In Association with:
ISLES of SCILLY TOUR 20th - 27th Oct 2001
105 Species seen (1 week )
Day 1 20th Oct
We all met on time at Penzance heliport and after introductions and a coffee we were soon on our way to St Marys, on the Isles of Scilly. Just twenty minutes later and with spectacular views we were coming in to land. A short trip from the airport to Hugh Town and we were settling into our guest-house. Later we walked down to Porth Melon beach were Sanderling were scurrying along the shoreline and Black Redstarts flitted around catching insects from the seaweed on the beach. Walking past the incinerator we saw lots of Robins and Song Thrushes, plus two Redwing and a Pied Flycatcher. It was now near lunch-time so a snack was had overlooking old town beach. After, we walked up to the airport and searching through the grassy edges to the runway we soon found a reported Richard's Pipit. It eventually gave us excellent views. We then retraced our steps a short distance before making our way to lower moors. Once here it wasn't long before we were watching a very confiding Subalpine Warbler. After many looks at this lovely little bird we then made our way through lower moos seeing several Chiffchaff, a Reed Warbler and then a single Water Rail. Further along at longstone we watched a Stone-curlew sat in a field, this bird being a very good species to see on Scilly. There were also two Golden Plover flying over. Walking up past telegraph we counted fifteen or more Black Redstarts, Wheatear and several Skylarks. With beautiful views of the other islands from the golf course, we then found and watched a juvenile Dotterel sat on some rough ground between the fairways. After more excellent views we headed back to our guest-house ready for the evening meal. Following this we sat in the lounge and went through our first log call surprising ourselves at what we had already seen on our first day! Later those that wished went across the road from our guest-house to the Scillonian Club where all the birders regularly met up and went through the sightings for all the islands.
Day 2 21st Oct
Most of us were up for a pre-breakfast walk, and we met outside, overlooking the harbour. In the sky we had excellent views through the scope of Jupiter and its moons, before strolling up to the garrison. We checked the area called Star Castle and found several Redwing plus two Fieldfares flying over. Out at sea Kittiwake and Gannets were seen as well as three Common Dolphin and an Atlantic Grey Seal. We then had a small group of pipits flying over and the distinctive call of an Olive-backed Pipit was heard amongst them. The bird independently observed by other birders was not seen to land and hence we did not include it on our list. After breakfast we went down to the quay and caught the boat to the small island of St. Agnes. As we neared the island we saw a flock of about 300 Shag and on the tiny island of Gugh two Ring Ouzels flew off and towards St. Mary's. We landed and then took a slow walk to the only reed fringed pool. Here we saw four Swallows and a Common Snipe as well as a few waders on the beach including Golden Plover, Sanderling, Dunlin, Curlew, Ringed Plover and Redshank.
A Peregrine sat alert on the top of a huge rock on Annet, while a search along the bushy tracks and fields found us several Firecrests and then an apparently very elusive Barred Warbler was seen by everyone in the group. A few Reed Warblers were scrutinised and a Common Whitethroat was found. We then had lunch but not before Viv saw a nice male brambling. After our nourishment we headed to an area of gorse and firstly saw a Magpie which is a very rare bird here, and then after some hard searching a juvenile Red-backed Shrike posed for us in bush overlooking a weedy field. A search for the Shore Lark that had been present all day had us run out of time and we could only find several wheatears before we had to get back and connect with our return boat. In the evening after the log call we had the most terrific views of the Aurora Borealis, curtains of red and green light in the skies over the harbour were a perfect end to the day.
Before breakfast we had a walk to the clump dump were we managed to see a couple of Redwing and a group of nine Common Snipe that kept flying around. After breakfast we went to the garrison where the only new bird we found was a Whinchat. A look at the beach near the harbour saw two Water Rails running around amongst the rocks. We then went by taxi to Newford duck pond on the far end of the island. It wasn't long before we found a Yellow-browed Warbler flitting around in the willows with half a dozen Chiffchaffs. A little further along was an area called Watermill, we took the footpath that led down to the beach where one or two Ring ouzels were then found. While enjoying our Picnic lunch on the beach we had very good scope views of the Rough-legged Buzzard that was hunting and hovering over the closest of the Eastern Isles. Continuing on we walked to Pelistry where some of us managed to see a very elusive Hawfinch hiding in a hawthorn. Next stop was Porthelick where two Jack Snipe gave the best views you could ever imagine, just a few feet in front of the hide. After spending a long time looking at these superbly cryptic birds we then had an excellent look at the Subalpine Warbler again. As we returned back towards Hugh Town we heard news of a Red-throated Pipit on the Porthcressa Beach. Some of the group returned to the guest-house while the others went to the beach and got good views of the pipit feeding amongst the seaweed, ending yet another great day.
Day 4 23rd Oct
We woke up this morning to heavy rain and wind, but within half an hour of daylight it stopped and a blue sky appeared. Viv and Pat then made a quick check of the beach where they soon relocated the Red-throated Pipit. Hopefully it would stay long enough for everyone to see after breakfast. It did and we all had very good views, allowing all the birds subtle identification features to be seen. Making our way down to the Harbour we caught the boat to Tresco. It was a bit choppy, but we soon made it and set off on a walk to the great pool. There was a Black Redstart on the beach, while on the pool we found three Greenshank. Moving on a group of Siskin where seen and then we found ourselves watching a Spotted Crake feeding at the back of a pool. For comparison there was also a Water Rail present. Adrian then found a Turtle Dove, which most of us saw, a really good bird for this time of year. We continued our search of the island seeing Peregrine, Pied Flycatcher, several Redwing and a flock of 120 Chaffinch. At Old Grismby we found a Yellow-browed Warbler in a solitary bush, but along with some Goldcrest it was difficult to get good views of. A lot easier in a nearby field, we watched four Fieldfare. We then made our way back to the jetty and caught our boat back to St. Marys. Some of the group decided to walk along Lower Broome side of the Garrison, a good search failed to find a reported Red-breasted Flycatcher so we returned ready for our meal.
