Saturday 7th October 2017
GOLDEN ISLES OF SCILLY – AUTUMN MIGRATION
Saturday 7th – Saturday 14th October 2017
Our group met at Penzance Quay ready for our crossing to the Isles of Scilly and due to tides the crossing had been brought forward from the usual leaving time. The weather wasn’t great with a fine drizzle soaking us as we sat on deck waiting to depart.
A few EURASIAN ROCK PIPITS flitted around the quayside and a lone RAZORBILL flew past, whilst both GREAT CORMORANT and EUROPEAN SHAG swam in the shallow waters.
At 0830 we set sail but the weather hadn’t improved at all, but it was reassuring to all be on board as we heard that all Skybus flights had been cancelled for the morning!
Many NORTHERN GANNETS were seen including some very close birds and it wasn’t long before two pale-phase ARCTIC SKUAS flew alongside us chasing NORTHERN GANNETS.
The murky conditions were ideal for seabird passage and we soon picked out three BALEARIC SHEARWATERS flying past and then more sitting on the sea. During the journey we totalled 11 BALEARIC SHEARWATERS plus two GREAT SKUA and a single SOOTY SHEARWATER that flew across the stern. BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES were more numerous than in previous years and both COMMON MURRE and RAZORBILLS were seen in a few groups.
We arrived at the Quay in St. Mary’s spot on time and headed straight for our accommodation where we received a warm welcome as well as tea/coffee and a home baked Victoria sponge!
After lunch we wandered down to the Quay for an afternoon crossing to St. Agnes. It was bit choppy as we crossed the open water but we were soon heading across the island to St. Warna's Cove where a small group of assembled birders stood looking at a group of bushes.
It didn't take long before we laid eyes on the UK's 7th CEDAR WAXWING as it sat in a large Pittosporum bush. Much to everyone’s delight the bird flew down and sat in the top of a small tree. Over the next forty minutes we had good views, at times down to a few metres and we were all very happy to say the least! An added bonus of a SHORT-EARED OWL flew over being mobbed by a large flock of COMMON STARLINGS.
The CEDAR WAXWING showed once again inside a small bush and with a bit of fieldcraft, we had some stunning views. Time was getting short so we headed back towards the quay, noting a couple of BARN SWALLOWS feeding over the sheltered fields along the way.
We reached the quay with some time to spare and at 4.30, took the boat back to St. Mary's. We then had some to settle in before completing the bird list and heading out for dinner in a local pub.
Afterwards some of the group headed to the Scillonian club where the nightly log call took place before heading back after a good start to our tour.
Sunday 8th October 2017
We awoke to misty conditions but the wind had dropped and it was quite balmy. Breakfast was at 0800 and it was simply amazing with so much choice that we didn't go hungry!
With news of a reported Eurasian Wryneck, we headed up onto The Garrison where good numbers of GOLDCREST flitted around and a SPOTTED FLYCATCHER was seen feeding on Elms. A couple of EURASIAN BLACKCAPS fed on berries and on the rocks off morning point five WHIMBREL roosted.
With calm sea conditions we picked out a small pod of seven HARBOUR PORPOISE along with the usual NORTHERN GANNETS. EUROPEAN STONECHATS were conspicuous and a single COMMON CHIFFCHAFF flitted in the shrubbery bordering the coastal path.
Our walk took us onto the top of The Garrison where small flocks of MEADOW PIPITS zipped about, especially when harassed by an adult female EURASIAN SPARROWHAWK! Several SONG THRUSHES offered great photographic opportunities as they fed on the short grassy footpaths. Several clumps of SCARLET WAXCAP fungi were also seen as we headed across the fields.
Reaching the Star Castle Hotel we noted at least 20 BARN SWALLOWS with a few COMMON HOUSE MARTIN thrown in for good measure, whilst a scan of the harbour yielded two PALE-BELLIED BRANTS just off Porth Mellon Beach.
We stopped in town for a takeaway coffee and had lunch overlooking Porth Cressa Bay where several ATLANTIC GREY SEALS bobbed around. On the rocks were a COMMON GREENSHANK and adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL.
Along the front we watched a COMMON REDSTART flit about and it gave good views as it frequented sheltered gardens. Afterwards we began to walk out of town when news came through of a juvenile Rose-coloured Starling.
At that very moment, a flock of COMMON STARLINGS flew past and there in the flock was the ROSY STARLING! Luckily it landed on a nearby rooftop where we had reasonable views before it flew off into town.
Walking past Porth Mellon Beach we had closer views of the PALE-BELLIED BRANTS along with a few RUDDY TURNSTONE and a EURASIAN CURLEW. Our walk took us through Lower Moors where more GOLDCRESTS were seen but despite waiting quite a while, we failed to see a Spotted Crake that had taken up residence in the area. WATER RAILS called frequently and a GREY WAGTAIL flew over.
