Isles of Scilly

12 - 19 May 2001

Will Wagstaff
Phil Read




Saturday 12 May. Light wind, sunny.

We all arrived in good time at Penzance Heliport on a glorious day for our flight to the Scillies. Unfortunately our late afternoon flight was significantly delayed and we eventually arrived at our respective guesthouses early evening. As usual we attended Will Wagstaff's slide show in the evening, an excellent introduction to the natural history of the islands.


Sunday 13 May. Light wind, sunny.

Fine weather enabled us to enjoy our traditional 'Seabird Special' cruise. We sailed around the coasts of Samson and Tresco looking for waders and terns before venturing out into more open water and looking for seabirds around Round Island and Men-a-vaur. The afternoon was spent exploring Tresco.


Monday 14 May. Light southerly becoming northeasterly wind. Max temp: 14C.

During our pre-breakfast walk to Peninnis Head we successfully found the two and only Rooks on the islands.

The day was spent exploring the paths and nature trails of St Mary's. Although migrants were few and far between we all enjoy seeing the fine displays of flora which are a feature of Spring on the Scillies.

The evening 'Shearwater Cruise' took place on a warm, fine evening and we all enjoyed close views of the shearwaters as they waited offshore before returning to their burrows at night.


Tuesday 15 May. Light northeasterly becoming southeasterly wind. Max temp: 13C.

We returned to Tresco for a more leisurely look around. The highlight of the day was a fine Spoonbill quietly resting alongside the Great Pool. This is the first year that Pochard have bred on the Scillies and we saw 2 pairs and a female with 1 duckling. An interesting scattering of migrant waders included Little Ringed Plover, Common Sandpiper and Greenshank.

The sunshine turned to rain in the afternoon but we were still able to admire the spectacular plants in the famous Tresco Abbey Gardens.

Wednesday 16 May. Fresh southwesterly wind. Max temp PS:14C.

On arriving on St Agnes we heard the news that a Cattle Egret had arrived on the island, the first ever on Scilly. After taking a leisurely walk around the coast we eventually had distant views of this bird being mobbed by gulls. After a very picturesque lunch stop in glorious weather we headed out onto the exposed southern part of the island. Heavy showers suddenly arrived and we made good use of the mainly large granite boulders to shelter from the inclement weather.


Cattle Egret Thursday 17 May. Fresh northwesterly wind. Max temp PS 11C.

A lovely day after early showers enabled us to enjoy the spectacular views from St Martin's. We watched another Cattle Egret at close quarters as it patrolled a small field of sheep. Migrant birds on the island included Black Redstart and a nice little flock of Turtle Dove.

Friday 18 May. Light northwesterly wind. Max temp PS 14C.

The presence of a male Eider duck on the far side of St Mary's necessitated a very early morning, brisk walk to Watermill Cove for the younger, keener, members of the party.

The day was spent on Bryher where as usual one of the highlights was seeing the diminutive Dwarf Pansies in what is probably their only British sight. Studying the flowers through the telescope avoided the inevitable 'bottoms in the air' pose normally associated with looking at tiny flowers.


Saturday 19 May.

Thankfully, fine weather enabled us to leave the island on our scheduled early morning flight.





Great Northern Diver: 4 seen during the 'Shearwater Cruise', 2 of which were alongside the boat.


Fulmar: Recorded daily in small numbers.


Manx Shearwater: Close views of birds on the sea and in flight during the 'Shearwater Cruise'. 3 distantly passed Horse Point, St Agnes on 16th.


Gannet: A few, including fishing birds, seen around the islands on four days.


Cormorant: Recorded daily in small numbers.


Shag: Very common around the islands with feeding flocks of over 100 birds.


Grey Heron: Only sighting was of a single bird on Porthellick pool, St Mary's on 14th.


Cattle Egret: The surprise of the trip. 1 in full breeding plumage on St Agnes on 16th. Another, also in full breeding plumage, watched at close quarters on St Martin's on 17th. These two birds, both of which arrived on 16th, were the first and second records for the Isles of Scilly. Also a British first for the Travelling Naturalist.


Spoonbill: A fine summer plumage bird was watched resting alongside the Great Pool, Tresco on 15th.


Mute Swan: 1 on Bryher on 18th was the only sighting apart from the usual birds on the Great Pool, Tresco.


Canada Goose: 5 plus 1 gosling on Tresco.


Shelduck: Breeding birds seen around the islands in small numbers.


Gadwall: Recorded from Tresco and St Mary's in small numbers.


Mallard: Seen daily.


Pochard: Bred on Tresco for the first time ever this year. 2 males and 2 females seen on the Great Pool and a rather dark female with 1 duckling on the Abbey Pool.


Eider: A fine adult male seen near Watermill Cove, early morning on 18th.


Kestrel: Only record was 1 over Old Town during the early morning walk on 18th.


Peregrine: A pair on Round Island, seen from the boat during the 'Seabird Special' cruise. A pair, presumably the same birds, on Tresco on 15th.


Red Legged Partridge: Introduced birds recorded on Tresco, Bryher and St Martin's.


