So it was leaving Madeira, staying in a crappy Holiday Inn Hotel in Gatwick and then making it to the ship in Plymouth over the last few days. To be honest there can’t be too much good about travelling via planes, trains, and automobiles (despite being able to make a movie out of it), and finally reaching a ship. The death of Osama certainly hasn’t ended the ‘War on Terror’ in Plymouth, with the fact that all our passengers (average age maybe 70 if we are lucky) having to go through security to the n’th degree before getting on a cruise ship that carries a maximum of 120 passengers. Oh well, at least the World is a safer place (yeah right).
So we left Plymouth last night, with wet and windy weather. Getting back onto the MV Clipper Odyssey was fantastic, with it feeling like my home away from home. This is the ship I have spent more time on than any other combined, and most of the crew feel like family. So it is always great to be back here.
I awoke early this morning and spent some time on the bridge hoping to see a few seabirds as we headed in to the Isles of Scilly. A couple of gannets and two fulmars had me thinking that this was as good as it gets for a UK seawatch...until a single guillemot strayed into view and I went into raptures. Nevermind, I’d had a great time in Madeira so this was ok! Pretty quiet to be honest but the sun was almost shining and showed promise and the wind from the west, although being cool, was not strong. We anchored in the east and then did our first excursion to St Agnes. The birders, with me at the helm (not literally) headed out on a local tender. This cruise has been sold as a birding cruise, with 40 birders signed up, and it’s my name on the brochure. Not sure if the ship would have sold out if my name hadn’t been on the brochure or not...but anyway.
So we landed on St Agnes and set about doing a birding walk in an anticlockwise direction around the island. We found a few good things, including a whimbrel, oystercatchers, turnstones, and a few species of gulls (NOT seagulls!!). Even a grey seal in the bay, and we also got a few butterfly species which was nice to see with common blue, six-spot burnet, red admiral, and speckled wood being common around the gardens and borders. There were lots of wrens around the place as well, singing, feeding young, and generally all over the place. We did a circuit of the island, rustling a few passengers out of the ‘Turks Head’ pub on the way to the boat ramp, before heading back to the ship for lunch. Imagine drinking before the sun is over the ‘yard-arm’!!!
After lunch we headed across to Tresco in the zodiacs (my first bit of zodiac action in a while, and nice to be back at the tiller) for our afternoon at the Abbey Gardens and wandering around the place. I’m seriously not into gardens (Mum and Dad dragged me around enough as a kid...with only minimal bird reserves as compensation!) but this place is actually pretty impressive, not least because of the fact that there are a massive number of New Zealand species of plants that have been introduced here.
I took a birding walk around the Great Pool and we managed a reasonable list of species with a few gadwell, linnet, greenfinch and song thrush along the way. Heard a couple of reed warbler and saw a few coot and mute swan as well, and then headed back to the landing. The weather was absolutely gorgeous, so it really was pretty nice.
Back at the landing we headed back to the ship and then sailed for Ireland...tonight being the ‘Captain’s Welcome Party’. On with the best shirt and shoes and a few cocktails...Ireland here we come!
|Whimbrel on the beach
|Grey seal peering at us
|Three species of gull - Herring, lesser-black-backed, and great black-backed
|Shoreline of St Agnes
|Winter wren with food
|Winter wren feeding chick
|The landing on Tresco
|Iceplant on the shore of Tresco
|Male ring-necked pheasant