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?

Sunday, 20 October 2013


Saturday October 19

Waking to heavy rain pounding on the flat roof over the bedroom and a dimpled sea, I phoned to cancel the cart booked for to-day. Which turned out to be a mistake. After yesterday’s almost constant rain, we expected the same after last night’s forecast.
By 10 o’clock, the sky had cleared, the sun shone and we had another beautiful, upper teens, sunny day. We’ve had our best October weather ever = a paucity of birds. But.... the islands look lovely.
When did I last walk King Edward’s Drive on Peninnis and only see a few Sparrows, Starlings, one Blackbird and a Wren ? Until we got to the very confiding summer plumaged Snow Bunting feeding along the path. 

Many photos later, most of them trashed as he was feeding in dappled shade and amongst bramble and grassy tufts, we sat in the seat at the end, enjoying the view of the airfield. The tide was coming in again, fountains of spray cascading over exposed rocks. Gannets fished in Old Town Bay and then glided past the lighthouse, two Rock Pipits careered madly about, why no Stonechats this year? Nor chaffinches ! We did see one Greenfinch on the walk back. We’d intended walking down to Old Town Cafe but could not see any heads in the outdoor sitting area. Closed again - as they were last Saturday. 
Buzza Hill down to Porhcressa in Hughtown was steeper than I remembered, a real penance for my knees. We sat on a bench half way down, admiring another great view and taking some photographs.

Porthcressa beach and Hughtown from the south. Our flat is on the northerly sidof this narrow sandy neck. The twin mounds of Samson can be seen across the water.
Betty came plodding up to their hired house on top. Soon after she stopped for a chat, a Peregrine came into view, almost overhead, and then hovered. What a treat. Superb against the pure blue sky. Shame I couldn’t find it in my viewfinder.
Dibble and Grub was.....closed! 3.00 p.m. and no lunch at all.
Mumfords was ......closed. 
Papers, and then a drink and snacks back at the flat. 
I haven’t been able to get online at all to-day, a real bummer.
Sunday I'm on.....had enough internet last night - about 1 minute - to paste the acccount and then nothing again. Will now try to post some pics.

Hottentot Fig, this flower is wild on the islands

I have to take at least one pic of Pam when she's not looking. She thinks she looks like 'a poor old b.....r ' here

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Very Little

Thursday October 17

Very little done, very little seen, very little to report.
Stayed in bed late, reading, it's the only comfortable place in the flat. The chairs and sofa are excruciatingly uncomfortable for even a short time.

I did some laundry, Pam used the dancing spin dryer, time for lunch at Dibble and Grub. The pager asked all birders to stay away from Old Town church this morning, as there was a funeral. Most of the attendees were at Porthcressa in their black or purple smarts.We had a delicious home-made burger, the food is good here, the view as good.
We walked about the Little Port area, seeing nothing, enjoying a chat with Betty and Steve. They hadn't gone for the Pallas's Gropper either. Betty likes at visit all the islands every trip, they'd been to St Martins and seen no birders at all.
The Co-op for essentials, time to batten down for the evening.


Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Flesh not Bad, Spirit Weak!

Thursday October 16
A beautiful, warm and cloudless day, showing Scilly at its best. The Sora seems to have gone from Tresco. What should we do? Eventually, we went to Old Town, the Telegraph end of Lower Moors was closed due to tree felling. It will be interesting to see what's been done.
We walked to the ISBG hide at the pools, seeing the Little Grebe very closely and well in full sun - through four large men's heads, 3 enormous lenses and an annoying bin-less photographer in a camo jacket who kept ducking and weaving.No chance of a photo for me. I waited about an hour to no avail. A lone Greenshank flew in as did a Grey Wagtail.
The Grebe tiurned up again, head above green slime festooning parts of the pool. A Jack Snipe was said to be hidden below the hide but we never got into a position to see it.
Trying the other- Hilda Quick - hide, we were in time to see a Kingfisher get its feet onto a near perch before dashing off. Shame.We did have views of a Water Rail and a Common Snipe.
Big excitement, a Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler on Gugh. The CB was buzzing wth news of  hurriedly arranged boats to Agnes - even though Gugh Bar is covered until 5.30.
Time for a snack at Old Town Cafe, lemon drizzle for me, tiffin for Pam. We sat on the bench, in shirtsleeves, looking over Old Town Bay, before walking back via the school and the Dump Clump to Porthmellon. 
Incoming sea breaking on rocks in Old Town Bay

