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?

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