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Post Info TOPIC: Isles of Scilly


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RE: Isles of Scilly


Just back from a four day stay on the Isles of Scilly. The pelagic trip was arranged via Oriole Birding and consisted of four outings of between five and seven hours on MV Sapphire plus two half days on the islands where you were left to your own devices if you so wished. We arrived in Penzance on the evening before departure on the Scillonian 111 which left an hour or so birding locally and we also birded again the morning after we returned to Penzance at the end of the trip.

The weather was so so. We sailed out on Monday 7 August and the initial west/north westerlies, by Tuesday had turned to northerlies with a wind speed of around 25 mph. The sea, at times, was choppy to say the least and on Tuesday, three on the boat were suffering from sea sickness. Taking photographs was difficult although conditions eased on the Wednesday and Thursday, albeit still with northerlies. It was generally fine and sunnyish with the odd shower here and there.

After checking in at our Penzance guesthouse on Sunday evening we headed to Hayle estuary to start with where several juvenile Whimbrel were present along with Black-tailed Godwit, Common Sandpiper and Sandwich Tern. After twenty minutes we moved on over to Pendeen Lighthouse where Manx Shearwater were moving, mainly east-west, at a rate of around three thousand an hour. Nothing else of note during our forty five minute stay other than usuals of Fulmar, Shag, Kittiwake and Gannet etc.

The next day crossing to Scilly added Storm Petrel, Great Shearwater, Great Skua, Common Scoter and around four thousand Manx Shearwater amongst others. That evening we headed out on our first pelagic, around six miles south of St Mary's, seeing 75 Great Shearwater, 12 Cory's Shearwater, 15 Storm Petrel, 2 Bonxies, 60 Sooty Shearwater and an Arctic Tern.

On Tuesday the 8th we undertook a pelagic in the morning until early afternoon, then another in the evening which doubled up as a Blue Shark tagging session which was excellent. Smaller numbers of seabirds were present and this was the roughest day at sea with northerlies but it yielded our first Wilson's Petrel. The bird was a couple of hundred yards out and flying away from the boat but at least it was in the bag. We also found our first Balearic Shearwater. As part of an ongoing programme five Blue Sharks were caught, tagged then released. The smallest was around three and a half to four feet long with the largest maybe another half a foot longer. Their power was easy to see and I was glad I wasn't meeting one of their larger brothers under the water.

On the Wednesday, another trip out, this time three miles south of St Mary's for more chumming and drifting. Again, smaller numbers of shearwaters but around 8 Storm Petrel were observed with 3 further Wilson's Petrel, this time nearer the boat and some good views were had.

We spent two mornings on St Mary's and Tresco and whilst there were no blown in migrants around, plenty of land based birds were added to our list. Large Pool on Tresco proved decent for waders with Greenshank, Redshank, Green Sandpiper & Wood Sandpiper being seen.

On the return crossing to Penzance similar birds were seen as on the outward journey but with the addition of 4 Balearic Shearwater.

Prior to our long journey north we did a bit of birding at Marazion Marsh, Marazion Beach, Hayle Estuary and on the cliffs near Portreath.

Of note :-

Fulmar
Cory's Shearwater (50)
Great Shearwater (100)
Sooty Shearwater (80)
Manx Shearwater (15000 min)
Balearic Shearwater (5)
Storm Petrel (55)
Wilson's Petrel (4)
Gannet
Shag
Buzzard
Peregrine (4)
Ringed Plover
Sanderling
Black-tailed Godwit
Whimbrel (6)
Greenshank (8)
Green Sandpiper (2)
Wood Sandpiper (2)
Common Sandpiper (2)
Turnstone
Great Skua (20)
Mediterranean Gull (2)
Kittiwake
Sandwich Tern
Common Tern
Arctic Tern
Rock Pipit
Stonechat
Reed Warbler

Photographs attached showing Storm Petrel, Great Shearwater, Cory's Shearwater & Blue Shark.





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Just back from an amazing week on the Isles of Scilly. I arrived on the 18th on the Scillonian III and left on the 23rd, and stayed up on the garrison campsite. It's a little early in the season for megas (though birders were beginning to arrive as I left), but 8 lifers for me made for a very decent tally. Sorry if this report is a little long-winded, but figured it might be useful to give sightings a bit of context.

