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Tuesday, 9 November 2021

Scilly Sojourn, September/October, 2021 - Pt.3

This is the third and final part of my account of our autumn 2021 visit to the Isles of Scilly. You can find Pt.1 here:-, and Pt.2 here:-

Saturday, 2nd October          Porthcressa - Porthhellick - Porth Minick - Lower Moors - Porthloo - Porthcressa

          winday and extremely wet to start, calmer by mid day with showers and sunny periods

The forecast for this day was heavy rain and very strong winds, easing up a little mid afternoon - and this is what we woke up to. Other than popping into the garden to photograph Scillonian III arriving from Penzance, I  didn't venture out until the afternoon.

Scillonian III - off Porthcressa bay
Shortly after midday, I  took a few photos from the garden of the property. 

Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) - from property garden, Littleporth
I think that this next one is a Lesser Black-backed Gull - please let me know if I am wrong!

Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus) - from property garden, Littleporth
Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola) (male) - from property garden, Littleporth
A little later, the girls were going to go out in the buggy and I  was given a lift to the entrance to Higher Moors. As I entered the reserve, I saw a bird that gave me a ray of hope. In the past, I have found Song Thrush to be abundant on the islands, and they have been regular visitors to the the garden at the property that we stay in, even taking food from the hand. However, this was our sixth day on the Scillies and this was the first Song Thrush I had seen! It was, however, a little distant.
Song Thrush (Turdus philomelus) - Higher Moors
Sussex Hide was too full of people for my comfort in these Covid times, but I grabbed a quick shot from the doorway of a Greenshank on the far side of the pool before departing.
Greenshank (Tringa nebularia) - Porthhellick Pool
I had better luck from Seaward Hide which only had three other people in. Two Pectoral Sandpipers came into view, followed by three Common Snipe.

Pectoral Sandpiper (Calidris melanotos) - Porthhellick Pool
Pectoral Sandpiper (Calidris melanotos) + Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) - Porthhellick Pool
Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) - Porthhellick Pool
I also witnessed the arrival of the Glossy Ibis, although the light was poor and my camera settings wrong for the event, so only a record shot.
Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) - Porthhellick Pool
I returned to Sussex Hide, where there was now more space, and was lucky enough to have a good, but extremely brief (5 seconds?), view of the Spotted Crake (only the 2nd I've ever seen!) that was being elusive there.

Spotted Crake (Porzana porzana) - Porthhellick Pool
I then headed off to the the beach before taking the coastal path over Salakee Down to Porth Minick and Old Town. From Porthhellick beach I photographed a Little Egret.

Little Egret ( Egretta garzetta) - Porthhellick Bay
As I ascended the path onto Salakee Down, I turned round to take a shot of Porthhellick, with the pool in the background.
Porthhellick and Pool
Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) - from Salakee Down
As I descended from Salakee Down, before reaching Porth Minick, a couple coming the other way kindly pointed out two Wheatear that they'd just passed beside the path.

Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) - Salakee Down
From Porth Minick, I took the short walk round to Old Town, stopping to take a photo of Amaryllis belladonna, a beauty that can be found growing in many places on the Scillies, but that I don't think I've photographed before.
Jersey Lily (Amaryllis belladonna) - by Old Town
I'd just reached Lower Moors when I got a message from the girls to say that the internet was now back on and they'd come to pick me up in Old Town if I would like to have a trundle around with them in the buggy. I grabbed a few shots of the Greenshank that was still there before heading back to the road to join them.

Greenshank (Tringa nebularia) - Lower Moors
After a bit of a run around, ending up at Porthloo, where Georgie wanted to buy some fudge (there was none left when we got there!), I got the girls to drop me off by the beach. I found a group of eight Sanderling there and decided to drop onto one knee just above the water line and wait. It was only a matter of a couple of minutes before they approached me, and seemed totally unfazed by my presence, even when I started firing off shots. I reckon that I had approaches to within three metres on several occasions.

Sanderling (Calidris alba) - Porthloo
The view of Thomas' Porth from the coastal path is an attractive one.
Thomas' Porth - from coastal path
Round the corner, in  Porth Mellon, an extremely skilled wind surfer was reaching amazing speeds, and flying high into the air when he made sharp u-turns (there's probably a term for this in windsurfing circles). He did, unfortunately, frighten off the Turnstones that I was trying to photograph.

Windsurfer - Porth Mellon
As I approached the property, a pair of Stonechat were on the beach below the garden, and even flew up onto the garden fence!
Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola) (female) - Porthcressa
Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola) (male) - Porthcressa
Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola) (female + male) - Porthcressa
A day that started out looking as if it might be a washout, turned out to be a rather special one.

Sunday, 3rd October          Porthcressa - Porth Mellon - Porthloo - Rosehill - Porth Minick - Porthcressa

          periods of heavy rain and sun in morning, mainly sunny and breezy with showers in afternoon

I awoke to the news that the Great Crested Grebe that had been hanging around the islands for a few days, was in Porth Cressa - the bay on which our base is situated. At home, a Great Crested Grebe would raise little excitement. However, the last one seen on the Scillies was in 2011! For this reason only, I attempted some shots of this distant bird, which seemed to be feeding well.

Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus)  - Porthcressa, from property garden
I had to stay in for most of the morning as Georgie was fast asleep, and Lindsay wanted to show Melanie the remains of the ancient settlement at Halangey Down. In the event, I got the better end of the deal as they got absolutely drenched in a massive downpour.

I did manage to get out briefly late in the morning, and went to check for Humming-bird Hawk-moth on the Red Valerian above Sally Port, on the Garrison. I was not lucky on this occasion. I did take a few photos on the Porthcressa sea front on my return, however.
Rock Pipit (Anthus petrosus) - Porthcressa
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) - Porthcressa
Turnstone (Arenaria interpres) - Porthcressa
After lunch, and another heavy rain shower, I set off for a gentle walk, mindful that I had a long drive ahead of me the next day. From base, I crossed over to the other side of the isthmus and headed north, walking the length of Porth Mellon beach, taking a few photos as I did so.
Rock Pipit (Anthus petrosus) - Porth Mellon
I then took the coast path to Porthloo where I first tried for some shots of a distant Little Egret on the bar to Newford Island.

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) - by Newford Island, Porthloo
I was also reminded that egrets can look just as ridiculous as herons! - see my previous post.

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) - by Newford Island
On the main beach at Porthloo, I found a gathering of around 50 Turnstone, with two Sanderling. The Turnstone were, as usual, extremely confiding. 

Turnstone (Arenaria interpres) - Porthloo
I couldn't resist more shots of Sanderling too.

Sanderling (Calidris alba) - Porthloo
After that, I set off for Rosehill Gardens where I  spent some time looking for dragonflies, only finding four very mature male Common Darters.

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) (male) - Rosehill Gardens
While at Rosehill, I  got a message from Lindsay to say that the three of them were setting off in the buggy to go to 'Treasure Beach' (Porth Minick) to look for sea glass if I  cared to join them. As it was a relatively short walk for me to do so, I  let them know that I was on my way. En route, I called in very briefly at the two hides in Lower Moors,  but saw nothing of interest.

We had a most enjoyable time together and were the only people on the beach. After this, I joined them for a ride back towards base, leaving them again by the hospital so that I could have a last walk down to Porthcressa from Buzza Hill.

At five o'clock it was time for me to take the buggy back to Scilly Carts. The hire had been a great success.
Monday, 4th October          St Mary's - Land's End Airport - Ashby de la Zouch

      cool, wet, and windy to start, later becoming dry and warmer

After breakfast and packing, I popped out into the garden to take a 'farewell' shot of the bay before our departure. 
Porthcressa and Peninnis - from property  garden, Littleporth
We had to vacate the property by 10.00, and our flight was not until 11.40. Usually Paulger's Transport, who operate the Skybus airport transfer service on St Mary's, pick up an hour before booked departure time. I'd alerted them that we'd be ready from 10.00 but, in the event, they did not arrive until 10.40.

The flight back to Land's End was uneventful and, on arrival, Melanie and I went to collect our cars while Lindsay and Georgie guarded the luggage. We then said our farewells and headed homeward.

