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Monday 31 October 2022

Scilly Sojourns, Sept/Oct, 2022, Pt.3 - 30th September to 3rd October

This is the third, and final, part of my account of our stay on the wonderful Isles of Scilly.

Friday, 30th September

We woke to an exceedingly disappointing weather forecast of rain all day, 'heavy' for most of the time, and winds of between 24 and 42 mph. 

As there was only drizzle at around 09.30, and the girls declared that they didn't want the buggy, I decided to head out anyway. It seemed sensible to go to somewhere with a hide to sit in if it was going to chuck it down with rain, so Lower Moors was my destination.

I arrived to find a Common Snipe disappearing from view and just managed a shot of its departure. 
Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) - Lower Moors
A Grey Wagtail flew in, and flew out again before I could get a shot. 

It then went very quiet, and I was having a pleasant conversation with an amicable gentleman. The conversation turned to the subject of Wryneck and, as the rain was still holding off, I offered a lift to the Porth Wreck location. Sadly, someone was wandering around in the quarry looking for the Wryneck, rather than keeping outside the quarry. 

After a while of not seeing the bird, we set off again, stopping at the entrance to Higher Moors and wandering in. Distant views of both Common and Jack Snipe were had from Sussex Hide, and much closer views of a Common Snipe from Seaward Hide. 

Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) - Porth Hellick Pool
Then the rain set in, and we made haste back to the buggy, and headed back to Hugh Town for lunch.
The rest of the day was a total wash-out as far as birding and photography was concerned.

Saturday, 1st October

The forecast was for one of the better weather days of our stay, and so it turned out to be, with lots of long sunny spells, lighter winds, and higher temperatures. 

I managed to get out a little earlier than normal, and was on my way by around 09.00. 

My walk along the sea fronts of Littleporth and Porthcressa just turned up the photographic opportunity of a Herring Gull.
Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) - Porthcressa
On the path up to Buzza Tower, I stopped to photograph a Red Admiral.
Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) - Buzza Hill
Once arrived at the top of the hill, I took the road towards Old Town, taking a short diversion down the road that leads to Carn Gwaval. I once saw Spotted Flycatcher take a Red Admiral here. However, this time I found nothing more exciting than a couple of Red Admirals.

Nearly an hour spent in the ISBG hide at Lower Moors produced nothing but six Mallards, some of which looked to be of dubious pedigree, and the definite domestic escape duck that was black with a white breast. No photos were taken from the hide, but I did take some photos of common fare from the path. The Speckled Wood was rather pale for the insula sub-species, but I have little doubt that that is exactly what it was.

Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria insula) - Lower Moors
Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto) - Lower Moors
I then moved on to Rosehill, where a Pied Flycatcher had been recently reported. The bird was not seen but I did find three male Common Darter dragonflies. At first, there was just one spotted, and I tried for some flight shots for a while, and didn't do very well.

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) (male) - Rosehill
Eventually, it decided that it needed a rest, and settled!
Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) (male) - Rosehill
The other two specimens were at the second pond, having a bit of an altercation.

I suddenly noticed that my phone was about to die - I suspect that I'd not plugged the charger into it correctly the night before. As the phone was critical, to keep in contact with the girls, and to receive notice of sightings from the local bird and wildlife groups, I hot-footed it back to base to put the phone on charge and have an early lunch.

During this time, a message came through about the sighting of two Clouded Yellow butterflies near Pelistry beach. As this was one of my target species, I decided that a look in that direction was required. The girls agreed to take me out in the buggy to the road to Deep Point. However, there was a very long delay before this materialised, due to difficulties with our granddaughter, Georgie, who is autistic and has other issues too. While I waited, a Song Thrush landed on the back of a garden chair, just outside ther conservatory.

Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) - Littleporth
Eventually, Georgie decided that she was ready to move, and we were on our way. As they dropped me off at the parking area, a Clouded Yellow flew past. I spent some time trying to locate it, but failed. 

I then took the coast path to Pelistry Bay, stopping to photograph a Meadow Pipit and Stonechat en route.
Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis) - Mount Todden
Rock formation at somewhere north of Mount Todden
Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola) (female) - Gilbert Porth
As I approached Pelistry Bay, there was a Shag on a rock out in the bay, below me.
Shag (Gulosus aristotelis) - Pelistry Bay
I spent some time at the Pelistry field where the Clouded Yellows had been seen earlier, but couldn't find one.

