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ISLES OF SCILLY 9th - 12th October 1999
DAY 1 Saturday 9th October
We arrived at Penzance Heliport at about 9.30am in plenty of time for our flight which departed at 10.40am. We eventually left ten minutes late. The flight was rather unexciting as there was a lot of fog. We considered ourselves lucky as the later flights were cancelled and the people travelling on these had to catch the Scillonian ship which didn’t arrive until 10.30pm. After our arrival we settled in to our guest houses, had a cup of tea or coffee and then headed into Hugh Town where we had a snack. We then caught a taxi to Tolmans, had a look at some weedy fields and then the beach, where a single Greenshank and several Turnstones could be seen feeding. We then made our way along the coastal path until we reached the far end of the airport runway. It wasn’t long before we were all enjoying views of our first transatlantic vagrant, a juvenile Upland Sandpiper. This bird eventually walked towards us and everyone saw it very well. We spotted several Common Wheatears and a little further along the runway a very wet looking Short-toed Lark fed unconcerned in the short grass for all of us to see. Continuing on to the rocky headland called Giants Causeway we noted Gannets fishing out to sea and then Graham, who had gone on ahead waved as he found the birds we were looking for. A quick walk and we were all watching a group of fourteen Snow Buntings. These lovely birds showed exceptionally well as they fed amongst the weedy grass on top of a ridge very close to us. Walking back we found a seal bobbing up and down in the bay. We then walked slowly back to our guest houses via Old Town Churchyard. After our evening meal several of us went to the Porth Cressa to listen to the day’s bird sightings, followed by a cool drink in one of the local inns.
DAY 2 Sunday 10th October
Graham and I took an early morning walk to the Garrison which produced commoner species including many tame Song Thrushes. After breakfast Graham and I went to check the situation with the inter island boats. A boat was leaving for the Eastern Islands so Graham jumped aboard and I said we would all meet him later on St Agnes. I went back and met the rest of the group after they had finished their breakfast. We all made our way down to the quay where another boat had been laid on to visit the Eastern Islands before going on to St Agnes. We made a quick decision and all jumped aboard this boat. Heading across the calm sea we saw a Little Egret feeding amongst the seaweed, plus several Gannets and Ravens. As we drew nearer to the islands the bird we hoped to see was spotted flying across to St Martins being harassed by three Ravens. It was a Short-toed Eagle, the first ever sighting of this large eagle in Britain, and a bird that attracted a lot of media coverage as people from all over Britain converged on Scilly. The bird flew back and we followed it in the boat getting exceptionally good views as it soared low overhead, and occasionally settled on the deserted rocky island. A Peregrine Falcon then put in an appearance before we set off towards St Agnes. The boat passed close to the rocks and we had excellent views of many seals as they lazily basked in the sun. Graham who was on the boat in front of us also saw a pod of Risso’s Dolphins. We arrived at St Agnes in drizzle, so we called in at the Turks Head and enjoyed a bowl of soup, a roll and a drink. While we were there the weather cleared and the sun came out again. We strolled along the road and walked up some steps to a field where we had very close views of a Siberian Stonechat, and a Monarch Butterfly was seen flying past. Leaving here we walked up to the parsonage and after a quick look at a Hummingbird Hawk Moth perched on a building, we were all soon watching a Red-breasted Flycatcher which obligingly sat on a wire and posed for us. Continuing on we passed a small garden where a superb Monarch Butterfly was sat on a flowering bush. Everyone had their cameras out to take a shot of this incredible transatlantic vagrant. It’s amazing enough to see birds that have made it from the USA but it seems even more astonishing to see a frail butterfly. Down by the beach we watched Ringed Plovers, Curlew, Turnstone, a Wheatear, Rock Pipits and several species of gull. Along a track by some fields a few Redwing were spotted, and then we were told that an incredibly rare and elusive White’s Thrush had been seen. We waited patiently with three hundred other birders. Everyone was silent as we watched Blackcaps, Song Thrushes and Collared Doves, but there was no sign of the much sought after Asian thrush. Everyone dispersed and we went to look for a Wryneck. We were admiring a nice Whinchat when news came that the White’s Thrush had just been relocated. The crowds soon descended and those of us who wished tried to see this very shy bird. Eventually after some chaotic scenes Sheila managed to see it three times in flight, and Graham, John and I watched it fly along the back of a field, land on a tree stump and then fly off through a gap in the hedge. Not bad when you consider people have visited the islands four or five times and spent over fifty hours trying to see this bird, some without success. We made our way back to the quay and caught our boat back to St Mary’s and our guest houses, before meeting again for our evening meal.
DAY 3 Monday 11th October
After breakfast we headed for the quay and the caught the boat to Tresco. The weather was warm and sunny and the sea was flat calm. As we were about to dock a Peregrine Falcon was spotted sat on a rock near to the jetty. It soon flew off. After disembarking we had a look along the shoreline. A distant group of Sanderling were seen as well as a Grey Heron and some commoner waders such as Curlew and Oystercatcher. We walked to the Abbey Pool, passing several flocks of Meadow Pipits. On the pool we found two lovely Black-necked Grebes showing off amongst the masses of Coot, while Teal were seen to fly in, and a Stonechat perched on a wire fence. We took a slow stroll around the pool where we heard Water Rail and plenty of Goldcrests. Our lunch was taken at the Abbey Gardens where the ever so tame thrushes begged for crumbs. Afterwards we headed towards the Great Pool. Sparrowhawk and Kestrel were seen as well as Pheasants feeding at the back of a field. At the pool itself we searched amongst the ducks and found Gadwall and a Little Grebe. Sat amongst a group of Mute Swans were two Whooper Swans, and just behind them were a group of waders which included Greenshank, Redshank and Common Snipe. Looking down on these birds from a path in the woods, the light was superb and we all enjoyed comparing the differences between a Common Sandpiper and a Green Sandpiper, the two birds often walking right alongside each other. Leaving the pool we headed towards the quay, first stopping at an area of sycamore where a Yellow-browed Warbler had been seen. Although there were lots of Goldcrests it looked as if the warbler had moved. We made our way to the jetty and caught the boat back to St Mary’s. The tide was low and we counted sixteen Little Egrets on this return journey.
DAY 4 Tuesday 12th October
After breakfast we all got together and walked towards Penninis. It was another warm sunny day. Along the top track we saw thrushes and Meadow Pipits, while out at sea there were plenty of Gannets flying past. From the far end of the track we looked across the bay to the airfield and then had fun trying to see the Upland Sandpiper which was walking around there in the long grass. Everyone eventually saw it, as well as a Razorbill and a seal in the sea. Continuing on we walked to Old Town café and then on through Lower Moors. Several Snipe were seen from one of the hides and Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler were spotted flitting around the bushes. A few of us saw a Monarch Butterfly flutter past and a little further along, where we came out on the road, Graham found a female Pied Flycatcher. From here we made our way to Holy Vale but it was generally quiet as far as birds were concerned. We then tried Porthellick where there was only Snipe and a few commoner duck. At the beach the tide was out and we found Greenshank, Ringed Plovers and a single Brent Goose. All too soon it was time to leave so the majority of the group went straight up to the airport while Zeta and I went back to the guest house, collected everyone’s luggage and then brought it up to the terminal building. John, Graham and I went outside and while awaiting our helicopter were able to watch two Upland Sandpipers flying around together; a wonderful sight and a fitting end to our holiday on these enchanted islands.
BIRDLIST FOR ISLES OF SCILLY - 1999
Total = 79