TRAVELLING NATURALIST TRIP REPORT

ISLES OF SCILLY

21 - 28 SEPTEMBER 2002


Leaders:
Will Wagstaff
Phil Read

INTRODUCTION

With "wall to wall" sunshine every day of this trip we were able to experience these glorious islands in all their beauty. However, vou can't have everything, and the wonderful weather meant the birds, both rare and common migrants, were unfortunately few and far between.

PROGRAMME

Saturday 21 September

Fine weather enabled us all to arrive on time at St Mary's. The only bird of note for the day was a Short Eared Owl seen flying over Hugh Town by Jamie and Phil Parker whilst waiting to attend Will's evening talk on the natural history of the islands.

Sunday 22 September

Our pre breakfast walk around the Garrison revealed a selection of common migrants with Blackcap, Garden Warbler and Spotted Flycatcher being seen.

The day was spent on St Mary's walking around some of the island's nature trails. Common migrants were much in evidence with a noticeable movement of hirundines, particularly Swallows. Raptors were very visible as well as we saw Peregrine, and a migrant Hobby and no less than three migrant Sparrowhawks.

Monday 23 September

News, which broke the previous evening, of a Lanceolated Warbler on Annet gave us a good excuse to visit an island never previously visited on Travelling Naturalist trips. Unfortunately the warbler failed to put in an appearance but we all enjoyed exploring this uninhabited island which few people are able to visit. Some interesting birds were seen including two Short Eared Owls, Goldcrest and Sedge Warbler on an island where Tree Mallow is the tallest vegetation.

A female dragonfly we saw is still to be identified but will certainly be a first for Annet.

Tuesday 24 September

Tresco provided us with two of the best birds of the week. A Wryneck and a Pectoral Sandpiper were both seen well by all the group. Apart from the usual variety of waders and ducks on the Great Pool, birds were few and far between.

Those wishing to visit the famous Abbey Gardens were able to during the afternoon. Although obviously not at their best at this time of year the gardens are still a unique and fascinating collection of plants.

Wednesday 25 September

Another glorious day found us strolling around St Agnes, my, and many other people's, favourite Scilly island. The island looked at its best in the sunshine and despite generally very few birds being seen there were a few waders on the beaches including Curlew Sandpiper and we all enjoyed seeing Short Eared Owl again. Janet showed off her birding skills by finding a budgerigar, known to his friends a Pip, hiding in a bush.

Thursday 26 September

An early morning walk produces some interesting waders with Jack Snipe at Lower Moors and Curlew Sandpiper and Whimbrel at Old Town.

Another day spent on St Mary's. This time we explored the northern part of the island and took in a little archaeology on the way. Porth Loo provided the best birds with a variety of waders including Common Sandpiper.

Friday 27 September

An early morning walk to Peninnis Head produced the mammal highlight of the week with three Harbour Porpoises being seen close inshore.

The "Seabird Special" around the shores of Tresco and adjacent islands is always an enjoyable trip and this year was no exception as the weather remained dry and sunny. The highlight of the trip was an Arctic Skua which was lingering with the terns and put on a fine display of its renowned parasitic behaviour by chasing Sandwich Terns close to the boat.

The afternoon was spent exploring Bryher. Birds were thin on the ground but Phil Read provided the entertainment by falling head first into a bramble bush. Some kind members of the party offered assistance whilst Will took photographs.


Phil Read checking the hedge for skulking migrants on Bryher

(Photo: Will Wagstaff)

SPECIES NOTES

BIRDS

Little Grebe: One on the Great Pool, Tresco on 24th.

Gannet: Seen daily around the islands, often close inshore.

Cormorant: Seen daily in small numbers.

Shag: Very common breeding bird, often feeding in large flocks.

Grey Heron: Passage birds recorded daily, this bird does not breed on the islands. Highest count fourteen on 24th.

Little Egret: A flock of up to twenty birds was present in the channel between Tresco and Bryher all week. One on St Agnes on 25th.