We woke up this morning and a few of us went back to the Garrison but only I was the only one to get a view for about five seconds of the Red-breasted Flycatcher, although a couple of Firecrests showed better. After breakfast we went down to the quay and caught the boat to Bryer. It was an interesting crossing as it lashed down with rain causing all of us to zip up our jackets and tighten our hoods. By the time we arrived at Bryer the rain had stopped and within a short time a blue sky appeared. A short walk from the jetty and we found a Firecrest hovering and feeding on a nearby ivy bush. We then walked on and took shelter briefly before reaching the dump. Here amongst a group of bedraggled Common Starlings a juvenile Rose-coloured Starling was looking wet and scruffy and not at all well. From here we then walked past the Hell Bay hotel where a look towards the s ea found us a Great Skua. A brisk walk down by the beach and Pat spotted a distant Grey Phalarope which several of the group managed to get on. We decide it would be worth while having a seawatch so we found a sheltered area beside so rocks and scanned the rough looking sea. Over the next hour or so while having our picnic lunch we saw over 600 Gannets, 59 Guillemots, an Arctic Skua, a couple of Kittiwake and two Grey Phalaropes. Happy with this we left and headed across the island to Samson Hill where a thorough searched eventually found a Red-breasted Flycatcher.
This bird performed marvellously as it sat right out in the open no less than 15 feet in front of us. Leaving here we then had a quick look at the beach and saw Greenshank, Turnstone and Ringed Plover. From here we walked across to the downs and soon located a beautiful Dotterel feeding very close with three Golden Plover. A quick scan of the sea then found a lone Arctic Skua, after which we headed back to quay and caught our boat back.
Day 6 25th Oct
Before breakfast we took a walk up to lower moors and from the hides we slowly toted up 16 Common Snipe. With little else around we headed back for breakfast. After picking up our sandwiches we then called in to Evergreen Cottage where we had a close look at a Great Skua which was being nursed back to health ready for its future release. Jumping into a taxi we then went to Newford duck pond, where 9 chiffchaffs were seen including a much paler Siberian chiffchaff. There was also a Reed Warbler present and some of the group managed brief views of the Yellow-browed Warbler. From here we then went to Watermill and after a couple of brief sightings we eventually saw, after an excellent bit of spotting by Viv a juvenile Red-backed Shrike. We continued on searching all the weedy fields we could find. A Merlin put in a brief appearance as we made our way to Porhellick. Here two Jack Snipe showed incredibly well alongside Common Snipe while nearby a report of a Short-toed Lark found us searching an area of scrubby fields. We relocated the bird flying around with six Meadow Pipits, a little more searching gave us some reasonable flight views before the weather came in forcing us to make our way back to Hugh Town.
Today we woke to the sound of torrential rain. As we had breakfast it stopped so we decided the conditions looked good for visiting Agnes with maybe the chance of finding an American vagrant. After breakfast we headed for the quay where we were immediately hit with the news of an American Cliff Swallow having been seen on St. Agnes before flying towards St Mary's. We decided to stick with our planned day and visit St Agnes. On our arrival Viv took a few of the group to Gugh were the swallow was last seen and the rest of us searched other areas of the island. On Gugh they found a Short-toed Lark and good numbers of Blackcaps and Chiffchaff, while we came up with a Reed Bunting, up to nine Snipe and plenty of Meadow Pipits. It was now nearing lunch time and just as we were about to meet up a message came to say that the Cliff Swallow was on St Martins. A boat was already organised and on its way for us. Before long we were on our way to St Martins. A Grey Phalarope was briefly spotted from the boat and in no time we were docking. After a fairly short brisk walk everyone was enjoying unbelievable close views of this very rare American swallow flying around with a House Martin sometimes just 10 feet above our heads. We watched the bird for over an hour and then elated we slowly made our way back searching the woods. With just a few commoner species found we went to the beach and sat down looking at the eastern isles. The Rough-legged Buzzard then put on a show hovering over the closest of the islands, we watched this for quite some time as well as a Peregrine and then later an adult Pomarine Skua. Back by the harbour a brief view of a Bonxie was had before we caught the return boat. During the crossing a Merlin flew over being mobbed by a gull, a fitting end to another good day.
After breakfast we first visited Little Porth beach where we had excellent views of the Red-throated Pipit. A Wheatear showed well on a rock and then wedecided to walk up to Peninis. Several Black Redstarts were found and a Peregrine was spotted sat on a rock. It was a beautiful day as we continued our walk around to old town churchyard. Here we found good numbers of thrushes, Meadow Pipits and Chaffinches. In the graveyard a Firecrest showed briefly as did a Pied Flycatcher. A report of a Melodious Warbler was phoned in to us so we decided to take a walk to Porthellick to have a look. Once there we found a few Reed Warblers and suspect that one of these was actually the reported Melodious! another Firecrest was found and the Subalpine Warbler was spotted again. From the hides ten Common Snipe showed well but there was no sign of any Jack Snipe, although a group of Greenshank and Redshank were watched roosting. Adrian and myself walked to the nearby fields to check the larks and found twelve Skylarks and up to eighty Chaffinch. The rest of the group found a Kingfisher sat on a post in front of the hide. It was now raining so we headed back to the guest house to dry off and get ready for our return helicopter flight. After a few hiccups at the heliport we were soon on our way back to Penzance where our wonderful week on the Scilly Isles concluded.