After a brief rest at Old Town Bay, we carried on around the coastal path towards the end of the airfield where up to seven NORTHERN WHEATEARS were seen, plus a cracking male PEREGRINE FALCON that gave us a fly past.
We eventually reached Porth Hellick Beach to find children and dogs running all over it with no sign of the American Golden Plover! Offshore were five COMMON GREENSHANK along with a small group of COMMON RINGED PLOVERS but another scan and lo and behold, the AMERICAN GOLDEN PLOVER was there all the time, laying low so as not to be seen!
Great views were had of this transatlantic visitor before it was time to head bake to base. The pools held up to five COMMON SNIPE plus COMMON GREENSHANK, GREY WAGTAIL and COMMON MOORHEN.
Close to the road we had good but brief sightings of a COMMON FIRECREST as it flitted around a group of Sallows. Our walk back was brisk and on arriving in town a female MERLIN flew over us at pace.
We had time for a hot shower before meeting up to complete the bird list and once again heading into town for our evening meal and to the bird log for some.
Monday 9th October 2017
After a hearty breakfast we popped into town to get supplies and headed along Porth Cressa Beach and up the path to Buzza Tower where we had distant views of a roosting EURASIAN SPOONBILL on the eastern side of Samson. Whilst here a PEREGRINE FALCON flew over and we laid eyes on the juvenile ROSY STARLING at close range before it flew over a hedge into a nearby garden. We radio'd it out and within a few minutes, a large group of birders had appeared, so this being our cue to leave, we wandered down the hill to Old Town and up to the airport.
A smart NORTHERN WHEATEAR was seen on the airport perimeter and out on the runway was a smart ISABELLINE WHEATEAR. This species from the east was the seventh record for Scilly and despite a constant stream of aircraft going past, the bird seemed relatively unbothered and perched on runway lights and the grassy surrounds.
A female EURASIAN SPARROWHAWK flew past chasing a small flock of COMMON STARLINGS and a lone WESTERN YELLOW WAGTAIL flew over unseen.
We then headed back into Old Town and straight to the churchyard where it was quiet except for a few GOLDCRESTS and GREAT TITS. The highlights here were two bright green PRICKLY STICK INSECTS that we all enjoyed views of as they sat camouflaged amongst the bramble.
It was then time for lunch overlooking Old Town Bay where out to sea were a small pod of COMMON DOLPHINS whilst singles of GREAT CORMORANT & GREY HERON were seen on the rocks.
Lower Moors was our next destination and once again we spent time looking for the SPOTTED CRAKE but it was rather crowded at times along the narrow boardwalk. Slightly easier was a single JACK SNIPE from the ISBG hide although it did get a little harassment from a COMMON SNIPE.
Both MALLARD & EURASIAN TEAL were on the pool and a couple of GREY WAGTAILS flew over heading north.
The viewing screen at Shooter's Pool was our next port of call and the Sallows opposite were bathed in afternoon sunshine. Up to nine EURASIAN BLUE TITS, five COMMON CHIFFCHAFFS and a single EURASIAN BLACKCAP were seen and a brief YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER.
A COMMON SNIPE fed on the pool and two incredibly confiding GREY WAGTAILS flew in and put on a good show for us. With news of the Spotted Crake showing back at the boardwalk, we dashed back only to have frustratingly difficult views of the bird at the back of the boggy area.
It was then time for a stroll back into town where the COMMON REDSTART frequented the rocks on Porth Cressa Beach.
We then had time for a shower and rest before heading into town to a different pub and yet another good meal was enjoyed by us all!
Tuesday 10th October 2017
We decided to head back to St. Agnes today after our brief visit there on Saturday, so after another of Dan’s superb breakfasts we met on the quay and took the 1015 boat. There were lots of feeding NORTHERN GANNETS as we headed through St. Mary’s Sound and we arrived at a rather calm St. Agnes.
We headed up to Barnaby Lane as a reported Hawfinch had been present for a few days, although at first there was no sign, only a few GOLDCRESTS in the dense hedgerows, then the HAWFINCH flew in to a Whitebeam tree and started feeding. It was difficult to see and hidden behind foliage most of the time and it wasn’t long before it flew off over our heads.
We made the decision to walk out onto Wingletang Down and a brief scan over the sea produced a single GREAT SKUA flying north. We walked around the headland but only found a small number of EUROPEAN ROCK PIPITS, EURASIAN STONECHATS and a couple of NORTHERN WHEATEARS.
With news of the HAWFINCH showing again, we walked back and the bird was seen by most of the group as it fed once again in the Whitebeam before disappearing again.
