As it turns out we had the quietest crossing to Scilly for a week either side, with not much seen from the Scillonian III, at all, 2-4 Common scoter, 3 Sooty shearwater, 3 Grey phalaropes 1 Basking shark, 6+ Common dolphin and a few harbour porpoise
The first birds of note were virtually upon arrival as 2 Spoonbill could be seen, from St Mary’s quay, on the beach in front of the Abbey on Tresco, before they flew off and circled higher and higher as we watched and eventually drifted off, as it turns out not to return, now although spoonbill may not be the greatest rarity ever they are far from common in the autumn on Scilly. Also in the same area were 5 little egret and a Peregrine falcon. The first big bird (well for me anyway) was a stunning male Rustic bunting that gave brief but good views in farm fields near Cairn Friars farm, a tick for me, Scilly was going to be good this year I could almost smell it! A Short-eared owl gave nice views as it roosted in the lowest branches of a conifer by Sandy lane.
The day started well with a first winter Mediteranean gull loafing around Old town bay, a Jack snipe from the first hide in Lower moors feeding on a small tussock, with a few Common snipe and a Water rail. Before a trip to Tresco, where a Black-tailed godwit of the race Icalandica was being discussed by Mark Golly. As well as a male Scaup and 2 female Pintail. An arduous walk, to Castle down provided some nice views of Black redstart and Wheatear and a stunning Dotterel running around the heather, Also noting 2 Great skuas passing by. On the far side of Tresco sitting quietly and very still in one of Borough farms small fields was a Herring gull that was of the American race, and appeared to be very dark. Also nearby was a red-legged partridge. On the return walk to the Quay, whilst passing the David Hunt hide, along the side of the great pool, A close birding friend of mine (Simon Nichols) alerted me to the presence of a Firecrest. Which turned out to be the last good bird of the day.
The first birds of note today where a Whimbrel sitting in Old town bay and some very distant shearwaters that were reported to be Great shearwater which would have been a tick for me had I been close enough to truly identify them! These were followed by a boat trip across to St Martins and to a lovely first winter Citrine wagtail flitting and feeding along the beach right next to the quay.
After a long walk across the middle of St Martins (and a brief encounter with an odd looking snipe) My friends and I arrived at the Day mark and settled down for a spot of sea-watching which finally provided tickable views of Great shearwater in a flock of 10 and views of a few Sooty shearwater as the swept past.
The beaches of St Martins are a great are to check out as a stunning Wryneck was spending quite a lot of its time feeding on rocks and bushes at the edge of one of the beaches near the quay, with Peregrine falcon, Wheatear and Black redstart also nearby.
Back on St Mary’s a fine Lapland bunting put in an appearance on the airfield while and Adult med gull could be seen on Porthloo beach.
An early morning walk around the Garrison provided some excellent views of a male Black redstart perched on Star castle, but the rest of the day was a complete wash out. Too wet and windy for anything to hang around.
A bit of a dull overcast day that started with a Common tern in Porthcressa bay, followed by a walk up along the Penninis trail, where I saw a flyover Richards pipit calling as it went, I was the only person in the area at the time but there had been a pipit reported there before so it may have been the same individual. Next came a distant Ortolan bunting seen by some 300 observers in its first morning.
A walk through Holy vale produced excellent views of Yellow-browed warbler feeding with a crest flock and a stunning Wood warbler and a fewBlackcap, Firecrest, reed warblerand Chiffchaff. As well as distant views of a male Ring ouzel on the airfield from Buzza hill.
After hearing of a Ring-necked duck circling the island, I finally caught up with the bird sitting on the sea from Porthloo beach, providing me with a great view of this American duck.
