Posts Tagged ‘Scillies

26
Oct
22

déjà vu

Upon reading a passage in ‘Weather and Bird Behaviour’ by Norman Elkins I was reminded of this Autumns arrival of Nearctic birds into the UK after that hot Indian summer we all endured. The passage referred to the summer of 1976 and the Nearctic vagrants that occurred in the following Autumn.

“One of the most notable autumns for (Nearctic) vagrancy was that of 1976, when 25 individuals were recorded. Over 60% of these were Northern species displaced while on normal Southward migration over the sea – Grey cheeked Thrush, Yellow-rumped Warbler and Blackpoll Warbler. This large, unprecedented fall (there were 14 of the last-mentioned species, of which most appeared in multiple arrivals in the first nine days of October) was attributable to the abnormal atmospheric circulation. A proximate cause of the long British drought which ended in September of that year was the extreme northern position of the polar front jet stream. The jet suddenly shifted south from this position in September, and, in combination with other factors resulting from the long hot summer, this produced unusually vigorous cyclonic activity which was ideally suited in transatlantic vagrancy in October.” P159

A touch of ‘déjà vu’ perhaps?

One American bird we encountered this year on Scilly, earlier this month, was an American Buff bellied Pipit. Always elusive in long grass and bad light it was just one of the cast of transatlantic vagrancy that has defined this Autumn.

20
Oct
22

Not so cloudy

It’s not just about birds on Scilly. A walk around the South of St Mary’s gave us several sightings of Clouded Yellows that had presumably migrated in from the Continent.

15
Jun
22

Wood you?

One of the best birds on Scillies this year was this Wood Sandpiper. Not for its rarity value but for its complete lack of concern for our presence.

11
Jun
22

Ceta!

Coming back from Scillies the Common Dolphins were up to their usual antics. So wonderfully active these cetaceans.

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’.

22
Jan
22

Horns of a Dilemma

Some time ago, in October 2001 to be exact, I was on the Isles of Scilly. Where else would you expect me to be in October? The Scilly archipelago lies some 20 something miles from the outreaching peninsula of Cornwall. Surrounded by the Atlantic, the islands are a crossroads for migrating birds; a rest haven amid the ocean.

Sadly my note books for this period have been destroyed. We’ll not go into that now but I do so regret not having them. They were a record of my thoughts and observations that I would love to have as a reference. So what follows is from my memory of the day.

I was on the beautiful island of Tresco for the day. Anyone who has been to Tresco knows what I mean when I call it beautiful. It’s a charming place with a unique atmosphere rivaled by nowhere on Earth I’ve been. Having caught the 10:30am morning boat from St Mary’s and landed at New Grimsby Quay at the North end of the Island I had come to Tresco for some particular bird. I can’t remember what it was. There are a couple of large freshwater pools on Tresco that attract duck and waders as well as rails and crakes, so to be honest it could have been anything. I just can’t remember. I can’t even recall if I saw whatever I went to see. However, I remember thinking I’d catch the early boat back to St Mary’s at 2:30 so I crossed the Helliport and made my way to Carn Near at the South of the Island to catch the return boat.

As I walked down the concrete roadway each isolated clump of vegetation seemed to be harbouring a Stonechat. As I neared the quay I could see there was a chap sitting down on the ground to the right of the path up ahead of me. He was watching something through his bins on the area of short cropped turf and gravel in front of him. I stopped and lifted my optics. ‘Bugger me’, I thought, it’s a Shorelark. I’d never seen a Shorlark on Scillies before. It was a Scillies tick! I continued walking until I was opposite the lark and took another good look. It wouldn’t have to be a long look. The boat was due.

The more I looked at it the odder it appeared. It didn’t look quite right for Shorelark. Something was different. I made the decision to forego the 2:30 boat in favour of the one leaving at 4:30. I wanted to sit down and study this bird. I remembered noting the different face pattern and the colouring of the scapulars being unfamiliar.

This week, 21 years later, the BOU accepted this bird as the first UK record of ‘Horned Lark’. This is a sub-species of Shorelark and is Nearctic in origin. Residing in the arctic region of North America and Canada.

Subsequently the lark visited other islands and I think the shot below was taken on St Agnes by Niall Machin who kindly allowed me to use his photo.

So this tale gives anyone that cares to read it a cautionary warning. Two in fact. Firstly if something doesn’t look quite right, study it … and take notes. Secondly keep your old notebooks. You’ll regret it if you don’t.

29
Oct
20

Not so Little Bunting

This Little Bunting was frequenting the paths around Porthellick Bay on our recent visit to the Isles of Scillies this October. It was just one of several we heard/saw but was by far the most confiding.

23
Oct
18

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.

16
Oct
18

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.

14
Oct
18

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!




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