Manxies from the Scillonion III14th August
The crossing from Penzance wasn't filled with the Large Shears or Pterodromas that I was dreaming about, but a decent passage of Manx Shearwaters and 2 European Storm-petrels and 5 Fulmar.
insula race Speckled Wood of which there were a very good showing of this much more orange race of butterfly15th August
Our first full day saw us walk from Porthcressa around to Pelistry and across to Porthlow where we stayed. I was astounded to see at least 22 Clouded Yellows along the eastern side of St. Marys. Porth Hellick bay held 7 Greenshank and Pelistry bay held 4 Grey Seals.
Our 2nd day was spent walking north from Porthlow past the the Golfcourse and Telegraph where I noted 4 migrant Whimbrel and then 2 Siskin in the pines near to Bar Point. 10 Clouded Yellows were also seen throughout the day
The 17th was rained off, so I had a quick lunchtime visit to Lower Moors to be nostalgic about Northern Waterthrush and Wilson's Snipe back in 2011. Best I could manage though was a Kingfisher flying through at 12.07, followed by 2 Common Sandpiper present on Porthlow beach on the walk home.
Adult Purple Heron over Abbey Gardens
Rufous lesser and primary underwing coverts of the Purple Heron18th August
A lovely day called for a trip to another island and we chose Tresco. Amy and I went round the Abbey Gardens in search of Stick Insects and Golden Pheasants (not Cat C obviously). We lucked in with the pheasants and were surrounded by about 11! At one point, I picked up what I thought was a Grey Heron flying overhead. I was trying to keep a detailed list of what I'd seen, so I thought I'd look at it to age it. I was surprised how rufous its underwing coverts were and this made me think of Purple Heron. I decided to get some records and look closer at it was quite high up. I then thought back to when I ringed the juvenile Grey Herons a couple of months ago and remembered being surprised some rufous feathering on the under-carpal. I was a bit confused at this point as it looked quite bulky at the time. I was starting to panic as I knew my photos weren't very good. It then circled and came back white stretching its neck out (a feature I have only ever seen in Purple Heron). I got a couple of better photos and then noted how extensive the rufous was and put it out at a probably Purple (I couldn't see the detail on the head in the field or on the back of the camera due to bright conditions.) It was only when I got back home that I realised that it was a definite. A really pleasing find!
1st summer Long-tailed Skua
Great Shearwater19th August
Possibly one of my most anticipated days was the 19th as this was when I went out of the Sapphive with Joe Pender on the evening short-range pelagic trips. I managed two lifers in the form of Cory's and Great Shearwater which was superb along with my first views of Blue Sharks which were caught, tagged and released including a fantastic 6ft 3 monster!
Totals were c20 Cory's Shearwater, c7 Great Shearwater, 1st summer Long-tailed Skua, c100 European Storm-petrel, Great Skua, 4-5 Gannet, 2 Kittiwake, Manx Shearwater, 50+ Fulmar and 2 Blue Shark
Another highlight was meeting Bob Flood and Ash Fisher who wrote the recent Pterodromas of the North Atlantic which I have just bought and absolutely love! They were kind enough to sign my book too.
A morning's walk around the outside of the Garrison saw me wonder what rarities had been in what bush over the years, but all I could muster was a new-in Painted Lady. In the afternoon, Amy, Amy's mum and auntie and I went for a horse ride around Porth Hellick with the riding centre and I noted 15 Clouded Yellow and a field full of 200 Woodpigeon, 15 Stock Dove and a very impressive flock of 300+ House Sparrow!
Grey Seals on Western Isles
Bishop's Rock21st August
We went to St. Agnus, but Amy and I went of a trip round the Western Isles and onto Bishop's Rock before hand which has to be one of the most impressive human feats of all time (a big claim, but given when it was made and that no one was killed is remarkable!). I was really happy to pick up 2 Cory's and 10 Manx Shearwaters from the southern side of the Western Isles. Also say lots and lots of Grey Seals, a Harbour Porpoise.
I feel bad, as I spent the rest of the day sat on the Bar between St. Agnus and Gugh, so I really neglected the rest of a seemingly beautiful island. I did however pick up 2 Clouded Yellows flying past my lazy face!
