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ZEISS DTI thermal imaging cameras. For more discoveries at night, and during the day.

A Scilly Diary. (1 Viewer)

It's a pity it stayed hunkered down, female Dotterel are delightful: a few years back I was on the Devon Birds trip to Lundy, and there had been a Dotterel on island. No-one had seen it that morning, so a few of us set off to where it had last been seen. At the flagpole we scanned around but couldn't find it... until I looked down slope and saw what looked like a male Pheasant. Hang on, you don't get them on here! Closer scrutiny had me calling the troops over to see the female Dotterel... Much appreciated.
Yeah, very frustrating. It gave much closer and more satisfying views to Will Wagstaff the previous day. He got some cracking pics.
 
So, a Short-toed Lark turned up on Peninnis. It was showing intermittently well at the end of the road that runs along the top of the peninsula from the Health Centre. As it turns out, I had to go in that general direction anyway because I had a doctor's appointment.

I popped into the health centre, informed them of my appointment to the reception and then headed up the track. I was reliably informed that the bird was frequenting a patch of open grass near the gate, but watching this area came to nowt. I began to scout the surrounding fields. At once I spotted it in the middle of a neighbouring field. It was a much warmer brown than the one I remember seeing on Bryher last year. It gave me decent fairly close views for all of twenty seconds before flying off over the nearest hedge southwards. I needed to get back to my appointment anyway, so mission accomplished. There was also a Golden Plover in another field just across the way, but I confess I didn't bother looking for it.

That was a few weeks ago. I wouldn't say it's been exactly riproaring since then. In fact, it's been a relatively quiet time, even though commoner migrants continue to dribble through, including the first Hobbies, Garden Warblers, and both Pied and Spotted Flycatchers.

I bagged myself some of the first Turtle Doves of the year, a short walk from home - three of them feeding at the back of a ploughed field. At one point I had four species of pigeons and doves in the bins as the usual Collareds and Woodpigeons were joined by a couple of Stock Doves.

One or two more Red-rumped Swallows have been seen as well -typically single observer affairs. A Marsh Harrier has also been wandering around the islands. It appears to be still around - currently on Tresco, I believe. This species continues to elude me on Scilly.

The odd Hoopoe is turning up here and there, as are the first Golden Orioles. Anyone who has been following this diary, may recall that I have never seen the latter, despite several attempts to see one last year. Maybe this year one them will feel sorry enough for me to show itself; but not yet...

A Temminck's Stint showed itself on Bryher Pool, alongside commoner fare and a probable Grey-headed Wagtail; and yesterday, a Laughing Gull was seen and photographed in the Lesser Black-backed Gull colony on Gugh. Several birders who went over for it this morning failed to relocate it however.
 
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Birding, I think it's fair to say, has been pretty slow here on Scilly... I haven't been paying too much attention to the rest of the country, but if Scilly's any indicator, I don't think it's a classic spring.

Today was freezing - or at least this morning was - I mean really cold. I'm back up to four layers. I couldn't feel my hands when I went out this AM. And it rained. And rained. And rained. Much of the road on the way to Porth Hellick from the Normandy direction was under water. I splashed through on my way into town to do some shopping, because there are bugger all avian reasons to head out.

So it may surprise a few people to hear that I've added two more birds to my Scilly list. Neither is an earth-shaking lifer, but both are welcome somewhat late, additions. By this I mean, I was surprised to discover that the Tufted Duck I saw at Porth Hellick pool the other day, was new for my island list - a smart male. I got a truly terrible picture.

But if you think that picture's bad, check out my appalling effort at a species that has eluded me on several previous occasions. Marsh Harrier finally joins my Scilly list. I've missed several birds up to now, including at least two over the house. The female that has been moving about the islands over the last few days clearly felt sorry for me, because it enabled me to get pretty good views, albeit in poor light, at Porth Hellick - mostly from the bank that exists between the pool and the bay (a great place to observe the pool and the skies over it, which is what a lot of birders do) - as it was harassed about the place by crows. Of course, my camera resolutely refused to focus on it as it flew about, except for a few low-res, really-it-is-a-marsh-harrier-honest-guv moments. No amount of tweaking in the 'puter improved it from 'really crap'.

As it happens, I was approaching Porth Hellick on foot when I heard that the harrier had dropped in. For once, it was in the direction I was heading, rather than turning up in my wake. It didn't even take me all that long to find it when I got there either. Large BOPs tend to cause a commotion, but they can be surprisingly difficult to spot when they're of the mind to give you the runaround - or rather, if they're being harassed by other birds, as was the case with this one. I wasn't panicking that I'd never see one, because Marsh Harriers do turn up on the islands every year, but it does come as a relief to bag one, finally; and with such a mediocre spring, gives me something in the form of avian entertainment.

