A trip to Bryher – landscapes and birds

Went to Bryher yesterday – it is such a beautiful and rugged island – here are a few pictures.

This is Shipman Head at the north end of the island

And this is Hell Bay – it takes the full unimpeded force of a westerly gale

Thift flowering beside Popplestone Bay

A maze beside Popplestone Bay

Rock sculture

Steve enjoying the view and snapping a few shots

There was a flock of four Dunlin on the Pool

They were very tame which implies they hadn’t seen people before

Birds from the wilderness

Smart bird in summer plumage

A whimbrel amongst the thrift

On its way to breed in the far north on the tundra

A stonechat

A smart male

Wrens are perhaps the commonest bird on the Islands

Bryher is well worth a visit – you won’t be disappointed.








A day on Bryher

We spent the day on Bryher yesterday – it’s an island which is really growing on me.

The view from Shipman Head Down looking west

shipmans-headLooking north to Shipman Head

Across to Bishop Rock

Rushy Bay

There were quite a few stonechats on Bryher including this attractive male

And a flock to six snow buntings on Shipman Head Down including this female in autumn plumage

ring-ouzelWe saw at least two ring ouzels – they were very flighty and this is the nearest I could get to any of them

A grey heron feeding among the seaweed

Bryher has undergone a lot of agricultural change in the years that I have known it – it has been described by my supervisor Professor Michael Winter as a ‘post agricultural landscape’. In due course I will write a short piece about agricultural change and the future for farming on Scilly.

Sea kayaking in the Isles of Scilly – the maps of where we went

Back home now in Exeter after the Scilly Expedition. Two loads of highly ‘scented’ washing done; tent, inflatable mat and sleeping back drying and airing; Trangia washed in hot water to remove the smell of not so fresh mackerel; wetsuit, jacket and flotation aid washed and dripping and electrical devices and gizmos charging – nearly there. Time to fire up my NutriBullet to make a smoothie to replace my diet of burgers, bacon and beer. I have managed to get the trip traces off my Garmin and they give a good indication of what we got up to last week.

Tresco map
Here is part of the route we took on Wednesday (here is my blog from that day – here). It only shows the second half as our departure from St Mary’s in the morning was a little stressful. We were about to leave on our first proper ‘crossing’ to Samson when a squall blew up and turned the glassy still harbour into a nasty chop – we aborted but the squall disappeared as quickly as it had come and the order was given to go. Everyone was still reeling from there chop and it became a white knuckle paddle to Samson (that might just have been me) – as a result I forgot to turn on the GPS. We did make it across to Samson (at least its exposed sandbanks) and then we headed up the east coast of Bryher to land and lunch near Anna Quay.

Sea kayaks on Bryher

We then set off to look at Cromwell’s Castle (when I remembered to turn the Garmin on) and then up to Shipman Head and then back down to Appletree Bay by Carn Near. By this point the weather was approaching a Force 4-5 and we cancelled the proposed crossing back to Mary’s and got a lift back on the speedboat Endeavour.

St Martins Map
Next morning we were Endeavoured back out to Carn Near and set off to St Martin’s – we stopped on a beach at low tide near Old Grimsby (the hook on the trace) and then crossed the channel to St Martins. (Blog from Thursday is here)

Kayaks on the Martin's beach

We stopped near Lower Town for lunch and went for various walks including a trip to the Seven Stones before heading back to St Mary’s. You can see a kink to the south east half way across the Roads – this is when we saw the Scillonian heading our way ….

Eastern Isles Map
Friday saw us visiting the Eastern Isles – our first stop was a Bar Point where some of us went for a walk up to see the Bronze Burial Chamber at Innisidgen – then around the Eastern Isles and lunch on the sandbar south west of Nornour called Ganilly  Bar. (Friday’s Eastern Isles blog here)

In the Eastern Isles

Saw the Scillonian again on the way back but this time it headed west.

St Mary's map
On our final day we went around St Mary’s (anti-clockwise). (Saturday’s blog here). Passing the point on the south side of the Garrison saw some really ugly water which was a challenge to paddle through – we all made it and then stopped at Old Town Bay – walked up the beach to the Old Town Cafe for a tea but it was closed (on a Saturday in the high season – really?) – instead some of us then popped into the Old Town cemetery to look at Harold Wilson’s grave (again the trace clearly shows this). Onwards and around the south and eastern sides of the Island before stopping for lunch near at Little Porth, finally back around to the harbour.


What a brilliant week – one of my best ever. You can see a selection of my photos from the holiday here on my Flickr account .

Shaun and AdrianHuge thanks go to our leader Shaun from Sea Kayaking Cornwall  along with his oft repeated quote “sea kayaking is an assumed danger activity”.

MarkAnd his ‘wingman’ Mark along with his question “All good Adrian?” to which the answer was always yes irrespective of the sea conditions.

