As a kid growing up in the 80’s it was all about Scilly. Octobers of the 1980’s and 1990’s were dominated by news from the magical Islands sinking under the weight of American vagrants. This led to an obsession with American birds & Scilly which has never really gone away. I’ve been fortunate to spend quite a bit of time visiting and living in the US since those days of staring at graining photo’s of Vireos, Warblers and Orioles in the BB rarities round up. So, when on the eve of my birthday, good friend and Scilly resident Graham Gordon discovered a Cliff Swallow, there seemed to be something compelling me to break my non-twitching mantra. I took a deep breath, told myself I could ignore the beige clad army, and get me some Cliff Swallow.
Cliff Swallow. One of Matt’s shot.
Having missed all the cabs meeting the Scillonian (yes we went old skool on this), Matt and I decided to cover the distance to Porthellick on foot. The bird had now been missing for 2 hours. We headed out of Hugh Town, checking any groups of Hirundines en route. As we neared the airport I stopped to check a few feeding low over a meadow. In the briefest of glimpses the Cliff Swallow passed though my field of vision, banked and then disappeared. I let Matt know I’d just had the bird but with no further sign in 10 minutes of searching, I begun to doubt myself thinking sleep deprivation had the better of me. We then headed on, I again picked the bird up distantly feeding over a stand of tall pines near the airport. We both ran up to the area and with some relief, enjoyed great views as the bird put on a show above us. Reception problems delayed the relay of news to the crowd at Porthellick and by the time others arrived the bird had drifted further away. Some got distant scope views others not seeing the bird at all. It didn’t re-apppear until we had long departed on the ferry to the mainland. I great piece of good fortune for Matt and I.
A pretty fine haul of birds for the day included a Buff breasted Sandpiper (also found by Graham Gordon) at Marazion beach in the company of a fine juvenile Little Stint. My best seawatch on a Scilly crossing ever yielded Great, an insanely close Cory’s, Manx, and Balearic Shearwaters, also a Storm Petrel.
Thanks to Matt Eade for providing the Rich Tea biscuits & skills of a rally driver, completing the trip Eastbourne to Penzance in a little over 4.5hrs. The whole trip itself completed in under 23hrs.