Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Scillies - Day Two

Leaving the B&B, I headed out for what would be my first full day on the island.  I meandered slowly down the sandy track that passed the gorgeous Porthmellon Beach, the glint of the golden sands, accentuated by the blue sun filled morning sky.

The plan was to catch the 1015 boat to St Agnes where the Bluetail had been present for a couple of days.  Heading onto Telegraph Road toward Hugh Town, a steady stream of birders were displaying the diagnostic 'twitchers march' heading in the opposite direction.  For a moment, I stood and observed this phenomenon but then thought it best to politely enquire about the reason for their haste.  Well as luck would have it, a Radde's Warbler had been trapped at Porth Hellick and I wanted a part of it - so I joined the party and expressed my own level of intent to get there before it was released.

I joined the strident advance of small interspersed groups that like coiled springs, had been released into action by the news.  They don't miss a trick.  For me, I was merely engaged in a clumsy idle thinking more about how I was going to make it to the otherside of the island.  Jeez, it was further than I thought.

It was ultimately worth it.  The bird was presented to the assembled crowd in hand before being released into the nearby scrub never to be seen again.  The mysteries of avian vagrancy witnessed here on the Scillies was quite a thing, and I was so relieved to see this little beaut.

But it was now 9.35am and I had to get to the quay by 10.15am - so I marched back.  Having been resigned to ill-health for the last couple of months, I was not in great shape, and could feel every muscle in my legs and back, or what remained of them anyway.

I made it, I procured my ticket, and I was on the boat to St Agnes.  The Bluetail was on.

On site - a small group with the same objective assembled together within the canopy of trees by the Bulb shop in hushed silence.  It didn't show for a while but then miraculously, Walthamstow Birders began to appear, first @porthkillier, then @birdingprof, then later @jarpartridge.  What a curious place.

We searched, and I headed round to search the corner of a smalled tilled field where I noticed the bird sitting halfway up a hedge on the opposite side to where I had been standing previously and my first Red-flanked Bluetail - such a magical bird.

With some fine conjuring by @porthkillier, we later managed some rewarding views of a much sought after species as it fed on the periphery of an adjacent field.  Within two hours, I had managed to see two new species.  A Yellow-browed Warbler high up in the deciduous canopy added to the haul of birding riches.

This was going really rather well.  St Agnes is a splendidly beautiful island, and accepting an invitation from @porthkillier for tea, we reclined in the garden bathed in the warm autumn sun and the planet for a change felt utopian.

The afternoon was spent wandering, a semi-search for anything interesting but nothing really that serious because, the environment was captivating.  It was warm, the sun was shining, there was barely a breath of wind .  An aberrant 'white' Small Copper was an interesting sighting but in all honesty, it didn't really register.

A diversionary walk round Wingletang Down produced a Whinchat, a Common Swift and a Spotted Flycatcher which were nice late autumn migrants.

More excitement though. a Sea King made a visit to St Agnes as we stood by the Sports Field next to the Big Pool.  The search and rescue helicopter had flown in from RNAS Culdrose on a farewell visit to the islands that had been commissioned to provide medical and rescue services to and from The Scillies.  The future for these services have been privatised but whatever the arrangements are for this essential provision, this final visit was enjoyed by school kids and big kids alike.

It's still the same day, and we're not done yet.  Having got the boat back, I followed in @birdingprof and @notquitescilly 's shadow grateful to be accompanying them on a walk up Penninis Head in search of a reported Short-eared Owl.  This seemed like a reasonable idea despite my ailing body.

Heading up to the tops, the Owl was seen at distance perched up on an exposed rock just off the main promontory - a challenge to locate, but obvious when pinned down.  An incongruous spot for an Owl, but chilling out in the sunshine never hurt anyone.

What happened next was a bit surreal.  As the three of us continued our walk toward the point, a pipit species, alighted from an adjacent field.  It called, a toned-down punctuated 'sheeeoo' with a reasonably lengthed tail but without the more obvious dimensions of a Richard's Pipit.  It certainly didn't sound like one which is where my limited expertise on the matter ended whereby handing over the proper identification stuff to the big boys.

So we followed it's flight, having seen it drop down onto the next field and connecting with it immediately - shorter tail, shorter legs, pale throat, dark malar stripe, obvious dark median coverts - well - we give you a Blyth's Pipit.  It showed well, really well, and well done to the boys.  They really are very good and again, a lovely bird, seen well in good light.

This was an exceptional day, it had everything, and it felt a million miles from the worries of the world.

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