GOLDEN ISLES OF SCILLY - AUTUMN MIGRATIONSaturday 10th October 2015
Saturday 10th - Saturday 17th October 2015
The group met bright and early at Penzance quay ready to check in for our boat crossing over to the Isles of Scilly on the Scillonian III. Once on-board we located ourselves on the top deck from where we could see several ROCK PIPITS flitting around the jetty. A single WHIMBREL flew through followed by a few CURLEW and a TURNSTONE was seen briefly.
At 9.15am we set off on our 2.45 hour crossing and we soon began seeing our first GANNETS in various plumage of which some gave great views as they came close to the boat. A lovely ARCTIC SKUA powered past heading west and soon afterwards, we were joined by a pod of COMMON DOLPHINS that gave stunning views as they swam past.
A BALEARIC SHEARWATER was spotted by Annette as it sat on the water and it took off giving a good chance to see all its diagnostic features. More COMMON DOLPHINS were seen and then we picked out a GREAT SKUA chasing GANNETS and GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULLS.
Harder to see was the SOOTY SHEARWATER that flew southwards as it never came close to the boat and not everyone got onto it.
During the crossing we also noted both RAZORBILLS and GUILLEMOTS with only one seen of the latter and plenty of the former.
As we came around the south side of St. Mary's, several SHAG and SANDWICH TERNS were seen before we docked after a good crossing.
Wandering through the town we picked up lunch before reaching the accommodation. After checking in, we sat and enjoyed this with tea and coffee and finished off with a lovely slice of home-made cake, provided by our hosts!
Whilst tucking in, at least two BLACK REDSTARTS entertained us on the rocks and a scan of the bay produced an ATLANTIC GREY SEAL plus a 2nd winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL roosting with SANDWICH TERNS and HERRING and BLACK-HEADED GULLS.
Once suitably refreshed, we set off towards Lower Moors where we made an attempt to see a Jack Snipe that had been reported a short time earlier. Unfortunately, by the time we got there it had disappeared but we did manage to find COMMON SNIPE, MOORHEN, SWALLOW, GREY WAGTAIL and a fine GREENSHANK that was feeding in the shallow pools.
We wandered down through Old Town and took the track up toward the airfield. Another BLACK REDSTART was noted along with WHEATEAR, STONECHAT and ROBIN before we reached the runway area. It wasn't long before we spotted a SHORT-TOED LARK flying in with MEADOW PIPITS after they had all been flushed by a SPARROWHAWK. Luckily the bird showed quite well and we all enjoyed good views of this scarce migrant to the UK.
With time getting on, we wandered back down through Old Town Churchyard but the brisk south-easterly wind made viewing quite difficult so we headed back to town where we picked up lunch for the next day.
We then had time to unpack and get ready before doing the bird-list and heading out for our evening meal which was really good and went down very well indeed. Unfortunately we missed the bird log in the nearby Scillonian Club but that would have to wait until another night.
After a long day, it was good to get a reasonably early night and we very much looked forward to our stay on the Isles of Scilly!
Sunday 11th October 2015
We met for breakfast which more than reached our expectations whilst watching several GANNETS plus a single SANDWICH TERN from the breakfast table.
Afterwards we wandered out onto Porthcressa Beach where a couple of BLACK REDSTARTS kept us entertained and we had amazing views of a male STONECHAT right in front of us!
From here we walked up through Sallyport and onto the Garrison where there was a small number of birders congregating. Scanning the nearby Elms produced a 'tristis' type CHIFFCHAFF but more interesting was a Phylloscopus warbler with a wing bar and a very large supercilium that was flitting about up in the trees.
The bird was certainly not a Yellow-browed Warbler but resembled an Arctic Warbler and luckily for us, local birder Kris 'Spider' Webb managed to get a decent photograph and it was indeed a fine ARCTIC WARBLER!
Unfortunately, not everyone got great views and the bird soon disappeared from view and despite a good search, it wasn't seen again for quite a while.
