Thursday, 29 December 2011

Ooh it's an Iceland Gull

There's been an Iceland Gull roaming round the Silverdale area, just west of Newcastle-under-Lyme, for about the last week. Getting onto Walley's landfill site and Silverdale Colliery. Presumably this bird is also roosting at Sandbach Flashes in Cheshire.

Viewing of Walley's landfill looked extremely restricted to me. The only view you can get is of the gulls circling up in the air from the garden centre car park next door. Not wanting to get clobbered by garden centre managers I went straight to Silverdale Colliery and hope that the Iceland Gull will eventually move it's way here.

This is Silverdale Colliery, never been before.

And in fact the juvenile Iceland Gull was already here anyway, hurrah!

Saturday, 24 December 2011

A Christmas Warble

Don't worry reader, that's not a cue for me to start singing! As I thought would be the case, there's not been much birding over the last couple of weeks.

That's mainly due to most of my time taken up with visiting my dad at the Derby Royal hospital, after a back operation. It's all gone really well, so that's good. Even though I got him back home last Sunday, I've felt absolutely shattered ever since. But what a place the Derby Royal is, you walk in the main entrance and it's more like motorway services than a hospital!

But I managed to find a little bit of time to look at the Eider last Saturday, at Rudyard Lake of course. It was pretty distant from the Reacliffe Road sailing club, as the below picture will suggest. But it must've found a good supply of freshwater mussels, as the bird was diving and returning to the surface with shellfish in it's bill. And I'd been and gone by the time a Red-throated Diver appeared, never mind.

Then this morning, a couple of hours was spent in Fenton Park in Stoke, adjacent to Berry Hill Fields.

The reason why is because of the appearance of a Lesser Whitethroat. At this time of year central Asian races are a possibility. And from what I've seen, I haven't a clue if it is a central Asian one or just a bog-standard Lesser Whitethroat.

But while it was happily feeding on the nectar of a flowering Mahonia, it appeared to have quite buff underparts, short primary projection and lots of tail-flicking. I can't recall our Lesser Whitethroats doing tail-flicking like a Chiffchaff, but then again they're usually skulking in Hawthorn.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

The Ballad of Maverick

Muchos thanks to Paul "Birding for Fun" Shenton for alerting me to Gyr Crakes' new one, The Ballad of Maverick!

As they say on X Factor, great choice of song, the old Stan Ridgway number. And to recall some pleasant memories of Scilly, some nice scenes of St. Agnes.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

The Goosetastic Trent Valley

I wanted to make the most of this weekend because for a few different reasons, that could it for birding time until over Christmas. Yesterday was a check of Uttoxeter Quarry and Brookleys Lake.

Still plenty of Canadas and Greylags around the quarry, but no wild geese. But more spectacular was the huge flock of Lapwings and Golden Plovers, must've been around 900 Lappys and 500 Golden Pullovers. Also 25 Goosander, 21 Wigeon, 8 Teal, 3 Pochard, 7 Curlew, 7 Snipe and a pair of displaying Great Crested Grebes.

As for Brookleys Lake, the Mandarins are back in force! 127 of them in the end. I think there's more around nowadays than people think, particularly in some of the river valleys like the Dove and the Churnet. Also 3 Pochard, 1 drake Shoveler, 1 female Wigeon and a calling Water Rail.

As for today, the main highlight has been White-fronted Geese in the Trent Valley. Arriving at Whitemoor Haye, a few heads of White-fronted Geese could be seen from opposite the quarry entrance. They eventually took flight and that proved there were seven of them. Also around were 14 Great Crested Grebes on the main lake, a Little Owl, loads of Mute Swans around Sittles Farm but no sign of the Bewick's that were present in the week.

Onto Croxall next. There's a guided walk next Sunday. Not that I'd be able to go anyway, I'll be recovering from the work christmas do by then. Looking at the sign, not sure how many terns they'll be expecting in December?

But anyway, a good number of Pochard at Croxall, 79 including this rather pale female. She's been in the area for the last few winters.

3 Redshank and a drake Goldeneye also, then walking back to the car five more White-fronted Geese flew over, heading towards Whitemoor Haye. They were seen by Bernie Smith at Whitemoor Haye and they continued west. So that's two groups of White-fronts around, totalling 12 birds, magic!