Pulpit Rock at the end of Peninnis
No birders to be seen anywhere...... 
Must have a look online to see if there's a plan for the new school. The old primary school is a Wellbeing Centre with an enormous new, windowless building on the dump side. Gym?
Sitting watching the tide come in at Porthmellon was lovely. A ship called the Mannin was being nudged into place by the harbour master's boat - then back again. It appears to be a building supplies boat. A Wheatear hunted for insects in the tideline seaweed,

A Carrion Crow stayed until an Alsation was let off the lease and, Sandwich Terns fished in the Roads.
Time to read the papers, full of last night's 2-0 win over Poland and qualification for next year's Brazil World Cup.
Doesn't seem as though anyone saw the Pallas's Gropper after the initial sighting. More rumours of good money for the boatmen I guess.
We've discovered that the Mannin is here to check, and replace where necessary, the boat mooring points in Hughtown Harbour.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Bye Bye Bryher

Tuesday October 15
We woke to a light drizzle and wet paths, what a novelty. Having packed and made use of the excellent WiFi to read Emails, we breakfasted at 8.45. Apart from Pam's dislike of the overdone (for her) granary toast, another very good meal. The food is impressive.
Pam had expressed a wish to take the afternoon boat but I demurred. Bryher is described as a 'walker's island' and I no longer am. It's very rugged and most paths seem to go uphill, steeply. Very few birds too.
An extremely low tide meant using the quay that used to be called Annequay after Anneke Rice. It had to be partially re-built and changed its name. The Firethorn had to take a very slow and circuitous route through the shallow water back to Mary.
Back at the flat, we unpacked, sorted ourselves and then went to the allotment area of Peninnis in the hope of a Wryneck. We met Betty on the way, they now stay at the top of Buzza. Fortunately, the Wryneck was showing well on the densely shrubbed hillside above the children's play area. I was able to fire off a few shots.

After a chat with Pat, Reston had steamed off to take photos, we returned to Portcressa and lunch at Dibble and Grub. The best sandwich we've ever eaten out. A very thick layer of Egg Mayonnaise with a generous sprinkling of small chunks of thick crispy bacon in extremely fresh bread. All eaten sitting outside  in  warm sun, watching Sandwich Terns and Gannets fishing in the afternoon sun-silvered bay.
Sandwich Terns on a rowboat in Porthcressa Bay
After some essential shopping in the one and only small supermarket, the Co-op, we returned to the flat in time to see the only Black Redstart on the islands, flitting about the beach below our window.I took a couple of shots out of the window before it flew off east.
Marj and Jen started birding after watching Turnstones fossicking amongst the seaweed below the flat. They were there again to-day.
The big CB news at the moment, setting birders rushing off - except for us - is a Richard's Pipit on Halangy Down. It's leading them a merry dance. I'm always reminded of my puzzlement, many years ago, when seeing Dix Pipit written on the sightings board outside the Porthcressa Inn. Seems fine now, but it took a day or two for the penny to drop.
England's last match to qualify for the World Cup to-night, against Poland. Hope the result is better than the last time we played them in a decider, when their goalkeeper, who played a blinder, was described as a clown by Brian Clough. I remember it well.

Monday, 14 October 2013

To Hell and ......Back To-morrow

Monday October 14
Happy Birthday Pam. Up in time to open all her lovely cards before it was time to leave for the Health Centre so that I could have my eight stitches removed. All done, quick and painless. I'd spread some Savlon on the wound this morning and last night to soften the scabs.The nurse suggested Vaseline to keep the scar supple and commented on what a neat job had been made of it.
I'd booked a birthday surprise, 1 night dinner BandB at the Hell Bay Hotel, Bryher, prompted by the fact that many places on Scilly are closed for the winter, or not open on a Monday. We took the 12.30 on Firethorn, the Bryher/Tresco boat not one of the Boating Association ferries. All the islands seem to have their own fast ribs now too. A minibus and trailer met us and drove us up the very rough and narrow track to the Hotel.
Our suite with a sea view is called Swift. From the outside it's grey stuccoed,  part of a row of four, reminiscent of elderly council houses, set in lovely gardens.

'Swift' - our room is downstairs - one of the less expensive !!
The inside is a roomy 'suite' - open plan - consisting of a  well appointed bedroom, sitting room and a two wash basin bathroom.

These rooms are more expensive - that's ours, back right
Lunch finished at 2 p.m.  and there are no buggies for hire. We'd planned to go elsewhere to eat if there were. We both ordered a sandwich, me Yarg and pickle, Pam, Coronation Chicken. Very ordinary. I hope that the dinner is better.
A short exploratory walk took us down through the gardens to the seashore, overlooking Great Porth, looking directly into the afternoon sun.

