Friday, 15 November 2019

SE Isabela Island (Galapagos and Ecuador) - 21st August (Day 8)

The night was spent motoring for some 12 hours from the west coast of Isabela to Puerto Villamial on the south-east coast of Isabela and for once the conditions were calm and we slept well. We arrived at the harbour of Puerto Villamial at around 05:00 and awoke to a misty and drizzly day over the port town. The harbour here is surrounded by rocky revetments and areas of mangrove swamp and as we left the Nemo III at 07:00 we took a short diversion for good views of a juvenile Galapagos Penguin perched on lava at the harbour entrance. On arrival at the town we climbed aboard a truck with seats in the rear known locally as a Chiva. We wound through the lazy seaside town and then out northwards through the semi-humid lowland scrub consisting of abundant convolvulus, cacti and scrub. Our first stop was at a small brackish pool known as Posada De Flamengos which, fittingly, contained seven American Flamingo as well as White-cheeked Pintail, Common Gallinule, Black-winged Stilt and a long staying vagrant American Coot. As we drove onwards, a Dark-billed Cuckoo was spotted from the Chiva in the vegetation besie the road and after a delayed emergency stop (I don't think the driver quite knew what all the shouts of 'stop' meant) we reversed back a 100m or so and were soon enjoying views of this bird at close range, albeit hidden in the vegetation. Also here was a single Woodpecker Finch working its way through a vine tangle. By now it was raining steadily.

As we climbed higher up the slopes of Volcan Sierra Negra the forest became damper and the trees larger with dense clumps of dangling moss. Our first stop along a short muddy track produced our first Green Warbler-finch, Large Tree-finch and Small Tree-finch and an obliging, if furtive, Paint-billed Crake. Climbing higher into the drizzle and the fog further stops produced Galapagos Mockingbird, a second Paint-billed Crake, calling Galapagos Crake, good views of Woodpecker Finch and finally, after much searching, a female Little Vermillion Flycatcher an endemic species recently split from Vermillion Flycatcher and fast declining.

Our descent produced a further Dark-billed Cuckoo and numerous Cattle Egret. We spent the final hour on the beach and walking the board walk through mangrove and pools on the western outskirts of Puerto Villamial close to the 'Iguana Crossing Hotel'. Waders on the beach included Grey Plover, Hudsonian Whimbrel and Semipalmated Plover while a very obliging Great Blue Heron showed well alongside the locals as it fished the rockpools amongst the lava. On the lagoons were Red-billed Pintail, Black-winged Stilt and we watched the Marine Iguana's wallowing in the mud of the lagoons often becoming stuck. A Common Cactus-finch showed well in the mangroves.

We were back on the board for a late lunch and then began a long journey of around 15 hours to Espanola seawatching through the afternoon produced a good dose of sunburn as well as many White-vented Storm-petrel, two Band-rumped Storm-petrel, three Wedge-rumped Storm-petrel, three rather distant Waved Albatross (the first of the trip), eight Galapagos Petrel, abundant Galapagos Shearwater and four Swallow-tailed Gull.

Galapagos Penguin - Puerto Villamial, SE Isabela Island, Galapagos

Galapagos Penguin - Puerto Villamial, SE Isabela Island, Galapagos

American Flamingo - Puerto Villamial, SE Isabela Island, Galapagos

American Flamingo - Puerto Villamial, SE Isabela Island, Galapagos

American Flamingo - Puerto Villamial, SE Isabela Island, Galapagos

American Flamingo - Puerto Villamial, SE Isabela Island, Galapagos

Dark-billed Cuckoo - Puerto Villamial, SE Isabela Island, Galapagos

Green Warbler-finch - Volcan Sierra Negra, SE Isabela Island, Galapagos

Moss covered tree in the humid highlands of Volcan Sierra Negra, SE Isabela Island, Galapagos

Road up Volcan Sierra Negra, SE Isabela Island, Galapagos

Sarah and I had forgotten to pack a rain coat for Tobias and so had to fit him 
out in a ships bin-bag!

