October 2009 will no doubt class in many birders minds as one of the worst Scilly seasons on record as far as rare birds are concerned. The beauty of the islands and the great atmosphere that is experienced annually at this time of year though, still makes the journey to the Scillys worth while and whilst there were no ‘megas’ there were still plenty of scarce migrants to keep you ‘ticking over’.
The beginning of the month started reasonably well with last months Long-billed Dowitcher and Pectoral Sandpiperlingering at Abbey Pool, Tresco. Elsewhere on the island the Black-necked Grebe was still present and a Snow Bunting was at Castle Down. Across the water on St Mary’s, the Little Buntingwas at Carn Friars. There may well have been two birds there at this time but both were elusive. On St Agnes a Red-breasted Flycatcher was on Barnaby Lane. A Common Rosefinch was along Pool Road, Tresco on the 2nd and a juvenile Rose-coloured Starling began a long stay on St Agnes. A Yellow-browed Warbler was also on the island. Another Yellow-browed Warbler was on St Martin’s and a Lesser Whitethroat was on Gugh. A Dotterel was on the Golf course on St Mary’s on the 3rd and seven Sooty Shearwaters passed Hugh Town quay. A Med Gull was in the Porthloo area for most of the month. A Wryneck was in a private garden on Tresco on the 4th and a pelagic trip to Seven Stones produced two Leach’s Petrels.
A Red-breasted Flycatcher was on Bryher on the 6th and a Great-crested Grebe proved a welcome addition to many a birders Scilly list on the 8th when one was seen off St Agnes quay before moving closer to St Mary’s where it could be seen from The Garrison. St Agnes also held Red-breasted Flycatcher, Wryneck, Rose-coloured Starling, Yellow Wagtail and Lesser Redpoll. A small influx of scarcer migrants occurred on the 9th with Little Bunting, Tawny Pipit, YB Warbler, Common Redststart and Pied Flycatcher all new on St Agnes, Hobby, Red-breasted Flycatcher, two Common Redstart, three Firecrest, five Whinchat and Pied and Spotted Flycatchers on St Mary’s and Spotted Crake and Common Redstart on Tresco. The fall continued into the 10th with new birds including a Bonelli’s Warbler (probably Eastern) on St Mary’s, both Richards and Red-throated Pipits on St Agnes and a Red-backed Shrike on St Martin’s. A Red-throated Pipit was on St Martin’s above Little Arthur Farm the following day and a Little Bunting was at Porthloo Lane, St Mary’s.
Whooper Swans were present for most of the month commuting between the open water bodies on St Mary’s, Tresco and St Agnes. On the 11th there were five birds on Big Pool, St Agnes and ten birds on Porth Hellick Pool, St Mary’s. A Red-throated Pipit flew over Peninnis Head on the 12th and the one on St Martin’s was also relocated. A report of a Ring-billed Gull came from Bryher and a Wryneck and a Red-breasted Flycatcher were also on the island. There was a small influx of Redwings and Siskin also on this date. A Radde’s Warbler and a Little Bunting were new on St Martin’s on the 13th and a Richard’s Pipit was on Bryher. Another influx of thrushes brought in ten Ring Ouzels and three Mistle thrushes to the islands amongst the Redwing and Fieldfares. On the 14th a Red-throated Pipit was at Bants Carn and a Radde’s Warbler was at Carreg Dhu, St Mary’s. The Radde’s remained on St Martin’s where the autumn’s first Brambling was seen. A Common Rosefinch began a short stay in the Carn Gwaval area of St Mary’s on the 17th. Grey Heron numbers increased significantly on the 18th with groups of twenty-two in the Tresco Channel, ten at Peninnis and nine on Hedge Rock.
The islands remained comparitively quiet for the following few days until the 23rd when an Olive-backed Pipit was seen briefly on St Agnes. The island also hosted a Marsh Warbler at Big Pool, which proved elusive after its initial showing. A Richard’s Pipit at Porthloo Lane, St Mary’s proved much more obliging. The final week of October was particularly hard work and the rarities that were there were often elusive and hard to ‘pin-down’. Exceptions were the Citrine Wagtail in Simpsons Field, Tresco and the Pallas’ Warbler that graced The Parsonage, St Agnes on 27th-29th. A Serin was mobile on Bryher on 25th-29th, occasionally making the short journey across to Tresco. A Cetti’s Warbler was heard from reeds near the incinerator on St Mary’s and a superb Bluethroat showed on and off at Lower Moors trail until the end of the month. Finally, an Olive-backed Pipit gave departing birders the run around at Sunnyside Trail on the 31st. Goldcrests were notable by their absence in October, with far more Firecrests seen than their commoner cousins.
Paul Freestone (c) ISBG 2009