Saturday, September 25, 2004

Day 8 | Week 2 | A Speyside Wildlife holiday.

After breakfast we have an hour to finishing packing and then get the bus up country to Mount Todden to look for two Lapland Buntings seen there yesterday. Although no sign, the farm fields are far from empty with quite a few Meadow Pipits kicking around and the nearby pines are alive with the calls of Goldcrests. Is it all happening too late?

St Mary’s Harbour

We take the coastal path southwards searching for the buntings. As we round a headland I shout ‘Monarch butterfly’ and point to a large, flappy, orange, black and white insect tearing past. Unfortunately no one else got on to it. Damn!

We follow the path over Porth Hellick Down (still no sign of buntings) where a Skylark flies over calling (trip tick and quite scarce on Scilly), and on to Porth Hellick pool. In front of the hide two moulting juvenile Dunlin are probing at the soft mud and a Green Sandpiper bobs around to our right. A Greenshank is asleep on the other side of the pool. The Dunlin fly across to the far side and are joined by a third, smaller wader. It’s a Little Stint and our second trip tick of the day!

We head on across Giant’s Castle and over the edge of the runway. Two Snow Buntings were reported from here earlier, but we and other birds can’t find them now. Dipped again! We find a sheltered spot for lunch overlooking the sea with a Grey Seal bobbing away beneath us.

We pass through the hides at Lower Moors. The pool smells disgusting so we don’t linger and with rain in the air make our way up Porthloo to say our goodbye to Juliet’s Garden – our fave place on the whole islands! Several cups of tea and stick cakes later, we make our way back in to town, collect our things from the guesthouse and head for the quay for our 4.30pm sailing back to Penzance.

The sea very calm, with hardly any wave action and little swell. The sun is shining over Scilly as we depart via Crow Sound between St Mary’s and St Martin’s. We get our second Lesser Black-backed Gull sighting of the week when a bird flaps over the back of the boat near Bar Point. At the Eastern Isles Steve points to what at first he thinks is the Buzzard sat up on the rocks. Wrong shape. It must be a juvvy Peregrine then. But its far too large isn’t it? And its too brown for a Peg. Its simply too distant to get any real detail on it, but I wonder whether it’s the escaped Lanner which has been seen recently on the islands (and this is confirmed on his return home when I email from one of the Scilly birders).

We continue towards the mainland, the wind coming from directly behind us so it feels like there isn’t any wind at all. We soon start to add a few new species to the trip list. Marilyn spies our first Fulmar sat on the water and I pick up a handful of Common Terns. Kittiwake is next up followed by two single Guillemots and a duo of Razorbills. Wow! We’ve added five species on the return sailing!

We had already done our roundup checklist the previous evening, with St Agnes taking island (place) of the trip, the Scillonian sea shanties on our way back from St Agnes as the magic moment, and the Buff-breasted Sandpipers as the bird(s) of the trip.

We dock at Penzance and meet Speyside friends Mary and Brian Chilcott who were on Shetland and Orkney with the four of us lat year and with whom Marilyn is staying overnight. We say our goodbyes with warm hugs and promises of seeing each other on future trips.

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