We walked on round the pool but the only birds to be seen were Starlings, House Sparrows and Meadow Pipits. A lone Wheatear bounded along the beach.

Great Porth
I really didn't feel like walking to-day, it was my decision to return to the hotel, drink coffee and eat fudge.
Dinner at 7.30 was excellent. We both had Ham Terrine, followed by Lamb Chops and a lamb loin something or other. I had Lemon Curd Tartlet, cherries, raspberry sorbet and jus, Pam had Sticky Toffee Pudding, Vanilla Panacotta and Banoffee Ice-cream. Sounds a lot but all portions were small. As we walked out, the waitress appeared with our petit fours which we took back to our room to eat.
I decided that we would catch the early boat in the morning, walking and birding is too difficult here.
A most enjoyable experience but not one I'd be in a hurry to repeat - unless I came up on Euromillions.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Another Fine Day

Sunday October 13
Not our last day with The Bug after all, I have my photo card license with me, just not the paper one. Pam thought that the card didn’t have a number on it, but it does.
Rather chilly first thing, overcast with an edgy wind. Neither of us were eager to set forth either, it was an 'old' morning. Bless him, the cart hire man had already filled out the insurance form ready for a signature and put Pam’s back cushion in place.
To give us a chance to face the day, we drove to Porth Low first where we saw two Wheatears, a Curlew and a collection of Oystercatchers huddled on the beach anticipating the rising tide, in a true Scilly scene.

The roadworks along Telegraph finished yesterday, we could park near Lower Moors entrance, don the backpack with its load of camera gear and walk through the wooded area. Slowly, as were looking and listening for birds, mainly Yellow-browed Warblers, the island has several at the moment.
Shooters Pool had a distant Chiffchaff and a well concealed Snipe, which confused us by bobbing - until its head and longer beak came into view.
I sat in the ISBG hide at the pool for about an hour, watching and attempting to photograph a Jack Snipe feeding at the far side of the pool. Two Grey Wagtails were doing circuits of the area, occasionally landing for a short while before madly dashing off again. What a waste of  energy.

 I needed to use the loo at Old Town cafe - shut again to-day but the loos stay open. As I came out, Pam called a dark Heron flying towards us from Peninnis Head. I got it virtually overhead before it flew towards Lower Moors. The juvenile Purple Heron , a stroke of luck, some birders haven’t seen it after a week or more. A Scilly tick for us.
Would the small gardens at the top of Bishops View which leads down to Porth Low hold anything. No. But it was sheltered. We watched two Song Thrushes having a fight before going on to Newford Duckpond. 
The original bird. Scilly has many Song Thrushes, unlike the mainland.

Despite our best efforts, we saw only a lovely first winter Willow Warbler. 
Time to go on to lunch at the Kaffeehaus. We booked pasties yesterday, hoping that they would be better than the two previous places. They were, but considerably smaller.Still not good enough.....
Newford Duckpond again, where we had terrific views of a Yellow-browed Warbler. Our best yet.
It was getting chilly again as the afternoon wore on and the sky clouded over. Time to make our way homewards - the pretty way as there was still time to spare for the Bug. 
A large number of birders have spent to-day looking for the Grey-cheeked Thrush in Old town Churchyard area. The dreaded ‘mobile and elusive, showing occasionally in an area with very restricted viewing’.We didn’t bother. A very good bird but not a tick, it can wait for another day before we join.the lemmings. It had obviously flown to the fields/woods behind the splendid new school, from the evidence of clusters of birders looking through gates and over walls along there.
Walking back after dropping off the Bug, I met John H and Peter R who had seen both the Thrush here and then the Sora on Tresco, having only arrived yesterday. They were eager to know where we’d seen the Heron though !
Stitches out at 9 in the morning, thank goodness, then we are free to enjoy Pam’s birthday.