We carried on around the Garrison and took a walk onto the top paths where a couple of SWALLOWS flew over as well as a female MERLIN and a PEREGRINE that were both seen flying towards St. Agnes.
Reaching the campsite we located a small flock of GOLDCRESTS and in them was a YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER that showed well briefly but disappeared without everyone getting onto it.
News then came through of an OSPREY over the airfield which we picked out distantly and eventually it came closer much to the disdain of the local gulls and corvids.
Whilst the Osprey was flying about there was a football match taking place with the Garrison Gunners playing the Woolpack Wanderers and Sky sports were filming the match for a TV piece. On walking past the film crew stopped us and asked Annette and Derek a few questions about the birds and we realised that they were filming it!
Wandering back down through town we stopped for facilities and for Lawrence to pick up his sandwich, which on checking the fridge found that it had miraculously disappeared, only to find out that Rosie had been carrying it around all the time!
Heading out of town we walked to Lower Moors and joined a few birders looking for some reported Little Buntings. They hadn't been seen for over thirty minutes but with the sun shining, it wasn't a bad place to be.
A REED BUNTING got pulses racing and eventually Steve picked up a LITTLE BUNTING perched on a small woodpile and over the next ten minutes we realised that there were actually three birds as they all perched up together.
Delighted with this, we headed back to Old Town Bay for a spot of lunch which was great and here we saw several KESTREL, GREENSHANK and some obliging SONG THRUSHES.
Afterwards we walked back through Lower Moors and to Shooters Pool where Steve picked out a JACK SNIPE hiding in the cut reeds that was very well camouflaged. A GREY WAGTAIL and female SPARROWHAWK were also seen here.
Afterwards we headed up through Porthloo Lane to the beach where KINGFISHER, LITTLE EGRET, GRET HERON and a few OYSTERCATCHERS were noted before we enjoyed a well-deserved cake in Juliet's Garden whilst being entertained by the local HOUSE SPARROWS.
From here we strolled back and came across several more BLACK REDSTARTS and a few TURNSTONE before arriving back in time for a shower before the bird-list.
Dinner was once again a very wholesome affair and we certainly didn't go hungry!
Afterwards, several of the group headed off to the Scillonian Club for the bird log and of course, the obligatory nightcap!
Monday 12th October 2015
The day dawned bright and sunny and as we met for breakfast, David informed us that he had seen a RED-BREASTED MERGANSER just off Porthcressa Beach and luckily Rosie and Bill had seen it also.
Breakfast was once again a delight and afterwards we wandered up to the garrison to try and see both the Dusky and Arctic Warblers that had been seen earlier.
Despite a good look, we failed to see them but did hear a YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER calling from dense scrub. It was then time to get lunch before heading down to the quay. We joined the queue for the boat and just before 10.15am, set off towards St. Agnes.
Small numbers of GANNETS were fishing out in the open waters and a single RAVEN flew from Gugh to St. Mary's. After a good crossing, we took a slow stroll down to Cove Vean where birders were waiting patiently.
After a few minutes we caught glimpses of a first-winter RED-FLANKED BLUETAIL as it flitted about in a hedge at the rear of the field. This stunning bird was only the fourth record for Scilly, the first being in 2010.
Eventually the bird came closer and we were treated to some good views as it constantly flitted around. With the numbers of birders building, we headed off to find a quieter spot. The Parsonage produced several CHIFFCHAFF and GOLDCRESTS plus good numbers of SPECKLED WOOD BUTTERFLY of the distinctive race ‘insula’ that occurs nowhere else in the world!
More CHIFFCHAFF were seen as we slowly walked down towards Big Pool and a message came on the radio about an interesting butterfly.
We reached the area in question to find a SMALL COPPER which had an aberration in colour and was almost Black and White! This colour form is a very rare sight which arises periodically in populations following the re-emergence of a recessive gene.
