Sunday, 18 February 2018

16th February, Back Home

We decided to head back home today. It was always either going to be today or Saturday and whilst the forecast was for nice sunny weather today, somehow the two days lost to poor weather had taken their toll and I just wanted to go home. As we packed (which always seems to take far longer than it should) I spotted a couple of Chough feeding in the horse paddock. One was ringed but the other appeared to be unringed, perhaps the result of successful breeding last year.

Our journey back was uneventful apart from a report from P&H of a White-billed Diver and a (the) Pacific Diver both on view at Mousehole from the Rock Pool Café car park. I was most gripped as I needed White-billed for Cornwall still. Still, there's nothing that one can do apart from to be philosophical about it all. One day!

15th February, Newlyn & Hayle

No posts for a couple of days because of stormy conditions. Strong south westerly winds, often with rain, kept us house-bound for much of the two days though we did manage a trip over to the museum café at Geevor one day. The highlight on the birding front was watching all the birds working over the waterlogged horse paddock next to us to feed on the worms as they came up to the surface to escape the water.

Today however, the wind had abated and there was even some sunshine. It was still a breezy westerly so we decided to head over the hill to PZ and to walk along the sea front from Jubliee Pool to Newlyn, a walk that we'd not done before. We were lucky enough to find a parking space right on the main road at the start of our walk and whilst it was still a bit breezy it was pleasant enough. With the tide out there was not much to see apart from the usual Little Egrets feeding on the rock pools and some loafing gulls. 

Once in Newlyn it was noticeable how much more sheltered it was. My VLW and our son popped into Warrens for some sort of pastry lunch (sausage rolls rather than pasties today) whilst I (thanks to my wheat intolerance) had to content myself with a packed sandwich that I'd brought along. We parted ways here, the other two to explore the shops whilst I searched the harbour for gulls. I soon found the juvenile Iceland Gull loafing on the shoreline. It would occasionally stir from its slumbers long enough for me to take a photo or two.

I managed to find the female type Black Redstart at the back of the harbour car park and was lucky enough to get a nice photo of it as it briefly perched on a bin.

I met up with the others from the part and we worked our way around the harbour, exploring the old stone quayside and then onwards to Sandy Cover. Here I met with PF who was taking a couple of people on a local birding tour. I managed to spot one of the resident Water Rails in the copse and out on the sea there was a Great Northern Diver. On our way back towards the car I managed to spot the juvenile Glaucous Gull flying around the harbour, thereby completing the white-winged harbour set.

Back at the car there was some debate as to what to do but in the end we decided to head over to Hayle. We parked up by the causeway and the other two then walked toward the town to do some shopping whilst I birded the Saltings and Ryan's Field. There were plenty of birds around and the tide was on the way in so they were all reasonably close but nothing of particular note in either location.

Ryan's Field Redshank
I checked in on the others who still had stuff to do so I then headed around to the Copperhouse Creek area to see what I could find but apart from a Greenshank it was the same birds.

Copperhouse waders
I then went to pick up the other party and we headed back to the cottage for the evening.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

12th February, Pendeen, Newlyn & Mousehole

With no particular reason to get up early we had a bit of a lie-in this morning and over a cup of tea in bed my VLW and I put the world to rights. Then it was time to take stock of what needed doing in the cottage (which thankfully wasn't too much) before I headed out for a wander down to the lighthouse. It was the usual stuff: a single Raven, a couple of Chough in amongst the Jackdaws and a flock of Linnets in the horse paddock. Down by the cliffs it was nice to see that the Fulmars were already back and investigating various rock ledges for prospective nests. I always check the garden at the Old Count House down next to the lighthouse car park: I have this dream of finding something like an Yank thrush of some kid there one day but it was just a Song Thrush today. I scoured the lighthouse building carefully for Black Redstarts but couldn't see any. On the sea it was just Gannets and Fulmars with just the occasional Auk flying through.

Not the rare thrush of my dreams today

In the afternoon we decided to head over the hill towards PZ where my VLW and our son wanted to do some shopping. So I dropped them off and headed on to Newlyn to look at the gulls. However, they seemed to be doing some building work there so it wasn't possible to walk along the quayside like I usually do and in the end I headed along the road to view from the old stone quay instead. However, I couldn't see any white-wingers and eventually I headed back to the car to pick up the others.

