Thursday, 21 September 2017
Tuesday, 19 September 2017
Finally embarked on my first trip to Scilly today! The target lifer was a semipalmated sandpiper, a species I've missed in the UK on multiple occasions. The american golden plover on St Mary's would also be a good year tick for me, but really I just wanted to get the lay of the land before I decide to stay for more than a day.
Arrived in Penzance at around 8am, and before the ship departed, I'd picked up singles of Eider, Arctic Tern and Kingfisher in and around Penzance Harbour.
Once we were heading around the Southwest tip of Cornwall we came across some large rafts of seabirds, mostly Gannets and Manx Shearwaters, plus a few pods of Common Dolphin. In amongst the rafts, I picked out a few Kittiwake, 2 Balearic Shearwaters, 7 Sooty Shearwaters, 2 Great Skuas, 1 Arctic Skua and a flock of Common Scoter. At one point, one shearwater flock suddenly took flight as a very long dark shape emerged from the water before submerging again.I never saw a dorsal fin however, so couldn't confirm the Id. The last hour and a half of the journey was very uneventful with a few Guillemots and Razorbills, and singles of Manx Shearwater, Kittiwake and Grey Wagtail on the Approach to Scilly.
On landing at St Mary's, I promptly headed towards Lower Moors. Another birder kindly gave me a lift to Old Town, and put me in the right direction. On arrival in the Hilda Quick Hide, the SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER was giving point blank views, through was frequently behind vegetation. After a while, it started to wander away from us, so I wandered north along the path, mistakenly thinking there was another hide looking out onto this pool. Whilst wandering back to the hide, I heard a familiar call. With a bit of patience I'd clamped eyes on the Yellow-Browed Warbler! A very welcome find, my first for the year and only the second on Scilly so far this Autumn.
I wandered back, by which time, the Semipalmated Sand was now showing even closer to the next hide and in better light, allowing me to get some great shots through the scope:
I wandered over towards Porth Hellick for the AGP. There were plenty of Wheatears along the cliffs, however I didn't make it all the way as I was short on time. I did scan the beach from a distance but no luck.
I headed back to St Mary's and boarded the Scillonian. I had several Gannets and Sandwich Terns from the ship as we departed. The first hour or so was more eventful than the trip over with several Manx Shearwaters and Fulmars. Eventually I picked out a single Storm-Petrel showing fairly close to the ship, though a scope was really required. I was pretty pleased with this year tick, as I hadn't expected to get any today. Shortly after, I picked out a second stormie, though the difference in wing shape was immediately obvious. The wings were more pointed with a straight trailing edge, a long sloped leading edge. I quickly attempted to find any white on the underwing. This bird was keeping much closer to the sea, and for a long time I couldn't make out the underwing, just the black upperwing which at times I thought showed a grey bar. It took me a while to realise that the white rump extended right down the flanks, giving the impression that I was looking at the top off the bird, when I was actually seeing the black underwings! The bird flew along side the boat for a good 5-10 minutes, giving me ample time to get all the features and nail it as WILSON'S PETREL! Definitely not something I expected to get!
The rest of the trip was fairly uneventful. Most of the shearwaters off Porthgwarra had dispersed, with just 2 Balearic Shearwaters of note. Returning to Penzance harbour, I had a flock of Turnstones and great views of a Common Dolphin alongside the boat.
A fantastic place, I'll definitely come back for the next rarity, or maybe to stay for a few days over October. I would certainly recomend the use of a scope on Scillonian when the sea's not too rough - I saw at least 5 other birders on there today, all using binoculars and I'm sure they wouldn't have been able to get most of the birds I picked out.
Wednesday, 13 September 2017
I picked out a few distant Manx Shearwaters on the horizon plus a pair of skua sp with the sun behind them. After a bit of contact with Brian who was set up just down the beach, I scanned again and picked up a large stormie-type with pointed wings. A few more views confirmed it was indeed a Leach's Petrel! Shortly after, I also picked out a Great Skua sat on the sea before it flew East. I went over to where Brian was set up and had a few more Manx, Gannets and a Painted Lady, but little else of note, so come 11:00 I headed home.
Picked up Lewis and headed to Lodmoor this afternoon. He wasn't free on Monday evening so I took him to have a look at the two sandpipers. First we had a look at the STILT SANDPIPER which was in the same spot as Monday evening. Glad I managed to improve on my previous records shots. We then wandered over to the Southeast side and quickly picked out the LEAST SANDPIPER as well, though it was showing more distantly than it was when it was first identified on Monday. Also of note were singles of Green Sandpiper and Common Sandpiper as well as plenty of Med Gulls.
Monday, 11 September 2017
I arrived on site at 6:55. I soon met two birders walking in the opposite direction who told me the bird had flown high to the west about 25 minutes prior. Well, that was that. I headed over to the shelter, and a scan produced 2 Dunlin and a Green Sandpiper. Whilst here, I noticed a couple birders hurrying north along the other side of the scrape. I wandered over to find a fairly large group of birders focusing on something. Bingo! I asked if they'd seen the stilt sand, and much to my surprise they told me they were watching a LEAST SANDPIPER! A Dorset first and my second in the UK, ample compensation for the dip! Apparently, this bird has likely been in the area for several days, misidentified as little stint.
With the sun now almost below the horizon, I picked out what looked like a wood sandpiper at the far end. I wandered over and got it under the scope, facing away from me. Yep, wood sand. As I continued scanning, a couple Redshanks flew in and joined up with the wood sand, this time giving a side-on profile. It was at this point I realised how odd the structure of the bird was, far too big for a wood sand, with a longer bill, larger, dumpier body and very yellow legs. I continued watching and got some better views, enough to see the bill was slightly down-turned towards the tip, it was the STILT SANDPIPER! Nick Urch turned up at this point and also had views of the bird, and before long everyone was on it.
Glad I was finally able to catch up with this species after missing the Hampshire bird last year. An incredible after-work twitch, and not once I'll forget for a long time to come!
Saturday, 2 September 2017
Headed down to ferrybridge this afternoon, which was very quiet except for a fly-through Yellow-Legged Gull, 2 flyover Sandwich Terns, at least 2 Wheatears and a single Sanderling. Most unusual though was this Bar-Tailed Godwit sat on the fleet with a raft of Gulls!
Headed to East Bexington once news broke of the Hoopoe earlier in the day. A search of the area failed to produce, and I had little other than a Fox and a single Greylag with the Canada Geese.