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Friday, 30 May 2014

LFS on Lundy

Bideford's Mermaid
A long planned Lundy Field Society visit to Lundy took place from 17th to 20th May when most of the Committee held their first meeting on the Island for 20 years.  Derek Green, the Lundy Manager and Beccy MacDonald the warden and her seasonal assistant Chloe were also invited to attend.


17th Saturday – we left our cars at Bideford and assembled on the quay for an early 8am sailing when the conditions were described as winds 2-3 lights to variable which lead to an uneventful crossing.  It was so smooth that almost all the 210 passengers kept the galley busy making bacon sandwiches.
Black Guillemot
Sedge Warbler
We were met on arrival in the Landing Bay by the single Black Guillemot that had returned to Lundy for the third consecutive year.  We were welcomed by a rapturously singing Sedge Warbler at the top of Millcombe steps and after lunch in the Tavern were soon safely ensconced in our allocated rooms in Millcombe.
A quick tour of the island to Middle Park showed most of what we wanted to check out.  The deer were around Middle Park Pond and a multitude of Dwarf Adder’s Tongue fern had emerged.
A communal evening meal in the Marisco rounded off the day which had been very long for those travelling from up country since dawn.

Twitching for Golden Oriole

Turtle Dove
18th Sunday – this was the day of the Devon Bird Watching and Preservation Society’s annual trip to the island.  I had promised a south end tour to those who wanted it, but this had to be heavily curtailed due to the excellent weather.  The charterers decided to take their round the island trip before disembarking so it was creeping up to midday when they had all disembarked.  Many dashed off to look for the Black Guillemot and Turtle Doves that had been reported as well as an elusive Golden Oriole.  We had seen two Turtle Doves on Saturday and Sunday morning as well as the Guillemot in the bay.  Breeding birds confirmed were a pair of Crows in the trees near Millcombe gardens and Blackbirds above the wall to the east of Millcombe House.


Diving Beetle in Ackland's Moor Pond
19th Monday – the day of the committee meeting where we took advantage of Lundy manager and warden directly to discuss all issues affecting the island with them.  We just about managed to fit into the dining room of Millcombe House and completed the agenda around the agreed time to have lunch in the Marisco Tavern.
In the afternoon, I surveyed Ackland’s Moor Pond which was gin clear to the bottom, a unique view I have not seen before.

Pizza night at Old House South
20th Tuesday – today most of the committee were returning home and we were homeless while Old House South was being prepared for us.  Before we left Millcombe, we were able to add a Spotted Flycatcher and Blackcap to our bird total.  Ever busy, Andrew showed the moths caught the previous night to visitors in the tavern and led a wild flower walk around the south end.
That evening we enjoyed the comforts of Old House South with a pizza evening provided by Sandra.

Painted Lady
21st Wednesday – a beautiful day for a walk northwards.  We aimed for Jenny’s cove and watched Puffins on land and sea for quite a while.  There were pods of cetaceans moving north a couple or three miles out in the Atlantic too
We decided to continue north and in Middle Park found lots more Dwarf Adder’s tongue Fern in a new location west of the west side path slightly north of the Black House.  It is doing very well this year.
We counted yet more puffins and offshore cetaceans at St Phillip’s stone and saw the first Painted Lady butterfly of the year near Squire’s View.
Long Roost Pond

Sea King at North End
We had traveled so far north on the west side, we decided to go to the north end.  On the way AndrĂ© showed me a pond he had found in November of last year.  It took a little searching out, but is definitely new to us freshwater biologists.  It is a natural hollow in the granite almost on the west cliff edge with a granite gravel bottom and brown tinged water.  How permanent it is, only summer visits will determine, but Long Roost Pond will certainly be surveyed some time soon.
As we returned we observed a circling Sea King helicopter which eventually touched down right at the north end, a crew member chatted with a visitor then it roared off south.  The story was that the pilot’s daughter from Georgeham School was on a school visit to the island and he had called in on his way south to drop her off a small gift.  How big is her street credibility?

Joint meal in Millcombe
22nd Thursday - our first very wet day.  We had hoped to at least walk along the quarries but by the time we reached them, the heavens opened and we spent a convivial hour talking to various walkers who also took shelter in Gade’s hut until we made a very wet way home. We were heartened by being invited by bellringing friends of Michael to share our evening meals in Millcombe.



Mirror Carp and Golden Orfe 
Horse Leech
23rd Friday – a damp day but not enough to prevent us walking.  The slight rain seems to bring out the Horse Leech – we saw four in the pools on the path near to Quarter Wall.  Our route took us over the top of the quarries east of the Hospital where we were surprised to count around 50 Rhododendron seedlings there.  No were flowering, unlike the one that had been secretly growing in a thicket near the Heligoland trap and was instantly cut down by the ranger, but all have been reported for treatment.
In the afternoon, we visited Rocket Pole Pond at the request of Jenny George who had seen fish there the previous week.  Our stale bread brought a flurry of activity when we were able to count at least two Mirror Carp and up to 20 immature blue Golden Orfe.

