Lundy Warden Dean Jones reports on yet another very busy but wonderful period on Lundy.
The obvious birding highlight of this period came in the form of a stunning male Golden Oriole in full song at the top of Millcombe on 21st June. Shortly after the bird's beautiful but brief serenade, the Oriole was then seen periodically for about an hour or so mostly in flight as he made his way to and from either side of the valley. The bird stayed until the mid-afternoon at least and was heard calling again by some of the islanders, shortly after which it unfortunately disappeared.
Another smashing observation that must be mentioned was the amazing occurrence of a European Roller which dropped onto the rigging of David Milledge’s boat as he sailed from Milford Haven to the island on 30th June. From David’s email (sent on 4th July) he quotes: “It stayed with us for about two hours, mainly perched on the cross trees high on the mast. He took a few short flights and returned to perch in this period and as we approached Lundy, about 3 miles off, he disappeared presumably to go to the island.” Despite the possibility of this bird making its way to Lundy there were unfortunately no observations of this beautiful bird on the island.
On the seabird front, the island’s Guillemots and Razorbills are now disappearing quickly from their breeding ledges, making my west coast walks that little bit quieter. Once again it is looking like another mixed season for our two Kittiwake monitoring sites. At the moment Aztec Bay has lots of fluffy chicks huddled in nests (the first chicks was recorded on 12th June), some of which are starting to obtain their beautiful juvenile markings. Unfortunately once again numbers of nesting birds within our Threequarter Wall site have more than halved since last year. This is a truly sad sight, especially considering the numbers which used to breed on this remarkable chunk of rock. Fingers crossed the few remaining birds will fare better this year and all manage to fledge multiple chicks (only 1 chick fledged from 41 nests at this site in 2018). Only time will tell!
I also managed to get out for a complete wrap around the island’s coast on 9th June. Results from this rather soggy day revealed 113 Shag, 247 Kittiwake, 46 Great Black-backed Gulls, 781 Herring Gull, 243 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 6,415 Guillemot, 1,955 Razorbill and 196 Puffin. Additional to these counts, the Conservation Team also carried out a number of other Puffin counts throughout the period, during which we managed high counts (well, for Lundy standards) of 337 birds on 19th June and 390 on 3rd July.
On the breeding bird front, successful breeding has now been confirmed for a few more species this year, including Woodpigeon (fledglings in Millcombe on 10th June), Robin (12th June), Pied Wagtail (a pair delivering food to chicks on 3rd July), Blackcap (2 pairs feeding chicks in Millcombe on 29th June) and Goldfinch (19th June). Furthermore a survey of active Starling nests around the Village area and the Old Lighthouse revealed a total of 56 nests, most of which have now fledged numerous noisy chicks from 22nd June.
Additionally, our new Island Ambassador, David Lindo (also known as the Urban Birder), managed to find a pair of Whitethroat feeding chicks at the top of Millcombe on 29th June, the first confirmed breeding for this species since 1978! Though there have been observations suggesting successful breeding since 1978, none were 100% confirmed, so well done David!
Other birds of note from the period include: 42 Oystercatcher on 9th June, a single juvenile Grey Heron which arrived on the island on 19th June and has remained until 3rd July at least, singles of Water Rail on 16th & 18th June, a fly-over Dunlin on 2nd July, a Collared Dove on 19th & 23rd June, singles of Cuckoo of seven dates up to 3rd July, small numbers of Swift (max 35 on 3rd July), Swallow (max 10 on 18th June) and House Martin (max 4 on 23rd June), a single Sand Martin (on 2nd July), lone Spotted Flycatchers in Millcombe on seven dates up to 21st June, and 3 Stonechat on 24th.
Like elsewhere in the UK, Lundy was also blessed with a glorious invasion of Painted Lady butterflies come 24th June – 189 (certainly a gross underestimate) of these beautiful beasties where counted in various parts of the island throughout the day. Meadow Browns are also becoming more prevalent on the island with surveys along the east coast revealing good numbers (max 151 on 3rd July). We’ve also seen a number of Odonata appear over the past few days, with Common Darter, Red-veined Darter and Southern Migrant Hawker all making an appearance on the island.
