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Thu 28th October 2010

Posted on November 12, 2010 at 4:30 PM

Scilly Trip 2010 - day six

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My last day on Scilly was slightly later starting as I had to pay for the guest house and check out. My flight back was not until late afternoon so I had a good six hours birding available. On the cashpoint machine in Hugh Town was a Feathered Ranunculus. The ones here on Scilly are a different subspecies 'scillonea', which are apparently darker, but don't look too different to the Guernsey ones.

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Feathered Ranunculus ssp. scillonea, Hugh Town

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With all the positive talk about this tiny accipiter - (which I'm sure must be pronounced 'ackipiter', rather than what most people seem to say 'axsipiter') - last night at the bird log, I suddenly thought that if it does turn out to be Sharp-shinned and I didn't tick it off whilst I was here then it would really be a 'D'oh', kick-myself situation. So with just today left, and nothing new to go see, I decided that if I tramped round the North end of Marys, which is the area it has been seen recently, then I might bump into it. Walking past Porthloe, there were three Pale-bellied Brent Geese feeding in the choppy bay - a Scilly tick.

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Pale-bellied Brent, Porthloe

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So until early-afternoon I gave it some welly up North - Golf Course, to Telegraph, to Newford, to Maypole to Pelistry, back to Maypole, back to Telegraph, back to Newford, etc. A Raven over Pelistry was new for the trip, and the obligatory Yellow-browed Warbler called by Newford Duck Pond. At the latter site there was a temporary gathering when a brief sighting was claimed, but I gave it half-an-hour and nothing. So I was happy that I'd put in the effort, but with no success I returned to Longstones Cafe for the last time.

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I had two more hours before the bus pick-up, so I thought i'd give Lower Moors a final try. Since I had been walking all morning, I thought a bit of wait-and-see birding was in order, so I stayed in amongst the trees for over an hour enjoying the feeding warblers and crests. A Yellow-browed Warbler showed very well right above my head, easily the best of the trip, and a very small hawk zipped through the trees which stood a chance of being the mystery bird, but no chance of being at all sure. I caught sight of a pale Chiffchaff briefly and it soon began to sing oddly, and so I assumed this was the reappearance of the Siberian Chiffchaff. I whipped out the Remembird and managed to get a decent recording despite the now blustery wind whistling past the microphone.

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 spectogram of Siberian Chiffchaff song, Lower Moors

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That this was a Siberian Chiffchaff's song was a bit of a presumption as I really couldn't remember what they were supposed to sing like, but when I returned to Guernsey and compared with recordings, it seemed a pretty good match. The song is much less regular than a typical Chiffchaff, up and down, with many warbling phrases. I did also catch a couple of calls from this bird which also suggest Siberian Chiffchaff.

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spectogram of Siberian Chiffchaff call, Lower Moors

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The calls are quite faint but can be heard at 1 and 2 seconds in. As can also be seen on the spectogram, these calls do not clearly rise like the typical 'hueet' Chiffchaff call, and at about 4.5 kHz are too high pitched. Common Chiffchaffs do give other calls sometimes, but these are usually slightly falling in pitch. I think with the 'sound approach' evidence above, I am happy to call the bird a 'tristis' Chiffchaff. So this is really a subspecies tick for me in Britain. I have seen a couple before almost certain, but I have rarely heard any calls never mind a singer.

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So at 5 o'clock I was sat in the Scilly Airport terminal ready to depart the islands. Here are some more photos of Scilly I haven't managed to squeeze in yet.

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Hugh Town main street

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Holy Vale - it's a bit dense in there!

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There are only two teams!

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view from Longstones Cafe

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Porthellick Pool

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The Chopper

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Arriving back at Penzance I was hoping for maybe a short while birding at Marazion, but the weather was too dark and dismal. So I drove up to St. Just where I had a room booked for the night, as I planned to give the Cornish valleys a bash in the morning. I was in the Wellington Hotel, an old inn on the town square and as the woman led me through the back door into the yard I thought 'oh no, not another pig sty!'. Well it was a similar situation - perhaps the stables - but much, much better, en suite and a massive bed. I ate a V-burger in the pub and failed to find any wifi in the town. So, I didn't know any info, but I hoped that something had turned up for tomorrow,and more especially that the elusive Green Heron was still about!

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(post-script : the small accipiter was eventually trapped on Scilly, and was found to be an exceptionally small young male Sparrowhawk - phew!)

 

Categories: 2010 Autumn