Tuesday, 15 October 2013

That Was the Trip That Was

Well, that was my October Cornwall trip for this year. All in all I have to say that I'm very pleased with it. I'm glad that I came down when I did as there was a good selection of nice birds on offer and I managed (eventually) to see all of them apart from the Lesser Yellowlegs (which would have been no more than a Penwith tick for me anyway). The highlights of the trip for me were the Pendeen Daurian Shrike, the Hayle Black-winged Stilt, Western Bonelli's Warbler, American Golden Plover, Wryneck the Hayle Osprey, not forgetting of course the en route birds, namely Red-breasted Flycatcher, Red-backed Shrike and Short-toed Lark. There was also a supporting cast of Spotted and Pied Flycatchers and Firecrest. I managed four ticks for my Cornish List this time: the Shrike, the Bonelli's, the American Golden Plover and the Osprey so it's moving along slowly but steadily. Interestingly enough I never actually got to see or even hear a Yellow-browed Warbler whilst down here this time though it wasn't a very high priority for me, especially since I'd managed to find one back in Oxfordshire on my patch a few days before. It was a shame that the winds picked up half way through which rather put an end to the birding but at least it wasn't windy and birdless the whole time. So not a legendary trip down but plenty of birds to keep one interested.

There are a few other items to mention. Firstly, astute readers amongst you might have spotted my ID faux pas from my Nanquidno visit. Here's another shot from a more useful angle.

It it of course a Yellow Wagtail rather than a Grey as I'd originally stated though at the time it's long tail length and the fact that it was on a roof caught me napping in thinking that it was a juvenile Grey. Yellow is not that common a bird down on the Penwith peninsula so a rather nice find even if my brain was asleep when I first saw it.

I'd mentioned that there were a few outstanding micro moths to ID. At the risk of boring all but the most dedicated of moth'ers the missing moths were:

From the left to right: Agonopterix yeatiana, A. propinquella & Depressaria radiella (Parsnip moth).

One of the aspects of this trip that I'll take away with me has been the social aspect of the birding: it was great to catch up with everyone down here and really added to the whole experience. As you may have noticed, my brother-in-law never came down in the end so it was just me rattling around in the cottage. Not that I really mind being on my own but the fact that there were a lot of people down here that I know meant that it wasn't an issue at all.

So finally we come to the coveted "Bird of the Trip" award and there are no surprises that it's going to go to the wonderful Pendeen Daurian Shrike - it truly was a beautiful bird. Special mention should also go to the Bonelli's Warbler simply for being so hard to get. This of course made the eventual sightings all the sweeter. Since my brother-in-law didn't come down I wasn't able to do half the DIY tasks I wanted to which of course means another trip down in the near future. I can't wait!

The Bird of the Trip, the stunning Daurian Shrike at Pendeen.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Saturday 12th October: Portland Bill

As I mentioned yesterday, I'd decided to head off home a day early due to the continuing high winds. Also my VLW was getting a bit fed up with having to hold the fort without me and had hinted that an early return might be appreciated. I'd scoured RBA the night before for something to stop off for and a Short-toed Lark at Portland Bill had caught my eye. It had been there a couple of days and was apparently showing very well on and off on a path right next to the Observatory. I've only once ever been to Portland years ago to try and see a Balearic Shearwater for the first time. I only had a very crappy little scope and if I recall the trip was a bit of a failure and I didn't really see anything. I therefore felt that it would be interesting to explore there a bit more even if the Lark wasn't about. I'd set up my phone for RBA Scarce+ alerts from Devon and Dorset so that should something more tempting turn up en route then I could divert to that instead. Fortunately the Lark came up as still present just before I was about to leave so duly encouraged I set off just after 8am.

I'd just stopped off at Hayle to buy some lunch when I got a text from Dave Parker saying that there was a Barnacle Goose in the NW arm of Drift Reservoir. I cursed inwardly: this was the one common goose that I still needed for my Cornish list but it would take more than an hour from where I was to get there and walk down to the NW arm and then get back to where I was at Hayle. I decided to leave it and continue with my original plan.

The journey was uneventful though rather long, so I that I arrived at around midday at the Portland Bird Observatory. There'd been ominous radio silence on the Lark front from RBA but having read up Sean Foote's excellent blog, I knew that it was often flushed from the path but could very well return to it later. I nipped into the Obs to find the latest news ("still about as far as I know" I was told) and to get some directions. The path was literally right next to where I'd parked and I walked up it scanning ahead carefully. Near the top a flock of Larks flew up from a neighbouring field, flushed by some birders there. There was clearly a smaller one in amongst them with no trailing white edge to the wings. Nice but not the views I was hoping for. At the top of the hill I found out from other birders that it had been on the path about ten minutes earlier giving crippling views (of course) but had then been flushed as the path was in regular use.

A short while later another small flock of Larks came by a flew around a bit. Once again I could pick out the smaller Short-toed which seemed to be rather aggressively chasing one of the Skylarks. A few minutes later someone whistled from the top of the path that they'd had the bird. I hurried over to find that, sure enough, there it was feeding away on the path again only some twenty yards away. There were only half a dozen of us there looking at it and we all set about scoping it and trying to photograph it. However, for some reason one chap took it upon himself to start creeping down towards it next to the path and sure enough he eventually flushed it, much to everyone's disgust. I'm not quite sure why he did this  as he didn't even have a camera. Still I'd got nice views and some reasonable photos. I wandered back down the now-Lark-free path to the car to pick up my lunch.

Some nice views of the Short-toed Lark before it was flushed

Next I thought that I'd wander over to the Observatory to see if they had any good moths on show. It turned out that they'd had nothing special but I was free to rummage through the egg boxes in the big plastic bucket if I wanted. This I duly did and came up with a couple of moths that I didn't immediately recognise and so photographed for ID'ing at home.

The famous Portland Bird Observatory

 Beautiful Gothic
 L-album Wainscot

After that I went back to see if the Lark had returned yet. Still no sign though I did find a Wheatear passing through. From my vantage point I saw a bunch of people scoping the Observatory Quarry so I went over to see that was going on. It turned out to be a coach party of enthusiastic club birders all looking at one of the resident Little Owls which was hiding deep in one of the cracks in the stones. As I wandered back towards the Lark spot for one final look a couple of them started shouting out "what's that bird in the bush there". getting rather animated about it. In the end I had to put them out of the misery and tell them that it was a Linnet.

Back at the Lark location there was still no sign of it so I would have to settle for my one set of views. As time was marching on I climbed back into the Gnome mobile and headed north back towards Oxford. It had been a very successful stop-off though with three hours of driving ahead of me still I needed to press on.

Portland, with the harbour, Weymouth, Wyke Regis and Chesil Beach in the background

I arrived back without incident into the bosom of my family at about 5pm for a most welcome cup of tea and a chance to catch up on the family news.

Friday 11th October: St Levan & Nanquidno

After yesterday's meagre returns I decided to adopt some different tactics today. In view of the continuing strong north-easterly winds I didn't bother with Pendeen this morning but instead decided to head off to the south coast which would hopefully be more sheltered. I therefore started at St Levan at the turning circle where I found someone staring intently at the trees. He'd found a Yellow-browed there yesterday evening though had seen little that morning apart from a few Redwings over. I joined him in his vigil but the area wasn't as sheltered as I'd hoped and the birding was difficult. After a while with nothing of note apart from some more Redwings over I decided to have a bit of an explore as this wasn't an area that I knew very well (apart from the Bonelli's site a few fields away which I felt I knew far too well!). I therefore took the footpath from the church over to Roskestal Farm though I had nothing to show for my efforts apart from a Fieldfare, a Dunnock and a few loafing gulls. On the way back I met Mark Wallace and we got to chatting. It turned out that he'd seen the American Goldie fly in off the sea at Porthgwarra about fifteen minutes before Ian and I picked it up at the Bonelli's site a few days ago. He'd not been absolutely certain of the ID so was interested to hear what we'd seen and heard. He'd seen very little this morning apart from a Yellow-browed at 60 Foot Cover - it was clearly going to be another tough day. After a while we went our separate ways, he to explore the fields whilst I headed back to the car.

Next stop was Nanquidno, which fortunately was at least fairly sheltered from the wind and here I did manage to see a few birds though they were few and far between. I even walked all the way over to Little Hendra and back though the only sightings of note were: one Blackcap, four fly-over Siskins, a fly-over heard-only Golden Plover and a Firecrest that someone else found and saw and that I only heard though it's slower, more deliberate call was noticeably different from the nearby Goldcrests. I did also get a very brief view of an interesting bird of prey that could have been a Hen Harrier though I didn't see it for long enough to be anywhere near certain. Interestingly, I later found out that someone else had seen a Hen Harrier in Kenidjack earlier that morning.

Juvenile Grey Wagtail at Nanquidno

By now it was lunchtime so I headed back to Pendeen, stopping at St Just to pick up a sandwich for lunch. Very little else was being reported on the grapevine or RBA so I more or less gave the rest of the day up as a bad job. With the winds forecast to continue for tomorrow as well I decided to spend the afternoon finishing off all the DIY tasks that I had and then to get ready to leave tomorrow morning rather than on Sunday as I'd originally planned. I thought that instead of slogging around some windswept and deserted valleys tomorrow here in Cornwall I could instead stop off somewhere on the way home where perhaps there might be more to see. Whilst doing my exterior painting work I got chatting to a decorator who was working on a neighbouring cottage. It turned out that he'd actually seen the Daurian Shrike down here a couple of days before it was officially discovered. He'd seen it perched by the roadside whilst working down at Pendeen and knew enough about birds to realise that it was something very much out of the ordinary (he even described it pretty well). When suddenly a whole bunch of birders started appearing down there he realised what he'd seen. Interesting!

I duly finished off my painting work, had a brief nap and then went into PZ to get some food for this evening's dinner and to fill the car up for tomorrow's journey home. After eating I packed up the cottage as much as I could so that I could get an early start the next morning.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Thursday 10th October: Pendeen & Porthcurno

As forecast the north westerly winds were swinging around to north easterly this morning, but unlike the forecast, they were stronger than predicted. This  prompted me to try my arm at a Pendeen sea watch despite the fact that the wind was too far east really. I arrived to find two groups already installed underneath the lighthouse but they'd not had much go by so far. The trouble with winds that are too northerly is that there is no shelter at Pendeen - it's full into you which isn't so nice. That would have been ok had there been something to watch but if truth be told it was a lacklustre session with very little of note. One of the two parties seemed to be spotting some stuff but as they were downwind of the rest of us and didn't seem at all inclined to share what they were seeing it didn't really help much. In the end with an ominous looking squall looming up on the horizon I gave it up as a bad job and beat a hasty retreat back to the cottage.

After some coffee and toast and with the weather brightening again I decided to do the Pendeen rounds but there isn't much shelter with the winds in this direction and the whole area was virtually birdless with one Wheatear, two Swallows (the first I've seen down here this week) and two Ravens the only noteworthy sightings - even the Snow Bunting had departed. With very little coming through on RBA I decided to crack on with some DIY on the exterior of the house, fortunately on the sheltered side from the wind so that it the sunshine it was actually very warm and pleasant. I had lunch outside in a sheltered spot and enjoyed the sunshine some more - it really was a bit of a sun trap out of the wind.

In terms of my afternoon birding outing I had hoped that something would come up on RBA or from other birders that would dictate what to do but in the absence of anything tempting I decided to head down to the south coast where I hoped it would be more sheltered. Just to do something a bit different I chose to go to Porthcurno - not somewhere that I've birded before. En route I popped into Pendeen churchard where I met up with regular Cornish visiting birder Dave (I can't remember his surname) and his wife though even the combined efforts of the three of us couldn't turn up anything at all. I did notice lots of Red Admirals about there, and in fact everywhere today, presumably pushed south by the winds.

There was a bit of a mini Red Admiral invasion today

At Porthcurno I had a good wander around there but it was virtually birdless: a few tits, a wren and a robin were about my only sightings. I decided to head over to the café there only to discover that it was closed. I started to drive home, checking out the Polgigga sports pitch en route - three Buzzards, all looking rather ungainly on the ground, and a single Wheatear. The Apple Tree Café at Trevescan was also closed so I decided to have something at home instead. On the way I picked up a Belgian lady hitchhiker who was stranded at Sennen with no further buses to take her back home. It turned out that she was staying in Pendeen so she was very pleased to get all the way back so quickly. We talked about Cornwall and how much she loved the scenery here in Penwith, much better than further north at Tintagel where she'd visited previously. I could only agree with her on that point - it's easy to get rather blasé about it all but the scenery is indeeed stunning here.

Back home at the cottage I had a cup of tea, did a couple of small DIY tasks and then had a quick nap before dinner. I have found in the past that when the winds get up the birding can often be difficult here in Cornwall though quite a few Yellow-browed sightings came through on RBA later on so other people seemed at least to be seeing something. I may need a change of tactics tomorrow if the forecast for strengthening north-easterlies proves correct otherwise I can see myself getting rather fed up slogging around for little reward..