Pheasant: Common introduced bird, particularly on Tresco.


Moorhen: Recorded on Tresco, St Mary's and St Martin's.


Coot: Recorded on Tresco and St Mary's.


Oystercatcher: Widespread, and characteristically vocal, around the islands.


Golden Plover: 1 flew over calling on Bryher on 18th.


Ringed Plover: Breeding birds seen around the islands in small numbers.


Little Ringed Plover: 1 migrant bird on Tresco on 15th.


Bar-tailed Godwit: 1 seen from the boat near Green Island on 13th. 2 flew over Carn Near quay, Tresco on 15th.


Whimbrel: Migrant birds recorded each day. Largest flock was 17 on St Martin's on 17th.


Greenshank: 2 alongside Great Pool on 15th.


Common Sandpiper: 1 alongside Great Pool on 15th.


Turnstone: Recorded around the rocky shores in small numbers, a few in superb summer plumage.


Sanderling: A migrant flock of around 20 birds in a variety of plumages was at Porthloo, St Mary's early morning on 13th. Probably the same flock was seen on the shore of Tresco from the 'Seabird Special' boat later that day.


Dunlin: 6 with the above Sanderling flock. 1 on Porth Killier beach, St Agnes on 16th.


Great Black-backed Gull: Recorded daily.


Herring Gull: Common breeding bird.


Lesser Black-backed Gull: Very common breeding bird.


Kittiwake: Recorded around the islands in small numbers on most days.


Sandwich Tern: Only sighing was 1 near Tresco during the 'Seabird Special' cruise.


Common Tern: Common and widespread around the islands.


Guillemot: Only recorded in small numbers but close views were obtained from the boat during the 'Seabird Special'.


Razorbill: We enjoyed close views during the 'Seabird Special' and from the boat on the way to St Martin's.


Puffin: 6 seen during the 'Seabird Special'. 2 near Annet during the 'Shearwater Cruise'.


Stock Dove: 3 on Tresco on 13th and 2 on St Mary's on 14th were the only sightings.


Wood Pigeon: Recorded daily.


Turtle Dove: A very pleasing number of sightings of this rapidly declining species. Largest flocks were 5 on Tresco on 13th and 6 on St Martin's on 17th.


Collared Dove: Recorded daily.


Cuckoo: Heard daily and seen well on occasions.


Swift: Recorded daily but in very small numbers.


Skylark: Only record was of a migrant bird flying in off the sea at Porthloo on 14th.


Sand Martin: Highest count 10 on Tresco on 13th.


Swallow: Recorded daily with passage noted on some days.


House Martin: Recorded daily in small numbers.


Pied Wagtail: Only sighting was 1 on Tresco on 15th.


White Wagtail: 1 on Garrison early morning of 15th and 1 on Tresco on 15th were the only sightings of this summer migrant.


Meadow Pipit: Only record was 1 on St Martin's on 17th.

Rock Pipit: Relatively common breeding bird around the rocky coasts.


Wren: Abundant and very vocal.


Dunnock: Very common.


Blackbird: Very common.


Song Thrush: Delightfully common and tame.


Robin: Recorded daily.


Black Redstart: 1 on Porth Killier beach, St Agnes on 16th. Another St Martin's on 17th.


Stonechat: Common breeding bird.


Wheatear: Migrants recorded on 5 days but only in small numbers.


Sedge Warbler: Heard and seen at Porthellick and Lower Moors.


Reed Warbler: Heard on St Mary's and Tresco.


Willow Warbler: Widespread and vocal but in small numbers.


Common Chiffchaff: Heard around the islands every day.


Blackcap: Recorded on Tresco and St Mary's but in very small numbers.


Common Whitethroat: 1 heard and briefly seen in song flight on St Martins on 17th.


Goldcrest: Recorded on Tresco and St Mary's.


Spotted Flycatcher: 1 on Tresco on 13th. 2 on St Martin's on 17th.


Great Tit: Common on St Mary's and Tresco.


Blue Tit: Only seen on St Mary's and Tresco.


Magpie: 1 seen flying over Lower Moors during early morning walk on 16th. Seen by whole group on St Agnes later in the day. One of the highlights of the trip, (for Phil if nobody else!). A Scilly rarity, only the sixth record ever and the first confirmed sighting since 1970.


Jackdaw: We saw 4 on Tresco on 13th and 2 on 15th, 1 on St Agnes on 16th and 1 on Bryher on 18th. These sightings probably account for all the Jackdaws on the islands.


Rook: Continuing our success with the crow family, 2 were seen on Peninnis Head during our pre-breakfast walk on 14th. This species is an uncommon wanderer to the islands.


Carrion Crow: Common and widespread.


Raven: The 2, and only, were seen on Round Island on 13th.


Starling: Common and widespread.

Chaffinch: Only seen on Tresco and St Mary's.


Greenfinch: Seen on three days in small numbers.


Linnet: Very common and widespread.


House Sparrow: Common breeding bird.




