Monday, 22 October 2012

The first time

What with a deluge of decent species arriving on our shores, the 'birding' component of this blog is going to suffer comparison with any coastal-based blogger. My answer to combat this is to dig into the archives and thrust nostalgia upon you...

My first visit to THE SCILLIES

Straight away there's a mistake - officiandos of the archipelago never refer to the islands by that moniker. Scilly Isles is OK, Scillies not. Got that? Back in 1978 I hadn't. When I was offered a lift to go and twitch the Western Palearctic's first Semipalmated Plover (that had just been found on St. Agnes) I needed no persuasion at all. Those fabled islands had played havoc with my mind for the previous couple of years to the point that I just knew a visit would arrive sooner rather than later. I was soon wedged into a small car leaving London on a Friday evening along with four other birders, all long-hair, spots and combat clothing. Back in those days we didn't do suave.

The Scillonian
Flat calm. Apart from a Red-necked Grebe in Penzance Harbour and a Sooty Shearwater on the crossing, little of note. We lined up along the rail, all earnest birders comtemplating the islands ahead, coming into view. It was a right of passage as much as a weekend's birding.

St. Mary's
Off the boat to be met by a birder leaning against a wall. He seemed knowing and gave off an air of 'been here, seen it all'. "It's still there lads!" was a welcome welcome. A simple transfer to a small boat heading for Agnes followed.

St Agnes
A walk round to the beach that the Plover frequented took no time at all. No wait either as the bird was there, performing to the crowd. I wasn't impressed, it looked just like a Ringed Plover. I didn't go in for subtle. Far better was the Lesser Golden Plover a hundred yards further along (it hadn't yet been split). Birding Gods were nearby - whispers of 'Look, that's Paul Dukes' elicited as much excitement as the birds. A whirlwind of birding followed, with Red-breasted Flycatcher in The Parsonage, together with an Icterine Warbler.

St. Mary's
A quick dash to Porth Hellick for a Long-billed Dowitcher before the light went. Then back to the harbour, where us five London twitchers took up residence in the waiting room. I doubt if 'dossing' would be tolerated now by either birder nor local authority, but for us it was

time for bed...

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