Sunday, 9 October 2016

Isle's of Scilly - 22nd- 28th September

Okay, this is quite a late post and, looking back, I feel quite underwhelmed by the birds seen during my time on Scilly. This is especially so when one looks at what has been happening on the East Coast and Northern Islands of late with Siberian Accentor, Two-barred Greenish Warbler, Siberian Thrush, White's Thrush, Eastern Crowned Warbler, Red-flanked Bluetail's and Orphean Warbler to name but a few. But, my time on Scilly this September was as enjoyable as ever even though it did not deliver on the bird front. Sarah, Tobias and I spent a few days with my Dad and Step Mum and we had a great relaxing time. I squeezed in some birding and the weather was largely okay.

22nd September - St. Mary's
We stayed in our cottage at Trowan overnight and were up bright and early for a 09:30 flight to St. Mary's. All was on time and we were on the island by 09:50. After a little wait for Spider at the airport while watching a few Wheatear on the runway we were off to our usual haunt of the Star Castle. After a coffee we headed for a short walk around the Garrison and to Juliet's for a much needed lunch and then back through Lower Moor's, over Peninnis and back to the Star. We saw little, a fly-by Turtle Dove while at Juliet's - my first of the year,  Chiffchaff in small numbers, a Pied Flycatcher, Willow Warbler and a couple of Whinchat at Lower Moors and a Black-necked Grebe at Porthcressa, a Scilly tick, and that was about it.

Chiffchaff - Lower Moors

Song Thrush - Garrison

Whinchat - Lower Moors

23rd September - St. Agnes
I was up early this morning and birded the Garrison before breakfast but there was little to show for it in a strong south-west wind. A few Swallow and a Spotted Flycatcher near the tennis court was the sum of it. A breakfast of bacon, sausage, hash brown and eggs at the Star Castle was most welcome.

Gannet - Garrison

We opted to head for one of my favourite islands today and after a massive tantrum from Tobias I left the family playing on the beach at Periglis Cove. I spent a little while looking for a Red-breasted Flycatcher at the back of Porth Killer and it showed incredibly well in the shadows of a pine tree. Such fantastic little birds, rather drab, but with a very attractive, almost friendly appearance. I then wandered over to Big Pool where a Lesser Yellowlegs had been present for a few days and it was not to disappoint showing well around the edge of the pool. A wryneck had been present at Browarth Point for a week or so but despite a good bash around I failed to find it, highlight here were nothing more than a few Wheatear.

Red-breasted Flycatcher - Port Killier

Red-breasted Flycatcher - Port Killier

Red-breasted Flycatcher - Port Killier

Red-breasted Flycatcher - Port Killier

Lesser Yellowlegs - Big Pool

We walked back past the Community Hall, Parsonage and the Lighthouse seeing little in the very sunny conditions. So we planted at the Turk's Head and enjoyed the view and a couple of pints before wandering along Barnaby Lane and over Wingletang Down again with little of note seen.

The Scillonian against the Garrison, St. Mary's

Shag - St. Mary's Quay

24th September - St. Mary's
Today dawned with a howling gale and with rain forecast from around 13:00 we decided to stay on St. Mary's. I had a wander around the Garrison before breakfast but saw little but for a Blackcap and two Spotted Flycatcher. After breakfast I spent a little time hiring golf buggies, my Dad these days is not so good on his feet due to osteoarthritis and so we thought this would be a nice way to see the island with minimal effort and a bit of shelter from the rain. They were £50 for the day which was okay but there really is only about 1.5 hours charge in them. We started with a walk at Halangy Down and up past the mast. A Wryneck had been present for some time but we had no luck. Next we stopped at Newford Duck pond and Tobias was entertained by the ducks jumping on the golf buggies for bread - we saw a Pied Flycatcher here but nothing else. And then as the rain started we headed for Juliet's for lunch and a few beers. Drunk in charge of a golf buggy, we headed up around the top of the island and stopped at Porth Hellick as the rain began to fall. We wandered to the bird hides, a Yellow-browed Warbler called and on the pool were four Snipe, two Water Rail, a Dunlin and a Greenshank plus around 20 House Martin and 15 Swallow. Tobias was shattered and fell a sleep on the buggy so we headed back for a bit of relaxation via the Atlantic for a few beers - it was now hammering it down.

