Saturday 8th October 2016
GOLDEN ISLES OF SCILLY - AUTUMN MIGRATION
Saturday 8th - Saturday 15th October 2016
The group met up bright and early on the quay at Penzance for our 9.15am sailing to St Mary's on the Isles of Scilly. Taking a prime position on the upper decks, we scanned the area for birds. A few TURNSTONE fed on the quay whilst a small flock of RINGED PLOVER flew past. Both CORMORANT and SHAG were seen plus a lovely male COMMON EIDER that had an adult GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULL for company.
With everyone on board, we set sail earlier than planned and made our way around the south coast noting our first GANNETS of the tour. A BALEARIC SHEARWATER was seen flying past as well as a lone RAZORBILL close to the boat.
In good sailing conditions it didn't take long before we saw our first COMMON DOLPHINS which gave lovely views as they leapt out of the water. A real surprise were two BLUE-FIN TUNA which leapt out from the water behind the boat.
We took the high water route between St Martins and St Mary's and close to Bar Point we spotted a female COMMON SCOTER which was a good bird to start the tour.
Arriving 15 minutes ahead of schedule, we disembarked and took a stroll along the main road, picking up lunch on the way to our accommodation. We were met by owners Jen and Dan with nine-month old Tommy, who showed us to our rooms and then we had lunch on the terrace in glorious sunshine, washed down with a nice cuppa!
Afterwards, we unpacked a few bits and bobs and headed out for the afternoon. Our walk took us along Porthcressa Beach where our first SONG THRUSHES were noted before we headed out along the coastal path to Peninnis Head. A scan of the bay produced a winter plumaged BLACK-NECKED GREBE plus a juvenile WIGEON that had just flown in.
A REED WARBLER was seen flitting amongst some Pittisporum before vanishing from view. Walking further along, the sheltered bushes held good numbers of butterflies with RED ADMIRAL, SPECKLED WOOD (of the endemic Isles of Scilly subspecies insula), SMALL COPPER, LARGE and SMALL WHITE, PEACOCK and a few PAINTED LADIES thrown in for good measure.
We continued our walk and stopped in our tracks when a WRYNECK appeared in front of us on some brambles! It soon flew and perched on top of a large boulder before continuing up the hillside. After a while, another WRYNECK perched on top of a drystone wall and this gave stunning views as it preened and put on a superb display.
Overhead, we were surprised to see an OSPREY fly right over us and the views were amazing before it continued out towards the Garrison and off northwards.
Other species here included several STONECHATS, ROBINS, DUNNOCKS and lots of SONG THRUSHES. We then took the path up towards the headland where a LAPLAND BUNTING flew over calling before dropping down at the far end, where we had distant scope views. It was seen briefly again before being flushed by a family out for a walk.
Our journey took us down through Old Town Churchyard and out along Old Town Bay where a GREENSHANK fed in the shallows. With some time to spare, we wandered through the Lower Moors Nature Trail where a fine female/juvenile COMMON REDSTART was seen perched up on a fencepost on the edge of a nearby field.
From the ISBG hide we had great views of three JACK SNIPE as they fed with their unusual bobbing action on the edge of the reeds, along with a COMMON SNIPE and REDSHANK.
It was then back to the guesthouse for a welcome shower before meeting to complete the day’s bird list. Afterwards, we headed out to a local restaurant for our evening meal which was very enjoyable!
Sunday 9th October 2016
We met for breakfast at 8.00am and with a fantastic selection of food, we didn't go hungry. Afterwards, we took a look at Porthcressa Beach and found the BLACK-NECKED GREBE just offshore plus Ian spotted a WHINCHAT that unfortunately disappeared.
Our walk took us up through Hugh Town where we searched for a reported Turtle Dove but to no avail. We wandered down to the quay and joined the queue for the boat to Tresco and whilst waiting, up to five SANDWICH TERNS flew out of the harbour.
Once the boat was full we set off northwards and arrived at New Grimsby in good time, having noted GANNETS, LITTLE EGRETS and both CORMORANTS and SHAGS along the way, not to mention a plastic Puffin!
We headed towards the Great Pool where on arrival the hide was quite crowded, but some managed to squeeze in whilst some of the group waited patiently outside.