"You looking at me?" - a thuggish Great Black-backed

One of the cute clockwork Turnstones that are always running around the quayside at this time of year
As it was time for tea, we decided to head along the coast road to Mousehole to the Rock Pool Café. Unfortunately they didn't have their usual gluten-free cake selection so in the end I settle for a hot chocolate with added lardiness. Whilst the other two lingered I headed back out to the car par where I spotted a birder huddled under the shelter of the wall scoping St. Clements Island. It was gull guru ME who'd been there for some time watching the various white-wingers coming and going so I settled down to join him. He picked out a juvenile Glaucous Gull on the island as well as a possible Smithy though he said that you were never going to be able to see enough to nail it down at this distance.

A rubbish video-grab of the juv. Glauc
When the rest of the family came out I bade ME farewell and we headed back to the cottage via Sainsbury's to off-load some recycling that our eldest daughter had helpfully left behind last year from when she'd been down with her friends. Back at the cottage with a storm forecast for that night, we battened down the hatches and settled in for the evening, trying to keep warm as the wind whistled around the cottage.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

11th February, Back Down (Finally!)

Regular readers may have noticed a distinct lack of posts for quite some time. Indeed there was no sign of my usual October visit which is normally the highlight of my Cornish birding year. The reason for this was because of the unusually poor birding autumn that we had nationally last year. I suppose that it has to balance out the fantastic autumn of 2016 where we had constant easterly winds all autumn channelling all those lovely Siberian Accentors and other eastern goodies our way and after that feast had to come some famine. Whatever the reason, it was prevailing south westerlies all autumn last year and whilst I'd blocked off the whole of the month for myself at the cottage, as I followed things from afar there was never any moment where I was at all tempted to come down. So it's not until now that we've finally made it down for our traditional February half term visit to the cottage to see how it's survived the winter so far.

Given the time of year (and the distinct lack of anything tempting on the bird front) there was no urgency to our coming down this week so we did some leisurely packing on Saturday and then on Sunday morning at some time after 10 we set off, stopping first to pick up lunch (which we'd forgotten to make before setting off) and then for petrol. Having been scouring the CBWPS web-site in the week leading up to our departure my interest had been piqued by a couple of reports of Marsh Tits at somewhere called Cardinham Wood (which I'd never heard of until then). The reason for this interest was that this was a bird that embarrassingly I still needed for my Cornish list. Actually, it's not so surprising as they're not to be found at all on the Penwith peninsular with College Reservoir probably being the closest location. It's one of those species which I knew that I would catch up with eventually but hitherto had not actually got around to it. A quick bit of research showed that Cardinham Wood was actually just a few minutes off our route along the A30 and with the promise of a cup of tea in it, my VLW didn't take much persuading. It turned out to be incredibly busy there: indeed there were so many dog walkers around that we did wonder if we'd inadvertently stumbled into some doggy convention of some kind. We eventually found somewhere to park and whilst my VLW and our son L went off to get the hot drinks in, I soon located the feeders which were right next to the café. A large number of Siskins were camped out there and Coal Tits and the occasional Blue Tit were also regularly visiting. It wasn't long before I saw my Marsh Tit though it seemed to prefer not to linger on the feeders at all but would do a "hit and run" before eating its food in a nearby tree so try as I might I wasn't able to get a decent photo at all. Apart from that there was a Grey Wagtail and some Chaffinches feeding on the dropped seed under the feeders but that was about it.

This was the best I could manage with the Marsh Tit...

...whereas the Siskins were much more obliging
The rest of the journey was uneventful and at around 4 we arrived for our customary Sainsbury's shop before heading off to boot up the cottage. It was incredibly windy on the north coast and the cottage heating system took some time to coax into life but eventually it was up and running and we settled in for the night.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Saturday 12th August - Pendeen & Back Home

Today we were leaving but as our cleaner wasn't able to do the change-over today we'd said that we would do it. So instead of having to leave first thing we were able to take things at a more leisurely pace. After packing up all our things I started to pack the car whilst the rest of the team worked on cleaning the house. All this cleaning took quite some time and I did have time for a brief walk along the cliffs where I came across a charming family of freshly-fledged Stonechats looking very cute atop the heather and gorse.

Young Stonechats
Mid afternoon, and finally we'd cleaned the cottage and had managed somehow to pack my VLW's new cupboard into the car along with all our other stuff though the children all had quite a few bags around their feet. We headed up to Pendeen first to drop off the last of the recycling, then to Sainsbury's to fill up with petrol before starting our journey homewards. We were hoping that this late departure time would result in a trouble-free journey as it had on the way down and fortunately this seemed to be the case with no traffic issues to blight our way northwards. We arrived back mid evening to be reunited with our two cats who were very pleased to see us.

