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Lundy Island, Devon 13/10/20 - 15/10/20 (1 Viewer)

wolfbirder

Well-known member
A short trip to Lundy Island was made at short notice, due to the presence of a near mythical bird for me, a White's Thrush. I had fallen in love with the mottled plumage of this species, having seen superb photos of an individual hopping around on a lawn on Shetland in 2014. The Lundy bird had been present for several days, so I thought I had a chance of connecting if I could get there.

Lundy Island should mean something to this Wolverhampton lad, because Wolves previous (and now deceased) owner Sir Jack Hayward had bought the island in 1969 for £150,000 and then donated it to the National Trust. I'm not sure what exactly that purchase secured back then, but there are some beautifully restored buildings at the top of Millcombe Valley around the village and also the adjacent coast, so I am sure it was all worthwhile.

The way to get to Lundy is by the steamer 'MS Oldenburg' that undertakes day-trips 2-3 times a week, departing at 10am, or you can opt to stay in accommodation, even at short notice if any is available. The boat normally carries up to 300 people, but at present is restricted to just 88, due to coronavirus. The Landmark Trust handle any bookings, and when I rang them last Monday I could have gone on Tuesday on a day-trip for £44 return, meaning you arrive at 12 noon and return at 4pm (you have to start your walk down to the boat about 3.15pm at latest), or alternatively still depart Tuesday but stay for two nights returning Thursday, for a total of £274. I opted for the latter as in reality, day-trippers only have 3 hours to bird after the walk to and from the boat is taken into consideration. Though you can only stay over "if" you book accommodation, and I was lucky that one of the accommodation's available was still left when I booked at short notice, and thankfully there were still just a few seats available on the boat too.

The boat departs from either Bideford or Ilfracombe, dependent on the state of the tide, and you must check by phoning an information line after 8pm the night before departure, to confirm definite departure (can be cancelled if weather is bad), and where it departs from. Conversely, if the weather dictates that departing from Lundy is too difficult for the boat to dock to take you back to the mainland, helicopters replace them. The 12-mile journey to the island takes around two hours by boat. I am not sure if boats continue to operate during the harsh winter months.

You can find everything you need to know about visiting Lundy on this webpage: -

https://www.landmarktrust.org.uk/lundyisland/

On arrival at the quayside on Lundy, you can I believe, order a lift to your accommodation, but a gentle 20-minute walk gradually uphill is otherwise necessary to take you to the small village that contains the small office next to the Marisco Pub, where you should register your arrival if staying over, and a convenience store (which is open at specific times - see notice in window) is nearby. You can even hire one of the two 'all-terrain trampers' to get across the island - these are in effect like mobility scooters and it is certainly something I will look into if I visit again. I would love to fully explore the island at my own tranquil pace without the crippling backache and knee problems that afflict me after a full day walking and carrying the scope. I am indeed one lazy barsteward. Mind you, it wouldn't be capable of negotiating the narrow tracks around Millcome Valley. The island is three miles in length and less than a mile wide, so it is easy to explore all points.

The walk up to the village from the boat takes you on a good track up-hill through Millcombe Valley, with a series of small paths off it that take you through different sections of the densely-vegetated valley on either side. Most of this valley comprises low scrub, with a small number of trees set on either side. Once at the village, the walk across the island is flat, but the White's Thrush, as advised by the really helpful warden on arrival, was favouring a specific patch around and underneath a fallen tree on the left side of Millcombe Valley. All the local birders were really helpful, notably so. So that is where the twenty or so birders from the arriving boat on the 13th headed.

After pointing out the fallen tree in question, the warden nevertheless added "but it has not been seen today". So the enthusiasm levels dropped. Whilst I took a short break on a bench after the up-hill walk and with knees already aching, several others spread out along the narrow path that led to the fallen tree. There was no action for the next hour, but then someone signalled that they had just had the White's Thrush in flight. Suddenly the gathering of birders increased from four to about twelve, and I scrambled carefully down some steps to join them. At this point, some unfortunate sole tumbled backward off the narrow path, but despite what was quite a heavy fall down the bank, he dusted himself down and was back on the path within seconds, announcing that "a few nettle stings aren't gonna stop me birding". We spread out in a long line, and over the next few minutes the bird showed twice more in flight just twenty metres away, revealing its distinctive underwing pattern.

I have always considered that in these frantic situations, birders can be divided into two distinct camps - firstly those cool, collected, totally-unphased birding dudes who stand quietly and seem to soak in every detail, and secondly, bungling, drooling, Private Fraser-types who are more reminiscent of a teenager popping his cherry for the first time. Sadly, I am ashamed to say that I fall into the latter category, I can't help it, I just become momentarily overwhelmed with adrenalin and excitement. It admittedly makes me a piss-poor birder should the truth be known, a fact not enhanced by deteriorating hearing and gradually-failing eyesight. I also lose my balance when stood on narrow paths looking up, and my mobility is increasingly suspect. In short, don't bird with me :-.