First day I arrived I got my tent up and sorted, then headed down to Lower Moors to check out a Wryneck sighting, didn't have too much joy, but did find Ruff, Greenshank, Kingfisher, Cormorant and Snipe on the pools. On recommendation of a local I decided to go out on Joe Pender's pelagic on what was at this point a fairly rough sea. As we left port we had a Med Gull coming for bread off the boat, followed by a Bonxie as well as a procession of Gannets and commoner gull species. We chummed about 5 miles off the isles, and almost immediately we had Storm Petrel, followed by Sooty Shearwater. As night drew in we had great views of 2 adult Sabine's Gull and a juvenile not long after. A juvenile Med Gull fed for a prolonged period in the slick of chum, and all the while Joe caught 3 Blue Shark, tagged them, then released them. I also got talking to Jim, the local ringer, and set up an early morning rendezvous that would become a staple of my time on the islands.

Next morning I met Jim at Porth Hellick, in fairly dense fog following a rainy night. Perfect weather for migrants, and this showed as a procession of Willow Warblers were pulled from the nets alongside Chiffchaffs (interestingly there were 3 or 4 times the number of Willows than there were Chiffchaff), Sedge Warblers, Reed Warblers and a single Grasshopper Warbler. Most exciting by far was a single Melodious Warbler, a first for me and obviously a new arrival with very little fat. After this was revealed for photos and then released into the bush, I headed back to Hugh Town with intent of going to tresco.

This never came together, as I got a text through of Barred Warbler at the Penninis Allotments. It proved a skulky beggar though and views never materialised for me, though had Osprey overhead. I headed back towards Lower Moors to eat my lunch, and got news of a possible Booted Warbler on Penninis. I ran up as quickly as I could, only to find some confused local birders looking for it (turns out pager directions were slightly off). I then wandered back to Porth Hellick to check the masses of warblers, and to photograph Curlew Sandpiper. I got a phone call telling me to get back to the Booted as it was showing well. I got onto it easily in the evening, and watched it feeding very close to the path where I was sitting. Poor thing was presumably grounded in the fog, makes you wonder how many birds don't make it in such conditions.

Next day I was down to Jim's again, but didn't quite have the quality of the day before. There were more Willows though, and Whinchat in the hand was a real bonus. I also got so see Black Tailed Godwit really close on the pool which was great. There had also been quite an arrival of Sedge Warblers too, which seemed to call from every bush. I also had BN Grebe close to shore in Hugh Town harbour, which lots of birders needed for year lists. The fog hasn't really lifted all that much so these were the only new birds were coming in, but a thrashing of some fields produced Blackcap in some numbers as well as Pied and Spotted Flycatcher. After a few more hours searching in the evening I called it a day and headed home for some food.

Next day I headed to Tresco ('over priced and over there') for the long staying Spotted Crake. It graced me with a whole 10 seconds of viewing alongside the Water Rails that were all over Scilly, before returning to the reed bed true to form. I also had great views of Green Sandpiper, Ruff, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper and Spotted Redshank, which is something of a rarity over there. A walk around the island turned up little other than the resident Linnets and the by now ubiquitous Whinchats, as well as a few smart Greenland Wheatear and their smaller European cousins. I headed back to the mainland to the news that the Melodious warbler had been retrapped, but I headed instead to Holy Vale to look for any crests and warblers that might be about, but turned up very little. I scoured the fields up near Pelistry until it was dark, then headed home to find I had no food, so had to eat in the Atlantic Inn.

My final full day started down at Porth Hellick again, and against all predictions turned out to be a great day's ringing. Interestingly, the Willow Warbler-Chiffchaff bias had shifted well in favour of the latter, with only 1 Willow and some 30-odd Chiffchaff. I'd like to know why there's such a pronounced change in the species, it was really interesting to see. They didn't however bring anything rare down with them, so I headed down to the Allotments to finally connect with the Barred Warbler, a juvenile in the apple tree there. I then headed over to St Agnes as it looked a slow day birdwise and I fancied photographing the long-staying Little Stint and looking for Wryneck. The Stint showed amazingly on the pool, alongside 3 Water Rail and 7 Dunlin, but aside for the commoner migrants Aggie was pretty dead. Except for a RB Flycatcher, which was found in the late evening after I'd left!

