It was hot enough to keep Southern Hawkers and Common Darters on the wing while the sun was shining this afternoon, so I popped down to Marshside to take in this autumn’s harrier show.
3-4 young Marsh Harriers were patrolling and flushing everything from Pinkies to Greenshank on the outer marsh, while the superfine male Hen Harrier and a Merlin took care of keeping Skylark stress levels nice and high as they hunted north of the Sandplant from 1-2pm, before moving off south.
Wonderful to watch ’em through the ‘scope, but way too much of a wibbly wobbly jelly heat haze (at the business end of October no less!) to take anything other than wibbly wobbly blurry photographs.
Peregrine out on the sands of the estuary too.
Wimped out like a Wet Nelly yesterday as Storm Callum continued to mess me about, and batter and drench everywhere it could, but with conditions so much more calmer today, it was time to visit the Bearded Tits/Reedlings/Parrotbills at Marshside.
The two Beardies are hanging around in the reedbed out past the old Sandplant, and commute into sedges nearer the road to feed invisible.
The female started calling in the reeds shortly after I arrived at 1pm-ish, and edged out into the open before whirring off into the sedges.
I had to wait longer for the striking male to fly in though, but he did, before putting on a show for the crowd…
Ping ping ping.
The only previous record of ’em at Marshside is a single bird way back on December 18th, 1977.
Marsh Harriers and Raven about too, plus plenty of Skylarks and Mipits on the move once the sun pushed through too.
It was all going so well – bright sunny mornings and south easterlies, with Black Redstarts, Yellow Browed Warblers etc popping up here and there and the feeling that any minute a biggy was going to materialise out of the next Pittosporum.
A daily “Good Morning” to the long staying and ridiculously tame Bar Tailed Godwit on Porthcressa beach, before walking up onto Peninnis Head, where Skylarks, titmice and pipits teased.
Blackcaps and Chiffies called from the bramble-coated drystone landscape and Wheatears and Stonechats perched up in the rocks.
All very Scilly.
Then the radios started crackling on Wednesday morning warning of boat cancellations and imminent Callum-related chaos.
This was frustrating especially as the place was looking so fine…
But when Cap’n Birdseye says the boat won’t sail on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and possibly Monday, because it may get a tad windy-pops, it was time to alter plans.
So like some pasty fuelled re-enactment of the Fall of Saigon, those of us that have to be in work again next week rushed to book seats on the Scillonian III for a hastily scheduled “get outta Dodge” boat on Thursday afternoon.
With the Scilly trip curtailed by three days (and the lost day on Saturday last week – this never used to happen in the old days did it?) it was hard to keep motivated – especially as the very storm that was turfing us off the islands early was more than likely to dump a whole ‘scopeful of rarities on the fortunate isles once the wind subsides.
Greenshanks, Yellow and Grey Wags were dropping in as we all kept walking and checking, with Richard’s Pipit up on the headland and a Bluethroat bouncing about St Agnes yesterday morning, but before you could say “all hands to the Kavorna Cafe” it was time to say our goodbyes and take the melancholic walk down to the harbour.
Can’t win ’em all…
Visits to St Agnes are always a privilege – the place is usually drenched in sun, and this most “Fraggle Rock” of all the Isles of Scilly seems to be most people’s favourite.
It always has birds too, and after a fun early a.m. boat ride through a crisp swell, we were watching a hyperactive Greenish Warbler quicker than you could say “Troytown Farm ice creams all round”.
The thing rarely sat still, especially when it started getting ChiffChaff hassle.
Redstarts in pittosporum cloaked bulb fields that for some reason always remind me of empty churches, ‘crests calling from the cover, and small groups of pipits going through.
A young Red Backed Shrike was almost as approachable as the warbler and I got great views of the endemic Scilly form of Specked Wood butterfly, which is a bit darker than the bugs back home apparently.
From there we hot-footed it round to the Parsonage, where a superb Convolvulus Hawkmoth was dozing…. look at the size of that moth missus!!!!!
After that we spent a sun-drenched afternoon commuting between the Turk’s Head pub, where we enjoyed one of the best beer garden views on the planet while we waved goodbye to boats ploughing back to St Mary’s, and the odd bit of birding…
Black Redstart following birders down off Wingletang was distant, before we crash landed back on St Mary’s and fell into the Mermaid.
Just another golden day on the fortunate isles……
So far so good back on Scilly – plenty of birds about, but the long hikes seem to be getting harder.
Yesterday we were saying howdy to a Tawny Pipit that stuck out like a sore thumb on Bryher, stark and pale against the slopes of maritime heath on Shipman’s Head Down, via Clouded Yellows, Spoonbill and very splendid G&Ts.
Out early this morning, we walked forever on St Mary’s, which let’s face it is always a pleasure, even if the birds were hard to come by, before some serious medication in the Scillonian Club.
Yellow Browed Warbler in the Dump Clump, Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs, with Scilly resident Song Thrushes on Penninis Head, before dropping down to Old Town Churchyard – morning Harold, and morning to a Spotted Fly and a fine Hummingbird Hawkmoth.
I managed glimpses of Chiffchaffs, bumblebees and a local moggy in the bracken by Porth Mellon beach, where there should have been a reported Aquatic Warbler, but with legs aching, Porth Hellick had a classic bobbity bob bobbing Jack Snipe, Greenshanks and a few Whinchats.
Let’s see what tomorrow brings – off island to Aggy and south easterlies should get the eyes straining and the legs aching again…
With the Scillonian sailing cancelled due to a bit of a breeze today, we were all at a loose end.
Even we couldn’t go to the Legless Arms at 9am…..although……
Heavy rain saw us mooching around Penzance for the morning, but it faded and we checked St Leven, Porthgwarra and Cot Valley.
Always a tremendous sense of anticipation in these places, but the most we could rustle up were Chiffchaffs, Goldcrests, Blackcap and a bit of Mipit passage.
Three Choughs over Cot and hirundines hawking around the cliffs kept us going…..just.
Tomorrow is another day, when hopefully Neill, Trops, Tony, Jason, Sid and I can get onto Scilly…. assuming it’s not too breezy for the bloomin’ boat.
Weigh anchor, birding ahoy etc…..