Monday, 22 October 2012

The 2012 Scilly Season. Part 1, Gripped and Dipped.

So, it's Scillies time again.  Which all began on Sunday 8th October with the drive down to Cornwall.  Birding in Kernow was a little quiet.  A scan of the Hayle Estuary revealed both Black and Bar-tailed Godwits, a Ruff, 2 Med Gulls and 10 Little Egrets.

As there was nothing around  that really took my fancy to twitch (the Red-rumped Swallows had long left Marazion Marsh), and with a south-easterly wind picking up, I thought I'd try Porthgwarra for a seawatch.  This is Porthgwarra reader.

The one slight snag in the plan was I had no change for the pay and display machine.  The strengthening wind would've made seawatching difficult anyway, so an alternative plan was hatched.  At the beginning of the lane to Porthgwarra is a track towards Bosistow Farm, the southern end of the Nanjizal Valley.

A walk to the farm and back produced a few Goldcrests but otherwise quiet.  The pager then mentioned 3 Glossy Ibises and a Hooded Crow just up the road, to the east of Sennen.  The spot was surprisingly difficult to find without an OS map, but eventually one of the Glossy's and the Hooded Crow were seen in a field next to Trevear Farm.  First Hooded Crow I've seen in England too.

The next morning, Monday 8th October, the fog lifted from Penzance harbour, but still shrouded St. Michael's Mount, creating an atmospheric scene as the Scillonian ferry departed.

Unfortunately foggy conditions occurred during most of the crossing.  The fog lingered when even reaching St. Mary's, but not as high as the telegraph tower.

Realising how foggy it was, it made my mind up to go straight to St. Agnes for the afternoon, to try for the Grey-cheeked Thrush.  Even though I felt seeing the Thrush would be unlikely, it seemed like a better bet to try for this than looking for the Buff-bellied Pipit in the fog.  Not surprisingly, after spending a couple of hours looking at a dry stone wall, no sign of the thrush.  So a great big dip there, and St. Agnes deserves better then staring into one small field, but it was the right thing to do.

The following morning, on the 9th, started with a pre-breakfast walk to Penninis Head, as the Buff-bellied Pipit had been roosting here the previous few evenings.  Well, it didn't look like it was here at first light, so it was back for breakfast and back to Penninis again.  The mist was coming and going a bit, but at least the Dotterel was still around, just north of the lighthouse.

As was the Richard's Pipit further inland, along King Edward's Road.  At one point the bird showed brilliantly, perched on the top of a hedge.  Just in time for one digiscoped photo.

Whilst walking along the Penninis Farm trail, the radio system kicked into life, "Buff-bellied Pipit on the airfield, seen from the windsock".  Here we go, the first manic walk of the trip!  However, by the time of getting to up to the windsock, the Buff-bellied Pipit had gone behind a ridge and out of sight.  After a few hours of searching through the Meadow Pipits and Wheatears on the airfield, there was no sign.  The American Golden Plover was around however, and for the day formed an odd-couple pairing with a Curlew Sandpiper.

Other birds of note seen on St Mary's on the 9th included Redstart and Whinchat on Penninis, a single European Golden Plover and a female Merlin dashing around the airfield, 2 Dunlin and 9 Greenshank in Porth Hellick bay.  So in all it wasn't a bad day's birding, but the Pipit dip didn't make it feel that way.

Birding highlights on the 10th, still on St. Marys, included a flyover Tree Pipit over Porthloo, heading towards the golf course, but no sign of the bird on the golf course itself (neither was the Buff-bellied!).  Also a Jack Snipe at Lower Moors, juvenile Rose-coloured Starling at Porth Hellick, singles each of Sanderling and Whimbrel in Old Town and Porth Hellick Bays respectively.  Also the rather odd sight of a Northern Wheatear with a completely black back and red throat.  The bird must've been attacked by a Sparrowhawk or similar, and took evasive action by diving into a muddy puddle.

So after dipping Grey-cheeked Thrush and Buff-bellied Pipit, and too late for the Sykes's Warbler on Tresco over the weekend, not a great start.  It's not going to be like this for the next week or so, is it?

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