Isles of Scilly October 2012

26 October to 3 November

Walking into Porthellick late Monday evening, someone remarked, "It's like Slimbridge in there", referring to the hide looking over the lake. The main theme of the Scillies in the last fews days of October 2012 was the arrival of several interesting widlfowl species which breed in Greenland and Iceland. In the bright evening sunshine, the view from the hide did indeed resemble the WWT hide at Slimbridge, except the 11 wild swans were Whooper Swans (and not Bewick's) and of greater interest, the six White-fronted Geese were Greenland White-fronts (flavirostris) rather than the Eurasion form (albifrons) which winter at Slimbridge. The total Greenland white-fronted Goose population numbers about 30,000 birds and many winter in south-west Ireland (North Slobs). Supporting the theory that the north-westerly winds had brought these birds in was the presence of two or three Pale-bellied Brent Geese which also winter in Ireland. On Friday a flock of 7 Graylag Geese flew over Porthellick and I photographed them over the Eastern Isles. The week started by my missing a few of those birds that had been around the previous week, namely a Spotted Crake at Lower Moors and an American Buff-bellied Pipit on Bryher. Instead on Bryher on the Sunday we got very good views of a Snow Bunting. Interestingly there was a Hooded crow foraging on the rocks on way to Bryher. Over lunch we got news of the finding of a Blackpoll Warbler on St Mary's. So we took the early boat back, with good views of a Great Northern Diver, and were rewarded by some relatively good views of this American warbler at Content Farm in the poor late afternoon light. Monday morning, the Blackpoll Warbler was still there, but we all went to St Agnes where we found a Red-breasted Flycatcher. Returning from St Agnes on the early afternoon boat, we went to Porthellick to see the six Greenland White-fronted Geese. They were almost too close to focus on from the hide, and their colour was more chocolate-brown than the Eurasian subspecies. Tuesday morning and we went to St Martin's. A Woodcock flew in off the sea and there were several Fieldfares and Redwings flying around the island. The highlight was a Woodlark, and on returning to St Mary's we look for a Blyth's Reed Warbler on the Garrison. I photograph a Firecrest in poor light. There's also a Red-throated diver very close in on the beach at Hughtown. We find a Snow Bunting at PorthMellon beach but Wednesday sees rain most of the day, and we witness the final departure of the Isles of Scilly helicopter service. At 17:30 in almost darkness it takes off and does at quick circle over Hughtown. Those islands will never be quite the same without the rumble of the "chopper", and there's perhaps a slight feeling of a bit more isolation. Thursday is exciting as my brother finds two Waxwings on the Peninnis trail. They're better viewed from the Old Town graveyard, and their trilling call is an unexpected sound for the Scillies. We also get some brief views of the Blyth's Reed Warbler in the sunshine. Another American vagrant, a Ring-necked Duck is found on Porthellick. As usual, things go quite towards the end of the week. Unusually the clocks go back on the Saturday night of our arrival.  This meant we didn't get on to the islands much before midday (old time), and there was not much daylight on returning on the 4:30 boat.

 All photographs copyright Paul Gale Bird Photography

Blackpoll Warbler Blyth's Reed Warbler Brambling
Graylag Geese over St Mary's Greenland White-fronted Geese, Porthellick Greenshank, Lower Moors
Hooded Crow, Bryher Light-bellied Brent Geese Red-breasted Flycatcher
Red-throated Diver, Town beach, Hughtown Ring-necked Duck, Porthellick Waxwing, Old Town Church
Snow Bunting, Bryher Wood Lark, St Martin's Whooper Swans, Porthellick

Fieldfares on St Martin's

Firecrest on the Garrison, poor light

Gadwall, Porthellick

Wigeon, Porthellick

UK Rarity Photos

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