TRAVELLING NATURALIST TRIP REPORT
12 - 19 May 2001
PROGRAM AND WEATHER
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.
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.
Green Veined White
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.
© 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
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
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