Monday 1 November 2021

Scilly Isles - October 2021

It's always a pleasure to go to the Scilly Isles and this year was no exception. As an oasis of peace and tranquillity from the bustle of the Southeast, the Isles of Scilly are ideal. The islands are quiet with very little traffic. (you are not allowed to take your own car). Whilst it is true that small aircraft come and go now and again, the general feel of the place is of peace and relaxation. 

There is also very little light pollution so after dark it is easy to see many more stars in the sky than in the South East of England. 

2021 is the 4th consecutive year that four of us have travelled for the autumn migration. We go there because birds from other parts of the northern hemisphere sometimes appear. There can be several reasons for this but generally it works like this: 

1   In the autumn many birds migrate, generally from the North to the South. They are on the move. 

2   Now if there happens to be a major storm, they may get blown off course.

3   They may be blown over the Atlantic. That's quite a long way, they will probably be exhausted and they take every possible opportunity to land. The Isles of Scilly are about 50 km West of Land's End. Just the sort of land that some exhausted birds will be looking for. 

Now, it follows that you really need a big storm to blow all the birds around in order to find some interesting vagrants. Unfortunately, there was no big storm prior to our visit this year so the number of unusual birds was definitely down. Sigh! You can't have everything. On the other hand, the weather was fabulous with sunshine every day for the whole week. Anyway, here are some of the birds that we saw, including some that are quite common and which most people will have seen or heard of. 

These are some of the waders we saw:
Curlew - the wader with probably the longest bill of all. 

Bar-tailed Godwit - another wader with along bill.

Black-tailed Godwit - similar to the Bar-tailed but the tail is black instead of barred. This is seen best when it is in flight and the tail is exposed.

Water Rail - a very shy bird. It spends most of the time in the reeds out of sight.

Sanderling - a small wader that races along in the tideline probing the sand and mud for small creatures.

Common Snipe - not as shy as the Water Rail, but so well camouflaged that it can easily be missed.

Jack Snipe - smaller than the common Snipe and rarer. While feeding, it bobs up and down all the time.

These are birds which migrate in Autumn, generally to Africa:

Snow Bunting - actually a winter visitor here from Scandinavia. so not going to Africa.

Pied Flycatcher - rather uncommon. Likes large dense forests to Breed.

Black Redstart - a lovely redstart which flicks its tail often while perched or on the ground.

Willow Warbler - a summer visitor with a lovely descending song.

Northern Wheatear - another summer visitor which breeds in high places in the North.


Some common and generally resident birds:

Blackbird - a nice male on some Hawthorn berries

Lesser Black-backed Gull - the bright yellow legs and mid-grey back are the features to watch for. The head is pure white in summer.

Moorhen - a common bird almost everywhere there is water. This is a juvenile. Adults have a lovely red and yellow bill.

Red-legged Partridge - an imported game bird but I like them.

Meadow Pipit - a common bird of meadows and here on the coast.

Robin - needs no introduction. 

Siskin - an attractive finch with much lemon.

Stonechat - a resident bird in most of the country. Likes to perch on the top of bushes and tall grasses.


One or two raptors which I managed to photograph:

Sparrowhawk- likes to dive into gardens while smaller birds are on the feeders.

Merlin - our smallest raptor, Not often seen. Very fast and manoeuvrable. Often chases swallows and other birds in flight.

We did see some rare vagrants as well. Here are the ones I photographed:

Serin - a small yellow finch. It really stood out from all the other small birds.

Red-backed Shrike - Extinct as a breeding bird in the UK, but is often seen on migration. Catches insects and small mammals and stores them impaled on barbed wires.

Red-rumped Swallow - Generally found in Southern Europe but resident in tropical Africa and Asia. Doesn't have much of a red rump in this photo.

Now, the up side of the dearth of rare birds was the glorious weather. Here is a typical scene of a palm tree and blue sea!

St Mary's in October looks like the Caribbean!

One day, we hired a four-seater electric golf buggy to get around St Mary's. With a top speed of 15mph, it was great fun. We were able to move around sites quickly and looking very superior as we passed other birdwatchers! this is what we had:

Now, I wouldn't want you to think we did nothing but look for birds! No, we had coffee at the Star Castle Hotel, had meals out some evenings and indulged in three cream teas! Sometimes we played on a swing. The others said I just never grew up, I don't know why. 
Warning! This video (by Magnus Andersson) contains scenes of unbridled fun!

As the weather was so good, the ferry crossings on the Scillonian III were very calm too.

My total bird count was about 99 for the week.

1 comment:

  1. Oh my! I am utterly embarrassed as I passed a good half hour yesterday waiting outside my niece's house in my car trying to figure out whether the bird I was looking at was a sparrow or a finch. Your knowledge of birds is marvelous and I think your stint on the swing is something everyone should try. Sorry it took so long to comment as my surgery in the fall had me much too jealous of the ambulant to view this post!


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