush and one Mistle Thrush.

First-year Male Ring Ouzel in Millcombe (note the worn tail feathers) © Angus Croudace

Ring Ouzel Jenny's Cove © Tim Jones

Some Skylark continue to move overhead with some flocks of up to 20. High day count in this period of 85 on the 12th, but typically 30-50 recorded each day. 530 Meadow Pipit around or over on the 12th with around 150 record daily since. Swallow have milled around again with over a hundred recorded each day but no real devotion to pushing forward. The House Martins observed have almost all been in small flocks that are more clearly pushing south, including a total of 52 on the 14th.

The first Yellow-browed Warbler of the autumn was very elusive in Millcombe on the 15th and almost completely silent. Chiffchaff day counts typically break 20, and we have enjoyed a late Reed Warbler by Millcombe House. On the fine day that was the 12th there was another arrival of Blackcap, with 45 across the island, mostly in Millcombe, around a dozen have stayed for a few days to feed on the now dwindling blackberries. A Lesser Whitethroat showed well on the gorse by Rocket Pole on the 15th, and a late Common Whitethroat was above Smelly Gully on the 14th. A Firecrest was in Millcombe along with two long-staying Spotted Flycatchers. These birds (finally) left in the clear skies of the 14th to continue their long journeys, with the possibility that the flycatchers may well be destined as far as South Africa! Goldcrest counts have typically been 20 with a peak of 37 on the 14th.

Lesser Whitethroat Rocket Pole © Tim Jones

A Black Redstart was at North Light on the 11th. Between one and six Wheatear have been recorded daily in this period. One Grey Wagtail over on the 15th as well as a White Wagtail in Barton Field on the 14th.

White Wagtail Barton Field © Tim Jones

Finally, the 16th was the first day of notable Chaffinch passage this season, with 50 emerging from roost in Millcombe and departing as the sun rose. Throughout the day a fairly constant stream of small flocks were moving south, mostly sheltering from the easterlies in the lee of the west coast. The total figure was c1500 for the day. Among were 4 Brambling (after the first of the autumn was heard on the 11th) and two Greenfinch. A group of four Lesser Redpoll feeding in Millcombe on the 12th, 11 across the island on the 15th and four on the 16th. The first Lapland Bunting of autumn was around Pondsbury on the 16th and a couple of Reed Bunting have passed through each day, with a high count of five on the 14th.

Lesser Redpoll Lower Garden, Millcombe © Angus Croudace

Reed Bunting Pondsbury © Richard Campey

A couple of late Clouded Yellow butterflies, notable Red Admiral passage with over a hundred on the 12th and a couple of Painted Ladies, Small Copper and Hummingbird Hawk-moths each day are the best of the Lepidoptera. 

Small Copper butterfly at North Quarry © Tim Jones

Pale Tussock Moth caterpillar meets a migrant Blackbird © Angus Croudace

The race is on, Merlin vs Sika Doe Pondsbury © Angus Croudace

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