Thursday, September 23, 2004

Day 6 | Week 2 | A Speyside Wildlife holiday.

After breakfast we head out up the Garrison under leaden skies and a pretty fresh westerly wind. We are all feeling a little jaded this morning, so a gentle stroll around the Garrison wall free of rucksacks and scopes is just what we need. We spend an hour or so resuming our search for the Melodious Warbler seen by others yesterday afternoon. Although completely sheltered the dense cover is devoid of any migrants. Plenty of Robins, Wrens, Blackbirds, Song Thrushes and Dunnocks – but not a single migrant passerine. It’s even started to rain. Great!

We arrive at Morning Point at the and of the Garrison and reacquaint ourselves with the first-winter Mediterranean Gull which Dave and Andrea confidently pick out among the other gulls. ‘One plumage down – just another three or four to learn!’ I quip. ‘That’s gulls for ya’ retorts Marilyn. We check the sheltered bushes around the point but nothing. Birds seem to be leaving faster than others are arriving the last few days and finding migrants is getting to be somewhat of a major skill. The walk back along the wall is equally fruitless until we at least chance upon a couple of Goldcrests.

We arrive back in town feeling as gloomy as the sky above us. ‘Coffees all round is it?’ I say, and with that we head for the bakery (providers of our fine packed (lunches) for a cup of the best coffee on the islands. That soon warms the cockles and the spirits.

We catch the bus up country and arrive on High Lane where we resume our quest for migrants. Five Woodpigeons and handful of Linnets have us beginning to think it might just be us after all! We head down through Watermill towards the cove. A little sheltered copse is alive with birds. Robin. Blackbird. Song Thrush. Another Robin. Great Tit. Where’s the migrants! ‘Spotted Flycatcher!’ I shout. ‘Brilliant!’ responds Marilyn. What a relief! We get brief views as it undertakes its flycatching sorties from the line of beech trees. ‘Pied Flycatcher!’ I yell. Wow! No migrant passerines all day and now both flycatchers together. Fantastic! We all get views of the Pied before its back to the Spotted which now begins to perform for us. The Pied is much less showy with only a couple more glimpses over the next 15 or so minutes. Hunger and midgies get the better of us so we head down to the sheltered cover where we collapse with smiley faces and tuck in to our lunches. I make a new friend in the form of Walter the Wiggly Worm which we are sure has us down as nutters to a passing couple on push bikes.


After lunch we head round to Innisidgen Burial Chamber. The usual coastal birds are ever present – Shag, gulls, Oystercatchers and a fly by Curlew. We wander through Trenowerth carefully checking all the sheltered areas. One field in particular is full of Chaffinches and Linnets – but much else. A fly-over Golden Plover is little compensation. The walk along Pungies Lane secures one of our resident quarries – Stock Dove!

We arrive on the Golf Course to the sight of four birders looking just in front of them. We wander over and sure enough, two Buff-breasted Sands! One looks like the St Agnes bird, the newcomer looking much more boldly marked on the face and upperparts. We collapse in the rough by one of the fairways and are treated to a supreme display of synchronised Buff-breasts searching for food. They completely circle us, passing to within 20 or so feet! Fantastic stuff!

More Buffy action

This is what makes birding so special – you never know what you’re going to see and experience next. Seeing the one Buffy close to on St Agnes was wonderful, but although still pretty blowy, nestled in the heather rough watching these two down to 20ft is equallt marvellous! ‘Any day with two Buffies in it has to be pretty special’ says Steve. With that, and aware that we are in the middle of a golf course where hard balls can occasionally come flying your way, we head down to Juliet’s Garden for a much deserved splash of tea (and the purchase of armfuls of bulbs from the farm shop). Looking through the café window down on to Porthloo I spot something. I set up the scope whilst drinking my tea. ‘Adult Med Gull’ I pronounce. With that, not only Marilyn, Andrea and Dave line up to look at it, but the couple at the next two tables do as well! A handful of Sandwich Terns sat on rocks around it are merely a bonus.

Adult Med Gull from Juliet’s Garden

The walk back to town is broken up with a visit to Jo Probert’s gallery at Rocky Hills where I, as a long-time admirer of Jo’s pictures in Juliet’s Garden, can’t resist one of her abstract pastels of Par Beach and the Daymark on St Martin’s.

After an hour or so of rest and freshening up we head back to Juliet’s Garden for our scumptous evening dinner (alas our last of the week here). The walk back is equally entertaining as Sunday’s with Marilyn this time showing off her skills at communicating with the ducks on Prorthloo Duck Pond.

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