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Friday, 23 September 2011

Scilly twitch

News of a mouth watering selection of rarities on Scilly grew until I could no longer make excuses for not going. This was an opportunity not to be missed and, I feel, missing two days of college was a small sacrifice. Dad kindly dropped me off at Paddington at 11.15pm on Tuesday night and the Riveria Night Sleeper set off for Penzance half an hour later. I soon realised that I wasn't going to be able to sleep on a chair so when a berth became available I didn't mind parting with a bit of extra cash. The rocking of the train was rather effective at nodding one off but the walls separating the chambers seemed to amplify the noises coming from next door and I heard every detail of a crisp packet opening. Then the regae began . . .

Basking Shark

Arriving just before 8.00am, I had plenty of time to collect my ticket for the Scillonian III and board comfortably before it set off at 9.15am. Here I met a chap called Adam, with whom I spent a lot of my time on the trip. The highlight of the crossing was three Basking Sharks following the Cornish coast.

Baltimore Oriole

Hummingbird Hawkmoth

The first port of call for Adam and I was The Garrison where we eventually found the right spot and almost instantly connected with the 1st-winter female BALTIMORE ORIOLE. We got good views for little more than a minute before it flew off, not to be seen again for a few hours. With other birds to see we made tracks to Lower Moors, bumping into three happy birders on the way who reported getting good views of the Black-and-white Warbler twenty minutes previously. After wading through a selection of nearly knee-deep stagnant pools we staked the bird out but had no luck.

Solitary Sandpiper

Sparrowhawk

We decided to cut our losses after a while and head further north. We had no luck with the Bee-eater at Borough Farm nor the Blue-winged Teal at Newford Duckpond but at the latter site got about the best views one could ever get of the SOLITARY SANDPIPER. After feeding it rested and allowed me to get three feet away from it, and that is truly no exaggeration at all. Conservative, even. It was getting late in the day so we thought the pool behind the dump would be the most appropriate place to situate ourselves. We staked out the pool till dark with several others with no luck. It was looking like I was going to dip both of the New World Warblers and began to lose my cool.

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Northern Waterthrush

Up bright and breezy yesterday (Thursday) morning for another stake-out at the pool. It was getting lighter by the minute and I was convinced we weren't going to get the bird. Then, a small brown bird landed on the island ten to fifteen feet away - it was the NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH!!! Cheers all round and an immense sense of relief for me, and I'm sure everyone else. A birder from the previous night arrived and got the bird but his friend was a couple of minutes behind. It flew off seconds before he arrived. Fortunately, it came through on the pager half an hour later that it was showing again but that must have been one awful half an hour for him.

The rest of the day was mainly spent looking for the Black-and-white Warbler, again with no luck. A little walk for the Bee-eater in between was unsuccessful but when back at Lower Moors we heard the bird flying overhead. A couple of birders got onto it very high up but didn't make that clear so I didn't see it. Bugger, that would have been a lifer. Time ran out, inevitably, and I reluctantly made my way to the quay.

Grey Phalaropes

The crossing back was better. The highlights were three Grey Phalaropes which landed right by the boat, and a Balearic Shearwater. A couple of Bonxies and an Arctic Skua were also seen. A Minke Whale breached five times but I couldn't see it, not that it was particularly small or anything.

Balearic Shearwater

I arrived back at Paddington this morning and dad brought me back home, I had a few hours to spare before returning to college and sleep wasn't likely so I've been doing this. A productive and enjoyable trip with good company. I'm not worried about missing ticks like Blue-winged Teal and Bee-eater but I am a bit miffed about missing the Black-and-white Warbler and a bit less so about a couple of Red-eyed Vireos with which I failed to connect.

I hope no-one from college reads this . . .

Britain Life List: 317