Thursday, 21 November 2013

Back on Scilly - October 2013

So I didn't do a lot of birding between my last post and going to the Scillies on Saturday 26th October, apart from a few counts on the estuary and stumbling across a Firecrest on a family walk at Tehidy. Anyway the annual trip to Scilly soon arrived and the Yorkshire contingency (adam Hutt, Nathan Pickering and Lizzie Bruce) duly arrived on the Friday evening and took over the cottage. We were all up and ready by 6.30am the following day, meeting up with the rest of the 'gang' on board the Sicklonian III at 0830. Mark Halliday and Ash Hugo in good time with Brad Dallas strolling up just as the gang-plank was being put away!!
The crossing was uneventful and the only highlight was a Short-eared Owl that flew low over the boat as we entered the roads, disappearing into the Pelistry area on St Mary's. Once the bags were dumped at the digs it was straight up to Longstones for a Scilly Tick in the form of a SUBALPINE WARBLER. The bird showed well on and off but spent long periods of time amongst the weeds on the deck.
The next few days were a wash out. High winds prevented us from visiting the off islands and trips out in between heavy showers yielded few opportunities to find your own stuff. I caught up with the RB Flycatcher at Lower Moors found on Sunday morning by Mark then the Rose-coloured Starling (at the Dump) and Spotted Crake (lower Moors) on Monday, with a couple of YB Warblers for good measure.
The weather finally broke on Tuesday and boats were running! Our first opportunity to get to St Agnes for the White's Thrush that had been showing to the lucky few who were staying in The Parsonage. A watch from our house (that overlooks The roads) before the boat set off produce a Spoonbill, Little Gull and the Bryher Hooded Crow mobbing a Raven! Once on St Agnes it was obvious we weren't going to see the Thrush and I wasn't prepared to stand in a gateway staring at a lawn all day! I did see a very showy PALLAS' WARBLER in the short time I did put in though! The DUSKY WARBLER at Covean put in a brief appearance after calling constantly for half an hour but the only other birds of interest were a Merlin and a Swallow. The island 'felt' good though. You know that 'there must be something here' type of feeling, so I made it my intention to return the following day.


This turned out to be a good decision and one I very nearly talked myself out of before the 1015am boat deadline. I had a pre-boat walk up Sunnyside trail and there were lots of birds. Plenty of common migrants in. Black Redstarts, Redwings, Chiffchaffs were in every hedgerow, unlike the previous four days and I considered staying on St Mary's. Until I checked the pager. PADDYFIELD WARBLER AT HIGHER TOWN was the message. This was to be a lifer for me having missed the Cornwall Bird in 2012. So it wasn't long before we were dodging the rain showers on St Agnes scanning the bracken from Paul Duke's accommodation garden (Thanks Paul!!). The bird didn't show for over an hour and I was becoming despondent. So I wandered off only to bump into Mark who said he'd had crippling views of it in an area I had walked past in my haste to get to Higher Town! Isn't that always the case! Anyway, it wasn't long before it showed again in much the same place as I had been looking for it. Superb little bird tho very mobile, it eventually flew across the main road and after showing again in the pitisporum it disappeared, never to be seen again.
After a walk round the coastal path from Covean I head back to the Parsonage where I met Ash and a rather flustered Mark who had just glimpsed head and shoulders of the elusive White's Thrush through a gap in the trees, on the lawn at the right of the Parsonage. I decided to stake it out, positioning myself furthest to the right looking over the Parsonage wall at a postage stamp size patch of lawn near a blue flowerpot that Mark had described was where he had seen the bird. And I waited, fixated on the spot with my bins. Nothing. I decided to get an elevated view by kneeling on the wall. Lifted me bins to focus on 'the spot' again. And there it was. Filling the hole between the eaves, WHITE'S THRUSH!!!! Holy Shit. There was that elated feeling that you only get from seeing a new, incredible, new bird. Not all new birds give you that feeling. But this one did. It was amazing. Amazing size, colour and dancing movement. I hardly dare breath but managed to get out the compulsary, "I'VE GOT IT!!". Then a mad battle with balance as I attempted to grab a quick photo of it through the foliage. The results you can see below. Not a clear sharp shot, but the best image of the week as far as I'm concerned! Thankfully the rest of the gathered birders managed to take it in turns to look through the gap and see the bird. The boat trip back was a much happier one than the previous day, aided no doubt by the three pints sunk in The Turks Head before departure!
Thursday was to be our last full day as inclement weather was forecast for the Saturday and the Scillonian III was cancelled meaning an early departure on the Friday instead. The 'before the boat' stroll included a trip to The Dump where a reported Isabelline Shrike turned out to be a Red-backed.
 Nice all the same and the Rose-coloured Starling showed well again. I decided to spend the day on Tresco with Mark and Ash and met up with Falmouth based Sam Perfect on the boat across. He was hoping to connect the American Robin as a lifer whereas my main quarry was the reported Little Bunting at Borough Farm as I needed it as a Scilly Tick! There was no sign of either of the afore mentioned species so I went for a wander along the beach in front of the castle. Plenty of waders being disturbed by dog walkers here!! A male Snow Bunting flew from St Martin's and landed in the dunes a few hundred feet in front of me but I couldn't locate it. Then a first-winter Med Gull flew past. Nice place to sit and have lunch in.

