Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Isles of Scilly - 24th-28th September

Sarah, Tobias and I were back on the Isles of Scilly for a four night stay on my favourite archipelago. We travelled down on 23rd, a five hour drive from Hampshire, to our cottage at Trowan and just to the west of St. Ives. After getting some supplies we went for a short stroll at Godrevy Point where we went to show Tobias the Grey Seal colony. There were 14 animals on the beach including at least one bull and three young animals, presumably from the earlier breeding season. There were few birds to be seen, four Stonechat, Rock Pipit and good numbers of Meadow Pipit. We headed to the cottage and spent the evening relaxing and catching up with some of the Rugby World Cup.

On 24th we were on our way to St. Just Airfield at 08:30 for our 10:15 flight to St. Mary's. I did a little birding around the airport but saw nothing and now the airfield has been resurfaced and the flower rich runways seemingly lost the numbers of pipits and finches seem to be a great deal lower than in previous times. After landing we transferred to the Star Castle, gathered our stuff and went for a walk around the Garrison seeing little. Lunch was calling and so we headed out to Juliet's for a seafood much. After lunch we walked through Lower Moors to Old Town Bay, around Old Town Church Yard and up over Penninis Head head. In the warm sunshine and fairly stiff north-westerly wind there was little to be seen, 4 Wheatear, 2 Willow Warbler, 6 Chiffchaff, a couple of Blackcap, Kingfisher and a Spotted Flycatcher were the highlights.

Peninnes Head from the Garrison

Hugh Town - St.Mary's

The 25th dawned early, it was my birthday and as always I try and maximise my birding time so I was up at 05:45 and was out early onto the Garrison. A Bonelli's Warbler had been reported yesterday evening and I was hoping to see this but it was not to be. Still, it was a beautiful morning, an early Redwing over the Star Castle, a Willow Warbler, eight Siskin east, three Chiffchaff, two Blackcap and 15 Sandwich Tern were the highlights. After breakfast we were off to St. Agnes, the targets here were a Red-eyed Vireo at the church which was found yesterday and an elusive Grey-cheeked Thrush at Warna's Cove. I decided on the vireo considering that I didn't want to spend an age waiting for the thrush if it had gone, so see the vireo, hopefully the thrush will be reported and then head there. I bumped into an old friend from Fair Isle, Keith Pellow, and had a bit of a chat and then we began looking for the vireo. Keith one side of the church, myself another. Birding on Scilly in recent years has all but died with very few visitors now. At the vireo there were four of us looking, okay, its not a mega bird but you would expect more - Spider suggested that there were probably only eight visiting birders on the islands currently. Anyway, enough waffling, eventually the Red-eyed Vireo showed very well in the now brilliant sunshine and sunny conditions. We watched it sunbathing and flycatching in the beautiful weather. This was my sixth Red-eyed Vireo in the UK, all on Scilly, three of which i have found myself. They are fantastic bird with their silky white underparts and their grey crowns neatly edged black.

Red-eyed Vireo in the Pittosporum behind the church on St.Agnes

Linnet - St. Agnes Churchyard

After the vireo I decided to head to the thrush even through it had not yet been seen, I decided that I would give it 30 minutes and then head off birding. I walked via Troy Town and spent some time looking in the beet fields, some pishing produced 4 Willow Warbler and the usual Wrens and Dunnocks. At Warnas Cove there were four birders, one of which had been waiting for the thrush for  two hours with no luck so I gave it 30 minutes, there were 6 Blackcap and a Reed Warbler but no sign of the thrush. I birded back along Barnaby Lane and towards the Turks Head to meet Sarah and Tobias for lunch. Beer in the sun. After lunch we wandered the island, we didn't see a great deal but had views of a Yellow-browed Warbler in the beet fields at Troy Town and had another look at the vireo. Back on St. Mary's I had a wander around the Garrison before dinner but saw little.

Willow Warbler - Troy Town, St. Agnes

Yellow-browed Warbler - Troy Town, St. Agnes

On 26th I was up early for a pre-breakfast walk around the Garrison, again, I didn't see a great deal but for a Willow Warbler, 22 Sandwich Tern, a Whinchat and around 40 Swallow.

Kestrel - Garrison, St. Mary's

Kestrel - Garrison, St. Mary's

Whinchat - Garrison, St. Marys

Today we decided to head to Tresco, there had been a Glossy Ibis on the island but I was not to fussed by this and was not fussed when we didn't see it. It was pretty slow going with around 25 Goldcrest, Peregrine, 32 Greenshank, 3 Willow Warbler and 2 Whinchat the highlights. While a bit of rock pooling with Tobias produced a Squat Lobster and a fine Edible Crab.

Goldcrest - Tresco

Squat Lobster - Tresco

Great Green Bush-cricket - Tresco

Great-green Bush-cricket - Tresco

On 27th I decided to head to the golf course for a pre-breakfast walk and to see if I could catch up with a Dotterel that had been present for three days. I spend 1.5 hours wandering the golf course, no Dotterel but I did have a Short-toed Lark on the golf course which I only saw well in flight and alas no photographs were obtained - I put the news out but don't think it was seen again. Otherwise there were 6 Wheatear and small numbers of Meadow Pipit and Linnet.

Wheatear - St. Mary's Golf Course in the early morning light

Our plan today was to head to St. Martin's but Sarah wasn't feeling well so Tobias and I decided to head up St. Mary's. We birded Lower Moors, Old Town up past the airport and to Porth Hellick but saw relatively little, a couple of Whinchat, Snipe, Blackcap, Willow Warbler and that was about it. A bit of rock pooling produced quite a few Mauve Stinger jellyfish in the shallows. We finished the day at the Garrison but again saw little.

Mauve Stinger - St. Mary's

The 28th was the final day of our time on Scilly and I headed up to the airfield pre-breakfast to look for 3 Lapland Bunting and a Richard's Pipit that were reported here yesterday evening. As I approached the airfield I saw the distinctive flight silhouette of the Lapland Buntings which fortunately pitched down and showed well by the wind sock.  These seemed to be a female, male and a 1st winter bird, the male was quite a stunning looking bird with a good chestnut collar and dark throat and upper breast. It was not long before i heard the Richard's Pipit and it circled above me but unfortunately pitched down in the middle of the airfield so views were poor. Other birds included many Meadow Pipit and 6 Wheatear.

Lapland Bunting, a female I think - St Mary's Airfield

Lapland Bunting, 1st winter in foreground and female behind I think - St Mary's Airfield

The three Lapland Bunting, the male is the middle bird - St. Mary's Airfield

Richard's Pipit - St. Mary's Airfield

Richard's Pipit - St. Mary's Airfield

Rock Pipit - Porth Minnick, St. Mary's

Ringed Plover - Porth Minnick, St. Mary's

I walked back via Porth Minnick and Old Town Churchyard and then back for breakfast. We packed our bags and decided to walk to the airport via Peninnis Head for our 12:30 flight to Land's End after a very enjoyable stay on Scilly, the weather was a little hot and settled for anything major but Scilly is always very enjoyable. We spent the afternoon at Marazion wandering on the beach and watching Tobias dodge the waves, 22 Pale-bellied Brent in the breakers just offshore were noteworthy. We spent the evening in the cottage and headed for home at midday on the 29th.