Back on the mainland I hadn't any more luck birding the coastal footpath from Penninis all the way to Pelistry until dark, it seemed like the bird I wanted most of all (Wryneck) was trying to elude me! I called it a day and headed back to camp for some tinned Macaroni Cheese (which wasn't as bad as I'd feared).

My final day started with my tent being dismantled (so I sadly couldn't watch the ringing), then heading out to Cared Dhu to look for Firecrest. No joy, but a phone call came through of Wryneck on Peninnis. I sprinted flat out all the way, only to be beckoned over to where it was sitting on the wall and to be told it had flown literally seconds before and no one knew were. I scoured the area for a few hours but with more and more people about the less likely it was to reappear, so I headed up to Holy Vale again. I picked out a Wood Warbler, and got news of a Yellow Browed Warbler further down the path at Higher Moors. I met some other birders here, and immediately we picked it up on its very distinctive call and then tracked it for a good 5 minutes. A tiny little thing, and a fantastic lifer for me. I then gave Peninnis one more going over for that Wryneck (again no joy), so admitted defeat and headed to the boat.

All in all this was a fantastic trip, I've never birded anywhere quite like Scilly before and the birdlife was as good as anything I'd hoped for. Admittedly it wasn't like some of the reports from October, but for me the learning curve that I covered in just six days was reward enough for persevering and getting out there. If I did it again though I wouldn't get the coach down, it's a 12 hour journey which is a little tedious. I've got a shedload of photos to plough through and will post some of them when they're edited.

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6h-13th October 2012 - I based myself up at the Garrison campsite for the week which was a productive area for patching. Some great birds around this year and a few decent self-finds too to keep things interesting:

Sykes's Warbler - on Tresco, eventually showed to a lucky audience at a range of 3m with perfect light
Solitary Sandpiper - my best find of the week, over on Bryher
American Buff-bellied Pipit - on the airfield
American Golden Plover - on the airfield
Buff-breasted Sandpiper
Ortolan Bunting
Richard's Pipit
Rose-coloured Starling - juv
Wryneck - on the garrison
Yellow-browed Warbler - on the 'seen from the tent' list!
Dotterel
Spoonbill - off Samson
Pomarine Skua - close view of an adult sporting spoons on the Scillonian ferry
Sooty Shearwater
Balearic Shearwater
Arctic + Great Skuas
Firecrest - a few during the week but perhaps less than usual for the time of year
Pied Flycatcher - a few on the Garrison
Jack Snipe - an obligatory Scillies bird
Little Stint
Whooper Swan - 3 on Tresco
Coal Tit!!! - upto 8 on the islands, a classic Scillies twitch, yellow-cheeked birds of the irish hibernicus race

didn't head over for the Grey-cheeked Thrush on St Agnes as had seen one before and dipped the Blackpoll Warbler on Bryher

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4th October.

Day trip to St Mary's with Henry Cook.

Arctic Skua (from boat)
Manx Shearwater (great close-up views from boat)

St Mary's

1 Buff-breasted Sandpiper
1 Dotterel
1 Firecrest
1 Hobby
amongst others

Ocean Sun fish from boat on return journey



-- Edited by Phil Owen on Saturday 6th of October 2012 07:27:19 PM

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Some more reminiscing.

The evening of Friday 16th September 2011 was my last night of a week staying at Polgigga near Lands End when news broke of an unidentified Waterthrush species at Lower Moors, St. Marys, Scilly. Having secured Northern Waterthrush for my British & Irish list at Cape Clear, Eire in August 2008 (along with my second Yellow Warbler ) I was hoping for a Louisiana Waterthrush.

With a weekend to kill before heading back to a naff job in Miles Platting I hung around Lands End airport the next morning and waited for news. There wasn't any, so I took a gamble a booked a day trip. Minutes later news broke of a Black and White Warbler at Lower Moors, which was where I was heading . I was duly rewarded with mind-blowing views of the Black and White Warbler for 25 minutes , my first since the Norfolk bird of 1985. The Waterthrush did not reveal itself or it's identity until after my departure.

