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Scilly birding season 'best for 18 years'

Birding on the Isles of Scilly this Autumn has been the best since 1999, according to local naturalist Will Wagstaff.

Scilly has been suffering a long birding slump, attracting fewer rarities and far fewer visiting birdwatchers since its heyday in the 1980s and '90s.

However, the islands' fortunes are back on the rise with sightings of some "major rarities" over the last week.

Cedar Waxwing - Photo by Kris Webb

Will told This is Scilly News: "It's been our best Autumn probably since 1999, which was regarded as one of our classic years. We've had a lot of American birds and also one good one from the East.

"On Tuesday (October 3rd) there was the Cedar Waxwing, which is the seventh British record but our second here and the first one to be seen by more than a handful of people on Scilly. That's the major one."

Will, who found the bird on St Agnes, added: "I was very happy with that. There were a lot of happy people as a result of that one, including me, even though it did disappear for four hours."

The previous day (Monday), a Cliff Swallow was seen on Tresco (now St Mary's), another American rarity.

"It's the 11th British record but I think is our sixth, so it shows that Scilly is the best place in the country to see those," Will said. "Over the weekend we had the Rose-breasted Grosbeak, which is another major American rarity. We've had a Red-eyed Vireo, although we do see that probably every other year. That was also on St Agnes.

"Other than that we had the Isabelline Wheatear, an Eastern bird and a major rarity. There hasn't been one for a couple of years.

Isabelline Wheatear - Photo by Martin Goodey

"Other American birds not so rare are an American Golden Plover and a Pectoral Sandpiper, both on Porth Hellick. Not too many common migrants but with this amount of major rarities, everyone's wandering around with a big smile on their face.

Pectoral Sandpiper - Photo by Kris Webb

"Anything under ten or 11 records in the UK is a major rare, so to have two in two days is great."

Will added that the rare sightings have the potential to attract a large number of birdwatchers to the islands this month.

"There are people coming down from Shetland now, certainly some from the north-east coast are thinking of coming," he said. "If this carries on we'll get a lot more people. People we haven't seen for years are coming down."

Fellow birders on Twitter are also expressing their excitement:

Jon Dunn‏ @dunnjons

What an INCREDIBLE week. Scilly roars again.

Scott Reid‏ @scottreid_srr Gutted I picked the wrong week but absolutely buzzing that Scilly in fine form once again! Nowhere compares!

Phil Fandango‏ @twitchingphil Scilly back with a bang this year. Amazing find!

Will Scott‏ @dub_birder Man. What a few days. Chuffed all the loyal Scilly birders are getting a good show. Well deserved! Bring in tomorrow!


Justin Taylor‏ @jtbirder323 Scilly packing another punch at the Shetland midriff!! If only the hordes of the 80's and 90's were on Scilly now.

Cedar Waxwing on St Agnes October 3rd 2017, video by Ashley Fisher


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