Here, There & Everywhere: Part III- Goodbye Borough Farm

Part 3 of my ‘Here, There & Everywhere’ Series, this time for our eight-day trip to the Isles of Scilly. Part IV will appear in due course after this…

Every year, it’s a family tradition to go & stay on Tresco, in the Isles of Scilly. Not only is it a holiday it’s also good to go birding. There hasn’t been a year when I haven’t got a lifer on Scilly (*touches wooden desk next to his laptop*), and these have included Sora, Buff-bellied & Olive-backed Pipit, Penduline Tit and Little Bunting on the islands & Bufflehead, Hermit Thrush & Hudsonian Whimbrel on the mainland nearby. This year looked good…

Though my dad & I did manage to see several birds, we missed quite a lot as well because we were staying on one of the off-islands (this totalled to an astonishing SIX lifers). One was found dead (Pale-legged/Sakhalin Leaf Warbler), three were only seen by one person (American Herring Gull, Dusky Thrush & Rustic Bunting), one disappeared before we could get over (Red-flanked Bluetail) & one lingered but we decided against going over because it was misidentifed (Caspian Stonechat). If we were staying on St Mary’s we would have stood a better chance of seeing at least two of these. As such we have become increasingly dissatisfied on the birding side of the holiday.

Tresco Estate, the owner of Tresco, has been undergoing a process of ‘tidying up’ the entire island, most recently the bulb fields along Pool Road. It soon culminated that the last bits of cover were in the SE end of the island, near Tobaccoman’s Point, and at Borough Farm. The latter was where the rare bird finding was focused, though the fact it was only open before 10am & after 4:30pm constrained us a lot. Even so, Dad managed to find two, possibly three, Little Buntings in the hedges as well as an Olive-backed Pipit and a Common Redstart. Even Tobaccoman’s Point yielded birds, including two Short-eared Owls & two Ring Ouzels. These last bits of cover are extremely precious. However, just before we embarked on our trip, I discovered some startling news…

Borough Farm was previously owned by a local, but this summer the Tresco Estate revoked their lease, and are taking the land back. Now, if they follow the same precedent on Borough Farm as they do on all the other fields, then we are about to lose the last site for rare passerines on the entire island. Previous rarities have included American Robin, Black-throated Thrush, Rustic Bunting & Yellow-breasted Bunting.

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Weedy fields like this at Borough Farm were the last of their kind on Tresco- and now they’re disappearing forever.
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The Little Buntings were in these fields here, as well as a Redstart & a Yellow-browed Warbler in the hedges.
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More weedy fields, many-a-rare-bird seen here…
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This field was where the Olive-backed Pipit was- perfect habitat.

All of the fields pictured above will almost certainly be grassy next year. The last site for rare passerines on the island will be gone.

On St Mary’s, we were staring in awe at how much cover there was, even in the middle of towns. Unlike Tresco, St Mary’s is not in the process of getting rid of all its cover, and, despite it being significantly larger, we were astonished by how much cover there was in the areas we explored (Peninnis, Old Town, Lower Moors, Innisdigen, Holy Vale & Hugh Town) and there was surely more at Porth Hellick which we didn’t have the time to visit. It’s quite depressing, really, that the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust haven’t intervened either to protect the entire island from redevelopement. When all this is considered, surely it’s time to move on from Tresco?

Now, to recover from the depressing nature of this blog post, here are some pictures taken by my dad (Marcus Nash) of some of the birding highlights from our trip.

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One of the two to three Little Buntings at Borough Farm
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The Olive-backed Pipit at Borough Farm…
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… and one of two OBPs on St Mary’s!
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The PALLID SWIFT which day-tripped over to Tresco- the only lifer of the trip, disappearing into fog.
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A Yellow Wagtail on St Mary’s on the last day, possibly a Grey-headed (definitely not Eastern)
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One of the two Short-eared Owls near Tobaccoman’s Point
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Up to five Black Redstarts were seen throughout the stay.

So that concludes this blog post, sorry for the depressing tone, but it is a very sad issue which has to be raised. For a more detailed account of the trip, see my dad’s very good account: https://norfolkbirdtours.wordpress.com/2016/11/03/20th-28th-oct-2016-tresco-revisited/

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