ISLES OF SCILLY
7–14 October 2017
The Isles of Scilly is the finest place in England to observe scarce and rare migrant birds in autumn, all against a backdrop of beautiful scenery. Each year is different: past tour highlights have included Sora, Cream-coloured Courser, Sociable Lapwing, Upland Sandpiper, Red-flanked Bluetail, Blackpoll Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, American Robin, White's and Black-throated Thrushes and Booted Warbler.
Day 1 We will start with either a boat from Penzance or a flight (with supplement) by small plane from either Land’s End airport or Newquay airport to St. Mary’s. For those travelling a long distance, arrangements can be made for the previous night's accommodation in Penzance, Newquay or one of the small villages close to Land’s End. The journey by boat, the Scillonian III, is a trip of about two and a half hours, leaving Penzance at 09.15 and arriving back in Penzance around 19.00 the following Saturday. Be warned, however, that it can be rough! If you decide to take the flight, it is an experience in its own right as you will head out over Land's End and the Longships Lighthouse, with Wolf Rock on your left. After only 15 minutes you will be appreciating the sheer beauty of the islands from the air. After checking into our guesthouse with its superb views over the harbour we will spend the rest of the afternoon exploring parts of the main island, looking for birds found prior to our arrival. In the early evening we will return for our evening meal followed by a trip into town for the bird-log at the Scillonian Club and for a nightcap. There are several good places I know!
Days 2–7 The daily itinerary will be entirely flexible to ensure that we see all of the good birds. Although the birds vary from year to year, we can reasonably expect to see most of these scarce migrants: Snow and Lapland Buntings, Yellow-browed, Barred, Melodious and Icterine Warblers, Richard's and Tawny Pipits, Rosy Starling, Common Rosefinch, Eurasian Wryneck, Red-backed Shrike, Greater Short-toed Lark, Firecrest, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Spotted Crake and Jack Snipe. In addition, we usually see several rarities, which can include a few of the following: Red-eyed Vireo, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Blackpoll Warbler, Pectoral Sandpiper and American Golden-plover from the west and Dusky, Pallas's and Radde's Warblers, Red-throated and Olive-backed Pipits and Eyebrowed Thrush from the east. The trip is not all about chasing rare birds, though, as we will also enjoy the stunning scenery, magnificent walks, historical sites and fresh air! We will be able to appreciate the character of St. Mary’s with its small bulb-fields and tall hedges to protect the flowers from the wind. During the week we will visit at least two of the other islands by launch. Tresco has sub-tropical gardens and two lakes, which attract most of the ducks on the islands. It is an island of contrasts, with the north being wild moorland and the south more cultivated. There are virtually no vehicles on this, or indeed any, island except St Mary's, which is a most pleasant experience. St Agnes, home of the original bird observatory, has even smaller fields and taller hedges than St Mary's to protect the flowers from the winter storms. From here we can clearly see the Bishop Rock Lighthouse, the last piece of land until America! There are cafes scattered around all the islands, so we can stop whenever we are in need of refreshment and, if all the fresh air tires us, we can always call a taxi!
Day 8 After our final breakfast, we will have time for a last look around St Mary's or for relaxation and shopping! Late morning, those flying will return to the airport for the flight back to Land’s End or Newquay and those going by boat will return to the harbour at around 15.30 for the sailing back to Penzance, where the tour will conclude.
General Information A degree of general fitness is required for all of the walking, although the pace is easy. There are a few steep hills and some muddy paths, so walking boots are recommended. A mixture of clothing for wind and/or rain is recommended, although it is often quite warm at this time of year. There are all the usual facilities on St Mary's including Post Office, banks, shops, pubs, hospital, museum, etc. Parking can be pre-booked in Penzance or at Land’s End or Newquay airports.
Group Size Both tours are guaranteed to run: no minimum. Maximum group size: 14 with 2 leaders.