Sunday, June 16, 2013

I'm bored. It's blowing a gale outside and I don't really like watching TV very much. I thought to myself I can either do the very necessary housework or I can trapse through all the old pictures I have this year and write up a little post about things I have not included in the blog so far. Basically this is a way of me posting without going outside.

So here it is, pictures (both acceptable and bad) of visitors we have had this recently, both rare and regular.

This is a female Black Redstart. As you can see they are charcoal grey all over except the bright orange tail that is visible pretty much only during flight. They usually arrive here in fairly good number during the beginning of Spring and although slightly drab looking I think they are rather elegant.
This male I took by the community centre, on the cricket pitch. I may be wrong but generally I seem to see them in open areas, rocky outcrops, beaches and open fields.
We have had very few real rarities visit us this year and to be honest I find standing amongst tens (and sometimes hundreds) of other birdwatchers staring intently at a hedgerow or field for hours on end quite dull and not what I enjoy. I prefer stumbling around seeing what I can find. The following picture is of three Ring Billed Ducks that graced the Great Pool this spring and are the calibre of rarity that get some nature lovers salivating.
The drake (front of the pack) is a majestic looking fellow and I think he looks rather content having two avid female followers behind him. They are a common duck all along West and Central North America and migrate to the East Coast during the Winter. I find it amazing that very occasionally these birds overshoot their usual route and cross the entire Atlantic Ocean and end up here. These three stayed with us for a few weeks and then moved on. It is quite a shame to think that they do not stand too much of a chance of surviving being so far away from their natural habitat. However journeys and anomalies like this can, once in a blue moon, be the beginning of new species inhabiting our country.
The above picture is of a Short billed Dowitcher and probably the rarest arrival I have been in the presence of. I believe this visitor was the third recorded visitor ever on British soil, although you can never tell how many have graced our shores and not been seen and identified. These guys usually live in the coastal areas in North America and do not migrate away from the continent. It is believed that this poor lost soul got caught in some strong Westerly gales and got blown off course. The Scillies can be the first land lost migrants see when this happens hence it being a good place for this sort of accidental visitor.
The first day I heard of this arrival the weather was appalling and I ventured down to Oliver's Battery (near Carn Near) and photographed a blob in the mist that could have been anything. The next day however the skies were clearer and the masses had left. I tried again and to my surprise there was a very small group of people gathered within ten feet of the unflinching bird. I joined and got my shot. I had to ask one of the experts that was present why we were so able to get so close without upsetting the poor guy and the answer surprised me. We were the first humans this bird had ever seen. It was highly likely that this individual had come from the tundra high up in North America and away from human settlement. As a result he had no concept of humans and the dangers they may cause. It made me think that there are still small pockets in the world where we aren't seen as a threat.
Now for a few that you are more likely to see.
Fieldfares are a regular winter visitor to our island and are usually found in flocks traipsing through open areas such as the heliport and the nearby fields.
To me they look like a hybrid of four or five different birds with their head not matching their wings, which in turn don't quite add up against their fronts. Maybe it's just me though...
This particular species usually breeds in North Europe and seeks warmer climates with us from around October time. They are members of the thrush family and have that unmistakable posture that all of the thrush family seem to have.
Another migrant we always host that adopt a very proud stance is the Wheatear. The name actually means 'White Arse' in old English and the reasons are pretty clear when these take flight. Their rear is a rather obvious white compared to the darkness of their body and wings.

This spring there were what I believe to be hundreds in and around the heliport with the above picture being taken on the fencing surrounding the landing area. There are very picturesque methinks.

This is a pretty terrible picture I know but it was taken from quite a distance and I thought that it was worth mentioning Woodchat Shrikes in this post. We get a small influx of these birds most years and I think they are quite interesting. One of the giveaways with identifying these is the fact that they like to perch on objects that give them a good view of the surrounding area. They do this to help them spot prey. It is well known that when food is in plentiful supply these birds often use thorny bushes to impale their catches (insects mainly) and store them for a later date. A spiny larder! Usually residing in Southern Europe they often overshoot their winter migration and arrive on the Scillies.

Anyway a little introduction of things you may see on our little rocks in the middle of the sea. However I must say that to be honest I rather like seeing our usual suspects across the islands. There is always something good to see rare or not. This following photo of a 'boring' bathing blackbird made me smile more than any of the previous photos.

I really should at least try and do some form of token housework before tomorrow. Or maybe I shall just turn on the telly........Night.


  1. We get Redstarts in the garden. They seem to be just passing through, but hang around for a few days or so. It's great to see unusual birds but I'm with you on this one, I find our own birds so entertaining and lovely to watch, sparrows in my birdbath always make me smile.

  2. The short billed dowitcher is a really good photo well done Max

  3. Hey Max! Enjoying your blog a lot. Where did you take the Woodchat pic? Was it on Tresco?

  4. Thanks! The Woodchat was up towards the bottom of Borough Farm. It was there a day or two after we went down to Pelistry so I assume it's the same one.

  5. I think I may have to take up birdwatching .. this is all rather inspiring. Thank you!