A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Scilly Pelagic Birding - Magical Marine Life and Moths (Day 2)

The next day thankfully dawned with beautiful periwinkle blue skies and a cloudless horizon –perfect weather for enjoying a boat trip out to sea but less than ideal conditions for drawing birds in (for which a stiff breeze is needed). Despite this however, we still had a fantastic days outing, and we more than made up for the lack of birds with a variety of interesting marine life.
St Marys, Scilly
Having hoped to catch up with at least one Ocean Sunfish whilst down in the Scilly Isles, it was great to see at least 5 of these incredible fish during the day. First observed as just a large dark fin flapping on the surface, we later got great views as several individuals floated serenely past the boat on their backs before swimming swiftly away once they had caught sight of us.
Ocean Sunfish, Scilly
Ocean Sunfish, Scilly
Ocean Sunfish, Scilly
Dolphins also made an appearance throughout the day, and we watched in awe as a pod of Common Dolphins joined us to bow ride for around 10 minutes, splashing playfully at the front of the boat just metres away. We also spotted a pod of larger Bottle-nosed Dolphins, easily identifiable by their much bigger size and more curved shaped fins. Not quite as approachable as the Commons, they kept their distance, and are apparently more uncommon in these waters.
Common Dolphins, Scilly
Common Dolphins
Bottlenose Dolphins, Scilly
Bottlenose Dolphins
Bottlenose Dolphins, Scilly
With a spot of fishing taking place, we also got good views of some sea fish, most notably a Gurnard and a Garfish - a pelagic needlefish with extremely elongated jaws that was fascinating to see as it was brought on board (both released back in to the water afterwards). 
Garfish, Scilly
Despite the less than ideal conditions, we were still able to attract a large number of European Storm-petrels to the boat, and a trawler several miles out to sea provided a great opportunity to see what species of birds were present in the slick. With gulls and Gannets in turn attracting shearwaters, we were hoping for both the large shears that we had yet to connect with – Cory’s and Great. Sadly we were unable to get on a very brief Great Shearwater that only a handful were able to connect with, and despite the bird seeming to land amongst the Gannets, we weren’t able to relocate it on the water’s surface when the boat went in for a closer look.
Trawler, Scilly
A very obliging Sooty Shearwater performed incredibly well however, sitting on the water and allowing a close approach from the boat for around 10 minutes, giving fantastic views and revealing the silver tinged sooty underwings each time it took off and landed.
Sooty Shearwater, Scilly
Sooty Shearwater, Scilly
Sooty Shearwater, Scilly
A first year Long-tailed Skua also provided my closest ever views of this species, again sitting on the water and allowing a close approach. While originally posing some questions as to whether this was an Arctic or Long-tailed and highlighting the difficulty in separating young birds of the two species, the cold coloured outlines of the feathers and overall very small and slim build pointed to Long-tailed.
Long-tailed Skua, Scilly
Long-tailed Skua, Scilly
With time pressing on, it was time to return to shore after 7 hours at sea, and the beautiful weather combined with continuous interest off the boat ensured I thankfully didn’t feel the effects of seasickness like the previous evening! Despite the best efforts of Bob Flood and the crew however, the constant steaming and chumming back to shore failed to produce any of our target shearwaters or Wilson’s petrels, and not being on the Sunday pelagic, this just left one more evening to connect.
Scilly Pelagics
The many gulls on the way back!
Skua, Scilly
As well as birds, the moth life on Scilly was also extremely interesting. Zac, staying just two B&Bs down from us, had brought his moth trap, so each day we headed over to check out what delights had been caught the previous evening. Being so southerly, Scilly is a great location for migrant moths, and we were hoping that over the weekend we would get some interesting species. Here are the highlights:
Grass Eggar - Scilly
Grass Eggar
Grass Eggar - Scilly
Marbled Green - Scilly
Marbled Green
Rusty Dot Pearl - Scilly
Rusty Dot Pearl
Ruby Tiger - Scilly
Ruby Tiger
Marbled Coronet - Scilly
Marbled Coronet
Broad-barred White - Scilly
Broad-barred White
Blood-vein - Scilly
Blood-vein
Blood-vein - Scilly
Bloxworth Snout - Scilly
Bloxworth Snout
Early Thorn - Scilly
Early Thorn
Ruby Tiger - Scilly
Another Ruby Tiger on a shop window after a pelagic - maybe even the same one!
Several Hummingbird Hawkmoths buzzing around a Buddleia were also fantastic to watch – my best ever views of this migrant moth. Busily feeding from flower to flower and darting round exceptionally fast, it was hard to get photos as they whirred above our heads, but I managed a few record shots of these brilliant day-flying moths. 

Hummingbird Hawk-moth
Hummingbird Hawk-moth
Hummingbird Hawk-moth
Hummingbird Hawk-moth

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