After an expensive week of Carribean style weather on the Isles of Scilly last October and with nothing other than a Radde's Warbler to get excited about, I had vowed to stay clear of this archipelago for a while. Well that is until this pair of reprobates (see below) managed to twist my arm in accompanying them on a quest to add a few more year ticks to our mindless 2010 lists. Now fellas, have you ever been in love with a girl that just doesn't love you back, well that's the kind of relationship I have with the scheming, gold digging, slut of the Scilly Isles. No matter how doting and faithful I am to her, all she does is rip me off and take the piss out of me in front of my mates..... but despite all this I really do still love her..... tragic ain't it?
To be honest the omens were pretty bad from the start. This year has become the worst ever for WILSON'S PETREL in the south west approaches since records began and nobody is really sure why. Even so I was still pretty confident that we would connect with at least one of these amazing seabirds of the Southern Hemisphere. I have encountered the species many times before on the Scillonian III pelagics but I had always longed for a more intimate experience onboard a smaller vessel where the decks are not as crowded and the views are so much closer.
Mike 'Mikipedia' Feely & Stevie 'Nottsferatu' Dunn took into their mucky breakfasts in the famous Sullivan's Cafe in Penzance.
As we departed a mist shroaded Penzance harbour our spirits were high. Soon we were watching our first Great Skuas of the year from the busy deck of the Scillonian III followed quickly by a couple of Sooty Shearwaters, another year tick for all three of us. After another short while the first European Storm-petrels of the trip were logged bombing through the peaks and troughs of the choppy Atlantic Ocean. It was all looking pretty damn good. I could not have been happier.
Nottsferatu can be identified by the diagnostic Betaware egg cup used as a makeshift eye-piece protector and the distinctive Gok Wan style 'man bag'.
Around midday we docked into St Mary's harbour and the realisation that we had nowhere to stay that night finally hit us. We headed up to The Garrison Campsite knowing that they were fully booked but we needed to give it a try. Needless to say my charm and sophistication worked like a dream on the lovely ladies at reception and they agreed to have us for the night on the condition that we made NO noise after 11.00pm.
The ASBO Birderz base camp on The Garrison, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly.
Notice Stevie Dunn's limited edition blue Lidl tent, originally designed as a temporary shelter for stray Yorkshire Terriers.
After pitching up and knocking back a nice mug of brew we decided to have a quick stroll around St Mary's as opposed to opting for a mini-pelagic later in the afternoon. Around Penninis we saw the odd Linnet and a few family groups of European Stonechat but as expected it was all pretty dead on the bird front. We then headed around to Old Town and through Lower Moors but once again there was not a great deal to see except for a Moorhen and a Grey Heron. As fatigue set in we opted to head back to the campsite early and get ready for a night on the Town. As we neared the Co-op a pager message came through.... there was a SQUACCO HERON over at Porth Hellick. What a stroke of luck! We quickly ordered a cab and sprinted back up to The Garrison to grab our scopes. About 30 minutes later we were dropped off and happily skipped our way towards Porth Hellick Pool to grab a cracking year tick and also a top notch Scilly tick too. It was here that we bumped into Will Wagstaff. "Is it still about Will?" I cheerfully enquired "Yes it is..." he replied "...but you do know that it's a Grey Heron don't you?" WHAT!?! Apparently a local had found a random Heron all hunched up in the reeds and had misidentified it. Unbelievable! At this point Stevie Dunn started to become irate especially as he had paid the £6.00 taxi fare. To make matters worse we also dipped a trio of Common Crossbill that had been knocking around the pine trees in the area earlier on in the day. Around the Pool a Common Kingfisher was nice to see as were 2 Green Sandpiper and at least 6 Common Sandpiper but none of them were enough to calm down the 'Tibshelf Hooligan'. It was a long, long walk back to camp from Porth Hellick that evening and to add insult to injury a WILSON'S PETREL was spotted from the pelagic we had decided not to bother with. The mysterious Scilly curse had kicked in and it was to get much, much worse.....