Whilst waiting, we scanned the water and found good numbers of TEAL, WIGEON, COOT and MOORHEN plus MUTE SWAN, CANADA GOOSE and GADWALL.
Eventually there was movement along the edge of the reeds and the juvenile SORA was seen creeping along. There was a bit of a scramble in the hide with everyone eager to see the bird, but eventually we all managed to get on it and good views were had!
Our walk continued along Pool Road where both GOLDCREST and FIRECREST were heard calling deep in the Sallows but neither refused to show, whilst two YELLOW WAGTAILS were in a field with cattle. A look at the southeast corner of the Great Pool produced five GREENSHANK, WATER RAIL and a GREY WAGTAIL.
We headed to the famous Abbey Gardens and as we neared the entrance, a cracking RED SQUIRREL ran in front giving superb views. These mammals were introduced to Tresco in 2012 and numbers are slowly increasing each year.
After a welcome cuppa in the café, we left some of the group to wander around the gardens whilst the remainder headed off to a secluded area to have lunch. Ian took a walk to Plum Hill where, after enjoying our lovely packed lunch, we eventually caught up with him. He had located some of the islands GOLDEN PHEASANTS.
Up to five birds called from the undergrowth and we all managed to get reasonable views of these colourful birds. The group who were in the gardens also managed to see these plus a COMMON PHEASANT.
The remainder of the afternoon was spent heading round towards the Abbey Gardens again and down to Carn Near ready for our journey back to St Mary's. Just before we reached the quay, the OSPREY was reported flying over St Mary's and we looked over to pick it out as it flew over the Eastern Isles and on to Tresco.
Whilst waiting for the boat, we spotted six COMMON SCOTER off Bar Point and from the boat had close views of a female plus a superb adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL and SANDWICH TERN.
Once back on St Mary's we returned to our accommodation for a welcome rest, whilst Steve visited the Porthcressa Beach to photograph the BLACK-NECKED GREBE.
We met for the bird-list at the slightly earlier time and afterwards headed down near the quay for another delicious evening meal.
Some of the group concluded the evening with a visit to the Scillonian Club for the bird-log which was very entertaining as always!
Monday 10th October 2016
After a hearty breakfast, we headed a few minutes up the road to St Mary's Hall Hotel and were joined by a small crowd to watch a SUBALPINE WARBLER flitting around a Sycamore in the front garden. This delightful bird put on a bit of a show as it fed on insects on the undersides of leaves.
It was then back into Hugh Town to pick up lunch for the day, when Jen bumped into us and told us that a Turtle Dove was right outside our accommodation! We hurried back and there was a superb TURTLE DOVE sitting on the path. Unfortunately, it didn't look too well as it had a large tick just above its bill, but it was seen to feed okay and we hoped it would keep clear of the local cats. By the end of the day we had nicknamed it Colin!
Our walk took us along Porthcressa Beach up to Buzza Tower where we had superb views of Hugh Town. A PAINTED LADY butterfly showed well on some brambles before we took a stroll along King Edwards Road.
A female SPARROWHAWK was seen being mobbed by a CARRION CROW and a few minutes later we picked up a circling male PEREGRINE over Porthcressa Bay.
We walked slowly, checking out the fields and there were good numbers of REDWINGS plus a couple of BLACKCAPS. Towards the end of the road a field held STONECHAT, WHINCHAT and WHEATEAR.
A look amongst grazing cattle at the end of Peninnis Head revealed up to three LAPLAND BUNTINGS which showed well as they feed on seeds in the grass. A few more WHEATEARS were seen around the lighthouse as we retraced our steps and headed into Old Town Bay.
We enjoyed lunch on the benches by the church, overlooking the bay which was lovely in the warm sunshine. Afterwards several of the group checked out a field adjacent to the churchyard and had brief views of a SPOTTED FLYCATCHER plus two female and one male BLACKCAP feeding on Blackberries.
Our next port of call was the airfield and as we climbed up towards the windsock, we saw a couple of birders scoping. It took us a few seconds to locate a SHORT-TOED LARK that was feeding on the short turf along with up to nine SKYLARKS.
A couple of planes took off and disturbed the birds, with the SHORT-TOED LARK coming much closer although still too far away for decent photographs! A couple more WHEATEARS fed on the grassy turf as we retraced our steps back towards Old Town.
