Saturday, 28 December 2013

Better than a Building Site

Saturday December 28

Where to go on a beautiful day? The North Norfolk coast would be heaving with non birders, the Chelsea set, as well as birders. Ludham Marshes looked like a good bet. It was.
Not much from the first muddy track out to a farm, a few Whooper Swans amongst the Mutes and, a Red Deer with a flock of sheep. The latter has been raised from a faun.
The track out to St Benet's Abbey was infinitely better. I wanted to scope some distant Swans, fetched my scope from the boot and tracked a male Marsh Harrier causing havoc. A few hundred Golden Plovers and  Lapwings rose from the meadows/reeds plus a couple of birds I thought were Cranes at first  - until they transformed into geese.
Blast, we had to move on, single track road and two cars coming towards us. Rush hour.
Another stop, another scan.... two European Cranes (don't like the term common) flying right and landing out of sight. 
Another car, another stop. 
Careful scanning in the very distant crane landing area, brought more and more birds into view. First a group of eight and then another of five appearing from the reeds and dykes. 
Without warning, they all took off, SEVENTEEN birds in all. Waw. Still no nearer though. I took some photos anyway. I texted Birdline but they weren't reported on the pager. I also tweeted the sighting with a better site description.........

Can you spot 17?   True distance through a 300mm lens

Heavily cropped.

Home via Ludham Airfield where a mixed herd of Whooper and Bewick Swans had been reported. They were still there but distant.

Friday, 20 December 2013

No Social Commitments

Thursday December 19

A free day, time for some birding. We hadn't visited Titchwell reserve at all  this month, that was our sole destination. Such a beautiful day again, cloudless sky and very little wind. Where is the storm promised, which seems to have hit the north and west hard? I'm not complaining, I wish that the forecast was a little more accurate with regard to location. The whole country is included in a storm warning and checking the local forecast isn't much different. Better safe I suppose....
Neither of us felt like walking, having done very little in the last month, aches and pains take over. I girded my loins and insisted that we walk as far as Island hide at least. Scanning the ditches as we walked out, Pam spotted a Water Rail, only obvious by the ripples in the water. The ditches are heavily vegetated but we had good views.
Views from Island hide are restrictive, we settled on the first walkway seat beyond. The car park held fewer vehicles than we'd ever seen before, hence the sparse number of birders around and the empty seats.
The freshmarsh held hundreds of birds of very few species, mainly ducks, Golden Plover, Lapwing and Brent Geese. The ducks were mostly Teal with a few Wigeon, Shoveller and Pintail. Careful scanning added two Gadwall, eight Avocets, six Ruff, a lone Dunlin and a scattering of Black-tailed Godwit. A blob flying through my scope became an elusive Snipe ,landing at the edge of the reeds below Parrinder Hide.
Whoosh... up they all went. Why? One little Merlin had caused all the havoc. Hundreds of Golden Plover flew over our heads, the sussuration of their wings obvious. lovely.
I decided to try some digiscoping. Hard to resist on such a  golden, winter-sun lit scene. Difficult to get the depth of field necessary using my little basic Canon point and shoot, held to the 'scope lens. It did a sterling job nevertheless.

Teal nicely arranged so that I couldn't get them all in focus! Mohican crests.

Sleeping Pintail near right


Swimming Shoveler. My first attempt at tracking a bird , moving my scope using my left hand whilst holding the camera to the lens with my right.

Pam walked on to the Parrinder entry bank, seeing where the sea had lapped the very top of the new sea protection wall on which the hide stands. Apparently it had trickled over, just. They must have been pleased that it wasn't breached. The coastal dune profile has changed dramatically. boardwalk washed away in its entirety leaving entry to the beach from here forbidden. That's the dreaded, but necessary, elf and safety again.
We lunched on a very good sausage and onion baguette (mini) in the Food Station. Warm and comfortable whilst watching a Titchwell DVD playing on the TV.
The light was fading so coastal visits were short. Brancaster Staithe showed little results of the storm surge, apart from a damp tideline at least a metre up the walls of the Activity Centre. there was a 'drying services' van outside and all doors were open, furnishings outside.
At last, a Barn Owl flying along the A149, our first for months.
Great to be out birding again, it feeds my soul.

A few more pics

Pam took these  on Walcott front about a week after the event.

