The Ortolan Bunting is a regular sighting on this trip
There are five inhabited islands, St Marys, St Martins, St Agnes, Tresco and Bryher, (six if you count Gugh which is attached to, but separated from, St Agnes during high tides), . These together with over 140 other, much smaller, islands make up the archipelago and constitutes the most southerly land mass of the UK.
Swainson's Thrush, one of two birds seen during our tour in October 2020
Sitting in a geographically unique position these islands are usually the first and last landfall for many migrating birds. Over the years Scilly has developed an enviable and remarkable reputation as Europe's premier rarity locality, being a magnet for birds originating from all directions. To date over 440 species have been recorded and new species continue to be added - for example Eastern Orphean Warbler was included on the list in 2017. This species' total beats any other single site in Europe being made up primarily of vagrant migrants.
In the late seventies and early eighties the number of birders visiting the islands during the peak autumn migration often outnumbered the inhabitats! Quite often over 1,000 birders would descend on the archipelago during October time. But these days the numbers have vastly reduced and you can often find peace and quiet on most islands.
On WINGSPAN'S Isles of Scilly Tours it is not just rarities that are sought after, we take a more lesisurely approach, we embrace in the ambience of the islands, we do not dash around like 'twitchers on steroids' and we enjoy every species we find. It is often more rewarding to sit and watch an area and wait to see what will pop into sight rather than to scour around.
The Wyneck showing the value of its cryptic plumage
For us it is much more enjoyable to find a scarce migrant like a Red-backed or Woodchat Shrike rather than to spend hours searching some scrub for a very brief glimpse of some non-descript rare warbler. Having said that we will endeavour to see most rarities that do turn up if we happen to be in the vicinity of them.
A 7-night - 8 day tour staying at an excellent guest house on the outskirts of Hugh Town, St. Marys. Daily excursions to all parts of St Marys and visits to three or four of the main islands by boat. Breakfast is taken in the guest house and dinner is taken in local pub/restaurants, whilst lunch will be picnic style taken in the field.
The Jack Snipe is an annual visitor during October to the Pools at Lower Moors, St Mary's. This one was photographed there in October 2020
Day 1 - transfer from Penzance to St Mary
You have three options to travel to St Marys, boat, light-aircraft or helicopter (the latter two options incur a supplement).
For those travelling by boat we meet up in the harbour at Penzance in readiness for our morning 2 1/2 hour cruise to St Mary on the Scillonian III. This trip sets sail at 09:15 and gives you the opportunity to see many oceanic species and migrating birds as we make the crossing. We may see unusual Gulls or Skuas, Auks, Shearwaters, Gannets and Petrels. For those of you that are not comfortable travelling by boat the flights offer a quick and easy alternative from Newquay and (Land's End) St Just or further afield.
For those that choose to fly we shall arrange to meet you at the guest house on St Marys.
After checking into our guest house we shall have time to explore parts of St Marys looking for birds that have arrived prior to our arrival and those closest to our guest house. In the early evening we return to the guest house for a delicous home-cooked evening meal and for those that want to we can wander into town to listen to the daily bird-log at the Scillonian Club (the log has not taken place during the COVID pandemic)
Spotted Crake - taken by Reg Cox during our 2019 Tour
Day 2 - 7.
For the rest of our week we shall visit three or four other inhabitated islands of Tresco, St Agnes, Bryher and St Martins. The location of recent sitings and the the weather will determine our daily destination. We shall be entirely flexible and go with the flow.
We shall also take a pelagic cruise (weather permitting) to the Western Isles or out into the atlantic. This 4-5 hour long trip will be especially good for seeing rare shearwaters and perhaps petrels. You might also see whales and dolphins as well as Skuas, Puffins, Guillemots, Razorbills, Kittiwakes and Gannets. This trip is included in the price.
Sightings of rare and scarce migrants have historically been recorded during October. In particular, records have shown that the majority of rare birds and scarce migrants turn up during the middle of October, but in recent years the changing weather systems have bucked this trend. Now many birds are turing up 7-10 days earlier, that is why we run our trips during the last few day of September and the first few days of October.
a huge influx of Yellow-browed Warblers occurred during our tour in 2020, we saw 8 during one walk, the one pictured was taken at the 'Dump Clump' on St Mary's.
Bird sightings are different every year, this depends on the Atlantic weather systems and prevailing winds. However most years a number of regular scarce migrants can be found, these include: Yellow-browed, Melodious and Barred Warblers, Richard's and Tawny Pipits, Common Rosefinch, Eurasian Wryneck, Red-backed Shrike, Greater Short-toed Lark, Firecrest, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Spotted Crake and Jack Snipe. During 2018 western Europe experienced an 'irruption' of Rose-coloured Starlings and right on cue a few turned up on Scilly.