At Porthminick we had good views of our fourth WRYNECK of the tour as it fed on ants at the bottom of a Pittisporum hedge.
It was then time to have a refreshing cuppa at Old Town Cafe which was rudely interrupted by news of a Red-eyed Vireo at nearby Carreg Dhu gardens. We felt obliged to continue with our tea and cake and watched birders pass us on their way.
Being just a few minutes behind them we walked up towards the garden to find that the bird had flown off westwards, but we hung around checking hedges and trees and waiting for news before deciding to try an area of Elms nearby.
We had only walked a few paces when the bird was relocated in the gardens and after an anxious wait, we saw the RED-EYED VIREO sitting out on a branch enjoying the evening sunshine. This North American visitor showed well, much to the delight of the birders who were gathered in good numbers.
It was then back to base where we had time for a shower and a rest before heading out to a nearby pub for our evening meal which was very good.
Tuesday 11th October 2016
We awoke to much breezier and cooler conditions and an amazing sunrise over Porthcressa Bay. A male PEREGRINE gave stunning views as it attempted to catch breakfast over the rooftops. Breakfast was very fulfilling as always and we headed off for the day after picking up lunch from town.
Our first destination was the area around Lower Moors where a look from the viewing screen at Shooters Pool produced point blank views of a JACK SNIPE right below us! Other species seen here included several CHIFFCHAFF plus SPARROWHAWK and the usual MOORHENS.
With a few drops of rain in the air, we headed into the Hilda Quick Hide for shelter, where we saw a lone FIELDFARE before heading up through Rocky Hills. Reaching the top of the hill we located a female BLACK REDSTART flitting around an old barn.
Our journey took us up through the top of Holy Vale and on to Maypole where we had a rest on the benches. It was obvious that there was a good arrival of REDWINGS and SONG THRUSHES, with birds everywhere and further down the lane we spotted a GREY WAGTAIL feeding in a ploughed field whilst a few minutes previously a juvenile HOBBY flew over.
As we neared Newford Duck Pond, we found another GREY WAGTAIL which was really close plus a few GOLDCRESTS. At the duck pond, we spent time looking for a Red-breasted Flycatcher but it was only heard by Annette and Steve.
News came through of a reported Pallas's Warbler which was only a few minutes away, although on reaching the site there was no further sign and viewing was quite restricted. A YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER was heard by Steve but remained unseen and a CLOUDED YELLOW showed really well in the sunshine whilst the HOBBY flew over again!
By now our stomachs were rumbling so we headed down to the beach at Bar Point. A female COMMON SCOTER bobbed around offshore, plus we had the most amazing views of a SHAG swimming just below the surface of the mud to find food in the shallows.
Suitably refreshed, we walked round the coastal path where the HOBBY was seen for the third time. A couple of WHEATEARS were seen in a grassy field before we dropped down through the golf course, then we couldn't resist popping in to Juliet's Garden Restaurant.
After a very welcome drink we moved down to Porthloo Beach where good numbers of RINGED PLOVER and TURNSTONE plus six DUNLIN fed on the shoreline.
As we passed St Mary's Hall Hotel, we had a quick look for the Subalpine Warbler but could only find a CHIFFCHAFF in the windy conditions.
After some rest and a hot shower we met for the bird-list before visiting a local restaurant for our evening meal.
Wednesday 12th October 2016
The wind had switched round to an easterly with bright sunny spells, but with the wind still brisk, we opted to visit The Garrison after breakfast.
The eastern side was quiet apart from ROBIN, SONG THRUSH and BLACKBIRD but luckily as we reached the sheltered parts we found several ROCK PIPITS, STONECHATS, SWALLOWS and a lone WHIMBREL which flew northwards along the shoreline.
As we wandered along the walls, a group of around 10 REDWING exploded from the bushes at the top of The Garrison and with them was a nice male RING OUZEL which flew out and back round before disappearing.
Delighted by this, we carried onwards noting a first-winter COMMON GULL flying past before we walked along the track towards the football pitch. The sycamores at the entrance to the campsite are always worth a look and a quick scan revealed a fine YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER flitting around in the sunshine. It was quickly joined by a second bird before flying off along the lane.
A check down the lane produced FIRECREST about four feet away and David relocated it further down the track. With the light now in a better position, we birded the dead pines where COMMON WHITETHROAT was an unusual find, as was a SPOTTED FLYCATCHER that gave good views as it fed right in front of us.
