Tuesday, 10 May 2016

A Trip to Lundy and a New Butterfly

Saturday 7th May and it was off to North Devon for the weekend for the DBWPS boat trip to Lundy. The last 2 times I have been on the trip have been disastrous with the weather being wet, windy and misty, and so I was hoping 3rd time would be the charm and it certainly was.

On the drive to Ilfracombe for an overnight stay we stopped off at Okehampton Castle, somewhere I haven't visited before. It was very interesting and very picturesque and I managed to see male orange tips and my first large white of the year.

Large White, Okehampton Castle

A pied flycatcher, a willow warbler, a grey wagtail and a chiffchaff were heard but not seen but I did see a marsh tit, a raven and a siskin, and it was nice to see the bluebells blooming in the woodlands.

 Okehampton Castle

Okehampton Castle Bluebells

Continuing north and we stopped off for a walk and a look around Meeth Quarry, a Devon Wildlife Trust reserve. I was hoping to see wood white which are found at the reserve but with no details of where they are present and with the reserve being very large I wasn't sure if I would be successful. However as we walked off into the reserve from the car park I saw some white butterflies flitting along a woodland ride and on getting near to them I was delighted to see they were indeed wood whites - mission accomplished! I managed to get some lovely views of at least 4 wood whites, a new butterfly for me - small and dainty with a weak, fluttery flight and being investigated by male orange tips, large whites and a green veined white allowing good comparisons.

 Wood White, Meeth Quarry

 Wood White

 Wood White

 Wood White

Green Veined White, Meeth Quarry

A common lizard, a peacock butterfly, 2 green tiger beetles and early purple orchids were also seen along with a male goosander, a male tufted duck, 3 little grebes and 2 coots on the flooded quarry pit. A green woodpecker continuously yaffled and a blackcap did a good impression of a garden warbler before revealing itself amongst the willows although a second bird singing nearby probably was a garden warbler but I couldn't find it in the undergrowth.

 Green Tiger Beetle, Meeth Quarry

Early Purple Orchid, Meeth Quarry

We carried on to Ilfracombe, my first visit here, and it was very nice, a typical English seaside town surrounded by dramatic cliffs. We stayed in the Ocean Backpackers hostel, I was a little unsure about it when I booked it but it was actually very nice. Unfortunately the same couldn't be said for the dickheads staying there who decided to have a party at 1:30am and who were rude and abusive when I asked them to turn the music off. The music did stay off but they made loads of noise until 5am and I hardly slept a wink, and with no management onsite overnight there wasn't much I could do about it.

The MS Oldenberg left Ilfracombe at 8am the next morning and it was cool and breezey with occasional sunny spells. I felt rough from a lack of sleep and being wound up by the whole overnight situation but I carried on and had a really good day. We met my mate Mavis on the boat and tucked in to bacon sandwiches as we sailed off to Lundy. From the boat we saw gannets, fulmars, guillemots, razorbills, kittiwakes and Manx shearwaters along with herring, lesser black backed and greater black backed gulls and swallows. The Manx shearwaters were mostly distant and took a bit of searching for but we did get a few nice views and they were a new bird for Mavis.

Arriving at Lundy and we took a cruise around the island which I had never done before and we managed to get some good views of puffins on the sea and on the cliffs although again they were a little distant but another new bird for Mavis.

Distant Puffins with Guillemots, Lundy

After a rough landing at the quay in the increasing wind and swell and a spotted flycatcher, blackcaps and chiffchaffs were seen on the walk up Millcombe Valley. We did find some Lundy cabbage, an endemic plant to the island, but its flowers were yet to open. After a pasty and a pint in the Marisco Inn it was off to bird and explore, starting with a return to Millcombe Valley to look for a reported turtle dove. No luck with the dove but we did find more spotted flycatchers, mobile and flighty but with 3 seen together at one point.

 Spotted Flycatcher, Lundy

Spotted Flycatcher, Lundy

A walk along the clifftop along the east of the island was abandoned due to the blown out conditions from the strong south easterly breeze and so we headed off to Jennys Cove on the west side of the island to look for puffins, seeing a male stonechat, meadow pipits, skylarks and wheatears on the way. I actually managed to see the large pool of Pondsbury where 2 male mallard and assorted gulls were bathing - my previous visits had been so misty I hadn't even seen it as I walked by. We also had some nice views of 6 sika deer feeding out in the open amongst the sheep but they were very nervy and eventually ran off to cover.

Sika Deer, Lundy

Sika Deer with Sheep, Lundy

Jennys Cove was packed with birders watching the puffins, the birds were resting on the cliffs and disappearing in and out of their burrows but most were flying around and resting on the sea - there were many more present than on my last 2 visits, no doubt increasing due to the rat eradication programme over the past few years.

Distant Puffins at Jennys Cove

Also seen were kittiwakes, guillemots, razorbills and shags and it was good to hear the kittiwakes kittiwaking and the auks grunting and growling on the cliffs. A small and dark male peregrine soared around the cliffs spooking all the puffins away to sea and as I could see David in the distance heading towards the lighthouse I left Mavis to enjoy the birds and joined him, seeing more wheatears along the way along with starlings, house sparrows and a male pied wagtail.

Male Wheatear with coloured leg rings

After a quick cup of tea in the Inn it was time to head back down to the quay for the trip home. I kept an eye open for the turtle dove but again with no luck but I did see a very smart wood warbler. It was found by a group of birders but was elusive and tricky to pin down as it moved through the leaves and branches of the trees, not helped by the constant flitting about of blackcaps and spotted flycatchers in the trees as well. Eventually it showed very well in the lower bare branches of a tree, lovely views and good to see after dipping at Yarner Wood recently. A redpoll was heard cha-cha-cha-ing as it flew over but I didn't see it.

Wood Warbler, Lundy (Photo courtesy of DBWPS Website)

From the Quay as we boarded the boat 2 Sandwich terns were fishing offshore and a gannet passed by and on the trip back to Ilfracombe we saw the usual birds - a few gannets, fulmars, kittiwakes, guillemots, razorbills and Manx shearwaters, along with a large grey seal but unfortunately no dolphins or porpoises. The Manxies were again quite unobtrusive and distant which was a shame.

And so it had been a tiring but very enjoyable experience, the weather was much better than my previous visits but the wind did hamper the birding with the conditions being quite blown out. And with grasshopper warbler, garden warbler, cuckoo, marsh harrier, whinchat, whimbrel and storm petrel also reported on the day I guess I will just have to go on the trip again.

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