The Isles of Scilly Bird Group (who are celebrating their twentieth birthday this year!), are looking forward to welcoming a buzzing community of birders back to the islands this autumn as safely as possible, and hopefully meeting some new (masked) faces, too.
To help you make the most of your stay, here are their top ten birding tips for this year:
It’s a lovely day for boating!
St Mary’s Boatman’s Association will be operating wildlife trips in the autumn to look for auks, divers, sea ducks, peregrines and Atlantic grey seals, including Fins, Flippers and Feathers trips aboard MV Sapphire. Get a new perspective on the islands, getting up close to the Eastern Isles and Norrad Rocks.
Stroll around At Agnes
The most isolated of the inhabited islands, St Agnes feels a little wilder than the rest. Top spots to check for passage migrants include Wingletang Down, Periglis Beach, the sheltered Parsonage and adjoining island of Gugh, and don’t forget Troytown Farm ice cream, Coastguards Cafe cream teas and a pint of Turk’s Ale!
Go on a guided walk
If you’re visiting for the first time or want to make the most of expert local knowledge, join one of the socially distanced guided walks taking place this autumn. Explore the islands and learn about birds, insects, coastal wildlife and the unique flora on Scilly.
Spend a day on tropical Tresco
Tresco is famed for the Abbey Gardens, complete with tame golden pheasants. There’s plenty of wildlife on Tresco, too. Visit the birdwatching hides – the David Hunt Hide and Swarvoski Hide – overlooking the Great Pool to look for ducks, waders and potentially something rare. In recent years we’ve been treated to lesser yellowlegs and sora rail from North America.
Meander around St Mary’s
St Mary’s hosts spectacular views, sweeping beaches and tranquil nature areas like Lower Moors and Higher Moors. Even the lanes, lined with tall hedgerows and overlooking sheltered fields are great for birdwatching. Several farmers generously open trails across their land in the autumn; the Sunnyside, Tremelethen and Peninnis Farm trails offer beautiful and diverse walks, teeming with birds.
Be blasted in a seawatch
On wild and windy days, nothing blows away the cobwebs like a seawatch. Take a telescope or pair of binoculars out to the end of Peninnis, tuck in behind the rocks and scan the white horses for skuas, gulls and shearwaters, as well as common dolphins or even minke whale!
Enjoy brilliant birds (and bakewell!) on Bryher
Bryher’s cosy farms, sheltered beaches and stormy Hell Bay provide a dramatic meeting of the elements. In recent years, American species like red-eyed vireo, blackpoll warbler and solitary sandpiper have delighted birders on Bryher – and don’t forget a slice of Bakewell in the newly refurbished Olivia’s Kitchen at the Vine!
Soak up St Martin’s
St Martin’s is famous for having some of the best beaches in Britain, but what about a rose-breasted grosbeak fresh from America? The star bird of 2019 made sure that birders got plenty of exercise last October, as we chased it all over the island! Hike up to the Daymark to admire the view, sample local rum and vodka and visit the local eateries.
Get close to the Bishop Rock Lighthouse
The most south-westerly point in the UK, the impressive Bishop Rock Lighthouse towers over the Western Rocks. Take a boat trip to see it up close and search for seabirds, grey phalaropes, sea ducks, divers, Atlantic grey seals and cetaceans on the way.
Become a pelagic addict
Pelagics aboard MV Sapphire last five or six hours and take you out a few miles off the islands, looking for skuas, divers, phalaropes, seabirds and the odd great shearwater. There’s always a chance of seeing minke whales, common dolphins and harbour porpoise, too!