TRAVELLING NATURALIST TRIP REPORT
10 to 17 May 2003
PROGRAM AND WEATHER
Saturday 10 May
Fine weather enabled everyone to arrive, by various means, as arranged. As usual we attended Will's evening slide show which provided everyone with a taste of what was to come.
Sunday 11 May: Light to moderate SW'ly winds. Few showers.
Fine weather and suitable tides enabled us to start the week with a "Seabird Special" trip. We sailed around the coasts of Samson and Tresco before heading out to rougher seas, sadly too rough for an unfortunate few, around Round Island and Men-a-vaur. We enjoyed excellent views of Razorbill and Guillemot. We only managed rather fleeting views of a few Puffins but we all enjoyed fine views of Manx Shearwaters alongside the boat.
The afternoon was spent exploring some of the paths and nature trails of St Mary's. Migrants were rather thin on the ground but we were pleased to find four splendid Golden Plover on the airfield.
Monday 12 May: Moderate NW'ly wind, sunny, Max temperature PS 14 C.
We all enjoyed Tresco at its best in glorious sunshine. Again migrants were few and far between and waders harder to find than usual. The Great Pool held a few wildfowl including a Black Duck from North America and breeding Tufted Duck and Pochard.
The afternoon was spent enjoying the splendour of the famous Tresco Abbey Gardens.
Tuesday 13 May: Moderate to fresh NW'ly wind, fine, Max temperature PS 13 C.
The main part of the day was spent on St Agnes. The glorious weather enabled us to experience the panoramic views from Gugh at their best. As usual the shores of St Agnes provided us with a variety of waders including migrant Whimbrel but once again passerine migrants were noticeable by their absence.
In the evening some of us participated in an evening walk to Porthellick Pool to look for the Savi's Warbler that had been heard there. Eventually at ten past nine the bird commenced singing and sat on top of its favourite bush in full view.
Wednesday 14 May: Light mainly NE'ly wind, sunny, Max temperature PS 13 C.
We were well aware of the problems Spring tides cause in Scilly and the very shallow water between the islands but none of expected to run aground on our way to St Martin's. The glorious weather meant this was not an uncomfortable experience for the passengers although rather embarrassing for the boatman as passing boatmen offered their advice.
After ten minutes of going nowhere the tide rose and we were on the move again. The weather enabled to experience St Martin's at its best, particularly the fine panoramic views of the other islands. The low numbers of migrants continued but we enjoyed prolonged views of Turtle Dove, a bird hard to find on the mainland these days.
In the evening, after watching the Ladies' Gig Race, some of us enjoyed a dusk stroll around the Garrison. Two Harbour Porpoises were a nice find, albeit they were rather distant and the light was fading.
Thursday 15 May: Mod to fresh S'ly wind, rain, Max temperature PS 12 C.
Persistent rain failed to dampen most of the group's enthusiasm as we set off to visit the northern areas of St Mary's. However by lunchtime we were all rather wet and disillusioned and retreated to a strategically placed café for a rather enjoyable lunch before being defeated by a rather miserable day.
Friday 16 May: Light SW'ly wind, cloudy, few showers, Max temperature PS 15 C.
Another day, another island. To complete the set of the main islands we ventured to Bryher.
Again the low tides made the boat trip interesting particularly the landing which was made by way of climbing into and then out of an inflatable before wading ashore.
As usual our main aim was to indulge in the local pastime of groveling around on the ground with our bottoms in the air looking at one of the rarest plants in the country at its only British site. The Dwarf Pansy is exquisite, but as the name suggests, extremely small.
Saturday 17 May
Thankfully there were no weather problems and we were able to leave these beautiful islands as planned on our morning flight.
Black-throated Diver: One seen from the boat during the "Seabird Special" on 11th was a surprise. This is a late date for this species in the Scillies.
Great Northern Diver: One near Tresco during the "Seabird Special". Two, one in full summer plumage, the other moulting into summer plumage, from Tresco on 12th. One distantly from Innisigen, St Mary's on 15th. One seen from the boat to Bryher on 16th.