With lunchtime approaching we scanned out over Porth Gloose finding a single WHEATEAR on the beach, and further round as we tucked into lunch we found a small flock of RINGED PLOVER, TURNSTONE, CURLEW and a single DUNLIN. An ATLANTIC GREY SEAL watched us from out in the open water and could no doubt smell our pasties!
With the tide rising slowly, we took advantage and walked over the sandbar to the island of Gugh. As we crossed we came across a group of four TEAL on the sea which looked completely out of place.
It was pretty quiet on the island with only a few STONECHAT, BLACKCAP, CHIFFCHAFF, KESTREL and a male PEREGRINE of note.
We then headed back and stopped at the Turks Head pub where some enjoyed a welcome cuppa and others opted for a stronger tipple!
The 3.45pm boat came and a short while later we arrived back on St. Mary's. A few of the group headed back to base whilst others revisited the Garrison in hope of seeing either the Dusky or Arctic Warbler of which neither were seen so we called it a day.
After the bird list, we headed out for dinner and again some headed to the bird log in the Scillonian Club which was very entertaining.
Tuesday 13th October 2015
We met at the usual time and tucked into a fantastic breakfast before heading out for the day. A quick look at Porthcressa Beach produced a first-winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL along with many BLACK-HEADED GULLS. As we left, four GREY WAGTAILS dropped into the western corner of the beach.
After getting our lunch we took a stroll up along the Porthcressa seafront and to Buzza Tower where the light was excellent for some landscape photographs. As we scanned around we picked up a small group of REDWING flying over which was a good sign.
Further along King Edwards Road, Bill and Steve located a FIRECREST feeding in a Pittisporum hedge but unfortunately it disappeared from view before the others could get onto it. Moving along we noted a small flurry of activity and found good numbers of ROBIN, BLACKCAP, BLACKBIRDS and a single FIELDFARE. A male PEREGRINE was seen chasing a pigeon, which on closer inspection turned out to be a STOCK DOVE, a good autumn record.
Towards the end of the headland, the cattle and horse fields produced several NORTHERN WHEATEAR but there was no sign of the reported Isabelline Wheatear from the previous day.
Our walk took us down to Old Town Church where the most notable sighting was of a WILLOW WARBLER in Elms. We had a good search for Stick Insects but with no joy.
Moving on up through the island, we got close to Salakee when a radio message came through of a possible Isabelline Wheatear on the beach at Porthellick. We were only a few minutes away so a quick route march brought us to the spot to find good numbers of NORTHERN WHEATEAR but with no sign of the bird in question.
We decided to have lunch sitting on the slipway and we found GREENSHANK, RINGED PLOVER, LITTLE EGRET, STONECHAT plus KINGFISHER. A quick look on the pools yielded a couple of COMMON SNIPE, CANADA GOOSE, TEAL, MOORHEN and MALLARD.
A report came through on the pager of a Red-throated Pipit back on Peninnis so we began the long walk back. Another birder told us that a Snow Bunting had been seen close to the coastal path so we stopped to search.
BLACK REDSTARTS flitted around the rocks but there was no sign of the bunting until a plane took off and David shouted that he had the bird. A few seconds later we were watching a fine SNOW BUNTING on the rocks below which was a good bird to see.
A few more NORTHERN WHEATEAR flitted around the rocks on our way back to Old Town where we had a well-deserved cuppa in the warm sunshine.
With some time spare, we meandered through Lower Moors and stopped off in the ISBG hide where we had amazing views of a couple of COMMON SNIPE plus GREENSHANK, GREY HERON and a brief WATER RAIL.
From the screen at Shooters Pool we had great views of a WATER RAIL plus a super JACK SNIPE that showed better than a few days previously. Other species seen here included CHIFFCHAFF, BLUE TIT and BLACKCAP.
Then most of us returned to the accommodation, but not David and Steve who tried to spot a Short-eared Owl out on rocks, then a message came through of a Blyth's Pipit which they tried to see from the Garrison but failed miserably!
