My third Autumn Scillies trip in a row, 2 weeks on st Agnes in beloved Roseveer Cottage with Lee Amery, Graham Gordon and Laurence Pitcher and for me at least, the best trip yet. 2 weeks earlier than last year with the last week of September and the first week of October was, luckily, a great period; a mix of genuine rarities, scarcities, lots of common migrants, met some new people,and spent time with friends, good food, drink and the best scenery.
After mixed weather for our first few days the winds settled in the West and South West with fronts moving through and clearing with rain over night and some very wet days. A blast of south in the wind on our first full day and a Bee-eater and Red-eyed Vireo were found within 20 minutes of each other. The Bee-eater (found by Lee) was seen and heard by most birders on the island eventually but the Vireo proved very elusive.
Next, my personal highlight: The Scillies dream is really finding north American passerines and on the morning of the 29th of September a Rose-Breasted Grosbeak flew out of cover infront of me. You can read finder’s account here . The moments surrounding the initial find will be with me for ever and the below image gives me the shivers, seeing it there on the granite looking like a real vagrant. Stoked!
1cy f Rose-Breasted Grosbeak
The bird went from wingletang (where i originally found it, to a a field along Barnaby lane and then ended up opposite the post office where it was seen by most who came and twitched it over the 4 days it was present. By the end of its stay it was seriously tame and would hop around near bags of fertiliser and sit in a low bramble feeding, all under the watchful eye of the local cats….
This was a great ‘warmer upper’ for the following American rarities. Another Red-Eyed Vireo in the parsonage, a Cliff Swallow, found on Tresco on the 2nd of Oct, which eventually gave LP and I great views and shared air space with 2 of the Bee-eaters whilst a Yellow Browed Warbler called behind – very memorable bit of birding.
Cliff Swallow (above and below)
Whilst we relaxed with a bonkers overpriced coffee moments after viewing the Cliff Swallow LP recived a text “Who found the Waxwing?”… excitement and frustration ensued but we decided not to get on the charter back to Agnes, where the bird had been found, and remained on Tresco to kick about and see what else was lurking there until our boat returned later in the afternoon. nothing really was the answer.
juv Cedar Waxwing
We got back just before the Cedar Waxwing was re-located and eventually saw it a few times away from the crowds and even in our little garden. (below)
Other highlights were a day trip to st Mary’s to see the Isabelline Wheatear, which was a success with the bird showing down to 10 meters or so and although both distant the American Golden Plover and Pectoral Sandpiper were present around Porth Hellick.
1cy Isabeline Wheatear
Besides the Bee-eaters, Scarcities and less common migrants were reasonably well represented however there were a few obvious things missing but between a couple of Wrynecks on Gugh, a Marsh Warbler that GG picked up, a migrant Hawfinch, couple of Lapland Buntings, Yellow –Browed Warblers (which were only really apparent towards the end of the trip) there were plenty of Pied and Spotted Flycatchers, a Turtle dove and whinchats etc to keep us entertained.
Yellow Browed Warbler
1cy Mediterranean Gull
The original site of the Grosbeak find, a granite formation I’ve always loved aesthetically
Looking West from Perigilis beach st Agnes
The return crossing on the Scillonian wasnt bad either and thanks to the help of a group of young(er) birders who were doing a count the following numbers were recorded. 100+ Balerics, 10+ Sooties, 1 Pomerine, 5 Arctic, and 10 Great Skua. thanks to Jake G/Micheal M for figures.
Added bonus – a finders report in the back of the 2016 Scillies Bird Report for the Caspian Gull last year, 1st for Scillies (hence the fuss!)