The Isles of Scilly which lie 28 miles off the coast of Cornwall and consist of 5 inhabited islands and around 140 rocky islets are one of the best places in Europe to spot rare breeds as they migrate. The Islands are the first and last landfall for thousands of miles and over 400 different species of bird have been spotted here, which is more than any other single site in Europe.
The best time to visit the Isles of Scilly to see rare and scarce migrant birds is in October, but whenever you choose to visit the islands there are a huge variety of birdlife to see.
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The Isles of Scilly is famous for the richness and diversity of its bird life, the most adorable is the comical puffin. Puffins arrive in late March and their main breeding ground is the small uninhabited island of Annet, the single egg is laid either at the end of a tunnel under the cliff top turf or in a cavity among loose boulders.
The best time to see puffins is June and early July when the parent birds are flying to and from the nest with beaks full of fish feeding the young. By the end of July, the adult puffins have left for the open sea, the young puffins soon follow. Annet is also home to Manx shearwaters, storm petrels, herring, lesser black-backed and the much larger great black-backed gulls. Annet is closed to visitors all year round but boat trips are available around the island to see the birds. The Norrad Rocks of Illiswilgig, Castle Bryher and Mincarlo are also home to breeding pairs of guillemots, razorbills, puffins and cormorants.
As well as Auks, four types of Gull breed on the islands, the smallest of these being the Kittiwake who nest on the rocks of Men-a-vaur, St Helen’s and the cliffs of Tresco. There are large and diverse group of wading birds on the Isles of Scilly, Oystercatchers are amongst the most common of the wading birds, with their unmistakable red bill and lovely call, – a long peep. Oystercatchers and the Ringed Plover live on the islands all year round, while the visiting waders breed in the Arctic tundras and may come from as far away as Iceland or Greenland.
Herons and Little Egrets are regular visitors to the Islands and around the Great Pool on Tresco there are bird hides where you can watch out for visiting birds. Throughout the year there are boat trips around the islands to see the seabirds, with commentary by a local bird expert, including evening trips to see the return of the puffins and Manx shearwaters to Annet after a day fishing at sea.