Saturday 6th October 2018
GOLDEN ISLES OF SCILLY - AUTUMN MIGRATION
Saturday 6th - Monday 15th October 2018
As the group travelled south towards Cornwall the previous day, we received news that the boat to the islands had been cancelled due to strong winds and rain and rearranged for Sunday 7th. With flights also in the balance we spent time arranging rooms for those not travelling the following day.
Those flying left Cornwall and luckily managed to get away on the first flight of the day before the weather turned for the worse. For the group stuck on the mainland the day started with a hearty breakfast in Penzance before visiting the Porthgwarra area, where a search for a Rose-coloured Starling was unsuccessful. With rain and wind falling, we took a drive around the Penwith peninsula and Lands End before dropping in at Sennen Beach where a scan of the bay produced up to seven MEDITERRANEAN GULLS, a summer-plumaged COMMON LOON (GREAT NORTHERN DIVER) and a flyover NORTHERN RAVEN.
It was then back to Penzance which was packed with people trying to get a glimpse of the ‘The Flying Scotsman’ which pulled into the station a little earlier.
Our next port of call was Hayle Estuary at Lelant Station which was rather quiet due to extremely blustery conditions so we headed back to Penzance and waited on a railway bridge for the return journey of the Flying Scotsman which left at 13.15hrs. After lunch we received news of a RING-BILLED GULL so we headed straight to the site and were rewarded with good scope views before it flew off. Other species here included up to 30 MEDITERRANEAN GULLS, plus a rather confiding DUNLIN that looked like it had been blown off course as it was close to an area of brambles.
We concluded the day at Devoran Quay where a scan of the roosting waders produced SPOTTED REDSHANK, COMMON GREENSHANK, RED KNOT, COMMON REDSHANK and best of all, a juvenile LESSER YELLOWLEGS, found after a thorough search of the area. Four SANDWICH TERNS and a few more MEDITERRANEAN GULLS rounded off an excellent day despite trying conditions.
The group that had arrived on Scilly earlier in the day headed straight to Hugh Town for a welcome breakfast and coffee which was very welcome after the plane journey!
Once refreshed, they headed across Porthcressa Bay and had good views of a juvenile female MERLIN in Buzza Quarry before making their way down to Lower Moors, where a heavy rain shower sent the group into the hide. The rain was heavy and with strong winds, it was coming through the closed flaps! Luckily there were birds to see including a probable WILSON’S SNIPE, found a few days previously. Other species seen included WATER RAIL and COMMON MOORHEN. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t improving, so a stop in Old Town Churchyard was made before heading back into town for some time to relax and unpack before the evening meal after an enjoyable but long day!
Sunday 7th October 2018
The Cornwall group managed to get away at 09.15hrs on The Scillonian III and luckily the crossing was pretty calm with little swell. A male COMMON EIDER bobbed around in the harbour whilst a PEREGRINE FALCON flew over Penzance.
During the next couple of hours there were plenty of COMMON DOLPHINS, HARBOUR PORPOISE and BLUE-FIN TUNA plus MANX SHEARWATERS, GREAT SKUA and quite a few BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE, COMMON MURRE (GUILLEMOT) and RAZORBILLS.
Meanwhile the other group headed up to the Garrison after breakfast and some were lucky to have glimpses of a YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER flitting about in the Sycamores, along with a GOLDCREST. A SPOTTED FLYCATCHER was seen briefly and a scan out across The Roads towards Tresco saw four very distant WESTERN CATTLE EGRETS with cattle on Tresco.
The boat docked slightly earlier than planned and we all headed to the accommodation for lunch and a welcome cuppa before going out for the afternoon. On Buzza Hill we had great views of a HUMMINGBIRD HAWK-MOTH sunning itself on a wall, before we strolled round to the airfield to look for a Buff-breasted Sandpiper. There were many NORTHERN WHEATEARS and a single WHINCHAT present but no sign of the sandpiper.