Lindsay and Melanie had enjoyed a stop at Carn Vean cafe that morning, and as I was close by, I  dropped in just before closing time. This turned out to be a very enjoyable and entertaining experience. The 'jaffa cake' cake (a moist chocolate sponge cake with rich chocolate and sharp orange fillings) I chose to have with my Earl Grey tea was absolutely wonderful. The amusement came when a bevy of six House Sparrows decided the cake was theirs. They were so bold that they were trying to beat me to getting at the cake. I had to physically brush them away from the plate. When I had finished the cake, I let them clean the plate.
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) - Carn Vean Cafe
Feeling replete, I walked to Higher Moors and spent some time in the two hides here. From Sussex hide I saw four Common Snipe, but couldn't find the Jack Snipe that was, apparently, hiding behind a clump of grass. From Seaward hide, I  saw another Snipe.  I didn't bother with the Coots , Moorhens, or Mallards which were there.

Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) - Porth Hellick Pool - from Sussex Hide
Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) - Porth Hellick Pool - from Seaward Hide
The girls came to pick me up in the buggy just in time to get back to base before the rain started.

Although it had been another relatively unproductive day, it had been a greatly enjoyable one.

Sunday, 2nd October

The evening being mainly occupied by preparing for a homeward departure the next morning, I omitted to make notes that night on how the day had progressed, other than the fact that it became a fine sunny day, after a very wet night. I shall, therefore, be relying on my rather weak powers of memory!

Below the garden, on the beach, a small group of Turnstone were foraging at the water's edge. Unfortunately, the light was in a difficult direction. This is part of that group.

Turnstone (Arenaria interpres) - Littleporth
The girls wanted the buggy for the morning, so I got them to drop me off in Old Town. I then headed into Lower Moors where, from ISBG hide, I had a brief glimpse of what I thought was a Water Rail in some reeds. Eventually it partly showed, confirming my suspicions, and I took a few record shots. After about a quarter of an hour it seemed that it was about to head out into the open - but it changed its mind and headed out of sight in the other direction. I waited for another half an hour or so, but it didn't reappear.

Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus) - Lower Moors

Moving on to Rosehill, I was happy to spot a Common Darter again. I am relatively confident this this will have been my last odonata sighting of the year.

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) (male) - Rosehill
After my time at Rosehill, I returned through Lower Moors to Old Town and set off past the church to walk to Peninnis.

Carn Lêh is a fine landmark on this route, and I felt the need to walk round it, rather than past it.

Carn Lêh
In the past, Carn Lêh and its surrounds has been a magnet area for Stonechat, but I only saw a distant Wren on this occasion.

Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) - Carn Lêh
Ascending the east side of Peninnis there is a pleasant view back to Carn Lêh (which gives a better impression of its size) and Old Town beyond.

View from Peninnis to Carn Lêh and Old Town

Peninnis Head seemed to be relatively devoid of birds, but the Thrift was giving a colourful display.

Sea Thrift (Armeria maritima) - Peninnis Head
A rock, just off the head, had me thinking that, if there was an easy way of accessing it, I would like to spend a while sitting on it with the sea surrounding me.
Rock - off Peninnis Head
Heading back towards base on the west side of Peninnis, I was pleased to see a pair of Stonechat. In my experience, Peninnis is THE most reliable place for Stonechat, but I'd not been having any luck with sightings of them here this stay,  I did not fare well with photography, however, as they stayed distant and partially obscured for most of the time.

Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola) (male) -Peninnis
While trying to photograph the Stonechats, I had a momentary view of another bird that I thought might have been a Whinchat. However, a couple that I'd chatted with a few days previously came from the opposite direction, and told me that they'd earlier seen a Wheatear from the path ahead of me. As I'd not yet seen one this visit, and I do love a good Wheatear, I kept my eyes open and found three further on.

Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) - Peninnis
A little further on, I noticed that a seal was occasionally popping its nose out of the water. I'd had very few sightings of seals this stay, and so a photo was necessary. I believe that this was a Grey Seal, as Common Seal are extremely rare round the Isles of Scilly, and I can't see enough of the head shape and nostril configuration to make a proper ID.
Grey Seal (Halichoerus grypus) - from Peninnis
It was time to head back to base for a late lunch.