By now the weather had clouded up so we headed back into town to pick up lunch and a hot drink to take back to the accommodation. It was good to warm up after a breezy morning!
Heading out for the afternoon session, we spotted the BLACK-NECKED GREBE on Town
Beach but as we reached Lower Moors, it had started to rain so we popped into Shooter's Pool for shelter.
From the viewing screen were two superb JACK SNIPE bobbing about and giving exceptional views, whilst two YELLOW-BROWED WARBLERS were seen in the Sallows along with BLACKCAP and CHIFFCHAFFS.
With the rain easing off, we headed straight up to Carreg Dhu gardens but once again rain was falling steadily. Despite this we found shelter and had brief views of a RED-BREASTED FLYCATCHER until the rain persisted. Once it eased off, it was seen again but the weather was not to its liking.
At least three FIRECRESTS flitted around the garden and we finally added BLUE TIT to our list before heading back to base. The skies turned dark and by the time we reached Hugh Town, we were quite wet so it was good to have time to dry out and relax before dinner.
Thursday 13th October 2016
A brief look from the promenade on Porthcressa Beach before breakfast yielded the usual suspects such as CURLEW, OYSTERCATCHERS, ROCK PIPITS and GANNETS offshore.
After yet another superb breakfast, we walked into town to pick up lunch before continuing on to the quay. A small raptor overhead turned out to be a juvenile HOBBY which gave stunning views as it flew over heading towards Porthloo Beach.
We queued up ready for our boat and once full, we were on our way out of the harbour where up to four SANDWICH TERNS were noted.
Our journey over to St Agnes was relatively smooth, with GANNETS overhead for company during the 15 minute trip. Arriving on St Agnes, with the tides low we took a walk over to the island of Gugh.
Gugh is linked by a sandbar that is covered at high tide but apart from two houses it is wild and unspoilt. We found the bushes alive with around 50 SONG THRUSH and 70 REDWING plus up to three WHINCHAT, CHIFFCHAFF, BLACKCAP and STONECHATS.
Once off the island, we headed towards the Big Pool but got stopped in our tracks when a superb LAPLAND BUNTING was spotted feeding right in front of us on the path! We enjoyed superb views as it fed unconcerned along with a HOUSE SPARROW that appeared to be suffering from Trichomoniasis.
The beach at Porth Killier held good numbers of waders as we wandered past but a check of the small fields at Browarth failed to produce a reported Little Bunting. With lunchtime upon us, we sat down on Periglis Beach.
Whilst tucking in, Bill suddenly shouted ‘harrier’ and over the Big Pool was a lovely ringtail HEN HARRIER! We enjoyed good views as it floated over the pool before dropping down in the sedges surrounding the wetland, until eventually it flew up and off towards Samson!
A couple of TEAL were with MALLARDS on the pool and a WATER RAIL showed really well in the open.
With the sun shining, we strolled up to The Parsonage where our first bird was a FIRECREST flitting about in the Elms. Over the next half an hour we located several YELLOW-BROWED WARBLERS plus two RED-BREASTED FLYCATCHERS including one that perched on the walls of a nearby house.
It was then off for a cuppa which was lovely in the afternoon sunshine before returning to The Parsonage where we had excellent views of up to three YELLOW-BROWED WARBLERS plus the RED-BREASTED FLYCATCHERS once again.
We then headed down to the quay ready for our return boat trip back to St Mary's. As we moored up, news came through of a Pallas's Warbler on The Garrison, so Steve and David headed up there and had reasonable views of the seven striped sprite as it flitted around the Sycamores, just where we had seen a Yellow-browed Warbler the previous day.
It was then time for a shower before completing the bird-list and heading out for a superb meal, after which, several of the group went to the log in the Scillonian Club before retiring for the night.
Friday 14th October 2016
Our last full day dawned bright and sunny as we tucked into another of Dan’s fantastic breakfasts! There were several parts of the island we had not visited, so we headed out towards Porthmellon Beach where the usual BLACK-NECKED GREBE was joined by a second individual.
A few SANDWICH TERNS were also seen in the harbour as we climbed the steps to the 16th century fort of Harry's Walls. The view from the top was amazing and plenty of scenic photographs were taken of the harbour and Garrison. Bird-wise, we noted a CURLEW in a distant field plus quite a few finches passing by, as well as SWALLOWS.
