March/April 1998                    112
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Spotless Starling

This winter has produced one surprising bird after another. December started quiet enough with the American Green-winged Teal occasionally visiting Lower Moors, and the Great Spotted Woodpecker was still on Tresco. However there was no sign of the Black Duck that had graced the Great Pool for the last three years or so. The last Swallow of the year was around Hugh Town on 5th. The first surprise was the Red Kite that was seen on a couple of occasions over Hugh Town on 6th and 8th. Windy weather on 7th resulted in twelve Little Auks being seen from St. Agnes plus good numbers of other auks along with many Kittiwakes. Another Little Auk was seen from the Garrison on 12th. Two species of tern were seen from the islands during December. A Sandwich Tern was seen from Tresco on 15th with a Common Tern seen in Porth Cressa on 18th. Several owls were seen at dusk around the island during the latter half of December, most were probably Long-eared Owl.

The first major rarity of the winter was the American Herring Gull that was found on Porth Mellon on 18th. At present this is regarded as a sub species of 'our' Herring Gull but this may well change in the near future so that it stands as a species in its own right. This is only the fourth time this race has been recorded in the UK. It soon settled into a regular pattern of feeding in the dump and then roosting on Porth Mellon at low tide or on the higher rocks nearby as the tide came in.

The windy weather over the New Year brought an Iceland Gull to join the American Herring Gull on St Mary's. A visit to Tresco on 11th January found the male Scaup still on the Abbey Pool. On the sea up to six Great Northern Divers, a Black-throated Diver and two Slavonian Grebes were found. Six Little Auks were seen between Tresco and St. Mary's later that day.

The most talked about bird has to be the Spotless Starling found in Hugh Town on 31st January. This bird looks well settled and maybe here for a long stay. This species has never been confirmed in the UK before. Its normal home is in the western Mediterranean, only just reaching the Pyrenees at the northern extremity of its range. This male bird can he seen and heard most days at the western end of Hugh Town. It has to be one of the scruffiest rarities to have reached Scilly. This has meant there have been one or two queries as to its identity which have yet to he resolved. Its great rarity meant that it has attracted a lot of birders to the island to see the bird. Some have been lucky and also seen the American Herring Gull and the Iceland Gull. Whilst here they have found another Iceland Gull, a Mediterranean Gull, a few Firecrest and a scattering of Chiffchaff and Black Redstart. Also on the island at the same time has been a female Bullfinch at Porth Hellick and a female Goldeneye in Porth Cressa.

The last surprise of the month so far was the Bittern that flew over Hugh town on 9th being mobbed by the resident gulls. What next?

Will Wagstaff, Island Wildlife Tours.



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