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A Scilly Diary. (1 Viewer)

Mike Crawley

Emeritus President at Burnage Rugby Club
I’m resisting my partner’s plea to visit next June but I don’t know why, she'll get her own way in the end.

The great thing about July and August is that it’s pelagic season.
I know they don’t guarantee Wilson’s Petrel but I think I’ve seen them on every summer pelagic on Sapphire. Also lucky enough to see Ocean Sunfish on one trip. I see they turned up a Fin Whale this week too.

And from my point of view, at least you are on Scilly !

Lisa W

Staff member
Another excellent write-up, really enjoyed the photos. Nice to see that even in the “dog days” of summer there are interesting birds, mammals and fish to see. Thank you for sharing.


Well-known member
I’m resisting my partner’s plea to visit next June but I don’t know why, she'll get her own way in the end.

The great thing about July and August is that it’s pelagic season.
I know they don’t guarantee Wilson’s Petrel but I think I’ve seen them on every summer pelagic on Sapphire. Also lucky enough to see Ocean Sunfish on one trip. I see they turned up a Fin Whale this week too.

And from my point of view, at least you are on Scilly !
They've turned up 3 fin whales! No Wilson's yet, I don't think.

Alas, work has stopped me going on one as yet, but it's high on my 'to do' list.

Cory's and Great last night.


Well-known member
I finally got around to doing a pelagic out of St Mary's harbour, and not before time. Pelagics are a common event here in the summer and early autumn and are popular with locals and visitors alike.

The weather was glorious and the sea was calm. We were joined by shark-fishing folks who arranged themselves along one side of the boat and set up their equipment, whilst the birders arranged themselves along the other. TBH... the trip itself, whilst enjoyable enough, didn't turn up that much. A few distant European Storm Petrels and a large gathering of Manx Shearwater as we came back into harbour, were the main highlights. Oh, and a Bonxie. That bird at least hung around the boat for a while. Even the fisherfolks failed to catch a single shark. I was reliably informed that the appearance of good birds and sharks alike were sporadic events, so it was the luck of the draw if your particular trip produced the goods. This was clearly a signal to do this thing again; and so... Scilly Pelagic, take two!

This time, the auspices were good. Or rather I felt they were, based on nothing more than a hunch; plus a huge influx of less common shearwaters and other stuff, often seen from the mainland. Maybe, just maybe, this would be a better trip... And so it proved!

As we tootled out of the harbour and into the strait between St Agnes and Annet, the gulls gathered around the boat as bread was thrown. I'm not a particular fan of giving gulls fatty livers, courtesy of a bread-based diet, but I'll confess that it did at least bring in a juvenile Kittiwake amongst the throng of Herring and Great Black-Back Gulls. There was some vain hope of a summer-plumage Laughing Gull, one of which had been seen the day before on Tresco; commuting between Abbey Pool and the South Beach. No such luck. But not to worry, other treats would soon appear.

It wasn't long before the first European Storm Petrels flew past the boat, attracted to the slicks of oil from the boat's leavings. As we settled some five kms south of Bishop's Rock, more birds soon made themselves known. First up was a Cory's Shearwater, which came in fairly close, but which, as was the pattern of the evening, was not captured with any degree of competence on my camera. Many hopeless pics of good birds would follow. These big heavy shearwaters are very distinctive with a half-decent view.

It wasn't much longer before the first Wilson's Storm Petrel was spotted, and I'm glad to say I got onto it pretty much straight away. Again, they are quite distinct with a half-decent view, and this one often associated with the European Storm Petrels to provide a ready contrast in their appearance. Wilson's are larger, have different coloured wings, and their legs stick out beyond their tails. They fly differently as well, I suppose, though I'm not at all sure if it's that clear. Already this was proving to be a better trip than the previous, and my Scilly list continued to grow. The fisherfolks were having more luck as well, and landed their first Blue Shark, a fish about a metre long. As will all sharks, they were in the boat for no more than two minutes, and ideally much less, otherwise they may die. Just enough time to remove the fishing tackle and get them back in the water.

The birding got better still as more Cory's Shearwaters and Wilson's Storm Petrels did fly-bys; and these were then joined by our first Sooty Shearwater, and shortly thereafter, our first Great Shearwater! This trip had by now blown the previous pelagic out of the water. And the fisherfolks weren't done yet. They landed (with some difficulty) their first Porbeagle Shark, which thrashed about violently as they battled to get it back into the sea. They were to land another Blue and another Porbeagle before the trip was done.