After lunch, it was decided that all four of us would visit Carn Vean Cafe, as it was thought that it might be Georgie-friendly. We took the buggey there and, after a ten minute set-back, Georgie plucked up courage enough to come and sit at a table in the garden. 

To my disappointment, the Jaffa Cake cake was not available, and so I had a sumptuous cake version of a bakewell tart. It was a very acceptable substitute for my original choice! The sparrows were out in force again and one took to sitting on my camera.

House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) - Carn Vean Cafe
We had limited time here as I had to return the buggy that we'd hired for the week. Scilly Carts' premises is on the small industrial estate just beyond the old dump site. As I left the estate, I noticed birds at the water's edge at Porth Mellon, opposite the estate. there were three Oystercatcher, and a good number (uncounted) of Turnstone.

Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) - Porth Mellon
Turnstone (Arenaria interpres) - Porth Mellon

A rather rare Red Cage Fungus had been reported as being near the Dump Clump and, although I am not particularly interested in fungi, it was unusual enough in appearance to persuade me to try and find it, so this is where I went next. I failed to find it.

I carried on along the path until I reached the road by Old Town and then headed towards Hugh Town, popping a short way down the Carn Gwaval road to see if anything was about. The most action seen was a good number of Ivy Bees on the Ivy.

Ivy Bee (Colletes hederae) - Carn Gwaval Road
Occasionally I find the desire to photograph the moon. I did so that evening.
The Moon - from Littleporth
Monday, 3rd October

We woke to a frustratingly good weather forecast for the day - unbroken sunshine, warm temperatures and virtually no wind. If only we'd had such conditions during our week there.

A farewell visit to the bottom of the garden after breakfast had me photographing a Rock Pipit on the sea wall railings.

Rock Pipit (Anthus petrosus) - Littleporth
Our flight was booked for a 10.25 departure, with check-in closing at 09.55. We got a little nervous, therefore when our transport to the airport, booked to pick us us at 09.25 had not arrived by 09.45. I phoned in and was told the driver had been delayed and was on his way. In the event, there was a hold up and queue at check-in anyway and, after a mix-up over pre-notified seating arrangements had been sorted, we were soon boarded and on our way.

The journey home was uneventful and, with pit stops en-route, we were home by around 17.50.

Thus ended a break on the Isles of Scilly which was the least productive for birds and photography of any of our stays there. The tides had been a little less than helpful with their timing too, and low tides were the lowest I can remember seeing there.  It was, nevertheless, extremely enjoyable and we are already looking forward to returning next year.

As for the birds, things started picking up there soon after our departure, with some real gems showing up, and attracting hundreds of birders from far and wide, resulting in twitches that I would not have felt comfortable being part of.

My next post will probably focus on garden observations for the month of October. In the meantime, please take good care of yourselves and Nature.

Thank you for dropping by - - - - Richard

Tuesday 25 October 2022

Scilly Sojourns, Sept/Oct, 2022, Pt.2 - 28th & 29th September

Our stay on the Isles of Scilly had got o.ff to a bit of a slow start, as reported in Pt.1 of my account of our stay I am pleased to report that things picked up a bit as time went on, as noted below.

Wednesday, 28th September

I managed a relatively early breakfast,  and set off in the buggy for Carreg Dhu Gardens in the hope of finding a Firecrest. This place is known for its attractiveness to small birds on passage, and also for the exotic plants that grow in its sheltered location. I was seeing little and, once again, found myself resorting to photographing flowers, butterflies, and common birds.

This is one of many rather large flowers on a bush that was the size of a small tree.
Princess Flower (Pleroma urvilleanum) - Carreg Dhu Gardens
Specimens of Speckled Wood butterfly are of the subspecies insula and have markings on the wing that are more orange than the pale cream  of the nominate species. They were quite numerous when the sun was out during our stay on this occasion.
Speckled Wood (Parage aegeria insula) - Carreg Dhu Gardens
Here are a few of the common birds. The Chaffinches were enjoying the seeds in the pods on a tree  that I did not recognise.
Robin (Erithacus rubecula) - Carreg Dhu Gardens
Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) (female) - Carreg Dhu Gardens
Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) - Carreg Dhu Gardens
After being here for just under an hour, and seeing very little, a message came in that a Pied Flycatcher was again showing at Newford Ponds, so I  went there. 