I wish now that I had taken some video footage of the warbler, though at the time I just wanted to enjoy the moment.

Here are some video clips I took that day so fasten your seat belts and enjoy the flight here

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I must admit I have to agree with Henry, a classic scilly season:big grin:
Perhaps the best since 99, just got back myself, as a long term birder of the Scillies, I gave up all the running around five years ago.. However on Saturday as I was walking back to the cabin on St Agnes the mega alert we had all been waiting for... SCARLET TANAGER on St Mary's awoke the old twitcher in me, I raced like a madman to the quay, I was on the wrong island, a boat a taxi and a run found me on sandy lane, amongst the hoards, a long wait and another race down between the pines and there it was a stunning SCARLET TANAGER,:big grin:

I left on a high, walked down to shooter pool just as the Northern Waterthrush popped out, memories of the 96 bird at portland, then over to the Wilson's Snipe bagging a Yellow-browed Warbler on route, only on the Scilles can you bird like this.

The St Agnes bird log was very quite that night, if you have never been to the Isles you must go.Roll on next year.




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I've recently returned from a classic week on the Scillies, 14th-19th October, 2011. This year was probably my best in the five years i've been going. Upon arrival I didn't know what direction to go and what to see first such was the cast of long-staying rarities present. There were good numbers of scarcities, other wildlife abounded, excellent numbers of clotted-cream ice-creams and great weather for the most part. Below is a list of the birding highlights of my raid on the islands:

Northern Waterthrush - a sprint to Lower Moors required for first views but then showed well in the mornings at Higgo's Pool, a bit of a dream to see this in the UK
Upland Sandpiper - showed well on occasions at Borough Farm
Lesser Yellowlegs - two birds seen, one on Mary's the other on Tresco
Wilson's Snipe - an almost monotone specimen on Lower Moors showed all the features of this species after a while
Olive-backed Pipits - two birds discovered on the 18th at Watermill Lane showed well
Red-throated Pipits - the odd bird flew over during the week
Black Kites - the three Cornwall birds came across on the 16th. One bird roosted in our garden the following evening
Subalpine Warbler - a female, (race undetermined) was a timid shower on the Garrison on 15th
Radde's Warbler - a smart bird found by Mike Duckham showed down to one meter at times at Salakee Farm
Bluethroat - the first winter male put on a great showing on Porth Hellick beach, down to 2 meters
Red-backed Shrike - one perched up in an alder on Tresco between the two main pools
Yellow-browed Warbler - upto 10 on St Mary's alone, usually id'd on call as were tricky to see
Firecrest - lower numbers than usual but several could be heard/seen during a day
Black Redstart - 13 birds seen on one day around Mary's so the total islands count could have easily been double this
Spoonbill - a returning winterer on Green Island near Samson
Turtle Dove - two at Nowhere
Great Spotted Woodpecker - snook onto my scillies list this year, not as rare as Treecreeper which turned up just after my departure!


My best finds included a second Red-throated Pipit at Telegraph, Yellow-browed Warbler, Med Gull, Black Redstart, Firecrest, Jack Snipe, Storm Petrel, Whinchat, Arctic Tern, an alright selection but there were so many lifers on offer self-finding took a bit of a back-seat! Ones that got away included a split second view of a Corncrake on Tresco as it bombed across the path in front of me (confirmed a day later but I didn't get good enough views to claim this potential lifer) and a possible Cory's Shearwater on way home on the Scillonian ferry. Both these were so close to being nailed but at least they weren't mega-rarities in waiting. Wildlife highlights included Death Head's Hawkmoth, Bloxworth Snout, Gold Twin-spot, Crimson Speckled, Cornish Moneywort, Balm-leaved Figwort, Small-flowered Cathfly, Portugese Man-of-war Jellyfish and of course the regular huge pods of Common Dolphins.

Till next year!
Henry.

-- Edited by Henry Cook on Friday 21st of October 2011 06:54:29 PM

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