The next event of the day was a total surprise to me, whilst walking up rocky hill keeping my eye open for Pied flycatcher I spotted a small Sylvia warbler on a distant wall, upon raising my bins I instantly recognised it as a male Subalpine Warbler, unfortunately I was only privileged enough to have a few very brief views of the bird and only 1 other person saw it, but it was enough to make my day (the bird has been accepted by the BBRC)
The first 2 and a half hours of the day were spent, stood, watching and waiting for the Subalpine warbler of the previous day to show, but it never did. However in the area there was Pied flycatcher, Spotted flycatcher, 2 Blackcaps and a Firecrest.
After unsuccessful walks around Penninis and Old town a walk up to Giants castle, provided one of the moments to go down in Scilly history, a Corncrake had been seen and had taken cover in a patch of gorse no larger than 2 meters square, suddenly from under the gorse there was movement, and out popped a head, but not as some would expect a birds head no, this was a human head and then a body as someone tried to coerce the crake into the open! Eventually the bird showed very well and gave all around good views.
After a walk through Holy vale and half an hour wasted looking for R.B Fly, my friends and I ended up at Inesigin Burial mound, where after barely sitting down a first winter Mediteranian gull flew past, then I spotted a diver fly by and then land on the sea, it turned out to be a Red-throated Diver and led to a minor twitch (I was told at the time it was only the 9th record for Scilly).
the rest of the days birds of note were Barred warbler on Salakee lane, 3 Lapwing a Reed warbler as well as yellow-browed warbler and Firecrest and a Sparrowhawk flying over.
A trip over to St Agnes in search of Bluethroat started well with a nice Common whitethroat in bushes along the path , a Lapland bunting on Castella down a stunning male Redstart, Chiffchaff and Goldcrest in the fruit cages and 2 Purple sandpipers on rocks off Perigris beach along with a flock of Golden plover. We then had good views of a juvenile Rose-coloured starling in bushes around the old coast guard cottages, to be honest the bird didn’t look all that healthy but seemed to be OK a few days latter.
We finally caught up with the Bluethroat that we had been after, hunkered down in the bracken at the edge of a small walled field on Castilic down, it showed extremely well in the end. News broke of a Spotted sandpiper on Gugh, but there was no sign by the time we left.
A 12 o’clock boat across to St Agnes in another attempt at the Spotted Sandpiper from the previous day and this time a very successful one, as we connected with a very pretty wader. After taking our fill of this bird myself and Simon decided to have a quick seawatch to see what might be passing, but it was not happening at sea, but as we stood up we were alerted to a small flock of pipits that had just taken off, mainly Meadow pipit but in amongst them there was a strange call and we instantly spotted the culprit, a larger darker almost black and white pipit that looked all the world like a Pechora pipit (rejected by the BBRC), we put the news out but no-one else was able to see the bird, so it goes down in history as one of the ones that got away! Later that day nearing dusk we took a walk along to Porthloo duck pond where a second Bluethroat was putting on a show down to about 5 feet, on a boardwalk and a small post. Also a small flock of Redpoll flew over calling.
On the night of day 8 we had no accommodation book so had decided to camp, at the local site, this was a very bad idea, for little did we know that there was a gale force wind blowing up a huge storm, so after about 1 hour of sleep, in a half collapsed tent, that was soaked through, morning finally awoke, and we spent the day wandering around trying to find A) a roof for the night and B) somewhere to warm up (many thanks to Ted, Evelyn and Richard for letting us warm up by their fire).
After having found a very cheap B+B for the night we ate our breakfast whilst watching Black redstart from the kitchen window, it doesn’t get any better than that. An early morning stroll around the top end of the island produced 1 Ring ouzel, 3 Mistle thrush, and 50+ Redwing around the green farm area. After lunch in Carne vean tea rooms, we took a short walk down to Porthellick down for a Woodlark in a scrubby, weedy field and then had a single Sand martin in a flock of 30+ Swallows hawking over Porthellick and the nearby beach. And so ended our 10 day stay on Scilly.
|Black-tailed godwit (Icelandic)|
|Lesser black-backed gull|
|Greater black-backed gull|