The launch ramp

Gulls feeding on one of the dead seals.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Storm Surge

Dec  6 - 9
Pretty horrendous damage along Norfolk's coast, especially Blakeney, Wells, Sheringham, Cromer, Mundesley, Walcott, Hemsby and Great Yarmouth.  
We could hear the sea from home, 2 miles inland. On the 6th, after shopping in North Walsham, we returned via the coast road - tree down around the corner on the NW road, cleared whilst we waited - and nosiness. No access to the front at Walcott, there was a residential caravan blocking the road at the northern end, we could see a crane trying to move it. 
Turning onto the road tio Ridlington via Bachelor's Lane, we could see the detritus strewn meadow and a large lake,  getting smaller as a digger had broken the road banks so as to allow the water to flood 'our' road and the field to the west! I took a few poor pics before we turned round in a field and got home by various small and circuitous lanes. 

Just as well. There was another tree down on the NW road, 50 metres from the Ridlington turning, which would have blocked our way home. Luckily the Bridges had re-arranged to-day's coffee date at Cley. Cley was under water. I shall try to add some photo links at the end of this posting.
On the 7th, we approached Walcott from the southern end to finf 'Road Closed' notices. Other cars were going through so we followed. The road was ankle deep in sand, emergency vehicles parked apparently doing nothing, helpers hosing down the concrete area in front of the Spar and the Kingfisher. Damage to the Caravan Park and some of the evacuated  houses, including a large portion of a house wall was discernible. It's hard to believe that water can twist metal railings and tear up concrete slabs.
Still no access on Monday the 9th. 
We drove to Winterton where we saw no birds at all from the beach car park. There were several yellow-jacketed Seal Wardens on duty there, protecting the few Horsey colony pups surviving and washed ashore here. 50 have been taken into care and about 20 euthanased due to injuries sustained from the sea and dogs. There were many adults offshore looking for their young. The wardens were giving them access and warning people not to approach them and, to keep their dogs on the lead and only on the southern beach.

Thank you Penny for the links
 Important news from the NT Rangers about Seal Pups HERE
• Update on Seal Pups and Good News for Blakeney Point! HERE
• Mute Swans & Seal Pup swimming along the A149! HERE
• Walcott Carnage! HERE
• Pictures and Updates from other Norfolk Birders HERE
• Unique pictures from Eddie Myers at Cley HERE
• Remains of the hides at Snettisham RSPB HERE and HERE
• Regional Update and Pictures HERE

Monday, 2 December 2013

Lows and Highs

Sunday December 1

A high of 8C and a low of 0C, very low tide at Snettisham, Long-tailed Duck, Short-eared Owl, Hen Harrier, Sparrowhawk, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Kestrel, always a high, epecially the Owl and the Long-tail.
The morning got sunnier, the fog cleared and the temperature dropped, the further west we drove. Pockets of frost at Harpley but no Tree Sparrows - again. 
The RSPB office is closed to-day. Despite having an out of date permit and knowing that it was a very low tide, we drove to Snettisham. The first pit near the caravan park had a close female winter Long-tailed Duck, obscured by bank  foliage but a joy.

Many more Goldeneye to-day on the two RSPB pits. 
How can I get so much enjoyment from looking at miles of glistening mud and creeks? I love it. Best birds were Pintail and a  prey-carrying  Sparrowhawk which landed near us before hopping into the bushes. A missed photo opportunity. I did manage one of a young Greenfinch mashing rosehips in its beak.

The drive out to Holme NOA brought the surprise Owl. It appeared from nowhere, landing in the field right next to the car, the other side of the landward fence. I dived for my camera, it took one look at us and flew away very strongly. If it caught anything it must have left it. I love all owls, Short-eareds are one of my favourites. Probably because they show well in daylight.
Thornham looked lovely although the only birds we saw were the usual gulls on the beach, a flock of Pipits and a smaller one of Skylarks. AND... a female Hen Harrier flying low over the marsh from the direction of Titchwell, its fast progress east was betrayed by a scattering of birds from the reedbed, no views of the Harrier at this time.
Brancaster Staithe was remarkably empty of people and cars and water. Two waders fed nearby.

A lone Bar-tailed Godwit

A Curlew feeding mid stream -  that's how little water there was

We enjoyed lunch watching the mussell fishermen at work, hands bright red and mottled blue and purple. Don't envy them. 

