I, like many others spent the early part of last week watching the birding news services with baited breath with mega after mega dropping into the Isles of Scilly: Solitary Sandpiper, Northern Waterthrush, Black-and-white Warbler, Northern Oriole, Red-eyed Vireo with a supporting cast of other scarce migrants such as Bee-eater, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Melodious Warbler and Woodchat Shrike etc...
I'd got some major EIA reports to finish so I couldn't drop everything to go straightaway so had to sit it out. By Thursday morning it appeared as though some of the birds had gone but there was still a fair bit of interest down there so I booked a flight and talked Dave into coming with me for the trek. Dave got to mine at 9pm on Thursday evening and we drove through the night, getting down to Lands End Airport for first light. We were both taken aback by how cold it was down there and were worried we'd not got enough cold-weather clothes! We needn't have worried though as the Scillies was like another country!
A poke around St Just didn't produce too much, a few Meadow Pipit, alba Wagtails and that was about it. A couple of Wheatear were noted on the airfield. While checking-in and going through the H&S information I glanced outside and saw a smallish wader flying over the airstrip, Buff-breasted Sandpiper! A good start to the day/trip and hopefully a sign of good things to come?!? The buff-breast circled about while we made our way to the tiny 8-seater plane and could be seen as we flew off to St Mary's.
On arrival at St Mary's airport (while waiting for my bag to arrive on the next plane!) we were treated to excellent views of the first summer Woodchat Shrike sat next to a Wheatear on a wire fence.
After dropping our bags off at the B&B we headed round to check out Higgo's Pool and the Dump clump to make sure we were in the right place for when/if the Waterthrush/Solitary Sand would show again, we then headed into Lower Moors to try and re-find the Black-and-White Warbler, which didn't result in much at all. After a fruitless couple of hours we made our way back to Higgo's Pool and staked it out for the afternoon. By this point the sun was raging down, it was baking hot and I was totally exhausted, so much so that I fell asleep standing up! After a 4 hours wait we were rewarded when the bird dropped in calling. It then showed well for the next 40 minutes as it fed along the edge of the pool, occasionally calling. A great bird!
The next couple of days saw a steady stream of good birds and saw us walking miles and miles. Saturdays highlights included the Solitary Sandpiper showing to about 12 feet, Ortolan Bunting showing to about 20 feet, Buff-breasted Sandpiper to 30 feet, 2Pectoral Sandpipers to 1 foot (they walked out from under the hide we were in!), Water Pipit, Whinchat, Stonechat, Wheatear and lots of other common birds.
Sunday was a difficult day, we walked miles and miles in search of the Bee-eater covering all the areas in which it had been favouring, but with no joy whatsoever! The only bird of note we had was a Lesser Yellowlegs that was sat on the beach next to our B&B! Hard work!
Monday was our last day on the island and the weather had closed in somewhat, we started out early and headed down to the dump clump, after an hour of watching the tree tops we were rewarded when we picked up a Red-eyed Vireo feeding in the Elms, it gave great views as it moved through. We didn't get much after that, save a showy Pectoral Sandpiper and a brief view of an Icterine Warbler both down at Lower Moors.
Unfortunately (or fortunately as it turned out) the fog prevented us from flying back to the mainland so we got on the Scillonian III, this resulted in a good afternoons birding with the highlights including 6 Balearic Shearwaters, 2 Manx Shearwaters, 1 Sooty Shearwater, 1 Sabines Gull, 2 Leach's Petrel, 35+ Storm Petrel, 4 Bonxie with Minke Whale, Common Dolphin and Sun Fish also seen. The sea was fairly calm which enabled me to get my scope up which certainly helped with the ID of the above!
Overall it was a great trip, it was a shame the Oriole and Black-and-White Warbler had gone, and also that the Bee-eater had flown off the day we arrived but that can't detract from the Waterthrush, Solitary Sand and Vireo that showed off nicely.
I didn't get many photos, and my blackberry zoom wasn't working for most of my trip which was a shame/pain, however I met a few birders who should hopefully be sending me some photos soon and I have a few better pics of the Pec Sands to put on.