But............I don't care, its my personal passion and I mean no offence to anyone.

Some of those birding dudes I categorised managed to see the bird alight briefly before dropping down, after it flew for a second time, whilst I was still lifting my binoculars. At this point however, I think it is fair to say that we were all optimistic, as we knew exactly where it landed. But amazingly, despite close scrutinisation of the exact spot, it failed to show again that day. Most of the gathering had left at 3.30pm as they were day-trippers, and I apologise if I may have exuded a little bit of a smug look (albeit a false one as it turned out), when they left. By 5.30pm, I had had enough, and thought I ought to make my way to my accommodation at 'Tibbetts' which is half-way along the island, a walk of about half-an-hour and one and a quarter miles. I suspect its late availability had a lot to do with the fact that it was so isolated. A very-pale Icelandic-type female Merlin was scoped as I made my way along the track past the farm, and then through gates at quarter-mile wall and then half-mile wall.

Tibbetts is an old watch-house that is totally isolated, just past half-mile wall. It has no electricity. It can accommodate four people and is fully functional, with wc and shower, small kitchen with fridge and gas cooker / whistling kettle and all necessary utensils, bedroom with four bunk-beds, and a superb, charismatic living room with chairs and small table. It has cupboards full of different stuff............board games, playing cards, extra blankets, all sorts of plates, dishes, and cups and glasses. It has also has an interesting selection of books to read, including "The Birds of Lundy Island". The property has a wood-burning stove, but that was beyond me and was too much hassle to carry wood from the village to the property (though you can order stuff to be delivered I believe). But there is no TV, radio, or other mod cons. Best of all though, wi-fi is surprisingly excellent there, but of course you cannot charge your phone. Gas lighting is actually easy to use, you simply raise a lighted match and turn the knobs as you would on a gas cooker, there is no ignition so you have to manually light each gas light. Being a naive city-boy, I sat in the dark on my first night, too scared to light a match by them in case I blew the place up:-O. I had taken limited food with me including a carton of milk, tea-bags, cereal, two pasties and two small cans of beans for my two evening meals, and bought some cans of beer at the shop. So that first night I sat in the dark drinking a few cans of Stella thinking "what the **** am I doing here?". But the views over the sea were excellent on both sides. It was extremely atmospheric.

Strong winds kept me awake part of the night, and it was nothing to do with the beer and beans. I was out into the easterly winds by 7am on Wednesday 14th, walking back to the village and Millcombe Valley. I spent the whole day over-looking the patch under the fallen tree that the White's Thrush favoured - between 8am-4.45pm, but in howling winds that specifically seemed to thrash the vegetation by the tree, I knew I would be lucky to see it. I enjoyed a pint in the Marisco pub, and spoke to the lovely bar-maid who told me she had worked on Ascension Island recently. At that point, I knew I shouldn't bother talking about my own ornithological highlights to Mallorca or Cyprus, which made me reflect that approaching 60 years of age, I really hadn't seen too much of the world :smoke:.

Back out in the wind, the White's Thrush all-too-predictably failed to show at all, this had indeed been a feature of its stay over several days, and in fact quite typical behaviour of the species. A lovely Yellow-Browed Warbler showed in a field, and I found my own one as I walked back to Tibbetts at 5pm. But the real highlight was the raptor activity on the walk back, involving around five Merlin sightings. These super-charged miniatures created havoc, chasing Starling flocks and infact any passerine that was present in the sheep-fields or pig-pen adjacent to the farm. Spectacular birding! One female popped up onto a wall just ten metres away, allowing supreme study. A female Sparrowhawk also emerged, squabbling with one of the Carrion Crows in the field. At quarter-mile wall, I 'ummed and arred' about going through the gate, as a dozen long-horned cattle stood immediately on the other side. These beasts look far more intimidating than they actually are, and they barely moved or even looked at me as I walked past them just a few feet away, whilst clenching my buttocks closely.

Back at Tibbetts, pie and beans and beer again, and this time I successfully turned the gas lights on. No wind that night either.

On Thursday 15th October, I was again out at 7am, noting up to forty Sika Deer a few hundred metres away, and then a wonderful stag silhouetted against the horizon by the rising sun as I made my way towards Millcombe Valley again. There was no sign of the cattle but several wild horses freaked me out a bit, especially one that decided to follow me, and I found myself zig-zagging the track to avoid it and I even said "What the **** do yow want?". Can't believe I was talking to a bloody horse, there's no way it will understand a Wolverhampton accent I thought :)-.