At their roadside table, we bought a bag of mussells for Rainer and Barbara, as a thank you for the odd jobs Rai has done for us this week.
One more stop at Cley adding no new birds. We haven't walked at all to-day, ending with a total of 71 birds seen. My intention was to walk Titchwell which would have added 10 or more to the list, idleness/ reluctance to put pressure on both participants' joints, won out. Plenty more days this month, many of them already taken up though.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Sculthorpe in Sun

Tuesday November 26

Pam was having a dozy morning. At my suggestion, she had her breakfast first , yet we were still at Sculthorpe Moor reserve soon after 10.30. After basking in the warm car, sun streaming in, getting out was a rude awakening, cheek-stingingly cold. Fortunately there was little wind.
I don't much enjoy the 400 metre  walk down a pot-holed track to the start of the boardwalk, usually with very  few birds appearing. The rest of the reserve is good boardwalk topped with chicken wire for good grip. There were frequent warnings of 'slippery boards' but they weren't.
Despite no exercise since Scilly, we decided to do the circular route via the Woodland Hide instead of directly to Whitley hide.
We added Marsh Tit en route and then enjoyed sitting watching seven Greenfinches, 3+ Brambling, Blue and Great Tits and a Robin both on the feeders and on the ground below. Two very brightly head-marked Pheasants strolled in to the ground feeder. Although they are so common in Norfolk and in our garden, I've never bothered photographing them. So I did.

 The Brambling were in the shade and I trashed all my pics as not good enough.
We often see Siskin and Redpoll in the Alders leading back to the direct track, none to-day. Our first Willow Tits of the year, attracting our attention with their wheezy call, was a welcome experience. I also photographed splendid, fresh, Bracket Fungus but, for some odd reason ,took them as video. After inspecting my Canon 200 I still don't understand why!!

Pam's photo
Two birders in Whitley soon left. It was lunchtime. We sat in  pole position viewing the right hand feeders until........ 
We looked at each other as running feet pounded along the boardwalk, becoming thunderous on the incline to the hide. Kids I thought. The door smashed open, all the birds flew away and a loud voice called 'Hallooooooo, there were Bramblings here an hour ago'. There were 2 minutes ago too ! He turned out to be Mike, one of the volunteer wardens, elderly and wearing a hearing aid. Pam had a coughing fit and departed. I asked him if there were any Marsh Harriers left, knowing that the reserve's birds migrated south. We then - and on the walk back - had a very interesting conversation about the reserve, displaying Goshawks, no breeding Barn Owls this year and only 3 fledged Tawnies. Let's hope for a less cold winter and drier Spring in 2013/14. 
The birds from the hide were disappointingly poor in variety. More Bramblings, Blackbirds, Dunnock, Blue and Great Tits. 


Adult male Blackbird
We expect to see Bullfinches, Water Rail and Reed Bunting. After an hour, it was time to leave.
I almost suggested looking at the box near Whitley to see if there was a Tawny showing...but we were both cold. On return to the Centre, there was a Tawny Owl on the CCTV camera, showing well in the nest box I'd thought of visiting. Another look at the Harvest Mouse box in the warm Centre saw it perched on top of its cage heater. Pam took a good photo earlier.

Harvest Mouse
At 2.30, the light is fading fast but maybe just enough time to try for the Parrot Crossbills at Holt Country Park. We've only visited there a couple of times and missed the entrance so gave it a miss and drove home.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Distant Views

Saturday November 23
After a very pleasant evening and an excellent meal at Kate and Jim's, we were late to bed and late up this morning.
The trees retain many of their leaves, due to the late heat I suppose. This morning was sunny and cool, enhancing the colours of the early winter countryside. Too nice to stay in, where should we go? Buckenham Marshes got the vote.
Far fewer Wigeon on the marshes than I expected, widespread in small groups. Scoping from the railway crossing, a flock of White-fronted Geese flew in from Cantley, landing very distantly yet near enough to scope the gleaming white patch above the beak. They kept well away from the many groups of Canadas.
The best experience, was a pair of Peregrine falcons perched in a bare tree to the north of the road in. A passing birder leaning in through Pam's window, said ' that's cheating, staying in the warmth of the car, it's freezing out here'. He then pointed out the falcons which were not yet in view for us. On the way back when they were my side of the car, I attempted some photographs with the 1.5 times on my 300mm lens as they were so distant in fast dropping sun. The flash popped up ! That's my excuse for the less than sharp images.
The smaller male on the bottom branch
The male exercised his wimgs before flying away, followed by the female. This is the pair that nests on Norwich Cathedral.
We drove as far as the mill to eat our late lunch, getting closer views of the White-fronts. A Chinese Water deer fed in the flocks of lapwings, a few Ruff stalking stiff-legged amongst the latter.  As usual, a flock of feral Doves loafed on and in the old Mill.
Ever decreasing light, it's dark by 3.30, drove us away after a very enjoyable few hours.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Puffins, Geese and Gulls

