I have been going to Cornwall in the autumn for longer than I care to remember but have never quite made it to the Isles of Scilly. I keep promising myself a day trip there but I never seem to manage it. This year, with a long-staying Cream-coloured Courser on St Mary's, was the perfect excuse to finally sort it out. My intention was to head out on the Scillonian and either come back the same way late in the day or take a plane back to get back to the family a bit earlier.
In the end the decision was made for me. Stormy weather forecast for Wednesday meant the Scillonian would be returning early and the last flight back was mid-afternoon. I wanted a bit of time to explore so I booked to go on the plane in both directions. By the time I had made the booking news of an Ovenbird (seriously sought after North American bird) was just getting out and extra flights were being arranged. I was in two minds whether to go ahead. I had been hoping for a quiet introduction to the islands and this was going to be something quite different. But I stuck with it and I am very glad I did.
I met a great bunch of people out there: in particular Mark, who booked the taxi, and Mike from Glamorgan, who kindly showed me around some of St Mary's for the rest of the day. Of couse I tagged along to see the Ovenbird, which was relocated feeding actively in the pine needles below some trees at Trenoweth. The crowd gathered to watch were incredibly well behaved and as a result the bird moved freely about the area often coming to within a few feet of admiring onlookers. It was a little dark under the dense conifers but I managed a couple of handheld photos when it came close to me. It is a pity that the attrocious weather of the following two days (and presumably the less than perfect habitat) resulted in this bird dying a couple of days later.
Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapillus), Trenoweth
I didn't stay too long after being so close to the Ovenbird so walked around to the Golf Course for an encounter with the Cream-coloured Courser. The first in Britain since 1984, this bird had been present almost a month and was blissfully unperturbed by the procession of golfers and birders going past it daily.
This turned out to be another very close encounter as at one point I lay on a tee and the bird ran up onto it and straight past my nose before I could get the camera onto it. However two of the shots below were taken at about that time including the one of the "Golf Courser" running past the golf ball tee marker.
Only the last shot was digiscoped and that was when I settled back in the sunshine to watch the bird while eating cheese and pickle rolls and wondering if things could get much better. Unfortunately this tale too has an unhappy end. I noticed the condition of the bird's feathers didn't seem up to much, although otherwise it seemed fine, but again following the appalling weather of the following days it too died. Not that surprising for a bird normally at home on African deserts.
Cream-coloured Courser (Cursorius cursor), St Mary's Golf Course
Digiscoped with the Nikon CP995, Leica APO77 and 20x eyepiece.
This short video clip should take about a minute to download on a broadband connection.
40 second video clip (3.5MB)
A search for the Little Bunting that had been at Carn Friars and anything else we might be able to find for ourselves turned up a Merlin, a couple of Little Egrets, a few Greenshank and odds and ends like Water Rail and Blackcap.
Here are a couple of views taken during the day.
St Martins from Innisidgen
Round Island from Bar Point
A rough-looking, but happy lot heading back to Land's End on the Skybus:
Longships and Land's End
Cape Cornwall with Pendeen in the distance