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  • Writer's pictureKevin Hall

Why our favourite colour is suddenly indigo?

Dr Rob Lambert of the University of Nottingham, Education Officer of ISBG and friend of Crebinick House reflects on autumn bird migration on the Isles of Scilly.

For keen birders, autumn on Scilly is a must, a part of the rhythm of the ornithological year, a heady mix of East meets West, a gathering of the tribe, people, place and rare birds. The autumn ‘Scilly Season’ in the 1970s used to be across September and primarily focused on St. Agnes around the now defunct Bird Observatory there. Across the 1980s the season moved to October and deposited, at its peak, around 1500 visiting birders to the archipelago, mainly on St. Mary’s. It was an invading ornithological army, but much welcomed as an extension to the tourism season. Great friendships were formed that have stood the test of time. An annual football match was played on The Garrison field, Birders v Islanders. By the late 1990s the numbers of birders had dropped away to under 900, and now around 400 come in an extended autumn birding season that covers September to November. Of course, the megas, rarities and scarce migrants have always turned up. Scilly is uniquely placed geographically to capture ‘Yanks’ swept across the Atlantic by powerful fast-moving storms and a favourable jet stream, ‘Sibes’ that come over the top around high pressures or filter down through Britain from initial landfall on the East Coast on Easterlies, and even Northerlies can bring some birdy solace like geese, ducks, redpolls and Arctic buntings. You just never know on Scilly. Therein lies the excitement. You can be guaranteed yellow-browed warblers, a rare pipit and bunting or two, the odd scare wader on Porth Hellick or the Great Pool, an AGP at the airport or on Castle Down, black redstarts galore. For a splash of lemony bright sprite imagine pallas’s warbler flicking through garden hedges and window boxes in Hugh Town. Autumn 2020 brought colour overload: the deep red eyes of a vireo; the subtle buff of an American pipit; yellow legs that seemed to go on forever; an electric blue tail illuminating a gale-shaped Rivendell glade; a black-and-white warbler that looked like Alan Shearer in his Toon days in home kit; and a touch of indigo, a third for Britain, in American bunting form. Right there, in front of us all. It was reverential. And I’m colour blind!

Kevin and Kelly at Crebinick House are wired into the birding and wildlife scene on Scilly, and thus have privileged access to rare bird information and keen local birders. Use Crebinick House as a launch pad for your October Scilly twitching adventures.

For more information visit the Isles of Scilly Bird Group (ISBG) website:

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