Report composed of sightings from Chris & Carol Baillie, Tom Dickens, Dean Jones, David Lindo, Kirsty Neller, Alan & Sandra Rowland and Caitlin Worsey.
Lundy Warden Dean Jones has provided the following comprehensive update for the period 25th May to 8th June:
"As you can probably tell by the lack of blog updates over the past few weeks (sincere apologies), the busy summer season of visiting school groups, working parties and of course, the monitoring of Lundy’s beautiful and unique assortment of wildlife has now arrived.
Luckily for us the island has continued to provide us with some truly spectacular birds during this period including the Squacco Heron, which lingered around Rat Island until May 31st (allowing some superb views for disembarking visitors) after being re-discovered in this area on April 28th. The island has also had two very brief but exciting visits from two other special birds; a female Red-backed Shrike near St Helen’s Copse on June 6th and a stonking Alpine Swift on June 8th (both found by Chris and Carol Baille).
Other than these rarities, more and more young birds are appearing around the island. For example, in the last few weeks we’ve seen the first Wheatear, Skylark, Dunnock and Linnet fledglings of the year as well as lots of food being delivered to chicks in nests for species such as Chaffinch, Starling, Robin, and Meadow Pipit (some of which should be fledging any day now). We have also been treated to at least one very noisy Water Rail chick in the evenings near Paradise Row, the first confirmed breeding since 2015.
Other avian delights throughout this period include small numbers of Whitethroat, Spotted Flycatcher,Swallow, House Martin, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Blackcap each day, as well as two Cormorant flying south over the Ugly on the 6th, a Golden Plover on the 26th, a lone Whimbrel on White Beach on the 3rd, a Storm Petrel at the Old Light Manx Shearwater colony on the 27th, at least 1 Kestrel most days, a Merlin on June 1st & 2nd, a Turtle Dove on the Terrace on the 31st and again on the 2nd (where it narrowly avoided the clutches of a Peregrine), a Cuckoo on four dates from various areas of the island including Millcombe, Halfway Wall and Montagu Steps, singles of Collared Dove on three dates from the 1st, a Sand Martin on the 5th, a Garden Warbler on the 26th, a Sedge Warbler on the 25th, a fly-over Yellow Wagtail on the 4th, a Tree Pipit on June 1st, and four Swift on the 31st.
Visiting ringers Tony, Ann, Rich and Rebecca Taylor have all been keeping themselves very busy re-sighting and colour ringing some of the island’s Northern Wheatears. So far the gang have managed to catch and re-sight good numbers of the island breeding birds and although the final numbers have yet to be crunched, it’s looking like a relatively good year for this iconic Lundy bird. Hiding within the island’s breeding population, Rich and Rebecca also managed to catch and ring a rather late passage Greenland bird (Oenanthe oenanthe leucorhoa) on the 6th, just south of the Forgotten Heinkel bomber on the West Coast. Somehow the gang also managed to conjure up energy for a few late evenings out on the west sidelands catching Manx Shearwaters too. Here the team have managed (so far) to catch and ring 40 new birds and retrap another 44 birds birds which had been ringed on Lundy in previous years, including some ringed here as chicks in 2013 & 2015.
June 6th was a very special day for me as Warden and for the island, as we managed to get out for an afternoon colour ringing Peregrine Falcons, the first ever for the island! If all goes well in the upcoming years, we may be lucky enough to see these birds return one day to the breed on the island themselves. Visiting this nest site also allowed us to get a better understanding of what this particular pair have been feeding their young on. Seabirds – including Puffin and Manx Shearwater have been the main source of food… as well as the odd Wheatear. A huge huge thank you to Luke Sutton, Seb Loram, Dan Donovan, Simon Fletcher and Carlo Fiori for this unforgettable experience.
Alan and Sandra Rowland (Lundy Field Society) and Janet Lister (National Trust) also managed a trip out to the island this month in order to count a very special resident on the island, our endemic Lundy Cabbage. Although numbers have yet to be finalised, this year seems to be a super year for flowering plants, particularly on the East Side cliffs! Full results for this year’s cabbage counts will be available in the near future.
