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Summer Birds on Scilly

In recent years it has been realised that Scilly is an excellent place to find some of the rarer seabirds that pass through British waters. Boat trips out into the western approaches have been running since the early 1980’s. The best known in recent years has been the Scillonian III pelagic, which heads out to the west for one day every August. More recently we have found that some of those birds that are in greatest demand are occurring quite close to the islands. The species that many birders want to see is the Wilson’s Petrel which has only been seen from the land on a handful of occasions. All other records have been out at sea. As this species breeds in the South Atlantic it is a long way from home but appears to be in Scillonian waters in small numbers during mid summer. At the time of writing at least nine have been seen within ten miles of the islands since early July. With these have been many other scarce species such as Cory’s, Great, Sooty and Mediterranean Shearwaters plus a few Great and Arctic Skuas. It does make me wonder how much else is there for us to see just out of sight of land. Closer to land, larger numbers of Manx Shearwaters than usual have been noted. Often seen in flocks during the daytime, rather than as usual at dusk.

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On the land good numbers of waders have been passing through the islands since early July. Common and Green Sandpipers have been recorded on all islands. The fifteen Green Sandpipers on Tresco on 26th July being one of the highest counts for several years. Rarity of the month was the Marsh Sandpiper which was present on Tresco for a few days towards the end of July. This was the first record of this eastern bird of the year following the Terek Sandpiper that was on St. Mary’s in the Spring. On the beaches the more familiar Turnstone, Ringed Plover and Sanderling began to be seen more frequently. Also increasing in number were Black-headed Gulls. With these were a scattering of Mediterranean Gull. This species until recently was a rather rare bird on Scilly but now is an annual vagrant in small numbers.

Little Egret numbers have increased as the autumn progresses. At present there are at least nine on the islands with about double that number of Grey Herons. All often seen feeding in Tresco Channel at low tide. Other migrants have included many Swift passing high over the islands. As did the Osprey that was seen leaving the islands over Peninnis Head. By late July Sedge and Reed Warblers were being noted in the reed beds with Willow Warblers being seen on all islands including Men-a-vaur. The first Kingfisher of the autumn proper (after a single bird in June) was on St. Agnes on 20th July. One took up residence at Porth Hellick by the end of the month. Single Garganey were noted on St. Agnes and on Tresco at the end of July. The second Roseate Tern of the year was seen between the islands on 1st July.

As August arrived we started to see more land bird migrants with Wheatears and Spotted Flycatchers being noted. Rather early was the adult Spotted Crake that spent a few days on Tresco. Hopefully this trickle of migrants will become a flood in the weeks to come.

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