Thankfully the winds were also much calmer in the valley. It had been a clear, starry night and I thought if a bird was due to go overnight, then that was it! I briefly joined local vis-miggers at the top of the valley as much was moving around as dawn broke, but quickly moved down to the path looking-up at the patch under the fallen tree again. I noticed a couple of Blackbirds, and then in one of the two obvious gaps everyone had been scrutinising underneath the fallen tree, up popped the White's Thrush........ onto a low branch a foot or two at most off the ground. It stayed there for around five seconds, just twenty metres away, in more or less full view, before dropping down again and out of sight. I barely had time to register and process what I had seen, it all happened so quickly and suddenly, but I was elated. Views were not perfect, they were 'not' the much-hoped-for full-body, sunlit views highlighting that gorgeous patchwork of gold, black, and white, but I could see all of the bird except the lower belly and legs, as it faced me head-on, though slightly to one side. The beautiful underparts and gleaming white eye-rings, along with the distinctive stance and profile all stood out for me. It failed to show again by the time I left at 3.20pm, but nevertheless I was delighted, and if you don't mind me saying, I felt justly rewarded for around twenty hours of staring at a bush. I had enjoyed views for about ten seconds in all, at most. But White's Thrush is on my list. Do I need to get a life? Undoubtedly:t:

I left Millcombe Valley for the boat at about 3.20pm, and the boat journey home at 4pm was much calmer than the spew-ridden outward journey (not me thankfully).

White's Thrush aside, what else was there to delight the birders on Lundy Island? Today was undoubtedly the best of all, plenty of thrushes moving around especially Redwings of which there were a few hundred passing through or roosting and feeding, but also Fieldfares, Blackbirds, a couple of Song Thrushes, Mistle Thrush, a superb male Ring Ouzel, 2 Yellow-Browed Warblers, Chaffinches galore, Siskins, Robins, fly-over Brambling and 2 Lesser Redpolls, Skylarks, Swallows, Garden Warbler, plenty of Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs, Goldcrests, Goldfinches, Kestrel, the pair of resident Peregrines, a pair of Stonechats, Rock Pipit, and finally omni-present 'tumbling' resident Ravens overhead (I counted a maximum of 9 birds at any one time). Meadow Pipits and Linnets were found up on the plain. Just 42 species were seen over three days, and I apparently missed Hawfinch and Crossbill overhead too. But I was obviously concentrating on the thrush, at the expence of everything else. I did see a Coal Tit and male Great Spotted Woodpecker, both fairly unusual here. Water Rails infrequently called, which felt unusual but was probably not.

Lundy Island was a great experience, though it is more famous for its Manx Shearwater breeding colony at the appropriate time of year, and its Grey Seals. It struck me just how few gulls were on the island itself, feeding on the sheep fields for instance, I saw none! And that there appeared to be no Magpies nor Wood Pigeons on the island. A couple of Dolphins were seen from the boat, plus 40 Guillemots, several Kittiwakes, 20 Common Scoters, and gulls.

I must return!

Finally, a few crappy photos to set the scene...........

1) Millcombe Valley
2) The Marisco Pub at the top of the valley in the village, with the small office to the right where you register if staying overnight.
3) The favoured White's Thrush patch under the fallen tree in Millcombe Valley.
4) The track to Tibbetts, which is larger than it looks on the photo.
5) Living room in Tibbetts.
 

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Richard Prior

Halfway up an Alp
Europe
Lovely atmospheric report Nick and well done on the thrush.
I think that after a supper of beer and beans I would have been wary of lighting a match for the gas lamps too;)
 

wolfbirder

Well-known member
Lovely atmospheric report Nick and well done on the thrush.
I think that after a supper of beer and beans I would have been wary of lighting a match for the gas lamps too;)

Ha, indeed Richard, many thanks mate:t:

Just a couple more photos to finish with.............

1) Gas lighting in Tibbetts living room.
2) Should I enter or not? Long-horned cattle on the way to Tibbetts.
 

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Scridifer

Registered User
Supporter
Bulgaria
Congratulations on the White's Nick and many thanks for another great trip report! A delight to read, I love the sound of Tibbets - it looks like a wonderful place to stay!

Chris
 

wolfbirder

Well-known member
Congratulations on the White's Nick and many thanks for another great trip report! A delight to read, I love the sound of Tibbets - it looks like a wonderful place to stay!

Chris

Overly kind words as usual Chris. It was defintely an experience I will cherish.
 

Farnboro John

Well-known member
Well done and a well written report that I enjoyed: a couple of day trips to Lundy but never stayed. Maybe in the future...

Good show and congrats on the White's Thrush!

