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Mon 25th October 2010

Posted on November 5, 2010 at 5:40 PM

Scilly Trip 2010 - day three

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Quite disappointingly, I had to miss my cooked breakfast as I had to get checked in for the chopper at half seven. The lady at the B&B kindly left out some milk and cereal for me to scoff before I dashed out the door. I forced everything into the one bag for check in - no hand luggage on the helicopter - although I refused to let my scope go in the hold! The price of the helicopter is daftly expensive for such a short flight, but I reluctantly decided to pay for this luxury in the end - the boat is half the price, but the times were inconvenient and cancellations/vomiting due to the weather are always possible on the Scillonian. At least the chopper flies all the time and is a corking way to fly!

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Early morning at Penzance Heliport

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Twenty minutes after take-off I was on St. Mary's. The Scilly Isles are just a small version of Guernsey. Both places have a very similar look about them, especially on the larger island of St. Mary's. Although, even though it is much smaller, there does seem to be more countryside on St. Mary;s compared to the over-populated Guernsey.

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Looking from Hugh Town, over the bay to Porthloe

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My Guest House was The Lyonnesse which I heartily recommend. It was great staying there and I will look to do so again. It is birder-friendly, with lots of pictures of rare birds on the walls. The only negative aspect of my stay there was having to share the breakfast room with two couples every morning - one Aussie and one Brummie - both of which were quite dim and also rather racist!

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The Lyonnesse Guest House

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So dropping off my bag at the hotel, I quickly sorted out my kit and started birding. I decided not to get any proper breakfast as I would grab something at the next cafe I passed. Usually when I arrive on Scilly, there is something already there, to go for straight away and I'd head there at speed. Last time it was Blyth's Pipit, the time before that Sora, but this year zilch. So I could be a bit more casual and I headed straight for Lower Moors which is probably in my top three favourite birding sites in the UK - no exaggeration.

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Lower Moors, St.Mary's - birding heaven

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The first bird I saw was a very brown and whitish Chiffchaff that I presumed was the Siberian Chiffchaff that had been present at this reserve for a few days. It gave no calls but a brief snatch of song that was a bit odd. There were other Chiffchaffs in the bushes and a Yellow-browed Warbler was calling from deep within, but not showing. Further down the track, I had a second Yellow-browed Warbler calling from the trees just above my head. I don't know how I missed it as it was so very loud and close, but it seemed to creep away without showing at all. Walking through Old Town, it was devastating to find that the Tolman Cafe was closed for the season which I was relying on for much-needed food. By now, it was beginning to become clear that there were very few birders knocking around - less than I'd ever seen beforeon previous trips. Scilly is not in vogue at the moment, with Shetland becoming the place to be. Of course from Guernsey, Spain is closer than Shetland, and especially this late in the season, it is not something I'll be doing for a while. So I continued round to the Airport which only had 5 Skylark and a Wheatear on it.

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Runway security is taken very seriously on Scilly - who needs a fence when you can just put up signs

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Birding - its just loitering but with bins

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So continuing round to Porthellick, my stomach rumbles were putting me off and I was keen to find a cafe that was open. I had a possible Water Pipit in the bay, but there was nothing on the pool, although I did hear a brief Yellow-browed Warbler distantly on the Loop Trail. Pushing on, there were a few birders at the Pumping Station bushes at Higher Moors,where a Yellow-browed Warbler called loudly in the roadside sallows. Frustratingly, again this bird was not showing at all. This was five YBWs in a row now and none of them seen! I decided to not be a wimp about my hunger and pushed on to the western edge of St. Mary's where a few birds of interest had been seen in the Mount Todden to Pelistry area. Again, the lack of birders meant it was difficult to locate the semi-rarities that were here. If there are lots of birders on the island, you come across little groups of people looking at things and you wander over to see what they are watching and you see more of what's around. There was apparently Little and Lap Bunt, Serin and Subalp in this area but whereabouts exactly, no idea. So I eventually slogged it down to Longstones Cafe which I knew was open and had my first food in 7 long hours.

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Longstones Cafe is a perfect birders cafe. An up to date sightings board, the internet constantly on Birdguides/RBA, free wifi, knowledgable staff, good views and fabulous views. A must visit every day. However, I was not going to lounge around and I headed back down to Lower Moors. This time I finally did get my good views of Yellow-browed Warbler and the bird was also very vocal again.

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Yellow-browed Warbler - The spectrogram shows similar V shapes as the Porthgwarra bird but there is some variation (e.g. at 7 seconds there is apair of falling notes rather than down-up).

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Pleased with finally getting a YBW in the bins, I went into the hides. It was getting to evening by now and the light was getting difficult.

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Grey Heron, Lower Moors

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which then walked within 2 yards of the hide window - no zoom required

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From the second hide, two snipe were feeding on the mud opposite - one Common Snipe and one Jack Snipe. If you want good views of Jack Snipe, the hides on Scilly are amazing - there always seems to be one parading round in the open at one of them.

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Jack Snipe, Lower Moors

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Always a beautiful bird and a great end to the day. There had not been a lot to see during the day, but it was encouraging to see lots of Chaffinch and Redwing going over and perhaps something would land overnight.

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I found the day exceptionally knackering. I had not had a full day in the field since the bird race, and here I had carried all my kit with me. I flounced out on the bed before heading to the famous birders pub, the Atlantic Hotel for some grub. Bad choice - they didn't have my first 2 choices and had to eat a crappy Pasta/Brie/Broccolli concoction which was not good, and the smell from the toilet kept drifting to me. I then went on to the Scillonian Club where the nightly Bird Log happens. If you haven't seen this before, all the birders crowd in and the local recorders go through the regular bird list, and people call out how many they have seen of each species and where. I can never bring myself to shout out my sightings across the crowded club, but I like to go and listen what's been seen. And today - pretty much nowt!

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Categories: 2010 Autumn