28 October 2014

St Agnes 4th-18th October

Another October on St Agnes and meeting up with a whole lot of friends on a brilliant Island. In terms of birds, no real 'biggies' this year but a good selection of semi-rarities which are always good to catch up with and kept everybody going. The first goodie had a bit of a deja vu about it, a Short-toed Lark found by Neil Wright in the same field at Castella that the one last year frequented. It stayed for the whole time we were there (maybe it's there still). I thought I got some good pictures but Neil's is better - so here's the first rarity, a southern starter.

Photo Neil Wright
Yellow-browed Warblers appeared of course, usually in the same places - The Parsonage, the Covean  sycamores - though, unusually one was remarkably faithful to a single Turkey Oak at Lower Town. Firecrests appeared in better numbers than last year but were still fairly elusive.

The next goodie led everyone a merry dance at first, heard in flight by Graham Gordon, it was found feeding at a large puddle by Lee Amery soon after. It disappeared for quite a while before the first of several return visits to the sea wall near the Little Pool. Unfortunately it was quick and never very close so some fairly dodgy record shots only. Still an excuse for some people to head for the Turk's Head, probably the best as well as the most southerly pub in Britain- mind you some people don't need an excuse.

The weather continued to be hot and the whole place looked wonderful during the first week we were there and where better to be than on Gugh. Just crossing the Gugh bar is a great experience, it could almost be the Caribbean at times - though not when Kathy and I got caught out by the tide. The two gardens on Gugh always look great for birds and we found a Barred Warbler in one on our visit, which showed well on and off all day. Popping out amongst the more exotic plants to pick off a few blackberries. There are always Song Thrushes everywhere, amazingly tame at times, they are one of the best things about St Agnes.

The day before a Tawny Pipit was behind Troytown Farm briefly and an Ortolan Bunting was seen at Castella Down, though we didn't manage to catch up with either. Then after the Barred Warbler we thought we might get the Tawny Pipit when a Large Pipit was reported near the Big Pool. A fair few people were watching it when we arrived and a lot of debate picked up as to whether it was  the Tawny Pipit re-found or a new Richard's Pipit. It turned out to be the latter but a good-natured revision experience too.

photo Neil Wright
A notably grey (and quite confiding at times) Chiffchaff at Troytown Farm raised a fair amount of interest and the consensus moved fairly inexorably towards Siberian Chiffchaff (tristis) even though, as far as I'm aware, it wasn't heard to call. The debate between grey with strongly green suffused wing/tail fringes, 'Bonelli's'-type birds and the browner versions (the 'orthodox' birds) seems to have moved on again. Beyond the problems of 'colour-morphing' between grey and brown which makes photography tricky, it seems there's now evidence that the 'Bonelli's'-type birds can be true 'tristis'. Hopefully I'll be able to add some photos and information on this to this blog in the near future. In the meantime, here are some phots of the Troytown bird.

photo Robin Hemming

photo Robin Hemming

photo Robin Hemming

Astonishingly not a single Spotted Flycatcher was found in the whole fortnight we were there and only three Pied Flycatchers, a couple of which we picked up in the Gugh Plantation - this was a particularly well-marked individual. A single Red-breasted Flyturned up at Rosevene later on. After the invasion on the east coast earlier in the autumn I'd have expected more than usual not fewer. Just a couple of Black redstarts too, continuing the dearth of recent years.

This Little Bunting was a great bird and really confiding for twenty minutes in a field near the Lighthouse, unfortunately that was it and it was never seen again after the twenty minutes were up. But what a cracking little bird.

photo Neil Wright
The weather grew more stormy towards the end  and at least one eye was on the forecast and whether the boats would run, the planes fly. How long would we be stuck if we didn't get off on time? Hurricane Gonzalo was on its way from Bermuda and it was a bit of a worry. This Common Cuckoo brightened things up. Some birders had seen more American Cuckoos on Scilly in October.

Then it was time to go, lots of friends to say goodbye to, hopefully all to meet up again next year. A fairly bumpy plane trip and then we're planning for next year's visit. 

Can't wait!