Fulmar: Recorded most days in small numbers.
Manx Shearwater: Poor weather prevented our usual evening "Shearwater Special" boat trips to watch these birds gathering offshore at dusk. However at least twenty were seen, some close to the boat, during the Seabird Special" on 11th . A few were seen offshore from St Martin's on 14th and at least thirty from Bryher on 16th.
Gannet: Seen daily in small numbers. Excellent close views of fishing birds.
Cormorant: Seen daily in small numbers.
Shag: Very common breeding bird with feeding flocks of over a hundred birds seen on a number of occasions.
Grey Heron: Single immature birds were seen at Porthellick, St Mary's on 13th, St Agnes on 13th and Tresco on 16th.
Little Egret: The only sighting was one from the boat near Samson on 11th. This species is normally absent from the islands from early May to early July.
Mute Swan: Three on Bryher on 16th were the only ones seen apart from the usual birds on Tresco.
Canada Goose: Five on Tresco on 12th.
Shelduck: Breeding birds seen around the islands in small numbers.
Gadwall: As well as the usual haunts of the Great Pool, Tresco and Porthellick Pool, St Mary's, four were on St Agnes on 13th.
Mallard: Seen daily.
Black Duck: A male of this North American species was seen on the Great Pool on 12th. Away from the Scillies and far southwest of England this is a very rare vagrant in Britain.
Pochard: A pair with four young were seen on the Great Pool on 12th . This is only the second year that this species has bred on Scilly.
Tufted Duck: A female with two young on the Great Pool. This is a scarce breeding bird on Scilly.
Kestrel: One male on St Mary's on 11th and one on St Martin's on 14th.
Peregrine: Two over High Town St Martin's on 14th. This is the one and only pair on the Scillies.
Pheasant: Common introduced bird on Tresco. Also recorded St Mary's and Bryher.
Moorhen: Seen in small numbers on Tresco and St Mary's.
Coot: Seen on St Mary's and Tresco.
Oystercatcher: Common and widespread. As well as breeding birds a number of flocks of non breeding birds was also seen.
Golden Plover: Four in splendid summer plumage were on St Mary's airfield on 11th.
Ringed Plover: Breeding birds were seen around the islands in small numbers.
Whimbrel: Steady passage all week. Highest counts were ten on Tean on 11th and seventeen on St Martin's on 14th.
Turnstone: Seen most days around the rocky shores. Some of the birds resplendent in their full summer plumage.
Sanderling: A few flocks of migrant birds seen, many in full summer plumage. Approximately fifty on Tean on 11th and 20 on St Martin's on 14th.
Herring Gull: Common and widespread breeding bird.
Lesser Black-backed Gull: Common and widespread breeding bird.
Great Black-backed Gull: Common and widespread but in lesser numbers than the previous species.
Black-headed Gull: Only sighting was four on Tresco on 12th. This species does not breed on the islands.
Kittiwake: Recorded daily around the islands in small numbers.
Common Tern: At least twenty seen during the boat trip on 11th. Seen around the islands in small numbers on most days.
Guillemot: Excellent views from the boat on 11th. Noted offshore in small numbers on most days.
Razorbill: Excellent views from the boat on 11th. Slightly more birds seen around the islands than of the previous species.
Puffin: Unfortunately due to the weather preventing our evening boat trip we only saw this species during the "Seabird Special". Two birds were seen rather briefly near Men-a-Vaur.
Stock Dove: The only sighting was two on Tresco.
Wood Pigeon: Common and widespread.
Turtle Dove: One gave prolonged views on St Martin's on 14th.
Collared Dove: Common and widespread.
Cuckoo: Heard daily and seen on a number of occasions.
Swift: Recorded most days in very small numbers.
Sand Martin: Only sightings were two on Bryher and one on St Martin's.
Swallow: Recorded daily with passage noted most days.
