Thursday, October 25, 2007

Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly 16-22 October 2007

Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly 16-22 October 2007

All images by M.J.McGill

Summary; Six of us traveled to the South West to spend two nights in West Cornwall (Penwith) and four nights on the Isles of Scilly. We visited Lands End, most of the valleys between Kendijack and Porthgwarra and also covered the Hayle Estuary, Marazion/Mount's Bay and Drift reservoir whilst in Cornwall. On Scilly we walked around most of St Mary's (with some help from taxi's) and visited Bryher, Tresco, Gugh and St Agnes. We tried to see most of the migrants on Scilly but also spent time searching for our own birds. Both techniques proved fruitful, going to see other birders finds gave us great views of Blackpoll Warbler, Blyth's Pipit and Woodchat Shrike to name a few species but searching for our own gave us Pallas's Warbler and Firecrest as well as some very relaxing birding. Pasties, great views, seeing old friends and good company was the order of the day.

Wren at Marazion RSPB

Siskin at Cape Cornwall

In Cornwall we began by birding the Hayle Estuary where the highlight was the Spoonbill, the weather was rather poor but we gained great views of wildfowl and waders from the hide and causeway. At Marazion we missed the worst of the day's weather and added more species to our growing list. Further heavy and misty rain prevented any more birding so we settled in to our accommodation and evening meal at Cape Cornwall. On 17th we had a look before breakfast at the sea and quickly realised that things were busy, the SW wind had swung to the NW so the seawatching was good. After breakfast we walked out to the point passing our first two Siskins of the trip (we were to witness the arrival and migration of thousands of these little finches over the next week) and got comfortable for a seawatch. Thousands of Gannet, auks and hundreds of Kittiwake passed by close all heading S. We also logged an Arctic Skua, 4-5 Great Skua, 3 Balearic Shearwater, 3 Snow Bunting, 2 adult Peregrine at eye level and a few parties of Common Scoter (4;5. 0;1,10;2). The rest of the day was spent at the Cot Valley; 2-3 Firecrest down to a few feet as ever was a treat as was a Painted Lady. Many passerines were noted, Merlin was seen briefly before we headed to Nanquidno where Pied Flycatcher was a bonus. A visit to Land's End added 3 Chough and a pale Wheatear before popping in at Kendijack where we ended the day watching a Yellow-browed Warbler. The 18th did not offer any further seawatching so a pre-breakfast walk added Brambling and post breakfast we tried Porthgwarra, it was soon apparent that it was going to be a calm, sunny, clear and hot day. A bit of migration was in evidence, a flock of Skylark held a calling Lapland Bunting but it was not seen. Drift was quieter than usual except for a Clouded Yellow so a second visit to Marazion where we had lunch on the beach. The rest of the day was spent preparing to fly to or Scilly birding on St Mary's before dark. After dropping off luggage we jumped into a taxi and headed to Newford due to a male Red-breasted Flycatcher with red throat being reported. We did not see this bird so wandered off to Pelistry Lane where Paul and Len located the Woodchat between them. Very close views allowed us to see the plumage details well. A Merlin flew by. We worked our way back to Hugh Town birding as we went to end the day.

Juvenile Woodchat, Pelistry Lane, St Mary'sRed-breasted Flycatcher, Carreg Dhu, St Mary's
Blackpoll Warbler, Higher Moors, St Mary's

The 19th was spent on St Mary's in an attempt to see many of the birds that had been present for the past week. We began at the Garrison and waited a while for the showier of the two Blackpoll Warblers but it did not show! A walk around the defenses was very pleasant and the diving Gannets and passerines were great in the warm, sunny weather. We walked back up toward the North end of the island via the coast path around Penninis and added a few late migrants to the list, a Whinchat and a weedy field full of birds were the highlight. We had lunch at Old Town Church and saw part of a distant flock of Gannet feeding (estimates of 2,000+ with 30 Common Dolphin) on a bait ball of fish. We then headed to Carreg Dhu gardens where a Firecrest and Red-breasted Flycatcher entertained us, a sunny coffee stop followed at Longstones where we saw 2 Clouded Yellows. A stroll through Holy Vale to Higher Moors added a Yellow-browed Warbler and after a short wait a showy Blackpoll Warbler. We tried some other bushes on the trail for a Siberian Chiffchaff with no luck but the Blackpoll followed us giving more close views. We again wandered back toward Porthloo beach where a Black Redstart showed to us ending the day.

The 20th was the day we decided to go for some off islands so a Brhyer/Tresco tour was opted for, on arrival at the fomer island we headed straight to Green Bay to try for an elusive Blyth's Reed Warbler, an hour or so in the area gave two views as it fed low in the vegetation and one flight view but not all of us got decent views. We retired to the Hell Bay Hotel for coffee and the views, Fieldfares, Siskins and Stonechats were showing off and then walked back to look for the Hooded Crow and Carrion Crow pair with hybrid young. They all showed for us en-route to the quay. A short hop to Tresco and we were soon watching a confiding Blyth's Pipit, 3 Black Redstart, Redwings, Bramblings (in a huge flock of Chaffinch) and a variety of wildfowl plus sleeping Spoonbill on the Great Pool. It was time to leave and catch the next boat home for dinner where we added an Arctic Tern.

Blyth's Pipit, near the school, Tresco

Common Greenshank, Lower Moors, St Mary's

Ruddy Turnstone, Porthloo Beach, St Mary's

The 21st saw us birding on St Mary's in the morning which turned out to be highly productive, we began at Porthloo Lane searching for the Grey-cheeked Thrush but soon headed for Porthhellick seeing 4 Black Redstart on the way and were all soon watching a Pallas's Warbler in the sallows. After enjoying this little gem we walked the Giant's Causeway/airfield coast path which was actually very quiet despite little aircraft activity. A coffee stop at Tolman and then to Lower Moors where we were watching Common and Jack Snipe plus one possibly two Wilson's Snipe at close range. A Greenshank also arrived and fed. An hour or two in this area was very relaxing, when we left a bit of drizzle had started, the first since traveling to the S West on the way down. A wander through Old Town was worth it as I discovered a feeding Pallas's Warbler along the lane which showed for all of us. It was hovering at the end of the leaves picking off insects and showing the lemon rump, wingbars and central crown stripe as it went. It turned out there were three on the island that day. A brisker walk across Lower Moors and taxi to the quay and we were on our way to St Agnes for the afternoon. A Spoonbill flew over the harbour as we left St Mary's. A prolonged search for Rose-coloured Starling on Gugh was not succesful other than it being lovely to be on a beach with a few other bird species, it was having a day off! The Parsonage had 3 Black Redstarts and a showy Yellow-browed Warbler and the beaches were full of common birds. Another boat trip back to St Mary's and the end of a good day.

Our last day was spent around the Lower Moors area, Yellow-browed Warbler, Jack Snipe and a few common birds were showing and we had the afternoon for shopping/sightseeing around Hugh Town before the helicopter flight back to Penzance. I tried for the thrush again with no luck but two Firecrest were very obliging. A good run home concluded the trip, thanks to all who came with me to the Isles of Scilly and Cornwall for their enthusiasm and company.

We recorded 113 species with Wilson's Snipe pending for 114. One regret was not checking the flock of 50+ Golden Plover that flew over the car at Shortlanesend and landed on the way down. My head and heart were telling me to find a place to stop and check them for American but the practical side (it was raining and a lot of traffic) made me carry on. The flock did hold an American Golden Plover!

Martin J McGill


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