Finishing off at Blithfield, and good timing with the rain falling down, although Tad bay needs much more in order to fill it up. From the hide in Tad were 3 Dunlin, around 200 Golden Plover, 8 Goosander, 5 Goldeneye. And to end with, the gull roost from Watery Lane contained at least one adult Yellow-legged Gull.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

...and it was 10 years ago today...

When the world heard of the passing of George Harrison! George was of course, the guitarist in a four-piece combo from Liverpool called "The Beatles". Best bit of Beatles guitar work? I'd go with this one:

And a bit more of George. This always reminds me of twitching for some reason. Especially the lines "it's going to take money" and "it's going to take time" Wise words George!

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Wish you were here

There was the thought of a twitch to Chew Valley Lake this weekend. But in the end as a famous twitcher once said, I couldn't be bothered, but stayed closer to home instead.

Yesterday began at Uttoxeter Quarry for the morning. Looks like the Red-crested Pochard has now moved on, but present were 284 Golden Plover, 6 Snipe, 7 Curlew, 1 Green Sand, 2 Goldeneye, 3 Goosander, 5 Pochard, 2 Shoveler and 25 Wigeon.

The afternoon was spent at the gull meccas of Stubber's Green and the roost at Chasewater, with the Azorean Yellow-legged Gull being seen again at Stubber's in the week. Not a large number of gulls at Stubber's during the couple of hours I was there, and the wind really started picking up. But there was an adult Caspian Gull in, and an adult Med Gull.

Heading over to Chasewater, the presumed/putative/probable (any other words beginning with P?) Azorean Yellow-legged Gull was on the water.

I've never been to The Azores but I can't imagine it being anything like Chasewater. But it must be happy enough in it's stay. At one stage, and completely missed at the time, it was briefly accompanied by an adult Med Gull. Didn't notice that until looking through my photos, although the Med Gull was seen a bit later on.

Also around were 2 "ordinary" adult Yellow-legged Gulls and a Whooper Swan.

Onto today. Not much change at Uttoxeter Quarry, with Goosanders increased to 10. The rest of the time was spent at Blithfield. Not a huge amount out of the ordinary, and the reservoir really could do with some rain to fill Tad Bay and Blithe Bay. As a result, with the exception of Teal there's not a lot of duck in.

24 Dunlin in Blithe Bay. Tad had 58 Golden Plover, 1 Dunlin, 2 Snipe, 2 Shelduck, 4 Goosander, 5 Goldeneye and 2 Ravens. And incidentally, this is the feeding station in Stansley Wood.

Plenty of food in the feeders, but no birds using them. Perhaps due to the mild autumn and plenty of natural food still around? Maybe, but look closer and there could be another explanation!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

It was 20 years ago today.........

When the world heard of the passing of a certain Freddie Mercury! I can well understand people not liking the music of Queen these days, particularly with the "We Will Rock You" musical around. But do not forget what an influential band they were.

Of course, everyone knows the likes of Bohemian Rhapsody, We Are the Champions, Radio Gaga and Don't Stop Me Know, to the point of ad-nauseum. But in days of yore, Queen were a proper rock band you know. Allow Exhibit A my'lud. I do hope Germaine Greer doesn't read this, I'm sure it's very unlikely!

And another bit of rock, lets rock! The title track of Queen's final album, on the same year that Freddie passed away, Innuendo.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Fog Stopped Play

Birding was rather protracted this weekend just gone. Partly, on the Sunday because of the fog. It only started lifting a bit in the late afternoon, so down to Uttoxeter Quarry. The descending gloom revealed the female Red-crested Pochard still, 2 drake Pintail, 3 Shelduck, 15 Wigeon, 4 Shoveler and 16 Goosanders came in to roost. Plenty of Canada and Greylag Geese but nothing else with them, like White-fronts or Tundra Beans.

As for the Saturday. Well, no birding but it involved one or two dodgy dealings (not really!), and ended up with one of these. Now's the time you know, with X Factor, Strictly and The Jungle on. Here's a plug from it's sponsor, although it does make you wonder why we all bother.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Some Wildfowl and some Gulls

That's a rather unimaginative blog title this time, because that could be the same over the next few months!

