After spending Friday 17th travelling through Cornwall and only successfully seeing Ring-billed gull (pictured left) at Helston boating lake, and American wigeon and Green-winged teal on the Hayle, we were all looking forward to Saturday morning and our crossing to Scilly, but first there was the matter of finding some accommodation! Luckily this didnít prove too hard as there is an excellent and large youth hostel on the outskirts of Penzance, where the kind lady behind the reception desk allowed us to stay, even though none of us were members of the YHA. We were even luck enough to get a private room as there were 5 of us, it certainly reminded me of a school trip!!
After breakfast was consumed, we all headed off to the boat ready to leave mainland Britain for the isles at 09:30, the crossing itself was pretty uneventful, only producing, 1 Storm petrel, 1 Arctic skua, 1 Great skua, 2 Common scoter and a flock of 7 Puffin as well as some nice Dolphins playing in the bow wave.
After docking, whilst some of people went straight to the Scillonian club, for the rugby!! The rest of us (slightly hardier and some might say better birders) went up and onto Penninis head, aiming to start the week off well. It started well with a Firecrest (the first of many) heard calling in the allotments, then the usual pipits along the coastal path , mainly Meadow pipit, but the usual abundance of Rock pipits was also clear. Then came the star birds of the day firstly in the form of a stunning Tawny pipit (pictured right), feeding feet away in the tall grass. Continuing our walk, we came across a couple of birders who were watching a small warbler in the bracken, after a few moments up popped a stunning ďfive striped spriteĒ or Pallasís leaf warbler it gave brief but good views to all those around and even made a move over to where birders watching the pipit could see it! Also while watching the Pallasís at least 2 Ring Ouzel put in appearances, including a stunning male.
Walking down towards Old town produced an Arctic tern feeding in the bay a stunning Stonechat and many clouded yellow butterflies. The rest of the day was spent picking up 2 Black redstart at Thomas Porth 60 Sanderling on Poorthloo beach 2 Firecrest a Yellow-browed warbler and 2 Jack snipe on the Lower moors trail, 2 more firecrest by the Dump clump and another black redstart on porthcressa beach (just outside our flat).
Sunday started with a stunning male Black redstart on the beach in front of the flat, before we decided to head to Tresco for the day. On the crossing over there were the usual 8 Little egrets on the rocks by the Abbey. On Tresco itself, I saw at least 4 Firecrest, large flocks of thrushes, mainly Redwing but also 15 Fieldfare, and 3 Mistle thrush, a lone Brambling in a flock of 100+ chaffinch. Plenty of Chiffchaff a water rail down to a few feet in front of the David Hunt hide. 2 Jack snipe, 2 Green sandpiper, 1 Black-tailed godwit, Dunlin, Greenshank, Redshank, and the by now resident American black duck (pictured left). Also over the Great pool was a first winter Little gull a new bird on Scilly for me. 2 Siskin, Sparrowhawk, Merlin and Peregrine just about wrapped up Tresco, but we did see the resident hybrid hooded/carrion crow, and my friends saw the adult hooded near by.
Back on St Maryís a brisk walk from the boat to just below Buzza hill, provided us with our second Pallasís leaf warbler of the trip, and was followed by 2 Black redstart on Porthcressa beach.
An early start, meant that while walking through Hugh town, news broke of a possible little crake at Porthelic, so a quick call to a taxi and we were off, arriving at the seaward hide, just before the rush, meant that I was at the front of the queue should the bird show, which Iím glad to say it did, and show well. Little crake was on the list (my only tick of the week)! Also at Porthelic of note was a lone Jack snipe. Unfortunately there were no other real birds of note, apart from a probable Woodcock flushed off the path near Pelistry 3 Blackcaps (2 male and 1 female), 1 Ring ouzel, Peregrine, 2 sand martin and a single Redstart near the golf course.
Tuesday started well with a very pale Yellow-browed warbler on the Garrison, that we tried in vain to turn into a Humeís, as well as at least 6 Firecrest probably more. 2 more firecrest in Lower moors and 1 in Holy vale certainly gave the feeling that it was going to be a good day. A stunning male Ring ouzel near Giants castle gave me some wonderful views, although it didnít stay still long enough to photograph. Followed by possibly the closest Snow bunting I have seen on Scilly (down to about 1 meter!!!). After the long walk around to the airfield I was pleased to see that the Richards pipit (pictured right) was still showing well, and even got closer the longer I stood there. Lower moors produced yet more firecrest 2 this time, another Jack snipe and my first and only Willow warbler and Reed warbler of the trip. Finishing off the day with Golden plover in flight and 1 Little egret from our flat window.
A quick walk around the Garrison only produced 1 Firecrest and most of the thrushes seemed to have moved off, it seemed there must have been a clear night! I then received a call from Simon Nichols, telling me he had just seen a Dartford warbler on Penninis head, so my next destination was beckoning. On the walk up to lighthouse area, I spotted a small dark Sylvia warbler, hop up onto a low gorse bush, and to my surprise it was the same first winter Dartfor Warbler that my friend had found on the headland!! It then gave everyone present the chance to catch up with this stunning little warbler as it moved back up towards the light house. The walk down towards Old town bay, produced another 2 firecrest, a stop at Longstones produced 2 Merlin (male and female) 4 Lapwings not a very common sight in October, and a few Redwings. 4+ Firecrest in Holy vale gave nice views and a stunning little yellow-browed warbler put in an appearance at the pumping station (this turned into 2 the following day). 2 more firecrest at Pelistry and one along Salakee lane, seemed like a nice way to end the day, until we were informed that there was a possible OBP in the field adjacent to Salakee farm. With a little persuasion the bird hopped out of the dense cover and perched; tale pumping the whole time, on a low branch, giving all present the chance to see a stunningly plumaged Olive-backed pipit (pictured left).
Thursday saw an intrepid bunch of 7 birders head off island to St Martins, (4 people I knew, the rest I did not). The day got off to a good start, with a Redpoll flying over calling, a nice Stonechat, 1 Brambling, a Snipe sitting in a field of bulbs! And plenty of Goldcrest feeding on the floor! Then We bumped into a nice man who told us he had just found an Isablline Shrike (pictured right) but was unsure of the race, we studied the bird well, and identified it as a first winter Daurian, whilst watching the shrike disembowel a goldcrest a fine young Hobby flew over head. After putting the news out and waiting in the general location for new birders to arrive, we decided it was about time to check the rest of the island. Although one end of the island was teeming with birds the other was not, and only produced, 1 firecrest, red-legged partridge, a woodcock in flight and a distant Yellow-browed warbler, that is until I had left the cricket pitch area, when a 3rd Pallasís warbler was located and put on a good show, (3 Pallasís in a week is exceptional anywhere). This pretty much put an end to the day and an early night was called for.
The last full day of the trip, and the highlights were few and far between, with the only birds of note being a couple of Brambling in flight, a few Black redstart, 1 Little egret, 1 Siskin over head calling, another chance to see the Olive-backed pipit a few more Firecrest a stunning Woodcock (pictured left) feeding openly in a field by four lanes end, the usual Rock pipits, song thrush, and redwing filled the island. And then a wasted evening standing looking, in the vain hope that a nightjar species claimed the previous night was still around. It wasnít.
The Saturday was wasted trying to kill the time between having to leave the flat and getting on the boat, for any Scilly regulars you will appreciate the boredom that entails. But the Scillonian club have a fine pool table and donít mind you nursing a lone drink.
: More pictures are available at:
Just follow the Scilly 2003 link.