Tuesday, 4 August 2015

A Scilly idea

Hang about this was May!

If I remember that far back, yes it was.  All because I thought I'd make my own way down for the Blue Heron that had pitched up there a week or so before, and since it was my birthday and more than anything I do not like to work on my birthday.  So inspired by a big American bird I made arrangements, everything stitched up bar the heron.

Then Mr Golley has to go and say "bet that hoof's it!!" in one of his RBA weekly round-ups, shooting himself neatly in the foot, as it transpires he was on the islands at the end of England too. Yup the bird was a no show.

Still a wonderful time on the enchanted islands; in between eating and drinking too much, I actually found a few birds, saw some pretty good ones and missed others, exploring virtually every corner of St Mary's.  Should I win the lottery one of my houses would be here. Did the fact that I missed out on Citril Finch and some kind of Sub-Alp worry me, not a bit. Did the fact that someone claimed the Pacific Diver the day after my return, and then the Squacco arriving two days later? OK that niggled a bit...

First day

Four young Great Northern Diver off the Scillonian and just outside Penzance Harbour, a few dozen Manxie  (missed the Stormie) and a puzzling lack of Skua movement–so not the greatest crossing.  Some stuff dumped at the hotel and off out round the Lower Moors to look for yank heron. Did catch one of the Night Heron as it adjusted itself at roost.

A quick schlep below the airfield where a Hooded Crow took me by surprise and then up to Port Hellick  and some suitable heron habitat.  No herons and not a lot else, so slowly back to Lower Moors (no herons), the Old Town Harbour, a long by Higgo's Pool and back to the Hotel as night fell just in time for a large supper and an early night.

Day two

Out at the crack of, and back to Lower Moors before it was light enough to see.  The wind had changed direction and it looked good for things coming in.  Nothing had come in while I wandered round by the harbour again, so back for breakfast and to plan the day. With the wind blowing strongly I decided the north of the island would offer the most shelter, so after a nip up by the garrison it was north (via Lower Moors again!).  A female Garganey looked out of place on the Shooter's Pool and had me confused for some time, but now I had got news of a Crane that had been touring the islands, was feeding up just north of Porth Hellick.  It had been feeding up, happily, until I got there, now bored it sailed upwards, southwards off to one of the smaller islands.  Not a heron though.

I made my way around the inlet and on to the moors.  A singing Stonechat displaying to its mate, a couple of Wheatear, and a small flock of Manxie close in to shore the best of the birds. On my way I met a guy I had seen last time on the islands while eating a pasty on the airfield.  He had waved to me, trying to draw my attention to three Black Kite heading over from the mainland.  I finally twigged what he was trying to do–the self same birds that Bradders, Jono and I had seen a month or so before on a wader and sea-watching weekend in Cornwall. He too had seen nothing, but as it looked like I was shadowing him, we met up further on.  This time he had found something–a Golden Oriole–which was now avoiding detection somewhere in a field. I couldn't find it and reluctantly moved on. By the next time we met up his GO tally was now three.  FFS! Apparently there was an Oriole deluge going on from Ireland to Dorset, not for me there wasn't. I did get a Whimbrel!

Dodging showers I finally round the top of the island and made my way to Telegraph Hill.  A large raptor came into view and disappeared just as quickly. I picked it up again a few minutes later, disappointingly it was only a Marsh Harrier,  but a self-found one on Scilly. I was in the game.

I had decided on an early evening meal so that I could nip out later to grab the Night Heron coming out of their roosts, apparently around dusk I was told.  So replete and a bit sozzled I was back in Lower Moors to wait for night fall.

And waited

Would the Song Thrush never shut up?

A few bats flitted out over the reed beds, and still the birds sang.  Swallows fidgeted in the willows. Finally a small heron shape came in from the north, not the direction I was expecting at all.  Then another.  It landed in the copse by Higgo's pool and glowed in the increasing dark. Another two flapped slow and low over my head on their way to the Old Town Harbour.  Cue photographic horribleness.

Day three

Got to say I was chuffed at seeing five Night Heron in one go, having only seen two previously. Happily I returned to the Lower Moors before light on the off-chance I could snap a daytime Night Heron.  I couldn't.  I checked the Shooter's Pool and got something better: a singing Golden Oriole!  Could I see the bugger? No, but another self-found on Scilly, get in!

Over breakfast I read of a Cirl Bunting at the north end of the island. By the time I reached there the story became heard singing briefly and now not seen for an hour or more.  I made do with another brief fluting from a hidden oriole and slowly meandered back down Holyvale, around Penninis Head for the last time. The weather had done a complete 360 since the day before–it was sweltering and the island was absolutely beautiful.

Maybe I'll come back in the autumn!

Back on the boat and another quiet crossing, a few auks, manxies and a couple of GNDs off Penzance.  With a few hours to kill I decided to hit the town in search of food and more importantly alcohol.  Succeeded admirably on both counts.  Armed with a bottle of wine and filled with a few or more pints I managed to pass out somewhere in Cornwall only to be woken by a very loud man on a phone near Reading, job done as they say.