“I’m afraid your blood pressure is a little high – we’ll have to do more tests next week”, the nurse explained early doors today.
Me (outer voice): “Really? Gracious, we’ll have to do something about that, won’t we?”
Me (inner voice): “Of course it’s feckin’ high – it’s first thing on a Monday morning, when all sensible folk lucky enough to be in full-time employment are stressing about how they are going to wrangle the three pounds of poo they have been presented with into a proverbial two pound bag over the next week, plus I suspect that needle you’ve got there is going nowhere good…. What do you expect???”
Not the best start to the week I know, but fortunately I had a few hours off this afternoon, so I decided to pop down to St Helens to see the juve Rose Coloured Starling lingering there.
My good friend Mr Mike Stocker sent me a few directions involving a pub and a chippy.
My good nurse* from this morning will however be pleased to learn that I didn’t visit the pub (like way too many boozers it is all boarded up, the only thing to suggest its happy legacy of revelry and hangovers the still sticky carpet doubtless mouldering away behind the metal security sheeting that covered the windows and doors…RIP The Bowling Green), AND I stayed clear of the chippy too.
Despite this morning’s hard frost, the sun was warm on my back as I watched the starling from the alley.
I could feel my blood pressure dropping already.
As is often the case with this species, the Stinky Pink was uber showy, sitting up on the wall behind the cafe on Extension View, or blinking in the sun alongside squabbling House Sparrows in a bramble tangle in the yard, before occasionally slipping back into the shadowy branches…
Sometimes it would start gabbling away to itself before dry-retching (such a charmer).
Perhaps all the mealworms presumably left by photographers didn’t agree with it, although the bird was hardly squeamish foraging in the alley, just a few inches from my feet, and according to BWP their normal diet does include insects, seeds, fruit and nectar…
* Nurses are absolutely ace of course, even better than Firecrests, and my feeble attempts at humour are in no way meant to trivialise their incredible calling. Hang on, what do you think you’re doing with that needle… etc etc
Fast forward 17 years from the Cu Chi tunnels through the gorse behind South Stack (who knew Ho Chi Minh City was actually on Anglesey?) and all that “was it/wasn’t it” – there I was again staring into spiky dense cover at dawn this morning.
This time though the Grey Catbird started perching out in the open almost as soon as the sun hit the brambles and them berries began glowing red in the fields behind Treeve Moor House near Land’s End, from about 0725.
Melting into cover for worryingly longish periods, the Catbird finally took to basking in the morning’s rays in the well-watched Willow clump once the light changed from cold and grey to warm and yellowy green…
Lovely views of it through the branches in the hard light though.
Whenever the Cat dropped out of sight, reasonable Vis Mig was a happy distraction – Brambling, Chaffinch, Siskin, Redwing, Fieldfare, Skylarks, Snipe and clouds of Stock Doves zoomed by, while a Short Eared Owl was patrolling the area and Black Redstart, Robins, Dunnocks and Wrens flicked amongst the vegetation.
Finally, many thanks to Chris Tynan and Squeaky John, who made the infinite drive down (and all the way back up again) to the last bit at the bottom simply fly by with their splendid company.
Treated to a close encounter with three of the wintering Corn Buntings at Crosby Marine Park earlier in the week.
These birds always intrigue me – where do they come from?
Why does the coastal park remain so attractive to them after all these years, when so many other wintering spots along the coast have disappeared?
Are they from the mosses – or further afield?
They always look comfortable with their station in life Corn Bunts, that bland, vacant expression suggests you’re never likely to see one fighting in a rush hour queue or stressing over the latest office nightmare – more power to you fellas.
Not for them harsh language or high blood pressure.
I was out with Ian Wolfenden and Eugene McCann when we bumped into the buntings in the usual area.
We were discussing mowing plans for the site in the context of his brilliant and long-running study of the Skylarks on the coast – now that’ll be a monograph worth reading one day…
Marshside wasn’t bad over the tides this week either – finally got a look at the young male Hen Harrier (as opposed to the stonking adult) as I led a walk there on Thursday, when it drifted over the outer marsh despite the drizzle.
Highlight though was a young Peregrine making two attempts to catch a Pink Footed Goose – fat chance, but I like the ambition…
Harder winter sun today out on Plex Moss, and a cool wind that felt it was trying to sweep autumn away.
Fieldfares were drinking at favoured puddles, wary as ever, and 2,000+ Pinkies were on the fields west of Haskayne Cutting until the clatter of the Saturday afternoon guns sent them up into the blue.
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…..
The local Common Buzzards were very vocal as I checked Haskayne Cutting late this afternoon, but the persistent westerly breeze made it tough working through the bushes.
A feeding flock of 11 Long Tailed Tits dragged Blue and Great Tits, 2 Chiffchaff and a Goldcrest with them as they zipped through the hawthorn, birch and willows and autumnal Jays flopped about.
Thin seasonal fare.
Plex was busy with agricultural activity, while several groups of up to 20 Skylarks were moving through, and 100-150 Starlings probed the stubble, but I only saw eight Corn Buntings and two Yellowhammers.
Plenty of Stock Doves and Common Gulls with the Woodpigeons and BHGs.
It still felt like a busy afternoon, especially as the sky was littered with Pink Feet, with skein and after skein rising and falling over the mosses before the evening commute.