Posts Tagged ‘Isles of Scilly


Presumptive birding

When you stand on Hugh Towns seafront and state sometimes a Merlin might be viewable from here and a Merlin duly appears; you might raise an eyebrow.

When later the same day you stand watching a field with a backdrop of elms and state it looks good for a Little Bunting and one pops up within minutes; you might widen your eyes a little.

However, later the same day when you say to your guests lets look in this sheltered weedy field … it looks ripe for a Common Rosefinch; and one flies down the hedgerow within seconds and perches up next to you … it might cross your mind to think carefully what to ‘talk-up’ next.


A trip to see a trip

A slow walk north along the full length of Tresco is like drinking a fine wine. It has to be done slowly and enjoyed. Overcast with rain was gradually replaced with warm bright sunshine and the Scillies excelled at what it is best at … being beautiful.

In our annual trip to the archipelago we took a boat to Carn Near from St Mary’s, where we are staying, and made our way up the island to Castle Down. It’s years since I’ve been up to the North end of the Tresco but it was just as special as I remembered it. Gosh it was warm. A flyover Siskin reminded me it was October. Three Dotterel were thrown in for free with an added bonus of a pod of Harbour Porpoise offshore. What more could we ask for …



Over the New Year period, being in Tier 4 Norfolk and therefore restricted to home has given me time to think and reminisce.

I have been following the reports of Fin and Humpback Whales around the Isles of Scilly this last week with interest. I would so like to have been there. Sightings of whales were coming in thick and fast. It’s difficult to tell how many of each species were present but on one particular day there appeared to be nine animals around the islands. This is purely speculative on my part of course as some of the sightings may have been double counted and remember I am 400 miles away. In time when records are examined by the more than competent guys on the ground a truer number will be agreed.

The whole event took me back to some occasions in the past when I’ve been surrounded by whales myself. One came to mind. In the bay of Funday 2016 I remember thinking I could have walked out on the Humpbacks that were gathering in the mist around the boat. Later on in the same week a pod of Fin Whales came at the boat. Let’s just think about that for a moment. Each whale around 20 meters long and weighing about 47,000 kg. moving at 20 knots, making a bow wave and coming straight towards where I’m stood on the deck of a 60 foot cruiser one and a half metres above the waterline. There were around ten of them. That’s close to half a million kilograms of flesh coming straight at the boat. You get the picture. As they neared the beam they slipped under the keel and were away. Their wash dragging the boat sideways. A heart stopping moment. Wonderful, wonderful animals.

Some of the Fin Whales in the bay of Fundy – that’s the problem with telephoto lenses … they don’t fit everything in.

Humpbacks in the mist bay of Fundy


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.


Seeing Red?

The Tresco estate on the Isles of Scilly have taken it upon themselves to introduce Red Squirrel onto the island. When we were down there in October we sat in the garden cafe and there were several that entertained us as we fought to keep the House Sparrows from our lunch.

Red Squirrels are endearing little mammals that do make me chuckle as they bound from place to place punctuating their leaps with static pauses; as if they are surprised their surroundings changed when they moved!



It was one of those mornings where the sun was just breaking through a mist. Not warm but not cold. As I walked over the dewy mown grass to the bushes at the edge of the beach I could see one or two birds flitting around. It was August and we were on Grand Manan Island in North East Canada.

I stood and waited. There had obviously been a movement overnight. Birds had migrated down from the north and were heading south for the winter. Among the American Robins flying overhead I could make out other birds but they were too far away; I couldn’t identify them. My eyes wandered back to the bushes. The first thing I saw was the bright yellow throat and blue head of a Parula Warbler. My mind was instantly transported back 21 years to the 10th October 1995. I was sat in a small boat being taken to St Agnes. I wanted to look in the parsonage garden, a great place to find migrants. Even before I got there the news broke a Parula had been seen in the trees of the parsonage just below the lighthouse. After landing at the quay and walking double quick time it didn’t take long to get there. Within minutes I was watching my first British Northern Parula. A small warbler sporting a cape of gold over blue upperparts and sparkling white wingbars which coincidentally probably originated not too far from Grand Manan … where I was currently stood.

My eyes tripped to the next movement in the seashore bush. The bright yellow of a Common Yellowthroat filled my optics. Exit 2016, hello 1997. 11th October to be precise. This was ridiculous. I was beginning to feel as though I was in some sort of tardis. Again, on the Isles of Scilly. On the Lower Moors extension. From a well watched bramble I willed a Yellowthroat to venture forth. It did in spectacular style. The collective intake of breath from the assembled crowd was audible as the bird sat on the bush and began to preen. Not a face smacking field guide adult but a subtle washed out 1st winter bird; as are all American Warblers that occur on our shores during autumn.

All wonderful memories of wonderful birds in wonderful surroundings. All firmly filed away in memory.





If you asked bird watchers which bird epitomises the Isles of Scilly you would undoubtedly get as many different answers as the number of people you asked. For me it has to be a bird that is ubiquitous, a bird that is everywhere. It has to be the Song Thrush. Scarce on the mainland; on the enchanted isles you cannot fail to come across many during the course of a day.



Penninis Head

Penninis Head on the Scillies is a headland that sticks out into the Atlantic like a net scooping up migrant birds. On the western side this Wryneck entertained us with its ant hunting antics.



Hotel Subalpine

I think one of my guests on the Scillies Tour earlier this month wanted to know how I’d organised one of our sightings.

A Western Subalpine Warbler spent our entire stay within the confines of our hotel garden.




Given the easterly winds this Autumn I suspect we’ll get a good number of Lapland Buntings over wintering during the next few months. We saw quite a few on Scillies with this one on Bryher showing particularly well.


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Sep 2022


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