As we strolled back to the main track, a YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER called above our heads and we had fairly good views as it sought out insects in the Ivy covered trees. It soon disappeared towards the coast and with our stomachs rumbling we went to find an ideal spot for lunch.
Typically, we didn't get far when another YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER was spotted flitting around in front of us where it gave superb views on lots of bare branches! These were probably the best ever views we had experience of this species and a highlight of the day for sure!
We headed for a drink at the coastguards cafe and whilst there, tucked into our packed lunches which were more than overdue.
With a few hours before our returning boat, we walked over to Gugh to look for a reported Common Rosefinch. A EURASIAN CURLEW flew past and a female PEREGRINE FALCON circled over the rocks before heading off over our heads.
A lady crossing the sand bar informed us of a PORTUGUESE MAN O’ WAR on the beach and it was fantastic to see this neon jellyfish at close range.
Back on the island we searched for the Rosefinch but without success, so we headed up to the quay and after a short wait caught the boat back to St. Mary's.
After a hot shower and a rest we met for the birdlist and then walked into town for our evening meal which again was very enjoyable.
Wednesday 11th October 2017
The weather had changed overnight with a strong southwesterly wind blowing and whilst we were eating breakfast we noted a single SANDWICH TERN and a first-winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL which flew over the guesthouse.
Afterwards we togged up and headed out of town, stopping at Thomas Porth where a WHITE WAGTAIL fed with several PIED WAGTAILS in the seaweed. On Porth Loo Beach were a well-marked first-winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL plus two PALE-BELLIED BRANTS, EURASIAN OYSTERCATCHERS and lots of EUROPEAN ROCK PIPITS.
Our walk took us to the northern end of the island, we stopped at Newford Duck Pond and immediately connected with two YELLOW-BROWED WARBLERS flitting in the Sallows and giving good views, plus at least five COMMON CHIFFCHAFFS and a few GOLDCRESTS.
Taking the coastal path to Innisidgen we scanned out over the sea but there was no sign of the reported Great Northern Diver, but we did find a female MERLIN flying from the Eastern Isles to Pelistry. With drizzly rain starting to fall, we headed back past Newford Duck Pond where one of the YELLOW-BROWED WARBLERS showed briefly.
It was pretty breezy as we walked through Holy Vale but much better inside the Longstone Tearoom! A hot drink did wonders for morale and this spurred us on. Hence we dropped in to Porth Hellick Pool where other birders were gathered and had their scopes trained on a very grey and contrasty looking snipe that looked good for WILSON'S SNIPE! The bird was bobbing very much like a Jack Snipe and other birders had noted the heavily barred upperwing and tail pattern amongst other features.
With other birders arriving and the hide small, we left and headed back towards town. Half of the group went straight back as it had started to rain and the others went to Old Town Bay where the Great Northern Diver had relocated. Unfortunately the bird had already gone so they strolled back through the Dump Clump where the highlight was a female EURASIAN SPARROWHAWK.
Along Porthcressa Beach two first-winter MEDITERRANEAN GULLS were found roosting out on the rocks before the group arrived back at base where it was good to get their boots off!
We all met up at 1800 and headed out into town for our evening meal which was superb and afterwards it was back to the guesthouse to complete the bird list before some went to the log.
There had been good photos taken of the putative WILSON'S SNIPE and it certainly looked good! At the log we were also lucky to see live specimens of both LABORATORY STICK INSECT and SPITTING SPIDER Scytodes thoracica, the third record for Scilly.
Thursday 12th October 2017
The day dawned lovely and still with a nice sunrise over Porthcressa Bay. There were still a few NORTHERN GANNETS feeding out in the bay whilst we tucked into breakfast and the usual pair of EUROPEAN STONECHATS flitted around on the rocks.
After picking up supplies, we headed straight to Lower Moors and within a few minutes, the juvenile SPOTTED CRAKE appeared! We watched it creep around the tree roots before disappearing into dense scrub at the back of the clearing. Delighted by this, we popped into the ISBG hide and around 11 COMMON SNIPE were seen plus a few MALLARD and the usual female EURASIAN TEAL. A WATER RAIL squealed from the reeds but remained unseen as is often the case.
Our stroll took us through the southern end of Lower Moors and several of the group glimpsed a YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER which called from the sunny side of a bush. In the nearby Standing Stones field we found a couple of EURASIAN BLACKCAPS and COMMON CHIFFCHAFFS.
Sunny weather encouraged a few insects including PAINTED LADY BUTTERFLY and HUMMINGBIRD HAWK-MOTH, the latter was seen briefly as we left Old Town.
Carreg Dhu Gardens were our next destination and soon after arriving we had brief views of a single COMMON FIRECREST plus a few GOLDCRESTS. Three EURASIAN SISKINS flew over and a male EURASIAN BLACKCAP perched on top of a small tree. Despite spending time here, it was pretty quiet so we popped into nearby Longstones Lodge for a welcome cuppa in the sunshine.
