By: Blonde One
One of our days at the Walk Scilly walking festival was all about the wildlife of the islands.
Our morning on the island of St Agnes (and the smaller, just attached Gugh) was filled with birds, rats and shrews! Well, when I say filled with, I mean with stories of. St Agnes has the smallest population of all of the inhabited islands but it is full of breeding birds and rare shrews. The Scilly shrew lives here in abundance and there are lots of people working at keeping them from getting any rarer. We listened to our guide tell passionately about how these cute rodents are monitored and looked after. Ink pads, like the one in the photo, are placed around the island to see how much shrew activity there is. This pad suggests a little shrew party!
St Agnes is the first of the Isles of Scilly to be cleared of rats. The whole community got on board with this campaign and as a result in November 2013 the island was declared officially rat free. Because of this rat free status there are now increasing numbers of the ground nesting manx shearwater birds. The Seabird Recovery Project www.ios-seabirds.org.uk website is well worth a look and will tell you more about the wide variety of breeding birds they have on St Agnes. There is also an interesting Guardian article on the subject here. Pictured below are a manx shearwater egg and burrow (Jaclyn in the orange hat is neither an egg nor a burrow, but she is very enthusiastic and knowledgeable about her ‘manxies’!)
After a more enjoyable than expected morning on St Agnes we hopped on board the Sea King tripper boat with skipper Fraser and our new guide Will Wagstaff. This time we stayed on board and were taken, through some ‘interesting’ seas, to spot a huge variety of birds.
We saw too many to list, but Blonde Two and I were fascinated by the siege (excellent collective noun) of 8 herons. We had both assumed that these birds were solitary and that they fished in freshwater as we only ever see them like this on Dartmoor. Will and Fraser, and the other ‘twitchers’ on board got quite excited to see an osprey. The highlight for me though was seeing a seal and pup close to the shore of Tresco.
We didn’t know we were budding twitchers or wildlife experts, but I certainly enjoyed our whole Walk Scilly wildlife day much more than anticipated and would not hesitate to do it all again.
To discover more about the Isles of Scilly, go to www.visitislesofscilly.com. There are Skybus flights to St. Mary’s all year round from Land’s End and Newquay Airports, and between March and October from Exeter Airport. From spring to late-autumn, the Scillonian lll passenger ship sails up to seven days a week between Penzance and St. Mary’s. For travel information, visit www.islesofscilly-travel.co.uk. Accommodation: www.carntop.co.uk, www.star-castle.co.uk.