Snipe - Porth Hellick Pool

Snipe - Porth Hellick Pool

Snipe - Porth Hellick Pool

Greenshank - Porth Hellick Pool

Greenshank - Porth Hellick Pool

Greenshank - Porth Hellick Pool

Greenshank - Porth Hellick Pool

Greenshank - Porth Hellick Pool

Greenshank - Porth Hellick Pool

Water Rail - Porth Hellick Pool

Water Rail - Porth Hellick Pool

25th September - Tresco
It was my Birthday, 45 this year, and so I wanted to find a rare, I don't want much just something to get the adrenalin going, a Red-flanked Bluetail would do, any sort of BB rare would be fine so my birding intensity was up a notch. I was up and birding the Garrison pre-breakfast in bright, sunny and still conditions. Two Spotted Flycatcher, Black-necked Grebe, Pied Flycatcher and a self found Yellow-browed Warbler was a fair start. After breakfast we headed to Tresco and walked from New Grimsby quay south to Abbey Drive and cut inland. At the start of the Elms at the west end of the Abbey Drive a flick of white and there in front of me was a Red-breasted Flycatcher, too quick for the camera it dived into cover and after a short wait I strolled on. It was slow going, a Blackcap at the east end of Abbey Drive and a group of 40 Greenshank on the pool plus around 60 Swallow and 40 House Martin. We wandered up Borough Road and I dropped back a bit to bird, at Borough Farm I caught up with Dad and heard a familiar 'swee-wee', Yellow-browed Warbler. I stayed back and tried to see it but no luck. Wandering on, a short way past the farm a pale blob on the edge of a field that I initially thought was going to be a Song Thrush turned out to be a nice Wryneck, another self-found. A little further along the same a hedgerow was a Redstart. Wandering on the family were keen to head for lunch while I just wanted to bird so I said to them to wander on and I would catch up. I stopped at Green Porth where I was convinced that a flock of around 125 Linnet would contain something good, maybe a Little Bunting but I scanned and scanned but there was nothing. Time to head for lunch, we had a fantastic seafood platter followed by Hake and a few beers and then a little birthday cake, all very nice. I was itching to go birding so headed south back along Borough Road and along the north side of Great Pool. I had okay views of the Yellow-browed Warbler at Borough Farm that I had heard calling earlier, two Sparrowhawk, a Buzzard and that was about it.

Back on St. Mary's I had a short wander onto the Garrison but saw nothing and then ordered a bottle of Champagne that Sarah and I enjoyed on the veranda celebrating my 45th birthday and our 6th wedding anniversary while Tobias played with his cars. Maybe next year I will find a rare but maybe after at least six years on Scilly at this time of year with no major find this is not the place.

Small Copper - Abbey Pool, Tresco

Wryneck - Borough Farm, Tresco

A yacht against St. Martin's

Stonechat - Tresco

Cromwell's Castle, Tresco - I proposed to Sarah at the top right of the castle on this day in 2010 and hence the draw of Scilly at this time

26th September - St. Mary's
I awoke early today as Tobias has taken to sleeping in our bed this holiday which is fine as long as it doesn't continue when we get home. So, in a strong wind and semi-dark I headed out over the Garrison, it was not only windy but there was a thick fog and drizzle. I loitered around in the dark realising that I had got up far to early, as the sun began to rise I recognised the shapes of Dunnock, Blackbird and Song Thrush but it was almost an hour before I could make out the first noteworthy bird, the now familiar Spotted Flycatcher at the tennis courts. I wandered on and saw another Spotted Flycatcher near the football club house. There was a certain rare feel about the weather conditions but other than a Pied Flycatcher and a Yellow-browed Warbler on Lower Broome Platform I saw little so I headed for breakfast. The plan for the day was to head to St. Martin's but due to the poor weather we stayed on St. Mary's. Sarah and I wandered over Peninnis Head, through Old Town Church Yard and through Lower Moors to Juliet's for lunch. It was slow going, a Redstart on Peninnis  two Chiffchaff in Old Town Church Yard, a Snipe, Greenshank, Kingfisher and a couple of Chiffchaff at Lower Moors and that was about it. The rains started to hammer down so after lunch we made a dash to the Atlantic to meet my Dad and Step Mum and that was about it for the day.

