October 13th – 14th – Scilly update 1   Leave a comment

The Isles of Scilly (never the Scilly Isles), lie some 28 miles west of Lands End. They have long been known as one of the key places in the UK to see rare and unusual birds. October has proven to be the best month for vagrants from America and Siberia. In the mid 80s as many as thousand birders would be staying but these days only a quarter of that number turn up. In its hey day, five species of American passerines could be found on St Mary’s (the main island) alone, but increasing costs and fewer vagrants have made it less popular. Fewer birders clearly means less birds found, but there is the suggestion that global warming is pushing fronts further north resulting in more megas arriving in Iceland and Shetland.

Even so, a week on Scilly is still a great way to enjoy a weeks birding, with a warm climate, good company, food and drink and a ready supply of good birds what more could you want. I visited Scilly every year between 1979 and 1990 and in 93, 94, 08 and 2012. With day twitches that amounts to over 20 visits.



Porthcressa Bay with Hugh Town beyond.


The crossing on the Scillonian on the 13th was reasonably calm but very poor for seabirds, with nothing but a few Guillemots, Gannets and Kittiwakes seen. After dropping my gear off at my B&B on the Garrison, I caught the boat to the small island of Bryher where (in spite of heavy showers) I soon saw the Solitary Sandpiper that has been frequenting a farm dump for the last couple of days.


Lands End from the Scillonian


Lee Evans (LGRE): to some he is the twitchers friend, disseminating news, organising tours and publishing an alternative birder friendly list to the official BOU one. To others he is the ‘judge, jury and executioner’ of birding, policing people’s lists without their permission. I have to say I have always got on well with him.


The Scillonian docked at Hugh Town, St Mary’s.



After a day in the field the climb up the hill to our B&B, Veronica Lodge was hard work. But it was well worth staying there for the mega breakfasts!


Hugh Town as seen from Veronica Lodge.


I wasn’t the only birder who chose to take the small boat to Bryher that afternoon.


Solitary Sandpiper, the American equivalent of our Green Sandpiper but with a more attenuated rear end, longer wings, no white rump and bolder eye ring. I have seen 3 Solitary Sandpipers in the UK, all on Scilly.




Finding the other goodie on Bryher was much more problematic. An American Blackpoll Warbler has been seen over the last few days but it has always been elusive. Today it just showed briefly to four birders this morning. I did see a flock of eight Pink-footed Geese fly over, a Coal Tit (a scarce bird on Scilly, they may have arrived from European mainland or Ireland) and on the way back a Peregrine and a Spoonbill.


Waiting for the return boat.


The island of Tresco from Bryher


A juvenile Shag reminiscent of the Mediterranean race ‘desmarestii’ with two Cormorants.




During the evening, as we did every evening, Roger, Richard and I went out for a meal and a few drinks in Hugh Town.


On the 14th we went to the south side of the Garrison as a Serin had been reported. It was soon clear that this bird was just part of a westerly movement, which included about 100 Chaffinches, two Grey Wagtails and lots of Meadow Pipits. Rare Red-throated and Richard’s Pipits were seen briefly on nearby St Agnes. From a Scilly perspective the rarest bird was a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a very rare visitor to these islands.


Off birding: the Garrison archway.



St Agnes from the Garrison.


The Bishop Rock lighthouse, the most southerly building in the UK and almost the most southerly point, digiscoped from six miles away on the Garrison.



In the early afternoon we caught the boat to Bryher as the Blackpoll Warbler had been seen well about midday, but we were too late, we just had a frustrating couple of hours staring at a hedge. At least we had good views of the Spoonbill on the way back.


Nothing to do whilst the Blackpoll failed to show, so I might as well photograph some of the giant mushrooms.


A juvenile Spoonbill with Oystercatchers.






Posted October 22, 2012 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: