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.

Wednesday 9th Pendeen

Today was forecast to be a strong wind, almost exactly due north so clearly a day which favoured Pendeen over Porthgwarra. That was good because we had my VLW's niece visiting us this morning so I wasn't going to be able to head off to PG anyway. Instead I got up reasonably early and headed down to the lighthouse where I found twenty or so birders all gazing intently at the sea. The first thing I noticed was that there were no locals apart from TM there. That was a bad sign! I was guessing that actually it was too far north for their liking - Pendeen is really at its best with a north westerly wind and this was probably just too straight-on into the shore. Also, it's relatively early in the season and Pendeen only really comes into its own from September onwards apparently. I asked the birder next to me how it had been and apparently I'd just missed a single Cory's so far. I sat down to watch and it was really slow, I mean, pretty terrible to be honest. During the hour and a half that I gave it, I personally saw just two Common Scoter flocks of note. Around me a couple of Balearics were called and TM had a couple of Arctic Skuas that no one else could get on and that was it. I soon gave it up as a bad job and headed back to home and had a quick catch-up nap to compensate for my getting up earlier than I would have liked. Mid morning our visitor arrived and we duly passed a very pleasant few hours with her and her two children, including her few month old new daughter who was one of the most placid babies that I'd ever met!

After lunch we pootled around for a bit and I suggested a local walk to check out some of the speciality butterflies that can be found in the area. Just two members of the family decided to accompany me so we headed off to the "adder pit" as it's affectionately known by us though we didn't encounter any today. In a relatively quick wander around I managed to find a Grayling and some Blues that may well have been Silver-studded though they never settled for long enough and I didn't really have the time to stake them out thoroughly. I had a quick look for Heath-spotted Orchids though there was no sign and I'm guessing that if the Penwith peninsular has been anything like up country, then all the orchids have been really early this year and had probably gone over already.

A Grayling
Then it was back to the cottage for dinner and to settle down for the evening.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Monday 7th & Tuesday 8th August

Another quiet couple of days

Monday
The forecast for today was for rain so we planned to do some rainy-day stuff today. First off I had to make a trip to the dump at St Erth to get rid of some Tamerisk trimmings from the garden. Our younger daughter asked if she could come too and be dropped of in PZ and before I knew it the entire rest of the family wanted to do this as well. After the drop-off I went to the dump & then on to Hayle M&S to stock up on gluten-free bread. Next was the obligatory visit to the Hayle estuary though I had to endure a terrible traffic jam all the way there.  There was precious little reward for this suffering on the estuary with just the four (at least) Black Swans still about, a couple of Black-tailed Godwits and a surprisingly large number (at least a couple of hundred) Canada Geese. 

One of the Black Swans was reasonably close this time


I did nip over to Ryan's Field but the only bird of note was a Common Sandpiper. Then it was back to PZ to pick up the others before heading back to the cottage.

The Ryan's Field Common Sandpiper

In the afternoon we'd arranged to go for a swim at the Bosweddan Hotel pool - one of our classic rainy-day activities though in the end the weather was nice and sunny by the afternoon. Still we had a good swim and then headed back to the cottage to loaf about for the rest of the day.


Tuesday
As the wind wasn't particularly exciting today (albeit was a north westerly so at least in the Pendeen direction) I decided to have a lie in this morning. However at around 8:30 news came through on RBA of 6 Great Shearwaters having gone past Pendeen in the first couple of hours. "I'd better go and take a look" I thought and duly got dressed and headed over there. I found just two birders installed underneath the lighthouse who, upon enquiry, confessed that they were rather bemused by the RBA report as they'd not seen any. They did say that another couple of birders had been there next to them but that they'd certainly not called anything out. Anyway, I got set-up only to find things were remarkably slow. In fact during the one hour that I gave it there were only two small passing flocks of Common Scoter to break up the Manx Shearwater monotony. I was just getting ready to leave when a birder turned up with his daughter in tow. He told me how he'd had "thousands" of Balearics go by at Porthgwarra the previous evening. The explanation for this amazing count soon followed when he called the next two Manxies as Balearics and I realised that in the bright sunshine he was mistaking the brown-looking Manx backs for Balearics.

Back at the cottage I first unpacked the moth trap. Last night had been the first time that the weather had been good enough to contemplate putting out the trap. I hadn't had room to put the full moth trap in the car but instead had managed just my actinic and a few egg boxes. Still I rustled up a Heath-Robinson affair out of a plastic box which seemed to have caught and retained a few moths overnight though there was nothing of particular note.

Rosy Minor

After that, as the weather wasn't too bad we decided on a bit of exterior DIY and I soon really got stuck in and before I knew it several hours had passed and I'd managed to paint a fair chunk of the exterior walls.

In the afternoon we were going to go for a walk but a sudden and prolonged rain shower put paid to this so in the end we headed over to Mousehole for tea at the Rock Pool café. After this L (our son) scrambled about on the rocks whilst I sat and stared at the sea in quiet contemplation, rather enjoying the sun and the sound of the waves etc. Right in the very distance I noticed some bird activity and realised that there was a shoal of fish being attacked by about 100 Manxies and 100 Gannets and just occasionally I could see some Dolphins breaking the surface. This was all extremly distant though (it was only just below the horizon) and it was very hard to make things out.

Some of the feeding flock, so far away that they're only just below the horizon
Mousehole Rock Pipit
Eventually the others returned to break my reverie and we headed back to the car. Then it was back home via Sainsbury's for a spot of shopping. We ate a hearty dinner and then pootled around the cottage for the rest of the evening.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Saturday 5th & Sunday 6th August

NB. This entry has been updated since it was first posted as I forgot to include a sea-watching session on Saturday morning

Saturday
Saturday had been forecast to be a reasonable Pendeen wind though as Friday progressed the predicted wind strength kept dropping and by Saturday morning it was a mediocre 16 mph average speed. Not really good enough to tempt any locals out of bed but as it was only a few minutes walk away I thought that I'd pop down there once I was up. So it was that at around 8 a.m. I wandered down to find about 20 people there though only one local whom I recognised so it was mostly visitors. It turned out that I'd not missed much with just one Cory's having reportedly gone through so far. Sadly the sea bird action was really slow with very little of note apart from a remarkable passage of Common Scoter. Several big flocks of 30+ and 50+ were going through and SR who was there all morning recorded a finally tally of 548 which was the new one day county record for this species. Apart from that there was a single Bonxie, as well as a few Arctic Skuas and Sooties that I didn't get on. I have to say that the directions that were called out for birds were remarkably poor and there wasn't much of a sense of a group sea-watch session at all - perhaps because they were mostly visitors. Given how slow it was I only gave it until 9:15 before giving up and heading back to the cottage.
 
Today we decided to visit the Pendeen Farmer's Market, which we've been meaning to do for years but which hitherto we'd never actually managed to do. As I was feeling rather tired and given that I wasn't so keen to see the market, I decided to stay at home and have a nap whilst the rest of the family walked up the road to check it out. After my rest I drove up to Pendeen to pick the others up from what had been a successful visit, judging by their purchases. Our next stop was to head over to Zennor where apparently there was a local art's and craft fair. The fair was the usual stuff and for me the highlight was a pair of Swallows that seemed to have taken a wrong turning somewhere and had ended up in the main hall itself. One of the locals was trying to open the windows so they could get out but they all seemed to be locked. I hope that they eventually managed to free them. 

The two Swallows, admiring the art
After the fair we had a little wander about Zennor: there were loads of Swallows on the roof of the small terraced cottages at the end of the village and in the bright sunshine it all looked very picturesque.

Calamint growing on a Zennor wall

Then it was back home to the cottage for a late lunch and an afternoon of pootling around doing not very much. Late in the afternoon we headed down to Boat Cove to stare at the sea for a while before heading back home for dinner.

Sunday
On Sunday the weather was forecast to be reasonable so I decided to crack on with the second coat on the top of the cottage and headed once more onto the roof. Fortunately this task didn't take too long and my VLW made good progress with her windows and also the front door which also needed her attentions. 

Wall Brown, sitting on a Pendeen wall, appropriately enough
Then after lunch we headed over the hill, first to PZ where our son wanted to nip into a local shop to buy some computer game. Then we decided to visit Tremenheere garden, one that we hadn't been to before. It turned out to be wonderfully jungly and overgrown and one could just image Yellow-browed Warblers in the wooded section at the right time of year though the only bird that I saw there was a Buzzard. We enjoyed a good tea in the café there before nipping over the road to Sainsbury's for some shopping. Then it was back home for dinner. 

The view from Tremenheere, looking over towards the Mount

Looking out of the window after our meal I saw that there seemed to be a reasonable amount of movement in the last hour so I headed down to the lighthouse for a brief watch. The only bird of note was a single Sooty Shearwater though I did also get a brief glimpse of a Porpoise as well.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Friday 4th August

We awoke to calm and sunny conditions today. I decided to take advantage of the fine weather and to get on with painting the top part of the outside of the the cottage, a task which required going up onto the roof and reaching down with a roller. As this would involve a fair bit of flexibility and suppleness on my part I first went for a brisk walk to warm up: after all I didn't want to be pulling a muscle up on top of the roof. There was nothing out of the ordinary to see at this time of year with the usual Ravens, a Kestrel, a Buzzard and a pair of Chough being the most noteworthy but in the sunny and calm conditions there were plenty of photo opportunities.

Pendeen Buzzard

A Common Blue by the lighthouse

A Common Darter in the vegetable garden behind the coastguard cottages

A Kestrel on the rocks

The painting task went well and by late morning I'd managed to put the first coat on all four sides. We then had a quick lunch during which we decided on the spur of the moment to do the St Just to Pendeen coastal path this afternoon. As the requisite bus was going to go in about half an hour we had to rush to get ready and then to hurry up the hill to the bus stop for the short hop into St Just. There we bought ice creams and my VLW just wanted to nip in to the arts and craft fair there before we started on our walk. This "nip" turned into more than a thirty minute browse by the end of which I (having stayed outside as I wasn't that keen to go in) was getting very impatient. Finally we were on our way and in the sunny conditions with just a moderate breeze it was all very pleasant. The main birds of note on this occasion were Wheatears with one at Botallack and a pair at Geevor (of course - there's always at least one there). The scenery was stunning as always and the sunny conditions really brought out the beautiful colours.

Botallack Wheatear

Chamomile (I think) on the coastal path

We arrived back at the cottage after a good couple of hours for a well-earned cup of tea before rustling up some dinner and then settling down to watch a movie for the evening.