So has this inspired you to go sea kayaking? If it hasn’t I don’t think anything will! Sea Kayaking Cornwall offer courses and Expeditions for all levels of ability from Beginner through to Advanced. I went on their Intromediate Expedition – see here. I have paddled a bit on the Dart, the Exeter Canal, the Exe, on Windermere, off the Norfolk coast, the Northumberland coast, around Stockpole, Scilly and Exmouth and I have done my 1* and 2* courses with the Exeter Canoe Club but I haven’t done a huge around and before this expedition I had always been pretty timid. After an infamous expedition down the Dart a few years ago I coined the expression “Someone’s going to die” after a series of capsizes which three totally inexperienced kayakers attempted (successfully) to rescue another topple prone paddler. I now feel so much more qualified and confident to explore. I will also be going on other Sea Kayaking Cornwall courses and expeditions in due course – can’t recommend them enough.

Kayak2On the Exe at Topsham

Find your level and give it a go.

One of my best days on Scilly

What a great day – after two days of rain and wind today the sun came out. We still had a stiff westerly wind but it doesn’t stop us all getting out for a decent paddle. We set off from St Mary’s and headed over to Samson. It was quite a lumpy crossing and the wind meant my boat kept getting blown off course.

Arrival on Sampson
We got there though – so chuffed – it was really low tide so there was acres of sand around the island.

Onto Bryher
From Samson we headed onwards to Bryher.

Passing TrescoPassing Tresco

Sea kayaks on BryherWe landed next to Anna Quay for lunch in the sunshine

SeanOur Expedition leader Shawn from Sea Kayaking Cornwall chilling

FootprintGreat footprint on the beach – summer freedom

Garden TigerWildlife highlight of the day was finding this Garden Tiger on the door of the Bryher Gig Shed. A rare animal now – has declined by over 80% in the last few decades – I haven’t  seen an adult for 10 years!

AgapanthusGlorious flowers in the sunshine – an Agapanthus

Cromwell's CastleOnwards up the Channel to Cromwell’s Castle

Round Island LighthouseAt the end of the Tresco Channel you can look across to Round Island and its Lighthouse.

Achieved a lot of things I haven’t done before today – one of my best days ever on Scilly.

Scilly scenes

Scilly has been beautiful in the sunshine over the last few days – it’s amazing to think that Devon and Cornwall have had rain, sleet and snow.

Bryher 1
This is the view from Shipman Head Down on Bryher

Bryher 2
This is Popplestone Neck at low tide on Bryher

Gugh Bar
On Wingletang on St Agnes looking up to the sand bar and over to Gugh

Nag's HeadLooking up to the Nag’s Head on St Agnes

Granite outcrops on Wingletang on St Agnes

Porth Killier
Porth Killier on St Agnes

The Bishop
Over to the Bishop Lighthouse

Santa Warna
Santa Warna on St Agnes

Queen Victoria - Gugh
Queen Victoria Rock off Gugh

Men a vaur
Man a vaur in the Northern Isles

Hugh Town
The view of St Mary’s harbour from the golf course

Snowy Owl on Bryher

Went over to Bryher in search of a Snowy Owl. This individual animal was first recorded a couple of weeks ago in West Cornwall near St Just on the Land’s End peninsula. It is thought to have then flown over to the Isles of Scilly around a week ago.

Snowy owl 2
Despite it being a pretty cool day there was quite a haze up on Shipman Down which unfortunately means that the photos are not that great – nevertheless this is an amazingly impressive bird.

Snowy owl 3
Settled behind a rock

Snowy owl 4
The bird flew to a new part of the Downs

Snowy owl 1
Snowy owls are very big birds – they stand at a height of 2 feet and have a wing span larger than that of a buzzard. They normally live in the Arctic and feed on mountain hares and lemmings. On Scilly this individual should find plenty of rats on Bryher to eat. Will be interesting to see how long it stays for.

Short (shaky) video – amazing rotation of its head.

First time I have ever seen a Snowy Owl – happy days.


A day on Bryher

Bryher is a special place and yesterday we spent the day walking around the south end of the island.

If you climb to the top of some of the hills you get the most amazing  views

Hell Bay Hotel and beyond

The Pool

From the top of Sampson Hill you get a great view of Sampson

Across to Tresco

Came across this very confiding kestrel







Blue heron – my photos of a new bird for Britain!

I am on holiday for a few days on the Isles of Scilly and very fortunately this coincides with the first record in the UK of a blue heron – a bird from from North America. As a result I whizzed off the Scillonian ferry to Bryher on a tripper boat. Here are some pictures I took of the bird on the Great Pool on Bryher.

If you are into ‘life lists / twitching’ – this is a big bird! My only other ‘first’ for the UK was the ‘long billed murrelet at Dawlish a few years ago.

UPDATE: I believed the Western Morning News which reported this species as new to Britain – in fact it is the second record. Amazingly the first record (7th December 2007) and this record were both found by the same person on the Isles of Scilly.

Blue Heron 4

Blue Heron 7

Blue Heron 6

Blue Heron 1

Blue Heron 7

Blue Heron 3