When is the spring going to actually start? I want to go back to three layers.
 

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I'll look out for you next week, I'm visiting with my partner for 7 days from Saturday. A few nice year ticks would do nicely, although I’ve been quite lucky on spring holidays recently (Egyptian Vulture and Walrus)……..
 
When is the spring going to actually start? I want to go back to three layers

We have just moved to the Oregon Coast, where the temperatures, rain, and wind are much different than the temps, etc that I love. Your 3 layers is going to be my normal wear most times. Even though the low 50s are supposed to give way to high 60s this weekend. Congratulations on the two new island birds.
 
We have just moved to the Oregon Coast, where the temperatures, rain, and wind are much different than the temps, etc that I love. Your 3 layers is going to be my normal wear most times. Even though the low 50s are supposed to give way to high 60s this weekend. Congratulations on the two new island birds.
Yeah, having lived in the tropics for 15 years, I'm still adapting!

Much nicer weather this arvo, and some almost identifiable pics of the harrier, which I've just seen again.

I'll look out for you next week, I'm visiting with my partner for 7 days from Saturday. A few nice year ticks would do nicely, although I’ve been quite lucky on spring holidays recently (Egyptian Vulture and Walrus)……..
Cool! If you see a shambling wreck of a man in glasses and with bins around his neck, it might be me.
 
Congratulations on the additions - they all count.

I doubt it will be any consolation, but eastern Australia has been pretty nippy too - snow on the coast already!

Cheers
Mike
 
I assure you I'm not dead.

I think it's definitely fair to say that this has been a poor spring by Scilly standards - and I don't just mean rarities-wise. The commoner fare has put in a very poor showing. With the notable exception of hirundines. I've seen huge numbers of both Swallows and House Martins on some days.

The early nesting was washed out in some places due to wet weather, but the long spell of dry that we've had seems to have enabled many species to rear at least one brood successfully. There have been avian bubs everywhere. Today, I nearly ran over a fledgling swallow that just sat in the middle of the road and didn't move as I cycled towards it. I saw it at the last second and swerved just in time. I think. The potential for a heat wave however has been offset by some very persistent northerlies; and indeed whilst the rest of the country roasted, became balmy, but never really all that hot.

It's been raining today - and God knows we need a bit of rain; the ground is like concrete. This gives me time to post a wee update on a couple of new birds for Scilly, including a lifer!

A few weeks ago we had an influx of Red Kites. Lots and lots of them. On a single day, well over 100 made the trip over from Cornwall. It would have been literally impossible not to see them. Just standing outside the house, I could see about a dozen circling overhead. Since then, the numbers have dwindled rapidly, but every day, one could see several on any trip across the island. Funnily enough, today I think, is the first day I've failed to see any. I hope a few of them set up shop here, as they are lovely birds. Having Red Kites as regulars would be terrific.

I finally added Common Buzzard to my island list after what seemed like forever - an unexpected bird just outside the back entrance to Carreg Dhu. Annoyingly, I dipped on two great birds that would have been far better additions. First up was a Common Crane that quartered the islands for several hours and was seen by most people. It was very mobile and luck played more than a small part for some people. I stood vigil at a high point near Longstone for the better part of an hour before I had to head back to my care job. The Crane flew right past where I had been standing about ten minutes after I left. Of course it did.... It would have been a lifer.

Second up was a Honey Buzzard that was found in amongst the kites. Only a couple of birders saw it before it disappeared, so I don't feel quite so bad about that. I was less enthused with my third dip: a Laughing Gull that spent a few days amongst the Lesser Black-back Gull colony on Gugh. I've seen lots of them over the years, but never in the UK. I made two failed attempts on Gugh itself and even tried to see it from St Marys as I was assured it was reasonably gettable from a good vantage point. It wasn't. You needed superhuman vision and fantastic optics to stand any chance at all. I hate to say it, but some people need to rein in their erm... optimism, because many birders, including me, are ageing with none-too-perfect vision. I had no chance of seeing this bird from St Marys. And then it promptly disappeared.

After three quick dips in succession, and a pretty crap spring in general, I became despondent. Never mind... an actual lifer I've been long chasing, unexpectedly gave up its secrecy - and I hadn't even been looking for it!

