The Last Day. 15th October 1987

Okay time to wind this up and jump to our last day on Scilly.

The morning of our departure from the Fortunate Isles came and Rob and I set out early. The two of us would always set out early together simply because we were both equally scared of the other one finding something, this still happens now!  As we set out past the Porthcressa taking a quick look at the   sightings board, a cry went up "Hermit Thrush on Agnes." As the rest of the house were still sleeping we thought it only fair to go and wake them with this piece of joyous news.  I ran into the house and screamed "Hermit Thrush Aggy." The general response was "ha ha nice try." The problem was that during our stay it had become the norm to wake the house with an amusing hoax e.g. Nighthawk on the Garrison etc etc etc..  This was funny for about five minutes and was now painfully backfiring. After several attempts I finally got the house to believe us. Everybody shot out of bed and out of the house heading for the quay.  As we came out of the junction with the main street (by the newsagents) James ran into the road and into the path of a moving Mini Metro, hitting the ground with a sickening thud. Everything seemed to stop. The old woman driver looked traumatised presumably thinking she'd just been involved in Scillies first fatal RTA. A few things flashed through my mind 1. How was I going to explain to James' mum and dad about how their son had met his fate and 2. Could we still make the boat in time to get across to Agnes? At that point James jumped up and carried on running.* leaving the poor old woman shocked and bemused.

*A short time after returning home it transpired that James had broken his collar bone!

We arrived on Agnes and joined the assembled crowd. The bird was no where to be seen since disappearing into thick cover. This twitch would become famous in birding folklore when the bird appeared the following day directly behind where the line of patiently waiting birders had been the previous afternoon. Presumably this was where it had been all the time, just sat there flicking a feathery finger at the gathered mass.

Photo Courtesy of Neil Morris
We left it as late as we could possibly afford to and only had a couple of hours to get our returning chopper. Arriving at the quay we suddenly became aware that there were no available boats. Luckily a small boat belonging the the island doctor was preparing to leave. We begged the doctor and his pilot to take us back to Agnes (had we known James' bust collar bone would have come in useful at this point.) Eventually they agreed.

The previous day a  Parula had been found in Nanquidno Valley, Cornwall. That evening we were offered money for our flights from a couple of Leicester birders but we smugly refused knowing that a Parula at the end of our trip truly would have been the icing on the cake.

Making it back in time we headed back to the mainland.

After scraping enough money together (we were desperately low on funds by now) to get the car out of the Heliport car park we headed towards St Just.  We had a good couple of hours of daylight left, surely this would be enough. With only a couple of miles to go disaster struck, or to be more accurate we struck a Leyland Allegro. To be fair to Rob I rather suspect the doddery old bugger was equally in the wrong. Despite this he insisted on calling the Police asking us on more than one occasion if we had been drinking? We hadn't.  Eventually the local plod arrived. It was obvious how this was going to work out 4 youths in a 2 litre Sierra against an old couple with a dented Allegro and worst of all a broken Thermos.  Sadly the delay cost us the Parula but failed to put a dampener on the trip.  With a bust headlight and a double dip we headed home happy.

I don't remember everyone who was in that house during that classic week but those that I do remember are Fred Fearn, (Mad) Garry, Paul Derbyshire, Marcus Lawson and the late Martin Gilbert. The four of us and the aforementioned (though sadly not Martin) are all still actively birding.

After reading this Jo asked me how I remembered all the details from 25 years ago? Well when a trip is as memorable as this one you just don't forget it...

1 comment:

Alan Whitehead said...

Great account and photo!