GOLDEN ISLES OF SCILLY - Autumn MigrationSaturday 11th October 2014
Saturday 11th - Saturday 18th October 2014
Our group met bright and early at Penzance Quay and after dropping our luggage off we boarded the Scillonian III making ourselves comfortable on the top deck.
Small numbers of TURNSTONES frequented the dockside and both GREY WAGTAIL and ROCK PIPIT were noted. At 9.15 we set off and began seeing GANNETS and SHAGS offshore. The sea crossing was pretty good and once out from Land's End we saw our first GUILLEMOTS and RAZORBILLS plus two KITTIWAKES.
One of our party managed to see both BALEARIC SHEARWATER and GREY PHALAROPE whilst the rest had to be content with MANX SHEARWATER plus ARCTIC and GREAT SKUA. Small parties of MEADOW PIPIT followed the boat heading for the Isles of Scilly which soon came into view.
As the boat came past the Garrison a GREENSHANK flew high over our boat and headed towards St. Agnes. We disembarked the boat and wandered around to our guesthouse where we checked in and were treated to tea and coffee on the patio!
It was idyllic sitting in the sunshine and we could have quite easily sat there for the afternoon, but there were birds to see!
Our walk took us out of town making a brief stop at the Health Centre to look for a Barred Warbler than had gone walkabout. Instead we made our way up to the airfield and on the way up we had good views of a male PEREGRINE flying over.
Unfortunately the Peregrine had flushed our main target, a Short-toed Lark from the airfield. Whilst searching for this we found COMMON REDSTART, STONECHAT, WHEATEAR, SNOW BUNTING, WHINCHAT and good numbers of MEADOW PIPIT.
After a good search, Steve located the SHORT-TOED LARK on the airfield feeding with MEADOW PIPITS. Although distant, it gave good scope views as it ran about.
Delighted with this we headed off to Penninis Head, where two SNOW BUNTINGS showed incredibly well and gave great photographic opportunities. It was then back towards Hugh Town where we made another brief stop for the Barred Warbler but once again we drew a blank.
It was then back to the guesthouse for a shower and change before meeting to complete the bird list and head out for our evening meal which went down very well.
After dinner, Steve and Peter headed to the Scillonian Club and arrived halfway through the bird log but managed to enjoy a nightcap before heading back for the night.
Sunday 12th October 2014
The day dawned with a beautiful sunrise over St. Mary's and at 8am we met for breakfast which was simply delightful with so much choice and we certainly didn't go hungry!
Our first port of call was along Porthcressa Beach where we had good views of ROCK PIPIT, WHEATEAR, STONECHAT and a single WHITE WAGTAIL.
We then went up through Sallyport and onto the Garrison for a wander about. A few GOLDCREST flitted around the pines and amongst these was a lone CHIFFCHAFF. A scan from Morning Point produced a single SANDWICH TERN and ATLANTIC GREY SEAL.
The walk took us up through a large area of pines and out past the football pitch to the area around Star Castle Hotel. Three SWALLOWS zipped past and out on Green Island we scoped a distant SPOONBILL and up to six LITTLE EGRET.
It was then back down to town to pick up some lunch and make our way along Town Beach. As we wandered along the road, a message came through about four swans over Tresco and as we looked towards the island there were four WHOOPER SWANS flying over. Eventually they headed off to St. Martins where we lost them from view.
We then headed off to Lower Moors where we found an empty hide and it didn't take us long to locate a bobbing JACK SNIPE feeding along the muddy edge. Also on the pool were COOT, MOORHEN, GREY WAGTAIL and a COMMON SNIPE. A KINGFISHER zipped through but failed to stop.
Next we headed to Porthloo Beach for a lunch stop, where a single CURLEW was seen amongst the numerous OYSTERCATCHERS. We then set off towards the golf course and came across a group of birders who informed us that the Richards's Pipit was in the long grass in front of us. Typically, as soon as we got there, it flew off down to a bottom field.
