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ISLES OF SCILLY 2005

This year's Isles of Scilly tours got off to a great with some participants seeing Long-billed Dowitcher and Spotted Redshank at Drift Reservoir near Penzance. A band of rain quickly cleared Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly leaving us time on the Saturday afternoon to see the Blackpoll Warbler on the Garrison whilst a Convolvulus Hawk-moth roosting on Old Town Church wall was a nice non-avian find. In the evening we all went to the birdlog at the Scillonian Club. This is a very enjoyable feature of Octobers on Scilly with good company and cheap beer!

Sunday was a glorious day and we took the opportunity to catch up with several of the long-staying rarities in warm sunshine. The Spotted Sandpiper showed exceptionally well on Old Town beach followed by a nice Lapland Bunting on the airfield. After a pleasant lunch at Tolmans Café, we visited Lower Moors where the Sora Rail gave brief but good views followed by a Jack Snipe. Walking down to Pothloo beach, we were pleased to see eight Bar-tailed Godwits, six Dunlin and good numbers of Ruddy Turnstone, Common Ringed Plover, Oystercatchers and Eurasian Curlews before a nice Black Redstart was found inside a nearby barn! A flyover male Peregrine ended the day nicely.

On Monday we visited Tresco seeing roosting Little Egrets, a couple of Sandwich Terns and Northern Gannets on the boat journey. Although we had to dodge some showers, everyone enjoyed great views of a couple of Eurasian Spoonbills (a Scilly rarity), one of which had been rung as a nestling in Holland in the summer. The Ring-necked Duck was a nice male just coming out of eclipse plumage but the female Greater Scaup next to it was in a somewhat more drab plumage. After a coffee break at the Abbey Gardens, we walked right around the Great Pool seeing good number of Common Greenshank and Redshank as well as two Black-tailed Godwits. A couple of Yellow-browed Warblers were eventually seen well in the sallows after teasing us for 15 minutes by just calling deep in cover and a Sedge Warbler showed briefly on the edge of the reeds.

Tuesday was again punctuated by showers but everyone got great views of the Sora Rail again whilst sheltering in one of the hides in Lower Moors! We spent the rest of the day exploring the Longstones, Maypole and Newford areas of St Mary's and were rewarded with a couple of Black Redstarts, a Yellow-browed Warbler and finally an incredibly confiding Snow Bunting.

On Wednesday we started by walking through the 'dump clump', a name given by birders to a clump of trees adjacent to the incinerator! This was the flycatcher day as we saw Pied, Red-breasted and Spotted all together in a sheltered part of the wood, a quite unique experience in the UK. We spent the day pleasantly exploring many other parts of St Mary's finally ending up in the Borough Farm area where we saw at least two Hawfinches feeding in a Rowan tree.

On Thursday we visited St Agnes. The boat journey is always a little more interesting (sometimes damp as it crosses deeper and rougher water!) but well worth it to this charismatic island. We started by looking for the Radde's Warbler but after nearly an hour, no luck. As we left, a nice Firecrest put in an appearance. Heading down to Periglis beach, we looked for a previously reported Barred Warbler but that had also decided to hide. We enjoyed some good views of waders and gulls on the beach before hearing that the Radde's Warbler had been showing again so we headed back getting good views of a nice Pied Flycatcher en-route. The Radde's Warbler then gave great views, even alongside some Common Chiffchaffs for comparison, then we headed to Cove Vean tearooms to enjoy a nice lunch in the sunshine. Hearing that the Barred Warbler had been seen again, we headed back to Periglis and enjoyed great, prolonged views of this scarce migrant, accompanied by a Garden Warbler and several Blackcaps for comparison.

With a southeasterly airflow, Friday was rather foggy and we spent some time looking for a reported Red-throated Pipit on Porth Hellick Down in less than ideal conditions before heading to Carn Vean tearooms for a well-deserved lunch. Later, we took a pleasant stroll around more remote parts of the island including Pelistry and Watermill Cove seeing Yellow-browed Warbler and Hawfinches again. The winds had brought in large numbers of Black Redstarts including several around our guesthouse.

As Saturday was departure day, everyone packed and then either shopped or relaxed. At the last gasp, a Paddyfield Warbler was found on Peninis Head and a number of the group succeeded in seeing this rare vagrant to end a fantastic week on a high note. Not only had we seen a number of rare birds but we had also seen many more common migrants such as Water Rail, Common Greenshank, Common Snipe, Common Redstart, Northern Wheatear and Willow Warbler.

The second week's tour saw many of the birds seen the previous week plus Marsh Harrier, Spotted Crake, Hoopoe, Red-throated Pipit, Red-backed Shrike, Little Bunting and huge numbers of Eurasian Siskins and Bramblings.

Black-throated Thrush

Black-throated Thrush