We stopped in Penzance to pick up some sandwiches and other bits and bobs for a picnic and then wended our way home, with a few pit stops along the way.

It was a pleasant journey, but the arrival at home was far from pleasant. We immediately noticed that the house was very cold - and then we found that something had tripped-out the electricity distribution board and three freezers and a fridge, all full, were now at room temperature and the contents putrifying - indicating that the event probably happened soon after our departure. Sorting this out kept us occupied for most of the rest of the week.

Nevertheless, it had been a truly great holiday with the family, and we are very much looking forward to returning next year.

My next blog post will probably be a very short one and cover my observations from the garden and a nearby location. Until then, stay safe and take good care of yourself and Nature - - - Richard


  1. Like you say, 'a truly great holiday with the family' Richard, with something to please everyone throughout your three Scilly Sojourns it seems. As you will appreciate, I particularly enjoyed the good run you had with the Stonechats.

    Take Care Stay Safe.


    1. We're very much looking forward to returning next year, Pete. I really can't resist a Stonechat - I think they'd take priority in most circumstances!

      Best wishes to you both. Stay safe - - - Richard

  2. Hi Richard! Absolutely wonderful place. Incredibly cool birds.

    1. It's a great place, Anne. Stay safe - - - Richard

  3. An excellent post Richard full of lovely photos. Sounds like you had a good trip. Take care.

    1. Thank you, Marc. Given half a chance, I think that all four of us would up-sticks and move there on a permanent basis!

  4. Lovely! A pleasure to read. Really hope I get back next year.

    1. Thank you. Still keeping my fingers crossed for you! With luck, we four will have two stays there in 2022. Stay safe - - - Richard

  5. Hi Richard, so sorry about the electricity trip, I hope you could claim on insurance. My mother had the same problem in Rhodesia with a couple of huge freezers tripping, they were full of Xmas turkeys all waiting to be delivered, she had a lot of disappointed customers!

    So many of the lovely birds that you saw I would not have clue what they were, I have not heard of many let alone seen. Sanderlings, Turnstone, Pipit, Greenshank, Wheatear, Spotted Crake and Sandpiper among the ones that I would have been struggling find in my bird book

    Fabulous photos as always. Sounds like a good time but sad you came back home to a disaster.

    I am not doing well trying to catch up with my blogs though I did do a short bird blog the other day thanks to Christelle with some South African birds. I still have masses of photos for October and November to go through (sigh).

    Keep well, my very best wishes to you and the family. Diane

    1. We've now recovered from our loss of all that food, Diane. The insurance company (Direct Line) were brilliant and paid up quickly (subject to a £100 excess) without quibble.

      There are still plenty of UK birds that I have problems with ID'ing - mainly the uncommon LBJs (little brown jobs). Pipits and Larks are a particularly hazardous area for me, as are some of the waders and gulls!

      I too am struggling to catch up, and hoping that the short days of winter will get me back on track again.

      Best wishes to you both. Take good care - - - Richard

  6. Hello Richard,:=) This is a wonderful post of your last day of bird sightings, with so many different species, all beautifully photographed.The Sanderlings are lovely images, as are Stonechat closeups, also super shots of the Pectorial Sandpiper. I like the shot of the Little Egret standing in front of those huge boulders, and the closer images of them standing on the stones.

    The Thomas Porth vista from the beach is most attractive, and the Belladona flowers are lovely, I have a few in my garden. I'm sorry you didn't see the Humming-bird Hawk-moth, they are elusive at the best of times, maybe next time. I already knew that your home coming was not a happy one, but you had a fabulous family holiday in a beautiful place. I wish I could mention all your bird finds, but I have commented on the ones that stood out for me, but all were appreciated.
    All the best!:=)

    1. Thank you for all those kind words, Sonjia! I am quite envious that you are able to grow Belladona in your garden. This makes me wish even more that we could move home to the Isles of Scilly where the climate is so much milder than it is in the rest of UK.

      We have, twice, had Humming-bird Hawk-moth visit our Leicestershire garden and I have been trying to attract more with Red Valerian plants, but hadn't realised until this year that those plants are so invasive. I might have to rely on the Buddleia in future!

