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Cold Snap Needed on the Mainland!

Despite all the wet and windy weather it has been one of the quietest winters, so far, ornithologically speaking. The lack of any major cold snap on the mainland has meant we have not seen the mass movement of birds into the islands to escape the bad weather.

However, there has still been plenty to look at. Several long staying birds are still around. On Tresco the Greenland White-fronted Goose has taken up residence on the meadow beside the Great Pool with the immature male Scaup hiding in the corner of the pool itself. On St. Mary’s the Wilson’s Snipe has been seen regularly on the pool on Lower Moors along with up to two Jack Snipe.
Two surprising arrivals appeared on Tresco at the end of November. The Common Buzzard that arrived on 27th stayed into the New Year. The Pied-billed Grebe that was on the Great Pool for a month from 24th November was the second record of the year and third Scilly record of this very rare American grebe.

December began with the discovery of the latest ever Pallas’s Warbler. This bird was in the Abbey Woods for a day on 1st. The Long-eared Owl seen on Tresco that day was part of the now regular winter roost of that species on Tresco. The next day saw a male Green-winged Teal on Lower Moors. This American sub-species of our Teal has appeared on Scilly for the last six winters and yet this was only the twelfth Scilly record.

Little Egrets continue to be seen around the islands. The high tide roost on Tresco peaked at fourteen with single birds being noted on most islands during the low tide period when they go to feed. Calm weather on 6th December saw the finding of a small group of Grey Phalaropes on the sea to the south of St. Anges. Another three and a Little Auk were seen being blown past St. Agnes in a gale a few days later. The more sheltered areas have held good numbers of Chiffchaff and a few Firecrest along with the more common Goldcrest. It has not been good weather for birds of prey although two different Hen Harriers have been seen along with two Sparrowhawks and a scattering of sightings of Merlin and Kestrel plus our resident Peregrine.

There have not been the number of waders on the beaches we have seen in recent years. Presumably the rough seas have made them move to more sheltered shores. The exception to this has been the number of Purple Sandpiper feeding behind the Quay on St. Mary’s. The count of 71 on 27th December was one of the highest ever single location counts for this species on Scilly. Nearby a Kingfisher has been seen occasionally, feeding along the shore, or using the quay and moored boats to fish from.

The New Year has followed a similar pattern. The Black-tailed Godwit found at the end of the year is still on the Great Pool, Tresco. A female Eider was seen off Tresco on 10th January along with a scattering of Great Northern Divers. One of the latter has been regularly seen in Porthmellon or in the harbour itself. Very few winter thrushes have been seen this year. Small number of Redwing have been noted plus a few Fieldfare and single Mistle Thrushes on Tresco and St. Mary’s.

As more gales sweep in we shall have to see whether they will bring us something else to look at.

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