Wednesday January 20

Happy Birthday grandson Josh, 12 to-day.
As it is the last day of Irene and John Miller's Paintings and photographs exhibition, we needed to pick up our Puffins painting. What a splendid opportunity to have a fruit scone. 
Before indulging, we drove a very wet and extensively puddled, Beach Road. It has rained heavily most of the morning. A smaller flock of Brents, thank goodness, but many seemed to be over the brow again. On the return journey i found the Pale-bellied again and, at last, a good adult Black Brant. The flock of Golden Plover flew off as we arrived.
After the scone, coffee, a chat with Pat about Honda CRVs and collecting the painting, we drove down to Salthouse Beach car park. Pam remembered that we had a bag of cubed stale bread in the back, so we fed the gulls and Turnstones. Great fun trying to photograph them, the Turnstones never still and the gulls too near for my 300 lens much of the time. Never pleased.....

Adult getting its summer dark brown hood already

Winter plumage

Getting there

Adult winter Turnstone

Juvenile bird

Winter adult

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Shopping the Pretty Way

Saturday November 16

News of Whooper Swans at Horsey diverted us from North Walsham Sainsbury's. A horrible November day where the grey sky merged with the ground giving poor visibility. Everywhere looked wet and miserable.
Passing Brograve Farm a small brown raptor flew low along the road in front of us. A Merlin.
We found the half a dozen or so Whoopers amongst a dozen Mute Swans before reaching Somerton, two fields to the west of the road. Appalling visibility.The only other birds worth mentioning were Golden Plover flying low above us.
Straight to North Walsham........past home

Friday, 15 November 2013

One Fine Day

Tuesday October 12

Despite setting out in rain and overcast, by 10 a.m. it was sunny with blue sky. No Tree Sparrows again in our known area, for the second month running. They usually congregate around the farm in the winter. Where have they gone?
Our first Fieldfare along the back lane to Abbey farm together with many careering immigrant Blackbirds.
 From the hide we saw.... Starlings and Jackdaws.
Pur first visit to Snettisham for some months coincided with a turning tide - at its lowest. The pit nearest to the caravan park had Tufted Duck, Pochard, Little Egret and a surprise female Red-breasted Merganser.
Most of the expected waders on the reserve mud. large numbers of Bar-tailed Godwit and Knot, 700 Golden Plover, a sprinkling of Grey Plover, Dunlin, Redshank and Oystercatchers.So many Shelduck, as always.
Best was a flock of 150+ Fieldfare feeding on Hawthorn berries on the far shore of the pits and a couple of Goldeneye on the pits.

 Fifteen Fulmar loafed on the sea at Hunstanton, a lone Shoveller preened on the Broadwater at Holme.
Creeks full of water at Thornham and Brancaster Ovary meant flocks of roosting Gulls and our first Brents - two of them on the marsh. several skeins of Pinks during the day and one field-full near Holkham.
The hoped for Black Brant at Wells - and all the other Brents - had been scattered away by a man walking across the pitch and putt. Shouldn't be allowed !
We had another look for the Black Brant along Beach Road at Cley, a thankless task. It was a very large flock, many of them hidden behind a ridge, very active and restless. Part of the way through my scanning, most of them flew away even further and more widely spread. I gave up. The large flock of Golden Plover in the Eye Field gleamed in the fast dropping sun,

Part of the flock
 I took advantage of the light to photograph and obliging Lapwing.

A lovely day, although a short one, upper 60s the final number of species seen.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Cley for Lunch

Thursday November 7
After a hairdresser visit first thing, the plan was to bird at Titchwell. I did not feel up to it, still coughing and suffering an  infected sinuses thick head.
After a rest at home, we drove to Cley, parking at the centre intending to walk to Pat's. We had lunch in the cafe instead, scanning the marsh and pools from there. A single flying Black-tailed Godwit added to the sparse month list.
Spying a flock of Golden Plover on the Eye Field, we drove to the Beach Road car park, splashing through a large stretch of water on the approach. In the late afternoon sun, about 200 Goldies slept in a straggly line, Brent Geese feeding behind them.

