Dunnock

Prunella modularis

(pp.174–175)

Selected new records

2011

Summary

In spite of the extremely low numbers recorded during the first few months of the year (ones and twos only), breeding was proven when an adult carrying food was seen in lower Millcombe on 3 May (R. Campey). As usual, numbers reached a peak – albeit a modest one – in Oct, with seven on 3rd. Although the clearance of rhododendron has reduced the extent of suitable nesting habitat, the ‘dead hedges’ of rhodie brashings and developing scrub between St Helen’s Copse and the Terrace continue to provide opportunities for this species outside of Millcombe.

2012

Summary

During the period 29 May to 2 Jun, a pair carrying food was seen below the Beach Road south of the small Turkey Oak clump, an adult was seen in Millcombe and another along the Lower East Side Path. The island’s breeding population was estimated as one to three pairs (Tim Davis & Tim Jones). Once again, the peak count of the year – seven – was recorded in Oct, perhaps reflecting increased observer coverage in that month, but maybe also a degree of movement through the island. Given that the island population is now very small, the ringing records during the year (data supplied by Tony Taylor) are of particular interest: an adult male retrapped in spring had originally been ringed on Lundy as a first-year bird in Sep 2009. Two other adults, caught in early autumn, were undergoing their annual full moult and were therefore likely to be resident birds. Four first-year birds were ringed in Sep.

2013

Summary

The island’s small breeding population seems to be holding its own, with a max spring total of seven singing males (Millcombe and the Lower East Side Path as far north as the Terrace). The highest counts of the year were nine on 22 Oct and ten on 26 Nov.

2014

Summary

Three singing males were present in early Jun, but there was no earlier spring survey and no confirmation of successful breeding. The highest count was six on 24 & 25 Oct. Seven different individuals were handled by ringers in 2014; three adults (two retraps from previous years) and four birds of the year.

2015

Summary

The highest count in spring was six on 15 Apr. During the period May–Jul, song was heard in Millcombe and St John’s Valley (two singing against each other on 28 May), from below the Terrace and at St Helen’s Copse. However there was no confirmation of breeding, or even evidence of nesting. Although first-year birds were trapped in the autumn, these could have dispersed or migrated from the mainland; a possibility underlined by the apparent influx of birds in Oct, when nine were logged on 14th, and seven on 15th & 28th. Thorough coverage of suitable habitat during Sep had yielded only single birds on just four dates.

2016

Summary

No counts reached double digits. The spring max was four on 6 Mar and 4 Apr. During late May and the first half of Jun, single birds were recorded in Millcombe and on the Terrace. Breeding was confirmed with a record of a recently fledged juvenile in late Jul. Autumn counts peaked at five on 13 Sep and seven on 20 Nov. Nine indivduals were handled by ringers during the year.

2017

Summary – notable counts in both spring and autumn

There were signs of birds passing through the island in late Mar, with counts of eight on 22nd and 11 on 27th – the latter the highest count for Lundy since 2005. This total was exceeded in the autumn when there were 13 on 9 Oct (the highest since Oct 2004), and eight or nine on six other dates during Oct, suggestive of both a good breeding season and some passage movement. Successful breeding confirmed: song was heard in lower Millcombe on 30 Apr and a pair were feeding fledged young by the gas store in on 21 May, when there were two males singing in Millcombe (Tim Davis & Tim Jones). A territory-holding singing male was heard between the Terrace and Quarry Beach on 30 Apr and in the same area in late May, and one was singing above White Beach on 22 May.

2018

Summary

One was carrying nesting material in Smelly Gully (lower Millcombe) on 4 May and an adult was taking food to chicks in upper Millcombe on 2 & 31 May. On 2 Jun there was a singing male near Brambles stream, a pair carrying food just below Smelly Gully dam and an adult feeding fledged young by Millcombe gates. Further singing males were noted just north of St Helen’s Copse and just south of Quarter Wall Copse on 3 Jun. Altogether, there were three nests in Millcombe, one below the Terrace and a possible nest along the Lower East Side Path above White Beach (Dean Jones). There were hints of a small post-breeding or autumn passage influx, with counts reaching 11 on 24 Sep and 19 Oct.

2019

Summary

An encouraging year, with good overwinter survival apparent and double-digit counts in seven months, peaking at 16 on both 19 Oct and 25 Dec. Breeding confirmed: at least four pairs in Millcombe, one at St Helen’s Combe, one above White Beach, one near South Light, one below the Terrace and another at Quarter Wall Copse. Adults were feeding chicks at nests in Millcombe on 2 & 27 May, and fledglings were seen on 7 Jun.

 

Ringing

Ringing control: The previously suspected occurrence of at least some autumn passage of Dunnocks through Lundy was confirmed when a first-year bird ringed on Lundy on 14 October 2010 (ring no.L037967) was recaptured on the Wirral Peninsula, Merseyside on 08 April 2011 (176 days; 267 km; NNE 23°). The BTO Migration Atlas shows that British-bred Dunnocks are extremely sedentary – more than 95% staying within 1 km of their place of hatching. Continental Dunnocks are, however, highly migratory and this recovery raises the intriguing thought of a bird moving north west from Central Europe, to winter in the British Isles, in the manner of many Central European Blackcaps.

 

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