ISLES OF SCILLY 2003
It was another great year (my 25th!) on Scilly, although the easterly winds were somewhat fresh at times! Two new inter-island launches graced St. Mary's harbour when we arrived, the Meridian and the Osprey. Both boats have inside cabins and sit higher in the water so, for old hands, this was an opportunity to ensure that you stayed dry!
The sun frequently shone during the two weeks and the birds were a mixture of western, southern and eastern vagrants. The normal scarce migrants were present with several Richard's Pipits, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Ring Ouzel, Red-backed Shrike, record numbers of Firecrests giving exceptional views and good numbers of Yellow-browed Warblers. Both Snow and Lapland Buntings were, however, in short supply this year. Jack Snipe and Water Rail both showed amazingly well whilst a few unseasonal late autumn birds were recorded in the form of Eurasian Hobby, Common Quail, Green Sandpiper and Little Gull. During the week 11-18 October the highlights were Grey Phalarope, Tawny Pipit, Gray-cheeked Thrush, Pied Wheatear, Red-eyed Vireo, Pallas's Warbler and Rose-coloured Starling, whilst during the second week Little Crake, Olive-backed Pipit, Isabelline (Daurian) Shrike, Pallas's Warbler and Rustic Bunting were found. The resident Black Duck was illusive at times, spending a lot of time on the sea, but the second group eventually caught up with it. Interestingly, two of the major rarities for the islands were Barn Owl and Dartford Warbler. It was one of the best years for raptors with Merlin in particular giving outstanding views on almost a daily basis. Of non-avian interest, three species of hawk-moth were seen: Convolvulus Hawk-moth, Hummingbird Hawk-moths were widespread, whilst a live and dead specimen of Death's-head Hawk-moth was at the Longstone Centre (thanks Mick and Sonya for your wonderful hospitality and food!).
Birdfinders is the only birdtour company to run tours to the islands during peak migration weeks in mid-October so come and join us on a future tour? Our leaders have nearly half a century of combined experience on the islands! For those who are concerned about it just being about chasing rarities you should know that we spend much of our time just walking round the islands enjoying the fantastic scenery, history and of course, the wonderful cafes (the sticky toffee pudding at Rose Cottage on St. Agnes is still the best in the world!). We don't miss any of the rare birds however!