Moving up to the windsock, a small wader flew over which was the BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER but only Annette and Steve got onto it. We gave it some time but it didn’t show so we wandered down to Old Town spotting a juvenile male PEREGRINE FALCON on our way. A Little Bunting had been seen but it was really elusive. Once again, it didn’t appear whilst we were there but we did see three WHINCHAT, EURASIAN BLACKCAP, COMMON CHIFFCHAFF and a female EURASIAN SPARROWHAWK.
A brief stop at Lower Moors produced GREY WAGTAIL, COMMON GREENSHANK and three COMMON SNIPE before it was time to head back to base. A BAR-TAILED GODWIT was roosting on Porthcressa Beach as we got into Hugh Town which was a Scilly tick.
We met up for the bird list before heading into town for our evening meal which went down very well before heading to the Scillonian club for the evening log call.
Monday 8th October 2018
A quick look after breakfast produced the BAR-TAILED GODWIT feeding on the beach and then Linda did well to spot a COMMON KINGFISHER sitting on the rocks.
We slowly strolled down to the quay and were delighted when a female MERLIN flew over us and towards the golf course. The plan for the day was to head to St. Agnes and as we sat on the boat waiting to leave, news came through of a possible Aquatic Warbler at nearby Porthmellon so a few people left the boat in search of this rarity. We opted to keep to our plan as the bird was incredibly elusive.
As we headed over to St. Agnes, a first winter MEW GULL (COMMON GULL) flew alongside the boat and a single SANDWICH TERN was also noted with a few BLACK-HEADED GULLS.
Once on the island, we made our way down to the island of Gugh which is only accessible at low tide by crossing a sand bar. A Common Rosefinch had been seen earlier so we spent some time scanning through the EUROPEAN GREENFINCHES but there was no sign. Good numbers of EURASIAN BLACKCAPS were seen and WHINCHAT was noted briefly. Moving to the back of the bushes, a COMMON REED BUNTING flitted around.
Back on St. Agnes, we stopped to watch a few COMMON CHIFFCHAFFS on ivy and amongst them a fine SPOTTED FLYCATCHER gave good views. Next, our plan was to try and see a Red-backed Shrike but a Greenish Warbler had just been found at nearby Browarth so we headed there.
As we walked down the road, a few birds were seen amongst scrub on the edge of a garden and next to a male EURASIAN BLACKCAP was a bigger grey bird, a first winter BARRED WARBLER! A few of the group managed to get on it before it flew off into the garden and not seen again.
Reaching Browarth and the field where the warbler had been seen there was no sign, so we waited a while and the farmer came to say the bird was showing on the other side of the hedge. We quickly walked round and right in front of us was the GREENISH WARBLER which gave good views before flitting along the hedge and away.
With our stomachs rumbling, we walked round the Big Pool and made ourselves comfortable on the rocks. Five LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULLS roosted and a number of EURASIAN OYSTERCATCHERS and EURASIAN CURLEW flew past.
Just as we were finishing lunch, reports of a Red-throated Pipit on the next beach came through, so a quick dash was made. Scanning the large number of MEADOW and EURASIAN ROCK PIPITS on the beach took forever and then Steve found the RED-THROATED PIPIT in the scope, but the bird flew calling with its Tree Pipit like call!
Despite a thorough search, it wasn’t seen again so we walked over to Castella Down where the RED-BACKED SHRIKE was much easier to see as it did a circuit of the field in front of us.
It was then to the coastguard cafe for a welcome cuppa before wandering back down to the quay for our return journey to St. Mary’s. We headed back to base for a hot shower and after completing the bird list, we had our evening meal and retired for the evening after a good day in the field.
Tuesday 9th October 2018
With the weather due to change later in the week, we headed off island for the day, hoping to catch up with a few rarities and scarcities.
The boat dropped us off on Tresco at Carn Near and we strolled up the slope looking out towards Samson and there on the flats was a first-winter EURASIAN SPOONBILL feeding in the shallows.
Our plan was to spend a few hours on Tresco before walking over to Bryher at low tide, whilst Jane was visiting the Abbey Gardens and enjoying more of Tresco.
Abbey Drive produced a couple of GOLDCRESTS flitting around the pines and once we reached Simpson’s Field, we were in the right place to see five WESTERN CATTLE EGRETS fly in front of us onto the Great Pool.
