Trip reports

Ann Thomson - Ribble bird tours report - Isles of Scilly October 2012

Ann Thomson - Ribble bird tours report - Isles of Scilly October 2012
Rose coloured Starling -Chris Brown

Saturday, 13 October 2012

October 11th
After a slight delay the group had all been picked up and were on the way from Lancashire to Penzance for our early afternoon flight to St. Mary's. However, a combination of wet weather ( stopping all flights from Lands End ) and an absent helicopter meant that we were eventually packed off to Newquay airport for a flight onto Scilly arriving there an hour or so later than the scheduled arrival time. On the way from Penzance to Newquay Common Buzzard and Raven were noted. Gannets were seen from the air and on arrival at St.Mary's airfield a Kestrel was seen.  
October 12th
The day dawned breezy and continued that way with sunny spells and showers.
Our first port of call was to be Porthellick Bay where we located the juvenile American Golden Plover whose usual haunt of preference was the nearby airfield. This transatlantic 'pluvialis' sported an obvious pale supercillium, was small and neat and noticeably grey rather than gold. It shared the bay with Ringed Plovers and Greenshanks and was heard to call.Next stop after a scenic stroll past Giant's Castle, Church Point and Porth Minick was to be at the end of Peninnis Head where another extremely obliging plover in the shape of a juvenile Dotterel showed down to a few feet. Always a tame species this 'Little Fool' didn't disappoint.The stroll towards the Garrison was taking much longer than anticipated and the rain was heavy at times as we walked via Old Town churchyard.
Other birds seen today included Coal Tit ( a good bird on Scilly ), Carrion Crow, Goldcrest, Chiffchaff, Rock Pipit, a few Northern Wheatears and offshore Gannets.
October 13th
We decided to head for the island of Bryher today where an exceptionally elusive Blackpoll Warbler had been seen. We made our way to Hugh Town via the Golf Course stopping at Bant's Carn first  for a Yellow browed Warbler that showed intermittently in the pines there. A flyby Peregrine patrolled the coast, Swallows were still present, a couple of Stock Doves were near the Newford Duck Pond, Blackcaps were noted at various sites, Siskins were seen and heard and a Sparrowhawk or two were seen throughout the day.On arrival on Bryher we made our way towards the Hell Bay Hotel and in particular towards a dung heap that had attracted our second transatlantic wader of the trip. The Solitary Sandpiper performed very well and was enjoyed for a while. A little smaller than a Green Sandpiper the Solitary has a dark rump, is a little more 'leggy' and is noticeably more attenuated. An excellent bird that was a tick for the majority.However, the Dendroica from the USA was missing which explained the island full of long faces. The weather wasn't helping the Blackpoll Warbler search and eventually we gave up without success. Only 4 people had seen the bird at this point.A distant Hooded Crow, Mute Swans and another Sparrowhawk were seen, 8 Pink footed Geese flew over Tresco and 16 Little Egrets were on rocks there.October 14th
The day was spent on St. Mary's and was sunny and warm with a N/E wind.The day also produced a number of good birds.
As we made our way towards Porthellick Bay Red legged Partridge and Whinchat were seen at Kitty Down where a Firecrest was heard but not seen. At Porthellick a Richards Pipit showed well in a horse paddock and we also reacquainted ourselves with the American Golden Plover that was again in the bay. A juvenile Rose coloured Starling was less obliging but showed to most of us. Perhaps the bird of the day was the Wryneck that gave excellent and prolonged views as it perched in full view on boulders next to the path at Porth Minick.
A Jack Snipe at Lower Moors exhibited its distinctive bobbing feeding action and was joined there by a selection of Common Snipe and a Greenshank.
Greenshanks were also seen at the Porthellick Pool.
Other species today included a Spoonbill on Green Island that was scoped from Bant's Carn on St. Mary's, Turnstone, Ringed Plover, Chiffchaff and Curlew. Generally the birding was very quiet with a noticeable lack of common migrants as well as scarcities and rarities.  
October 15th
Some of the group decided to visit Tresco today while other returned to Bryher in the hope of catching up with the elusive Blackpoll Warbler. The decision to go back to Bryher wasn't a good one as the heavens opened on arrival and the deluge didn't stop all afternoon and needless to say the Blackpoll Warbler wasn't having any of it. Back on Tresco birds included Whooper Swans and Firecrest.The return to St.Mary's was cold and very wet with a soaking for those unfortunate enough to be sat on the wrong side of the boat but did produce a close up Spoonbill and a dozen Little Egrets. Other birds today included Sparrowhawk, Coal Tit and Rock Pipit.  
October 16th
The Solitary Sandpiper from Bryher had relocated to a field near to Old Town on St. Mary's but didn't show as well as it had done before. A Grey Wagtail was also here too.The American Golden Plover had returned to the airfield where it was joined by at least 6 Eurasian Golden Plovers and a couple of Dunlin.
The only Black Redstart of the trip was a female on a house roof near Pelistry Lane and there were a couple of Whimbrel on Tolls Island.
The first Redwings flew overhead 'seeping' as they went and Manx Shearwaters and Razorbills were seen out to sea from Church Point on St.Mary's.The best birds of the day arrived out of the blue in the late afternoon.
A trio of juvenile Ring necked Ducks from the USA had been seen on the other side of the island and had settled on the sea at Porthmellon Beach. We were at Porthellick. The choice was to dash across island or stay put and see what the birds did. The only suitable habitat on St.Mary's for a diving duck that would much prefer a lake to a choppy sea was the Porthellick Pool where we were currently located - surely with patience the birds would come to us if we waited.The next news was that the ducks had done the decent thing and had flown from the sea to the small pools on Lower Moors - a third of the way to the Porthellick Pool. Predictably they departed the Lower Moors and at 5.05pm splashed down a few yards away from us sat in the hide at the Porthellick Pool. Our plan had worked and our patience was rewarded.The ducks comprised of 1 male and 2 female juveniles and before long the peace was shattered by arriving birders - time for us to leave.  
October 17th
The best birds of the day turned out to be the 3 Ring necked Ducks that were still on the Porthellick Pool and who once again gave great views.
A Merlin dashed past us at Porthellick and headed around the bay towards the airfield where there was no doubt an unlucky Meadow Pipit about to become lunch.
A Firecrest at Holy Vale gave good but brief views which were interrupted by news of a Woodcock in a field near to our accommodation - the same field that had an Upland Sandpiper in it last year.The reported Hume's Yellow browed Warbler in the dump clump remained unseen and other birds seen today included Kestrel, Rock Pipit, Chiffchaff and Grey Wagtail.  
October 18th
After breakfast we returned to the airport with our luggage and our on time helicopter flight back to Penzance.
Our drive home was uneventful and we arrived back in the north west in the early evening dropping off in Warrington, Preston and Poulton.
The Hume's Yellow browed Warbler in the dump clump has continued to be controversial with many believing it to be an unusual Yellow browed Warbler with others maintaining that it was a HYBW.A second Blackpoll Warbler arrived on Scilly a while after our departure and annoyingly was at Content Farm about 100 yards away from our accommodation.