Tour Dates: Tuesday 1st – Tuesday 8th October 2024 (St Mary’s to St Mary’s)
Tour Price: £1,499pp
Estimated Fly + Sail Price: £220 Return
Deposit: £300 per person
Conservation Donation from Wise Birding: £50 – £100
Minimum Number: 6 people
Maximum Group Size: 6 people
A good selection of common and scarce migrants with a good chance of some exciting vagrants.
Regular scarce migrants/rarities at this time of year include: Wryneck, Red-backed Shrike, Ortolan Bunting, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Ricard’s Pipit, Yellow-browed Warbler, Common Rosefinch, Dotterel and American Golden Plover.
Extreme Vagrants at this time of year have included Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Black-and-White Warbler, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, White’s Thrush, Eastern Orphean Warbler and Cream-coloured Courser!
The Isles of Scilly are simply a “must visit” destination for any birder. These beautiful islands are located 28 miles South-West of Land’s End and have an enviable reputation for being one of the best places in the entire United Kingdom for finding and seeing rare birds from all over the world! It is not unusual to see different species from America, Asia and Southern Europe in just one day on the Isles of Scilly!
This birding holiday is based on the main island of St Mary’s from where we will explore these fabulous islands, taking the inter-island boats to other islands in search of rarities. Much of our daily routine will be dictated by the birds that may already be present, but much of our time will be focused on looking for our own exciting finds!
During the week we will visit at least 4 other islands, each different in habitat and character and of course all with great potential of finding something exciting. Although rarities are so dependent on the weather and never guaranteed, you are sure to witness some spectacular scenery and wonderful walks and you just never know what might be around the next corner! Come and join us and enjoy the birding buzz!
ACCOMMODATION: 7 nights St Mary’s, Isles of Scilly
7 nights at a comfortable hotel on St Mary’s
Included Meals: Breakfast and Dinner
DAY 1: Arrival St Mary’s
You will be met by our local guide Will Wagstaff at St Mary’s airport after your flight from Land’s End. If flights are cancelled, due to poor weather, you will still have time to transfer to the Scillonian crossing by sea and be met at the St Mary’s harbour instead, so whatever the weather you will reach Scilly!
Once on St Mary’s we will head to our hotel have coffee and head out for our first day birding on St Mary’s. It is the biggest of the islands and there is sure to be something of interest to go and see with Yellow-browed Warbler, Red-breasted Flycatcher or Richard’s Pipit being the most regular of the scarce birds to expect. We will explore the area around Porth Hellick Pool and Lower Moors which often hold a Spotted Crake or rarer wader and then the airfield where we have a good chance of finding rare pipits such as Richard’s Pipit or Red-throated Pipit. We will then continue to the beautiful small sandy coves at the north of the island looking for common migrants like Firecrest and Pied Flycatcher and the hope for something a little rarer. Overnight St Mary’s
DAY 2: St Mary’s
Today we will spend another day exploring St Mary’s and dependent on recent bird news we will visit some of the well known areas such as the golf course and Telegraph and Holy Vale, all with a wonderful history of rarities. The golf course is always a great place to find a Dotterel or something rare like a Buff-breasted Sandpiper. During the afternoon, we will explore the Garrison above Hugh Town or may visit an off-island if a worthy rarity appears! Overnight St Mary’s
DAY 3: St Martin’s
Today, we will visit the island of St Martin’s, the most northerly and easterly of the main islands. Strangely, it is often neglected by birders and so always gives that feeling of the unknown and the chance of finding something exciting!
St Martin’s has some of the most scenic beaches anywhere on the archipelago and they are a great place to look for waders. Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Oystercatcher, Bar-tailed Godwit and the odd Whimbrel are to be expected, but rarer nearctic species such as Spotted Sandpiper, Baird’s Sandpiper or White-rumped Sandpiper are certainly all possible. At some point during the day we will head up to Higher Town and explore the wooded area by the cricket pitch which often holds migrants and hosted a Rose-breasted Grosbeak during October 2019. We will then head up to the Day Mark, an area of heather moorland and a regular place where Dotterel, Snow Bunting and Lapland Bunting often turn up. Overnight St Mary’s
DAY 4: St Agnes
Another day, another island as we will head off to the most Southwesterly of the inhabited islands. St Agnes was home of the famous Bird Observatory during the 1950s and 1960s and really put the Isles of Scilly on the birding map during that time with an enviable list of American birds being recorded, many of which were a first for the UK at the time!