GADWALL, MALLARD, EURASIAN TEAL, COMMON COOT and COMMON MOORHEN were out on the open water but with time ticking away, we said goodbye to Jane and headed down onto the beach to take off our shoes and socks.
We weren’t the only ones making the crossing with around 70 other mad souls taking advantage of the low tidal conditions. The walk was fantastic, we all really enjoyed it and once on Bryher, we dried off and headed over to the west side of the island.
On reaching Popplestone Bay, we heard that the Tawny Pipit had flown off and hadn’t been seen for a while, so the group sat and had lunch whilst Steve headed off in search of the bird.
Eventually, another birder picked out the TAWNY PIPIT on the headland and we walked up where we had reasonable scope views of it running around on the heather. It flew back down to the beach so we strolled down only to see it fly off again!
We soon relocated the bird and had some amazing views down to about 12 feet of this scarce visitor from Southern Europe. After we’d had our fill, we checked out the tennis court area and found a single SPOTTED FLYCATCHER and a WHINCHAT in the adjacent weedy field.
It was then off for an ice cream or hot drink at the village shop before wandering back down to the quay ready for the return to St. Mary’s. On arrival, we headed straight back to base and met up with Jane who had a fantastic time on Tresco. Her birding highlights included WHOOPER SWAN, WOOD SANDPIPER plus GOLDEN PHEASANT and RED SQUIRREL in the Abbey Gardens.
We had a change of venue for our evening meal and the food was excellent, going down well with everyone. As we had an early meal, we did the bird list back at the accommodation before some of the group headed to the Scillonian Club for a nightcap and the bird log.
Wednesday 10th October 2018
We awoke to find lovely bright conditions but a brisk wind blowing from the southeast. After yet another hearty breakfast to set us up for the day, we received the news that the Scillonian had been cancelled for Saturday due to extreme weather conditions. so a visit was made to the Steamship Company offices to rearrange flights and sailings to Monday.
After the drama of sorting out travel arrangements, we walked up onto The Garrison and from the Star Castle hotel we heard a report of four WESTERN CATTLE EGRETS flying over the centre of the island. With a quick scan they were picked up quickly but they dropped from view before we could all get on them.
A look for the EURASIAN SPOONBILLS on Green Island off Samson revealed not one but two birds! Although distant, they showed well in the bright sunshine that we enjoyed on our backs.
Despite a good search around the scrub and trees, the highlights were a couple of COMMON CHIFFCHAFFS, MEADOW PIPITS and a lovely CLOUDED YELLOW BUTTERFLY that posed for photographs.
After picking up lunch in town, we made our way round the sheltered coves and beaches on the west side of the island and picked up two female/1st winter BLACK REDSTARTS on the beach at Thomas Porth, these fed alongside a NORTHERN WHEATEAR and a few EURASIAN ROCK PIPITS.
Time had slipped away, so we stopped on Porthloo Beach for a spot of lunch in the sunshine whilst watching a small group of COMMON RINGED PLOVER, six DUNLIN and a few RUDDY TURNSTONE thrown in for good measure.
Our afternoon walk took us up through the centre of the island where a female EURASIAN SPARROWHAWK harassed a couple of CARRION CROW, but otherwise it was pretty quiet.
A stop was made for a coffee/tea before visiting Carreg Dhu Gardens where overhead were a small group of BARN SWALLOWS and a couple of COMMON HOUSE MARTINS. A COMMON CHIFFCHAFF flitted around the pines and a few EURASIAN BLUE TITS fed in a small Sycamore.
We then began to walk back towards town but unfortunately a rain shower came through on the now strengthening winds, which meant we had to don our waterproofs. A quick look at Porthmellon beach produced another BLACK REDSTART and Porthcressa Bay held the usual BAR-TAILED GODWIT and a couple of adult BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES.
After some time for a hot shower, we met for our evening meal which consisted of mammoth portions before heading back to base for the bird list. Then the offer of a visit to the bird log in The Scillonian Club was declined by the group, meaning that Steve had to go on his own!
