Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Day 5 | Week 2 | A Speyside Wildlife holiday.

After breakfast we head over to St Martin’s under a sunny blue sky and fresh wind. Sea King gets us there without getting us wet and landing at Higher Town quay we make our way up to the town and down the track under Middle Town.

Arriving at St Martin’s

A Wryneck was reported here yesterday, but our slow walk with frequent stops nets us only a couple of Chiffchaffs, lots of Goldfinches and House Sparrows, and the usual butterfly cast.

On the track from Middle Town to Lower Town, Dave spots a large bird over the hillside above. It’s the Common Buzzard that has been around for the last week or so. It hops around from fence, to ground, to hedge, closely followed by two crows. As we near Lower Town we get great views as it gets a bit more flighty.

We lunch on Tinkler’s Hill overlooking Round Island and its prominent lighthouse. During lunch Marilyn and I scope the sea to our north-west. Gannets – loads of them, but nothing else. Heading up to The Plains two Ravens do a fly-by – appearing all regal as if they rule the place (and they do!). We head on down to Great Bay where a Dotterel was seen yesterday. No Dotty, but one end holds around 40 Sanderling, Turnstones, Ringed Plovers and Rock Pipits feeding around a large batch of beached seaweed. A Grey Seals bobs around in the bay.

Great Bay

Ringed Plover

Grey Seal

We take the coastal path towards Daymark. The whole area is covered in yuckas and this stretch of the coast looks and feels very much a Southern Hemisphere landscape – New Zealand-like (according to me –having of course never been!). We see our third Grey Seal of the day looking out towards the Eastern Isles.

Yucka landscape on St Martin’s

At English Point we come across another corner of waders, with around 100+ Sanderling. But the wind is hitting us straight in the face so we retreat to look in the sheltered fields of Little Arthur Farm. Predictably empty, we seek refuge at the farm café and after a couple of cups of tea apiece (and some buttered Barn Brack for me) we make our way to the quay for an early return to St Mary’s.


The boat journey back on Britannia is memorable. The sea is a little lumpy and the wind has steadily increased during the day and is now nicely up. White horses are all around us and it isn’t too long before the first splash showers many of the occupants with spray. Bounce after bounce is leaving a few people looking a bit bedraggled, and a young couple without waterproofs who are on a day trip on the Scillonian, are getting an absolute drenching. Brrrrrrr! My experience of choppy crossings pays off for us and we reach St Mary’s nice and dry with only a few splashes to account for. ‘If anyone’s dry we’ve got a bucket for the here’ quips Dave the Skipper.

Back on dry land we dump our gear at the guesthouse and head for the Garrison to look for the Melodious Warbler which has been seen again. No joy. We do manage good views of a first-winter Mediterranean Gull off Morning Point and returning to the guesthouse I pick up a wader flying over town beach. ‘Buffy!’ I yell. The others get a glimpse as the Buff-breasted Sand hurtles up towards the golf course.

After dinner and the checklist, all plans of evening entertainment in the town is abandoned in favour of an early night all round!

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