Eventually we wandered down and had excellent views of an adult RICHARD'S PIPIT as it fed alongside MEADOW PIPITS giving good ID comparisons. After this excitement we needed some refreshment so we walked the short distance to Juliet's Garden for a well-deserved cuppa.
Luckily our next stop was downhill and a few minutes later we were watching a female type BLACK REDSTART feeding in a nearby garden. With time getting on, most of the group headed back to base, except for Peter and Steve who stopped off in Porthcressa Bay and noted a first winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL roosting on the rocks offshore.
It was then back for a wash and brush up before heading out for our evening meal which was once again very good. We finished up in the Scillonian Club for a nightcap, rounding the day off nicely.
Monday 13th October 2014
We awoke to find another lovely day and settled down to breakfast which was fantastic. Once finished we headed into town to pick up supplies before wandering down to the harbour.
The weather was superb as we stood in the sunshine waiting for the boat to take us to the island of Tresco. We set off once the boat was full and headed out towards the island noting several CORMORANT, SHAG and LITTLE EGRET along the way.
We first stopped off at Bryher to drop passengers off and whilst moored up, a GREAT NORTHERN DIVER flew over heading out towards the Atlantic. A short while later, we arrived at the New Grimsby Quay on Tresco and started to make our way up to Castle Down to look for a reported Dotterel.
Once up on the coastal moorland we could see how extensive it was, but with plenty of people looking, surely it was only a matter of time before it was found? Unfortunately, despite a good search all we managed to see were several COMMON SNIPE that were flushed from the heather.
After a look at King Charles's Castle we strolled down the lanes where we found a stunning WHINCHAT in a field plus several CHIFFCHAFF. With lunchtime approaching, we stopped off at what was the Island Hotel where Nicky and Graham had their honeymoon. Although not there now, they enjoyed reminiscing about their time there.
We had lunch on the beach with the sun shining, whilst over towards Cornwall we could see it was raining hard! After some sustenance we took a walk back towards New Grimsby and we hadn't gone far when we heard the call of a YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER. Although it was quite elusive, we managed to get brief views as it flitted around a sycamore. Also in the area were up to five CHIFFCHAFF that were mainly feeding in a clump of Ivy.
It was then off to the Great Pool to check out the wildfowl which consisted of many TEAL, GADWALL, MALLARD plus LITTLE GREBE, MUTE SWAN, CANADA GOOSE and both MOORHEN and COOT. A radio message came over about a Jack Snipe also on the pool and a few minutes later, we were watching a JACK SNIPE bobbing along the water’s edge.
The walk along Abbey Drive was rather quiet so we headed towards the Abbey Gardens tearoom after a quick stop to look at the Abbey Pool. The four WHOOPER SWANS were still present and we found an adult LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL bathing with many GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULLS.
Whilst enjoying our tea, Bill spotted a male PEREGRINE circling over and once finished, we wandered back down towards the Quay noting STONECHAT, GREENSHANK, LINNET and LITTLE EGRET.
Arriving back at St. Mary's in good time, we headed to the accommodation after what had been a reasonably good day despite not catching up with the Dotterel.
After a rest and hot shower we went out for our evening meal before heading to the bird log in the Scillonian Club as usual for a nightcap.
Tuesday 14th October 2014
Once again it dawned a fantastic bright and calm day with clear skies and after a hearty breakfast we picked up our lunch and wandered out through town to Lower Moors. Here some birders stood looking at a group of Elms and it wasn't long before a lovely RED-BREASTED FLYCATCHER flitted down and began feeding in front of us.
Over the next twenty minutes or so we had good views of this bird and on occasion, you could hear its bill snap when it caught a fly! Whilst watching the flycatcher, a female MERLIN zoomed over heading northwards.
We crossed the road into the southern part of Lower Moors and immediately heard a YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER calling from trees to our left and we eventually caught sight of this tiny warbler which breeds in Siberia. From here we strolled down to the ISBG hide where the lone JACK SNIPE bobbed along the muddy edge along with up to four COMMON SNIPE, plus GREENSHANK and a superb GREY HERON that stalked fish in beautiful light. As we reached Old Town Bay, two PEREGRINES flew overhead calling and an ariel battle took place.
