Isles of Scilly

10 to 17 May 2003

Will Wagstaff
Phil Read


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)

Common Pipstrelle

Grey Seal

Harbour Porpoise

Brown Rat



Large White

Green veined White

Small Copper

Holly Blue

Common Blue


Red Admiral

Painted Lady

Speckled Wood


MAY 2003

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

Pittosporum crassifolium

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

Aeonium sp.

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.

Phil Read

May 2003

Feeling the force - Old Man of Gugh

Phil botanising

Pics from Will Wagstaff

© The Travelling Naturalist 2003