James Lowen 

For 90 minutes we cruised in ever-increasing circles, checking out diving gannets, loafing large shearwaters and alternative resting-point rocks. To no avail. While checking out dozy seals on rocks 2.5km east of the lighthouse, Duncan photographed said structure and thought he could discern a non-gull-like shape. The booby? he wondered. As we turned round for our final check, he took further photos - and this revealed that the Red-footed Booby was indeed back from its wandering! mile away. To marks, Duncan. And cheers all round. From the jaws of defeat, victory! 

Arriving into St Mary's harbour, we stepped onto the Mermaid, which transferred us to Bishop Rock lighthouse. There and back, we continued to pap Cory's in the hope that one might turn out to be a Scopoli's. Again, we were not so fortunate. The nearest I came was this Cory's (based on current identification features at least...) with white tongues on pp9/8/7 (but not, crucially, p10).


29 August 2023  Booby prize

Last week I did a naughty. This month has been dominated by family stuff (particularly taking my daughter to play cricket around the country), with intense periods of work in between. But as it became increasingly apparent that the UK's second Red-footed Booby (indeed, first switchable bird) had become settled atop the iconic Bishop Rock lighthouse, off the Isles of Scilly, so it became increasingly apparent that I simply had to carve out time to go and see it. Doing so was very difficult indeed. But nevertheless, I hatched a plot with kind thanks to Ian Wells and his friend Duncan, who gave me a lift between Hampshire and Penzance.

Now I don't do selfies very often, even less share them publicly, but this was special. Get in!

As we arrived at Bishop Rock, it was apparent that the Red-footed Booby had done a bunk. There were gulls atop the lighthouse, but nothing with a pointy beak.

In this climate-crisis-fuelled, El Niño-exacerbated year of exceptional seabirds, the transit aboard the MV Scillonian III was always going to be a highlight in itself. Twitchers crossing earlier in the week had seen Fea's Petrel and Scopoli's Shearwater (surely bird of the year, in a quirky way?). There was even a claim of Swinhoe's Storm-Petrel. We didn't manage anything so lofty, but seeing good numbers of Cory's Shearwater and a scattering of Great Shearwaters, plus fare such as European Storm-petrel and Grey Phalarope, Ocean Sunfish, and Risso's/Common/Bottlenose dolphins, we had enormous fun.