They got back with around 5 minutes to spare before we all met for the bird-list and we all headed out for dinner in a local pub where we had a great meal.
Half the group went down to the log to catch up with the banter and birds in the Scillonian Club whilst the remainder headed back for an early night.
Wednesday 14th October 2015
We awoke to a beautiful morning with light northeasterly winds and bright sunshine and the view from the breakfast room was superb, you couldn't ask for more! To top it all off, a male and female PEREGRINE flew over.
Straight after breakfast we headed down the coastal path to Peninnis Head to find that the previous day's Blyth's Pipit had flown off. Luckily it was re-found in a top field and there was a suggestion that it might be visible from the fields on our side of the wall.
Walking back down the slope we had just climbed, we reached the bottom field again and there in the middle was the BLYTH'S PIPIT! We had good views until a plane came over and flushed the bird, but it only flew to the next field where we continued to enjoy this rare bird.
Eventually it moved to a further field so we headed back to Hugh Town where along the way we watched up to 24 REDWING, KINGFISHER, STONECHAT and a WHEATEAR perched up on rocks outside our accommodation.
Ade and Derek opted to have a leisurely day around the local area so the remainder of us headed towards the northern part of the island. Along Town Beach we met a guy who was watching the OSPREY perched out on Samson and he kindly let us look through his scope.
Porthloo Beach held four BLACK REDSTARTS, STONECHAT and a single GREENSHANK. On our way up the island we took plenty of scenery photos before stopping up near the Golf Course to add PAINTED LADY and SMALL TORTOISESHELL to our ever growing butterfly list. Further up the road we watched four FIELDFARE drop into a bush.
With lunchtime fast approaching we dropped down off the main track and took a walk to Bant's Carn which is the remains of an ancient Iron Age village and burial ground.
Unfortunately, Steve took the wrong path but this worked to our benefit, as we flushed four COMMON SNIPE which was a good record for that part of the island. Retracing our steps we arrived at the Carn and had a good rest whilst enjoying the magnificent view. A small group of SANDERLING roosted on a distant rock along with large numbers of SHAG and a CORMORANT.
Several members of the party had a brief snooze before continuing onwards around to Newford Duck Pond. We spent some time around the pond noting GOLDCREST, SISKINS, CHIFFCHAFF and Lawrence did well to spot a YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER high up in Elms which soon disappeared from view.
Further down the lane, Bill found a stunning FIRECREST that put on a great show for us as it flitted around at close range. With our mouths dry, we headed to the Strudel-house for a welcome cuppa when a message came through about two RICHARD'S PIPITS flying over the fields nearby. Luckily David managed to get on these as they flew through but unfortunately no one else could get onto them.
We enjoyed a drink and some partook in a warm slice of Strudel with Ice-cream! Whilst enjoying our refreshments, a LESSER WHITE-TOOTHED SHREW came out from the bushes and started feeding in the open right next to us! The animal seemed to have a problem with ticks on its body and eventually wandered back into cover. This Shrew only occurs on Scilly plus a small population on the islands of Jersey and Sark and it is thought that they were introduced to Britain by Iron Age traders from France or northern Spain
Heading back down towards Hugh Town, we got close to Porthmellon Beach when a report of a Short-eared Owl came through. We had a quick scan and there was the SHORT-EARED OWL flying over the golf course before heading out to Tresco, where it received the unwanted attention from the local HERRING GULLS.
We arrived back in good time and Steve and David spent some time on the beach photographing a NORTHERN WHEATEAR before meeting to do the bird-list.
After dinner some headed to the Scillonian Club for a nightcap before retiring for the night.
Thursday 15th October 2015
The morning dawned with a beautiful sunrise and a quick look on the beach before breakfast yielded a first-winter COMMON GULL plus MEDITERRANEAN GULL, WHEATEAR and the usual ROCK PIPITS.
