Tour Report 3rd to 10th October 2022
Our intrepid group of 7 (plus Paul as guide) headed off to Scilly for our first week long tour on Monday 3rd October aboard the Scillonian III. We set of from Penzance harbour at 9.10am having already started our tour list with Kingfisher and Purple Sandpiper! Little did we know that we would soon experience one of the best pelagic crossings to or from Scilly EVER!
Just after we passed Land’s End, things started to get interesting with a few Balearic Shearwaters and two Arctic Skua. However, as we approached the Wolf Rock light house we picked up a couple of large Shearwaters. ‘”Cory’s” was the shout! Cory’s Shearwaters really shouldn’t be in our waters at this time of year, but here they were and showing well! Within 15 minutes we were ploughing through rafts of 50 or more Great Shearwaters, then a long line of Cory’s totalling over 60 birds!! In among this pelagic spectacle were three Great Skua’s, great to see after they were hit hard this year with Avian Flu, as well as 60+ Balearic Shearwaters and as many Sooty Shearwaters. This birding bonanza continued for the next 45 or so minutes, petering out only as we approached the ‘dead sea’ a few miles off the Islands. Our group was elated! How would we top this for the next 7 days!?
Once on St Mary’s we called into the Bell Rock Hotel, our excellent accommodation for the week, to drop off a few items of luggage before heading to the allotments on Peninnis Head. After a short wait we added Common Rosefinch to the list ( a lifer for some) as it showed briefly in its favored sycamore tree. A walk around the headland produced a further 34 species including Northern Wheatear, a fly over Tree Pipit and numerous Med Gulls and Sandwich Terns. After a long day with plenty of birds, an excellent meal and a good nights sleep were very welcome.
We stayed on the main island of St Mary’s for our first full day of the tour, walking 6.97 miles from Hugh Town, through Lower Moors trail, Sunnyside Trail, Carreg Du gardens, Old Town cafe for lunch, then to Higher Moors, Porthellick and back through Tremelethan to Hugh Town. A long and somewhat tiring route collecting 52 species on the way. Highlights were the two Yellow-browed Warbler, Pied Flycatcher and four Firecrests in Carreg Du gardens and 5 Whinchat at Porthellick.
With favourable winds it was decided that St Agnes would be our destination for day 3 of the Scilly Tour, so we joined the boat on the quay at 1015am and set off through The Roads. The crossing was a bit choppy and some of us got a bit of a soaking! Once on the island it was obvious it was going to be hard work in strong westerly winds. Even the sheltered spots seemed to be void of birds but we managed to find a Spotted Flycatcher hunkered in hedgerow and what was undoubtedly the Greenish Warbler shot out of a tree, then back in, in the flick of an eye, giving a frustrating glimpse of what could have been the day’s star bird. Despite the conditions we still managed 32 types of bird, adding a few new species to our trip list.
Day 4 turned out to be the best day of the whole week! All but one of our group decided they would join the 5 hour pelagic seabird trip on board The Sapphire that would take us 7 miles south of Scilly, then back through the islands looking for sea duck, divers and grebes. This turned out to be a fantastic decision as, after an hour or so sailing, we encountered huge feeding flocks of Great, Cory’s and Sooty Shearwaters, with captain Joe Pender maneuvering the boat close enough to even hear the Great Shearwaters chattering to each other! A magical experience! A couple of European Storm Petrels put in very brief appearances around the boat and a Grey Phalarope landed on a tiny piece of floating seaweed allowing for great views of this tiny nomadic wader. Other birds of note were 4 Great Skua’s and 3 Manx Shearwaters. Great Shearwater numbers were somewhere around 600 birds! After a good few hours at sea we started to head east back towards the islands. As we steamed towards St Martin’s another birder on board alerted us to a ‘small shearwater’ passing the boat. Only 6 or 7 birders managed to get on to the bird in question as it flew strongly away from the boat into the sun, but as it did the images of the bird taken by the finder were checked. “Its a F@#$ing Fea’s!!” came the shout and everyone on board began scanning off the back of the boat. Sadly, the Fea’s Petrel had long disappeared into the afternoon sun.
As the majority had missed the ‘big one’ the mood didn’t change much on board and our group were more than happy with the seabird extravaganza we had just witnessed and were soon even happier when the Long-tailed Duck was relocated off the southern end of St Martin’s. A real cracking male too that showed well in flight before settling on the sea. We then headed back to St Mary’s, off loaded on the quay and decided we would have a coffee from the cafe on the quay before heading off to look for a Wryneck that had been reported earlier. This turned out to be the second good decision of the day. Right place, right time as the bird News alerts went off informing our guide that a Swainson’s Thrush, a rare American bird had been found on Tresco. Luckily, a boat from Tresco was just pulling onto the quay, so we hopped on board with a few others and were soon heading back across The Roads towards Tresco. Alighting from the boat, we hurriedly walked/ran towards Racket Lane where the bird had been seen. On arrival we were informed that it had not been seen for 45 minutes and whilst some decided to wait, a few of us took the lull in proceedings to nip back to Old Grimsby in the hope of seeing the reported Wryneck. We weren’t disappointed when Paul found the bird almost immediately and showing down to 3 feet!! News then filtered out that the Swainson’s Thrush had been seen again, news that had us running back up the hill towards Racket Lane Cottage. This time we were in luck and the tiny thrush performed beautifully for everyone. A lifer for everyone in our group, including our guide!
