Thursday, 5 November 2020

Hawfinch and Shorelark

 I assumed that if it was okay to go to the seaside to go fishing, then it was okay to go birding...

A stop off on the way at Abbey Mill near Morpeth. A bit grey and early, but after a few minutes wait a flock of 12 Hawfinch flew in to feed in the hornbeams. Difficult to see among the leaves, but a couple sat up on top for distant photos. Also here were two vocal Marsh Tit.


At Church Point, Newbiggin I immediately picked up the Shorelark, feeding at the base of the cliffs with Rock and Meadow Pipits.


Monday, 26 October 2020

Brown Shrike

 For the first time since 2016, more was happening at home than was happening on Scilly. The Masked Shrike, Two-barred Greenish and Taiga Flycatcher would all have been ticks, but predictably moved on before I got home. The Brown Shrike did the decent thing and even stuck around long enough for me to put in a week's work before heading up to Holy Island.

On show immediately when I got there at first light, hunting prey from a barbed-wire fence. Initially pretty close in the early half-light, but moved further down the fence line presumably taking insects around a herd of Roe Deer.

Brown Shrike

Shrike and Roe Deer

Roe Deer

With limited time before the tide cut me off, I headed south, first stop Budle Bay where a Green-winged Teal was feeding distantly with Teal. Not a very well marked bird, presumably just coming out of eclipse. Also here were several hundred Barnacle Geese, good numbers of Shoveler and a flock of 9 Little Egret.

Green-winged Teal

A quick look at Boulmer confirmed that the Desert Wheatear had moved on.

A bit of a wait at the picturesque power station at Lynmouth gave scope views of the Hoopoe.


Last stop was at Longhirst Flash for more distant scope views. This time for 6 Tundra Bean Geese.

Not a bad trip out.

Thursday, 22 October 2020

Even more Scilly

 The early of the 15th was spent on the Garrison where I quickly had 3 Yellow-browed Warbler on Lower Broome and a Ring Ouzel above the Steval.

Ring Ouzel

From there it was over to St Agnes where the Buff-bellied Pipit had relocated. Once the crowds had departed the pipit gave point-blank views.

Buff-bellied Pipit

Back on St Mary's the Red-backed Shrike gave closer views behind the Longstone cafe and a ring-tail Hen Harrier did the rounds of the island.

Red-backed Shrike

A naughty twitch to Lower Moor added Mandarin to my Scilly list.

The 16th was a quiet day but did give an Olive-backed Pipit.

Olive-backed Pipit

The 17th gave a roosting Short-eared Owl at Harry's Walls and poor views of a Scilly tick White-fronted Goose.

Short-eared Owl

White-fronted Goose

The 18th was my last full day on Scilly and was spent on St Agnes where a Siberian Stonechat was on Gugh and the Buff-bellied Pipit continued to show at Horse Point.

Siberian Stonechat

Buff-bellied Pipit

Wednesday, 21 October 2020

More Scilly

 With the warbler and thrush in the bag, the quiet start was forgotten. On the 11th I headed over to Tresco where the American Golden Plover showed distantly, hiding in the heather. A jog back from the quay gave me brief views of a Radde's Warbler by the Abbey Garden cafe.

American Golden Plover

The 12th was a pretty quiet day spent on St Mary's with good views of the Snow Bunting on Peninnis, but the day was saved by a superb Red-breasted Flycatcher on the Garrison.

Snow Bunting

Red-breasted Flycatcher

The 13th was spent on Tresco with Cliff. A Pectoral Sandpiper was on Abbey Pool, but the nearby Little Buntings failed to show. We did however see a couple of Firecrest and a pair of Crossbill.

Pectoral Sandpiper


A transfer over to Bryher at half time failed to give Cliff the Radde's he was craving, but the American Golden Plover flew over us calling. With late news and a sprint up the hill just before the boat home gave a Buff-bellied Pipit.

Buff-bellied Pipit

Back on St Mary's a lazy cab up to Porthellick gave a Little Bunting by Camel Rock. Shy initially, but a real performer after half an hour of skulking.

Little Bunting

The 14th was again spent on St Mary's with more of the Snow Bunting and the first Black Redstart of the holiday.

