October 15th – 20th – Isles of Scilly update 2   Leave a comment

On the 15th, I gave Bryher a miss, which was another mistake, as Richard who had never seen the species, went and saw it well. I headed across St Mary’s to Porth Hellick where after a considerable search, the juvenile American Golden Plover was seen distantly. I spent quite some time in the area but saw little else.

Porth Hellick at low tide.

News of a Hume’s Leaf Warbler at the ‘dump clump’ near Hugh Town had me scurrying back. I saw this Central Asian species in Dorset in January, but it is a really rare bird and was worth seeing again. I joined some 50 other birders there with no success, then came news of a Short-toed Lark back, at all places, at Carn Friars a few meters past Porth Hellick. I retraced my steps and arrived just in time to see the lark before it flew. As the tide had come in, the American Golden Plover was much, much closer and I managed to get some digiscoped shots.

Hanging around for the Hume’s Leaf Warbler.

By now the tide was in and the juvenile American Golden Plover was showing well.

By now the weather had turned, it was raining hard and quite windy. For the fourth time today I walked the road to Hugh Town, arriving back very tired and rather wet.

On the 16th Roger and Richard opted to go on a pelagic boat trip some eleven miles out from the islands. Fearing rough seas and expecting little, I decided to stay on St Mary’s. They did see a nice range of seabirds but nothing that was critical for my year list.

After a brief visit to the Garrison, I went to Old Town where a Red-breasted Flycatcher was on show in the churchyard, then I walked the short distance to the mosquito ridden ‘dump clump’ where I eventually saw the Hume’s Leaf Warbler. The trouble was although it definitely called like a Hume’s it looked just like a Yellow-browed Warbler! Of course there was the two-bird theory, an invisible but vocal Hume’s going around with a silent but showy Yellow-browed and there was even a three-bird theory, which is too complicated to even bother discussing.

This is what a Hume’s Leaf Warbler should look like (as in this photo from the internet) duller than a YBW, with darker bill and reduced wing bar on the median coverts …….

… but this is what the bird DID look like, just like this Yellow-browed Warbler I photographed on Shetland. Most observers thought the call was the critical feature but I shall follow any ensuing debate with great interest.

The 17th saw very strong winds reaching 55mph. Seawatching brought little but a single Bonxie, the Hume’s showed well and the three Ring-necked Ducks that appeared off Hugh Town showed well at Porth Hellick Pond.

Rough seas off St Mary’s

Porth Hellick with Porth Hellick Pond behind.

A first year male and 2 first year female Ring-necked Ducks. Clearly just arrived from the other side of the Atlantic – who says all Nearctic ducks are escapes.

Birders gather in the Scillonian Club every evening for the log call.

Song Thrushes have declined greatly on the UK mainland but are common and tame on Scilly.

Stick Insects have been introduced to Scilly and can be seen in sheltered locations.

Close to Veronica Loge there is a tunnel through the ancient fortifications of the Garrison ….

.., this is known as Sally Port, a once secret passage where defenders could ‘sally forth’ and harass the invaders from behind.

Porth Loo beach

Little was seen on the 18th, I thought the Blackpoll Warbler had gone and was surprised to hear that it was seen again on Bryher, but the very low tides meant that there were no boats there during the day. However I did visit on the 19th but this time it appeared to have gone. It was a beautiful day on a beautiful island and although there were few birds (a Hooded Crow was by far the best) I really enjoyed it. It was also possible to scope a group of Whooper Swans on the lake on nearby Tresco.

A male Stonechat

Bryher

View over Bryher towards Tresco, St Martin’s can be seen in the distance.

The shallow channel between Bryher (L) and Tresco (R)

Southern tip of Tresco with St Mary’s to the left

On our final morning Roger, Richard and I took the boat to St Agnes. A Booted Warbler had been found and it was showing well when we arrived. This was only the fourth time I have seen this Central Asian bird in the UK. Other goodies included a Richard’s Pipit, a Pied Flycatcher, a Yellow-browed, Peregrine, Marsh Harrier and Great Northern Diver, making this final day the best birding day of the week.

St Agnes, perhaps the most beautiful of the islands.

The Western Rocks with the Bishop lighthouse in the distance. The next land to the west of here is Canada.

Pied Flycatcher

Time for a drink at the most southerly pub in the UK

…. but the pub was empty ….

… because everyone was enjoying the sun outside (Kevin, Richard and Roger) …..

… and with a view like this can you blame them.

We returned to Veronica Lodge to collect our gear and caught the Scillonian at 1630. A couple of pods of Common Dolphins, a Balearic Shearwater and an Arctic Skua showed on the way back. I drove straight back to Dorset and was home about 2300. Perhaps it wasn’t the best birding week I have spent on Scilly but the weather was good and I enjoyed socialising and catching up with some old friends.

Roger and Richard with our landlady Diane at Veronica Lodge.

Time to board the Scillonian and head for home.

Posted October 23, 2012 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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