And last but by no means least, we’ve received DNA results regarding feather samples from this springs unbelievable run of no less than five Subalpine Warblers! The DNA sequencing that was very kindly carried out by Thomas Shannon and Martin Collinson from the University of Aberdeen now shows that we managed to catch an amazing haul of three sub-species of Subalpine Warbler this spring! Unreal! These consisted of three birds of the Eastern race Sylvia cantillans albistriata (which breed in areas within Trieste, Balkans, Greece, Bulgaria, western Turkey), one Sylvia cantillans cantillans Eastern raced bird (breeds in Central and south Italy except Sardinia) and a Western raced bird Sylvia inornata inornata (which breed in Iberia, southern France, extreme north-west Italy). Special thanks to Thomas and Martin for all their help and enthusiasm with regards to these samples. Lundy has truly delivered the goods this spring, fingers crossed we have some more super birds to come during the next few weeks!
Report composed of sightings from Chris & Carol Baillie, Andrew Cleave, Dan Donovan, Carlo Fiori, Simon Fletcher, Paddy Keith, Dean Jones, Seb Loram, Luke Sutton, Alex Sydenham, Tony & Ann Taylor, Richard & Rebecca Taylor, Lucy Winder and Caitlin Worsey."
"It has been a truly magical week on our beautiful little island; here on most days since the last post, Lundy has been graced with some stunning sunshine and noticeably warmer temperatures despite cool northerly winds. Now the migrant birds have slowed down to a trickle, it is starting to feel a lot more like summer on Lundy. As I write this post, nearly all of the island's seabirds are either now busy incubating eggs or feeding newly hatched chicks, including our charming little Puffins in Jenny's Cove. Up on the plateau newly emerged Raven, Blackbird and Stonechat fledglings are haphazardously navigating their strange new world and clouds of hundreds of newly emerged Cocksfoot moths are currently flittering around the sun-kissed foliage in Millcombe.
Other than the superb Squacco Heron on the 23rd, birds of note included: a Water Rail which has been calling most nights near Paradise Row, a single Golden Plover on the 23rd, one flyover Ringed Plover on the 23rd, a Dunlin near St Mark's on 22nd, 246 Kittiwake on the 20th (birds are busily building nests and incubating eggs now), the first Guillemot chick of the year on the 24th and the first Puffling of the year on the 20th, at least one Kestrel on most days, a Cuckoo just south of the Quarries on the 22nd, max 50 Swallow on the 23rd, max 24 House Martin on the 23rd, up to 3 Willow Warbler each day, along with up to 4 Chiffchaff, a single Sedge Warbler on the 24th, up to 3 Blackcap on days, Whitethroat (max 4 on the 21st), Spotted Flycatcher (max 7 on the 22nd), a single first calendar-year male Pied Flycatcher on the 22nd, flyover Yellow Wagtails on the 22nd & 24th and a Tree Pipit in Millcombe on the 19th."
"Seb Loram, Luke Sutton and myself were just finishing up surveying Gannet's Combe, when I noticed five Oystercatchers mobbing a strange-looking bird at the north end of the bay. As soon as I put my bins up, I shouted "Squacco!!". Luke and Seb managed to both get on the bird. The heron then skulked around an area of boulder scree for about five minutes, before moving out of view under an overhang. We waited for ten minutes or so for the bird to reappear, when suddenly, again chased by a number of Oystercatcher, the bird flew out to sea around Gannets' Rock, continuing north and eventually out of sight. It was a seriously beautiful bird!"
This is the first record of Squacco Heron on Lundy; congratulations Dean on another excellent find!
A generally rather quiet day, with a stiff easterly wind again dropping away to virtually nothing during the late afternoon to give a jaw-droppingly gorgeous sunny and still spring evening. Among the rather few notable observations were a second calendar-year Black-headed Gull that flew through the Landing Bay first thing, nine Dunlins in Middle Park, a Collared Dove sitting on top of Lametor, and three Swifts.
Friday 17th May
A cloudy and at times quite raw-feeling day with some light rain for a time mid-morning, when the cold E or NE wind was quite strong, but backed NNE and became much lighter during the afternoon, though it remained heavily overcast, subduing insect and bird activity alike.
A Great Northern Diver flew north up the East Side of the island at plateau height at 06.45 and a pale-phase Arctic Skua was harrying Kittiwakes off Rat Island around midday. A Garden Warbler performed its rich song for prolonged periods, often at the same time as feeding in sycamores in Millcombe. Also of note were two flyover flava wagtails, and eight Spotted Flycatchers.
Saturday 18th May
A cloudy but virtually windless dawn, gave way to a stunningly beautiful spring day with warm sunshine breaking through by late morning.
Tim Davis and Tim Jones experienced one of their all-time highlights of decades of birding on Lundy when they were lucky enough to spend several hours in the company of a beautiful male Red-footed Falcon. Initially encountered in northbound flight over heathland near Pondsbury, the bird moved on rapidly to Middle Park and disappeared towards North End. The by-now very out-of-breath observers, having run in a seemingly vain attempt to keep up with the falcon, arrived at the vantage point offered by the mound near Threequarter Wall Gate in time to see it disappear towards Gannets' Combe. Resigned to the likelihood that the bird would simply continue moving north and off the island, it was almost unbelievable when it suddenly flew in and perched on a reasonably nearby granite outcrop. The falcon then took up residence for a good three hours on and over the slope between Tibbetts and Threequarter Wall Gate, where it pursued and consumed numerous (probably 50+) Emperor Moths, treating the Tims to a mind-blowing display of graceful aerobatics. A red-faced and sweaty Lundy Warden, Dean Woodfin Jones, hove into view having belatedly received a series of frantic WhatsApp messages, in time to join in the visual feast, along with two lucky day-visiting birders. There have been seven previous Lundy records of this delightful Eastern European raptor, the most recent in May 2003.
The series of record shots below indicate that this bird was an immature, presumed second calendar year, given the extent of underwing barring. At close range some brownish smudging could be seen on the nape.
Other records during the day included a Cuckoo at Old Light, two Garden Warblers in Millcombe, strong Swallow and House Martin passage, a single Sand Martin, three Swifts and a few Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers, Sedge Warblers and Common Whitethroats.
Compiled from observations by Tim Davis, Dean Jones, Tim Jones, Alan & Sandra Rowland, Trevor Dobie and members of the LFS Conservation Working Party.
Reflecting a subtle change in wind direction, there was a distinct southern and eastern componment to birding, with highlights including a vocal but typically wary Hawfinch flying around Millcombe from early morning until at least midday; a male Pied Flycatcher, a singing Lesser Whitethroat and calling Tree Pipit in and around Millcombe; a Cuckoo at North End (St James' Stream), and a female Marsh Harrier, which drifted over Millcombe at 08.55 and was later seen over South End, Tillage/Brick Field (being mobbed by crows), and quartering over Pondsbury. It was last seen flying north over Threequarter Wall at 14.55. Middle Park again held exceptionally high numbers of Dunlin, with probably over 30 present in all, including a single flock of 19, feeding actively on the grazed turf alongside three Ringed Plovers. There were also two Golden Plovers in the north of the island.
Other sightings during the day included: three Teal, five Collared Doves, 11 Swifts, a male Kestrel, 100+ House Martins, 300+ Swallows, four Willow Warblers (including one feeding along Threequarter Wall), five Chiffchaffs, two Blackcaps, a Whitethroat, and eight Spotted Flycatchers.
Compiled from observations by Tim Davis, Trevor Dobie, Dean Jones, Tim Jones, and Alan & Sandra Rowland.
It was yet another sunny, bone-dry day with a keen ESE wind that fell light towards the end of the afternoon.