I was at Newford Ponds for over an hour before before the Pied Flycatcher showed, but it was constantly mobile and hidden for most of the time that it was present and no photos were obtained. I also failed to get any shots of the two Goldcrest that were zooming around from time to time. 

I had a request to return to base with the buggy, and so was back by mid-day, but immediately sent out again to buy crab for lunch.

As the girls wanted the buggy that afternoon to go to 'Treasure Beach', I  hung around until they were ready to go, so that they could drop me off somewhere on their way. I chose to use this waiting time to check out what might be around on Littleporth beach, at the bottom of the garden, so that I could get back quickly when they were ready. Again I resorted to photographing common birds. The markings on the wings of this thrush lead me to believe that it is a juvenile.

Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) (juvenile) - Littleporth
Until this year, Littleporth beach has been a quite rewarding place to watch birds, with numerous Rock Pipits, a few Pied Wagtail, frequent Stonechat, the occasional Black Redstart, and plenty of gulls and waders. However, on this visit, the beach was greatly dominated by Starlings and House Sparrows, with a few Greenfinch added in to the mix. Low tides also seemed to be lower than I'd ever witnessed here before. This did not make for easy birding or photography.
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) (female) - Littleporth
Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) - Littleporth
The Scillies is famous for its wealth of sub-tropical plants that grow there. I find this one rather attractive.
Cape Rain-daisy (Dimorphotheca pluvialis) - Littleporth
A message had come through about a Wryneck at Deep Point Quarry, and so I got the girls to drop me off near Normandy from which it was but a short walk to Deep Point.  I was not familiar with this location and spent half an hour or so wandering around the Deep Point area trying to find the quarry. In the end I resorted to putting out a question on the WhatsApp group to ask where the quarry was. I soon got a helpful reply to say that Deep Point Quarry was not at Deep Point but was at nearby Porth Wreck.

I spent around an hour and a half here, but failed to locate the Wryneck. I was entertained by the local Stonechats and what I believe to be a Meadow Pipit. However, I'm not any good at Pipit ID so please let me know if I have found something more exotic - it seemed strange that it was perched in this way.
Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola) (female) - Porth Wreck
Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis) - Porth Wreck
A message then came through about a Wryneck between Giant's Castle and the airport runway turning circle so I set off on foot. I failed here also. As I approached the runway turning circle, the sirens were going to indicate an approaching aircraft and the closure of the path. I stopped to take a photo of the incoming plane, which was G-BUBN - an 8-seater Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander, built in 1992.
Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander G-BUBN - landing at St Marys
After the plane had landed, the sirens ceased and the path was opened. I stopped to have a brief chat with someone coming in the opposite direction and was then about to continue when the sirens started again, forcing me to  stay put. This time it was G-BIHO -  a 19-seat De Havilland DHC-6 Twin Otter which entered service in 1981. I have never been nearer to a landing aircraft than I was on this occasion! 
De Havilland DHC-6 Twin Otter G-BIHO - landing at St Marys
As I approached Porth Minick, I managed a few poor shots of a Wren and a Stonechat.
Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) - near Porth Minick
Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola) (female) -near Porth Minick
My walk ended at Old Town, where the girls kindly came to pick me up and take me back to base.

It had been another relatively unproductive day, but any day on the Isles of Scilly is a bonus!

Thursday, 29th September

The day started rather cold and windy, although I didn't record the temperature or wind speed, and continued that way, with sunny spells and a couple of very light and short showers of rain.

After breakfast, I took a stroll along the sea front, stopping to photograph a few birds on Littleporth and Porthcressa beaches.
White Wagtail (Motacilla alba) - Littleporth
Rock Pipit (Anthus petrosus) - Littleporth
Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) - Porthcressa
Rock Pipit (Anthus petrosus) -Porthcressa
I then continued up the path to Buzza Tower, stopping to look at the entrance grave (an ancient burial site) near the tower. In all my visits to the Scillies, I'd never been to look at this.  It was far from spectacular, however, but the view from here was! That's the entrance grave in the foreground.

View from Buzza Hill and Entrance Grave
I then headed towards Old Town, stopping to move from the pavement what I believe to be the caterpillar of a Ruby Tiger moth. I'm not sure that it was healthy as it seemed somewhat torpid.
Ruby Tiger (Phragmatobia fuliginosa) (larva) - near Old Town
I took a diversion into Old Town churchyard to see if I could find stick insects, but failed.