But over this weekend, there's a definite increase in duck numbers at my birding sites near home. Starting off at Brookleys Lake yesterday, Mallards up to at least 250, 60 Tufteds, 3 Teal, 2 Gadwall and a drake Pochard. It was only the Mandarins that hadn't increased, still only about 10.

The most interesting count at Uttoxeter Quarry were the Teal, a whopping 104, by far the largest number I've seen there. The female Red-crested Pochard still around, 52 Tufteds, 16 Wigeon, 1 Goldeneye, 1 Pochard, 6 each of Goosander and Gadwall. Also still around 50 Golden Plovers present, 5 Curlew, 6 Snipe and 1 Dunlin. There was also a large flock of gulls which contained 2 adult Yellow-legged, 1 Herring and 2 Common.

I haven't explained yet since getting back from the Scillies, Uttoxeter Quarry's main pit has filled right up again. At the furthest point of the gravel pit from the public footpath is the River Dove. For some reason the gravel company have dug a hole in the river bank, allowing the gravel pit to flood. I don't really understand why they've done it, particularly as it's also being pumped out!

Whatever the reasons for it, it's looking great for wildfowl again. And onto today, where stood on the footpath at the quarry, behind my left shoulder were a few high-pitched squeaks in amongst some goose honking. Turned round and four grey geese were coming over. Pink-feet were the initial thought, but getting my binoculars on them they turned out to be White-fronted Geese! Wonderful, the black marks underneath were very clear.

Unfortunately they just carried straight through. The only other difference were Pochard had now increased to 6. The possible/probable Azorean Yellow-legged Gull had reappeared at Chasewater the previous evening. I'd quite like to see it just to see for myself how different they look. So that was planned for later, but time to check Tad Bay in Blithfield first.

Tad Bay revealed 9 Goldeneye, 2 Goosander, 29 Dunlin, 3 Snipe and a flock of around 300 Golden Plover.

I haven't been to Chasewater since the Franklin's Gull was there in July last year. The tide's still out!

The work on the dam has now finished, and the water is higher since old Franky Boy was here. But there's still a long way to go until it's full.

Despite the probably Azorean YL Gull being seen on Cannock tip during the day, it wasn't found in the roost. There was a interesting-looking candidate, but the concensus of opinion was it wasn't quite right. But there was a myriad of Herring, Lesser Black-backed and Yellow-legged Gulls around, in different ages, shapes and sizes. Also the adult Caspian Gull in after spending the day at Stubber's Green and an adult Med Gull.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Catching up the last two weekends

The trouble I've had with all the great stuff to write about on the Scillies, is there's been no time to think up some words and pictures of the birding and twitching I've done since I got back. So I'm determined to catch this blog up in one fowl swoop.

As we're back in Greenwich Mean Time now, birding is now restricted to weekends (boo!). Both weekends have featured a Saturday twitch and a Sunday proper birding day.

Saturday 29th October was an afternoon twitch to Attenborough Nature Reserve on the outskirts of Nottingham, to see the Squacco Heron. Couldn't go in the morning as the old jam jar was having a tyre change, and then ummed and aahed for a while on whether to go at all. But I did go and in the end it was a rather long wait, but may as well give it until dusk because there's nothing else to do. But just before 5:30pm and starting to get rather dark, the Squacco flew in to the River Erewash, fantastic to see it in flight.

Told you it was getting dark!

Sunday 29th October was back to patching. Uttoxeter Quarry had a good sized flock of 232 Golden Plover, 2 Curlew, 1 Snipe, 1 drake Pochard, 6 Wigeon. It's also getting to the time of year to regularly check Brookleys Lake again, which contained a female Goldeneye, drake Gadwall and 20 Mandarins.

An afternoon drive round the North Staffs Moors produced 3 Stonechats and a few Red Deer. Finishing off at Swallow Moss until dusk, a Short-eared Owl flew across the heather just before darkness descended.

So onto the weekend just gone. Remember remember the 5th November, for another twitch! This time, into Shropshire for the Steppe Grey Shrike at Wall Farm Nature Reserve, a few miles north of Telford. Which continued to show well, albeit a bit distant, along a hedgerow.

