The Birdman Writes…
David Rosair writes with his Spring Highlights
Arriving with our first birding group at Hell Bay, Bryher on April 27th, full of ornithological anticipation! The strong southerly winds had produced plenty of Manx Shearwaters on the Scillonian crossing over from Penzance to St Marys and with a scattering of Razorbills between St Marys and Bryher along with Gannet, Kittiwake and Sandwich Tern. The afternoon morning’s walk up towards Shipman Head Down produced a late fine female Ring Ouzel along with a pair of Stonechat feeding two fledged young, plus at least 20 Northern Wheatears around the Pool below the Hotel – a good start. It was soon easy to see the results of the Winter storms with huge swathes of beach granite stones hurled inland at Rushy Bay, Great Bay & Popplestone Neck and the resultant flooding of the grassland behind the beaches.
With clea skies and light south-westerly winds over the next couple of days, visits were made to both St Martins and St Agnes, with a stunning flock of 7 summer plumaged European Golden Plover (clearly of the “northern” form) towards Higher Town, St Martins and several flocks of Whimbrels migrating over St Agnes, their distinctive “seven-note whistles aiding distant identification, along with at least four Great Northern Divers (one in full summer plumage) and a Guillemot on the boat crossings aboard the Firethorn, along with the thriving new colony of Kittiwakes near the Turk’s Head.
Back on Tresco on April 30th gave us a chance to observe the splendid 1st summer Iceland Gull present on the “Heliport”, its domed head and long wing tips projecting beyond the tail tip helping to separate from Glaucous Gull. Another full summer plumage wader, a Black-tailed Godwit, was present throughout our entire stay, along with two more adjacent the Abbey Pool, all three birds sporting orangey head, breast & underparts and surely of the “icelandica” race. Plenty of Gadwall were found on the Great Pool as usual, along with Pochard, Wigeon & Shelduck, with 30+ Barn Swallows and a scattering of House Martins, whilst the resident ‘pair’ of Buzzards were seen to be hunting above the Middle Fields. Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff & Blackcap were all recorded singing along with several Reed Warblers and a single Sedge Warbler.
On May 1st, a Hobby flew low through the Middle Fields, Tresco, whilst on May 2nd a Short-eared Owl was flushed from the heather/bracken and seen to fly off high towards Bryher. 3 Common Terns were observed off Tobaccoman’s Point, along with a lovely flock of partial summer plumaged Sanderling, en route to the high Eurasian Arctic.
With a gentle south-easterly wind on May 3rd, hopes were high of something “special”! An early morning walk down to the Great Pool produced a singing Cuckoo, 3 Common Sandpipers, a beautiful pair of Garganey and then the bird of the Tour – a stunning Glossy Ibis, watched from 07.45-08.30 before it flew off high to the north-west over Bryher. Worth getting up early! Visiting Bryher again, we found plenty of the special Dwarf Pansy at Rushy Bay despite the winter flooding and the Orange Birdsfoot nearby, along with at least 30 Northern Wheatears, several Meadow Pipits and more small flocks of migrant Whimbrel. The occasional Fulmar soared over Shipman Head Down along with a single Common Swift and two Sand Martins.
Visiting St Agnes again on May 4th produced several more Great Northern Divers on the boat crossing off Samson and a Little Egret and White Wagtail beside the Pool, with plenty of Rock Pipits & Linnets and a single Peregrine, whilst still awaiting another Spring “bigee”. That evening a Black Kite was reported flying over the Great Pool on Tresco - would it still be present the next morning?
At 07.45 on May 5th I looked out above the New Inn and already quartering over towards the rubbish tip was a raptor exhibiting a shallow forked tail lacking the rich orangey colouration and indistinct pale panel across the wing covers – Black Kite I yelled out to all present! We watched the bird for well over an hour, even capturing some photographic record shots before we set off again for St Martins, finding a pair of Ravens and just missing out on a female Golden Oriole observed near the Daymark. A final evening visit to the Great Pool produced a single male Tufted Duck, 2 Yellow Wagtails flying over the Swarovski Hide and an influx of 50+ Barn Swallows.
Over the period 88 species were recorded including two species I had personally never seen on the Scilly Isles before (Glossy Ibis & Black Kite.) I wonder what the Autumn will produce?