Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Day 4 | Week 2 | A Speyside Wildlife holiday.

An earlier start with a pre-breakfast walk up to Garrison Lane for an unsuccessful search for the Wryneck. After breakfast we collect our lunches and head in to town for various retail needs before getting the boat across to Tresco.

A wet trip to Tresco

The crossing is a little bouncy but with only a wee bit of stray water. Before leaving New Grimsby we pay a visit to the gallery by the quay where I manage to keep my credit card in my pocket despite two gorgeous metal sculptures of bream (£588!) and mackerel (a snip at £298).

Back in the field our first interest is a flock of sparrows and a Starling bathing in a puddle. Unfortunately this is short-lived when two walkers disturb the group.

Sparrows bathing

We skirt around Dolphin Town along the grassy lane by the dairy herd – bull and all. A couple of Swallows rest on the barbed wire fence in the sun. At the hotel we take the path up to Merchant’s Point with fabulous views north-west over Gimble Porth, north over to Round Island with its lighthouse, westwards to St Martin’s and southwards over to St Mary’s. We head through Old Grimsby and manage, at last, to find some bird interest in the form of Jackdaw on the fence line of a field with a roosting flock of gulls from which Marilyn detects a single adult Lesser Black-backed Gull.

The view from Merchant’s Point, Tresco

We lunch overlooking Borough Farm before taking Racket Town Lane (adding Red-legged Partridge, Chiffchaff and Migrant Hawker dragonfly) to the Great Pool. The light is awful from the Pool Road side, so we head for the estate office end where scanning through the wildfowl I pick out two Wigeon and a single Pintail. A flock of waders fly down the pool towards us. Two different sizes – ‘Redshank and Curlew Sandpipers’ I declare. They land on the muddy edge in front of the hide, so we relocate quickly. On opening the hide flaps the seven Curlew Sands are feeding with the Redshank, their elegant long necks and bills and their deliberate slow probing action. On large muddy fringe to our left, I locate a Dunlin and wading around in the deep water, a Black-tailed Godwit. Teal, Canada Goose and Mute Swan are all added to the week’s list.

Walking down Pool Road we are stopped by one of the estate vehicles and presented with an exhausted Willow Warbler. We admire this tiny little migrant which is trying to find its way to Africa. Alas, think it’s too ill to make it, but give it a chance by releasing back in to a sheltered spot. Fingers crossed. At the second hide we get more of the Curlew Sands and I spot a wader flying on to the mud on the opposite side. ‘Pectoral Sandpiper’ I announce and sets his scope on it for the others to enjoy. We get good views, and the distinct dark breast, ending in a point in the middle is very easy to see. A pair of Gadwall perform for us right in front of the hide. As we leave, a couple of Water Rails sharm us along the boardwalk. Great stuff!

Ambling along Pool Road I spot a birder digiscoping something ahead of us. ‘I wonder what he’s got?’ I ask. At that the birder beckons us to him. I run to him. ‘I think I’ve got a Common Rosefinch’ says the birder. I get on to a plain looking bird in the weedy field just as it fliesup to the pittasporum hedge. It lands. ‘Definitely is’ I say, looking at a classic ‘Grotfinch’ side on, its little beady eye and prominent wingbars plain to see. As the other reach us the Rosefinch and Linnets fly back down in to the weedy field. We search through the flock for the Rosefinch when they all take flight and head off in two directions. Damn! We spend the next hour searching the area but can’t find any Linnet flocks.

We reluctantly move on to Rosefield where we console ourselves with a cracking adult male Wheatear and a Grey Wagtail. We arrive at the tea-room three minutes too late to be served (nothing like being flexible and providing a service is there!), so after using the loos we spend our last 15 minutes up fruitlessly searching for a Redstart before heading off the Carn Near for the boat. On the quay a Little Egret flies over and get good views of a Grey Seal bobbing around just offshore.

Adult male Wheatear

Boats heading back to St Mary’s

Arriving back at St Mary’s the infant son of the skipper serenades us over the PA system as we climb the quay steps. Sorry, not a patch on the other say’s sea shanties coming back from Agnes! We take in Garrison Lake on the way to the guesthouse to look for the Wryneck, but fail again! And we fail again after our delicious dinner. Will we try again tomorrow?

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