Herring Gull - Juvenile Porthcressa

Black-necked Grebe - Porthcressa, a Scilly tick for me

27th September - St. Mary's and Flight 
Again I was up early wandering the Garrison in thick fog seeing very little but for the usual two Spotted Flycatcher and little else but for a Pied Flycatcher on Lower Broome Platform. We were due to fly at 13:10 today and so after breakfast I checked on the flights at the hotel, all flights cancelled due to the fog. So, we met with my Dad and had a stroll around Hugh Town and out to Porthcressa where I had my now daily sighting of the Black-necked Grebe in the bay. Before long we had a call for the airport and after a bit of waiting around we were off at around 14:30 in now bright and sunny conditions. After a bit of food shopping we headed to Perranuthnoe where Sarah had a bite to eat in the car and I went to Boat Cove look for the Hudsonian Whimbrel for the fourth time after a single distant view on 5th March 2016. But the tide was very high and the beaches largely covered and other than three Bar-tailed Godwit, eight Ringed Plover, four Dunlin, six Turnstone and a Little Egret I saw nothing. It was time to head for the comfort of the cottage at Trowan.

Bar-tailed Godwit (juvenile) - Boat Cove, Perranuthnoe

Bar-tailed Godwit (juveniles) - Boat Cove, Perranuthnoe

Bar-tailed Godwit (juvenile) - Boat Cove, Perranuthnoe

Little Egret (1st winter) - Boat Cove, Perranuthnoe

28th September
We got up late and had a leisurely breakfast before loading the car and heading back to Hampshire.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Pennington Marshes - 17th September

On a grey and dreary September day in a strong north-west wind I had a wander around Pennington Marshes while Sarah enjoyed the spa at the Limewood Hotel before we met to celebrate our 6th wedding anniversary. It was thin pickings on the marsh with the highlights being five Yellow Wagtail, six Wheatear, one Reed Warbler, one Little Stint and six Sandwich Tern. Wigeon numbers were up to 45 and there was the usual range of waders. A steady stream of Hirundines overhead was estimated at around 250 Swallow with far smaller numbers of House Martin and Sand Martin. I felt a little underwhelmed by the whole experience and was quite pleased to meet Sarah in the Limewood for a glass of Champagne before heading to The Pig for wine and a lovely lunch!

Yellow Wagtail (1st winter) - Pennington Marshes

Whinchat (1st winter) - Pennington Marshes

Little Grebe - Pennington Marshes

Little Grebe a fairly late chick on Jetty Lagoon - Pennington Marshes

Turnstone - Pennington Marshes

Monday, 5 September 2016

Pennington Marsh - 2nd September

A grey and windy September morning found me at Pennington Marsh once more. A quick look at Efford Lagoon produced little but for a single Common Sandpiper and 15 Swallow. I headed to Fishtail Lagoon where there were five Little Stint and three Curlew Sandpiper but otherwise it was fairly quiet. So cutting along the north side of Butts and Jetty Lagoon I headed out to the seawall where I spent some time getting fairly close views of two Wood Sandpiper, two Little Stint and a Curlew Sandpiper. Also here were 30 Black-tailed Godwit, 30 Teal, six Wigeon, two Pintail and eight Shoveler.

Wood Sandpiper - Jetty Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Wood Sandpiper - Jetty Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Curlew Sandpiper - Jetty Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Curlew Sandpiper - Jetty Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Little Stint - Jetty Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Little Stint - Jetty Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

From the seawall at Butts Lagoon there were at least 80 Grey Plover, 20 Turnstone and 25 Ringed Plover. It was pretty cold and the strong winds made viewing difficult so I headed for Fishtail Lagoon where there was little but for a Common Sandpiper and around 35 Teal. Out to Keyhaven Lagoon a single Wheatear was the highlight. In the bushes there were few warblers, three Reed Warbler, a single Sedge Warbler and no more than five Chiffchaff. It was time to head off and it was some relief to get to the shelter of the car.

Common Sandpiper - Fishtail Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Common Gull - Fishtail Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Northern Wheatear- Keyhaven Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Pennington Marsh and New Forest - 29th and 30th August

It was a glorious Bank Holiday weekend and on Monday Sarah, Tobias and I went for a walk around Denny Wood. Much of our time was taken up with climbing trees and showing Tobias, Beech mast, Crab Apples, Sweet Chestnut 'conker's as well as hunting for Badger in various holes, the latter with little success. A few Marsh Tit were heard calling and Common Darter buzzed around the pools. I heard a call, 'Daddy, whats this' as Tobias pointed to the ground and there was a magnificent (if not pretty) Goat Moth caterpillar. This was a tick for Daddy and I am not sure who was the most excited Tobias or me. Anyway, after a bit of handling experience we placed the beast off the path and out of harms way. This is a scarce species in the UK, so named because the larvae is said to emit an aroma similar to that of a goat. The species is one of the longest lived moths in the UK living for around four years as a larvae feeding on wood of willow, birch and oak amongst others. Certain trees are traditionally used and it is thought that egg laying Goat Moth may be attracted back to the same tree by the aroma of the tree and its inhabitants. The sap runs caused by the boring larvae attract a diverse range of other invertebrates and such traditionally used trees are extremely important ecological features. A link to a Butterfly Conservation information leaflet can be found here.

