The latter half of October usually brings a scattering of vagrant birds to the islands, with birds from the east being the most expected. The Pallas's Warbler is a small very active warbler from the far east that until recently was regarded as a major rarity in Britain. In recent years it has become more common and is now an almost annual visitor to Scilly. That did not prepare us for the numbers that arrived on the islands this year. The first of these tiny birds was found at Porth Hellick on 18th followed by at least seven the next day scattered around the islands. Up to double figures were then present for a week or so. Smaller numbers but still many more than usual were on the islands until the clear skies of 31st October saw all of them leave Scilly for who knows where. One straggler did reach the islands in mid November. This bird was at Porth Hellick for a few days in mid month. It is amazing that these birds, not much bigger than a Goldcrest, reach Scilly at all when they should be on their way to winter in India. It is not often that we can say that rare birds are attractive, so it is nice to be able to say that about the Pallas's Warbler. Although like many warblers it is off white below and green above. However this is enlivened by having two bright supercillia (the lines above the eyes), a pale crown stripe, two white wing bars and best of all a very bright yellow rump. They are very active birds so it often takes a while to see all the features as they feed high in the bushes. The nature trails on St Mary's and the surrounds of the Great Pool on Tresco are the most favoured areas for this species.
Other birds to arrive in late October included a scattering of Hawfinch. These huge finches managed to appear and disappear as if by magic. Also seeming to come from nowhere were the Penduline Tits on Tresco. This reed bed loving species is becoming more of a regular visitor to Britain but is still a major rarity. First one, then two before finally three were found at the end of the month. They were often feeding on the Reed Mace around the Great Pool on Tresco.
One of these was then found on Lower Moors, St. Mary's. Also on Lower Moors for a couple of days in early November was a Dusky Warbler. That made it the best year ever for this elusive species on Scilly with three this autumn. As in past years some of our summer migrants were still around in mid November. Swallows were on both Nature Trails on St Mary's until 20th. A lone Yellow-browed Warbler was on Higher Moors for a week. Also around for a week was a Slavonian Grebe off Higher Town, St. Martin's. At least five Firecrest were on St. Mary's by late November. Two Reed Bunting were at Porth Hellick on 18th with the much rarer Little Bunting being seen there on 25th. Apart from a scattering of Great Northern Diver it has been quiet around the coast, although Little Egrets are still being seen regularly. Birds of prey seem few and far between apart from the regular Kestrels. Although two Sparrowhawks, and least one Merlin and a Peregrine have been noted. At least one Long-eared Owl has been reported although there are no doubt several other hidden away roosting in the denser bushes.
Birdwatching in winter on Scilly usually brings a few surprises. What will be the bird of the season this year?
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