Tuesday, May 25, 2004

We again wake to a brilliant sunny day and head off to Bryher. During the crossing we see a single Guillemot, two Razorbills and several Common Terns. We make a brief stop at Samson to ferry a small number of visitors to this inhabited isle. Opportune, as the beach we pull up by holds a small number of Sanderling running around tideline and three Bar-tailed Godwits. Two Whimbrel take flight providing good views as they head past the boat. The nearby offshore rocks are dotted with a handful of Common Terns.

Arriving at Church Quay, Bryher a single Jackdaw is circling over Watch Hill. We disembark search the fields around the camp site for a Red-backed Shrike seen yesterday, but despite our (and another group's) best efforts, we fail to find it. Linnets are again plentiful and a single male Stonechat is seen.

We walk round to the Great Pool which holds a single Mute Swan and on towards Shipman Head Down where a Hooded Crow flies over. The first of the day's small passage of Swifts is seen among the many House Martins and Swallows. As we make our way up to past Great popplestone, the gulls from the off-island Gweal go mad and an Osprey appears above us. The bird heads slowly northwards before turning round and again drifting right over us giving fantastic views.

We arrive on Shipman Head Down where a Short-toed Lark has been seen. Over lunch Steve and Ray search the down for the lark but no joy. Attention is diverted by a Cuckoo perched up in a bush in the valley below us. More Swifts and hirundines drift over and the gulls on the nearby island are again up and calling frantically. The Osprey reappears over Gweal causing more mayhem, but order is soon restored when it drifts off to the north.

The Short-toed Lark flies past us and drops on to the Down a couple of hundred yards away. We reposition ourselves and after a few moments it appears on a clump of heather and we get views of this sandy little lark through the heat haze before it again takes flight. Searching for it a Wheatear is found, but it too quickly disappears.

We stop to look over the fantastically named Hell Bay before heading back towards the Great Pool. Butterflies are much in evidence in the searing sun, with Common Blues all over the down and Peacock and Red Admiral along the lanes and several brilliant metallic green Rose Chaffers are also seen. With the sun beating down we give in to temptation and retire to the Hell Bay Hotel for a much needed rest and drink (and enjoy the fabulous art!). A Common Tern and Shelduck on the adjacent Great Pool provide interest, as do the hotel garden Blackbird, Song Thrush and Starling. The latter gets our pulses racing with a cracking impersonation of a Whimbrel!

Suitably replenished and rested, we head back towards The Town where we bump into a single Turtle Dove within a flock of 20 or so Collared Doves. The Collared Doves are feeding in a garden but take cover in some pines as we approach, the smaller, darker Turtle Dove standing out in flight due to its dark tail with brilliant white sides. We hang around and eventually the doves make their way back to the garden, and so follows the Turtle Dove, giving splendid flight views before it disappears in to the garden.

We leave the island via AnnekaÂ’s Quay, built for one of the Challenge Anneka (Rice) TV programmes in the early 1990s. On the way back we see more Common Terns and handful of Razorbills on the sea.

Arriving back on St Mary's we head back to the guesthouse to prepare for dinner, all glowing from the day's strong sun, and all smiling following an excellent day on a jewel of an island.

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