Two Buggy Days

Friday October 11
An even later start to-day. I woke at 7.30 after a good night’s sleep - and stayed there, reading. All I could see was inhospitable looking grey sky until I sat up and saw a sunlit harbour, reflected light flashing off the swinging windscreens of the myriad boats dotting Town Bay.
Pam went shopping. I read, did word games and listened to my CB, waiting for something worth a sortie. The flighty Purple Heron turned up in a field along the track to Harry’s Walls, I decided that it would have gone by the time we got there.  I was proved right.
After a late lunch, we walked to Porthcressa which has had a facelift. The beach front has really been tarted up. We found somewhere to sit where we could scan the bay and enjoy the hot sunshine. A Little Egret, two Curlews, a flock of Black-headed Gulls, one Dunlin, a Kestrel hovering over Buzza, small flocks of Starlings, Shags and Cormorants on the exposed rocks and numerous fishing Gannets out to sea.
The Gry Maritha came surging around the corner to disappear round Peninnis and, 15 minutes after sounding the departure hooter, the Scillonian creamed the other way. The not strong in the first place, wind, eased totally this afternoon. We were too hot in the sun.
Nice sunset from the flat window.

Apologies for the wonky skyline - leaning too far out of the window. I lost my perspective. Nothing else fortunately.

This is the end of a very frustrating first half of England’s vital qualifier against Montenegro. No real midfield quality, few scoring chances - and they were all missed. Same old story.

The end result was 4 -1 to England. Andros Townsend made a spectacular debut. Good but flattering. A lot of underhand behaviour by the Montenegrans went unpunished, they deserved to lose.

Saturday October 12

We hired a buggy again for  both to-day and to-morrow.. The age limit for driving is 75 and Pam will exceed that on Monday. When I looked for my paper driving license where it’s always kept... it wasn’t there. Bother.
A little later, 9.30, but we were there by 9.20. It takes 10 minutes to complete the forms.
Lower Moors was the first stop, Shooters Pool to look for the Spotted Crake. Two Mallard and nothing else. An oncoming birder told us of two Jack Snipe seen from the ISBN hide, so we gave up and hot-footed (!!) it there.
Just the one birder in the hide when we arrived, reporting that the Jacks had disappeared into the reeds. We stayed for 40 minutes admiring the three pretty distant Greenshanks, feeding avidly, squabbling, hopping on one leg, never still. 

A Kingfisher made two short appearances, perching momentarily on a metal spike, one female Teal swirled about. Breakfast/Brunch was calling. 

Another call-in at Shooters Pool gave us less than cracking views of a Jack Snipe asleep in the reedbed. Three birds were pesent ... somewhere. 
Back on the road, half a dozen birders peering through a gap in the hedge along Telegraph road was irresisitible. Just in time to see a Lesser Whitethroat and Blackcap, I didn’t see the Redwing.
Old Town Cafe was closed for the day, we climbed up the slope to Tolmans where we were the sole customers. The menu was for lunch. I asked the waitress if it was too late for breakfast, the chef said no so we both had a Full English. It’s a long time since I ate : bacon, egg, sausage, mushrooms, hash browns, fried potato, tomatoes, a slice of toast and baked beans. Actually I didn’t. Pam had all but two bits of mushroom and I left the tomatoes and fried potatoes. Stuffed. 
Despite waiting 20 minutes, patient standing time for us, we did not see the Red-breasted Flycatcher, nor did many others.
I love the Saturday Telegraph best of all. To make sure of getting a copy, we drove back to Hughtown before returning to Old Town Churchyard for another look.
Trying to decide whether to take the lower path again or the higher one near the monument, we were joined by Steve Joyner (no pun intended). He told us about their India trip and the next one in the new year and asked about Borneo which Betty is keen to visit. A flock of about 20 Redwings flew over whilst we were talking.
A CB message reporting the incredibly elusive Purple Heron flying from Lower Moors towards the airfleld sent us scurrying down the steps for a better aerial view. No deal. It was also reported flying this morning and we missed that too. What made it worse, as I came out of the loos,  a man was showing his wife a photo of it, which he’d taken on his phone.
The bird has led birders a merry dance over the last week, few have seen it.
We drove on to spend time in Carreg Dhu gardens where we saw two Goldcrests.
More lovely butterflies to-day. Speckled Wood is the commonest, we’ve also seen Red Admiral, Comma and Clouded Yellow.
Four hours after our gigantic breakfast, we had room to visit the Kaffeehaus near Telegraph. I had the best Apple Streudel I’ve ever eaten and Pam had apple and ginger cake fresh from the oven. The owner was there to-day, she was lovely. As was the helper who has offspring in Manila, Byron Bay and the States and used to run St Mary’s campsite. We were the only customers, they had time to chat ! A Sparrowhawk flew past as Pam was paying the bill and chatting. I listened.
Porth Low, one of our favourite places to end the day. As I finished commenting that we’d had Wheatears in three bays yesterday, none to-day, they must have gone, three of the said birds flew in. Two Little Egrets looked for food amongst the low tide rocks along with a Grey Heron. One Curlew and the ubiquitous Oystercatchers the only other species present.
Time to drop off the Bug and trudge back to the flat. Another lovely sunny day.

