TEREK SANDPIPER ADDED TO ISLAND BIRD LIST

Late March saw a continued trickle of Spring migrants through the islands. The first Puffin of the year was near Annet on 28th. Three Short-eared Owls circled high over St Mary’s on 30th. In a poor year for this species so far, the first of three Hoopoe was found near Porth Loo on 31st, remaining in this area into April.

After a quiet start to April a Great Skua was seen between St. Mary’s and St. Agnes on 4th. The first surprise of the month was the reappearance of the Wilson’s Snipe on Lower Moors on 6th and 7th, some two weeks after we thought it had gone. South easterly winds on 9th saw the start of an influx of Night Herons of when two were seen on St. Agnes. Bird of the year so far was the Terek Sandpiper that was on the beach at Porth Hellick between 11th and 23rd. This striking wader, with its bright orange legs and turned up bill, winters around the Indian Ocean and breeds in the higher latitudes of Russia and Siberia, although it has recently spread into Norway and Finland. This was the first to reach the islands, one reached Cornwall back in 1961, most of the other British records being from the east coast. Whilst watching the Terek Night Herons began to appear in the bushes around Porth Hellick Pool, with others being seen elsewhere on St. Mary’s later that day. In all at least five were seen on St. Mary’s that day. Most of which stayed around for a few days. Another Night Heron was noted flying in from the sea on 16th. The actual number of this small southern European heron that reached Scilly this year could be as high as seven. Almost as good as the last ‘heron year’ in 1990 when nine were noted. The next vagrant to appear was the male Sardinian Warbler that was on the edge of Porth Hellick/Salakee between 17th and 23rd. Sadly this and the Terek disappeared on the Friday night frustrating all those who came to see them on 24th. They did have some consolation in the form of a Subalpine Warbler that was seen by a lucky few near the hides at Porth Hellick.

The first Cuckoo of the year was singing on St. Agnes on 17th. Strong winds on 20th brought a very early Cory’s Shearwater past St. Agnes. This Mediterranean species is recorded annually in the late summer early autumn but this was only the third Spring record and the earliest ever by nearly two weeks. The Woodchat Shrike that was found on St. Agnes arrived with a steady trickle of migrants over the next couple of weeks. Many more Shallow and Sand Martin were noted passing over the islands this year. The male Serin seen near Old Town, St. Mary’s on 25th may well have been the bird seen on the Garrison on 28th/29th. A Purple Heron was found at Porth Hellick on 25th with another bird visiting Bryher and Tresco next day. The first bird stayed in the Porth Hellick area well into May.

Although up to six or more herons were at Porth Hellick Pool in early May it was only the two Grey Herons who were easily seen. The others only really coming out of the reeds at dawn and dusk. A very elusive Short-toed Lark was on the Airport on St. Mary’s between 3rd and 6th. The first Golden Oriole of the Spring was singing at Watermill on 2nd. A female Marsh Harrier was seen going to roost at Porth Hellick on evening of 8th and was in the same area early the next day before it moved off north. The second Short-toed Lark of the year was a very much more obliging individual on the St. Agnes Cricket pitch from 9th. 11th May saw a male Montagu’s harrier on St. Martin’s, a female Marsh Harrier on Tresco and a female Woodchat Shrike on St. Agnes.

As the spring migration continues through May into June there is still time for more surprises and for us to see which species will stay to breed on Scilly. After the addition of the Terek Sandpiper to the islands bird list I wonder what will be the next new species.

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