House Martin: Recorded daily in small numbers.
Rock Pipit: Relatively common around the rocky shores. Distinctive "parachute" display noted on several occasions.
Wren: Very widespread and vocal.
Dunnock: Very common.
Blackbird: Very common.
Song Thrush: As usual delightfully common and tame.
Robin: Common on Tresco and St Mary's, less common elsewhere.
Stonechat: Common breeding bird although apparently in less numbers than recent years.
Wheatear: Passage birds noted most days. Most birds appeared to be of the large "Greenland" form.
Sedge Warbler: Heard and seen well at Lower Moors during one of the pre-breakfast walks.
Reed Warbler: Heard and seen on St Mary's and Tresco.
Savis Warbler: One was watched singing in the open at dusk at Porthellick Pool on 13th. This is the first record for the Isles of Scilly and a British first for The Travelling Naturalist.
Willow Warbler: Heard and seen on most days but in very small numbers.
Common Chiffchaff: Heard around the islands every day.
Blackcap: Seen on most days but in very small numbers.
Goldcrest: One on Tresco on 12th.
Great Tit: Common on St Mary's and Tresco, less so on other islands.
Blue Tit: Common on St Mary's and Tresco.
Jackdaw: One, part of the very small island population, seen on Tresco and Bryher.
Carrion Crow: Common and widespread.
Hooded Crow: One, apparently pure bred bird, on Bryher on 16th.
Raven: One seen over Tean and adjacent islands during the "Seabird Special".
Starling: Common and widespread.
Chaffinch: Seen in small numbers on Tresco and St Mary's.
Greenfinch: Seen on four days in small numbers.
Goldfinch: Common and widespread.
Linnet: Very common and widespread.
House Sparrow: Very common and widespread.
Lesser White Toothed Shrew (deceased)
Green veined White
PLANT LIST SCILLY
Compiled by Will Wagstaff
Royal Fern Osmunda regalis
Bracken Pteridium aquilinum
Common Polypody Polypodium vulgare
Monterey Pine Pinus radiata
Lodge Pole Pine P. contorta
Monterey Cypress Cupressus macrocarpa
Creeping Buttercup Ranunculus repens
Bulbous Buttercup R. bulbosus
Lesser Celandine R. ficaria
Common Ramping Fumitory F. muralis
Sea Radish Raphanus maritimus
Sea Kale Crambe maritima
Shepherd's Purse capsella bursa-pastoris
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
Sea Campion Silene maritima
English Catchfly Silene gallica
Red Campion Silene dioica
Mouse-ear Chickweed Cerastium holosteoides
Sandwort Honkenya peploides
Rock Sea Spurrey Spergularia rupicola
Hottentot Fig Carpobrutus edulis
Sea Beet Beta vulgaris subsp. maritima
Tree Mallow Lavatera arborea
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
Hop Trefoil T. campestre
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
Marsh Pennywort Hydrocotyle vulgaris
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
Pelitory of the Wall Parietaria diffusa
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
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.
Field Madder Sherardia arvensis
Cleavers Galium aparine
Coprosma coprosma repens
Elder Sambucus nigra
Honeysuckle Lonicera pericylmenum
Red Valerian Centranthus ruber
Groundsel Senecio vulgaris
German Ivy S. mikanoides
Winter Heliotrope Petasites fragrans
Brachyglottis Brachyglottis repanda
Mexican Fleabane Erigeron mucronatus
Daisy Bellis perennis
Olearia Olearia traversii
Sweet Chamomile Chamaemelum nobile
Yarrow Achillea millefolium
Scentless Mayweed Tripleurospermum maritimum
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
As always I am indebted to Will for his excellent leadership and encyclopedic knowledge of the islands and their wildlife.
I thank all the group for their wonderful company, sense of humour and willingness to spend so much time on their feet. A special thank you to the record numbers that joined me on the pre breakfast walks.
Feeling the force - Old Man of Gugh
Pics from Will Wagstaff