Heading towards Lower Moors, I came across the IoS Wildlife Trust team at the entrance to the reserve, preparing to do some work around the two hides on the reserve. I hurried ahead of them, hoping to see some birds before the disturbance that they would create. I arrived at the ISBG hide to find a good-sized group of mini-rangers in action. This is a marvellous initiative where pre-school children (under fives) are introduced to wildlife and get involved with maintenance work. On this occasion they were tidying the hides, armed with dustpans and brushes. I thanked them, and their supervisors, enthusiastically. I only saw Mallards and a presumed domestic escape before a message to say that the Wryneck was being seen at Porth Wreck again. 

A quick call to the girls at base had them come along with the buggy and transport me to a near access point for the Wryneck location.

I arrived to find a gentleman who had seen the bird earlier, still on site. He explained where the bird had been seen, and how it had disappeared behind a large rock and he'd not seen it again. I stayed for about an hour, before deciding to move on, having not seen the bird. The visit was not totally wasted, however, as it is always a delight to watch Stonechat, and a fly-over bird had me scratching my head for a long while as I originally thought 'Kestrel' then realised that it had been flying without any tendency to hover, was rather pale and sparsely marked under the wings, and had quite a pronounced dark 'moustache'. I, eventually, came back to my original ID.

Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola) (male) - Porth Wreck

Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) - from Porth Wreck
I walked over the top to Porth Hellick, and into the Higher Moors reserve. At Seaward Hide I had great views of a Common Snipe.

Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) - Porth Hellick Pool
Various other items were also seen on the reserve.
Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) - Porth Hellick Pool
Speckled Wood (Parage aegeria insula) - Higher Moors NR
Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) - by Higher Moors NR
The girls kindly came out in the buggy to take me back to base so I  could fix myself a very late lunch while they set out to go to Treasure Beach again. However, they ended up going shopping instead and were back much sooner than expected.

As the Wryneck had been seen yet again at Porth Wreck,  I decided to give it a third try. 
A group of 16 Gannets, relatively close to the shore, caught my attention. Here are three of them.
Gannet (Morus bassanus) - from Porth Wreck
I'd been there well over an hour and just said to a couple that I'd been chatting with that I would do them the favour of departing as that, based on past experience, would guarantee the bird would appear within minutes of me being gone, when the lady said 'what's that on that rock'. It was very distant and with my poor eyesight and relatively cheap binoculars I said 'it looks like a spug' (sparrow), but I  took some shots anyway and when I zoomed in to my shot (as shown in my 2nd image, below) I saw it was our target!

Wryneck (Jynx torquilla) - Porth Wreck
My shots would just about be acceptable as record shots but we found that if we went to the gate at the entrance to the quarry we got a better, but brief, view as it ducked back in when someone moved to a couple of metres in front of me .
Wryneck (Jynx torquilla) - Porth Wreck
With mission accomplished it was time to visit Higher Moors again to try for a Jack Snipe as two had been recently reported. Both birds were soon located, with the help of a couple already in the hide. However, one was photographically too distant and only ID-able by its bobbing movement, and the near one was hunkered down behind a rise in the terrain, as shown below - it's the one on the left, with Common Snipe on the right.
Jack Snipe (Lymnocryptes minimus) + Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) - Porth Hellick Pool
While waiting for developments in the Snipe situation, I took a few shots of the group of Greenshank with a Grey Heron near the far side of the pool.
Greenshank (Tringa nebularia) + Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) - Porth Hellick Pool
After a long wait, with just two of us left in the hide, a Common Snipe sidled up alongside the Jack Snipe and set it in motion.
Jack Snipe (Lymnocryptes minimus) + Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) - Porth Hellick Pool
The Jack Snipe's progress was frustratingly slow to the extent that my companion remarked that it will be dark before it comes into full view (sunset was two hours away!). It did, thankfully, improve on that schedule, although in not the best of locations.

Jack Snipe (Lymnocryptes minimus) - Porth Hellick Pool
I am very fond of Snipe, and to get half-decent views of Jack Snipe was really quite excting for me.
It was now time to return to base, thus ending my birding day. It was, without a shadow of doubt, the best day for sightings so far in the break, and one of the better days photographically.
This brings me to the end of Pt.2 of my account of our visit to the Isles of Scilly. I intend for the third (and final) part of my account to be published in about a week's time.
In the meantime, please take good care of yourselves and Nature. Thank you for dropping by - - - Richard