The morning broke and looking out of the window at 5.30am (a little fuzzy-eyed) the fog had closed in again..... This didn't bode well for Phil and Mark who were getting the plane across to the Scillies, but hopefully it would burn off in the early part of the morning and not affect them too much. I got my kit together and made a start down Nanquidno Valley to have a quick hour or twos birding before I had to get to Penzance quay to catch the Scillonian III. Unfortunately there was still a stiff breeze and it was pretty cool so there wasn't much movement in the bushes..... a couple of Blackcaps and a few Willow Warblers and Chiffchaff being the best I could pick out
Soon enough it was time to head down to catch my boat and arriving on deck I bumped into Kev Rylands and his wife Debs who I'd seen at Pendeen the other day, so we had a quick catch up about what they'd seen around and what they were hoping to see on the Scillies..... everyone on the boat had a plan..... most were going straight for the Northern Waterthrush, others the Black-and-White Warbler..... I decided that it was going to be the Black-and-White first then see how things transpired after that.
The journey across was pretty quiet, a few European Storm Petrel and Manx Shearwater passing by every once in a while.... but we did manage to get a pretty good view of a Leach's Storm Petrel which was a new one for the year.
|Leach's Storm Petrel (Oceanodroma leucorhoa)|
The weather still wasn't great half way through the crossing so I thought I'd text the lads to see how they were getting on..... unfortunately the flights were grounded until further notice..... they weren't sure if they'd start running at all so they were sat a little glum in the waiting room. Another hour into the journey and the Scillies were in sight.... the latest news from there was that the Black-and-White Warbler was showing at Lower Moors but elusive.... so was a Red-eyed Vireo up on the Garrison and the juvenile Blue-winged Teal at Newford Duck Pond. The Solitary Sandpiper and Northern Waterthrush however were nowhere to be seen at that point in time, but that was no surprise for the thrush...... their habits are to skulk around in thick undergrowth, usually boggy areas and will often go missing for hours at a time only to be seen for a matter of seconds as they flick through the dense cover.
As we were docking a plane went overhead...... the sun was out over the islands (as it has been every single time I've visited them!), so evidently the weather had cleared enough on the mainland for the flights to have started up again.... Phil and Mark would be on the island in a matter of moments..... it was looking good.
After disembarking it was a quick-paced walk down to Lower Moors to find the Black-and-White Warbler..... after a quick walk up the track there were no birders in sight...... until coming the other way a guy was sprinting towards me..... as he passed he shouted that the Waterthrush had been seen a matter of minutes ago off the track near the Black-and-White.... so it was about face and a sprint. After 200 yards the guy jumped off the track down a small trail that we had missed which led into the sallows..... when we got round the corner the waterthrush had vanished again, but the Black-and-White had been located no more than 30 yards further in, so I went over and tried to get on the bird. This was no easy task as it was dark under the canopy, thick vegetation everywhere.... rounding the corner two intense looking faces appeared before me, Mark and Phil..... they couldn't find it and they'd been there for 10 minutes.... so we all continued to scan through the trees. Over to the left a small group of birdwatchers started getting a bit excited about something so we went over.... they had it, but right at the back through the thick branches..... unfortunately the guys who watching it tended not to realise that "it's there......" and pointing somewhere in the trees isn't exactly the best way of getting people to find the bird..... but then finally in the bins..... there it was! It's black and white humbug stripes aiding it's camouflage as it nipped in and out of the shade, running up and down, round and round branches, hardly ever coming out into full view. I tried getting a few shots, but it was so hard picking it out until it came closer and right above us..... it showed very briefly completely out on a bare branch and I managed to get something, but due to the dark I had to use a really high ISO which has left the image pretty grainy. What a brilliant little bird though.... stunning.
|Black-and-White Warbler (Mniotilta varia) typically showing through branches.|
|Black-and-White Warbler (Mniotilta varia)|
After watching the warbler for a little while we went back to where the Waterthrush had last been seen.... a crowd of people were gathered by the side of the small pool. I hung around for an hour, but with no sign and time getting short I decided that it wasn't going to show, and even if it did it would only be a brief glimpse which would probably infuriate me more..... so I packed my stuff and went off towards Newford Duck Pond with Mark and Phil to see if we could get on the Blue-winged Teal and the Solitary Sandpiper, maybe even the Bee-eater again on the way. As we neared the pond, Phil (again with the most incredible hearing), picked out the sound of the Bee-eater... alas we couldn't find it, and rounding the corner we met Andy Vincent who'd been watching it for a few moment as it had passed by.... it had gone over behind us..... typical..... so after a brief chat we went round to the pond.