It was then into Old Town Churchyard where it didn't take too long before we located two PRICKLY STICK INSECTS on brambles. A male BLACKCAP fed on Palm berries and butterflies abounded with large numbers of HOLLY BLUE and PEACOCK.
Carreg Dhu was our next destination and the sheltered gardens produced several BLACKCAP whilst overhead we watched a HOBBY feeding which was quite a surprise.
After a brief search for some reported Firecrests which we didn't locate, we wandered down to Pelistry Bay for a lovely lunch on the beach. The coastal path then took us up to Watermill Cove and up along the road to Newford Duck Pond.
We spent some time checking out the Sallows around the pond and noted a lovely female BRAMBLING amongst the many CHAFFINCH, plus CHIFFCHAFF and GOLDCREST amongst others.
Our journey back to Hugh Town happened to take us past the Country Guesthouse where we made a stop for refreshments before wandering down towards town.
As we reached Lower Moors, reports of a Barred Warbler came through and as it was close by some of the group diverted to see it, whilst others headed back.
On reaching the dump clump, we immediately saw the BARRED WARBLER right in front of us and over the next twenty minutes it showed really well as it flitted around in trees.
It was then back to the guesthouse for a hot shower and to get ready before dinner.
Wednesday 15th October 2014
The weather was certainly different today as we awoke to find heavy rain and strong winds battering the front of the guesthouse. Whilst enjoying our lovely cooked breakfast, an adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL was seen in the surf close to the beach.
Luckily by 9.00am the rain had cleared, with hardly a cloud in the sky so we opted to head over to St. Agnes for the day.
The boat journey was a little choppy but it did give us the chance to see GANNET, SHAG and CORMORANT. On arrival on St. Agnes, we wandered towards Covean noting good numbers of SONG THRUSH, BLACKCAP and a few CHIFFCHAFFS. We reached Barnaby Lane when news came through of a Red-breasted Flycatcher at a nearby cottage, so off we headed and had views of a first-winter RED-BREASTED FLYCATCHER as it sat in the sunshine before being chased off by a ROBIN!
With the weather relatively calm now it was good to spend time in The Parsonage looking for warblers. A FIRECREST was seen briefly in the tall Elms but disappeared quickly as did several CHIFFCHAFF. The area down by the fruit cages was much more productive with around 15 CHIFFCHAFF and a smart SIBERIAN CHIFFCHAFF that showed really well for a while. Across the track was a YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER that gave good views as it flitted around a Sycamore catching insects.
It was then time for lunch which we enjoyed on the picturesque Periglis Beach, where 269 OYSTERCATCHERS roosted and both WHIMBREL and CURLEW flew past, whilst several ATLANTIC GREY SEALS watched us from the bay.
Halfway through our lunch a CUCKOO flew past giving good views which was totally unexpected! We then wandered around the coastal path to Castella Down where a female MERLIN flew past and eventually we reached a cattle field where our second SHORT-TOED LARK of the tour was seen feeding in long grass.
With some time spare before our boat back to St. Mary's we took a walk over the sand bar to Gugh, where we found two RING OUZELS including a stunning male that perched up before flying off. Luckily there was also time for a spot of refreshment at the Turk's Head pub whilst sitting in the afternoon sunshine.
It was then back for a wash and brush up before heading out again for our evening meal. We had a great time and even managed to put in requests for songs to be played whilst we were eating!
Thursday 16th October 2014
After overnight rain the weather wasn't too bad, although the wind had increased significantly. We decided to spend the first part of the morning on The Garrison which saw us relocate a RED-BREASTED FLYCATCHER in the pines on the eastern side.
A search was also made for a reported Wryneck but despite a thorough look, it failed to show. We did though have excellent views of a YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER that Bill found as it flitted around a Sycamore in front of us.