Snow Bunting

Black Redstart

Saturday, 10 October 2020

Swainson's Thrush

 Yesterday was spent staring fruitlessly at various bits of the Standing Stone Field and Dump Clump with nothing to show for the effort except more mosquito bites. With no further sightings of the Swainson's Thrush we decided to call it a day.

This morning I was just wandering back from the Garrison when I got news of a Swainson's Thrush on Bryher. At Popplestones with acres of deep cover it seemed a long-shot, but with many others I hurtled to the Quay. The walk across Bryher suddenly broke into a run when we realised that the birders on site had their bins up. Mega-blindness kicked in as, despite excellent directions and being dragged into position by Jake, I couldn't pick it up on the ground. Luckily it flicked up onto a low branch to give tickable views, before flitting through the hedge. Standing in the next field, the bird flew (flashing its underwing) on to a branch, where it spent the next few minutes giving fantastic views to the appreciative crowd. Later even closer views were had as it hovered, taking berries from a hedge.

Swainson's Thrush

A bit of under-wing.

Ecstatic we returned to St Mary's, where a Scilly tick Great White Egret flew over Porthcressa, giving distant views from our flat.

Great White Egret

Friday, 9 October 2020

Black & White

 Times have been hard. Wild, wet and windy weather, combined with a lack of birds has made for long days. Yesterday the pain was wiped away with one bird.

Our third day on stake-out for the Swainson's Thrush at the Standing Stone Field was becoming tedious so we took a wander to Porthloo. The radio crackled into life with a typically garbled message. The words Black and white...Tresco were enough to have us running for the quay. Luckily making the first boat we were off to sea and unfortunately, due to the low tide, dropped at the wrong end of the Tresco. A lung bursting run followed, past bemused tourists to Pool Road. A line of birders were strung out between the hides, lying, kneeling, sitting and standing, all peering through the thick vegetation. A minute or two of panic then I was on the Black-and-white Warbler. Incredible views as it crawled Treecreeper-like round lichen covered branches. As a male it was strikingly black and white, almost shining against the drab surroundings. As one of my most wanted birds this made my holiday. Views were far better than my photos suggest...

Black-and-white Warbler

A few other bits have been seen.

Snow Bunting

Pectoral Sandpiper

Pink-footed Goose

Wash those blackberries.

Barred Warbler

Friday, 2 October 2020


 A challenging first three days on Scilly. The Scillonian crossing was very rough and wet, seabirding action curtailed by covid restrictions and weather, but I did manage to pick up a Sooty Shearwater. On land I shamelessly twitched the two Greylag for my first Scilly tick of the trip. Distant scope views of the Red-backed Shrike at Longstone were had, but little more of note until a Turtle Dove on the way back to town. There was still time for late dips of Common Rosefinch and Nightingale.


Turtle Dove

The 1st started with a walk out to Penninis where a Yellow Wagtail was feeding amongst Cattle and a roaming flock of Meadow Pipit. All were scattered by a hunting Merlin.

Yellow Wagtail

News that the Nightingale was showing got me down to the Dump Clump and after a 15 min wait the bird popped out to give fantastic views, sitting out in the open on the incinerator bank.


On to Tresco, where despite some very wet rain and a bit of wind we notched up some good birds. A good selection of waders including 8 Bar-tailed Godwit and a Grey Plover, 13 Pale-bellied Brent and 2 Mediterranean Gull were all seen within minutes of landing. Two Pochard were on Abbey Pool and a very vocal Yellow-browed Warbler showed nearby. The Spotted Crake took a few minutes from the David Hunt hide. but then showed well, feeding out in the open on the mud.

After sheltering from some torrential rain we headed up to the north of the island in fairly grim conditions, kicking up a Lapland Bunting from the path.

Lapland Bunting

We did fruitless circles of the wind-swept north with no sign of the two Dotterel, only for them to turn up just outside New Grimsby. A fresh young bird and a very pale adult.


A quick dash before the boat got us brief views of a skulking Wryneck. A bit of Barred Warbler dipping followed back on St Mary's.

Today has mostly been dominated by 50+ knot wind from the north and heavy rain this afternoon. Difficult birding all day and only saved by 5+ Balearic Shearwater from Porthellick Down. Roll on tomorrow...