Wednesday, 21 October 2009

The Scenery's Nice

Yes, we're back from our week on the Scillies, the quietest week bird-wise for decades on the islands as it happens but it was still great fun nevertheless. Because we're both relatively 'new' we were still able to pick up a few lifers each. My five were (in no particular order) Richard's Pipit, Rose-coloured Starling, Little Bunting, Radde's Warbler and Common Rosefinch. Other nice sightings were, Yellow-browed Warbler, Black Redstarts (loads of), Whooper Swans, Wryneck, Spoonbills, Ring Ouzels, Jack Snipe, a Lapland Bunting, Basking Sharks, and a Minke Whale, which was a real thrill being my first ever view of any whale species! Also the 'famous' Scilly Stick Insects (yes it got that bad!!) Although we spent quiet a while in cafes (some of us sampling very expensive cake and others charging their mobile's batteries) we also spent endless hours in the field, walking miles. So much so that by Friday I had to buy an emergency pair of replacement shoes because I had blisters and bruised toenails!!  I bought fur lined Crocs, they're unbelievably comfy, like wearing slippers, sorry I digress. Camping was okay at first but became a bit of a chore as the week progressed. Far too cold at night, even with my hot water bottle! I'm getting too old for that kind of thing obviously. :-( There weren't  that many 'birders' around the islands generally, perhaps just a couple of hundred. It really appears to be out of favour these days, which is a shame. We did meet a few Scilly stalwarts who've been visiting every October for many, many years and were pleased to hear that they have no intention of stopping anytime soon.  Even so, I can see that it's going to get quieter and quieter as the years go on, as far as  the numbers of visiting birders is concerned, but I'll definitely be going back because there will be more chance of finding something for yourself won't there! We managed to visit all of the Off Islands, I liked St. Martin's best, I'm not sure why. On Tresco I didn't feel quite posh enough! They're all idyllic though it has to be said, birds or no birds, which is good coz generally there were no birds! What was my highlight? It's difficult to say , I didn't get very good views of the Little Bunting,  Rosy Starling or Radde's and the Richard's Pipit was, well a Pipit. So it seemingly would have to be the Common Rosefinch, which showed beautifully, gorging itself on blackberries. Many call them a Grotfinch, but I don't think they're grotty, if that makes me dude-ish or indeed a Robin Stroker then so be it. Guilty as charged. BUT wait, in my defense I'd like to mention the occasion where I was admonished by a fellow birder for foolishly saying "Oh, it's just a Yellow-browed Warbler" very undude-ish behaviour, no? The best bird of the trip for me wasn't a lifer however, it was the Lapland Bunting which we saw on the Tresco coast path near Cromwell's Castle. Why? Well it was tame, you had to be careful not to tread on it! It seemed fit and well and preoccupied with feeding on seeds. It probably hasn't seen humans before. We enjoyed incredible views of what was a charming little bird. It was like a lifer too really because my only other Lapland Bunting was one briefly in flight earlier this year. The low point was dipping our second Red-breasted Flycatcher of the week on Tresco, having arrived moments too late, this hideous little bird is now firmly in place on my 'list of enemies' right there in second place just below the equally vile Great-spotted Cuckoo. Ok, now I'll just show you 30 or so photos (lucky old you) of some of the scenery (very nice too), glorious weather, birders (dudes, robin-strokers, weirdos etc.) birds (not that many unfortunately) and other creatures (well, just Stick Insects basically)

First nice birds of the week were these Whooper Swans,
two here of the ten that were on Porthellick Pool. It was nice to get such close views.

  We stumbled upon this small crowed as we walked along the coast path near Giant's Castle.They're homing in on a Wryneck, can you see it? Slight clue added for your convenience.They flushed the bird and it landed on a bramble right next to us, allowing a digiscoping opportunity thus...

The same bird was still drawing the crowds five days later, one photographer has gotten closer than everyone else, see him near the boulder on the left. I zoomed in to see this..

... Do you think he got it?

Another picture of the Wryneck watchers, here taken from across the bay on Penninis Head.
It shows the infamous 'Yellow Man' He's brighter than the windsock even! Take a closer look.

He even got a mention in the Log at the Scillonian Club. The log caller said " Is the Wryneck at the windsock still? Ask that bloke in the yellow if he's seen it!" He certainly wasn't too popular.

A piece of expensive but nevertheless lovely chocolate cake at The Tolman Cafe. Puts me in mind of a song from Mary Poppins, how does it go now? Oh yes, " Feed the birds. two pounds fifty a slice...."

Thirty seconds later!!

Tuesday, and the first successful twitch of the week saw us looking at this Richards Pipit, near the campsite on Bryher, which showed really well despite being in longish grass most of the time.

Waiting for the boat at Bryher quay, what an enthusiastic looking bunch. The bloke in the white cap was the finder of the bird too! Note glorious weather!

Now for a few photos of the 'massive' twitches we saw, massive considering the species involved anyway.
Little Arthur Farm, St. Martin's, in foreground, a small portion of the Radde's Warbler hopefuls, and behind them the densely packed bunch looking at the Little Bunting. This bird was showing down to a few feet at times in some nettles but getting a clear enough view for a record shot was impossible. Nice weather again, see!

 Common Rosefinch twitch on St. Mary's. Amazingly if you look closely you can see several young(!) birders in amongst this lot.

Old Town Churchyard, what have we here? Yellow-browed, Radde's again, Firecrest maybe, they look excited don't they, no it's one of these...

 A Stick Insect, one of three species naturalized in the Churchyard, I liked these pink spiny ones the best, huge beasts too, about 5-6 inches long.

Tucking in.

I didn't get photos of the Little Bunting, or the Radde's and the Rosy Starling on St. Mary's but I was fortunate to get a couple of snaps of the Rosefinch with the S3, shame they were badly lit though.

Naff but not at all grotty.

Let's see ,what else have I got? Oh yes, some scenery shots...

Bishop Rock Lighthouse from the Garrison, note fabulous evening weather! ;-)

Sunset from Penninis Head.

Two regular Scilly sights. A beautiful deserted sandy cove, seen here on St.Martin's.Also a familiar individual seen every October I'm led to believe. Take a closer look, no kids it's NOT Santa on his hols!

Ring Ouzel on The Garrison...

... and again

And finally bird of the trip for me the Lapland Bunting

Watch your step Bun!

So close even Bun takes a photo!

 Very Nice!

Here's a video too showing it feeding oblivious to my presence.

And finally, finally, here's a couple of candid shots of the protagonists of this tale of a week on The Scillies, looking suitably overjoyed I think!
 I took this photo using the hitherto untried self-timer facility on my camera whilst it was balanced on a rock. Don't we look thrilled! The camera objected to taking this picture by throwing its lens cap into a gaping chasm in the rocks. At least the lens didn't crack though! Oh, and note the lovely weather! ;-)

Another scintillating moment on St. Agnes!
Perhaps next year? :-)


Wilma said...

The lapland bunting is a beaut! Another great post. cheers,

John said...

Despite it being very quiet, you had some very good birds and the the Scillies are a cracking place to be. The Whole of the SW has been 'bird' quiet for October...oh to be on the Shetlands.


Rambling Rob said...

Another interesting and entertaining post - gosh, the birds ate that slice of cake quickly!

Karen Woolley said...

Thanks Folks!

Yes Rob, those Scilly Sparrows have voracious appetites!

Gavin Haig said...

Thoroughly enjoyable write-up! Sorry, meant to post this comment ages ago :(