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Sunday, October 13, 2013

12th October

Well I am back from a rather too warm Isles of Scilly.The weather patterns were not really in our favour. We that  is Mark and Clive who had accompanied me had a really enjoyable time, although the heat did tend to zap our strength towards the end of the day. We soon recovered after a good meal and few beers in the Scillonian Club with friends we have made over the years. There were a couple of disappointments one was that the White’s Thrush that had been present for a few days before our arrival couldn’t be found after extensive searching. The other was the behaviour of a small group of birds, that included someone I know. I will explain more further on. Apart from those 2 blips we did see get to see some great birds during our stay on the islands. These included Purple Heron, American Golden Plover, Spotted Crake, Sora Rail ( unfortunately we weren’t able to see this one), Richard’s Pipit ( didn’t see, present for one afternoon only), Olive-backed Pipit,  Subalpine Warbler, Barred Warbler, Arctic Warbler, Yellow-browed Warbler (saw at least 6 different birds), Red-breasted Flycatcher (4 present, saw 2),Red-backed Shrike, Lapland Bunting (3) and Snow Bunting.  

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This Black-winged Stilt was seen on the Hayle estuary on the way down.

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This Purple Heron has been present for sometime and with patients could be seen most days.

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The light wasn’t great when we saw this Bluethroat on Lower Moors but much better on the Project Pool a day later.

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Common Rosefinch

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Not one of the Yellow-browed Warbler showed well enough for a photo. We did get great views when I didn’t have the camera ready.

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Our thanks go to Dave the Stoke City nut, he found this as we made our way to get the boat back to St Mary’s after a day on Bryher. It dived down into a nettle patch and eventually came out with a Stick Insect (they are found on several of the islands).

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This Snow Bunting on King Edwards Road allowed you to walk within a 2 or 3 feet as it fed. It only popped over the wall if a dog came along but soon returned.

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Spotted Crake (above) and Water Rail in almost the same location a day before (below).

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Jack Snipe, the photo below shows how they can easily blend in with the habitat that they inhabit.

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The following selection are slightly commoner birds seen during our stay.

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Me taking photos of Gannets while sheltering from a brisk north wind.

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The tide was low enough during the week to allow people to walk from Bryher to Tresco.

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Now to the downside of birding. This crowd is here because Clive and I had good but very brief views of an Olive-backed Pipit. This species is very distinctive and quite easily to identify, well that is what I thought. We only had it in view for less 20 seconds, too shorter time to take any photos. We searched and scanned the area thoroughly for over 30 mins before putting the news out. Birders began arriving, so we put them in the picture and stayed a while, before heading off to a nearby cafe. As we sat having lunch my two-way radio, a system that some of the birders on the islands use crackled into life. The person on the other end was Ralph an island regular and someone that I also know through work. The information he was putting out was that the Olive-backed Pipit was on show at Porthloo Lane. This made Clive and I and even Mark (though he had failed to see it) happy that others had connected with it. I then had a phone call from Ralph to let me know that the bird had been on show for 10 minutes and was in deed an Olive-backed Pipit. After we had finished lunch and because Mark hadn’t seen the bird, we headed back down to the lane. We arrived to be told by Ralph that the bird had flown over the nearby Elm trees. Again we gave it sometime but the bird failed to show, so we moved on to hopefully find more birds. An hour or so later we found ourselves heading back towards the pipit site, speaking to birds on route who had already seen the bird.

We arrived at the site to the news that the birds was still present but at present out of sight in the grass. It soon flew up and into the nearby belt of Elms. It took sometime but eventually it was picked out, perched about 7ft up and facing us. This however was not the bird that we had seen earlier. It was then that a so-called name said that this wasn’t an Olive-backed but a Tree Pipit. There were then murmurings from birders present that they had been thinking that it wasn’t quite what they expected an OBP to look like. Well it wouldn’t, it was a Tree Pipit. We left again and headed off in search of something new, concerned that so many had been happy ticking off an Tree Pipit as as Olive-backed Pipit.

The distant photo shows the bird that they were looking at. I did see another photo of a bird that lacked this birds facial pattern.

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That night in the Scillonian Club during the bird log when OPB was called out I said one at Porthloo Lane. This was greeted with laughter by some, well that I can take as these people were happy ticking Tree Pipit. The disappointing thing was that that someone who was convinced that the bird he was looking at was a OPB and put the news out then accused me of stringing (making up the bird).

It has put me off reporting any other good birds that we find on the isles. In future we might just let BBRC know, hopefully with photographic evidence.

Two other birds that were seen on the  islands while we were there were Subalpine Warbler and Grey-cheeked Thrush. When we went to see the former we saw 2 birds at different times, both of which looked like Common Whitethroats. One was immaculate the other not quite as good and possibly not quite the same shape, this bird we didn’t see that clearly as it had flown to the far end of the field. I put the news out that we had only seen a Whitethroat in the bush, not knowing at the time that one had been seen in the same bush as the Subalpine Warbler. We wanted to see photos of the Sub to satisfy ourselves. That evening we heard that one was being shown by one of professional bird photographers on the island, so I went to see it. Talking to him we both agreed that if we had seen this bird on our patch we would have put it down as a Common Whitethroat. The following day he was know longer showing it.

The other bird that caused some people to doubt its authenticity was the Grey-cheeked Thrush. It was seen by one observer in Old Town Churchyard early in the week and couldn’t relocated. This again was rubbished by many of the visiting birders. This species isn’t hard to ID and the area was one that allowed for a bird if it was one to hide away. Well that is exactly what happened, the bird showed itself yesterday, 4 days after being first seen.

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When we returned to the mainland we had a slight delay while we waited for Mark’s luggage to arrive on a later plane. The plane was carrying 8 passengers and his (our) luggage was slightly over the 15kg allowance. In fact it is hard to go to the Isles of Scilly for a week if you take camera, lens, telescope, binoculars, tripod and an assortment of clothes that caters for the various weather systems that you might encounter. Anyway as we had over an hour to wait we went to Kenijack (a nearby valley).

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