Cliff Swallow, Porth Hellick


The airstrip at Newquay in Cornwall is a strange place, but then most places are at 5am, especially after Neill has whizzed you down the tarmac from home overnight, and the cockerels on the next door farm are only just warming up their cockadoodledoo-ing.
No time for dawn farmyard fun yesterday though as we stuffed our tripods and ‘scopes down our trouser legs and waddled up to check-in with Jason Stannage and Alan Wright.
The day return Skybus flight to Scilly doesn’t allow any hand luggage you see, but needs must when a Cliff Swallow drives.
Once the lovely folk had squeezed us all into the Twin Otter we took off – Jason is apparently not very keen on flying, but he did seem extremely interested when the rocks below the airfield on St Mary’s sheared into view 20 minutes later.
Surprising what you learn about your friends on a twitch – I never knew Jase was a praying man…




We landed on St Mary’s at 0830 and were bussed down to Porth Hellick and birding ten minutes later – the Lesser Yellowlegs was on the pool with Dunlins and Green Sands, a Peregrine powered through and Spotted Flycatchers, Willow Warblers and Whinchats were in the bushes – but the Cliff Swallow that has been zooming about here on and off since the beginning of the week was conspicuous by its absence.



It was all a bit tense for awhile as we continued to sweep the skies with Paul Hackett (great to see you again buddy), Peter Moore and son and a small band of birders on the edge of a nervous breakdown.
At least the cloud was low and there were plenty of hirundines about, but it was a relief when I heard a roar from the beach at about 1045 and legged it round with Jase down the boardwalk to find about 15 people watching the Cliff Swallow hawking over the fields at the south west corner of the bay.
Bliss as it razzed over our heads for an hour or so – a real star.
I even managed some blurry dodgy pics of it through the P900 as it zoomed around on rounded wings and tail – a sexy blimp compared to the skinnier Swallows and House Martins.
Against a background it looked surprisingly brown, but was still very distinctive.
Up against the sky it was just a beast.
Gorgeous thing.




Mr Hackett patiently tried to explain to me how to use my camera properly as the Yankee powered about over our heads, but I was too excited to listen closely (“Ooo here it comes again!!!!”).
Luckily he let me digi-poach this “bum and collar” image from the back of his camera, so ta for that Paul.


As midday approached the skies began to clear and the hirundines started to drift higher and higher, and we soon lost track of the mega, but it didn’t matter. Job done.
We wandered back round the cliffs towards Old Town past Wheatears and Stonechats, bouncing over the broccoli head landscape of maritime heath in hot sun – ahh, Isles of Scilly magic.
A de rigueur stop off at the Old Town Inn for a few pints of Guinness before the flight back was as part of the schedule as Hummingbird Hawkmoths in a Scilly flower border…


All we had to do then was lie to Jase about how serene the flight would be and stroll down the lane to check in and leave the Fortunate Islands.
Always hard to go.



Back on terra firme early at 1515 and off we went on up the road.
Taking a well-earned break from driving, Neill very kindly offered to share his passion for iffy prog rockers Marillion, at Volume 100, accompanied by storm force karaoke as I steered north.
It was certainly a unique experience – thanks Neill, it definitely kept me awake in a “startled rabbit in the headlights” kind of way.
I can safely say it’s the first time I have ever seriously contemplated leaping from a moving vehicle I was driving at 80mph.
Roundabouts? Magpies? Jesters????
Whatever happened to ’77 baby?
Nerves in tatters we pulled over at Upton Warren on the edge of the southern Yam Yam territories for a quick look at the beautiful little Baird’s Sandpiper there in the last dying rays of the evening sun.



At least I could use fading light and “prog rock poisoning” as an excuse for the crap pictures – but just look at the projection on the wee gem…wonderful to watch one again as yelping Green Sands and Curlews dropped into roost.
Another truly splendiferous day fellas – thanks Neill, Jase and Alan….


3 thoughts on “Cliff Swallow, Porth Hellick

  1. At Stathy Point, Caithness, should be seawatching but drizzle and no wind, so no distant milling today. Well done with Cliff Swallow. My best so far 3 Slav Grebes and Crested Tit. Cross to Orkney this pm.