Thursday 11th October 2018
We awoke to find it raining lightly with virtually no wind at all. After breakfast and all wanting to get out, we spent time scanning Porthcressa Beach from the shelter of the tourist information centre.
The BAR-TAILED GODWIT now known as ‘Barty’ fed voraciously on the beach and lots of NORTHERN GANNETS were feeding offshore. A MEW GULL (COMMON GULL) flew overhead towards Town Beach and a single LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL roosted on the rocks.
Also the resident ‘three amigos’ were present in the bay, Pablo, Peter and Rocky.
Eventually the rain eased off and we planned to head out towards the northern end of the island but as is typical of Scilly, our plans changed when a Richard’s Pipit was found on nearby Penninis Head.
Luckily we weren’t far away and as we reached the site, the bird had just flown to another field! Within a few minutes, we had the RICHARD’S PIPIT in the scope as it foraged in the long grass along with a couple of EURASIAN SKYLARKS. After a few minutes and when everyone had seen it well, it flew off uttering its’ ‘shreeep’ call.
Delighted with our delayed start to the day, we took the coast path down to Old Town Church where a very obliging SPOTTED FLYCATCHER caught insects in front of us on what had turned out to be a beautiful sunny day!
Our walk took us up to Carreg Dhu gardens where we had lunch in the afternoon sunshine, birdwise it was rather quiet but a couple of HUMMINGBIRD HAWK-MOTHS did brighten things up.
Afterwards, we took the loop trail at Porthellick and came across several Birders who had just seen a Barred Warbler, but typically it flew off before we arrived.
Luckily it was located at the southern end of the pool in Sallows and we all had some good views as it crashed around in the trees before vanishing once again.
The walk back took us past Carreg Dhu so it would be rude not to call in again and this time Emma did well to locate a lovely COMMON FIRECREST, a species that had been very scarce on the islands this year.
As we were on a bit of a roll, we tried our luck down at Rosehill for a Yellow-browned Warbler and within a few minutes, this delightful little bird flicked up into a dead willow where we all had reasonable views.
It was then back into town noting a female/immature COMMON REDSTART and BLACK REDSTART, seen on the beach at Porthmellon.
After a hot shower, we met for our evening meal which was fantastic and rounded off a good day.
Friday 12th October 2018
As expected Storm Callum hit the islands overnight with winds hitting 76mph and as we awoke, the waves were crashing in to the beach. It was hard to concentrate on breakfast with it being so wild outside and with the weather not going to improve much during the day, some of the group took the opportunity to relax in the lounge.
Mid-afternoon, rain eased for a while so a few headed out to the shops, whilst four headed along the sheltered side of town. The highlight of the walk was a female COMMON REDSTART on Porthmellon Beach before rain arrived once again and sent us back to base. We were confined to barracks until meeting for our evening meal which was delightful and afterwards, we said goodbye to Mike who was flying home the following day.
Saturday 13th October 2018
Weather was still really stormy when we awoke and waves crashing on the rocks in the bay were amazing! The morning was spent in town although we did see a few good birds around the beach with WESTERN YELLOW WAGTAIL, SANDWICH TERN, NORTHERN GANNET, MEDITERRANEAN GULLS and a juvenile ARCTIC TERN in the bay. After morning coffee and the rain stopping, we donned our gear and headed out for fresh air and to stretch our legs. We stopped off at Porthmellon where the COMMON REDSTART showed reasonably well and then up to the golf course via Porthloo Beach where we couldn’t locate the Lapland Longspur that had been seen earlier in the day.
There was a real increase in thrush numbers in the northern part of the island and as we checked out a field, a MERLIN flew through at great speed. There was also an increase in numbers of BLACK REDSTARTS including five together in one field up near Telegraph.
Another visit to the Golf Course was made but strong winds meant that most birds kept their heads down. It was back into town for a stop off at the Dump Clump where a Common Rosefinch had just been found and we had the briefest of views as the COMMON ROSEFINCH zipped out of the bush at great speed and despite waiting, didn’t come back. It was here that we met up with Mike again, whose flight had been cancelled and rearranged for Monday. A female EURASIAN SPARROWHAWK flew over and a COMMON CHIFFCHAFF was seen before we strolled back into town.
