European Bee-eater by Chris Townend

Tour Dates: Tuesday 16th – Tuesday 23rd May 2023 (St Mary’s to St Mary’s) 
Tour Price: £1,599pp
Estimated Fly + Sail Price: £200 Return
Deposit: £300 per person
Conservation Donation from Wise Birding: £50 – £100
Minimum Number: 5 people
Maximum Group Size: 8 people

Target Species
A good selection of breeding seabirds including Guillemot, Razorbill, Puffin and Manx Shearwater, plus various common migrants and a good chance of scarce migrants or a rarity.
Regular scarce migrants/rarities at this time of year include:
Woodchat Shrike, Golden Oriole, Bee-Eater, Night Heron, Purple Heron, Western Subalpine Warbler and more!

Tour Summary
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, particularly during the autumn, for being one of the best places in the entire United Kingdom to see rare birds from all over the world!
This Spring birding holiday is based on the main island of St Mary’s from where we will explore these fabulous islands. It differs from our autumn birding tours to Scilly in that it has a more relaxed pace. It has a focus on seeing many of the Scilly Isles breeding seabirds as well as hoping to see Spring overshoots from Europe and simply taking in the fabulous scenery whilst out each day.
During the week we will visit at least 4 other islands, each different in habitat and history. 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!

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 a Hoopoe or Woodchat Shrike being some of the most regular rarities that we may be lucky to see. We will explore the area around Porth Hellick Pool and Lower Moors which are always worth checking for waders and migrant warblers or maybe a Garganey. We will then continue to the beautiful small sandy coves at the north of the island looking for common migrants like Common Redstart or Ring Ouzel and the hope for maybe something a little rarer. Overnight St Mary’s

View from Tresco looking towards the Eastern Isles by Chris Townend

DAY 2: St Mary’s
Today we will spend another day exploring St Mary’s. Our itinerary will depend very much on any recent bird sightings that might influence our route! Regardless we will visit the golf course golf course which is a great place to find migrants like Wheatears or maybe even a Dotterel. A visit to the Longstones area is also worthwhile with some great fields for migrants like Turtle Dove and Spotted Flycatcher whereas the wonderful wooded area at Holy Vale is probably one of the best places on the whole of the islands for a Golden Oriole if the weather has been in our favour.

Common Dolphin by Chris Townend

During the early evening we will take a boat trip specifically to look for seabirds. We will head out to the South West and the island of Annet where Scilly has a small breeding colony of Puffins. Assuming sea conditions are calm, we should be able to get some good views of birds on the water and flying to and from their breeding rocks. Another key species we will be looking for is Manx Shearwater, a species which has greatly increased as a breeding bird due to a conservation project to eradicate rats (which predate eggs and chicks) from many of the uninhabited islands. Other birds we hope to see include Razorbill, Guillemot, Kittiwake, Sandwich, Common and Arctic Tern. We also have a good chance of Common Dolphins if the sea is calm. Overnight St Mary’s

Manx Shearwaters by Chris Townend

DAY 3: St Martin’s
Today, we will visit the island of St Martin’s, the most northerly and easterly of the main islands and strangely often neglected by birders therefore you always have that feeling 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, Oystercatcher, Whimbrel and the odd Godwit are to be expected, but rarer species are certainly possible. At some point during the day we will head up to Higher Town and explore the wooded area by the cricket pitch which is another great migrant trap for warblers. We will then head up to the Day Mark, an area of heather moorland and a regular place where Golden Plover and Dotterel sometimes 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 is one of the most beautiful islands with unforgettable sunsets and views out to the Western Rocks and the Longships Lighthouse.
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. A walk to the southern edge of the island along Wingletang Down is always very pleasant amongst the flowering gorse bushes and heathland and a classic place to find a Hoopoe or Wryneck. This area was the location of Britain’s second Caspian Plover found in May 1988!
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

Purple Heron by Chris Townend

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. During the spring there is good chance of finding waders such as migrant Godwits or Whimbrel as well as terns and gulls. Nearby, the smaller Abbey Pool is also worth a look for similar species. The beaches and small sandy bays are other places we can check for waders with Ringed Plovers, Dunlin and maybe some late Sanderling. We will have a whole day on the island so there will be plenty of time for those wishing to visit the botanical gardens whilst others can take the walk out to Castle Down where there is some good habitat for Wheatear, Rock Pipit and Stonechat as well as something a little more out of the ordinary like a Dotterel or Wryneck. Overnight St Mary’s

European Bee-Eater by Chris Townend

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 Tresco! 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 area to check for Ring Ouzel or Golden Plover and there is also some interesting and range restricted botany to be found here. We may even have time to finish the day with a celebratory Cream Tea at the Hell Bay Hotel! Overnight St Mary’s

Puffins by Chris Townend

DAY 7: Flexible Day
This is a flexible day and we will most likely spend the day on St Mary’s, but much will depend upon the latest birds and weather!

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 4pm 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, seabird boat trip and services of leaders.
Not included in cost: Travel to / from St Mary’s, lunches, alcoholic drinks/water, and travel insurance.
Accommodation: A very comfortable hotel on St Mary’s.
Single Supplement: £150
Transport: Walking throughout, plus occasional taxi on St Mary’s
Difficulty: Moderate
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 10Km per day.
Climate: Although Scilly is well known for its mild maritime climate and May is generally a good weather month, please 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.

View from St Martin’s across to Eastern Isles by Chris Townend