Despite it's distance you could certainly tell the differences from Great Grey Shrike. Such as the pale lores (the patch between the eye and bill), the large wing patch and very little difference in colour between the upperparts and underparts. In fact, I'm struggling to understand how it's grouped in with Southern Grey Shrike. If you see Southern Grey Shrike in Portugal, they look nothing like this!

So to get everything up to date, yesterday. Which followed the same itinerary to last Sunday, but better. Uttoxeter Quarry was the best it's been for months! Parked up, a text from Andy saying 2 Whooper Swans had just flown in. I was only just thinking that it's about time we had some.

We've had a good record of Whoopers during early November, so they must use the River Dove as a migration route. Andy's visit was a bit of a whistle-stop tour, so I had to get him back after finding a female Red-crested Pochard.

As for this bird's origins, your guess is as good as mine, but it was there. It's legs bore no rings when stood out of the water. Also around were a female Pintail, 3 Goosander, 5 Pochard, 13 Wigeon, 25 Teal, 164 Golden Plover and 10 Curlew.

Brookleys Lake was pretty quiet this time, probably due to Alton Towers firework display the previous night. And as for another drive round the moors, not a lot until getting to Swallow Moss. Late on in the afternoon, a ringtail Hen Harrier appeared over the Revidge side, hunting away.

Half an hour later 2 Short-eared Owls appeared in the distance, quite high in the sunset sky. That ended an excellent day's birding, of finding (or at least trying to find) my own stuff.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

The 2011 Scilly Season. Part 5, the last few days.

Into the final stretch now. The 19th had the first boat to Bryher (also known as "Byrrrr" if you're sat at the Scillonian club bar!) since being on the islands, due to the state of the tides. So that's where I went, albeit leaving at 2:30pm and a couple of hours on Tresco.

Nothing outstandingly rare all day, but Bryher had a dark-bellied Brent Goose on the pool, a Whinchat and a 1st winter Med Gull. The main highlight on Tresco was this Lapland Bunting, on the path near to the Carn Near quay.

Getting rather tired now after about 10 days on my feet, the 20th was a day back on St. Agnes. Again quite productive but without anything spectacular. There was a noticeable influx of Fieldfares today, a flock of 30 flew over the parsonage. So this was at least added to the trip list, as were a Short-eared Owl and a female Merlin.

The final day, the 21st, there wasn't much left on St. Marys to see that hadn't been seen. But there was a Scilly mega in the Carreg Dhu garden, a Treecreeper. There's a first time for everything, and the Treecreeper twitch was on! Which did show during the morning, as did a Yellow-browed Warbler also at Carreg Dhu and 2 Pink-footed Geese over Old Town.

And that was it for this time. A pint in the Bishop and Wolf before the ferry back to Penzance, ended what must be the best birding trip I've ever done in Britain by a mile. It was also rather bizarre to walk into the Bishop and Wolf with this blaring out. Strange what you remember.

But that wasn't quite the end of it. On the 20th a Scarlet Tanager was found on mainland Cornwall, at St. Levan, which was also seen on the morning of the 21st but not since. Seeing as I was in Penzance anyway, it had to be worth a try during the morning of the 22nd.

The birding gods had been incredibly kind whilst on the Scillies, surely this was too much to ask for? Well, over the morning there was no sign of the Tanager at St. Levan at all. Then came birding god's real sting in the tail, when the pager went off "MEGA, Scilly. Scarlet Tanager at Holy Vale"!!!!

Well I presumed it was the same bird, but there is a theory that these are two different birds. A lot of gutted-looking people started leaving St. Levan, it hadn't been seen for over 24 hours anyway. But I just took it as a sign to pack it in and go home.

Monday, 31 October 2011

The 2011 Scilly Season. Part 4, two Olive-backed beauties.

Onto the 17th October, the morning after the night before! A couple of anadins needed, and probably just as well that it was a rather quiet day. Having said that I was buzzing with excitement from the previous day.

The main point of interest on St. Marys was a Portuguese Man of War. It was washed up in Old Town bay after being found at the same spot and put back to sea a couple of days ago. The jellyfish was placed into a bucket and due to be re-floated out at sea, but further out this time. A bit of a tiddler I thought:

Incidentally, it's little purple friend on the right isn't Prince. It's a By The Wind Sailor, a type of sea slug.

