What a week on Scilly! (25th Oct – 1st Nov 2008)

The usual ‘teachers week’ trip to Scilly comes round quicker every year. Expectations were again high with our ever growing group predicting all sorts of eastern and western vagrants. Wednesday 29th was to produce a bird we would not have predicted if we each had 50 guesses!

Luckily a couple of us ‘twitched’ the Sociable Plover the saturday before our annual week, leaving the ones that didnt somewhat disappointed that it didnt hang around til the 25th, Fortunately the Grey-cheeked Thrush that was on Agnes the week before was relocated, by Tony Hull, on the beach at Porthmellon and showed superbly until the 1st November. Yellow-browed Warblers increased in number through the week with three birds at Newford Duckpond pleasing the photographers. Up to four Hawfinches gorged themselves on hawthorne berries in Holy Vale.

The 26th found a Red-backed Shrike between Maypole and Borough Farm. On closer inspection (in the field, not misleading photographs!) the bird showed many characteristics of first winter BROWN SHRIKE and some of the countries leading birders agreed that it was this species. Despite what it says on the information services the birds’ identity is still not 100% confirmed.  On the 28th a first winter RED-FLANKED BLUETAIL was seen briefly by Newford Duckpond. It went ‘walkabout’ for an agonising couple of hours before being relocated in a field off Trenoweth. It then showed well until dusk but could not be relocated the next day. A White-rumped Sandpiper day tripped between Porth Hellick Beach, St Mary’s and Wingletang, St Agnes, but showed well when pinned down.

Wednesday 29th proved to be a red letter day for Scilly. The day before had been blowing NW with occasional rain for most of the day and was very cold. Wednesday morning was calm and dry but rain and heavy winds were forecast for the afternoon. I was at Old Town when the call came in that a Snowy Owl had been seen flying over Porth Hellick towards Holy Vale. The first winter bird was soon relocated sat on a wall off Pungies Lane, showing superbly. Birders were dragged into the taxi as we past on our way to the bird and within minutes we were watching the first Snowy Owl for the Isles since 1972! It perfomed amazingly, flying short distances before setlling in pines near the Golf course to roost. The bird was relocated on St Martin’s the next day and was still there for the travelling birders on the last Scillonian III crossing on the 1st November.

Most birders walked round in a bit of daze with a ‘Scilly’ grin on their faces for the next few days, still taking in the enormity of the Snowy Owl record. The 30th saw a showy Spotted Crake at Lower Moors and another was on St Agnes. The Blyth’s Reed warbler also showed well until 29th on St Agnes, sharing Chapel Field on one occasion with a Common Rosefinch. Another or the same Grey-cheeked Thrush was found at Old Town on the morning of the 31st in a field opposite the Bordeux Gallery and showed down to 4ft, allowing for some great photographs.

The final day saw another Scillies ‘tick’ for many in the shape of Long-tailed Tit. A flock of seven birds was located the previous evening by Adam Stoyles at the Telegraph end of Porthloo Lane, but could not be relocated. Eventually two small flocks were pinned down, one of seven birds on the Garrison and another of six birds at Lower Moors. The final gem of the week, a Pallas’s Warbler was found by Adam Hutt at Lower broom on The Garrison. Other birds seen during the week were Firecrest, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Merlin, Snow Bunting, Woodcock, Brambling, Black Redstart, Mistle Thrush, GN Diver, Grey Phalarope and plenty of commoner species. Another fantastic week on Scilly, great birds, great company and great value. We’ve already booked for next year!!

Report by P.Freestone (c) Cornwall BIrding 2008

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