Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Scillies - Day 2 - Grey-cheeked Thrush on St Agnes

 Grey-cheeked Thrush hiding (Simon J Slade)
Grey Cheeked Thrush (File image)
Behind the boat shed at Covean 
Captured in action by RH
Squire on the lookout
St Agnes
Troytown Icecream
Stunning St Agnes
One-eared Cat
Red-backed Shrike
Great Shrike Habitat
Close up shot of Shrike
Shrike observers
Afternoon tea
On the march round St Agnes
Sunset in Hughtown
Little Bunting
Daily Stonechat photo

This video was taken on 29th October at Little Porth, St Marys. Thought to be the same bird seen on St Agnes

Scilly isn’t a place where many birders are up early which takes a bit of getting used to. We took full advantage of this fact by heading down the very tight viewing spot close to the house to record a Little Bunting come out of roost and show quite nicely.

From here we headed round to Porthmellon where there were a lovely selection of waders including 13 Sanderling, 7 Ringed Plover, 7 Dunlin, 13 Turnstone, 20+ Oystercatcher & a Curlew. A Grey Wagtail went on the trip list after flying over our heads calling as we watched two Greenfinch. Upon reaching Old Town, there were 2 Black Redstarts & the Merlin again.

At this point we decided to chance our arm and head to St Agnes where a Grey-cheeked Thrush had been observed very briefly over the last few days. Roland had missed it by seconds the day before so he joined myself, the Squire & Jake from the house.

We exited sharply from the boat to get prime position in a very tight path at Covean.  Deep down I though chances would be slim but given the chance then why not try and see this Catharus Thrush. Roland mentioned to consider the bird might not be on the ground and this advice proved to be exactly what we needed as the Grey-cheeked Thrush flew in from our left, then landing in two separate places before going lower and slipping out of view into the darkness. Five of us saw the bird from different angles and confirmed it’s dull ID. We hung around for another hour hoping for another view but there wasn’t anymore sightings until late afternoon. The Scillies hold half of all accepted records in the UK for this species. 

As we left the area we watched yet another two Yellow-browned Warbler showing nicely. My camera didn’t even come out of the bag as the light down this path was so dark. As we reached the top of the patch and turned into Hightown we watch a couple of Chiffchaffs but there was another call which made is wait and investigate further. Then a Melodious Warbler come up in front of us, wow ! At first we thought it looked like an Icterine but checking the ID it was clear it was a Melodious & could well have been the one from the previous day at St Mary’s. We were bouncing at this stage so celebrated with a St Agnes Ice cream.

Nice sightings continued with Stonechat, Whinchat, more Chiffchaff, 2 Blackcaps, 2 Goldcrests, Sparrowhawk & a Kestrel. Then the Red-backed Shrike was reported so we charged back past Coastguards where we found the Red-backed Shrike sitting up and showing very well. This was only my third Red-backed Shrike and best views ever.

We did have a comedy moment when I waited for the Squire in be in the throws of using the toilet to then call out "Rosy on roof now" I've never seen him move so quick out the door only to find me rolling with laughter around the cafe patio. Squires language can't be repeated. 

The Squire did bag the said juvenile Rose-coloured Starling on the way to the returning boat and we wrapped the day up with scoping a Great White & Little Egret on Tresco from the house.

After a huge roast dinner we retreated for an early night. A great Scilly day. 

Monday, 29 October 2018

Scillies - Day 1 - Scillonian & St Marys

Here we come
St Micheal Mount
Eider in Penzanze Harbour
Touch down St Marys
View from the digs
St Marys Merlin

Yellow-browed Warblers wasn't calling on first two days but were for rest of week
Harold Wilsons Grave
Lower Moors at dusk
We started the day by meeting up with Paul, Adam, Brad and Jake before heading down to Penzanze to get the Scillionian out to St Marys. A drake Eider was feeding in harbour giving us an easy year tick.

There was a swell on the crossing but I felt surprisingly well. Sightings from the boat included a Red-throated Diver, 3 Great Skua, passage of Razorbills & Guillimots, 25+ Great Shearwater, a Sooty Shearwater & groups of huge Atlantic Bluefin Tuna.

Red Kite & Merlin were quickly bagged within the first fifteen minutes on the island, both I’d not seen there before. We then tried the Garrison followed by Lower Moors for an extended walk dipping a Melodious Warbler but recording 3 Yellow-browed Warblers, 2 Fieldfare, a Cetti’s Warbler & a Snipe.