Goat Moth larvae - Denny Wood, New Forest

Tuesday 30th August was a glorious day and I could not resist a trip down to Pennington Marsh. There were large numbers of hirundines present with an estimated 250 Swallow and smaller numbers of House Martin and Sand Martin. Fishtail lagoon is superb at the moment and I spent almost an hour here scanning from the bund to the east counting 11 Little Stint, at least nine Curlew Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Ruff, 12 Snipe, around 150 Dunlin, 30 or so Black-tailed Godwit, 15 Ringed Plover, a juvenile Pintail, three Wigeon and around 75 Teal. In addition, there were at least two Wheatear, 30 Yellow Wagtail plus a handful of Chiffchaff, Reed Warbler and Whitethroat plus singles of Sedge Warbler and Willow Warbler.

Mediterranean Gull a moulting adult now in winter plumage - Efford Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

I then wandered along the south side of Butts and Jetty Lagoon before walking out onto the seawall. On Jetty Lagoon were around 250 Black-tailed Godwit, another Wood Sandpiper, 15 Snipe, around 125 Teal and eight Wigeon.

Black-tailed Godwit - Jetty Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Black-tailed Godwit - Jetty Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Black-tailed Godwit, good numbers of juvenile with their scaly upper parts are now moving through the site - Jetty Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Canada Goose - Jetty Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Canada Goose - Jetty Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

A scan to sea produced two cracking juvenile Little Gull, a patch tick for me, loitering offshore with the Black-headed Gull. Also present were around 25 Common Tern and 15 Sandwich Tern. Back at Fishtail Lagoon the same range of birds were present and I spent a short while enjoying the scene nice again before heading off to Keyhaven Lagoon. The water levels in Keyhaven Lagoon are looking good due to the current dry spell and there were 83 Grey Plover, 125 Redshank, 16 Little Egret, 75 Black-tailed Godwit and a handful of Dunlin. I searched hard for a Greater Sandplover but with no luck! Maybe next week....

Redshank and Curlew Sandpiper - Fishtail Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Dunlin - Fishtail Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Little Stint and Dunlin - Fishtail Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

A news alert flashed on my mobile, Roseate Tern at the jetty so a quick walk along the seawall produced a group of birders studying a tern perched on one of the posts. It was a little distant and in a heat haze and did have a dark bill but its overall darker grey tones showed it to be a Common Tern. The bird was either an adult winter or a 1st summer bird, a plumage that is a little less familiar in the UK as much of the body moult from summer to winter plumage and back again occurs further south. 

Common Tern, a first summer or adult winter bird - The Jetty, Pennington Marsh

I then made a quick stop at Matley Corner near to Denny Wood. This is one of my favourite locations for Orthoptera and one that I try and get to every few years. In a very small area one can find Wood Cricket, Heath Grasshopper, Woodland Grasshopper, Large Marsh Grasshopper and Bog Bush-cricket as well as most of the commoner species. A short wander into the bog produced around 12 Large Marsh Grasshopper, a stunning species. It has a very distinctive stridulation a series of single clicks rather than a rapid sequence as with most other species. The sound is produced by the animal kicking a single leg rhythmically. Unusually, I found no Bog Bush-criket and I wondered whether the grazing pressure was a little heavy.

Large Marsh Grasshopper - Matley Bog, New Forest

Large Marsh Grasshopper in mid stridulation - Matley Bog, New Forest

Woodland Grasshopper, a very localised species in the UK but with a stronghold in the New Forest - Matley Corner, New Forest

Back on the woodland edge the Heath Grasshopper and Woodland Grasshopper were very active and unapproachable in the very warm conditions so the only picture I obtained was of a single Woodland Grasshopper which I later realised had lost a rear leg - probably why it was easier to approach. A stunning little creature nonetheless. There were many stridulating Wood Cricket but I didn't have time to hunt them down but a colony of Bee-wolf distracted me and I spent some time watching them furnishing their burrows with Honey-bee, there must have been at least 40 burrows in the colony and I bookmarked the colony for a return visit when conditions are a little cooler and the insects more approachable for some pictures.