Friday, 11 October 2013

First Two Days on Scilly

Wednesday October 9

Too early a start to-day, I was still asleep. Sod’s law. The alarm went off at 6.15, we packed and left the TraveLodge.... to re-pack, change shoes, don binoculars etc., in the car park.

I’d booked an off road car park near Crowlas which only took 15 minutes to reach. Asked to arrive by 7.45 at the latest, we arrived twenty minutes early and were offered and accepted, a hot drink. We were the only passengers to-day.

Early at the car park, early at the jetty, late on the boat - we stood watching all the large cargo containers being delivered by fork-lift, chained and lifted swinging onto the deck.
The sole car treated thus made an alarming clang as it was landed. We later found that it belonged to the blasphemous, disabled, woman birder who used to get about in a buggy. Ensconced on the open stern deck, we waited aeons before departure. All so casual. I fetched a hot drink and a newspaper from the cafe and people-watched.
Open Sea as we left Penzance
The two and a half hour journey on a pretty calm sea was enhanced by three separate sightings of dolphin pods, several of them leaping clear of the water. Diving Gannets alerted me to the presence of the first pod, shoals of fish attract both species. A steady stream of Gannets encouraged me to try some photos using my Canon 50x Midi. Most of the time, I couldn’t find any birds in the screen ! Must practice more.

At last we arrived, via the southern approaches, disembarked, found the taxi and Pam went off to unearth our bags from the very bottom of a cargo crate. Carrying everything up the still - and seemingly increasingly - steep steps and stairs was a chore which Pam took on, me helping near the top. I was feeling the worse for wear to-day. After a rest and a drink, we shopped in the Co-op where they were still unloading to-day’s cargo. We had to wait for the bread and sultanas.
Supper was a pasty from the Kavorna, the butcher’s, round the back of the paper shop,(now a shop called Ploughman’s, still a butcher but with home - made bread and pasties) had sold out. The pasty was very ordinary apart from the quantity of pepper. We shall not be buying from there again.
I’ve hired a buggy for to-morrow morning, to be collected at 9 from Porthmellon. I wish I’d made it 10.

Thursday October 10
Still wish I’d made it 10.......I didn’t wake until 7.30, my longest night for months. Out for 8.30., ill prepared mentally for the trudge to Porthmellon, especially school hill in a strong northerly wind. The Cart Hire place is on the way to the Dump, run by a very affable older Scillonian. The carts are a deep yellow and either 2, 4 or 6 seaters. Open-sided with a roof and front windscreen. Fun.
The plan was a brunch at Old Town. The cafe was closed and Tolmans not open until 10.We walked as far as Lower Moors entrance and then into the track on the left looking for Project Pool with its Bluethroat and Purple Heron. Some men later told us that it was accessible by a small and very wet and muddy track behind the new school. That’s that then.
Back to sit on the wall, enjoying a Wheatear and some Pied Wagtails. ‘Hello’ from the was Betty Joiner, who’s been on the island a week. As always, an enjoyable chat before she left to meet Steve and ...Old Town Cafe opened. We didn’t have to walk to Tolmans. Bacon and egg on toast and a hot drink later, and a short chat with Liz, Tony's partner, we trundled off to Newford Duck Pond. Three birders already there had seen nothing and neither did we. The Arctic and Yellow-browed Warblers seem to have gone overnight. I walked towards Trenoweth Farm seeing a rabbit, Dunnock and Carrion Crow, returning to find Pam trying to drive the buggy into a field - via a closed gate. She stopped short fortunately. Two older men were much amused. Mixed up feet she said.
Time to sample the delights of the German cafe. They’re actually Austrian and make great cakes. I had Lemon Drizzle and Pam, Sacher Torte. Our first Scilly Song Thrush entered the lovely, airy conservatory which serves as the sitting area.
By now, the sun was shining, the sky blue and the wind had dropped. Truly a time to admire Scilly at its best.
Parking roadside near the entrance to Porthellick Bay, we walked the narrow track towards the pool and the sea. We heard a Yellow-Browed Warbler call loudly from the sallows, but only glimpsed this elusive bird . I also heard a Blackcap and we both saw ChiffChaffs before entering the small Sussex Hide. The two male occupants didn’t stay long, telling us that they’d seen a Kingfisher. We stayed for an hour and a half, admiring Moorhens ! The only other birds present were Teal and Mallard and up to 20 feeding Swallows. Until Reston and Pat arrived and a Snipe flew in. Both Reston and I clicked away as it got ever nearer, not put off by the machine gun like noises from the hide. Great.