The 18th was also spent on St. Marys. Again a bit of a slow morning, left my scope back in the guest house. A ringtail Hen Harrier was seen off the Eastern Isles and a couple of Great Northern Divers were off Inisidgen, could've done with the scope then. When finished there the plan was to walk towards Pelistry Bay. However, the pager and radio kicked off again, of 2 Olive-backed Pipits along Watermill Lane, which was also on the way. Once again, cannot believe the luck I was having of being close by when these birds were discovered.

I really could've done with the scope at this point, thankfully I managed a view of them through the scope of Scillies regular and laser pen seller-extraordinaire, Ralph Parks:

Thinking that these Pipits wouldn't be going away from the field here I went back to Hugh Town, got the scope and back to Watermill Lane. Quite pleased with what I managed to get on them actually.

Other stuff seen on St. Marys that day were a Firecrest along Trenoweth Lane, Yellow-browed Warbler at Newford Duckpond and a few Redwings starting to trickle in.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

The 2011 Scilly Season. Part 3, getting jammy with a couple of warblers.

I suppose when you arrive on the Scillies on a trip like this, the first thing you want to do is twitch the things you need to twitch. As the lifers were done and dusted (five in the first 48 hours, now that’s ridiculous!), I could relax a bit and do my own relaxed style of birding, just as was done on St. Agnes the day before.

It’s also a time when the two-way radios start to become really useful, for instant bird news. The 15th was spent on St. Marys. An interesting start to the day began with the discovery of a Deaths-head Hawkmoth from a moth trap in Hugh Town.

I've never really got into moths, but I have to admit this one was really impressive. The picture doesn’t really emphasise what a whopper it really is. And true to it’s name, it does look like it has a picture of a skull on it’s back!

Following a report of a Radde’s Warbler in the dead pine walk at the Garrison, the morning was spent here. No sign of the Radde’s unfortunately, but the Subalpine Warbler did eventually show in an ivy hedge by the football pitch. Also one or two Clouded Yellow butterflies here.

After a pasty for lunch, from Griffin’s bakery and butchers, I thought it would be rather nice to have another look at the Bluethroat at Porth Hellick and Carn Friars. As birders will now, showy Bluethroats don’t occur very often! Prior to that, a check of Old Town bay produced a Greenshank, a Kingfisher and two Turtle Doves in the vegetable field next to somewhere called Nowhere! The cemetery at Old Town was rather quiet, but Harold Wilson was eventually found. Perhaps the Wilson’s Snipe should pay homage?

I'm afraid to say that Harold Wilson is a bit before my time as Prime Minister. He retired on the year I was born! But that made way for Jim Callaghan, then Thatcher, Major, Blair, Brown and now of course the Cameron/Clegg coalition. But I've heard the that the Wilsons and their family spent as much time as they could on Scilly. I don't know about you, but I can't imagine the Blairs spending their spare time on Scilly. Barbados possibly.........

But continuing to Carn Friars, the Bluethroat continued to show well. Obviously age is creeping up on me, so I can’t remember if I had the scope or not in order to digiscope it. I have no pictures of it so I couldn’t have done. Thank goodness for a picture from Martyn Whalley, as autumn Bluethroats go this is a good one.

Whilst at Carn Friars, the pager and radio started kicking off, informing everyone of a Radde’s Warbler at Salakee Farm. What luck that it’s only a 5 minute walk away from Carn Friars. Eventually everyone was treated to a wonderful show of the Radde’s Warbler, as it flew out of the Pittosporum hedge, into the rough grass by the farm tack, caught a grub, flew underneath a trailer and munched away on the grub.

A brilliant bird. You learn things as well when you watch them, particularly the way that Radde’s Warbler will pump it’s tail upwards, unlike Chiffchaff which pumps it’s tail downwards. A useful thing to look out for. Also, the orange undertail coverts are a much more of a distinguishing feature than it’s supercilium.

The 16th involved a boat ride over to St. Martins for the day. This island was kind to me last year, as I managed to connect with Tawny Pipit, Melodious Warbler and Red-flanked Bluetail. So I always wanted to intend to do at least a day here this time. Just as a general birdwatch of course, and to explore the east of the island, which I didn’t manage to do last year.