The island is a nice size and we should be able to cover it well in the hope of finding something interesting. There are many small fields, so typical of Scilly, that can hold migrants in the hedges and bracken edges. The Big Pool and Browarth will certainly be visited as well as the famous Parsonage and Chapel Fields and Barnaby Lane where the discovery of a Magnolia Warbler in 1981 created great excitement and another would certainly be welcome! If our visit coincides with a suitable tide, we may also be able to cross the Gugh Bar (sand bar) and venture to the island of Gugh which has hosted many a good rarity over the years. Overnight St Mary’s
DAY 5: Tresco
Today we will visit the island of Tresco, the most wooded of all the islands and famous for its Abbey Gardens and ruined castles. The island also has a large area of freshwater pools which are a huge magnet for migrant waders and wildfowl. The main water body is the Great Pool and can be viewed from a number of different places as well as bird hides. It is often a good place to find Jack Snipe and Spotted Crake is almost annual here too. Rare American waders are certainly possibility with Pectoral Sandpiper and Lesser Yellowlegs being the most regularly recorded. Nearby, the smaller Abbey Pool is also worth a look for similar species. The fields and hedgerows at Borough Farm are long famous for major rarities with Britain’s only record of Philadelphia Vireo being found here in 1987. Of course, we are far more likely to see some of the commoner species that sometime frequent this area such as Red-breasted Flycatcher, Yellow-browed Warbler, Wryneck or maybe a Red-throated Pipit or even Olive-backed Pipit. The sandy bays near New Grimsby are always worth checking and are perfect for waders with American Golden Plover and Hudsonian Whimbrel being recorded here in previous years. Overnight St Mary’s
DAY 6: Bryher
The island of Bryher is one of the most picturesque of all the islands and is situated just to the west of Tresco. On the highest Spring tides, it is even possible to walk across to Tesco! Bryher, is similar to St Agnes in terms of size, but has a very different feel and is home to some fantastic scenic bays, small fields, a good area of heather moorland and a large freshwater pool. We will cover much of this habitat during our visit most likely starting from Shipman Head Down and working our way down to Hell Bay where the famous hotel is situated overlooking the Great Pool. Shipman Head Down is a good bet for a Dotterel or Wryneck as well as Lapland Bunting or something rarer whereas the Great Pool has hosted many a rare wader and even a Great Blue Heron during the Spring of 2015. We may even have time to finish the day with a celebratory Cream Tea at the Hell Bay Hotel! Overnight St Mary’s
DAY 7: Flexible Day
Today is our flexible day which we will most likely spend trying to catch up with any rarity that we may have missed or we can take a mini pelagic boat trip in search of seabirds and cetaceans. These short boat trips have produced some great seabirds on previous trips including Great Shearwaters, Sabine’s Gulls, Storm Petrels and Common Dolphins! Overnight St Mary’s
DAY 8: Departure on the Scillonian
Despite being our last day, we suggest departing on the Scillonian as this still gives you most of the day on St Mary’s and even time to do another off-island trip if required. The Scillonian tends to depart at around 3pm at this time of year and the sailing back to Penzance can often be very good for seabirds and cetaceans too.
Please note this is a flexible itinerary which may need to be adjusted dependent on arrival / departure times, weather conditions and more importantly, the most up to date bird news!
Leader: Will Wagstaff
Included in cost: Accommodation in twin en-suite rooms, breakfast and dinner starting with dinner on day 1 until breakfast on day 8, a total of 4 inter-island returns, mini pelagic boat trip and services of leaders.
Not included in cost: Travel to / from St Mary’s, lunches, drinks, and travel insurance.
Accommodation: A very comfortable hotel on St Mary’s.
Single Supplement: £299
Transport: Walking throughout, plus occasional taxi on St Mary’s
The beauty of this holiday is that the entire holiday is done on foot. We would expect to be walking an average of up to 12Km per day.
Climate: Be prepared for all weathers!
Tour Start Point: St Mary’s Airport, Isles of Scilly.
Tour End Point: St Mary’s Quay, Isles of Scilly.