28 May 2019

St Agnes Autumn 2018

We travelled pretty much straight from Orkney to Scilly, rather enjoying the milder weather - people wearing shorts! Amazing. Arriving on St Agnes was a pleasure, as always and we headed straight to The Big Pool for the Grey Phalarope which had been present there for a while. It was quite tame and with a little time showed extremely well.

It's great to get opportunities for some pleasing photos, even of birds which aren't rare. The opportunity came quickly with a Merlin sitting up nicely against a backdrop of fire smoke provided by Tim at Troytown Farm.

Wrynecks are always a welcome sight on St Agnes and Gugh, thankfully we usually get a few of them. This one was picked up near The Bulb Dump by Andy Carroll and showed well till booted on by day-trippers.

This one was in our garden for a couple of mornings at Lower Town Barn allowing a mini breakfast-twitch and staying really close as it scoffed ants, though only seen and photographed through the conservatory windows.

There was at least one Turtle Dove around, seen on Gugh and St Agnes.

And the Merlin remained - an aggressive individual, enjoying seeing-off the crows whenever it got the chance. Presumably the same bird as in the earlier photographs though several were seen throughout the trip.

There were a couple, at least, of Common Rosefinches, present between Gugh and the area around The Bulb Dump, it was really difficult to know how many there were over an extended period. At least 2 but maybe more. They could be difficult to find at times and were never easy to photograph.

A new activity on quiet afternoons became rockpooling, in the big pool between Wingletang and Covean. A Tompot Blenny here and a crab (forget which) but it was often interesting.

Only a couple of Common Redstarts were present, Black Redstarts were in normal numbers though and there were smart individuals of both.

Doug Page picked up a flyover Ortolan Bunting which eventually settled to a certain extent and we got good views of. A Little bunting was much easier to see near The Maze and next day in Nicky and Ross's Garden behind the Post Office. It was a bit bedraggled though and then news of a Bluethroat at The Nag's Head came through - we saw it but it was very elusive.

Lawrence Pitcher had an amazing time in a very short period, picking up a Greenish Warbler at Browarth Fields, followed quickly by a flyover Red-throated Pipit which settled on the beach with a couple of Meadow Pipits. The Pipit didn't stay long but the Greenish stayed for days, relocating quickly to The Parsonage and providing entertainment for visitors and locals.

Kathy found this Mistle Thrush along New Lane, only the second we've seen on The Island, far, far fewer than Wrynecks for example.

All through the trip it was clear that there were far more Kestrels than usual present, there's often one or two but there were 10+ a lot of the time tis year and it was a similar picture on St Mary's apparently. The picture below shows that Scilly Shrews are eaten, providing the majority of their diet I'm sure. They seem to have increased, presumably as the Rats have gone. It also seemed Wrens had increased, maybe for the same reason?

We returned to Pembrokeshire for a few days mid-trip for Kathy's treatment and missed a few birds which turned up, like Glossy Ibis. This Red-backed Shrike was found near The Nag's Head and remained for an extended period, allowing for some decent photos. Amazing how it could disappear for long periods even in such generally open habitat though

Kathy did it again picking up this Water Pipit in Santa Warner's, it stayed there for a day but soon moved on to Porthkillier where it could be seen on and off in the following days.

Lawrence and Graham reported brief views of a Grey-cheeked Thrush at Covean and that became a big focus of the final days of the trip - it was a nightmare to see, incredibly skulking most of the time but just occasionally popping up right in front of a lucky observer, such as David Wilson who photographed it on a rowing boat at the Gig Shed. And while in the Covean area, looking, this Rose-coloured Starling appeared (it had been at Santa Warner's), sometimes feeding with a big flock of Starlings on the beach.

This is probably the worst photo I have ever, or ever will, post but it captures perfectly the frustrations of the grey-cheeked Thrush on Agnes 2018. Seen mostly in the shady area of Sycamores at Covean, dawn or dusk, you couldn't have thousands enough of ISO on your camera. It was a waste of time trying really but a learning experience for a fairly novice photographer.

And that was it, looking forward to next year now when it will all be the same and no doubt all different.