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Wednesday 9th October: Pendeen, Hayle & Moth Twitching

I was up with the lark this morning. In fact I woke up ridiculously early again. I sometimes get into a cycle of waking up far earlier than necessary (often when there's some exciting birding to be done) and it then takes a while before my system gets back to normal. Anyway, I did the usual rounds of Pendeen, today in the company of Ian Kendall. With the wind having increased and shifted to north westerly it was noticeably quieter with hardly any birds to be found at all though the Snow Bunting was still on its favourite bitnof path and there were three Wheatears and a Raven knocking about. Even the Meadow Pipits seemed to have buggered off - it was all rather bleak if truth be told. 

After breakfast it was once more off to Hayle estuary to try for the Osprey yet again. I'd been told that mornings were generally much better so today I made sure that I arrived in good time and sure enough within about half an hour the Osprey duly arrived and spent the next half an hour hunting the length and breadth of the estuary - the tide had just turned from high so there was lots of water. It was great to be able to watch it hunting in the bright sunshine. Also present on the estuary were a couple of Med Gulls, the dark-bellied Brent Goose, 2 Greenshank new in and a female Pintail. The Stilt was apparently still there on Ryan's Field though I didn't bother to go and take a look. Whilst there I bumped into the "Paranoid Birder" from Oxfordshire, down for a few days with Mrs. Paranoid - it's a small world!

I even managed a photo of the Osprey with my Superzoom camera

An obliging Hayle Curlew

After finally having got my Cornish Osprey tick I went back to the cottage for a celebratory cup of tea and to check out the moth trap though apart from a couple of interesting micros that I still need to ID there was nothing of note.

Next on the agenda were some Hawk Moths: RBA had reported that a couple of Death's Head Hawk Moths had been trapped in Cot overnight and were on display there. John Swann had also texted to say that he'd caught a Convulvulous Hawk Moth and that he would keep it so that I could take a look. With nothing else to tempt me I thought that I would take the opportunity to lose my moth twitching virginity. Thankfully as I was driving into Cot I met up with Phil and Hiliary who told me where the moths were as otherwise I would never have found it. Whilst wandering around looking for the right location I heard a "buzzy" pipit call as it flew overhead - it was either a Tree Pipit or an Olive-backed though I never saw it. Using the guiding principle of it's more likely to be a Tree in September and an Olive-backed in October, it was certainly interesting though I guess that we'll never know. Anyway, the moths were awesomely huge - far larger than I was expecting. I'd heard that Death's Head Hawk Moths sqweaked if you prodded them so I had a go and indeed it did! They'd also caught a Convulvulous which they'd put on a wall near by so I took a look at that too.

This picture doesn't convey just how massive a beast it was...

...and the Convulvulous was pretty big too

With my first moth twitch under my belt it was back to St Just to pick up some lunch, a quick wander down Kenidjack as far as the water treatment works whilst I ate it (I didn't see anything at all) and then back towards Pendeen. I stopped off at John Swann's house to have a quick cup of tea and a natter and to check out his Convulvulous Hawk Moth - I really was being spoilt on the Hawk Moth front today!

 John reckons that both today's Convulvulous were females - the males are more richly marked.

Then it was back to Pendeen, stopping off to check out the Calartha Farm copse which had quite a lot of birds in it today though nothing of note. The afternoon I spent in doing some DIY and then I wandered down to the lighthouse for an hour's seawatching though I only had a single Balearic to show for my efforts.

With the forecast for more notherly winds over the next few days I'm wondering what affect this will have on the birding. It can be rather bleak and depressing when it's very windy - all the birds hunker down or just bugger off altogether. Ian K was saying that in the past he's found that Yellow-browed numbers actually go up with northerly winds and there did seem to be a flurry of reports on RBA this afternoon. We shall see. I may try some more sea watching tomorrow morning if there's nothing else of note to tempt me.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Tuesday 8th October: St Levan & Hayle

I was up and about at first light this morning as I wanted to do a quick tour of Pendeen before heading out. As I mentioned in yesterday's blog posting, neither I nor Jackie had felt that we'd got good enough views to tick the St Levan Western Bonelli's Warbler yesterday so we had agreed to meet up at the car park at around 8am today for another crack at it. Before leaving for that rendezvous I had quick yomp down to Boat Cove where the female Snow Bunting was still quietly pecking away on the path. There was also a single Wheatear nearby but little else of note. I had a quick thirty second scan of the Shrike area but couldn't see it though I didn't have enough time to search for it thoroughly. After that it was off to St Levan to meet up with Ian and Jackie.

