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Red-necked phalarope - a first for Scilly Pelagics

Even late in the season, you never quite know what you're going to bump in to in the seas around the Isles of Scilly. With only a handful of punters onboard, we enjoyed great views of grey phalarope, arctic skua, great skua and distant views of Sabine's gull.

By far the bird of the trip though, and arguably one of the best birds of the year (!), was identified by skipper Joe Pender. He noted that one of the phalaropes in a group of three had a markedly thinner and pointier bill, uniformly black (needle-like); a more slender neck and daintier build; and darker mantle than the two classic grey phalaropes alongside it. We had stumbled across a red-necked phalarope - one of only a handful of records for the Isles of Scilly.

The most recent sightings on Scilly of red-necked phalarope were in 2014 (a one-day bird on Tresco); 1997 (Crow Sound, St Mary's); and then before that a scattering of records between 1954 and 1989. It is thought that the few birds recorded on Scilly originate from populations in Greenland, Iceland and Fennoscandia.

The moment gave a great opportunity to capture some rare shots of red-necked and grey phalaropes in winter plumage side-by-side. And to grip off most of the local birders who have never seen a red-necked phalarope on Scilly!

All images (c) Joe Pender

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