Thursday, 8 November 2012

Big Scilly Adventure Part 3

Tuesday 16th October 

During the morning a juvenile Red-breasted Flycatcher showed well in Old Town Church Yard. 

RB Fly - image courtesy Richard Powell

I didn't stray too far from the dump clump due to the previous day's report of the Hume's YB Warbler. I managed to catch up twice with this intriguing bird; both this morning and also on the 17th.

There was confusion around this bird's identify. Having been initially picked up on call, concerns were raised about the bird's appearance, which was certainly more akin to YBW. However it called like a Hume's; I believe that the bird also gave some mixed calls too, but responded to a recording of Hume's.

My observations of the bird (for what they're worth) were that it looked very bright in the field and there was very little to separate it from YBW plumage-wise apart from slightly duller underparts. The bird had two obvious wing-bars and was just as bright as YBW. We were not looking at a Classic Hume's here. There were also up to two regular YBWs at this site.

One theory put forward to explain the appearance of the bird, was that it might possibly be Hume's of the Asian subspecies mandelli. RBA have posted an interestingarticle about the bird here including sound recordings of the bird that were taken by Sound Approach.

At the dump clump there were also 2 YBW, 2 Chiffchaff, 1 Spotted Flycatcher and many Goldcrest.

Other birds noted during the day included the Solitary Sandpiper which had now relocated to a field off Old Town Lane.

Wednesday 17th October

As already mentioned, the day included a further visit to the dump clump, in an attempt to get some better views of the mysterious putative Hume's. At least one YBW was also present and 2 Chiffy.

The 3 Ring-necked Ducks (2 ducks and a drake) that had flown in yesterday evening were now quite settled at the pool at Porth Hellick, so settled in fact that they were asleep.

Ring-necked Ducks - image courtesy Mark Rayment

A Snipe also here too and 23 Ringed Plover in the bay. 2 Ravens over Holy Vale were new for my Scilly list (oh god, did I just say Scilly list?). The famous female Great Spotted Woodpecker was also still present.

It was a hard work day really due to the wind, but you have to keep at it. The 2nd-winter Med Gull flew through Porthloo bay; apparently continuing around the coast until it settled at Porthgwarra. No need to chase such birds for one's Scilly list though, just wait for them to come to you. I can't really see the point of folk following the radio and dashing round for stuff you will connect with sooner or later.

Thursday 18th October

It pains me to say it; my last full day on Scilly; it had gone by so quickly. It was a day spent on Brrrrr (Bryher); a last attempt at the Blackpoll.

This bird had been covering a large circuit and often went missing for long periods of time. Today though the Birding God smiled on all present and the Blackpoll was picked up not far from Veronica Farm. The bird kept moving but showed incredibly well as it fed in pittosporum and then (gasp) it was on the beach, feeding at the base of the shrubs and even on the deck!!

Cracking it was too, a particularly bright juv, with a bright yellow face and breast, slightly tinged with lime green. Two prominent white wing bars on dark wings and also bright orange legs. It had a curious feeding motion too. Bird of the holiday for me, without the slightest shadow of a doubt!

Blackpoll Warbler - image courtesy Mark Rayment

Other birds on Bryher that day; 2 Yellow-browed Warblers, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, the long-staying Hooded Crow and 2 Coal Tits. Waders on the beach included Knot, 2 Bar-tailed Godwits, Redshank and Greenshank.

Friday 19th October

Before the return ferry it was possible to spend some time on the island of St Agnes.

Much better views of Richard's Pipit today, stomping around and dwarfing Meadow Pipits. Also a very distinctive flight call; that's one I won't forget.

In the parsonage there was one each of Spotted Flycatcher, Pied Flycatcher, Yellow-browed Warbler and a Firecrest. Very nice. Another Coal Tit also on Aggie.

Pied Fly

Pied Fly

Spot Fly

All that remained was to get the inter-island boat back to St Mary's and board Scillionian III.

I can't really describe the feeling of sailing back across towards Penzance watching the sun gradually fade from aboard the vessel. The satisfaction of having gotten out there and done it at last, tinge of sadness that it was all over, falling in love with the place and knowing I will be back again next year....good times, some awesome birds and good peeps. All this, even though this wouldn't really be classified as a 'classic' Scilly autumn for many. The best is still yet to come....

Goodbye Mary's!

And still it wasn't over yet. 3 Balearic Shearwaters flew across the front of the ship as we approached Cornish Waters, squeezing a final tick out of the trip. Just superb.

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