After a quick break I headed back to Rowesfield to find the others had been told the AMERICAN ROBIN was showing again. Indeed it was, in a muddy track in the middle of Rowesfield. Smart looking individual and the second one I've seen on Tresco. (I've seen 4 altogether for the record!) After shooting off a few snaps, including a couple using Ash's superdupa 300mm Canon monster I headed back towards Borough Farm where a nice Merlin showed well in the pine belt. See photo :-)
Ash and I then headed back for the boat, me reminiscing about the Blyth's Pipit I'd seen previously on the cricket pitch and as we stopped a Richard's Pipit got out of the long grass to the left of us and flew a short distance into field beyond the cattle shed. Ash managed a few long distance shots, but we couldn't relocate it for better images unfortunately and we were running out of time anyway. Nice end to the day, all the same.
The rest as they say is history. Bit of a short week but some fantastic birds and once again some great crack with the gang and other regulars of our Scilly week. Great to catch up with the Scilly birders, Spider, Higgo, Chris x2, Bob and Ash and of course Robin and big Al! And nice to see James and Emma packer and Dave and Kim Preece again, thanks for the company and laughs chaps!

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Not quite back at it!

'Jammed' onto this Rosy Stag!! (Photo:J.Rowe)
Well, best laid plans and all that..................My intention to get back into regular birding fell at the first fence and I haven't been out quite as much as I would like! However, I have 'jammed' onto a few decent birds. A quick look (it turned into an hour!) at Ryan's Field on the 7th October (I didn't even have my bins!) allowed quick view of the Lesser Yellowlegs just before it was flushed onto the estuary! There was also a couple of Little Stints, Ruff, BT Godwit and a Kingfisher, which was nice.
Oh and cracking views of the Osprey from the Old Quay House Car park (excellent pub and new birder friendly hosts!!)

Gwithian was the next 'family' trip out on the 11th October but not a bird in sight there apart from a few showy wheatears and a couple of late Sandwich Terns in the bay. Oh and a Swallow. No sign of the BW Stilt on the estuary the same day but a couple of Brent Geese were nice amongst the growing Wigeon flock.

Finally for now, I had to make enquiries for a job at work which meant me driving west along the A30 yesterday. As I approached the new Sainsbury's supermarket at Penzance I looked up at the four Starlings sat on the street light. Second one in from the right was the juvenile Rose-coloured Starling that had been in the area for a while. Nice one!! Photo above is by John Rowe :-)


