BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

17 September 2014
Accessibility help
Nature's Calendar

BBC Homepage

BBC 2 Logo

Contact Us

Migration - Isles of Scilly

Isles of Scilly

In the summer, people visit the Isles of Scilly to enjoy the unspoilt sandy beaches and clear blue seas.

But autumn is an equally good time to visit the islands for a stunning wildlife experience including some great bird watching.

Stunning islands - Isles of Scilly.

Beach c/o isles of Scilly TourismThe Isles of Scillly are an archipelago of some 150 islands and rocks, lying 28 miles south west of Cornwall.

The climate sets the islands apart from mainland Britain and dictates the landscape and wildlife.

The air is unusually humid, thanks to the Atlantic Ocean and very pure, due to a lack of airborne pollution.

Furthermore, the islands enjoy plentiful sunshine.

Consequently, the landscape is home to a tremendous variety of rare plant and flower species, many not seen on the UK mainland.

Wildlife in turn flourishes, with many important bird species able to colonise in safety.

Over half the land area is designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest, the whole area is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Humid climate

Tresco c/o Isles of Scilly TourismTwo thousand people live on the five inhabited islands that make up the Isles of Scilly.

St Mary's is the largest and boasts a variety of landscapes ranging from woodlands, heaths and wetlands to rocky headlands and sand dunes.

The islands' humid climate is a result of being close to the warm Gulf Stream, which means that they are home to a huge variety of rare plants and flowers not seen on the UK's mainland.

The Scillies are the first landfall for many migratory birds, with a mild climate influenced by the warm waters of the Transatlantic drift emanating from the Gulf Stream.

The islands' isolation means that there are few mammals and no snakes, making it home to some great birds, unique animals and an incredible mixture of native and exotic plants.

Flower power

Tresco flowerOne of the best places to see the Scilly's amazing plant life is the subtropical Abbey Gardens at Tresco, which benefit from the influence of the warm Gulf Stream and the lack of frosts.

Described as "a perennial Kew without the glass", the gardens host 20,000 exotic plants from 80 countries, ranging from Brazil to New Zealand and Burma to South Africa.

The gardens were founded by plant collector and botanist Augustus Smith in 1834 on a site adjacent to St Nicholas Priory which had fallen into disrepair in the sixteenth century.

Today the garden boasts rare palms, cacti, succulents and exotic plants from Brazil to Burma, and Chile to the Canaries, which can be seen nowhere else in Britain.

Autumn invasion

Red eyed VireoThe Scillies' position out in the sea, means they are often the first bit of land for an exhausted bird that has been blown hundreds even thousands of miles in the wrong direction.

In October, when the sun seeking tourists have left, there is another invasion.

In the autumn migration is in full swing as birds head for warmer climates.

Birders from all over the UK flock here hoping to see bird species they have never seen before.

The Isles of Scilly are a hot spot for rarities including birds from America, Canada, the Mediterranean and Russia.

Some 570 different species of birds have been recorded and it's a popular spot for birders.

Try some birding for yourself and see if you can spot something truly rare and exceptional!

Clear waters

Isles of Scilly c/o Toursim BoardThe Islands support a population of around 250 seals, and the Eastern Isles on the edge of the archipelago are a favourite location for basking Grey Seals.

The islands are also renowned for their clear waters, which make snorkelling a popular activity.

Once underwater snorkellers can swim through giant forests of large brown seaweed or kelp, which provide food for marine animals such as sea urchins, mussels and limpets.

Photo credits

Tresco and island photos copyright of Isles of Scilly Tourism.



Watch and Listen

Audio and Video links from this page require Realplayer

Today's clip:

Seal safari

Nature's Calendar
On the rest of the web


Activities (Image: Red Squirrel)

Mark your Nature Calendar

Discover autumn activities. It's a great season for nature watching before winter's chill sets in.

Breathing Spaces

Make a difference for people & wildlife in your neighbourhood.

back to top ˆ

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy