Blue Rock Thrush – Penninis Head, St Mary’s, Scilly

Whilst on the boat back from the Rose-breasted Grosbeak on St Martin’s we planned what to do next. The possible Blyth’s Reed Warbler at Newford Duck Pond wasn’t seen again although a Reed Warbler was seen there. The Blue Rock Thrush had moved to Penninis from the Garrison and the Yellow-billed Cuckoo had moved to Lower Moors from the Dump Clump.

We got back to Mary’s popped into the flat briefly and then headed over to Lower Moors to try for the Yellow-billed Cuckoo and Spotted Crake. Neither crake nor cuckoo were showing or had been seen recently and so I suggested we continue down the track into Old Town and then up onto Penninis and hope that we might bump into the Blue Rock Thrush. We hadn’t attempted to see the thrush until now as we had heard many stories of people spending most of their week on Scilly trying to see it and failing altogether or only connecting right at the end of the week. I hoped that we might be in the right place at the right time and I hoped that this was about to happen on Penninis.

The thrush was seen again just west of the lighthouse at Penninis Head and within 15 minutes we were there. There was another report, soon afterwards, that the thrush was now being watched half way along Penninis on the west side. I could see two birders in the distance and I felt sure that they had reported it and were possibly still watching it.

Within five minutes we were standing next to the birders and they confirmed that it had been showing up until five minutes before but had temporarily disappeared. We checked the adjacent cove carefully and also the one we had just walked past and someone picked it up again. It was distant but we had prolonged views, perhaps 45 minutes or so with it being in view almost constantly.

The long bill was the most prominent feature and at this range the thrush looked pretty dark almost black although in certain lights I could see paler areas on the face, throat and median coverts, the underparts were slightly paler and barred and there appeared to be hints of blue on the mantle and flanks.

The Blue Rock Thrush was first found on the 22nd September and so it had been present for over three weeks! This is my second Blue Rock Thrush in Britain with my first also on St Mary’s at Porthloo almost 20 years to the day in 1999. There have been 10 previous records of Blue Rock Thrush in Britain.

Blue Rock Thrush takes me to my target of 250 for the year! I watched the bird with my sister Aly for which the Blue Rock Thrush was her 250th British bird.

Spotted Crake – St Mary’s, Scilly – 17th October 2019

Thursday was always forecast to be the worst day of the week but it didn’t turn out quite as bad as forecast, just a bit windy and showery. We headed to Lower Moors in case the Yellow-billed Cuckoo was reported again and were rewarded with amazing views of the Spotted Crake as it walked along the stream oblivious to us as we stood no more than five yards away.

At the northern end of the Island we hadn’t seen the Short-toed Lark or the Green-winged Teal and so we headed off in that direction. The Short-toed Lark was a long shot given the difficulty in seeing this bird in the deep furrows which ran in the wrong direction. We gave it 20 minutes and then tried for the Green-winged Teal at nearby Newford Duck Pond.

Green-winged Teal – St Mary’s, Scilly – 17th October 2019

The teal was still present and gave very good views. It was a 1st winter male and at this age almost identical to our own Eurasian Teal but it is believed to be the American Green-winged Teal given the well-marked facial pattern and the broader chestnut stripe next to the green speculum (which we saw while the bird was preening). Also lots of the birds on Scilly this year have been American and its rather tame behaviour may also suggest its transatlantic origin.

It shed a feather while preening yesterday and this has been sent for DNA testing and this will confirm the identification one way or another. Later, via report on twitter:- “the presumed 1st-winter drake Green-winged Teal still at Newford Duck Pond is conforming wonderfully, developing the beginnings of a vertical white bar on its right side. This coming only two days after mitochondrial DNA confirmed that its mother (at least) was a Green-winged Teal”.

Yellow-browed Warbler – St Mary’s, Scilly – 18th October 2019

Another wet and windy day although Aly and I managed to venture out mid-afternoon. We returned to the Dump Clump hoping for better views of the Red-breasted Flycatcher. This time we walked quietly into the tangled copse of trees via one of the tracks. We stopped and waited in a promising looking area.

There were fewer birders to help look compared to the previous three times we had visited but we had found a quiet secluded position with good visibility and I felt sure that we would be lucky. Sure enough, soon afterwards, the Red-breasted Flycatcher appeared fairly low down perched unobscured on a branch.

It remained fairly still for almost two minutes giving us great views of the large domed head and white eye ring, the buffy throat and upper chest and the obvious pale wing bar across the greater coverts. The primaries were long with the wings held low and the tail often cocked and the white tail patches were visible when it eventually flew away. This is the 10th Red-breasted Flycatcher I have seen in Britain with all but one being on Scilly.

We stayed a little longer and after a couple of Great Tits and a Chiffchaff I watched a small warbler drop through the canopy, it was partly obscured. It then moved fully into view and I was delighted to see double wing bars and a broad pale supercilium. Although there had been half a dozen or more Yellow-browed Warblers on St Mary’s we hadn’t bumped into one yet and so it was good to find one myself. This bird wasn’t a year tick as I had seen a wintering bird at Lodmoor in January.

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