Unusually for Lundy, which has limited suitable habitat, waders were very much to the fore throughout the day, with a Redshank calling in flight over the Ugly early in the morning and the same or another flying along the East Side, calling and singing as it went, mid-afternoon; two Greenshanks in flight over Middle Park; a minimum of 20 Dunlins (but possibly up to 30) sporting a wide range of plumages and scattered in small groups of up to nine, across much of the island (including the Airfield, Pondsbury, Middle Park and North End, as well as two flying low over the sea off the West Side); groups of three and five Ringed Plovers in Middle Park, the larger group accompanied by two Dotterels; a single Whimbrel in Brick/Tillage Fieldl; and a Common Sandpiper at the Devil's Kitchen.
A Hen Harrier headed north over Tillage Field (mobbed by two crows as it went); another French-ringed Sedge Warbler was controlled in Millcombe (adding to the others trapped in recent weeks); there were two Spotted Flycatchers in Millcombe, plus a further two along the Terrace; two Whinchats in Middle Park; and two female-type Black Redstarts amongst the rocks at North End. Also recorded were nine Swifts, 55 House Martins, 150 Swallows, and low single-digit counts of Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Common Whitethroat and Blackcap.
Compiled from observations by Tim Davis, Chris & Mandy Dee, Merylyn Hedger, Dean Jones, Tim Jones, and Alan & Sandra Rowland.
Another day of unbroken sunshine and wind from an easterly quarter, beginning SE but backing more to the E or NE during the day. Given the clear conditions, tail wind and a waxing moon, numbers of grounded migrants were low, with two Willow Warblers, 10 Chiffchaffs, two Sedge Warblers, three Blackcaps, five Common Whitethroats, a Garden Warbler, a scattering of Greenland Wheatears, and three Spotted Flycatchers the best on offer.
North End yielded a veritable cavalcade of waders by Lundy standards, including 4 Dunlins, 2 Ringed Plovers, a Whimbrel and a Dotterel (the only one of the spring thus far). A further two Dunlins were seen elsewhere.
Records included two Cuckoos, five Swifts, 500 House Martins, four Willow Warblers, 10 Chiffchaffs, 13 Blackcaps, two Garden Warblers, three Whitethroats and three Spotted Flycatchers.
Saturday 11th May
A moderate north or north-westerly wind blew throughout the day, making it feel cold in spite of the largely sunny skies. The crossing from Ilfracombe was unusually quiet for the time of year, with not a single Manx Shearwater seen, though a Cory's Shearwater was reported close to the North Devon mainland duing the return crossing in the evening. Rob Duncan and David Kightley came to the end of their three-week ringing trip, closing it out in style with the trapping in Millcombe of Lundy's fifth Subalpine Warbler of the spring, this one a female Eastern. Also of note were: the long-staying female Sparrowhawk, a calling Cuckoo, seven Woodpigeons, six Swifts, a Sand Martin, 30 House Martins, a singing Willow Warbler in Millcombe, three Chiffchaffs, a Sedge Warbler (Milllcombe), two Blackcaps, a Goldcrest, a Spotted Flycatcher, a female Common Redstart (on the wall of South West Field near the stonecrusher), a male Stonechat (carrying food next to the Beach Road), and a single Siskin (Millcombe/St John's Valley).
Sunday 12th May
After a cold start, with a stiff NE breeze, the sun shone strongly all day and the wind fell away completely by dusk. There were few grounded migrants, but the strongest hirundine passage of the spring got going by mid-morning and lasted until around 17.30. Dean & Philip Jones made timed spot counts of between 101 and 141 Swallows per minute passing north along the West Side from 10.00 to 14.00 hrs, whilst Tim Davis & Tim Jones counted a minimum of 516 birds over the plateau and along the West Side, mainly later in the afternoon. Consolidated counts suggest a conservative estimate of 4,000-5,000 Swallows for the day. Also notable were: two Teal, flyover Ringed Plover (one) and Dunlin (two), a Snipe at Quarter Wall Pond, 62 Puffins (on the water at Jenny's Cove at about 15.30), a male Kestrel, an immature male Merlin, a single Sand Martin, several hundred House Martins, a Willow Warbler, four Chiffchaffs, a Sedge Warbler (Quarter Wall Pond), three Blackcaps, two Whitethroats, a pair of Stonechats, and two Yellow Wagtail (male at Threequarter Wall and female at South End).