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Birder Special Pelagics

Pelagic trips for birders off Scilly have been available since the mid-1990s and the August Birder Special Pelagic schedule is now an established fixture in the British birding calendar. Not long ago Wilson’s Storm-petrel was considered a Holy Grail species for British birders. We discovered that it is in fact a scarce but regular visitor to Scillonian waters (see articles under Research). We also found that much sought-after seabirds such as Cory’s and Great Shearwaters can be found at sea off Scilly, and observed and photographed at very close range. As a result, more and more birders visit the fortunate islands in August to witness these and other fabulous seabirds and marine wildlife.

Scilly Pelagics was formally launched in 2006 to cater for the ever-growing interest in seabirds and other ocean wildlife regularly found in Scillonian waters. The concept of Scilly Pelagics is a long weekend – Friday to Monday inclusive – with daily cruises onto the ocean to maximise the chances of seeing and photographing as many of the specialities as possible. For this reason, we recommend (if possible) that participants join a full-weekend of pelagic trips.

The weekend begins with a trip on Friday evening 5 pm to 10 pm. We often use this first evening trip to have a shot at Wilson’s Storm-petrel and to enjoy European Storm-petrels as they return to their colonies in the islands. Of course, the trips can and do attract other types of seabird including the large shearwaters. The Saturday trip runs from 11 am to about 6 pm. Daytime trips are longer and give the opportunity to explore Scillonian waters more widely, visiting sea features like reefs, looking for trawlers that attract seabirds, and tracking down dolphin or tuna feeding frenzies that act as a magnet to nearby seabirds and other wildlife. We may drift for Wilson’s Storm-petrel, depending on success on the Friday evening and seabird action found on the Saturday. The Sunday trip starts earlier at 8 am and returns by 3 pm in good time for the ferry sailing Scilly to Penzance. Activities on the Sunday are shaped by the results of the Friday and Saturday pelagic trips. We will drift for Wilson’s on Saturday, or Sunday, or both days. The long weekend rounds off with a Monday evening trip 5 pm to 10 pm that usually involves trying for Wilson’s Storm-petrel and checking out notable seabird activity.

The Scilly Isles are found 29 miles west of Land’s End, England, in the Soutwestern Approaches of the Atlantic Ocean. Thus, we are at sea shortly after departing St Mary’s Quay and our pelagic trips are soon amongst seabirds and other ocean wildlife. Our many years of experience ensure that we visit the best places for seabirding on any particular day. Undersea features are found near Scilly at Poll Bank three miles southwest of Bishop Rock and at Seven Stones Reef nine miles northeast of St Martin’s. Reefs generate an upwelling that brings nutrients and food items to the surface, which benefits seabirds and other sea creatures. Poll Bank and Seven Stones reefs are magnets for seabirds and prime locations for our pelagic trips. In addition, we search out trawlers, and dolphin and tuna feeding frenzies, and when found spend time investigating and observing the seabirds and other wildlife that they draw in.

August 2020 schedule

Weekend 1

Friday 7th, Saturday 8th, Sunday 9th: Oriole Birding private weekend charter (contact Oriole Birding directly www.oriolebirding.com)

Monday 10th               5 pm to 10 pm (£35)

Weekend 2

Friday 14th                 5 pm to 10 pm (£35)

Saturday 15th              9 am to 4 pm (£75)

Sunday 16th                8 am to 3 pm (£75)

Monday 17th              5 pm to 10 pm (£35)

Weekend 3

Friday 21st                 5 pm to 10 pm (£35)

Saturday 22nd              9 am to 4 pm (£75)

Sunday 23rd                8 am to 3 pm (£75)

Monday 24th              5 pm to 10 pm (£35)

Weekend 4

Friday 28th                 5 pm to 10 pm (£35)

Saturday 29th              9 am to 4 pm (£75)

Sunday 30th                8 am to 3 pm (£75)

Monday 31st              5 pm to 10 pm (£35)

Always arrive 15 minutes before the scheduled departure time.

History of Wilson's Storm-petrel off Britain

The following article provides a detailed insight in to how this once 'legendary mega' tubenose became an achievable target in British waters.

Preparing for your pelagic

Correct preparation for your time in Scilly and at sea will ensure that you get the absolute most out of your Scilly Pelagic experience. The link below will take you to a printable document which covers all you need to know for your time with us, including clothing and optics recommendations, and Isles of Scilly travel and accommodation information.

Scilly Pelagics Team

Bob Flood

Leading Seabird Ornithologist and Scilly Pelagics Founder

Joe Pender

MV Sapphire Skipper and Experienced Seabirder

John Higginson

Experienced Seabirder

Jim Askins

Experienced Seabirder

Scott Reid

Experienced Seabirder and scillypelagics.com Webmaster

Paul Whittaker

Shark Expert and Tagger