Saturday, 2 November 2013

Scillies! (30th October - 1st November)

Only a very brief stay on the legendary Isles of Scilly sadly cut short due to boat cancellations on Saturday.  This meant I only had one full day on the island!  All the same, I managed to squeeze in a few good birds.

Birding started as soon as I opened my door to leave the house as a calling Tawny Owl kick started my early morning start.  The second bird of note was an interesting Herring Gull from the Scillonian which I attempted at photographing as we waited in the harbour.  Its interesting tail pattern seems to resemble a Scandi race but it could simply be a byproduct of dietary deficiency or simply aberrant plumage.  Opinions very welcome.

Herring Gull with unusual tail pattern

Lots of Kittiwakes and 1 Balearic Shearwater were noted on the crossing and despite the rough seas creating a moderate amount of swell, there was little else of note except a Razorbill, 3 auk sp., a Fulmar and 2 Harbour Porpoise passing the boat.

On arriving at St Mary's quay, I rushed up to my accommodation, dumped my bags and headed straight for Longstone for my first lifer.  On route I was stopped at Old Town Bay where a couple of concerned birders pointed me towards what they thought was an oiled diver.  I checked it out and sure enough there was an exhausted oiled bird sitting on the rocks.  Not a diver but a Guillemot.  A rather sad sight and one of the blokes tried to catch it.  His first attempts failed.  I bumped into him a day or two later and he broke the bad news that he said it was eventually caught but later died.

A happier turn out at the warbler site where, after an hours wait, I finally set eyes on a relatively showy SUBALPINE WARBLER!  It wasn't much compared to sum. plum. males but the subtle grey cap, mantle and pale rosy chest were a very welcome sight!  After obtaining decent views, I headed back towards Lower Moors were I hoped to see the long-staying Spotted Crake.  Only a handful of Water Rails to report, a very late juvenile Cuckoo and 3 Black Redstarts at Thomas' Porth along with 2 Wheatear.

Subalpine Warbler

a very late juv. Cuckoo

I started the second day with a walk through Lower Moors before reaching Holy Vale.  I managed to connect with 4 scarcities before breakfast.  First up, I relocated the YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER still lingering in Lower Moors where I obtained adequate views and heard it call regularly.  At Holy Vale, I heard the news of an Isabelline Shrike at the Dump Clump only 5 mins away.  However, I was more keen to stick around and try my luck with finding the RB Fly.  I played the call to myself as a reminder what to listen out for.  I was rather surprised to hear the same call respond and sure enough as I rounded the track I caught the back end of a LBJ dart into the wood.  I followed it in and sure enough there was the RED-BREASTED FLYCATCHER flitting about in the lower canopy before vanishing.  Pleased with the views, I headed on to the Dump Clump were I joined a disappointing crowd most of whom were already leaving the site exclaiming that it was "only a RB Shrike".  All the same, I still decided on checking it out and sure enough it was a slightly above average rufousy juvenile Red-backed Shrike.  There was also mention of a nearby Rosy Starling so I hung around for a little longer to finally connect with the juvenile Rose-coloured Straling by the incinerator before heading off to buy my ticket to Tresco.  Walking in to town I noticed two hirundines circling over the bank.  They were a Swallow and a House Martin.

On the way over, I bumped into a couple of Spurn and Cornish birders with whom I tagged along with to Borough Farm.  We spent some time wandering around the place trying to pin down the yank robin.  Instead, a middle aged couple with their child did the job for us and summoned us over where we had cracking views of the AMERICAN ROBIN!  An absolute stunner.

American Robin

I tried a long shot and headed on to Great Pool to try my luck at the recent long-staying Sora.  It was no surprise that it didn't show as the water level had significantly risen since its arrival and the reeds had been cut which must have contributed to its disturbance.  None the less, I still located a calling Yellow-browed Warbler in the wood running along the side of the pool and 3 Sandwich Terns in the bay at New Grimsby.  A nice male Merlin also pushed the day up a notch!

male Merlin

Back on St Mary's I went to have a second look at the Red-backed Shrike and continued birding until it was dark and I came walking back in the pouring rain from Porth Hellick with only a single Black Redstart for my efforts.

The third and final day only gave me time to check out Peninnis Head and do a short sea-watch.  A flypast Sooty Shearwater and a second probable individual flew west past the point followed by a dark phase Arctic Skua and 2 Bonxies.  I also saw an interestingly dark Bonxie-like skua with very minimal wing flashes.  A rather confusing bird!

It was time to head back but I was still looking forward to a sea-watch from the Scillonian, particularly as the weather was predicted to worsen.  The first hour went past rather slowly with only a single Bonxie but it did pick up as we approached West Penwith and the waves really rocked the boat.  Singles of Balearic Shearwater, Sooty Shearwater and Manx Shearwater were all noted along with a flypast Purple Sandpiper as we approached the harbour.  A pod of 4 dolphin sp. also made a brief appearance, following the boat and we were also followed by several Fulmar and Kittiwakes.  I also caught a brief view of a petrel sp. fluttering on the surface of the water but I soon lost it and watched a beautiful male Eider get a hard time from the gulls as it got chased around the bay.

In all, a relatively successful trip to Scillies with a couple lifers and new faces to remember.  It was rather upsetting that I didn't have the chance to hop over to St Agnes for the White's but that'll have to wait until next time...

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