Our breakfast was delicious as usual and certainly kept us satisfied for a good few hours! Afterwards we picked up lunch and wandered up to the Garrison where we scoped the island of Samson. We soon located the SPOONBILL roosting on an island with HERRING and GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULLS. Another birder who stood next to us put us onto two winter plumaged GREAT NORTHERN DIVERS, that although distant showed quite well in the morning light.
It was then time to head down to the quay and board our boat over to the tranquil island of Bryher. We set off on time and passed Stony Island where the SPOONBILL roosted along with five SHELDUCK. Plenty of SHAGS were noted and as we neared Tresco, several MEDITERRANEAN GULLS were seen.
After disembarking we took the path around the south end of the island and as we neared Samson Hill, a superb adult HOODED CROW flew past giving good views. Eventually we reached a few birders and a couple of minutes later we watched a RED-BREASTED FLYCATCHER sitting out in full view of a dead hedge. The bird did a small circuit of the fields and was harassed a few times by the local GREENFINCHES before we left and headed to our next target, an equally obliging YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER that flitted amongst a cluster of Mallow.
Whilst we enjoyed this very pale ‘phylloscopus’, a bird that looked good for a SIBERIAN CHIFFCHAFF. Up to seven nominate race CHIFFCHAFFS were also noted along with a WILLOW WARBLER.
A walk around Big Pool was rather quiet so we headed across to the Hell Bay Hotel where we located a lovely WHINCHAT perched up along with a few STONECHATS.
By now, our stomachs were rumbling so we walked to the top of Timmy's Hill and found a RED-LEGGED PARTRIDGE plus a scan towards Tresco produced COOT, MUTE SWAN, GADWALL and a single WIGEON.
It was a little chilly in the northeast wind so after lunch we opted to head down to some shelter. As we were leaving, a report of a ringtail Harrier came through and a quick scan was productive as we watched a juvenile HEN HARRIER work its way up the coast before crossing over to Tresco, then across to St. Mary's and back to Samson.
Delighted by this we tried an area around Veronica Farm for some interesting insects and Ade struck gold by finding a single PRICKLY STICK INSECT that blended in so well with the bramble they it could have been overlooked.
It was now time for a welcome cuppa that was interrupted by a fly past of the Air Sea Rescue helicopter from RNAS Culdrose that was doing a flyby of the islands before coming out of service as the government has privatised the search and rescue organisation.
After refreshments, we dropped down to the quay where a KINGFISHER was seen on coastal rocks and the OSPREY put in an appearance over the Great Pool before flying off south.
The journey back to St. Mary's was quite straightforward and some had some spare time go shopping before meeting for the daily bird-list.
Our evening meal was once again fantastic and afterwards we headed to the club, where as usual the bird log took place.
It was then back to the accommodation for a well-deserved rest and we very much looked forward to the following day!
Friday 16th October 2015
A much cloudier day greeted us after a little overnight rain which had hopefully grounded a few migrants on our last full day on these wonderful islands.
BLACK REDSTARTS flitted around the rocks outside our accommodation along with the usual WHEATEAR, MEDITERRANEAN GULL, GANNET, CORMORANTS and ROCK PIPITS.
After enjoying breakfast, we picked up lunch and took a leisurely walk up to the north end of the island. Along the way we found three more BLACK REDSTARTS, KINGFISHER, RINGED PLOVER and a single WHEATEAR.
Eventually we reached a horse field and picked out a distant Stonechat that looked spot on for SIBERIAN STONECHAT, but it soon vanished along with up to four EUROPEAN STONECHATS. The Siberian was quite elusive and all the views we had were quite distant.
After a while it was located at the other gate, although we were not convinced this was the original bird. A few photographs were taken and it appeared to be just a EUROPEAN STONECHAT with a pale rump, but not showing the whole suite of features.
Whilst we were looking for the Stonechat, massive numbers of REDWING were seen overhead.
We then spent some time in Carreg Dhu Gardens where it was pretty quiet except for the continual "seeping" of REDWINGS overhead.