The following day we we back on Tresco as per our itinerary. Today was the only day we saw any real rain, with a few squally showers that had us diving for cover in overcrowded hides. The island was busy with birders twitching the Swainson’s Thrush from the other Islands as well as those that had flown over especially from the mainland. It was nice to wander around in the knowledge we had already seen the rarest bird on the islands the previous day! We did have another look at it before we left tho. The Great Pool on Tresco is always good place for adding to our trip list and Pintail, Curlew Sandpiper (4), Mute Swan, Bar and Black-tailed Godwits and a Raven were all new. We finished on the island with a day list of 42 species. On arrival back at St Mary’s, news broke of a Cattle Egret in a field with cattle at Trewince. The field in question is not viewable from any public roads or tracks, but can be seen at distance and we soon ‘scoped’ the bird, (which was standing on the back of a cow!) from the back of the lifeboat station.
Saturday’s weather was more akin to a day in August than early October, with zero wind, clear skies and sunshine. So, we headed back to St Agnes for another go at the Greenish Warbler. Another good decision as the stunning little warbler performed well, initially high up in the elms in The Parsonage garden, then lower in the fig and apple trees below. Another lifer for most of the group! Despite a lot of walking and looking into bushes, we couldn’t muster anything else of interest, but settled with the Greenish Warbler as our Bird of the Day.
Our penultimate day was spent on St Mary’s where we covered just short of 9 miles walking! The morning started with a walk through Lower Moors, picking up our first Willow Warbler of the trip at Shooter’s Pool. With no sign of yesterday reported Jack Snipe (two of our group manged to connect the night before), we were about to head towards Porthellick when the news broke of a Radde’s Warbler in a hedge nearby at Old Town Church. We joined the madding crowd and after a frustrating 15 minutes we all had great views of the warbler as it fed along the churchyard wall. Yet another tick for most and another great bird for our tour. The rest of the day was spent walking almost the entire roadway around the island, visiting the airport, Porthellick, Higher Moors, Holy Vale, quick detour for some lunch at Carn Vean Cafe, Maypole, down to Newford Duck Pond then back to Hugh Town via Pungies Lane and Porthloo! Another Yellow-browed Warbler was heard at Newford and our first Siskins of the week were added to the list. 46 Species in all for the day.
After sorting out the bar bills and luggage pick ups, we headed out early for our last morning on Scilly. A leisurely walk through Lower Moors again for starters with a view to ending somewhere near Old Town cafe for lunch. It turned out to be a fantastic last morning, adding a Black Redstart at Porth Minnick, that took two attempts to locate, a group of House Martins and finally a Common Redstart, found by two of our group! A respectable 42 species on our final morning before we had lunch, picked up our hand luggage and headed to the quay to board the Scillonian III, homeward bound. Our final addition to the tour bird list and our 100th species (unless we missed any off the list below?) was the male Eider that flew across the back of the boat as we passed Newlyn. 🙂
A Big Thankyou!
We would like to say a huge thank you to Daniel and all the staff at The Bell Rock Hotel. The accommodation, food and service was first class and we look forward to seeing you again same time next year. Thanks to Joe and all at the Scilly Boatman’s Association for the pelagic and being so flexible and accommodating with our inter-island twitching! Thanks to Kriss and Chris for supplying news via the Scilly Whatsapp Groups. Thank You to Richard, Chris and Ness at the Scillonian Club for being so welcoming and accommodating with our tour group. Finally, thank you to our fabulous guests Ian and Diane, Joyce and Steve, Paul, Daryl and Pat for your company, tolerance and good humour throughout. Hope to see you all again on another tour!! Till next time……
BOOK ON THIS TOUR
We are already penciled in at the hotel for this tour next year and have already got 5 people interested! If you want to join us in October 2023, get in touch with Paul now at [email protected]. Places will go fast and we are limited to 7/8 spaces!
Gannet, Shag, Cormorant, Guillemot, Razorbill, Manx Shearwater, Balearic Shearwater, Cory’s Shearwater, Great Shearwater, Sooty Shearwater, European Storm-petrel, FEA’S PETREL, Great Skua, Arctic Skua, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Cattle Egret, Coot, Moorhen, Water Rail, Mallard, Teal, Wigeon, Pintail, Long-tailed Duck, Eider, Kittiwake, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Black-headed Gull, Sandwich Tern, Grey Phalarope, Curlew, Whimbrel, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Common Snipe, Jack Snipe, Dunlin, Curlew Sandpiper, Purple Sandpiper, Sanderling, Redshank, Greenshank, Golden Plover, Ringed Plover, Turnstone, Common Sandpiper, Oystercatcher, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Starling, Blackbird, Song Thrush, SWAINSONS THRUSH, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Peregrine, Pheasant, Carrion Crow, Raven, Kingfisher, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Robin, Stonechat, Wheatear, Whinchat, Black Redstart, Common Redstart, WRYNECK, Dunnock, Wren, House Sparrow, Swallow, House Martin, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Rock Pipit, Tree Pipit, Gray Wagtail, White Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Blackcap, Whitethroat, GREENISH WARBLER, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, RADDE’S WARBLER, Yellow-browed Warbler, Firecrest, Goldcrest, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, COMMON ROSEFINCH, Linnet, Siskin.
“Brilliant Experience for anyone interested in birds!”Just got back from the Isles of Scilly bird tour. Brilliant experience for anyone interested in birds. Paul’s knowledge of the islands and the birds that inhabit them was great! Accommodation and travel were organised well and I highly recommend for anyone looking to go to Scilly for the first time. (Daryl)