Sunday 30 October 2011

So which is Best .... Shetland or Scilly ? Theres only one way to find out ..........

Tresco Isles of Scilly.

Well having been lucky enough to visit both Shetland and Scilly  this year the question i have been asked which is better ??  I first visited Scilly way back in 1990 and have been back on and off since then , probably around 8 or 9 times and i  have  seen some wonderful birds and made many life long friends on my visits , the birding in my opinion is totally different on Scilly compared to Shetland , having said that i only have been to Shetland once , however its plain to see that on Shetland you need a car to get around as the mainland is much bigger then you think where as on Scilly you are on foot basically all day long which can be up to at least 10 hours per day .

Most reliable mode of transport for Scilly.

Cost wise there is not alot in it to be honest , getting to Scilly by helicopter is the most reliable way but quite expensive , the Skybus plane is abit cheaper however they don't always fly if the weather is particularly bad and then of course there is the Scillion ferry which i used this year , its by far the cheapest way to get across to Scilly and there is always the chance to bird from the ferry ,highlights this year being  Storm Petrel , Great Skua  and a pod of Common Dolphin however if the sea is rough and you don't have good sea legs it can be quite an uncomfortable voyage plus the crossing takes the best part of 3 hours and if there is a mega on offer it can be quite frustrating .

One of the headlands on Shetland.

Getting to Shetland was pretty straight forward , flying from Gatwick to Aberdeen and getting a connecting flight from Aberdeen to Sumborough  , although the Sandhill Crane in Aberdeen did throw a spanner in the works this time . getting around the mainland easily was only possible with a hire car and the birding was quite different to Scilly , the habitat on Shetland is far more barren and the areas that you check were anywhere there was any cover i.e peoples gardens which looked good for migrants , where as on Scilly there is so much cover for birds to hide and feed all over the place , on Shetland there are isolated pockets here and there .

North west of Lerwick .

The social side on Scilly is really great and there is an evening bird log from the Scillion club where you can get food and a pint to celebrate your days birding , plus the use of CB radios to give out bird sightings or ask for any news works really well , on Shetland as far as i know none of this exists so its always worth exchanging phone numbers with other birders you meet so any news gets passed around , this method helped me connect with Lesser Grey Shrike , Little Bunting  and Red Breasted Flycatcher on Shetland this year . 

Grey Seal.

Getting to the off Islands on Scilly is very easy , the local fisherman have this well and truly worked out with daily trips to most of the other Islands , i must admit i found this very frustrating on Shetland , where access to the surrounding Islands is not easy , if a mega breaks on an off island you have little or no chance of getting a ferry or plane to them as they are almost always fully booked , i would have liked to have visited Fair Isle but there were no flights available all week !! still that is the only downside of Shetland and with a little more research and planning on my part i might be able to solve that problem .

Well to sum it all up i cant really decide which is best , they both have their own magical appeal and i will have to visit both again to help me decide ..........

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Scilly Twitch

Northern Waterthrush on St.Mary's Isle of Scilly showed well from Lower Moors and was a new species for me , plenty of great back up birds included : Upland Sandpiper , 2 Olive Backed Pipits and Wilson's Snipe.

Northern Waterthrush.

Northern Waterthrush.

Upland Sandpiper.

Note Central crown stripe and thin neck.

Wilsons Snipe.

Common Snipe.

Wilsons Snipe.

Very close Greenshank.

Black Redstart.

Wednesday 19 October 2011

Grey Phalarope at Reculver

I was lucky enough to see this stunning Grey Phalarope at Cold harbour Reculver on Saturday 8th October , it showed really well and did not seem bothered at all by the closeness of fellow birders .