Wednesday, 24 October 2012

The 2012 Scilly Season. Part 2, Samson without Delilah

The evening of Wednesday 10th October was spent in the Scillonian club, supping Tribute and contemplating the plan for tomorrow, after a less than successful start.  A boat trip on Joe Pender's vessel, the Sapphire, was going ahead for the next morning.  Not a full-blown pelagic, but a tour of the outlying smaller, and uninhabited, islands and islets, with a landing on one of them if possible.  And of course, if a mega is found during the day then everyone aboard is on hand to move straight away.  All that for £12, so why not give it a try?

So Thursday 11th October began by boarding the Sapphire, heading towards Annet and the Western Rocks to begin with.  Hmm, what's that little dinghy for, that's trailing behind the Sapphire?  I don't know, won't worry about that.............

But anyway, two female Common Scoters and a Marsh Harrier were around Annet, then moving to the Western Rocks revealed many Grey Seals:

Also some fast-growing seal pups:

Four Purple Sandpipers were also found within a Turnstone flock on the rock known as Mellegdan.  The name of which should not be confused with a Melodious Warbler!!!

After that, it was over to land on Samson and explore this island, the largest uninhabited island in the archipelago, for a couple of hours.  It was at this point when I realised what the little dinghy was for, oh oh.  Samson doesn't have a concrete quay in order for boats dock in, so what you have to do is to climb down off the Sapphire and sit yourself on the rubber edge of the dinghy.  The boatman will then take you as close as he can to the shore.  Which in this case, was to wade in a least a foot of water and onto the beach.

However, be very careful when disembarking from the dinghy, because I took a stumble and my right leg was soaked nearly up to my waist!  More serious once on the beach however, was the discovery of two objects missing from my coat pocket.  Thankfully, my mobile phone landed in the dinghy, but my RBA pager was not so lucky.  Oh crap, crap, crappity crap, that's gone in the sea! 

Why oh why did I not put them in my rucksack?  I don't know, I just didn't.  Oh well, can't do anything about that now.  Despite Dick Filby also on this trip, no point disturbing him about it until the evening.  This is Samson:

The increasingly windy conditions were a great help in drying my trousers, but there weren't huge numbers of birds on Samson.  Thankfully though, there is one single Tamarisk bush on the island, and this contained a Wryneck.  But eventually time was up, and it was time to get back on the Sapphire, via the dinghy.

Next on the agenda was to check for wader roosts on Tresco and the eastern isles, with the Spoonbill also showing well on Green Island:

It was at this point where news was breaking of a Blackpoll Warbler on Bryher.  This meant a complete change of plan, Bryher it was.  On reaching the southern edge of Veronica Farm, all that I saw of the bird was it taking off out of a Pittosporum bush and into a pine tree.  Seeing the bird through the bins, two white bars on dark wings were obvious.  Checking the Sibley field guide later, that's exactly what Blackpoll Warbler has. 

So although happy that was the bird, the view itself was pretty unsatisfactory.  But, it was more than those who took the 3pm boat from St. Marys.  So for now, I suppose it will have to do.  The Sapphire left Bryher at 6:15pm, so starting the day at 9:30am, that £12 for day was excellent value.  All that was left to be done was to find Dick Filby in the Scillonian club that evening, to explain the pager mishap, just like turning up at the headmaster's office!  He was really good about it actually.  A replacement pager was on it's way, and a loan pager with Scilly news to keep going for now.

Instead of returning to Bryher the next morning, Friday 12th October, the day started off on St. Marys, teaming up with Kay, on her first ever Scillies visit.  Starting off on the Garrison until the American Golden Plover was rediscovered in Porth Hellick bay, and excellent views of a female Merlin perched in a pine tree along Carn Friars Lane.  En route to Porth Hellick, reaching Salakee Farm, the radio kicked into life once again, "Solitary Sandpiper on Bryher".  Whoa!!!  Right, enough time to enjoy the American Golden Plover for a while, then back into Hugh Town for the 2pm boat to Bryher!

When you return from your holidays, people always ask what you did.  Well me, on my holidays I looked at a pile of manure!

Look closely however, and this is where the Solitary Sand was discovered, giving crippling views.  Not only was it Solitary, the bird was on it's own as well!


Three Coal Tits were also seen on Bryher today, part of an unprecedented influx into Scilly, originating from Ireland.  You could tell they were Irish because of the yellow flush to their cheeks, and they were waving their shillelaghs!

It was also discovered that a birder, known to many as Higgo, found a likely-looking Blyth's Reed Warbler on Bryher that afternoon, just prior to the return boat back to St. Marys.  After last year's little triumph with Blyth's Reed, I didn't feel the need to rush back to Bryher the next day, Saturday 13th.  So instead of following the masses, I took a boat to St. Martins instead, to try and find my own birds.

Over the course of the day on St. Martins, I managed to find my own Irish Coal Tit and had it all to myself, as well as two Yellow-browed Warblers, a Common Whitethroat, a Peregrine with prey and a flock of 24 Sanderling.  Later that day, news from Bryher had mixed results.  Although the Solitary Sand showed well all day, there was no sign of the Blyth's Reed Warbler and only a few people had a single view of the Blackpoll Warbler.

Tea was had in the Bishop and Wolf for the evening, and a very nice piece of steak it was too.  But hang on, what's that music they're playing in the background?  You're kidding!!!!

You ain't seen nothing yet, that's a bit cruel isn't it?  All those Blackpoll dippers that'd been on Bryher all day, kick them while they're down!  Also, check Bachman Turner Overdrive's initials (BTO), now that is spooky.

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