Things started off with a Whinchat by the cricket pitch, plus Willow Warbler and Common Redstart at Little Arthur’s Farm. At the east end of St. Martins is the daymark. Allow me to illustrate what a daymark is:

The American Golden Plover had been in residence on the heath south of the daymark, along with 3 European Golden Plover. They took a bit of finding but we got onto them eventually.

The St. Martins flats on the south west corner of the island, where the Tawny Pipit was last year, is also the best place on the Scillies to look for flocks of waders. During the afternoon the tide had gone out and on the flats contained good numbers of Sanderling and Ringed Plover, a few Turnstone and only one each of Dunlin and Whimbrel.

Whilst doing the wader count, the pager went off and it said “probable Blyth’s Reed Warbler, St Martins, by the school”. “Ooh, that’s interesting” I thought. So once the wader counts were completed I eventually made my way east along St. Martins, as did Kent birder Martin Coath. We eventually found Andy Jordan and got to the spot where the warbler in question was last seen.

However, we got sidetracked for a while because my radio went into meltdown! This was due to a continual running commentary from St. Marys, of 3 Black Kites! At the time they were soaring over Porth Hellick, so a run to a clear view of St. Marys had to be done. An eventual scan with the binoculars eventually found 3 dots over the east side of St. Marys. Obviously they were 3 large raptors, but it was only the radios that could tell you that they were the 3 Black Kites from here.

Anyway, we had this warbler to get back to concentrate on. After a short wait, the bird in question flew out of the dunes and back into the hedge. Personally, I only saw it through bins. Thanks to good old Pittosporum (I’m starting to dislike this plant very much!), I couldn’t make out the wing shape and primary projection. What I did see looked like an obvious acrocephalus Warbler, but much paler overall on the upperparts, completely white underneath and no rufous shades, a very white throat and dark legs. It also called, chacking away just a Blackcap. Then it hopped away never to be seen again and we had to get the boat back.

I must admit, I don’t like it when I think I’m beaten. Left to only my notes I don’t think how on earth any rarities committee would be able to accept it as a Blyth’s Reed Warbler. Thankfully though, Andy Jordan managed to get some excellent photos of the bird. Many thanks to Andy for allowing me to use a couple of them here.

Seeing them at the time, in the field and on Andy’s camera, we all thought this looked very interesting. Particularly from what you can see above, that very short primary projection and a prominent eye stripe between the eye and bill.

My own experience of Blyth’s Reed Warbler is pretty limited. I’ve seen them before at Bharatpur, but that’s not really the place where you concentrate on the little brown jobs. You’ve got all the Storks, Herons, Egrets, raptors, roosting Owls and Nightjars to concentrate on!

So with that all on my mind, despite the 3 Black Kites showing nicely over the centre of St. Marys from Hugh Town quay, the only place I wanted to be that evening was in the Scillonian Club just after a sniff of news on this bird. Thankfully for me a friendly face from Staffordshire was around to talk to that evening. That being Steve “The Snapper” Richards, making a long weekend of it to see the Waterthrush. So at least we provided a mutual birding-counselling service to each other!

Later that evening, it was confirmed that the bird was indeed a Blyth’s Reed Warbler! An early boat to St. Martins was arranged for the next morning. I didn’t go on that boat because I went into celebration mode, the pints of ale didn‘t half flow!

It's a good job the Scillonian club doesn't have a jukebox, because as it was party time there's only one song you can play at a time like this!

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

The 2011 Scilly Season. Part 2, Least Sand and Red-throated Pipit, and the fog.

The other established rarity that I wanted to catch up with was the Least Sandpiper on Tresco, so that was the island of choice for the 11th. Depending on the state of the tide, the Least Sand could either be found on the south beach or the south-east corner of the Great Pool.

This morning the Least Sand was found feeding on the Great Pool. Shame it was a too distant for me to digiscope it. Thankfully I have another photo of the bird I can use, courtesy of Martyn Whalley.

Other birds around Tresco were a rather elusive juvenile Red-backed Shrike, a few Stonechats and Wheatears, 2 Shelduck on Skirt Island and a Marsh Harrier flying around Samson. Other waders on the Great Pool included another Lesser Yellowlegs, 2 Black-tailed Godwits, 26 Greenshank and a Common Sand. Also 2 Common Snipe, showing a much more vivid plumage colour than the Wilson’s Snipe from the previous day.