I spent the afternoon around Porth Hellick and Porth Hellick Down when I found a female Pied Flycatcher, fem/imm Blackcap and 3 Willow Warblers which were obvious migrants as well as 40 Clouded Yellows
This was a frustrating day as at 13:40, I had a wagtail fly over Bishop's View, just above Juliet's Garden. A bird that I initially thought sounded like a Yellow Wagtail, but it sounded a little more like a cross between a flava and Tree Pipit, which made me think Citrine Wagtail. It called twice more and really did sound like a Citrine. I couldn't refind the bird which was very frustrating as it flew off in the direction of Porth Hellick. It was even more annoying to discover a 1st winter Citrine was found the following morning at Porth Hellick...the one that got away!
9 Whimbrel and a Bar-tailed Godwit flying past Porthlow beach was the avian highlight of the day
Juvenile Yellow-legged Gull
Juvenile Yellow-legged Gull (note the ever so slight window int he inner primaries and hint of a white rump)
Great Skua24th August
Monday's pelagic really whetted my appetite for another, so that's exactly what I did! The weather was a lot different to the gloriously sunny weather the previous time, with overcast rain and light wind on this trip. We picked up a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull straight away following the boat and then a Great Skua giving great views. We were then treated to a pod of up to 200 Common Dolphins and a Blue Shark surfacing! We caught one Blue Shark that was very modest in size and then great excitement when a Porbeagle Shark came out of the deep blue and then onto our boat! What a superb species that look like a mini Great White. In terms of birds we were then amazed by the numbers of Storm-petrels that surrounded the boat and then Bob Flood shouted at the top of his voice, 'SAB'S GULL!' as a beautiful adult circled the boat. We were also all surprised by a fly by Black Tern which (I think) is the first record of 2013 for the Scillies. Last thing before we headed back to the quay a Cory's Shearwater came to check out our chum slick.
Showy Water Rail from the ISBG hide at Lower Moors25th August
Walking past Porthlow beach on the way to Hugh Town quay, I picked up a juvenile and then an adult Mediterranean Gull. We spent the day on Bryher in reasonably strong wind and what looked like great seawatching weather. As we came round the corner into Hell Bay, I was proven right as a half hour seawatch with binoculars saw me see to close in Cory's Shearwater and Great Shearwater! Fantastic stuff! Scilly is just superb!
I ended the day at Lower Moors and was treated to a very showy Water Rail at dusk.
St. Martin's was the final inhabited island for me to 'tick off'. A really beautiful island, but little in the name of birds were seen with the exception of a few very vocal Whimbrel and of course, a couple of Clouded Yellow near the Day Mark. I was therefore able to see Clouded Yellow on all the inhabited islands!
I woke up at 6 with the intention of doing some dawn birding. I was only able to see 1 Water Rail, 4 Snipe, 4 Gadwall and Kingfisher at Lower Moors. Later on in the day, I saw 4 Raven at 15:05, which flew east over the Garrison seen from Old Town
Stunning female Citrine Wagtail on Shooter's Pool
adult female Citrine Wagtail28th August
On our last morning, I heard of a female Citrine Wagtail on Shooter's Pool at Lower Moors. Whilst walking to Hugh Town quay, I couldn't resist popping into the screen at Lower Moors but was very pressed for time, so I had to basically go up to the screen and if it was there, get a photo, if it wasn't, had to head off. I was gutted that no one was at the screen and there was no apparent sign of the bird. As I was reluctantly walking away from the screen, I heard the sound of Citrine, turned around and the bird rose from the back of the reeds and landed right in front of the screen giving superb views! What a stunning bird and a superb way to finish the trip...or at least that's what I thought at the time!
On the Scillonion trip back, I was picking up several Stormies and Manxies and then just as I was about to pack up and sit down, ready for the 6 hour drive back to Leeds, I picked up a shearwater that was much paler than the maxies and has dusky underside and it was soon apparant that I was watching my first UK Balearic Shearwater! Excellent
A really superb holiday and it really has made me fall in love with the Isles of Scilly all over again!