Pam and I left to walk to the Beach, finding the seat unoccupied. Hurrah. How blissful to sit in the sun scanning the water free beach. Some birds at last. Ringed Plover, two+ Greenshanks, Rock Pipits, two Wheatears, one Meadow Pipit and a few Oystercatchers.

Far end of Porth Hellick - all I could get in using my 300 lens

Dragging ourselves away, we met the two men from the duckpond who asked if the buggy was still in one piece!! Cheeky. We’ve met some very friendly people to-day, mostly older men, many birders seem to be on Tresco viewing the Sora Rail.
3.30 is a little late for lunch. Maybe Juliet’s garden with its wonderful sea views from the terraced tables would provide. We both had the oddest farmhouse pate and toast we’ve ever had and shared a bowl of cheesy chips. Too much carbo.
One Grey Heron and a couple of Curlew added from Porth Loo beach, dropped off the buggy and started the trudge home. Via the Dairy first, to view a first for Scilly moth, a Blackneck, which Steve Joiner, Betty’s husband had trapped. He brings a light and fixes it over a cardboard box.

So pleased to get back after an eight hour day and the painful steps to the flat.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Ape Heaven

Tuesday October 8
Misty at first, but I could see blue sky above as we drove the 30 miles from our overnight stop at Ringwood to Monkey World. Seven years since our first and only visit, what changes would we see. We watched Series 7 programmes in the last few weeks to re-acquaint ourselves with the place and its animals but even that did not prepare us for what we saw. 
An idyllic morning. We were the fourth car in the car park, delivered our old sheets and towels to the entry kiosk, produced our adoptive parent cards for a free entry and set off in perfect October weather, warm sun and little wind. Me in a buggy, camera in the front basket. I gave in to my wounded face and depleted energy after Saturday's minor op. I look a mess. Very few people to start with, so different from the early August of our previous visit. The nearby Gibbons were serenading the morning from their treetop perch. A lovely greeting, I was hoping that we'd hear them.
 I spent a very happy three and a half hours touring the heavily wooded, hilly area, enjoying the antics of the mostly active apes and monkeys. The gibbon and monkey enclosures are only zoo like in that they are surrounded by mesh fencing, the rest of their enclosures is wild trees and shrubs strung with extra wires, walkways and ropes so that they can swing to their heart's delight. Watching Gibbons and Spider monkeys move effortlessly and swiftly, using their prehensile tails as a fifth anchor, is a joy to see. 
The Orangutans and  Chimpanzee enclosures are more suited to their needs, solid wooden poles of varying heights, both horizontal and vertical, ropes, hose and large pipes to give variety. All the animals have indoor 'bedrooms and playrooms' too for inclement weather. It's their choice as to whether they go outdoors or not.
The park holds 240 monkeys and apes of 20 species, most of them endangered, all rescued from the world's pet trade, many of them the victims of cruelty and abuse. They also take part in the endangered animal breeding programme, especially Orangutans, Woolly Monkeys and Golden-cheeked Gibbons and are very successful. Most of the larger apes' enclosures had a glass window section through which photos could be taken. The delightful Gibbons did not, I hate showing them through the essential netting.
My real favourites are the Orangutans, I find the babies irresistible. The adults are not very active but the young ones are. 
The youngest Orang, Awan,  practising away from its mother

Sylvestre, the park's only Sumatran Orang - he's more ginger 
An adult female enjoying the sun
I was also keen to see Sally's Group of Chimps where my adopted chimp, Rodders lives. He was born on my birthday in 2006 and Pam adopted him for me in 1987. 
Bryan,  about to start displaying. He is now 10 years old.

Bryan ended up here - the very top perch

Stump-tailed Macaques, affectionately known as the ugly monkeys, are frequently used by laboratories for experimental purposes. All the park's animals are retired from labs, elderly and were kept in solitary cages before the park took them in.

Stump-tailed Macaque
Oshine. A vastly overweight Orang brought up as a human by her South African owner. She could open the fridge and always walks about upright, usually dragging Sylvestre by the hand.
Oshine 'adopted' Sylvestre, he wanted a cuddle.

One of the rare Gibbons, no viewing glass. He loves humans.

A Patas Monkey
All the animals looked in great condition. Well done everyone responsible.