It just so happens that I do a regular circuit around the islands, often in the balmy conditions, for exercise's sake, more than in expectation of seeing great birds. Part of the circuit takes me through Carreg Dhu gardens. On this particular occasion, I made my way through the gardens and could hear the calls of a bird I had long sought: a Golden Oriole. Now, I don't make a habit of counting heard-only species (I've heard four golden orioles on Scilly before now), and I didn't have high hopes for this one either, but seeing as I'd been gifted another chance out of the blue, I stalked this one in the direction of the pines near the top of the gardens. As I proceeded slowly forward watching the trees, the oriole would give the occasional snatch of song. That bit always reminds of Olive-backed Oriole - one of three oriole species I had on my garden list back in Australia.

Golden Orioles are not only shy and hard to see, they can give you the runaround; often staying well ahead of the birder. Sure enough as the next underbranches of trees came into view, an oriole-sized bird took off and fled towards the top field. Was it the actual oriole? The bird called again - this time from pretty much exactly where I'd expected the bird to have landed. I'd finally seen myself a Golden Oriole! So brief a view was it, that I had barely time to register any colour, so I had no idea if I'd seen a male or female-type. No sooner did I creep forwards, then the local farmer roared up the back track in his buggy and stopped right beside me chug-a-lugging the engine of his noisy little charabanc and watching me closely. He knew I was a birder you see...

If the bird had continued to call, there was little chance I'd hear it now, let alone relocate it. That would have required sneaking along the field edge to view the pine belt. The farmers here can get very possessive over their little kingdoms, and I didn't have the appetite for the inevitable shit fight. And so I settled for a glimpse, in the knowledge that I'd bagged a lifer. And hopefully a species I would see better some day.

No matter how many pics I took of the Kites, none of them were ever any good. And there was zero chance of snatching a record shot of the oriole!
 

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Sorry it has been a rough spring. Happy you had a view, if fleeting and distant, of the oriole.
 
I must say my visit in May was very relaxing.
And another completely unexpected Scilly tick. Although I would never have guessed it would have been Common Crane.
Fingers crossed that things pick up for you.
And hopefully a more fruitful October for us all
You got the Crane? You jammy bugger. I think I was desperately unlucky. I always seemed to be trailing in its wake. If I had been able to stay at Longstone for longer, then in all likelihood I would have had close up views.
 
You got the Crane?
As ever, in birding, a decent helping of luck intervened.
I had just been on the phone with my daughter and so had it in my hand when a WhatsApp message said it was flying over the harbour (I think). I was stood on The Atlantic slip, so 5 paces from a panoramic view. Finding it in the sky wasn’t as easy but it was distinctive enough
 
I've thought long and hard whether to continue this diary. I will continue if there is interest, but suffice it to say, things have gotten interesting here...

First up was a Night Heron that I found myself at Porth Hellick. I got onto it as it descended into the high trees of Holy Vale. I've seen hundreds of Night Herons over the years and have zero doubts what it was, but I still got a few eye rolls, as if this were a mega I was stringing or something.

That was nothing however, compared to the Eurasian Scops Owl I heard a few weeks later. I was in my room when it began to call near sunset outside my window. - probably from the first high elm hedge at the end of the first field from the road. It took a few calls for me to overcome my shock and scramble for my phone. I ran out of the door and down the stairs. Alas, as soon as I began to make noise, the old boy I look after began dinging his alarm bell and yelling out (I think he wanted his curtain slightly moved or something - I can't even remember....) As I got out the door and fumbled with my phone, the bird stopped calling. I was apoplectic. I just couldn't believe it.

My first mistake was putting it out - and so indeed others came. We spent a long night vigil in the field opposite the house. The bird never called again. I had that sinking feeling, and sure enough I got eye rolls from others that made the Night Heron look like child's play. I get it. It's rare, but I am 100% certain about what I heard. To cut a long story short, I was asked to submit the record to the rarities committee. I refused because I knew it would be rejected.

I am not a known source as I had spent many years in Australia, but I have extensive experience with this species in Montenegro and Turkey. I played back the call on Xenocanto minutes later, just to check I wasn't imagining things, and it was identical. I've had plenty of maybes and possibles of rare stuff in the time I've been here, and I usually pass it off as nothing - but not with this one. I know that there are, and will be, a lot of doubters, hence my reluctance to post it here; and indeed you are welcome to be sceptical because I can't prove it. But I needed to get that little bit out of the way as I've been sitting on this bird for a very long time. And so onto other stuff. And yes, things get worse....
 
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Me too. I enjoy this type of thread, and this is one I like dropping in on when it's added to. Sorry to hear of your recent frustrations, part of the scene I suppose, but tough to swallow.
 
When I see you have posted I am always pleased. It is fun to hear of the birds on an island that many seem to come to just for the hopeful glimpse of a rarity. Also, your writing is superb.
 

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