It was then off to Old Town Churchyard for a spot of lunch and whilst enjoying it we had a SKYLARK fly over plus GOLDCREST and CHIFFCHAFF in the churchyard. We popped into Lower Moors where a WATER RAIL showed briefly, plus at least 4 COMMON SNIPE and then headed to the Memorial Gardens where another RED-BREASTED FLYCATCHER showed really well.
Our last port of call for the day was Carreg Dhu Gardens but despite a thorough search we failed to find any reported Firecrests.
With things quiet, we headed back for an early shower before meeting for the bird list and headed out for our evening meal.
Friday 17th October 2014
Our last full day on the Scillies and the weather had changed, with the wind picking up and heavy rain and gales forecast for later in the day.
With this in mind, we headed northwards after breakfast, making several stops along the way at sheltered beaches which produced a few WHITE WAGTAILS, WHEATEAR and good numbers of ROBIN.
We revisited Newford Duck Pond where we could hear a YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER calling, but despite a thorough search we only saw a few CHIFFCHAFF. A GREY WAGTAIL flew in briefly and then there was a call on the radio to say that a Rose-coloured Starling was flying our way.
After waiting for a few moments, nothing appeared so we wandered back along the lane and looked across the field. There was the juvenile ROSE-COLOURED STARLING on a telegraph pole but as soon as we saw it, it promptly disappeared and other birders searched the area for several hours but to no avail.
With the wind picking up by now, we decided to walk the coastal path around the north coast towards Innisidgen and here we found a beautiful sheltered beach where we had lunch. GANNETS, SHAG and CORMORANTS were seen close by but the real highlight was when Francis said "what is that moving on the beach!" We looked up to see a LESSER WHITE-TOOTHED SHREW scuttling about on the beach. This scarce mammal is normally pretty hard to see so we were delighted with his find.
It was then time to wander back down to Hugh Town but around 10 minutes from base, the rain began and by the time we got back we were pretty wet.
The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing with of us some opting for a spot of shopping. Whilst sitting in the guesthouse, the wind was very strong and rain hammered down making things unpleasant indeed.
For our evening meal, we visited a different restaurant where the food was very good and very plentiful before heading back for a well-deserved rest.
Saturday 18th October 2014
The wind was very strong overnight and had only calmed down a little as we had breakfast. It was a shame to be leaving this wonderful accommodation which had great views and fantastic breakfasts.
We left our baggage and took a stroll up to Buzza Tower, where a single SWALLOW flew through and we had exceptional views of a male PEREGRINE which hung in the air overhead.
Reaching Penninis, the sea was very rough and we were apprehensive about our crossing on the Scillonian that afternoon, especially as it had been brought forward because of weather warnings.
Plenty of Gannets flew past during a quick sea-watch before we made our way down to Old Town Churchyard. It was great to see some fellow birders from Bristol who were re-visiting the islands.
With time getting on, it was time to pick up our hand luggage and have a spot of lunch overlooking the beach.
The Scillonian arrived and soon after we boarded and went up to the top deck. Whilst waiting for departure we spotted a RAVEN drifting over the golf course before it disappeared into Pines.
We set sail earlier than planned and although there was a large swell and it was quite choppy, luckily no one was ill.
The birding on the way back was pretty good with PUFFIN, 4 MANX SHEARWATER, 7 BALEARIC SHEARWATER, 3 SOOTY SHEARWATER, KITTIWAKE, GUILLEMOTS & RAZORBILLS, ARCTIC & GREAT SKUA plus HARBOUR PORPOISE.
As we docked in Penzance Harbour, a winter plumaged GREAT NORTHERN DIVER was seen just offshore.
After getting our bags, we said our goodbyes to some of the group who were staying nearby for the night, whilst the remainder of us went on to our overnight accommodation.
Despite no major rarities this year, it was a great tour with some good birds and with lots and lots of laughs. The accommodation was second to none and we can't wait to return next year!