Friday 11th August - Porthgwarra

At the start of the week the wind for today had been forecast to be a quite strong south westerly though by Thursday evening it was a much more moderate forecast, for the morning at least, though predicted to increase in the afternoon. With a bit of rain thrown into the forecast as well, we'd decided as a family that the rest of the gang would head of to St. Ives for the day for a spot of shopping whilst I would have the day free for some sea watching. A whole day of sea watching was quite a novelty for me though it a shame that the weather was distinctly mediocre on that front. Still, at around 10 a.m. I dropped the rest of the team off at the bus stop in Pendeen and headed off on the half hour journey down to PG. I parked up, bought my "all day" parking ticket from the café along with a tea "to go" and headed along the coastal path to Hella Point, wondering if there would be anyone else there. As it turned out there were about ten or so people there, including P&H, MW & TM so it was quite a sociable affair. I spent a fair bit of time nattering with P&H whom I'd not seen for a while - it was good to catch up on all the local news. 

Betony is very much the fleur du jour at the moment, with lots of it brightening
 up the coast and roadside banks all over the place
The sea watching itself was actually far better than I'd feared: visibility was good, and whilst the wind was very moderate there were enough interesting birds to keep boredom at bay. Sooties were the order of the day and we must have had a good couple of dozen during the day, with plenty of Stormies as well. Occasionally a large shear would be picked out though they all turned out to be Greats today. There was also one Bonxie, an Ocean Sun Fish and the odd Balearic in what was a very pleasant albeit rather low key session. More than once during the watch I thanked the stars for the presence of the Runnel Stone which was such a good marker that however incompetent I was at getting on other people's birds, I'd always be able to make amends when the buoy was reached. I kept hoping that one of the Stormies would turn out to be a Wilson's though sadly it was not to be. On that subject though, during our discussions some of the locals helpfully gave me pointers as to how to tell the difference between them on jizz which was very useful. I was told that "Stormies always look like they're in a great panic when they fly" (which is very true), whereas Wilson's look much more calm and in control as well as doing a lot of gliding and pattering on the water (when feeding). So at least now I know and going forward I should be able to pick it out if one should fly past me in the future.

By mid afternoon a mist started to come in and the visibility got very poor so with time marching on I took this as my cue to leave and headed back to the car. On the way back home I got a call from the St. Ives party saying that they were on the bus back but as they'd bought a large item (a small cupboard that my VLW had been looking for for a long time) could I come and pick them up. We rendezvous'd at the Pendeen stores and headed back to the cottage. By all accounts the other party had enjoyed a good time as well so it had been a successful day.

We were due to leave the next day so after dinner we started to clear up and pack up before turning in for the night.

Thursday 10th August: Marazion to Perranuthnoe

Today, with some nice weather forecast with just a gentle breeze, we decided to spend the morning working on our DIY. I therefore spent the morning leaning out of a window and gingerly walking on the roof painting the seaward wall of the cottage whilst my VLW carried on with her windows and front door. After lunch we decided to do something a bit different and so headed over to Marazion to walk to Perranuthnoe, have tea at the café there and then head back. So this is what we did.

Marazion was predictably heaving with tourists but we got a parking space easily enough in the overflow car-park and headed eastwards. The girls wanted to looking at the shops in Marazion on the way so I took our son and we explored the rock pools around Top Tieb whilst we waited for the others to finish. There were a few birds taking advantage of the rotting sea weed just east of the Godolphin Hotel: there were half a dozen juvenile Dunlin, some Ringed Plover and a Black-tailed Godwit as well as lots of Rock Pipits. 

juvenile Dunlin

One of many Rock Pipits

Once the others arrived we headed east around Little London and Trenow Cove. The beaches on this side of Marazion are much quieter and more pleasant and our walk was very enjoyable. My previous visits to this side of the Bay had been for the unobliging Hudsonian Whimbrel which had taken a few trips to see so it was nice to visit again without the pressure of trying to find a skulking Whimbrel hiding away in amongst the rocks. There were plenty of Little Egrets, Curlews, Oystercatchers and smaller waders to be seen but little else of note. At Perranuthnoe, since it was getting on in the day there weren't the huge queues here that I'd feared and we managed to get our tea and cake without too long a wait. We then retraced our steps back along the coastal path.

Autumn Squill

Back-lit Whimbrel

Back by the Godolphin Hotel, with the tide now in, there were loads of gulls that had joined the waders at the rotting sea-weed section (with had a distinct whiff of sewage as well which may have added to the attraction). There were now a couple of Med Gulls (2s & juv), a 1w Common Gull and a Redshank in addition to the same birds as before. It's clearly a bit of a hot spot for feeding birds and is a nice spot to bird as the birds are all concentrated together there.

Lots of gulls at the rotting sea weed section

Back at the car, we nipped into Sainsbury's for the obligatory spot of shopping before heading off home to eat and then settle down with our nightly DVD.