Thursday, October 29, 2015

Isles of Scilly - the weather changed

On Tuesday evening the weather rolled-in covering the Island with a high cloud layer.  It rained over night and on Wednesday morning the winds were up a little and skies were grey.

We headed for St Mary's to explore as much as we could between the preset boat trip times.

It's another very pleasant landscape once your are away from the main Hugh Town (which feels much like any Cornish coastal town):

We walked out to Peninnis Point in search of the Blyth's Pipit, to no avail, past a group of birders trying to continually disturb a Quail (sigh) and on round the coastline:

We did see a Richard's Pipit in the distance through a scope, in a mixed flock of birds on the airfield too far though for a picture.

As time was getting short we headed back towards Hugh Town via a cafe (which had caged parrots so never going there again) and were directed then to an area in which we hoped to see Jack Snipe, our one hoped-for species of the trip.

On the way a Starling was displaying atop a favoured perch, they are truly spectacular at this time of year:

A male Blackbird with muddy bill perched briefly on a barbed wire fence:

At the ponds we saw Common Snipe feeding:

As well as a Greenshank:

But no Jack Snipe.   We were headed back to the harbour when we stopped for a chat with a couple of birders, Heath and Mike from memory.  They knew a spot and although they weren't headed that way, they took us to it.  Sure enough Heath instantly located a roosting Jack Snipe.  Tick!  We have record shots but not a particularly impressive picture so not worth including here.

We caught the boat back and were surprised to find ourselves headed to St Martins, this being the scheduled route it turned out.  We were even more surprised when the boat headed out to the North of Tresco and into the 3-metre plus waves.   I've done a few hairy boat trips in my past whereas Helen is a very nervous sailor.  The trip was however genuinely unpleasant and felt properly unsafe given the shallow hull and the prevailing conditions.   We were over 45 degrees more than once and a number of the passengers were truly relieved to get off the boat.  We wondered if the fact that the crew were changed the following day has anything to do with this trip or not.

Thursday morning we again visited St Marys, albeit on much shorter timetable, then spent the afternoon re-walking parts of Bryher, enjoying watching the waves from the Atlantic crash into Hell Bay:

The birding on the island is a delight, Chiffchaffs abound for example:

The scenery is hard to forget:

And the Wrens are everywhere:

Friday morning we watched the waves roll into Hell Bay from our room, enjoying the extended stay until the boat departure time which the hotel kindly offered before we'd even asked.   Leaving was different as it being the last day of the season a number of the passengers were staff heading home or off on travels themselves.

The trip home was uneventful but the Scillonian really does move oddly so even with a swell of just around a metre there was a steady drain on the sick bags from the toilets.

We enjoyed our visit, enjoyed the hotel, loved the food and our walking.  We'd have liked to have had time to visit St Agnes and to see more of St Marys so perhaps another trip beckons a few years hence?

Isles of Scilly

Helen is Cornish, hence we have moved to Cornwall now.  One of her childhood memories is of the Isles of Scilly and in particular how beautiful they are.   With our 20th Wedding Anniversary approaching she did some research and settled on a week-long trip on the islands, basing ourselves on one of the smaller inhabited islands, Bryher.  We chose to stay at Hell Bay, a hotel with a reputation for excellent food, this being a treat trip!

We planned a boat trip out (with the hope of seeing sea birds) and getting the plane back, however as the departure approached we realised that i would have to check my camera gear for the flights, a risk i'm not prepared to take so we ended up confirming the Scillonian III both ways.

The trip out was remarkably smooth, pond-like in fact, and the sun was shining as we approached the islands:

We caught the connecting boat to Bryher on arrival and checked in to the hotel.  We decided to stay on Bryher for the afternoon and walk the southern half of the Island.

On the way round we saw Meadow Pipits and Starlings, they were the most common bird, as well as very accessible Goldcrests:

A Water Pipit (initially misidentified as a Rock Pipit - we really need to do more UK birding and relearn our local species):

In the sunshine butterflies still flew, albeit very scarcely, we caught sight of this feeding Peacock, it didn't hang about for long though moving from flower to flower and away:

The views on the island of Bryher are spectacular, both the landscape:

and indeed the sea-scape:

On approach back to the hotel a Whinchat:

As the evening drew in we watched a beautiful sunset from our balcony:

and then enjoyed our lavish vegetarian dinner.

Tuesday morning was bright and sunny again so we decided to head to the adjacent island of Tresco.   Tresco has a very different feel to it to Bryher.  It is privately owned and being rapidly developed and concreted over.   The top third of the island that isn't a holiday park is a shooting site.   There were hundreds of partridges many of them still in cages, waiting for the annual slaughter to start.   4,000 birds a year apparently.   They are human habituated and walk along side the visitors in the housing complexes.   What sort of person takes pleasure form this kind of arrangement?  Basically shooting tame captive birds for entertainment?

We also saw a lot of rat droppings and rats both on the northerly end and right in the middle of the holiday homes.  There were also surprisingly few wild birds on the island, no doubt these features are linked.   We got the impression that the owner is involved in a desperate money grab to get as much from the island as quickly as possible and damn the consequences.

We were then surprised to find that he also owns the hotel we were staying in, including its ostentatious display of wealth through art.  Tresco is not a place we will visit again.

That said we turned left having got off the boat, past the birds in cages and towards Cromwell's castle.   The view of the bay and back to Bryher is still pretty:

In the shadow of the castle a Kingfisher alighted briefly:

We circumnavigated the island, getting we think but can't be certain, a view of the Hudsonian Whimbrel that was by this stage proving more elusive than the previous few days.

At the southerly end of the Island a few sweeping beaches remain somewhat inaccessible, though we noted a lot of aggregate and concrete deposited the following day, ready to build a road down to the Southern jetty...

Not see this fungus before:

Some of the wild birds across the Isles of Scilly are very tame and human habituated including this Song Thrush:

We left Tresco and were pleased to get back to Bryher, it has a very different mood to it.   There's also many fewer vehicles and it's much more of what you would expect of the islands and indeed of our holiday.