For your information these are the main sightings seen on Scilly during September and October 2020:
Megas: Black-and-white Warbler, Red-eyed Vireo, Swainson's Thrush (2), Greylag Goose! Arctic Warbler
other rarities and uncommon migrants that occurred in 2020
Iceland Gull, American Golden Plover, Pectoral Sandpiper, Jack Snipe, Wryneck, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Yellow-browed Warbler ( a huge influx of over 80 birds), Lapland Bunting, Snow Bunting, Common Rosefinch, Red-backed Shrike, Common Nightingale, Balck Redstart, Dusky Warbler, Radd's Warbler, Barred Warbler, Little Bunting, Red-throated Pipit and many other scarce migrants.
Sightings during our two trips in 2021 included:
Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Baird's Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper (4), Semi-palmated Sandpipier (Hayle Estuary - during a pre-tour day), Red-backed & Woodchat (Balearic) Shrikes, Dusky Warbler, Bluethroat, Ring Ouzel, Brambling, Rose-coloured Starling, Wryneck, Dotterel, Yellow-browed Warbler, Storm Petrel, Sooty Shearwater, Spotted Crake, Glossy Ibis, Amercian Golden Plover, Spotted Redshank, Pink-footed Goose, Whooper Swan and many more.
Lapland Bunting - another regular autumn visitor to the islands
As the price includes trips from St Marys to the three or four other inhabited islands and a pelagic you can be assured that we will attempt to see the majority of birds that turn up.
Day 8 Departure Day
There will time after breakfast to visit one or two of our favourite local spots on St Marys before we depart, We shall book our flights for around midday, this gives us a good opportunity to travel home from Penzance during the afternoon.The Tour will offically be over as we land back at St Just.
ISLES OF SCILLY ARCHIPELAGO - THE FIVE MAIN ISLANDS
The islands are covered in historical sites, a great diversity of habitats and some interesting landscapes both natural and man-made. We shall have time to look at all of this as we stroll around each island. The Sub-Tropical Gardens of southern Tresco contrast greatly with the natural heathland of the northern section. The unique tiny bulb fields on St Marys are protected by tall hedges and offer soem great birding.
The Red-backed Shrike turns up most years on the Isles of Scilly
For detailed information on the habitats and general landscapes of the five islands plea main visit:
As we do not have transport on any of the islands a great deal of walking and standing will be required, therefore a degree of general fitness is required for all of the walking, although the pace is easy. You will average 5-7 miles walking every day during the tour. There are some steep hills (not many and they are onlky short) and some muddy paths, so walking boots are recommended.
It is generally quite warm at this time of year, so sun-cream and sun hats are essential . There are all the usual facilities on St Mary's including Post Office, banks, shops, pubs, hospital, museum, etc.
WHAT'S INCLUDED IN THE PRICE?
1. 7 nights half-board accommodation at a well-known guest house, Hugh Town, St Marys
2. Boat trips to three or four major islands of St. Agnes, St Martins, Tresco and Bryher
3. A 'Round the Islands' Nature watching trip or a Pelagic, if weather permits
4. Boat passage to and a flight back from St Marys from Penzance (you can upgrade to a Flight in both directions if you prefer as an optional extra fee)
5. All guiding fees
6. A checklist of Species and evening bird-log
7. Water, Tea, Coffee, Juice with breakfast/evening meals
1. Flights using the regular services from Cornwall and Devon
2. Travel Insurance (in the event of bad weather with boat/flight cancellations you are responsible for extra accommodation costs in Penzance or St. Mary’s)
3. Lunches, we can pick up supplies in local shops
4. Tips and gratuities
5. All items of a personal nature: telephone calls, alcoholic drinks, snacks
This was far from the best migration year, we had a diificult time finding common migrant birds let alone rare or uncommon species. The weather wasn't too bad except for a very stormy afternoon and evening in midweek. We mananged to ...View Report
Another successful Tour of these magical islands. Common migrants were thin on the ground but we saw many uncommon and rare birds. The weather dipped somewhat during the week and we left the islands a day early because of an horren...View Report
It was another classic ‘Isles of Scilly in October’ Tour with plenty of exciting rare birds to look for, a variety of weather conditions to cope with and the ever-present outstanding beauty and tranquillity of this special pl...View Report
It had a been a very good week not a great week! We had mixed fortunes with both birding and the weather and I guess they are both inextricably connected. Just as we did last year we picked up one or two goodies each day, we saw Jack Sni...View Report
For me it was great to return to the Isles of Scilly after a 16-year break, they haven’t changed, they still retain their unique charm, beauty and tranquillity. The birding isn’t as good as the heady days of the past, but the...View Report