After lunch we wandered down to the quay to get the 2.00 pm boat to Tresco. Due to the tides we were dropped off at Carn Near quay so we had to walk up through the island.
A quick look at the Great Pool produced a couple of PINK-FOOTED GEESE, GADWALL, WIGEON, TEAL, COOT and MOORHEN. A KINGFISHER zipped by whilst we had a quick breather before continuing across to the northeast.
Eventually we reached Gimble Porth and we were beckoned quickly by a birder, as just offshore there was a boat in danger of flushing the HUDSONIAN WHIMBREL!
The light was amazing as we watched this rarity and we even saw its well-marked underwing, dark rump and heard its distinctive call as it flew off a short while later. This was a new bird for everyone and well worth the effort of getting there.
With this second record for Scilly under our belts we slowly walked back along Pool Road to a small crowd who were looking for a Pallas's Warbler. A few minutes later, Steve located the bird for the crowd as it fed high in the trees and with patience, we enjoyed good views of this distinctive Phylloscopus warbler.
The bird flitted off so with limited time we returned to the quay. Fraser Hicks was the skipper of our boat and he kindly took us close to Stoney and Green Islands where Steve found a MERLIN perched on the rock, plus we had outstanding views of the SPOONBILL roosting. Other goodies included SHELDUCK, LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL, SHAG and around 50 CURLEW.
As we motored across the water, Dick Filby found a GREAT NORTHERN DIVER fishing a little way from the boat.
Once back on St. Mary's, we headed back for a hot shower before meeting for the bird-list and another fantastic meal which rounded off a magical day!
Saturday 17th October 2015
Our last day on Scilly started with a hearty breakfast and we finished packing and left our luggage ready to be collected and taken to the quay later in the morning.
On the beach at Porthcressa we noted BLACK REDSTART, ROCK PIPIT, first-winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL and offshore were GANNETS, SHAG and a couple of CORMORANTS.
As we wandered through the allotments a good number of REDWINGS were seen flying over, along with quite a few FIELDFARE. It wasn't long before Steve picked up a first-winter RING OUZEL in flight which was seen briefly but not everyone got onto it.
We reached the western fields where once again the BLYTH'S PIPIT performed as it ran in and out of the long grass. A male PEREGRINE shot through after the WOOD PIGEONS but luckily the pipit stayed put.
Moving on, Steve spotted yet another RING OUZEL on the wall and this time it was a cracking male. But, you guessed it, the bird promptly vanished from view without us all getting on it, how frustrating!
We searched the top fields noting BLACK REDSTART, FIELDFARE, STONECHAT and many SONG THRUSHES and then the RING OUZEL was seen again by a couple of birders behind us.
This time it put on a good show as it fed on Blackberries on the sheltered brambles and allowed us all time to enjoy this wonderful bird.
Carrying on along King Edwards Road, a large group of pipits flew over and then a single bird came closer and called and Steve shouted RED-THROATED PIPIT! Unfortunately, the bird dropped into private fields but was seen briefly in flight by some other birders behind us.
We made a stop at Buzza Tower where we took a few scenic pictures in good light before going down to lunch on Porthcressa Beach at Dibble and Grub.
Lunch was delicious and it was so warm in the café with the sun coming through the windows that we took off many layers that we’d needed earlier in the morning!
We returned to the accommodation and said our goodbyes to Jen and Dan who had looked after us so well, we were going to miss their wonderful breakfasts and beautiful rooms.
Picking up our luggage, we spent some time waiting on the quay where a SANDWICH TERN was seen flying about but apart from that it was a little quiet.
The journey back was good but very cold in the easterly breeze, although we did have lots of COMMON DOLPHINS, a few KITTIWAKE, ARCTIC SKUA and BALEARIC SHEARWATER to warm our spirits.
We arrived back at Penzance after what had been a very successful tour in beautiful weather, with many birding highlights, good company and superb accommodation and food!