      Best wishes - stay safe - - - Richard

  7. Hello again Richard, Many thanks for the correct butterfly ID. I don't mind at all, I'm always grateful. Before posting I looked at both species, and went left, when I should have gone right. :=))

    1. Thank you, Sonjia - always pleased to help if I can. :-}

  8. What a post Richard, so much to see and I am stuck at home with my foxes. Keep the interest going I enjoy it all.

    1. I'm very pleased to hear that you've enjoyed this blog post, Mike. I do sympathise with your inability to get out and about, but am happy in the knowledge that you have your Foxes. Take good care - - - Richard

  9. Despite the weather, it was a fabulous vacation it seems, Richard. The highlight for me would have been the Spotted Crake. Rails and crakes are so hard to find, there is always a sense of excitement when one does. A full on view for even a few seconds is a great look too! I suspect you will be renting a buggy on future visits; it obviously served you very well, especially for Lindsay and Melanie for whom long walks are a bit of a challenge. Sorry to be a little late getting to this post. Sometimes life gets in the way!

    1. I totally agree with you about the Spotted Crake, David. That, and the Balearic Woodchat Shrike were the top highlights of the visit, with the Glossy Ibis and Pectoral Sandpiper not too far behind.

      It has already been agreed that we will have a buggy for the whole of our next stay, provided that the hire place is open. It does not operate out of season and our next stay is rather on the cusp.

      Please, no apologies for a late visit. Lately, I have been all too familiar with life getting in the way!

      My very best wishes to you and Miriam - - - Richard

  10. Hello Richard
    Short excursions also bring very nice pictures, the vacation spot has to be super beautiful as you rave about and describe it
    Relaxation with lovely people and still great photos .. Holidays at their best ;-))

    1. We have been very lucky in recent years, Frank, as we have found places in UK that we really love to return to. Some may say that we are stuck in a rut, but it is a good rut to be stuck in! Stay safe - - - Richard

  11. Fantastic images of the Pectoral Sandpiper, Sanderlings, Spotted Crake and Snipe. They are vivid Richard.

    1. Thank you, Bob. There were some great photo opportunities on the Scillies, and the situation seems a little flat now here at home. I'm really looking forward to us returning there next year. Stay safe - - - Richard

  12. What a marvelous final chapter to this particular Scilly Sojourn!

    I was still having visions of that fabulous shrike when out of the reeds comes skulking a Spotted Crake! For me, those two sightings would have made the trip an historic event!

    Although, I might have missed those memorable observations. Your images taken from the garden indicate I might just have lounged about there for the whole trip. All those wonderful species just hopping about in front of me - why would I want to go elsewhere?

    We shall not speak again about the unfortunate welcome awaiting your return home.

    Gini and I are planning a major road trip of our own this week. We will visit our son and his family in Texas. Hopefully, we will have a moment or two to say hello to the local birds.

    In the meantime, all our best to you both!

    1. The shrike and crake were definitely the top avian highlights for me too, Wally, although some of the other sightings were pretty exciting!

      For the first time, I did, on a couple of occasions during this visit, take a garden chair to the bottom of the garden to relax and just admire the scenery and local wildlife, and have the occasional chat with a passing birder.

      I hope that your road trip to Texas goes smoothly and that you have a great time with the family. I shall be both surprised and disappointed if you ignore the local birds while away!

      Best wishes to you, Gini, and the family - stay safe - - - Richard

  13. Hi Richard,
    I have of course looked at the 3 blogs of your trip below. I saw really beautiful pictures of birds and nature passing by. I'll just keep the comment here (I hope you don't mind).
    You really saw a lot of times during your stay on the beautiful islands. I really enjoyed your beautiful photos and your report.

    Sorry I'm so late in responding but there were circumstances (lost loved ones to corona) that I couldn't bring myself to blog or make many visits.
    I have now started a reboot to read everything first.

    Regards, Helma

    1. I'm so sorry to hear of the loss of people who were close to you, Helma. This virus is a terrible thing, and so many good people are lost because there are too many selfish people out there who just do as they want to without giving a thought to the safety of others. I hope that your 're-boot' works and that you are able to get back to happier times.

      Take great care - my very best wishes - - - Richard


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