Paint-billed Crake - Volcan Sierra Negra, SE Isabela Island, Galapagos

Paint-billed Crake - Volcan Sierra Negra, SE Isabela Island, Galapagos

Large Tree-finch - Volcan Sierra Negra, SE Isabela Island, Galapagos

Small Ground-finch - Volcan Sierra Negra, SE Isabela Island, Galapagos

Small Ground-finch - Volcan Sierra Negra, SE Isabela Island, Galapagos

Small Tree-finch - Volcan Sierra Negra, SE Isabela Island, Galapagos

Woodpecker Finch - Volcan Sierra Negra, SE Isabela Island, Galapagos

Medium Ground-finch - Volcan Sierra Negra, SE Isabela Island, Galapagos

Medium Ground-finch - Volcan Sierra Negra, SE Isabela Island, Galapagos

Small Ground-finch - Volcan Sierra Negra, SE Isabela Island, Galapagos

Galapagos Mockingbird - Volcan Sierra Negra, SE Isabela Island, Galapagos

Little Vermillion Flycatcher - Volcan Sierra Negra, SE Isabela Island, Galapagos

Small Ground-finch - Volcan Sierra Negra, SE Isabela Island, Galapagos

Dark-billed Cuckoo - Volcan Sierra Negra, SE Isabela Island, Galapagos

Great Blue Heron - Puerto Villamial, SE Isabela Island, Galapagos

Great Blue Heron - Puerto Villamial, SE Isabela Island, Galapagos

Black-winged Stilt - Puerto Villamial, SE Isabela Island, Galapagos

Black-winged Stilt and Marine Iguana - Puerto Villamial, SE Isabela Island, Galapagos

Black-winged Stilt - Puerto Villamial, SE Isabela Island, Galapagos

White-cheeked Pintail - Puerto Villamial, SE Isabela Island, Galapagos

White-cheeked Pintail - Puerto Villamial, SE Isabela Island, Galapagos

Common Cactus-finch - Puerto Villamial, SE Isabela Island, Galapagos

Yellow-crowned Night-heron - Puerto Villamial, SE Isabela Island, Galapagos

Galapagos Petrel - At sea off SE Isabela Island, Galapagos

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Pennington Marsh - 12th November

After dropping Tobias at school I had a short wander around Pennington Marsh. It was a beautiful clear day but in the Force 5-6 NW wind it was distinctly cold and wintery. The water levels in the lagoons were high as was the tide and there were large numbers of Wigeon, Teal, Pintail, Shoveler, Brent Goose, Lapwing, Black-tailed Godwit and Dunlin on the flooded meadows. There was a single white-headed Ruff amongst the Godwits and at least three Water Pipit forced to the edges of the marshes by the high-water. A male Marsh Harrier caused the birds to fly also flushing around 75 Golden Plover from the marshes. A single Chiffchaff was present in the Bramble of the old landfill.

Water Pipit - Pennington Marsh, Hampshire

Chiffchaff - Pennington Marsh, Hampshire

Grey Heron - Pennington Marsh, Hampshire

Brent Goose, Wigeon, Teal, Pintail, Oystercatcher and Black-headed Gull - Pennington Marsh, Hampshire

Brent Goose, Wigeon, Teal and Dunlin - Pennington Marsh, Hampshire

Brent Goose, Wigeon, Teal, Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin and Black-headed Gull - Pennington Marsh, Hampshire

Wigeon, Teal and Shoveler - Pennington Marsh, Hampshire

Wigeon and Pintail - Pennington Marsh, Hampshire

Shoveler, Lapwing and Black-headed Gull - Pennington Marsh, Hampshire

Shoveler - Pennington Marsh, Hampshire

Shoveler and Wigeon - Pennington Marsh, Hampshire

Thursday, 24 October 2019

Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly - 17th - 22nd October

It has been a long time since we had visited our cottage in Cornwall and so we had booked a long weekend away in Cornwall and on the Isles of Scilly. Due to work commitments we had to reduce our time in Cornwall and so we eventually only had one full day. We headed down on 17th and spent the afternoon and evening relaxing. On 18th the weather was foul but as it was my only birding morning on mainland Cornwall I headed out at first light and spent 1.5 hours seawatching at Pendeen in a F7 westerly with some heavy squally showers. There were many Gannet, Razorbill and Guillemot passing plus smaller numbers of Kittiwake. Highlights were four Arctic Tern, a single Sooty Shearwater, two Balearic Shearwater, three Manx Shearwater, four Dunlin and a Merlin which zipped westwards. News broke of a first year Subalpine Warbler at Cot Valley and I decided to have a quick look for it. The bird was in the bracken and scrub above the Youth Hostel and in the strong winds and heavy rain it was pretty hopeless and all I managed was a brief flight view of the bird as it flicked between two Hawthorn bushes.

On 19th we were up at 06:30, tidied the cottage and were on our way to Lands End airport for our 09:30 flight to St. Mary's. Arriving on Scilly at 09:50 on a beautiful sunny day we checked into the Star Castle Hotel and then headed out. We wandered out to Old Town Churchyard and spent some time here where the only birds were three Goldcrest and two Blackcap. There was no sign of the long staying Red-backed Shrike. We then headed through Lower Moors, a couple Yellow-browed Warbler called, the hide was devoid of birds and the long staying and confiding Spotted Crake did not show. After a relaxing lunch in Juliet's Cafe we headed out to Holy Vale where there were three Yellow-browed Warbler and then to Porth Hellick pool where there were eight Common Teal and 11 Snipe but no sign of the long staying Blue-winged Teal. It was now 15:45 and so we decided to head back to the Star Castle. A stop at Lower Moors produced a very brief view of the Spotted Crake and a single Water Rail which had just chased the crake away. It had been a slow start to our time on the islands but its always good to be back here.