Deciding not to walk beyond the Little Eye at Salthouse to see the Grey Phalarope  nor walking to North Hide to see the Shorelark, we drove straight home.

Monday, 4 November 2013

A Bit of Birding

Monday November 4
A lovely breezy morning, time for some sea watching. A flock of Pinkfeet on the Somerton Straight, a dozen Skylarks in a ploughed field.
Winterton was back to winter normal now that half term is over. The coast guard money donation buckets were out, the car park open whilst they're on duty.
We tried from the turning area first, then moved into the car park in order to better view the white-crested choppy sea. A steady passage of Gannets, way out, an equally distant Red-throated Diver and, at last, two Common Scoter playing hide and seek in the waves. Several sky watching Seals had us going for a while.
Time to pay our first ever visit to Caister Beach car park, I had to look it up on the map first. No Starlings in view at first ten a small group flew in to squabble amongst the warm chimney pots. Constant changes in position, groups leaving and arriving, us trying to see as many as possible. After half an hour, we were beginning to lose heart, especially when a flock of almost a hundred appeared from somewhere, adorned the roof tops, flew off again, etc etc.
A last scan of  nearby roof tops before leaving and Pam located the grotty juvenile Rosy Starling preening on steeply pitched slates, just viewable between the eaves. It's pink rump showed as it preened and then it's pink tinged front. Success.
We added our first winter flock of Golden Plover on the way home.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Virus Vengeance

Friday November 1

Too unwell to achieve a whole day's birding, we contented ourselves with a few hours fairly locally. 
Winterton is crowded this week, half term holiday, too many visitors, children and dogs. We drove to Cley via Gunton Park and Felbrigg, ending with the grand total of 40. No birds of major interest on that list, good to see something, the garden feeders are hardly used at the moment.
Many good birds spread around the country at the moment, the result of last weekend's storms, two of them ticks for us. Mourning Dove on Rhum and Cape May Warbler on Shetland. I have never twitched offshore..........yet. We also missed the Humpback Whale off Sea Palling, I didn't read my pager for 2 days due to this wretched virus. I would have liked to have seen that.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Post Storm

Monday October 28

The predicted ' biggest storm since 1987 (hurricane year)' never happened as far as we were concerned. We had some heavy showers and strong winds but nothing untoward.
About lunchtime, we drove to Walcott to have a look at the sea. Many Gannets, hundreds of gulls flying about and on the sea, a few Turnstones on the sea wall. Interesting was a flock of 40 Pinks in a field along the front, not an usual sight there.
I had a look at the Isles of Scilly, Porthcressa webcam - the one from the Wheelhouse - the sea didn't look at all big. Shame I couldn't distinguish the Sabine's Gull reported on the pager.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Home Safely

Thursday October 24

Having decided not to set the alarm, it was after nine before we set off on a beautifully sunny and warm morning. We've had unbelievably good weather. All was going well until we hit a section of the M5 in Somerset when we hit what turned out to be a 10 mile tailback. It took us an hour and a half to crawl to the accident scene. A large lorry had jack-knifed on the westbound carriageway, ending up partly in the central reservation barrier. Effectively blocking both east and westbound traffic.
We had two exercise stops, the third was Thetford Sainsbury's for milk and bread, home at 5.15.
Amost definitely - never say never - our last visit to Scilly, the walking is too much for us and we shall both be too old to hire a cart in future. If we did go again, it would be to different accommodation. It hit us hard this time how uncomfortable No 7 is. Nowhere comfy to sit, the steep steps up, backaching beds, the smallest TV it is possible to buy, no SKY and, worst of all, no WiFi. It is wonderfully equipped for cooking !! Angela did say that BT (!!) were due to install Broadband on October 8th. Hm. There were several letters  from BT in the lobby,  awaiting her attention.

