08/11/21 A second Hen Harrier

Still and warm with the lightest of NW breezes today. Langdon Hole was quiet in the bushes though a decent number of Brambling were heard and seen flying west first thing; I had 27 in the end with a flock of 16 being the largest group. A Snow bunting flew west along the cliff and out to sea just west of the light house and both Firecrest and Woodcock were in the valley.

Upon heading home I scanned over the fields and picked up what I presumed was the recent Hen Harrier coming my way. However this bird looked warmer beneath, dark eyed and longer winged with distinctly dark secondaries – a juv female, a completely different bird which quartered around the field near Reach road for 5 minutes before continuing west across the fields north of where i stood.

Upon inspection of the images I noticed 6 consitent bars in the longest primaries aswell as 4 clear bars on p10, this is usually a pro Hudsonius feature and apparently rare in Cynaeus however the streaked belly, shaft streaking to under tail coverts, overall tones, dark trailing edge to the inner primaries and pattern to secondaries likely land it on the safe side with regards to the ID. An interesting bird and comments welcome.

07/11/21

Another day of NW and with little change to the birds locally. RB was down for the morning so we birded together from Langdon to South Foreland and back highlights were The ring tail Hen Harrier which appears to be a juv male, a single Ring Ouzel, c30 Siskin,5 Redpoll, Reed bunting and 5 Swallow over.

A visit in the last hour of light to watch the Harrier again was rewarded with great views. Now in its 3rd day here i wonder how long it will stay. Plenty of prey for it : I counted 90 Corn bunting this eve! Below in pursuit of a flushed Snipe.

06/11/21 Czech ringed Caspian Gull

SW airflow today and with it seeminly less migrants, Bar some Redpoll, siskin and Brambling over there were no Redwing or Fieldfare in Langdon and a Ring Ouzel around the cafe (whilst looking for the reported YBW) was the only the only thing of note at that end of the patch for me.

I came across the above Hen Harrier early yesterday morning as it quartered over the fields near fan bay and towards the farm. It was seen by a few people today too, Sadly there was no sign of either rare Phylloscs in the valley and a Firecrest was my only thing of note in the bushes.

A trip to the Marina to have a look at a frosty juv Arctic tern was easy enough to find but the star of the show was this Czech ringed 1CY Caspian Gull, sat with all the local herrings on the pontoons near Cullin’s yard. My first Czech ringed bird!

On another pontoon I noticed a 1st winter bird with obvious wing moult but overall tones of a Herring Gull. It Didnt take long however to see it for what it was ; a pale YellowLegged Gull with quite delicate scapular pattern, which flew off eventually. Ive seen similar birds in the Med in winter but the advanced moult, head and bill shape plus facial expression and primary projection leave me with no doubts about its ID.

Juv Arctic Tern below, I think its been around for a while as Steve R mentioned to me he’d had one. Elegant bird and nice to see so close here.

04/11/21 Hume’s Warbler!

Strong (and cold!) NW winds today. I Cant really believe that this was found the same day as my Radde’s yesterday but it certainly was! Again congrats to Gerald S and Brendan R. Below is Brendan’s photo of what was a vocal bird today . Glad I saw it and I have a hunch it will stick around. With no sign early doors Mark, Lucy L and and I walked towards the spot they’d seen it in y’day and it began calling as we approached.

Sadly no sign of the Radde’s but some nice birds en route to the valley and back, highlights as follows: Maximum 5, minimum 3 Snow Buntings (reliable male still in situ, 2 birds (looked like a male and female) out over the sea and flying about under the cliff just east of Fan bay, Plus singles over the valley and the farm.

Up to 5 Ring Ouzel in Langdon hole along with c40 Fieldfare, c55 Redwing, 10 Song thrush and a Mistle thrush. 6 Brambling, and a Swallow flying back and forth around the sheltered undercliff, just how I’d love a rare hirundine to perform one day.

Other things of note were 2 Juv Gannets close in, a Red throated Diver on the sea near the lighthouse plus a small party of Brent Geese East.

Ive just seen reports that both Hawfinch and Cattle Egret were seen over the valley this afternoon. Just goes to show what increased numbers of eyes can do for a site.

03/11/21 Radde’s Warbler!

Another light NW wind this am and my walk eastwards from Langdon was punctuated by 4 Brambling, c15 Siskin and 6 Tree Sparrow over West, a Merlin over Harbour field ,I’d heard that the Snow Bunting was still in situ and good numbers of Stonechat and Reed bunting were noted. As I’d birded mostly Langdon Hole yesterday (and with finding a Pallas’s warbler on my mind) I drifted towards the sheltered sycamores around lighthouse down and the valley.