Our evening meal in town was delicious and it was back to our accommodation where we completed the bird list before retiring for the night.
Sunday 14th October 2018
After breakfast and with the early rain now cleared through, we headed out for the day and as we left the Porthcressa area, the WESTERN YELLOW WAGTAIL foraged on the grass alongside a couple of WHITE WAGTAILS. Barty continued to be seen on the beach and a few MEDITERRANEAN GULLS flew over the huge amounts of washed up seaweed after Storm Callum has passed through.
As we left town, we were put on to a lovely EUROPEAN TURTLE DOVE feeding in a weedy field which then flew towards the dump.
The morning sunshine and light winds encouraged COMMON CHIFFCHAFFS and EURASIAN BLACKCAPS out to feed as we headed up round the western side of the island. Four BLACK REDSTARTS were noted as we walked up past Telegraph and our walk took us along Pungies Lane to Newford Duckpond where we spent time checking out the willows and scrub.
A YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER called continually from the bushes but remained unseen, although a single WILLOW WARBLER and up to five COMMON CHIFFCHAFFS showed much better.
Probably the highlight of the day was a brief sighting of a VAGRANT EMPEROR DRAGONFLY which flew in front of us for around five seconds before flying off up the lane. George did well to spot a WATER RAIL feeding under the willows along with a few GREY WAGTAILS. A EURASIAN SPARROWHAWK flew overhead as did a couple of a COMMON KESTRELS.
Our walk took us down through Maypole where the fields were full of NORTHERN WHEATEARS and EUROPEAN ROBINS. Lunch was enjoyed on Pelistry Beach overlooking Tolls Island where a couple of EURASIAN WHIMBREL were seen in flight. NORTHERN GANNETS were plentiful offshore as they plunged into the aquamarine seas and both GREAT CORMORANT and EUROPEAN SHAG fished offshore also.
With news of a Ring Ouzel just up the lane, we headed up and had good binocular views of the male RING OUZEL perched in a bush alongside a COMMON BLACKBIRD.
With a long way still to walk, we plodded on and eventually reached the cafe at Longstones for a welcome cuppa before heading back into town where the EUROPEAN TURTLE DOVE showed well but there was no sign of a Common Rosefinch that had been seen earlier.
Emma found a WHINCHAT perched up on the old dump and as we reached our accommodation, we had great views of several NORTHERN WHEATEARS feeding on sandhoppers.
After a refreshing hot shower, we met up for our evening meal which was delicious and then it was back to base to complete the bird list before heading off to bed for a well deserved rest.
Monday 15th October 2018
Our last morning on Scilly was spent revisiting the area the Porthmellon area after we had said goodbye to Mike who finally made it off the islands.
The rest of us enjoyed some fresh air before heading back to base where those flying back to the mainland picked up their bags and got the shuttle bus up to the airport. Their flight departed on time and they spent the afternoon in Penzance where the male COMMON EIDER was seen around the harbour.
Those back on St. Mary’s, had a walk around The Garrison where a YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER was seen briefly at Morning Point and other highlights included COMMON GREENSHANK, WESTERN YELLOW WAGTAIL and lots of EURASIAN ROCK PIPIT and NORTHERN WHEATEARS feeding on the glut of Sandhoppers outside our accommodation.
After some lunch, we wandered down to the quay ready to board the Scillonian III back to Penzance. The crossing was a little choppy and highlights included a huge BASKING SHARK that was heading west and some COMMON DOLPHINS and HARBOUR PORPOISE.
Avian goodies were PARASITIC JAEGER (ARCTIC SKUA), GREAT SKUA, BALEARIC SHEARWATER, BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE, several MEDITERRANEAN GULLS, RAZORBILLS, COMMON MURRE (GUILLEMOT) and NORTHERN GANNETS.
As we came into Penzance Harbour, five COMMON SCOTER were present on the sheltered waters of Mounts Bay.
After picking up our bags, we met up with others who flew earlier and said our goodbyes after a fantastic tour. Conditions were challenging but the birds, scenery and company more than made up for that!