Suitably refreshed, we walked through the northern end of Holy Vale where a SPOTTED FLYCATCHER was well found as it caught insects from Elms bordering the track. Wandering down Pelistry Lane we opted to have lunch in the sunshine on the beach which was so magical in beautiful surroundings!
A first-winter BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE flew south and a scan of the Eastern Isles yielded a pair of NORTHERN RAVENS, one of which flew over us as we walked back up the lane.
We dropped down into Porth Hellick Bay where the AMERICAN GOLDEN PLOVER showed well but on the pool we couldn't spot the probable Wilson's Snipe amongst a large group of COMMON SNIPE and a single COMMON GREENSHANK.
The walk back took us along the coastal path where the only birds of note were MERLIN and NORTHERN WHEATEAR before we arrived in Old Town. With time getting on, we headed to the guesthouse via Buzza Hill and at the base of the hill caught up with the COMMON REDSTART, whilst on the beach were several PORTUGUESE MAN 'O WAR.
Back at the guesthouse we had a rest before reconvening for our evening meal which was very good indeed.
The bird list was then completed before some of the group headed to the Scillonian Club for the bird log and a nightcap!
Friday 13th October 2017
The weather had changed again with gusty conditions and grey cloud covering the island. Whilst having breakfast, we noted an adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL and SANDWICH TERN out on the bay.
After picking up lunch we wandered down to the quay ready for our crossing to Tresco. The boat was full by 1005 so we set off northwards in choppy conditions. An adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL passed the boat going south as we entered New Grimsby.
Wandering along the main track we checked out the Great Pool where 11 COMMON GREENSHANK and a single COMMON REDSHANK roosted and on the pool itself were good numbers of EURASIAN COOT and GADWALL plus a single LITTLE GREBE.
On Simpson’s Field we had good views of WHITE, GREY and WESTERN YELLOW WAGTAILS plus a couple of MUTE SWANS which we added to our lists. In the Rhododendrons behind us some had good but brief views of two COMMON FIRECRESTS plus several GOLDCRESTS.
Further along Abbey Road we saw our first RED SQUIRREL plus RED-LEGGED PARTRIDGE and COMMON PHEASANTS. On the Abbey Pool we noted singles of PINTAIL and EURASIAN WIGEON plus 18 LITTLE EGRETS, MALLARDS and GADWALL.
Lunch was enjoyed overlooking Pentle Bay where with perseverance, we located a winter-plumaged GREAT NORTHERN DIVER and on the beach we counted an amazing 92 SANDERLING as they scurried around amongst the sand and pebbles.
A search was made for Golden Pheasant but was unsuccessful although we did note the distant EURASIAN SPOONBILL as it roosted on Green Island, Samson.
It was then time for our last cuppa of the week in the Abbey Gardens where several GREY WAGTAILS flew over and RED SQUIRRELS, BROWN RATS and lots of HOUSE SPARROWS got our attention.
We then strolled slowly down to the quay to wait for the boat. A first-winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL flew past and a MERLIN was seen very distantly over St. Mary's.
The journey back was pretty good and we disembarked in good time and wandered back to our base where it was good to put our feet up after a lovely day.
Our evening meal was spent in a nearby hotel with a delightful three course meal, which was fantastic and we all headed back very content!
Saturday 14th October 2017
Breakfast was at the usual time and we spent some time doing a final bit of packing before leaving our cases ready for collection.
Some of the group headed into town for a spot of shopping whilst the remainder spent time birding Porthcressa Bay. A lone SANDWICH TERN patrolled the bay and on offshore rocks were three first-winter and an adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL. The COMMON REDSTART was relocated in the eastern corner of the bay and could be watched fly-catching off the rocks.
Up at Buzza Tower we had good views over the island and then we headed into town to collect our pre-ordered hot pasties. After lunch we slowly went towards the quay and in the sheltered waters we found another first-winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL plus the two PALE-BELLIED BRANTS.
We set sail on the Scillonian a few minutes early and began our journey back to the mainland. Good numbers of NORTHERN GANNETS were seen during the first leg and over the whole crossing we managed to find five GREAT SKUA, five BALEARIC SHEARWATER, RAZORBILL and singles of NORTHERN FULMAR and MANX SHEARWATER.
A pod of around 12 COMMON DOLPHINS came close to the boat and could be seen bow-riding alongside and as we neared Cornwall, we noted HARBOUR PORPOISE.
Our departure from the Scillonian was reasonably brisk and efficient enabling us to pick up our bags without too much of a wait. We said our goodbyes to the rest of the group after what had been a very successful tour with some brilliant birding, fantastic food and lovely company!