March/April 1998                    112




There can be few inhabitants who are unaware of the birdwatchers who visit the islands in the autumn. They come in the hope that they will see unusual birds and, particularly, the New World rarities that focus their attention so earnestly. You could be forgiven if you thought that this would be the only time of the year when there was any interest in birds. Indeed, but for the attention of Will Wagstaff, very little would be brought to the notice of anyone. I do not regard myself as a rarity hunter, but during the period at the end of each year I visit the islands in search of peace, pleasure and the probability of some good birding. Take for example a steady walk along the beach on Tresco from Carn Near, by Tobaccomanís Point, Lizard Point to Old Grimsby. Here are gulls and waders, many of the latter being the few migrant birds that hang about into December. There are large numbers of Ringed Plovers and Sanderlings with an occasional Grey Plover and may be a Whimbrel. I always look carefully at the gulls and one year I was rewarded with a Mediterranean Gull. There have been other rare gulls around the islands, not least being an Iceland Gull I found at Porth Hellick and which later moved to Porthloo. All these beaches are worth a look at, for additionally, it is more than likely that you will see a Stonechat or a Black Redstart. The Great Pool on Tresco will always attract interest, for the species here are forever changing. The high tide roost of Redshanks and Greenshanks can reach large numbers. They are often looked upon by the Little Egrets which frequent the trees to the right of the western hide, and if you donít find the Egrets there you will find them on Merrick Island in the Tresco Channel. The ducks on the pool are not all Mallards either and you could be fortunate enough to see Pintail, Wigeon, Goldeneye, Gadwall, Pochard, Tufted Duck and Teal. What about the Great Black Backed Gull roost on the Abbey Pool and the Goldcrests that frequent the pines? You look at Bryher and say to yourself that there cannot be much there. Look again. Great Porth usually has a Great Northern Diver at high tide and the nearby rocks have a Curlew roost that can exceed thirty birds at a time. Sometimes the Ravens from the Eastern Rocks are heard and seen, and the beaches below Samson Hill usually have Ringed Plover and an occasional Dunlin. A pair of Kestrels favour this area. St. Agnes may look desolate on a winter day but keep your eyes open. I have seen Golden Plovers on Wingletang and have flushed Merlin from Gugh. Periglis is worth an hour of your time and here you will get Purple Sandpiper, Meadow Pipit and Rock Pipit. Black Redstarts will pop up and surprise you and a watch off Horse Point will reveal Gannets at sea. The Road and Crow Sound look uninviting as the wind whips up the sea but that might reveal some of its secrets. Rafts of Common Scoter, and on one occasion a rare Velvet Scoter; Long Tailed
Duck, Red Breasted Merganser, Kittiwakes, huge lines of fishing Shags and perhaps a Red Throated Diver. Do not neglect St. Maryís. Lower Moors may well reveal a Jack Snipe. Porth Hellick once produced a Peregrine for me one year and, more than often, the bushes in front of the hide will produce a Firecrest. Mute Swans come here from Bryher and Tresco. The fields by Telegraph have Lapwing and I have seen a Hen Harrier fly over Bar Point. Purple Sandpipers are by the Quay and the Sanderlings at Porthmellon are a delight to watch on a sunny day. I have not forgotten St. Martinís. The Neck of the Pool will sometimes have over 200 Ringed Plovers at once and this seems to be place for the four Bar Tailed Godwitt to frequent. The rough areas on the north side need to be worked hard but you may be rewarded by a Woodcock or a Merlin, and I always reckon to find a Common Gull somewhere around. I have visited the islands at Christmas for many years and never tire of the changing scene, the peace and tranquillity and the clear skies and exciting views. There are rainy days I know but what is one of these when you can look over Hell Bay with a strong wind to whip up the seas and with low sunlight, blue skies and cumulus clouds as a backdrop? Sometimes I have a bit of luck as the two Bean Geese I found behind Old Grimsby, a find for me. I came across them by chance and although I do not regard myself as a twitcher, I ticked them off my list!
Peter Barlow, Manchester.

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