Archive for Jun 3rd, 2022

03
Jun
22

Manic Magic

When you go to the Isles of Scilly birding it can be very weather dependent.

Before we arrived at the end of May it seemed all and sundry was arriving on the islands. Then landing alongside our cargo of excited guests arrived a stiff Northerly. It immediately blocked any further migrating birds. That is until the last day.

We had resigned ourselves to the fact we were not going to see much last Tuesday; our last day on the islands. Although the weather had been pleasantly warm and blue skies had prevailed it wasn’t the weather we were hoping for. We had seen the islands at their very best; full of flowers and colour. Even a few good birds did put in an appearance although they were few and far between. Places on aircraft and ship had been booked to relocate us all back to reality and we were making our way to Juliet’s Garden (known to those in the know as Juliet’s Panties) for a final lunch. As we walked along Porthloo Lane I was recounting tales of Yellow Billed Cuckoo’s and traffic jam creating twitches, when I heard a sound; a call of a bird that I knew well, but for a minute I couldn’t place it. The penny then dropped. I searched the top of the elms from where the sound emanated and there they were; four Bee Eaters.

The mood instantly changed in the group. News was immediately put out and people began to arrive. As I stared at the colourful Europeans something in the distance caught my focus. We had not seen a raptor all week and there was one now sailing across my field of view. A long tail and narrow wings confirmed a harrier. All grey; a male. Scillies, end of May. This should have been a Pallid or at worst a Montague’s. No. The wings were too broad and the dark wedges in the primaries too thick. The structure and flight were all wrong for a ‘rare’ harrier. This was a Hen Harrier. A Hen Harrier that had no right to be here at this time of the year. We watched it float high over Hugh town and out to St Agnes.

The Bee Eaters floated off high to the North. This was jat as well. I wouldn’t have liked to have left four Bee Eaters showing well … even for lunch.

Lunch was good. It always is at Juliet’s. We bade goodbye to some catching flights while others stayed to chat waiting for the Scillonian III to beckon. I relaxed in the warm sunshine and stretched out my legs and bathed my face in the heat. Staring at the sky I spotted another raptor. A small falcon. This was a bird on a mission. It was climbing, and climbing high. Compact, pale and as un-kestrel like as any small falcon could be. A probable Red Footed Falcon was leaving Scilly … vertically. No scope (packed away), the light and distance not on our side, it has to stay a probable.

The day however wasn’t done.

Leaving on the ship, a Minke Whale put in an appearance just outside the islands. Later a Harbour Porpoise rolled through a flat calm sea. At half way, marked by the Wolf light, a pod of Common Dolphin gave a ‘leaping show’ like no others can. However, what happened next had my jaw dropping.

As the ship steamed up the South coast of Cornwall we started to see flocks of Manx Shearwaters. Small flocks to start with, then bigger ones of a hundred or more birds. Then great ribbons of birds strewn across the sea in great discarded strings. Flocks encircled the Scillionian and at times it seemed as if the ship was sailing through shearwater soup. We estimated that in the last hour of sailing we saw Circa 10,000 Manx Shearwaters. the largest number I have seen of this species anywhere.

It all goes to show it ain’t over ’till the fat lady sings’.




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