Cot Valley as we flew from Land's End to Isles of Scilly

Grey Heron - St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly

Porthellick Pool, St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly


On 20th we headed over to St. Martin's and walked along the back of Par Beach before cutting up to the Day Mark and then headed back down to the road before walking along the spine of the island to the Karma Hotel in the west of the island where we had lunch. Birding was fairly slow going but there were large numbers of Redwing and Fieldfare with around 250 of the former and 50 of the latter. A Firecrest and two Yellow-browed Warbler were in the Middle Town area, a male Merlin on Chapel Down and two Stonechat. We caught the 15:30 back from St. Martin's and on arrival on St. Mary's we headed up to Lower Moors where the Spotted Crake was showing well as it preened in the boggy woodland at the Rosehill end of the trail. We watched the bird for a few minutes before it slipped away into the flooded woodland once again. We then headed to Porthloo Beach where there were around 45 Oystercatcher and a single Northern Wheatear. The main thing I wanted to see here was Portuguese Man' O War of which we soon came across five beached animals, although most were now bleached and colourless, one had retained its bright blue and pink colours. These strange creatures, dubbed locally as 'Purple Pasties', are not true jellyfish (which are single organisms) but a siphonophore, which is a colonial organism made up of many specialised animals (polyps) of the same species.

Greenfinch - St. Martin's, Isles of Scilly

Oystercatcher - St. Martin's, Isles of Scilly

View to north-west over St. Martin's from the Day Mark with White Island to the right

Redwing and Fieldfare - St. Martin's, Isles of Scilly

Dark Common Pheasant, these seem to be the common form present on St. Martin's - St. Martin's, Isles of Scilly

Redwing - St. Martin's, Isles of Scilly

Northern Wheatear - St. Martin's, Isles of Scilly

Spotted Crake - St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly

Spotted Crake - St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly

Spotted Crake - St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly

Spotted Crake - St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly

Spotted Crake - St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly

Portuguese Man O' War - St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly

On 21st we caught the boat across to St. Agne's, one of my favourite of all islands, and wandered out to Wingletang Down via the Gugh Bar and back down Barnaby Lane. It seemed fairly quiet and the highlights were two Swallow, a single Northern Wheatear, Chiffchaff and two Stonechat as well as moderate numbers of Redwing and Fieldfare. At the top end of Barnaby Lane 'pishing' into the elms produced a Goldcrest and a single Yellow-browed Warbler. We then dropped down through Middle Town to Porth Cloose where a Spotted Sandpiper showed well as it fed along the strandline seaweed mounds. After lunch at the Turks Head we were on the 14:15 ferry back to St. Mary's and enjoyed a wander around the Garrison where eventually the Blue Rock Thrush showed fairly well but a little distantly as it fed on the beach at Morning Point. This bird has been present since 22nd September and is my second in the UK after the Stow-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire bird on 3rd February 2017. There was little else to be seen and so by 17:00 we were tucked up in the Atlantic with a pint.

Yellow-browed Warbler - St. Agne's, Isles of Scilly

Spotted Sandpiper - St. Agne's, Isles of Scilly

Spotted Sandpiper - St. Agne's, Isles of Scilly

Spotted Sandpiper - St. Agne's, Isles of Scilly

Spotted Sandpiper - St. Agne's, Isles of Scilly

Spotted Sandpiper - St. Agne's, Isles of Scilly

Blue Rock Thrush - St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly 

Blue Rock Thrush - St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly

Blue Rock Thrush - St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly

View of St. Agnes from the Garrison, St. Mary's with the Scillonian

The 22nd was our final day and after breakfast we had a walk around the pines, campsite and Woolpack area of the Garrison where there were small numbers of Redwing, three fly-over Brambling, a couple of Goldcrest and a Chiffchaff. Spider collected us at 10:40 for our 11:40 flight and we stopped in Old Town where a New Zealand Spiny Stick Insect had been seen yesterday and after a bit of searching we found this superb 15cm insect dangling from a Pittosporum. Our flight was delayed by 50 minutes but our crossing was very smooth and the sea flat calm allowing us to see around 20 Common Dolphin from the air. We landed at Land's End at 12:45 and were home by 18:00.

New Zealand Spiny Stick Insect Micrarchus hystricuelus - Old Town, St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly