Sunday, October 11, 2009
St. Agnes, Isles of Scilly - Sept / Oct 2009 - overview
Team Agnes 2009, L - R: Paul Cook, MJP, Laurence Pitcher, Lee Amery, Graham Gordon, Paul Derbyshire, Peter Brash
Working titles for this bulletin included 'Unfair Isle' and 'St.Agnant', but after 24 hours back in bucolic Hackney and minimal reflection, such flippancy becomes less and less representative as each hour passes.....
Two full weeks (26th Sep - 10th Oct) deliberately marooned on St. Agnes with the above suspects, all together in an old farmhouse between the lighthouse and coastguards (with the exception of resident Lord of the Manor GG). A drive through the night with LP direct from Hackney to Land's End, hooking up aboard the Scillonian III's morning sailing, and over to St. Mary's in warm sunshine with a couple of hours to kill. With a certain Shrike having decamped from St. Martin's just an hour or two earlier (and subsequently departing the following day), our timing was impeccable, and PD received a free-but-priceless birthday present.
Steppe Grey Shrike, St. Mary's
The shrike showed superbly in the higher moors area, and after a wander around nearby sites, we boarded The Spirit of St. Agnes in time for a couple of hours in the field on our adopted Isle. A whistlestop tour of the some of the main sites provided a light sprinkling of common migrants, and at least one Rosy Starling wheeling in unison with its vulgaris comrades near in the Warna's Cove area.
Day one ended after 40 hours straight with no sleep, a very good bird or two, a temporary local patch full of promise, and distinctly unpromising weather forecasts.....
From thereon, a daily routine of sorts: up and out early, with the Parsonage, the lighthouse garden, the Coastguards / St. Warna's Cove area, Wingletang, Barnaby Lane, Chapel Fields, Troytown, Castella Down, Cove Vean, Periglis and the other coves, the big pool / cricket pitch area, Fran's fields, the fruit cage and every other inch of promise on the island within a few minutes of our front door, and Gugh just another few more.
Splitting up and covering all sites multiple times during the day, we maximised our possibilities to the hilt, either individually or in small teams; breaking for lunch back at the cottage, most daylight hours were spent in the field. Evenings were wiled away entertainingly either in house or at the Turk's Head, the moth trap was run every night, and a particularly bird-free, sunny afternoon was brightened up by a fine impromptu cricket match on the pitch by Periglis Bay.
By all accounts, the weather systems dictated a legendarily quiet time for migrants; a static high pressure sat above us for a good week or more (hence cricket, and sun-tans all round), and when the conditions did change, the incoming systems weren't from far enough away to bring much quality or quantity. Numbers of migrants were small, with no hint of a fall, and even less of a nearctic vagrant...
We did, however, manage a fistful of expected scarcities - including several Yellow-browed Warblers, two Red-breasted Flycatchers, a Wryneck, a brief Common Rosefinch, a flyover Ortolan, and a Tawny Pipit (which caused some limited ID controversy) on Wingletang.
The two juvenile Rosy Starlings were with us throughout the fortnight, usually within the aforementioned flocks; they frequented the Warna's Cove / Castella Down / Coastguards area / Wingletang area, and one or both were seen on most days, occasionally alighting on the cottage roof.