Despite the fact that I first went to Scilly in October 1983, I only ever spent one day on the islands in the Spring. A hugely enjoyable Great Blue Heron twitch to Bryher with James Lowen, David Bradnum and Yoav Perlman in April 2015. So when Ingrid and I had an option on our usual cottage on St Mary’s for the first week in May we grabbed it. As May approached and my need for urgent medical treatment became apparent we were grateful for our first Scilly spring.
The week started well. I stepped off the quay at lunchtime on 1st May and one of two long-staying Iceland Gulls flew over my head. After a cup of coffee and a pasty at our digs in Thomas Porth I set forth. Crossing Lower Moors the recently arrived Purple Heron flew from town in the direction of Porthellick. Two Scilly “ticks” in 90 minutes was just what I needed. And when I reached the pumping station the Woodchat Shrike found that morning was showing well although too distant for photos. After the shrike I carried on with one my favourite walks. The coastal path from Old Town to Porthhellick via Giants Castle and Salakee Down was simply glorious.
I spent too long on the East side of Porthellick not seeing the Red-throated Pipit. Predictably I left 10 mins before it turned up. I was more succesful the following afternoon after a lovely lunch at Juliets. The pipit came with the added bonus of a long conversation with Bob Flood.
After the wash out that was Bank Holiday Monday the rest of the week followed a predictable pattern. I walked 10+ miles each day in the cold northerly winds seeing very few migrants. All very frustrating, but not without interest. For instance the pair of Blackcap that breed in the scrub around Watermill Cove but feed on the wrack. And the huge summer breeding population of Linnets that is gone by the time I turn up in October.
Mid-week Ingrid and I took a trip to Bryher and enjoyed a nice walk around Samson Hill before lunch at Fraggle Rock. En route I turned up a rather smart, but nervous Blue-headed Wagtail on the pool.
One thing that surprised me was the number of Whimbrel still staging in the islands. I assume their northward progress was impeded by the constant northerlies. Their choice of habitat appeared quite catholic – fields, rocky shore, beaches and freshwater pools
Our Scilly spring week was over all too soon and we left on Friday 7th ahead of another storm. Yet once again the islands had offered healing and my head was in a much better place to deal with my diagnosis and planned treatment.