Grey Seal





Large White

Small White

Green Veined White

Small Copper

Holly Blue

Common Blue

Red Admiral

Speckled Wood



I thank Will Wagstaff for his excellent leadership and sharing his wealth of knowledge about the islands with us.


I thank all the group for their good company and co-operation, the less younger members for their tremendous determination and fitness to spent so much time on foot, and Pam for the endless supply of sweets.



Phil Read

May 2001


The Travelling Naturalist 2001

PLANT LIST compiled by Will Wagstaff


Royal Fern Osmunda regalis

Bracken Pteridium aquilinum

Monterey Pine Pinus radiata

Lodge Pole Pine P. contorta

Monterey Cypress Cupressus macrocarpa

Creeping Buttercup Ranunculus repens

Prickly-fruited Buttercup R. muricatus

Lesser Celandine R. ficaria

Common Ramping Fumitory F. muralis

Sea Radish Raphanus maritimus

Sea Kale Crambe maritima

Common Scurvy Grass Cochlearia officinalis

Danish Scurvy Grass C. danica

Common Watercress rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum

Heath Dog Violet Viola canina

Dwarf Pansy V. kitaibeliana

Heath Milkwort Polygala serpyllifolia

Pittosporum crassifolium

Tamarisk Tamarix gallica

African Tamarisk T. africana

English Catchfly Silene gallica

Red Campion Silene dioica

Sandwort Honkenya peploides

Rock Sea Spurrey Spergularia rupicola

Hottentot Fig Carpobrutus edulis

Sea Beet Beta vulgaris subsp. maritima

Tree Mallow Lavatera arborea

Cut-leaved Cranesbill Geranium dissectum

Dove's Foot Cranesbill G molle

Common Storksbill Erodium cicutarium

Wall Oxalis Oxalis megalorrhiza

Pink Oxalis O. articulata

Bermuda Buttercup O. pers-caprae

Sycamore Acer psuedo-platanus

Euonymus Euonymus japonicus

Tree Lupin Lupinus arboreus

Common Gorse Ulex europaeus

Broom Sarothamnus scoparius

Spotted Medick Medicago arabica

Red Clover Trifolium pratense

Subterranean Clover T subterraneum

White Clover T. repens

Common Birdsfoot Trefoil Lotus corniculatus

Orange Birdsfoot O. pinnatus

Common Vetch V. sativa

Blackberry Rubrus fruticosus

Silverweed Potentilla anserina

Tormentil P. erecta

Hawthorn Crataegus monogyna

English Stonecrop Sedum anglicum

Wall Pennywort Umbellicus rupestris

Aeonium sp.

Escallonia Escallonia micrantha

Ivy Hedera helix

Sea Holly Eryngium maritimum

Alexanders Smyrnium olusatrum

Hemlock Water Dropwort Oenanthe crocata

Fennel Foeniculum vulgare

Wild Angelica Angelica sylvestris

Hogweed heracleum sphondyllium

Wild Carrot Daucus carota

Rock Samphire Crithmum maritimum

Portland Spurge Euphorbia portlandica

Sea Spurge E. paralias

Wood Spurge E. amygdaloides

Japanese Knotweed Polygonum cuspidatum

Sheep's Sorrel Rumex acetosella

Common Sorrel R. acetosa

Common Nettle Urtica dioica

Common Elm Ulmus procera

Fig Ficus carica

Oak Quercus rober

Grey Sallow Salix cinerea

Rhododendron Rhododendron ponticum

Ling Calluna vulgaris

Bell Heather Erica cinerea

Thrift Armeria maritima

Primrose Primula vulgaris

Scarlet Pimpernel Anagallis arvensis

Greater Periwinkle Vinca major

Changing Scorpion Grass Mysotis discolor

Tree Echium Echium sp.

Sea Bindweed Calystegia soldanella

Foxglove Digitalis purpurea

Germander Speedwell Veronica chamaedrys

Hedge Veronica Hebe x franciscana

Lousewort Pedicularis sylvatica

Bear's Breech Acanthus mollis

Ground Ivy Glechoma hederacea

Woodsage Teucrium scorodonia

Plantain sp. Plantago sp.

Coprosma coprosma repens

Honeysuckle Lonicera pericylmenum

Red Valerian Centranthus ruber

Groundsel Senecio vulgaris

Brachyglottis Brachyglottis repanda

Daisy Bellis perennis

Olearia Olearia traversii

Sweet Chamomile Chamaemelum nobile

Corn Marigold Chrysanthemum segetum

Common Dandelion Taraxacum officinale

New Zealand Flax Phormium tenax

Vernal Squill Scilla verna

Bluebell Endymion non-scriptus

Spanish Bluebell E. hispanicus

Babbington's Leek Allium babbingtonii

Rosy Garlic A. roseum

Three-cornered Leek A. triquetrum

Blue Lily Agapanthus praecox

Stinking Iris Iris foetidissima

Yellow Flag I. pseudacorus

Montbretia Croccosmia x crocosmiflora

Whistling Jacks Gladiolus byzantinus

Wild Arum Arum italicum

Reed Phragmites communis

Marram Ammophila arenaria

© The Travelling Naturalist 2001