On the first two nights of my stay, members of a film crew were staying in my guest house. They were filming with Iolo Williams. You know, that wildlife bloke on the telly from Wales? Next morning, Iolo was at their breakfast table, and eventually I had a pleasant chat with him. It turned out they were filming for S4C and the BBC, for a series of wildlife on Atlantic islands, from the Azores to the Faroes. Iolo asked me what I’d seen so far and seemed genuinely interested. He came across as a genuine and down-to-earth bloke, not a pretentious “showbiz” type at all.

When Iolo asked on my plan for today (the 12th), a Red-throated Pipit had been seen and heard calling over the centre of St. Marys, heading west. My thought was if it continues west it’ll end up on the golf course. So that’s where I headed to straight after breakfast. After a while walking along the eastern edge of the golf course, there about 8 Wheatears around. Then a pager message appeared saying the Red-throated Pipit had been found, thankfully on the other end of the fairway I was at, so that was really lucky!

I managed to find a likely candidate and called some birders over. It looked pretty good to me as there were mantle stripes on it, but never having seen one before I’d like to hear it call. After a few minutes it took a fly around and did it’s sneeze-like call above our heads, before moving further south down the golf course.

It turns out that this bird was not your usual-marked bird. Later on, listening to Dick Filby, it was the most interesting Red-throated Pipit he’d ever seen, as it was a rather drab bird. They’re usually more striking than this one, Steve Young’s picture here is the bird in question.

Other highlights around St. Marys on the 12th included a Whimbrel on Porthloo beach, Great Spotted Woodpecker in the pines just above Bar Point, a distant Spoonbill in front of Samson, calling Yellow-Browed Warbler at Newford Duckpond, a Wryneck at Porth Hellick beach and Short-toed Lark on the airfield.

The 13th was a day on Scilly that I’ve never experienced before, thick fog all day! This was the scene from Porth Hellick. As planes were grounded all day, the Scillonian ferry was laid on for the day.

A good excuse to not haul the tripod around. Starting off on the dead pine walk at the Garrison, a sylvia warbler appeared which I think was a Whitethroat, rather than the Subalpine Warbler, not grey enough above. Also the juvenile Rose-coloured Starling feeding in an apple tree opposite the Upper Benham Battery.

When reaching Porth Hellick in the afternoon, a rather showy Bluethroat was hopping round the paddocks at Carn Friars, and the Wilson’s Snipe was on show from the Stephen Sussex hide. Albeit asleep, was in the company of three Common Snipe for a useful comparison.

When deciding on another check of Lower Moors, the two-way radio suddenly kicked into life saying “Northern Waterthrush from the ISBG hide”. That was incredibly lucky to get another view of the Waterthrush in the middle of the afternoon. Also a Lesser Yellowlegs straight in front of the hide, oblivious to anyone inside you would think.

But after that, the fog just got thicker and not a lot else was seen for the rest of the day, apart from biting insects at the dump clump. Shouldn’t complain about the mozzies too much, they’re feeding on us and the Waterthrush is feeding on them. We’re keeping that bird alive!

Onto the next day, the 14th. The fog had cleared and the winds had swung round to the east. I could’ve stayed on St. Marys but tried my luck on St. Agnes instead. It was clear that the easterly winds but brought an increase of migrants on all the islands. On Aggie the Pec Sand was still on the Big Pool. Also 3 Firecrests, 2 Black Redstarts, 1 Yellow-browed Warbler, 9 Wheatears, Pied, Spotted and one of as many as three Red-Breasted Flycatchers. This one was at Troy Town farm:

Also a Lapland Bunting by the rather disappointing Troy Town maze. Lapland Buntings are always good value:

But is this really the maze?

If it is, it's not much of a maze. Almost as disappointing as the glacial boulder on Cannock Chase. I was expecting one of those big hedge mazes, made from hedges of Pittosporum.

Whilst at that end of Aggie, the Troy Town ice cream just had to be sampled. Two scoops of chocolate ice cream with a scoop of clotted cream. A tough assignment but someone had to do it! Prior to that of course, lunch was had at the Turks Head. Ever get the feeling you're being watched?