Saturday, May 22, 2004

Ray (my co-leader) and I meet up the group (Pam, Phil, Ian, Sylvia, Graham, John, Alison and Margaret) at 08.15 am on the quay in Penzance where we board the Scillonian III and we are soon following the coastline towards Land's End. The sun is out, the sky is blue and we are straight in to the birds with Herring Gulls following the ship and then our first real seabirds - Gannets. We settle for distant birds at first, but soon birds are passing close by the ship with the occasional bird folding back its wings, and diving spear-like in to the sea. Fantastic! Fulmars, Guillemots, Razorbills and Puffins are seen hurtling past and a flock of Collared Doves appear overhead, settling briefly on the ships rigs before heading off north-eastwards towards land. As we near Land's End we see our first Manx Shearwaters, and eventually get good views of a couple of close birds.

We get our first sight of the Isles of Scilly and our anticipation is heightened. We pass the Eastern Isles with the long, sandy-beached St MartinÂ’s stretching out behind them. Looking down Crow Sound we can see Round Island Lighthouse in the distance, with Tresco to its left disappearing behind the main island of St Mary's. We turn in to St Mary's Sound and St Agnes appears on our left, with the small island of Gugh sat in front of it. As we turn towards Hugh Town, the view south-west down to Bishop Rock Lighthouse is breathtaking. The flat island of Annet stretches low in front of the peaks of the Western Rocks. The twin hills of Samson come in to view, with Bryher tucked behind it and a closer view of Tresco.

We disembark and head straight for our guesthouse. We have a relaxing drink before heading off to Thomas Porth for our lunch on the beach overlooking the superb setting of the town harbour under a cloudless blue sky. After lunch we head up to the Golf Course. Butterflies are enjoying the sun as much as we are - Holly Blues and Speckled Woods dance along the coastal paths. On the golf course we come across some familiar birds - Goldfinch, Song Thrush, Linnet and Greenfinch. We search hard for . . . the 11th tee - which takes a long time! 'It would have been easier with a green plan' comments Ian. The 11th tee is devoid of birds, so we head for the 12th. Sat underneath a sheltered stand of pines, we at least find a pair of Great Tits delivering beakfuls of food to a nest out of view, and a Spotted Flycatcher. A Carrion Crow is seen to catch a juvenile Starling in mid-air. It swoops down to the beach below us where the Starling is immediately devoured. Exciting stuff! But our hard-searched for quarry isn't in evidence. We take the coastal path below the golf course to search the gorse and scrub and get excellent views of Linnet and a pair of Stonechats. We arrive at the 14th and Ray immediately picks up a bird in flight. 'Woodchat Shrike!' he and Steve shout in unison as it lands by the tee. The cracking male performs well, catching a couple of beetles which it despatches pretty deftly. We enjoy the shrike until we have to give way to a group of golfers (well it is a golf course!) and we head back to town for dinner.

After dinner we enjoy Will Wagstaff's (the 'Scilly' birdman) excellent Wildlife of the Isle of Scilly talk - just whetting our appetites for the week ahead!

I can't let the day go by without mention of the mighty reds victory over Millwall in the FA Cup final! Man Utd 3 - Millwall 0. Not a trophyless season afterall! More that can be said for POSH who only just managed to clear the relegation zone in Div 2, finishing 18th. Oh hum - season ticket already bought for next year. More fool me eh!

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