On Porthloo Beach we had good views of up to five BLACK REDSTARTS flitting around the boulders and scrub at the top of the beach, whilst in the bushes we had close views of a CHIFFCHAFF.
Our walk took us to the top of the island but it was rather quiet bird-wise with a WHINCHAT and a few BLACKCAPS being birds of note.
A look around Newford Duck Pond in windy conditions produced the RED-BREASTED FLYCATCHER and YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER on call with a few CHIFFCHAFFS and WATER RAIL at the back of the willows. The Elms along the road held GOLDCREST and the field around the corner held the usual GREY WAGTAIL.
After a stop at Maypole a female SPARROWHAWK flew over and the fields held quite a few REDWINGS as we strolled down towards Pelistry.
A female BLACK REDSTART was seen in a pig field along with many SONG THRUSHES and REDWINGS whilst on the opposite side of the road we sifted through the large MEADOW PIPIT flock and found both PIED & WHITE WAGTAILS.
With our stomachs rumbling, we headed over Porthellick Down to the beach to get good views and some shelter. A GREENSHANK flew off towards the pool and on the beach we found up to three WHEATEARS feeding on the tideline.
A HOBBY was seen distantly being harassed by a KESTREL over the woods as we finished off lunch and a quick look over the pool revealed five GREENSHANK, TEAL and MALLARD.
With the weather due to change later in the afternoon, we headed to Old Town for a hot drink and a delicious hot, buttered Sultana and Cinnamon Scone!
We headed towards Lower Moors and as we reached the hide there was a flurry of excitement. There on the back edge of the scrape was an EASTERN YELLOW WAGTAIL! This interesting bird had been around several days and was likely to be of one of the races such as plexa/simillima/tschutschensis.
Unfortunately it didn't hang around and flew off towards Peninnis so we were very lucky as some people had been waiting hours to see it. By now rain was falling steadily but from the hide and not caring about the weather, up to six JACK SNIPE fed, some at very close range.
We moved on to Shooter's Pool where two more JACK SNIPE were seen as well as a GREY WAGTAIL. News came through of a Kingfisher at the Hilda Quick Hide so some of the group dashed back but it had gone, although there were some COMMON SNIPE in compensation.
With the weather still poor, we headed back to base and dried off before meeting for the bird-list. Our evening meal was very good and we all vowed to go on diets after all the wonderful food we had consumed during the week!
Saturday 15th October 2016
With strong winds and poor weather forecast for later in the day, our Scillonian sailing had been brought forward by an hour or so which meant an earlier check-in than planned.
After breakfast, we strolled up to Peninnis where we searched for the Eastern Yellow Wagtail unsuccessfully. There were lots of REDWINGS, SONG THRUSHES and BLACKBIRDS in the hedges and also plenty of MEADOW PIPITS.
The weather to the south looked decidedly dodgy to say the least and it wasn't long before a shower moved through. Whilst standing at the end of the road, we noted a good flock of 16 SKYLARKS moving through before the rain turned more persistent.
We retraced our steps and spent quite a time sheltering in the barns along the track before making a dash back into town. After picking up our lunch from the deli, we headed back to base where it was good to dry off and have a hot drink with our lunch.
It was then time to wander down to the quay ready for the check-in for our return. Whilst standing on the quay we noted the BLACK-NECKED GREBE plus around seven SANDWICH TERNS roosting on buoys in the harbour.
The Scillonian left around 15 minutes early and we motored around the northern part of the island before leaving the Scilly waters.
It wasn't too long before we noted several pods of COMMON DOLPHINS moving through, but they didn't hang around. During our crossing we saw lots of GANNETS especially close to the Cornwall coast plus two BALEARIC SHEARWATERS, two SOOTY SHEARWATERS and three MANX SHEARWATERS also ARCTIC SKUA, GUILLEMOT, RAZORBILL and two distant KITTIWAKES.
Due to tidal and weather conditions we moored at a different dock which seemed to be more efficient for claiming our bags.
We said our goodbyes after what had been a wonderful tour to the Golden Isles of Scilly, with lots of good birds, good food, good weather (mostly!) and a lovely group of customers to share it all with!