Thursday 14 September 2023

Moths, Egrets and Scilly Delights

I had the moth box out in the backyard overnight on Saturday 9th September, there were some showers forecasted but I decided to carry on anyway and indeed it did rain, not showers but rain, and in the morning I was greeted by a very soggy moth box.

I really didn't expect much but I surprisingly had a good haul of moths, the highlight being 2 Vestals, only my 3rd and 4th for the backyard.



Flounced Rustic

Dusky Thorn

Mullein Wave

Light Emerald

After sorting out the moths I headed off to Marsh Mills on the bus for a Plym walk, however as I travelled along The Embankment I noticed Sandwich Terns diving for fish along The Plym and so I jumped off the bus near the rowing club for a better look.

There were 6, possibly 7 birds present, 1 bird resting on a buoy was ringed but it was too distant to read without a scope. A Great Crested Grebe preening out on the river was a nice find too.

I then walked across Laira Bridge and headed up along The Ride for a look around Chelson Meadow. It seemed very quiet but eventually I found 2 Stonechat and a Whinchat, the Stonechats showed beautifully but the Whinchat was a nightmare with brief views only and seemingly just disappearing into thin air.

A Clouded Yellow actually posed long enough for a photo and a very brave or very dumb Kestrel hassled a juvenile Peregrine overhead.

Clouded Yellow

The 3 Great White Egrets were still out on the river and busily catching fish as the tide headed in along with Little Egrets, Grey Herons and Black-headed Gulls and they were a joy to watch as always. The only other bird of note on my walk was a Snipe near the gas pipe, busily preening away and then going to sleep on a pile of seaweed.

Great White Egrets

It was an early start on Monday 11th September as I caught the 5:30am train to Penzance to begin my Scilly Day Out, my first trip since September 2021 and what a fantastic trip it turned out to be.

Things started well with a Turtle Dove seen perched on wires over Ryans Field at Hayle as the train passed by, its small size very noticeable and a lucky sighting of a bird which has been present here for a few days now. The train was eventually 14 minutes late into Penzance and The Scillonian left 15 minutes early but I had plenty of  spare time built into my schedule and I enjoyed a cup of tea and a bacon bap in a cafe in Penzance before boarding the ferry. It was overcast with little breeze, the sea was very flat and it was warm and very humid and the ferry was relatively quiet for a change.

A Quiet Sea

As we left the harbour a few Gannets were seen along with a single Kittiwake and a few Gulls and it looked like it was going to be a quiet trip - how wrong was I. A very distant Cory's Shearwater was called followed closely by a second one but they were too far away for me to confirm. A few Manx Shearwaters began to appear and Common Dolphins, Blue Finned Tuna and Harbour Porpoise started to show, also a distant Arctic Skua was seen landing on the sea along with a distant Storm Petrel and then things really got going.

Cory's Shearwaters began to show in good numbers with some passing very close to the ferry, a Sooty Shearwater passed by too and then Great Shearwaters began to appear, it was quite magical to watch all the birds shearing over the water everywhere you looked. The best sighting though were 4 Sabines Gulls, 2 adults and 2 juveniles, which showed nicely as they headed west together although they were a little distant. A Risso's Dolphin and a Bottle-Nosed Dolphin were also seen before we eventually arrived at St.Marys in the Scillies and it was time to disembark.

Cory's and Great Shearwaters

Great Shearwater

I wasn't sure what my plans were for the 4 hours I had ashore, the Red Footed Booby continues to show intermittently on the Bishop Rock Lighthouse but usually it's seen in the evenings and there didn't seem to be any trips running during the day and so I targeted a Western Bonelli's Warbler on St.Marys instead, hoping that it wouldn't be another dip like on my visit 2 years ago when I failed to see one on The Garrison.

Gorgeous Scilly

I arrived at the belt of pine trees where the bird had been seen but a birder on site had failed to find it after an hour of looking and so after a quick scan about I headed down to Porth Hellick Pool. A Coot, a Grey Heron and 2 Mallard were out on the water which was very high with little mud on show and a Cetti's Warbler was heard calling while Swallows flitted about overhead. 2 Chiffchaffs were having a spat in the Willows and a Pied Flycatcher gave itself away in the trees as it jinked away.

The Scilly form of Speckled Wood were seen along with Large White, Red Admiral, Holly Blue, a very worn Painted Lady and Small White and a few Common Darter were living up to their name and darting about too.

Speckled Wood - Scilly form

Common Darter

Bromeliad - Fascicularia bicolor

Oystercatchers were roosting out on the rocks off the beach with 3 Ringed Plover and 2 Turnstone and offshore 3 distant Cory's Shearwaters flew by before settling on the sea with a more distant raft of birds, presumably Cory's, also noted.

I decided to revisit the Bonelli's site for my final hour before I had to return to the ferry, on arriving a birder from the ferry that morning was present and had seen the bird, and shortly after he left I found it but unfortunately it was always feeding high up in the pine tree tops and was very mobile and flitty. My hour passed by incredibly quickly but I managed some good views of the bird although it was mostly of its white and unmarked underside with occasional views of its wings which were a beautiful and vibrant green.

It was a much busier ferry for the sailing back to Penzance but I was very much looking forward to the journey and again it was a Shearwater fest with good sightings of Cory's, Great, Manx and Sooty Shearwaters along with Common Dolphins and Harbour Porpoises. Unfortunately we were back in Penzance in the fading light all too soon and it was time to catch the train back to Plymouth but what s great trip it had been.

I nearly didn't go to the Scillies due to my ongoing health problem but I'm very glad I did and I was very pleased to put my previous Western Bonelli's Warbler dip to rest!

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