North Ronaldsay September 2018

We set out at about 6am from Bristol and arrived at North Ronaldsay at 11am, after 3 flights. Unfortunately we were still too late to catch up with the Lanceolated Warbler which had been caught earlier that morning. We went out for a walk and came upon a Willow Warbler and a Greenish Warbler in a garden up near the lighthouse. Unfortunately the Greenish Warbler had, as we later discovered, been there for a while. The strong winds made observations difficult but in subsequent days we enjoyed spending some time getting some photos. Aselection here, below:

 We were hammered day after day by westerly winds punctuated by showery squalls but even though we struggled for the hoped-for eastern goodies, nevertheless there were birds to see. We found Yellow-browed Warbler, Common Rosefinch and Barred Warbler as well as seeing others of the same species picked up elsewhere. Whooper Swans and Pink-footed Geese moved through in what seemed early winter conditions at times. The only other real rarity was a wet and bedraggled American Golden Plover in the fields at the centre of the Island.

09 May 2018

That Green Heron!

I forget exactly what I was doing but I checked the Pembs Bird Blog and Twitter mid afternoon on the 27th April and found a message newly-posted by Dave Astins concerning a Green Heron on a private pond at Llanmill near Narberth. So I rang Dave and found that he had the message via Kevin Phelps from the landowner, The MP Simon Hart. Whatever it was we were doing it was 'tools down' and we were off. When we arrived Brian Southern and a couple of others were already present but it had flown! And it didn't show for half an hour until I got a flash of purple in the irises and Richard Dobbins then picked it out in that area. And then it performed brilliantly for a while. My only regret was that it was a dull and overcast afternoon, poor for photos, and people on subsequent days had much better light conditions to enjoythis shockingly good-looking bird. We had seen a number in Costa Rica, on the Nicaraguan border which sounds exotic but somehow it was much much better in Pembrokeshire. So we at the Pembs Blog did our bit to help smooth access and give information and it was enjoyed by all - or at least it seemed that everyone with a pair of binoculars came to visit. On a serious note, it's not possible to thank Simon and Abigail Hart enough for their forbearance and hospitality throughout.

Whistle-stop Norfolk trip - April 21st-25th

A brief trip back to North Norfolk, staying once more in Salthouse. We arrived at midday on the 21st, and had a mammal tick en route, Chinese Water Deer, which crossed the road in front of us, heading for marshland somewhere near Thornham. It was also good to see our first Brown Hares, though we saw them every morning along The Skirts at Salthouse on our regular before-breakfast walk.

We also picked up on a couple of Muntjac Deer, they're pretty common and pretty tame too it seems. Also a feature of all our walks around Salthouse were good numbers of Stock Doves, they made a really attractive addition to the trip; they were always present in the past but I don't remember them being this numerous. The first evening also turned up a 1st year male Ring Ouzel at Weybourne Camp.

Our first morning walk last year turned up a goodie in the form of a Red-footed Falcon. On our first before breakfast walk this year it was a Great Egret, flying south-east over Weybourne Camp and then back west, a little while later. The rarest find of the trip for us.

There were a few Sedge Warblers around and singing but we only came across one Reed Warbler, everything being late here - as in Wales. There was one invisible bird along the ditch at The Skirts.

We spent the rest of the first full day around the Reserve at Cley, something we rarely did when we lived here. So we caught up with Spoonbill and Black-necked Grebe, Little Ringed Plover etc. Though the Avocets, Ruffs and Black-tailed Godwits were great to see and the ever-present Marsh Harriers.


The next day, after our morning walk, was spent at Titchwell where the sheer numbers of birds were stunning, loads of Gulls and Terns including many Mediterranean Gulls. Only flight views of Bearded Tits unfortunately but it was nice to see 3 male Garganeys looking very smart - our first of the spring.

Tuesday, our final full day, we spent around Weybourne and Salthouse finding our own bits and bobs like Little Ringed Plover and picking up about 15 Yellow Wagtails though only a couple landed. The Ring Ouzel was still at Weybourne Camp and a few Swifts went through, though we had seen others earlier in the trip. Then as the weather closed in we spent some time exploring some unfamiliar areas around Overstrand and Sidestrand. Then it was out to dinner with friends.

And the last morning was our usual walk to Weybourne (we sometimes get to Weybourne Coastguard Cottages or even Spalla Gap) and with fewer migrants moving as the weather worsened, we headed home via Picnic Fayre in Cley for a selection of their excellent vegetarian pies. Another great trip, and one we'd like to make a tradition if we can.