A Bonxie was picked out at distance by a couple of birders, but I failed to get onto it as it flew away from us. I wasn't too concerned, as Bonxie was the one highlight of the first trip.

And so it was that we began to head back inshore; the sun went down over the Bishop Rock Lighthouse, and the chill crept under my clothes. As we came past The Garrison and nearly into harbour, we were joined by a small pod of Common Porpoise. The evening chill was dispelled at once, as this last hurrah from what was a great pelagic, beautifully rounded off a wonderful trip.

Final totals for the trip were posted on Whats app as follows: 6 Wilson's, 40 European Storm, 2 Great Shearwater, 2 Sooty Shearwater, 3 Cory's Shearwater, 1 Bonxie, 2 Porbeagle, 2 Blue Shark, at least 4 Common Porpoise.

And as a bonus, we're starting to see the first avian signs of autumn.

What follows are the usual terrible photos:
1) Cory's Shearwater.
2) Bonxie (from the first trip).
3) Sooty Shearwater and European Storm Petrel.
4) Great Shearwater and Fulmar.
5) Wilson's Storm Petrel.


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Well-known member

I was standing atop the hill near the medical centre watching several of them go over. Why does this matter? It matters because I had failed to record a single swift the entire summer until now; it has literally taken this long for this species to join my Scilly list. Cal me unobservant, but I think I've just been unlucky...

Suitably braced with a species that took so ridiculously long to be added to the list, I have noticed that the birding on the islands is picking up; a bit, at least. There are lots of fledglings to see - that's a given - but the early signs of Autumn migration amount to more than influxes of passage swifts. The other week, there was quite the influx of Common Sandpiper; I saw at least half a dozen at Porth Hellick, and they're being reported from many other locations as well. These have been joined by several Green Sandpiper (new for the Scilly list), Wood Sandpipers, and other waders, often showing summer colours, including a summer plumage Black-tailed Godwit and a Knot - both on Tresco. I saw the former when I was over there a few days ago, as it waded about the Abbey Pool. I was over there to see more than passage waders however - a Lesser Yellowlegs was showing well on the Great Pool.

Now it just so happens that I had been working when this bird showed up, and I was indisposed for two days. My opportunity finally came and I went over to have a look for it. As pretty much every other Scilly-based birder had already seen it by now, I snuck into the Swarovski Hide overlooking the Great Pool, alone, with views across to Simpson's Field that I had all to myself. The water levels were much lower than I was used to seeing on the pool. We've had long dry spells here and drought conditions have set in - bad for our water supply, great for waders. Lots of mud was exposed and I was quick to observe that all of it was completely devoid of waders. Several alba Wagtails were scurrying about on the mud, and the usual eclipse ducks were loafing about on the edges, but the bird I had come for was nowhere to be seen. However, I didn't panic; it's a big pool, and I gradually scanned my way around its margins. By the time I was looking opposite my position, I could make out a distant wader behind several ducks that were on the water. It wasn't on the mud, but well into the water; a subtle reminder that waders actually do wade from time to time. All that exposed mud, and this bird was eschewing it for the pool itself. It was the only wader in sight. It was a Lesser Yellowlegs.

OK... I was fairly confident of this ID - I had no one to discuss it with, and the bird was distant. I had bins but no scope, and the bird was rippling in the heat haze. I've seen Lessers before... It had to be, didn't it? Rangier than a Wood Sandpiper (which I would see later on the Abbey Pool); longer primary projection; overall more unicoloured bill; not much of a supercilium...

I left the hide happy with my ID, though I did put it up on Whatsapp to get confirmation. Terrible pics as usual, but it was a Lesser. Someone reported it from exactly the same spot after I'd left.

As I waited for the ferry, I took a few pics of moulting Mediterranean Gulls, dozens of which are on Tresco right now. What follows is a miscellany of pics from the last week or so:

EDIT: sometimes the order of the pics randomly shuffles itself, so they may not be in the order I posted them. Bizarre.

1) Common Sandpiper.
2) Common Sandpipers.
3) Green Sandpiper.
4) Green Sandpiper, Greenshank, and Grey Heron.
5) Lesser Yellowlegs.
6) Lesser Yellowlegs.
7) Mediterranean Gull.
8) Mediterranean Gull.


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Well-known member
Congratulations on scoring the Lesser Yellowlegs.

It seems your numbering is not aligned with the order of the photos.

Yeah, as I said in the edit, the pics have rearranged themselves. I've no idea why! Hopefully folks are familiar with some of the species at least, or can make educated guesses as to which is which.

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