Lesser Florican - August 2023

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Sunday 26 November 2023

Isles of Scilly - 22nd November 2023

Thinking the autumn was over, a Cape May Warbler surfacing during the off season on Scilly meant a slightly logistical twitch could be on the cards. The bird seemed settled on Bryher, so Jake, Ian and I arranged flights five days in advance and headed down on Wednesdsay morning to Lands End airport. 

A Black Redstart was a good start to the day and while waiting in the departure lounge, news filtered through that the warbler was still present... game on! The flight was on time and we landed a mere twenty minutes later on St Marys. Rob Lambert kindly drove us down to the quay and we were soon on our way to Bryher with a few others. 

Docking on Bryher, a few minute's walk up the beach to view a pittosporum, the Cape May Warbler gave itself up. Although it was always elusive here, when the bird flew down the beach and fed in the tamarisks, it showed incredibly and we enjoyed the warbler for a couple of hours.

A short walk around the island failed to find little else, but worse news of all was a tweet stating that flights from Lands End were currently on hold due to low cloud! We departed Bryher after more Cape May views (a Willow Warbler was also close by) and made our way up to the airport. It soon transpired that our flight had been cancelled and we would have to stay the night on Marys... the airport did a sterling job of finding us a self-catering apartment in Hugh Town. Thankfully, by the morning, despite the strong wind, flights were on time and it was a relief to depart Marys, where we then had to drive five hours back home. 

After the booby dip back in August, it was good to be back on winning form on twitching Scilly.

Cape May Warbler on Bryher

Sunday 19 November 2023

Veery, Orca & a Deaths Head Hawk Moth - Shetland 30 September 2023

Since my first visit to Shetland in 2012, I have desperately been trying to intercept a pod of Orca from the various headlands around the archipelago. I've had numerous near-misses and it felt as if my dream of encountering my first Orca (of any 'type') on Shetland wasn't going to come. 

This year, Emily and I spent 8 days here from 30 September, grabbing the train from Farnham and arriving into Aberdeen a mere nine-hours later, via Kings Cross. The journey was smooth, stress-free and importantly, on time. During our train journey, a Veery had been found on mainland Shetland and a pod of Orca had also passed the same site whilst the rare thrush was being watched... what a duo and perfect timing for our arrival the following day.

Anyway, after a sleepless overnight ferry journey (even with a cabin) we arrived, collected our vehicle and drove straight to the Veery, which showed straight away, but in damp conditions so any photos were poor. Situated along the Lunna peninsular and after securing some lovely views of the trans-Atlantic vagrant, we set out to check the various bays heading back south towards Lerwick. Whilst at South Nesting Bay, I was searching for White-billed Divers when quite astonishingly, a pod of Orca had been sighted off Ocraquoy, just to the south of Lerwick. With seatbelts securely fastened, I went into full rally mode and sped towards south Mainland. Being a Saturday, observers were out in force and updates were coming through on regular occasions.

Drifting around a corner, Em spilt coffee over her lap which added to the chaos, before we arrived at a decent viewpoint to the south of Cunningsburgh, making record time it seemed. Several others had arrived and rather nonchalantly, they explained the Orca were on view... WHAT!! Several panicked scans failed to find anything, until we realised we were looking too far out... they were in the bay below us!

Fairly soon, a huge sigh of relief marked the sighting of my (and our) first Orca and over the next 30-minutes, we were treated to an incredible and unforgettable performance. I knew bull Orca were big, but the size of the dorsal fin of each bull was crazy and beyond all expectations! There were eight individuals involved (the 27s pod) and they casually moved south until out of sight. After a quick celebration, we drove down to Leebittern and waited for the pod to come through. 

Well, they came through perilously close to shore, apparently grabbing a seal in the process, before continuing on their way towards Mousa Sound where despite running after them, slowly disappeared, but what a start to our time on Shetland!

Afterwards, and for a calm down, we went to Hoswick to secure a Yellow-browed Warbler for the trip list; twitched the Citrine Wagtail and Bluethroat in Lerwick, and whilst shopping for the week in Tescos, got news of a Deaths Head Hawk Moth just around the corner. I was desperate to ditch the shopping, but that was refused, so it was a tense wait to see this huge moth. 

We then drove to Walls and found our accommodation, a discrete cottage with sheep and chickens as neighbours and a friendly Hedgehog. It had probably been my best six hour period on Shetland!!



Citrine Wagtail

Deaths Head Hawk Moth

our cottage


Tuesday 14 November 2023

Recent Bits

On Saturday 11th, I drove back down to Sussex, intending to have most of the weekend on the coast, but news of a Canvasback in Essex put pay to that. However, the little time I did have in county was spent at Coldwaltham Brooks where there was no sight nor sound of the possible Hume's Warbler. Therefore, it was down to the Cuckmere where from Harry's Bush, I could scope the Long-billed Dowitcher and the Spotted Redshank. I managed to get fairly close to the former, whilst stumbling across a few Scandinavian Rock Pipits.

It was then an early start at Abberton Reservoir, arriving at first light and avoiding the Dartford toll in the process! Jake and Ian soon arrived too and we played it lazy, until the Canvasback was located a mere 10-minute's walk from us. We soon got onto it and enjoyed respectable views of this mega bird. Also, I saw 35 Goldeneye, two Goosander and three Cattle Egrets!

It was most appreciated that a mega was only two hours from home for a change!

Canvasback at Abberton Res. -
look a little to the left of the Tufted Duck near centre