John
 

Jon Turner

Well-known member
I also only had brief views in flight and once on a couple of trees not far away (on the other side of the valley). It will for sure go down as bird of the year - one of those that the three of us who go to Scilly have wished for over the last 3 decades. Am writing this as we prepare to leave Scilly yet again, typically with just one new bird - the Buff-bellied Pipit. But we have had a rain free week, with only one short shower as we enjoyed the Swainson's Thrush on day one.

So well done for the planning and execution. It sure was worth it.
 

Deb Burhinus

Used to be well known! 😎
Europe
Great read and down to earth report Nick ( ‘no trying to be a dude’ dialogue which is refreshing ;)) - brought back some memories!
 

Merlin

Well-known member
Hi Nick

Great report and you brought back so many memories of my Lundy trips, I first went in 1971 (I am I really that old?)
What with a new mortgage and my son just born money was very tight then so I sold a couple of things in a local auction to help pay for the trip in 1972. I spent nearly all my money on a Puffin soft toy that was made on the island and as a result went without meals but it was worth it, he still has that Puffin and I bought another Puffin for my other son six years later.

I have been in Tibbets but not stayed there and in the early years it felt like Tibbets was so isolated, people called it 'Injun country'.
If my memory is correct (which is not always the case) I have been to Lundy over seventy times and reading your report just opened a floodgate of memories of this great place. Sadly I have not been for sometime maybe your report will prompt me to return soon, before I snuff it?

best regards
Merlin
 

wolfbirder

Well-known member
Hi Nick

Great report and you brought back so many memories of my Lundy trips, I first went in 1971 (I am I really that old?)
What with a new mortgage and my son just born money was very tight then so I sold a couple of things in a local auction to help pay for the trip in 1972. I spent nearly all my money on a Puffin soft toy that was made on the island and as a result went without meals but it was worth it, he still has that Puffin and I bought another Puffin for my other son six years later.

I have been in Tibbets but not stayed there and in the early years it felt like Tibbets was so isolated, people called it 'Injun country'.
If my memory is correct (which is not always the case) I have been to Lundy over seventy times and reading your report just opened a floodgate of memories of this great place. Sadly I have not been for sometime maybe your report will prompt me to return soon, before I snuff it?

best regards
Merlin

That's great to hear Merlin, and yes they still sell Puffin memorabelia in the shop.

I really enjoyed the place, admittedly I was only there for a twitch, but I also felt it was a fantastic experience. So pleased I have been before I snuff it too mate:-O

Get yourself back there sooner rather than later!:t:
 

MKinHK

Mike Kilburn
Hong Kong
Another top report that builds the travails of human existence (the winds of fortune or flatulence) into the excitement of a multi-day twitch - great stuff!

And congratulations on nailing the bird. I 'm fortunate enough to see them most winters here in Hong Kong and they have always been a favourite, albeit not one that often shows brilliantly.

In honour of your seeing it here's a shot of my most recent one - from February in Hong Kong - that is at least sat on a branch rather than a fence or a fist like the other shots from the UK this autumn.

Cheers
Mike
 

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wolfbirder

Well-known member
Cheers Mike. Much appreciated.

Wow if I had seen it fully naked like that I would have been even more thrilled. They are simply beautful birds & one day I hope to see the upperparts of a White's Thrush too :)-.
 

wolfbirder

Well-known member
I attach 3 wonderfully atmospheric photos plus 1 of the bird from: -

www.lundybirds.blogspot.com

I have permission to use any photos from the fantastic blog - so there are 3 beautiful atmospheric photos taken by Tim Jones, and 1 from warden Dean Jones who took the White's Thrush photo. They help promote the beauty of the island I feel................check out their wonderful blog.

1) Dawn and sunrise from the top of Millcombe Valley - a great spot to carry out vis-migging. The quay where you catch the boat can just be seen, below, in the sheltered harbour (Tim Jones).
2) View across the island looking towards Tibbetts (the building in the distance) - my walk from the village each evening (Tim Jones).
3) Beautiful view across Millcombe Valley, with the majestic villa Millcombe House the obvious building looking down over the valley, and then the village at the top (Tim Jones).
4) The bird of my dreams! The White's Thrush showing its beautiful plumage and white eye-rings (Dean Jones)
 

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wolfbirder

Well-known member
Made us laugh out loud when I read it to Sarah and glad you got the bird.

It was the only way i could adequately express how I reacted Dave :)-.

Actually, I want to feel that way, it's why I get a buzz from birding. Very similar to my beloved Wolves scoring a goal. Perhaps I shouldn't equate it to footy, but its a good comparison in some ways because its the nearest feeling. Only if you support a team closely, will you know what I mean.

After I connected, I ran back along the path and tried to wave up the hill to the 3 locals vis-migging but for some reason I just couldnt catch their attention.............I must have looked like a schoolboy doing star-jumps, I was so excited.

Thank you mate. Glad it brought a little smile to your face.
 
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