The Crossley ID Guide – Britain and Ireland

I opened this new Crossley Guide with some intrepidation as I am not usually a fan of photographic bird guides. This new edition to the Crossley ID library has however, changed my opinion. It is quite simply an amazing concept. The book is almost interactive, with the bird filled images on each page draw you into the scene as if you were there, looking at a lagoon full of Ruff in varying plumages or you’d just come across a flock of Waxwing!  You can be forgiven for thinking, “I’m sure I’ve been there before?” when you see the background scenes, because you probably have! The plates represent the way each species would look in the field and I especially like the Wilson’s Petrel images with the Scillonian III in the background. In fact there are a few Cornish backdrops (I keep finding more as I look harder!). Lesser Black-backed Gulls page has a view of the Hayle Estuary and I’m sure the Manx Shearwater’s are off Mousehole!?
The Crossley Guide has something for everyone.  I would suggest this book is an absolute must for beginners or novice birders. I can think of no better format that I have seen that caters for this audience. The species are set out in an order that immediately aids comparison between similar species and most are shown in flight and in all plumages.
For the more experienced birder, the book is a pleasure. It covers some of the more complex Gull plumages, has some great images of seabirds and wildfowl in flight and has just enough scarcities to keep you entertained. If nothing else you’ll enjoy identifying the background sites!
Even Ringers can use this guide as each species has the five digit BTO code next to the scientific names!!
For under £15, the Crossley ID Guide – Britain and Ireland will, I’m sure, be a welcome stocking filler this Christmas! CLICK ON THE AMAZON LINK ON THE RIGHT TO PURCHASE.

Saturday, 5 October 2013


'ISABELLINE SHRIKE PENDEEN WATCH IN GORSE 300yds SW OF LIGHTHOUSE' was the pager message last night. Too many commitments again in the morning to see that thinks I but I must make the effort seeing as its an adult male of the 'Daurian' variety and only the fourth record for Cornwall. So I dropped the eldest at Brownies and headed off with the other two to Pendeen. As I parked the car I could see Mark Haliday taking photographs of 'something' shortly before a Wryneck flew up from the gorse in front of him. Sure enough, just SW of the lighthouse the Shrike showed superbly, catching, slaughtering and consuming an unfortunate grasshopper in front of the small assembled crowd. Stunning bird! I managed a few record shots before a short walk down the valley which produced three Wrynecks, a Yellow Wagtail, Blackcap and at least four Whinchats. All in all, well worth making the trip and another Cornwall tick to boot!!

There are three previous records of Isabelline Shrike in Cornwall:
  •  Zennor on October 27th-31st 1989
  •  Porthgwarra on 26th June 2002.
  •  Nanquidno on Oct 25th 2011

Monday, 30 September 2013

Eastern Goodies finally hit Cornwall!

Well the easterly winds have finally pushed one or two scarce migrants our way! Yellow-browed Warblers this morning at Pendeen, Porthgwarra, Cot Valley and Polgigga. Red-breasted Flycatcher in the Doctors Garden at Porthgwarra and a Melodious Warbler showing well at Rame in SE Cornwall. Typically I'm at work this afternoon and for the following three days. :-(

Sunday, 29 September 2013

British List falls short of the big 400!

So with my new found enthusiasm for all things birdlike, I decided to have a look at my British List. I've always kept a copy of Vinnicombe and Mitchell's Checklist of the Birds of Britain up to date with my list so a quick count up revealed 402 species, in which I include the Nanjizal Alder Flycatcher.
The Nanjizal Alder Flycatcher - accepted by BBRC, sent back by BOURC! (Photo by M.Halliday)
Unfortunately the official BOU British List sees things differently, so after a proper, no nonsense tot-up, I conclude that I am still three short of the magic 400!! I'm not particularly disappointed with this considering I've lived in west Cornwall for the past 10 years and rarely 'twitched' anything in that time. I made exception for the White-crowned Sparrow at Cley and the Dark-eyed Junco in Yeovil in 2008 and one or two bits on the Scillies in more recent times.
So with three to go I have been forced to look at the glaring omissions and going through the list, saying in my head, "I really should have gone for that!" So in no particular order my 'birds that I could and should have seen' list shall be: Caspian Gull (I know, I know!), Black Stork, Terek Sandpiper, Sardinian Warbler, Snow Goose, Black Duck, Killdeer, Western Sandpiper, Stilt Sandpiper,  Snowy Egret, Yellow or Black Billed Cuckoo, Lesser and Southern Grey Shrike, Brown Shrike, Belted Kingfisher, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, White's Thrush (NO LONGER NEEDED, SCILLY 2013!!), Marmora's Warbler and Pechora (which is the only pipit I need). There are more, but that list will keep me going and any three of those will see me reach 400! My 300th bird was Great Knot, such a long time ago!!

If you want quality photos....

... then have a look at the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Bird Gallery on Flickr!! Blatant plug but I don't care! 1000's of amazing images.