Archive for Oct, 2018


Head in a box

We were walking on St Agnes within the Isles of Scilly archipelago earlier this month when we saw something unusual. Three grown chaps on their knees with their heads in a box.

As we walked closer I could see it was a moth trap they were peering into. “Anything good?” I asked. To which I was greeted with big smiles. Three very obliging guys then proceeded to show my group the contents of their moth traps; but they kept the best until last. A Silver Striped Hawkmoth. This was the first time this species had been seen on the Scillies. Although we get around 10 a year arriving throughout the UK from their normal southern Europe and North African range they still remain a good find for anyone running a moth trap.

My thanks to the guys once more.


Closer Still

Did I say in an earlier post this month that I’d got as close as I’d ever been to a Merlin? Well on the last day of our Scillies tour this year … this happened.


Bar tailed

Another regular on the first trip to Scillies this October was a Bar tailed Godwit that could be found with some regularity either on Porthcressa or Porthloo Beach. H(sh)e had a friendly character and performed admirably for photographers.


The cat’s out of the bag

When you are amid a gathering of (mostly) silent birders you just cant help but let your mind wander. As a five year old I’d sit with my mum identifying birds visiting the threaded peanut shells hung in the garden. On Thursday morning, a couple of score years and more later, I found myself with my guests and a group of twitchers on a windswept Cornish headland. In the intervening period I’ve seen a lot of birds in the UK; 499 species to be exact.

The first warming rays of the sun were stretching my shadow towards sallows surrounded by brambles: this small patch of vegetation was the focus of everyone’s attention. We had spent the lat week on the Isles of Scilly and had returned to the mainland on the previous afternoons ferry. This was the last day of ‘The Isles of Scilly Birders tour’. We were calling at a few places in Cornwall before heading back to Norfolk. Hence our ‘bush-staring’ close to the village of Sennen.

Hidden within the bush was a Grey Catbird. A North American crepuscular bird …way …way out of its normal range. This was the second occurence of this species in Britain.

As the sun lit up the lime bark of the willows a dark thrush sized grey bird with a black cap and a rusty vent hopped up to become the landmark of my 500th British species.

Do you think we could use the ‘cat carrier’ we saw hung on the wall at the pub during our last night of the tour to take it back to the states? No? … well no need to get into a flap about it. Better nip this in the bud right now!





Shouty Siberian

Wherever you go amid the Isles of Scilly in October it’s likely you will hear the ‘tsoeest’ of Yellow-browed Warblers. We found this one skulking in bushes at Trenoweth … but we had others.


Wizard of a bird

The second trip to Scillies this Autumn meant a bit of a rejigging of sailing days to beat Storm ‘Callum’. Boats and planes after our revised sailing were being cancelled. We made it before the bad weather hit … by half a day. While the sun was still out on our first evening we were treated to an absolute stunner of a bird. A Merlin sitting on a wall having just fed. It showed well. Probably better than any perched Merlin I’ve seen in half a century of watching birds.

The next day, long after the Merlin had left, the prey item was examined. I suspected it to be a Meadow Pipit. There were a lot about. How wrong could I have been. It was a Jack Snipe!


Northerly Winds

I organised a migration day out on Saturday. As it filled up straight away I thought I’d organise another for the following day. Saturday and Sunday became a migration weekend. With strong Northerly winds we were expecting something special and we weren’t disappointed. The Saturday seawatch gave us wildfowl galore as Teal, Eider, Brent, Pinkfeet and Shelduck streamed passed us punctuated with regular Gannets. Manx and Sooty Shearwaters put in an appearance as did the odd Arctic Skua and Red throated Diver. We even managed a Scaup giving excellent views with a side act of bobbing Jack Snipe. However it was the calm after the storm on the Sunday when passerines started to crop up. Goldcrests, Chiffchaffs, Yellow browed Warblers and a Barred Warbler. A beautiful male Hen Harrier delighted us with a flypast but not after it had been harried by a persistent Merlin, all against a background of leaving birds such as Spoonbill.

Next year I think a migration weekend is on the cards!



Having just completed a bespoke trip to Scillies last week I can say we had some good birds. The first of which was this Ortolan Bunting that gave impressive views down to a few metres on the path to Peninnis. Speaking to some of the old timers that used visit the Scillies in the 1960’s it is saddening to hear them talk of flocks of Ortolan Buntings visiting the fields here. Let’s hope we return to those days soon.


Wader Passage

An excellent wader passage this autumn in North Norfolk. The likes of these Curlew Sandpipers were typical.

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Oct 2018


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