The sunny side of the valley seemed quite birdy, and a spot I rarely check held 3 Chiffchaff feeding near a small pond when suddenly movement low down caught my attention. I could see heavily obscured bits and pieces of a darkish looking phyllosc that looked to have warm grey buff underparts and was that some apricot tones towards the vent?! a strong ‘eastern looking’ supercillium, I saw some wing flicking. then it was gone… Wobbly legs followed but then I heard it call, (a bird I’ve readied myself for finding many times before and confirming my suspicions from the brief views I’d had) A Raddes Warbler!! about 5 minutes passed before it came out into the sunshine and fed low down in the base of some willow herb; A Lovely bird.

I put the news out and called some locals. Colin J was basically driving past when I called and saw the bird almost instantly after arriving, Brendan R also arrived quickly enough to see the bird which actually flew into mid height in a bare tree before flitting into more suitable Radde’s habitat.

Below is Brendan’s lovely image of it without twigs in the way.

Im very happy with the find and an hour or so later i received news that a Humes Warbler had been found close to the Radde’s site! I’ll have to hope its there tomorrow as couldn’t get away again today. Well done to Brendan R and Gerald S for finding that.

02/10/21

A light NW , overcast conditions, clearing to sunshine by 8am and some migration. The Snow Bunting was still present although had moved up to the track closer to reach road. Highlights were 3 Ring Ouzel, a late Wheatear,a single Fieldfare, 3 Swallow, c100 Chaffinch, 2 Brambling, c10 Siskin, c500 Woodpigeon all West, a Small Flock of c10 Tree Sparrow flew towards farm, 5 Reed Bunting, c60 Corn Bunting c 30 Yellowhammer.

A lunch time stroll down the sea front looking for Auks or divers etc in the harbour was highlighted by a 1st winter little Gull that flew past me and out to the deep harbour before i could get a decent pic.

I had another look before dusk but the c1,500 roosting gulls were mainly Black headed with many Mediterranean and a few Kittiwake, and nothing else of note.

Scillies 2021

My longest stay on Scilly, 25 Days entirely on beloved st Agnes. A quiet year all round, it never really got going . This, and the fact that I’ve very little time currently means I’ll forego my usual long winded Blog post and just focus on my personal Highlight: Finding this smart BuffBellied Pipit 4 days into our trip.

It had been raining on the 3rd of October, I was walking around the beach-side fields at santawarna with my waterproof hood up but the electric and arresting call of a Buff-Bellied Pipit whipped me out of my ‘head down trudging’ as it was chased by a Meadow Pipit. It took me almost 10 minutes to properly locate the bird as the pipit flock was moving around alot but after that it showed nicely on and off for three days. Quite chameleonic in its appearance in different light.

The Rest of the trip was punctuated with nice scarcities, and great views of some of them but it never really got off the ground. No (other) American Passerines were found during my stay and thus wont go down as a vintage year but I still got to spend time on my favourite island with some excellent people and of course i’ll be going again.

29/10/21 Snow Bunting

A quick break from fitting our new kitchen to go and have a look for a Snow Bunting that Mark K had seen up between Langdon and Fan bay. It didn’t take much looking for as it flew up from the tarmac track in front of someone jogging towards me and landed on the track to the farm, a nice male.

Both myself and the bird were being blown about by the 50 mph SSW gusts, but the typically tame snow bunting was easy enough to get ahead of and wait for it to move towards me. Even non-birding ‘passers by’ mentioned seeing it to me : ‘a little brown and white bird walking around by our feet’. I watched the bird from the relative shelter of lying on my belly, despite having had my fill of these kind of views on Scilly last week; this was a welcomed new bird for the me here on the patch.

Little else of note other than a Firecrest in the sheltered end of the Valley.

26/10/21 Back East!

After 5 and a half weeks I finally got home last night. Scillies was quiet but there were some brilliant moments. Warm sunshine and light SSW winds greeted me on my walk up the cliff this am. A two Hour walk from Langdon Hole to South Foreland and back chalked up 25 Tree Sparrows, 13 over west (groups of 9 and 4) and 12 in the stubble fields up top, hopefully they’ll winter again.

2 Brambling, c20 Siskin, 4 Swallow and 3 House Martin also flew west, 2 Blackcap were in the valley as were about 5 Jays. 3 Reed Buntings were noted and a 2cy male Marsh Harrier flew south over the Port and out to sea.

Good to be back.

16/09/21

A very light Sw and a warm sunny day. Another good day for Chiffchaff numbers, A single Willow ,1 Common Redstart, 2 Black red, 1 Tree pipit over East, a few Yellow Wags , 4 Whinchat, Reed bunting, 2 Wheatear and the highlight was 6 Tree sparrow, (2 over west at the lighthouse and 4 together dropped into bushes on lighthouse down 30 mins later)

Juv Tree Sparrows

A Green sandpiper (2nd of the autumn) flew over west y’day morning and was the only thing of note for me.

Green sandpiper

I am away with work for the next 12 days and following that I will be on St Agnes , Scilly for the following 3.5 weeks so no birding here till 26th Oct… Bit worried about what i’ll miss!

Rave on!