22nd March 2020
Joe Pender and I couldn’t believe our luck when this stunner adult male Lesser Kestrel came in and perched on this post directly in front of us!
While I was away in Egypt, a Lesser Kestrel had been found at Porth Hellick Down at the beginning of March back home on Scilly. I was thinking that it would of moved on by the time I get back on the islands. Fortunately, I discovered the 1st summer male at the golf course from May 13th-21st, 2002. Well, I thought I had found it then until a Bob Flood claimed that he had the same bird nearly a month before me and only let every one know about his mega find some five years later in the book ‘The Essential to the Birds of The Isle of Scilly’ that he co-wrote with the headline ‘The True Story of the Lesser Kestrel!!’
On the day of the 13th May, 2002, this is how I came across the Lesser Kestrel on the golf course. In gale force winds, I poked my head over the center wall to look at the fairway on the otherside and there on the deck was a kestrel. I lifted my bins up and could clearly see that there was a lack of markings on the upperparts. Bob flood, who was with me at the time further down the wall, came back when he saw me waving him to come over up to me. He had a look at it and immediately went to get his scope from his car while I kept a very close eye on the kestrel. After a few minutes, It flew off and landed on the nearby rocks on Carn Morvel. By the time BF had joined me, the kestrel had flown off towards Portloo where I lost it. I remember as though it was yesterday. I said to BF ‘I’ve never seen one before and I’m sticking my neck out here, but that’s a 1st summer male Lesser Kestrel!’ He did not say a word to me that he possibly had it a few weeks back. Now, you can believe what you want but many years later, BF brought a book out, as I said already above, the book ‘The Essential to the Birds of The Isle of Scilly’ and in it he has an account of the Lesser Kestrel with the title ‘The True Story of the Lesser Kestrel’ Apparently BF had it nearly a month before I found it. Now, if I had a Lesser Kestrel or a possible Lesser Kestrel, I would be letting every Tom, Dick and George know and Barry. Wouldn’t you do the same if you had a possible mege? I lost count of how many visiting birders came up to me in the Scillionian at the time where the book was being released for the first time and said ‘Have you read the account of your Lesser Kestrel in the book?’ I didn’t need to as I had already been put in the picture before by local birders in the context of what BF was getting at. If BF want’s to claim that he had the Lesser Kestrel nearly a month well before I had the kestrel, then it’s his. If he’s wants it that bad, he can have it. It’s pretty sad if you ask me. One thing I will say, the Lesser Kestrel arrived with 6 Eurasian Kestrel. Well on the day that I found it anyway! BF wrote his account of the Lesser Kestrel in the book knowing at the time that it would upset me. Why would anyone do that?? Especially when that person was there to share my find with me at the time. You make your own mind up what you want to believe but I know what many birders think at the time and still do. What ever you want to believe, 100s twitched it from the 13th-21st May when it commuted with the golf course and Penninis.
As for the Porth Hellick Down individual, I didn’t think it would hang around when I returned home to Scilly yesterday afternoon. It did stick and was seen that day. I took the chance and set off early this morning. I passed Porthcressa Beach and saw the overwintering Black Redstart and Great Northern Diver. There were also 2 Pied Wagtail and Linnets were arriving in off. It wasn’t until I reached Old Town Cafe that I met up with Higgo. We split up and he went off along the road to Porth Hellick and I took the coastal path. On the airfield there were 3 Golden Plover and between the latter sight and Giants Castle I counted 15+Wheatear. Giants Castle also produced a male Ring Ouzel and a single Black Redstart.
This Great Northern Diver showed very well close inshore off Porthcressa
There were up to 15 Wheatear between the golf course and Giants Castle
Also had this male Ring Ouzel at Giants Castle
At Porth Hellick, I was with Higgo again, who had a singing Willow Warbler, and we made our ways up to Porth Hellick Down. He stuck around the burial chamber while I went searching for Lesser Kestrel. I took a few steps from Higgo, because he had a funny smell coming from him, especially when he started doin star jumps, looked to my right and there was the adult male LESSER KESTREL hanging in the wind on the SE side of Porth Hellick Down. We got some reasonable views of it but before you knew it, it was over towards Deep Point. It returned but was hard to get on to as it zoomed from end of the down to the other until we lost it. Higgo decided to leave and I stayed put. I got the Short-eared Owl distantly over at Carn Friars and then I focused on the kestrel that was all over the shop again. I decided to stay stationary in one spot and I chose the burial chamber as this is where I’ve observed it twice perched on top. I was talking to Ren on me mobile, turned around and saw the kestrel coming in low. ‘Shite! I’ve got to go Ren’ It hit the deck at very close range and sat up on a rock for less than a minute before it was off again. What a cracking bird and I had made the right decision hanging out at the burial chamber.
I took this record shot of the Short-eared Owl all the way from Porth Hellick Down on the coastal path towards Carn Friars
The Adult male LESSER KESTREL sowing pretty good at the burial chamber
Joe Pender joined me back on the coastal path but the kestrel had disappeared. Jo told me that he had this Lesser Kestrel at the end of February but because of the date and he didn’t see it all that well, he kinda of passed it off as a Kestrel. I told Jo that the chamber is where to go if you want to get a good photo of it, although Joe had already done this with a flight shot he took at the beginning of March. There it was on top of the chamber and we thought it was off again only to see it return and perch on a post directly in front of us before flying off towards the west side of the down. Joe was very happy and he left after only being up on the down, maybe 15 minutes. I had been in the area for a few hours and I also moved off towards Carn Friars. Here I had it or another male Ring Ouzel and Black Redstart in one of the lower paddocks, 6 Sand Martin, followed by a brief view of the Short-eared Owl.
Higgo said to me earlier that you can never get close to this kestrel. Well with a face like yours mate, if I was a Lesser Kestrel, I would fly off 100 mile in the other direction! I thought I had it good earlier but Joe and I couldn’t believe our luck when this beauty came and perched on this post directly in front of us!
Male Ring Ouzel at Carn Friars
This Black Redstart in the same field as the ouzel was my third of the day
The sun came out and as the light had improved, I decided to return to the kestrel. It didn’t take long to relocate it but a call from Richie Aston found me back at Carn Friars. He had the Short-eared Owl out in the open on a vine post. It sat there in the sun before flying off towards the lower fields of Carn Friars. We then had a look at the kestrel but it turned cloudy again and we gave up. Richie went to the golf course and I started walking home. At the Standing Stones Field, Lower Moors, I flushed a Woodcock and also had a very pale Willow Warbler. Northern ‘tupe’ possibly? I had taken a large dinner out with me but boy was I hungry when I got home after having a cracking first day back on Scilly.
A call from Richie got me running for this Short-eared Owl and it was almost on the same post that Richie and I had the Tawny Owl last September at Carn Friars
What a difference it makes when the sun shines on the adult male Lesser Kestrel
I had this very pale Willow Warbler Northern ‘type’ possibly? Just before dark in the Standing Stomes Field
Yesterday afternoon, I took the chance of not twitching the Lesser Kestrel and instaed went for a walk around the west side of the Garrison where I had over 20 Wheatear