Rock n Roll

Wednesday October 23

I'm not a bad sailor...I hate the Scillonian 3. We left Hugh Town nearly 15 minutes early, the boat was packed. Monday's stranded passengers as well as to-day's. We sat on the top deck in warm sunshine, enjoying a good view of the St Mary coastline as we took the long way round through the Agnes channel. Low tide again.
Soon after, we started rolling in earnest. I was sat next to the metal bars protecting the edge and spent the next 3 hours being flung into them at regular intervals. I could not control the slide along the wooden slatted seats. Pam had wisely placed her soft bag between her and the metal - I didn't have a suitable fender.
I did try to walk to the other side at one point - a cry of Whale went up - that was a mistake, I was lucky to get back in one piece. And I didn't see the whale. All on a 'calm' sea !
As the mainland came into distant view, the birding improved. Gannets had been in view much of the time, now we started seeing Auks, mainly Razorbills with a few Guillemots and a couple of puffins. Best birds were a single Balearic Shearwater and three Grey Phalaropes which flew pretty close to us. Someone called a Fea's Petrel, the other side of the boat again and hardly anyone saw it. I got very cold as the sun dropped.
Off to the chaos of the quay. Our luggage was unloaded from the crates by dock men but it was as bad as the luggage carousel at airports trying to weasel through to your own bags.Pam went off to do that whilst I looked after the three pieces of hand luggage (two were Pam's) and got into the car parking vehicle waiting nearby.
A quick and efficient transfer to Ludgvan before driving to Hayle M and S to buy an evening meal and to-morrow's breakfast. We were just in time, they called closed as we got to the cashier.
Pam hates driving in the dark but, at least it was dry and the traffic light. Exeter TraveLodge is in the process of being re-furbished, we'd been asked if we wanted to transfer the booking but knew that we would not be there during working hours. Our room had been done and was very nice indeed. Enough time to find out the Man U score in the European Cup match - 1-0 - before going to bed.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Spotty Highlight

Tuesday October 22
The cart at Porth Low - it's lefthand drive
The end of a thoroughly enjoyable last day, (fingers crossed that the Scillonian arrives to-morrow). Driving the cart was fun. I'd suggested that we spend the day visiting all the cafes open on the island - not that many - we managed three, including Mumfords to buy to-night's last pasty.
Having returned to town after picking up the cart at Porthmellon, to get the said pasty before they spent hours being kept warm, we returned to visit Porth Low.  One of our favourite places. A male Black Redstart put in a very brief appearance, from the thick tamarisk bush at the eastern end. Four White Wagtails, a single adult Pied and the usual Rock Pipits, Starlings and Oystercatchers enlivened the seaweed tide-line. 

A Whimbrel called from the island, two Little Egrets hunched on a rocky reef as did an undertaker like Grey Heron. Lovely. Still a brisk and gusty wind but, less than yesterday and a warm sun.
I then parked at Old Town and we walked Lower Moors. As we were watching my first Scilly eel, gently wafting its tail in the pathside stream, news came through that the Spotted Crake was showing....didn't say where on Lower Moors. It has previously shown 'behind the Hilda Quick hide'. There it was, trotting about in a wet area beside the main track. I saw this elusive bird well and for a good length of time but, it was never photographable, too many low branches and roots in the way.
Visiting both hides was a waste of time. One Moorhen! We did see four Swallows over the dump incinerator with no sign of the House Martin we missed this morning.
After a coffee and a Teacake at Old Town cafe (cafe 2), next stop Carreg Dhu. Another try for a Firecrest. The gardens are thickly wooded, it's like looking for a needle in a Haystack. We did see some very tame Blackbirds, Robin, Song Thrush, Dunnock and a superb, newly hatched, Red Admiral.
Nearly 2.00, time for lunch at Kaffeehaus. We were greeted by two women with 'Here are the ladies on the boat'. What boat? It turned out to be the Tresco one. They are Canadians, over for a son's wedding. They'd never heard of Scilly, his new wife holidayed here for 26 years with her family. Fancy that journey into the unknown. They should have left on Monday, the boat being cancelled put paid to their much anticipated 2 days in London. First time in he UK too.
In a ploughed field between Maypole and Borough Farm, we found two Black Redstarts, umpteen Meadow Pipits, several Redwings and a Fieldfare.
Black Redstart
And... three Chaffinches, a trip tick.
Newford Duck Pond had about 20 birders trying to see a Yellow-browed Warbler, one older man we know well by sight said that they were down to ticking off the YBWs they hadn't seen yet. Desperation.
News on the CB of a Swift sp over Carreg Dhu/ Holy Vale, flying towards Lower Moors produced an immediate surge of adrenalin, sending everyone rushing off. Very few observers and no-one saw it well enough to decide whether it was a Common or a Pallid. The latter is more usual this late. We didn't see it at all as we drove back to Porth Low for a final visit.
Despite the increasing chill and 12 spots of rain, produced by the grey cloud cover, we stayed a while, the only addition a second Black Redstart. I enjoyed watching the ever entertaining and characterful antics of a flock of Starlings.