  2. It’s not too late to save UK nature but we must act now – that is the conclusion from a coalition of more than 50 leading wildlife and research organisations behind the State of Nature 2016 report.
    Following on from the groundbreaking State of Nature report in 2013, leading professionals from 53 wildlife organisations have pooled expertise and knowledge to present the clearest picture to date of the status of our native species across land and sea. The report reveals that over half (56%) of UK species studied have declined since 1970, while more than one in ten (1,199 species) of the nearly 8000 species assessed in the UK are under threat of disappearing from our shores altogether.
    There are many inspiring examples of conservation action that is helping to turn the tide. From pioneering science that has revealed for the first time the reasons why nature is changing in the UK, to conservation work – such as the reintroductions of the pine marten and large blue butterfly and the restoration of areas of our uplands, meadows and coastal habitats. But more is needed to put nature back where it belongs.
    As the UK Government and devolved administrations move forward in the light of the EU Referendum result, there is an opportunity to secure world leading protection for our species and restoration of our nature. Now is the time to make ambitious decisions and significant investment in nature to ensure year-on-year improvement to the health and protection of the UK’s nature and environment for future generations.
    Graham Jones, RSPB Conservation Manager for North West England, said: “This report shows that while there have been some wonderful conservation successes in recent years, there is still a huge job to do if we want to save nature in the UK. “In Merseyside, we are particularly concerned about our much of our farmland and urban wildlife.
    “Farmland birds such as skylarks, grey partridges and cuckoos used to breed in abundance in the county and across the wider UK but they have suffered huge declines in the past few decades. Wildlife in urban areas such as Liverpool is under threat with hedgehogs and swifts in serious trouble. We are also worried about natterjack toads, which are really struggling on the North West coast.
    “The RSPB and other nature conservation organisations are working hard to halt the declines of these species but we can’t do it alone and need the Government to take urgent and decisive action to protect our precious wildlife.”
    Anne Selby, Chief Executive Officer of the The Wildlife Trust of Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside: “The State of Nature report defines the challenge we face if we are to turn around the serious losses we face in the natural world. It’s a call to arms to our members and local communities to make a difference.”
    The State of Nature 2016 UK report will be launched by Sir David Attenborough and UK conservation and research organisations at the Royal Society in London this morning [Wednesday, September 14], while separate events will be held in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast over the next week.
    Sir David Attenborough said: “The natural world is in serious trouble and it needs our help as never before.
    “The rallying call issued after the State of Nature report in 2013 has promoted exciting and innovative conservation projects. Landscapes are being restored, special places defended, struggling species being saved and brought back. But we need to build significantly on this progress if we are to provide a bright future for nature and for people.
    “The future of nature is under threat and we must work together; Governments, conservationists, businesses and individuals, to help it. Millions of people in the UK care very passionately about nature and the environment and I believe that we can work together to turn around the fortunes of wildlife.”
    In order to reduce the impact we are having on our wildlife, and to help struggling species, we needed to understand what’s causing these declines. Using evidence from the last 50 years, experts have identified that significant and ongoing changes in agricultural practices are having the single biggest impact on nature.
    The widespread decline of nature in the UK remains a serious problem to this day. For the first time scientists have uncovered how wildlife has fared in recent years. The report reveals that since 2002 more than half (53%) of UK species studied have declined and there is little evidence to suggest that the rate of loss is slowing down.
    Mark Eaton, lead author on the report, said: “Never before have we known this much about the state of UK nature and the threats it is facing. Since the 2013, the partnership and many landowners have used this knowledge to underpin some amazing scientific and conservation work. But more is needed to put nature back where it belongs – we must continue to work to help restore our land and sea for wildlife.
    “There is a real opportunity for the UK Government and devolved administrations to build on these efforts and deliver the significant investment and ambitious action needed to bring nature back from the brink.
    “Of course, this report wouldn’t have been possible without the army of dedicated volunteers who brave all conditions to survey the UK’s wildlife. Knowledge is the most essential tool that a conservationist can have, and without their efforts, our knowledge would be significantly poorer.”
    For a full copy of the State of Nature 2016 report –


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