Mute Swan: Breeding birds seen on the Great Pool.

Canada Goose: Five on the Abbey Pool, Tresco.

Wigeon: Twenty five were on the Great Pool on 24th. From the golf course on St Mary's we observed a flock of twenty eight flying over Tresco on 26th.

Gadwall: Only seen on the Great Pool.

Teal: Common on the Great pool. One on St Agnes on 25th.

Mallard: Common on the Great Pool. A few seen elsewhere.

Shoveler: Two on the Great pool.

Pochard: One female on the Great Pool on 24th.

Sparrowhawk: Three together, two males and a female, over St Mary's on 22nd.

Kestrel: Migrant birds recorded daily around the islands including at least three in the Samson/Bryher area and one on St Agnes.

Hobby: One immature bird on St Mary's on 22nd.

Peregrine: One immature bird was seen around St Mary's on most days. An adult female on Men-a-vaur and an immature male on Bryher on 27th.

Red Legged Partridge: Introduced birds seen on Tresco.

Pheasant: Introduced birds seen on Tresco, St Mary's and Bryher.

Water Rail: Prolonged views were obtained on the Great Pool and at Lower Moors, St Mary's.

Moorhen: Recorded in small numbers on Tresco, St Mary's and St Agnes.

Coot: Common on the Great Pool. One on the pool on St Agnes on 25th.

Oystercatcher: Common breeding bird. Recorded daily.

Lapwing: One on Tresco on 27th was unexpected.

Golden Plover: One on Wingletang, St Agnes on 25th.

Grey Plover: One on Annet on 23rd. Three on St Agnes on 25th.

Ringed Plover: Common breeding bird.

Black Tailed Godwit: One on the Great Pool on 24th.

Bar Tailed Godwit: One flew over Peninnis Head on 27th. Around twenty seen during the "Seabird Special" boat trip on 27th.

Whimbrel: One at Old Town, St Mary's on 22nd and 26th.

Curlew: Seen daily around the island in small numbers. During the "Seabird Special" around fifty were seen around the shores of Tresco and adjacent islands.

Redshank: Around twenty on Tresco on 24th. Also seen on St Agnes on 25th.

Greenshank; Two on Porthellick, St Mary's on 22nd . Around twenty on the Great Pool on 24th.

Common Sandpiper: One on Porth Loo, St Mary's on 26th.

Turnstone: Seen daily around the rocky shores.

Common Snipe: Up to three together on St Mary's. One on Annet on 23rd.

Jack Snipe: We all enjoyed excellent views of one bird, sadly with an injured leg , on St Mary's on 22 and 26th.

Sanderling: The largest count of this migrant wader was sixty three on the rocks at Porth Loo on 24th.

Little Stint: One juvenile on Tresco on 26th.

Pectoral Sandpiper: A very smart juvenile gave excellent views on the Abbey Pool.

Dunlin: Two Porth Loo on 22nd. Around fifteen on St Agnes on 25th. Seven on Bryher on 27th.

Curlew Sandpiper: One on St Agnes on 25th. One Old Town Bay on the morning walk on 26th.

Arctic Skua: Chris saw a dark phase bird off Porth Loo on 24th. Presumably the same bird gave us all excellent views, including chasing terns around the boat, during the " Seabird Special" on 27th.

Herring Gull: Very common breeding bird.

Lesser Black Backed Gull: Seen most days around the islands.

Great Black Backed Gull: Common and widespread.

Mediterranean Gull: A "first winter" bird gave brief views to Will and Chris from the boat on the way to Tresco.

Black Headed Gull: Recorded daily in small numbers.

Kittiwake: A flock of around a dozen birds were present all week between the islands.

Sandwich Tern: Twenty to thirty were present all week, mainly between St Mary's and Tresco.

Common Tern: Three seen from the boat during the "Seabird Special".

Stock Dove: Twenty seven on St Mary's on 26th.