24th Saturday – a sad day as it was our last, but I had arranged with Simon Dell to help lead a group of TARS (The Arthur Ransome Society) members to Jenny’s Cove.  The small clump of Wood Vetch was had begun to bloom and Lundy Cabbage was displaying its attendant Flea Beetle. 
Lundy Cabbage and Flea Beetles
Moon Jellyfish
Whilst waiting for the Oldenburg, I was able to photograph three different types of jellyfish from the jetty Moon Jelly Aurelia aurata, Comb Jelly Ctenophore sp and Predatory Comb Jelly Beroe cucumis.  The walk was most successful; around 20 people were route marched to Jenny’s in 1 hour, spent their lunch hour observing puffins and then back via Punchbowl Valley, Earthquake, Battery and Old Light for a welcome pint in the Marisco Tavern.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Red in tooth and claw

I caught sight of a Magpie as I was working at the table in front of the patio doors. I thought a Magpie that close to the house being very brave. Then I heard a lot of noise from squawking birds.

The Magpie had gone for a juvenile blackbird and mother was having a fit.

I rushed out, followed, by the dog to rescue the unfortunate bird – the magpie flew off after giving it a hefty peck, the dog ran around barking and mother blackbird flew away alarm calling while one of our chickens determined to have a go too.

I picked up the young bird which was still but moving and placed it in a place of safety but it slowly expired.

So my actions still resulted in a dead blackbird but also deprived magpie nestlings of a meal.


In future, I will just let nature take its course

Friday, 9 May 2014

Hundreds of Hawking Hirundines

Wild Strawberry
Today was really very windy with a strong westerly wind blowing off the Atlantic. Nevertheless a walk around Upper Tamar Lake in the bright sunshine was worth trying.

The first 10 minutes was quite cold with the wind chill, but around the more sheltered eastern branch, amongst the trees it was quite sheltered. Here were many Wild Strawberries – much taller and with bigger leaves than the early flowering Barren Strawberries and with the equal length terminal serrated tip to the leaf.

Canada Goose and goslings
The lake had lost most of its wetland birds with only a few Herring Gulls, a pair of Great Crested Grebe and a family of Canada Geese; parents and five goslings. The lake was host to hundreds of hawking Hirundines replacing them. There was over a hundred of them – almost exclusively Swallows skimming the lake and fields hoovering up the emerging flying insects. Among them were a few House Martins and Swifts though.

Green-veined White
The strong wind blew most of the butterflies beyond recognition distance for they were all “whites”. At least one of them sheltering amongst the foliage was a Green-veined White.


I was pleased to put me recent bird ringing experience to good use. I had handled a few Sedge Warblers so was able to identify, first by song then by sight one by the edge of the lake. The lemon supercilium above an olive eye-stripe and orange-yellow gape as it sang made identification certain.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

A Beautiful Square

Ammonite in Stowe Barton wall
I think I have the best Breeding Bird 1 kilometre square of all. Yesterday I finalised the two transects I will walk in early May and late June to record the species that I identify as breeding birds. The start of my first transect is near Stowe Barton the home of one of England's great military families – the Grenvilles. The wall famously features an ancient piece of natural history, a fossilised ammonite. 


Snails
 Sir John Grenville served with Drake at the time of the Armada and his grandson Sir Bevil lost his life at the battle of Stamford Hill during the English Civil War. My picture shows typical Brown-lipped snail activity, climbing to the top of any vertical natural feature with satellite dishes in the near distance. From here it crosses cliff top farmland before crossing two streams that empty into the Atlantic near Sandymouth on the North Cornish Coast.

The second transect commences from the the National Trust café at Sandymouth and follows the South West Coastal Footpath north towards Duckpool. The ground is open, grassy and occasionally dotted with Gorse. I was fortunate to see carpets of Spring Squill on the cliff top as well as Dove's-foot Cranesbill. Although I was concentrating on establishing the 10x200m legs of the transect; where they start and finish and the habitat, I did note a few birds, the most obvious were Buzzard, Wheatear, Linnet, Skylark, Robin, Blackbird, Herring Gull, Swallow and Jackdaw. No mammals were about in mid afternoon, but Badger setts and Rabbit warrens along the cliff hold out promise on my early morning surveys. I am expecting lots of species on the close-cropped cliff tops and adjacent Atlantic rocky beach and cliffs if I can keep my eyes away from the scenery.