Land's End Grey Catbird

Grey Catbird (Dave Soons)
First view of Grey Catbird
Fancy seeing your here. Chris Lane has arrived.
Grey Catbird
Plenty of interested parties including locals
Growing crowd
Catbird habitat

Only one snack to have in Cornwall
Black Redstart
Cliff top scenes
Chris looking for evening boozers
Porthgwarra cliffs
After being found on the 15th October would the UK’s second recorded Grey Catbird stick until we headed down on the Friday before our pilgrimage to Scilly ? Every morning I checked the news and how often it was seen. We were 2 hours of traffic free M5 cruising then it was confirmed the bird was still present on Treeve Moor, just a stones throw from Lands end.

We arrived just after 10.30am and there were around thirty cars and fifty birders present.  There were several Stonechats and a Whinchat present as we waited for the star act. Fellow pitter, Chris Lane, popped up out of no where having travelled down the day before on public transport, so spent the rest of the day with us.

Chris recommended we switch sides which proved to be a great decision as we had only heard the call since arriving. Setting ourselves up again in this new position gave us an instant return as the Catbird popped up above the willows. Identification was instant as the views were excellent. We even managed to the see the birds dark red vent when perched above nettles on the far side.

The only other previous validated observation of a Grey Catbird was on Anglesey in October 2001 which spent most it's time hiding in thick gorse. 

After we all agreed we were happy with the Catbird sightings we wandered down to Lands End as had not actually been to the site before.

We then headed to Porthgwarra & following a traditional pasty & tea we headed up to the cliffs. The sea was quiet but Gannets, a Mediterranean Gull, Great Black-backed , 2 Common Scoter, a Kittiwake, Common & Bottle-nose Dolphins & Harbour Porpoises.

The cliffs had a Black Redstart, (another two at the Doctors house), Wheatear, Rock & Meadow Pipits and a fantastic Chough which we were all pleased with.

A final stop was Drift Reservoir where we added a single Ring-necked Duck to the trip list before retreating to the hotel for a cheeky pint to celebrate the days successes.

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Stonechat makes it 138

A very mixed selection of weather from the back end of Storm Callum made birding difficult over the weekend. With heavy rain & wind on Saturday morning I held back my visit with Mrs D until late morning. With Stonechat still not on patch year list we decided to walk the patch perimeter where there are more variations in habitat. 

A couple of Redwing flew over as we headed through Dunnington Court Farm where as usual there were huge flocks of Red-legged Partridges & Pheasants. It won't be long until the large flocks of winter thrushes will be back in this area. Grey Heron, Mallard, Linnets & Yellowhammers were recorded on the way to Ennister Wood. Sadly no movement on any of the Tree Sparrow boxes installed by Ragley.

As we walked towards the gate a small bird flitted up flying like a Stonechat then flew straight across the field. My eyes were firmly fixed on the location so we retraced our steps to this central strip of rough land between the fields. After a short wait the Stonechat emerged swinging in the wind, becoming our 138th species of the year. Trying to use the camera was very difficult but did get a few shots. 

The walk along the railway line & river only returned a large flock of Long-tailed Tits, a Treecreeper, Nuthatch & Goldcrests. I do really like this area and is close to where last year Yellow-browed Warbler was found. 

Heading over the A46 bridge the Pophills Common Buzzard was drinking on the river bank. As we reached the gate and looked towards the barn a Wheatear was perched on one of the tree stakes. This absolute stunner showed very well for about 20/30 minutes when it was flushed by the local shoot who started late due to the rain. Always happy to find a Wheatear. We didn't even check the main pit due to the shoot now spreading everywhere.

Heavy rain was the issue on Sunday and it didn't stop during the duration of mine of Jon's count. There was no movement at all as it has rained from late Saturday night. The weather was rank bad. 

Our meagre counts included 28 Little Grebe, 85 Cormorant, 6 Grey Heron, 13 Mute Swan, 425 Greylag, 2 Canada geese, 6 Wigeon, 5 Gadwall, 42 Teal, 160 Mallard, 1 female Pochard, 38 Tufted Duck, 2 Kestrel, 1 Water Rail, 144 Coot, 3 Snipe, 1 Herring Gull, 1 Grey Wagatail, 6 Redwing, 6 Chiffchaff, pair of Ravens and a Redpoll.