The Solitary Sandpiper wasn't there, which left Phil especially a little exasperated as that was the main reason he'd come over.... thankfully I'd had one last year at Black Hole Marsh in Seaton, South Devon.... so the pressure was off for me.... it would be nice to see it though as it was an incredibly showy bird (it seems like most of the yankie birds are this year!). We did however pick up the Blue-winged Teal.... not that it was very hard to find it.... it was feeding within 4 foot from us.... obviously very tired from its transatlantic flight as it had its bill in the water feeding constantly (I saw it take it out once during the quarter of an hour we watched it)..... and only just managing to keep it's eyes open. A good bird all the same, one I'd never seen before, so very pleasing to get a cracking view.
|Blue-winged Teal (Anas discors)|
After rattling off a few shots we saw Martin Goodey on his trike talking on his phone.... from what we could hear was that the Solitary Sandpiper had been located.... but there was a problem with access to the area it was in..... after he'd put the phone down we had a chat with him and found out that it was on a pool behind the dump clump. There was a hide there, but it was John Higginsons.... we didn't have his number, so we thought we'd try calling a taxi and getting down there in case John was around. Five minutes later the cab pulled up so we got in and set off..... incredibly.... no more than 600m round the corner, there was John clipping the hedges.... we got the taxi to pull up next to him and as he turned around he smiled and said.... "I suppose you'll be looking for permission to use my hide then eh?!"..... Not wrong!!! He gave us the directions and 10 minutes later we were sat watching the bird feeding about 3 metres away. Superb.
|Solitary Sandpiper (Tringa solitaria)|
We spent a good half an hour in the small makeshift hide (made out of spare bits from the tip and piles of mud!) until others started to arrive as word had got out. Phil and Mark had big smiles on their faces and I wasn't feeling too bad myself, but we decided to part ways there.... I wanted to go and have a look for the Red-eyed Vireo on the Garrison, the others thought they'd give the Waterthrush another go and watch the Black-and-White Warbler for a second time too.
On my way up to the Garrison I bumped into Ivan, who also wanted to go for the Vireo, so we set off together. A bit further down the road, Kris Webb (known as Spyder), pulled up..... I'd first met him back home in Shropshire when he was a birder around there and I was about 12, but he moved in the 90's onto Scillies.... I can't say I blame him! He told us to jump in and he gave us a lift up to the Garrison. After a little bit of searching in the elms at Lower Broome platform from the both of us and a few others, the Vireo was found slowly moving in the canopy. We watched it for over half an hour feeding away, preening in the open..... getting fantastic views..... definitely bird of the day for me!
|Red-eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceus)|
|Red-eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceus)|
|Red-eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceus)|
Again this bird kept in the shadows for most of the time, so my ISO was pretty high.... thus the grainy images, but I'm pretty pleased with the results.
Unfortunately, my time was up on Scillies, the boat beckoned so it was down to the quayside, thoroughly chuffed with what had been a cracking day.... Again the boat home was pretty uneventful, but nearing Penzance we did run into a pod of 15+ Common Dolphin which delighted passengers with their show-boating!
|Common Dolphin (Delphinus delphis)|
The next day I had to travel back home to Somerset for Vicki's birthday so I decided to pop up to Davidstow airfield to try to see a White-rumped Sandpiper that was meant to be present.... there had also been a report of Temminck's Stint which in Cornwall is a massively rare bird... that wasn't the issue.... it was more that Temminck's usually turn up with easterlies..... we'd been having westerlies.... and Least Sandpiper looked more plausible.... so I wanted to check that out too. Arriving there.... it was raining.... not just raining, but tipping it down.... it didn't look good..... Ivan was there and he'd said he'd had it first thing in the morning but it had been flushed and there had been no sign since then. He'd not found the stint either, but there was a Buff-breasted Sandpiper there. I went and had a look at the Buff-breast, which showed much better than the ones at Hayle and Polgigga. After having a look around for the others and having no luck, I left the airfield and headed to Somerset. It made me feel two things.... a sense of excitement about going back home.... and also a sense of foreboding.... the last time I went home I missed a mega.... I just had to hope it didn't happen again!
|Buff-breasted Sandpiper (Tryngites subruficollis)|