Another check to see if the three days worth of newspapers were, another hour or so when the Gry Maritha had unloaded.
A quick visit to Porthcressa paid off with two excellent views of a close Peregrine against the blue sky. No-one else in sight, we had it all to ourselves.
Back to Old Town in time to catch the school emptying, complete with crossing attendant at Nowhere. Drop off the cart, a last look at Porthmellon beach before the trudge up school hill. Pam collected the papers and I took the baggage home to the flat.
Brilliant. I've managed to upload yesterday's write-up and write all this without the internet crashing ! Now for uploading photos which take an age.

Wild Weather

Monday October 21

No Scillonian, no planes, no papers.  Intermittent showers too - even worse WiFi, the occasional few minutes at random. Scilly disadvantages.
We went as far as Mumfords late morning for a cuppa and some WiFi access. Everyone seemed to have the same idea, all tables were occupied and Kavorna and Dibble and Grub were closed.
We ventured forth to Porthcressa in the afternoon, barely able to stand up in the fearsome wind, the sea was magnificent. Just like the day long ago when the helicopters weren’t running on our last day and we walked Peninnis. Too much spray for photographs, it would have harmed the cameras.
I’ve booked a cart for to-morrow for a last tour of our favourite places, come rain or shine. I should be enough ballast.

Off Island

Sunday October 20

An extremely heavy shower, pounding on the flat roof, woke us at 5.30.
Hughtown Harbour from The Mermaid

Pam on the quay waiting for the boat, town beach in the background.

Seahorse came in from her early Tresco run and......double parked outside Meridian! That meant having to board and cross two heaving boats.
Sitting on Seahorse, ready for our crossing to Tresco, thunder grumbled away as lightning flashed. Oh dear. The rest of the day was sunny, very warm but with an increasingly strong and gusting wind. The boat rocked and rolled across the Roads, the rollers were coming across us all the way. I enjoyed it though.

The next trepidation was landing at Carn bloody Near. Miles away from where we wanted to be, many steep steps to the quay, and a long trek through featureless, birdless heath. It’s the low tide landing place and the tides have been ‘wrong’ all 10 days.

We waited until last to get off the boat, steps are not good for me and there were many of them. I quite enjoyed our amble, seeing our first Stonechats and an over-ripe fungus which looked like a pansy.

The Abbey gardens are lovely.

Oh dear, the Abbey tea-rooms was closed. We met again the public school teacher with whom we birded in Brazil. We’d forgotten about visiting the released Red Squirrel feeding station and didn’t want to return the extra distance.

Fasciscularia flower growing wild on the islands
The south end of the Great Pool had three trip ticks for us. Mute Swans, Coot and a female Pintail. We heard a Yellow-browed Warbler at Rowesfield crossroads.News came through that the Sora was showing from the Swarovski Hide, too far for us, even if we rushed. A surprise Buzzard showed on the Borough Farm ridge and, at last, we reached the Swarovski Hide. Only three occupants, we sat with a view of the favoured area, later moving seats for a grandstand view. All to no avail, the Sora had made it’s daily appearance. We even waited two hours !
20 Greenshank, 6 Redshank, a female Shoveller, many Gadwall, Canada Geese, a few Teal added to the trip list - Tresco padders. A Kestrel flew past as did a Peregrine - I didn’t see the latter. Big excitement... a Dunnock along the small muddy edge.

Time to leave the wind tunnel, I was very cold by now, first time for months, it was much warmer outside.
Guess what? The Tresco Stores was shut. We’d shared a bag of peanuts for lunch but no drink.
A very confiding Wheatear appeared on New Grimsby beach wall as we walked to the jetty for the 3.00 boat.

I never get tired of photographing Wheatears
Lovely trip back, a myriad Shags disturbed from communal fishing by the boat, others clustered on sea foaming rocks.

 Many more Gannets plunge diving, most of them adults.

Not a good weather forecast. Will I ever get to drive a cart?