Wood Pigeon: Very common and widespread.

Turtle Dove: One gave excellent views on St Mary's on 26th.

Collared Dove: Recorded daily.

Short Eared Owl: One flew over Hugh Town on the evening of 21st. Two were seen well on Annet on 23rd. One on St Agnes on 25th.

Kingfisher: Difficult to estimate how many migrant birds were around the islands. Two were seen at Porth Hellick and at least one in the Porth Loo/Hugh Town area.

Wryneck: This superbly marked bird showed well on the tennis court on Tresco.

Sand Martin: Around twenty on St Mary's on 22nd. Very few seen during the rest of the week.

Swallow: An estimated four hundred birds were seen on St Mary's on 22nd. Noticeably fewer birds were seen during the rest of the week.

House Martin: Around thirty seen on 22nd. As with the last two species markedly fewer were seen later in the week.

Yellow Wagtail: A few migrants were recorded on three days. Two "Blue Headed " Wagtails were seen on St Mary's on 26th.

White Wagtail: Migrant birds recorded daily in small numbers.

Grey Wagtail: Four sightings of migrant birds.

Tree Pipit: Two seen flying over calling on the early morning walk on 22nd.

Meadow Pipit: Noticeable passage in small numbers on most days.

Rock Pipit: Common resident around the rocky shores.

Wren: Abundant resident.

Dunnock: Very common resident.

Blackbird: Very common resident.

Song Thrush: As always delightfully common and tame.

Robin: Recorded daily.

Common Redstart: A female seen on the Garrison during the pre breakfast walk on 25th.

Whinchat: This migrant was recorded daily in relatively good numbers.

Stonechat: Common breeding bird.

Northern Wheatear: Migrants recorded daily. Highest count was twenty five on 27th including fifteen on Peninnis Head.

Sedge Warbler: One Porthhellick on 22nd. One Annet on 23rd. One Lower Moors on 26th.

Reed Warbler: Two on St Agnes on 25th.

Willow Warbler: Recorded daily in small numbers.

Common Chiffchaff: Recorded most days in small numbers.

Blackcap: Recorded daily in small numbers.

Garden Warbler: Three on St Mary's on 22nd was the only sighting.

Whitethroat: One on Peninnis on 24th was the only sighting.

Goldcrest: Widespread in small numbers.

Spotted Flycatcher: Five on St Mary's on 22nd. Very few seen other days.

Pied Flycatcher: One seen by Chris on Bryher on 27th.

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

Blue Tit: Common on St Mary's and Tresco. A migrant bird was seen on Bryher on 27th.

Jackdaw: Two, (of the only three), were seen on Bryher on 27th.

Carrion Crow: Common around the islands.

Raven: Two flew past Porth Loo on 22nd.

Starling: Recorded daily.

Reed Bunting: One on the Garrison on 22nd.

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

Green finch: Common and widespread.

Goldfinch: Common and widespread.

Linnet: Common and widespread.

MAMMALS

Grey Seal

Harbour Porpoise

Brown Rat

Rabbit

Lesser White Toothed Shrew (only seen by Jamie)

BUTTERFLIES

Large White

Small White

Clouded Yellow

Small Copper

Peacock

Red Admiral

Painted Lady

Small Tortoiseshell

Speckled Wood

MOTHS, DRAGONFLIES ETC

Red Underwing

Silver Y

Hummingbird Hawk

Gold Tailed Moth

Great Green Bush Cricket

House Cricket

Common Darter

Migrant Hawker

Unidentified dragonfly on Annet

My thanks as always to Will for his expert leadership and sharing his wealth of knowledge with us.

My thanks to the group for their co-operation and company and I have they enjoyed these wonderful islands, even if the rare birds that one hopes for at this time of year were lacking.

Phil Read

October 2002


© The Travelling Naturalist 2002


ëSkywatchingí on Agnes

(Photo: Will Wagstaff)