6 Oct 2017

Scilly's double header - Cedar Waxwing & Cliff Swallow.

Hot on the heels of my last trip to the Isles of Scilly last year for an American Cliff Swallow (see here ) news broke of another one  found on Tresco! Following the Minsmere bird last year thats now three in three years. Chill pill taken I relaxed and didn't think anymore about it until the news broke that a Cedat Waxwing had turned up on St Agnes. Chill pill suddenly tasting bitter - there've been a few records over the last few years but no twitchable birds since the Nottingham bird in 1996!

Plans were made for a couple of days on Scilly's then cancelled then an alternative plan was made. Booing return flights from Nequay we reckoned it was possible t oget there and back in less than 24 hrs. Game on. I do love a challenge.......

It was arranged that Stu would meet me, Malc and mark on the M56 and head down in his car as mine was booked in to the garage. Mark would pick me up at 01.15 to meet up with Stu and Malc at 02.00. We'd drive though the night and get the08.45 across to St Marys and then have a quick look for the Cliff Swallow for Stuart then get the 10.15 boat to St Agnes. Great - a workable plan.............

Only it didn't quite happen like that......ringing Mark told me he'd left his photo I.D at home so had to return for it and was going to be 15 minutes late. I started walking along the lanes to meet him and save a bit of time as we were on a tight schedule. I'd got about a mile and a half before I saw his headlights coming towards me. Bad news. Somehow he'd got lost, taken a wrong turn and hit a curb. His front tyre was completely flat. No problem, 5 minutes to change the wheel and we'd be on our way. 'Ummm, Mark, wheres the wheel brace'? 'What wheel brace. Dunno mate'. Shit. We had no choice but to limp back to mine, grab some tools and change the wheel in the pouring rain and pitch black on an unlit lane. Managing to take a chunk out of my finger and bleeding like a stuck pig the wheel was duly changed and we set off after warning the others we'd be at least 30 minutes late.

'Mark, we need this turning'.
'No, its the next one'.......

We ended up on the M6 at Lymn and having to do a quick turn round as we'd missed the correct junction.

It was blowing a gale and the rain was biblical. Stewart did a great driving job and we arrived at Newquay airport in the dark at around 07.30 to be told the bad weather wasn't moving through as fast as the weather forecast had promised and our flight was likely to be delayed until at least 10.00!

Agghhhhh. Luckily, we had a back up plan. We were going to miss the scheduled boat to St Agnes but had a telephone number for a charter boat. A quick chart with other birders at the airport and we'd arranged the Falcon for £50.00 between 7 of us on a one way trip. We also arranged a minibus to take us directly from the airport to the quayside. Fantastic. Game on again. We eventually took off around 10.15 and the rest of the arrangements went like clockwork.

The Cedar Waxwing had been a bit elusive but we struck lucky. After a 10 minute walk from the Quayside we found a small group watching the bird and for the next 2-3 hours we kept a respectable distance and watched as it fed on coprosma berries and then retreated into the bushes to digest its meal.

What a smart little bird - I even heard it call once. A long drawn out trill, higher pitched and more weedy sounding than our normal Bohemian Waxwings.

With Stuart still not having seen the Cliff Swallow we decided to head to the Turks Head for a dressed crab salad and a drink before getting the scheduled boat back to St Mary's at 14.15. Arranging with our friendly cab driver to meet us at the Quay.

The Swallow was getting seen regularly at the airfield and was actually flying around our plane when we landed but by the time we got off birders watching it told us it had headed towards New Town. Deciding that was a good starting point we instructed our driver to head that way. As soon as we got there we met Chris Webb (Spider) who pointed it out flying around the airport buildings! Fantastic and with the sun out the Cliff Swallow put on a display along with the local Swallows and House Martins  for the next few hours until our flight home! With an Isabelline Wheatear on the grass surrounding the runway it was a case of East meets West.

This time I did have my camera and although it was moving so fast photography was virtually impossible I did manage a few record shots.

The Issy Wheatear was always on view and provided a nice distraction when the swallow occasionally flew out of sight.

Our flight actually left early so we arrived in Newquay ahead of schedule at 18.15 so we managed a good hour of the drive in daylight in vastly improved weather conditions than on the way down. An uneventful journey was enlivened by lots of banter and laughter and before we knew it we were back at our meeting point where  I off loaded my gear and Mark drove me home.  I eventually arrived at 11.55 and climbed straight into my much needed bed.

Mark trying to be inconspicuous behind a rock whilst photographing the Waxwing.

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