 St Levan Church - the rendezvous for Operation Bonelli's - Day Three

We were the only people in the car park when we arrived and with the sun coming out we were feeling cautiously optimistic as we headed along the path towards the Bonelli's favoured area. As we were nearing the site Ian and I heard a wader calling in flight overhead. Ian initially managed to pick it out and track it, remarking on how long-winged it looked. I eventually managed to get on it as well and it was clearly a Golden Plover species. The call was a very distinctive di-syllabic one, reminiscent of a Spotted Redshank. That, combined with the extremly long-winged look to it meant that both Ian and I were confident in ID'ing it as an American Golden Plover. We watched it as it flew away towards Porthgwarra.

At the warbler spot, we managed to get quick glimpses of what was probably the bird almost immediately though after that it went a bit quiet. Yesterday at the end it had been Ian who had got by far the most views of the bird so I'd mentally made a note to stick close to him today and for about an hour or so this I duly did though we didn't manage to see anything at all. Eventually I started to get restless and wandered off a bit only for Ian to call out that he had the bird whilst viewing from the other (west) side of the stream. He managed some great views of it though it of course disappeared before Jackie and I could get over to him. However on this other side we had a fresh perspective as well as having the sun behind us and shortly afterwards the bird showed fleetingly at the end of the sallows before it flew back on itself into one of the larger trees there. I'd managed to see it but Jackie still hadn't managed a tickable view. We then lost track of it for a while and got sidetracked by some movement a bit further away. Whilst waiting for it to reappear we heard the AGP again but couldn't see it this time. Eventually we heard the Bonelli's calling repeatedly where we'd last seen it. Ian of course managed to get some excellent views but both Jackie and I were once more looking somewhere else. We hurried back to where Ian was but predictably it had popped down again. After an agonising wait it started moving near the top of the tree where we could all get on to it and then it came out and revealed itself in all its glory for about a minute or so so that both Jackie and I could get our fill. It was such a relief to all three of us that we indulged in a celebratory group hug. I totted it up and realised that I'd spent seven and a half hours trying to get a decent view of it so the sense of relief at finally having seen it was tremendous. I really felt that I'd earned that tick!

Back at the car park I had a quick look around the turning circle but there was little of note so I decided to head back home. En route I stopped off at Polgigga sports field (30 Pied Wagtails), the Sennen School Quarry (one Chiffy), Pendeen Stores copse (nothing) and Calartha copse (also nothing). I spent ten minutes looking for the Shrike but still couldn't find it so it looks like it had finally left. I did manage to see a single Whinchat and a Raven for my troubles though. After that it was time to empty the moth trap. The weather hadn't been that great during the night and there were only a few moths in the trap with a Delicate being the pick of the bunch. I then had some lunch, followed by a nap to catch up on some sleep.

 The aptly named Delicate

So far on the trip down I'd only been birding so I felt that it was about time that I started earning my keep. Accordingly I got out the DIY stuff and started to work on one of the outside walls that needed painting. The filler that I'd put in previously had all been washed away so I used some Extreme Exterior Caulking instead which seemed to do the job nicely. A cup of tea and a scone as reward for my work and then it was time to head out again. 

I still hadn't caught up with the Hayle Osprey so I thought that I'd give it another go as the tide would now be quite high though the weather was very "drear" as the Scots would say. At the causeway I met up with Phil and Hiliary and we passed the time catching up on news and chatting. Needless to say the Osprey never showed and there was no sign of the Lesser Yellowlegs either so it looks like that has moved on. We did get very nice views of the Black-winged Stilt and at the end when I was the last person left by the bridge it came very close - a gorgeous looking bird even in the half-light of dusk.

The lovely Black-winged Stilt

After that it was back home to the cottage to sort out some food and set up the moth trap for the night. It had been another successful day with a nice Bonell's sighting as a reward for a lot of hard graft and a bonus American Golden Plover to boot. I wonder what tomorrow will bring.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Monday 7th October: Pendeen, Hayle & St Levan

Today dawned reasonably pleasant on the weather front with only a gentle breeze and sunny internvals. I decided to get out and do the Pendeen rounds as soon as it was light but was beaten to it by Ian K and Paul BT who had more or less finished by the time I was out. The wonderful Daurian Shrike was still about and a steady passage of birders came and went throughout the morning. I managed to get down to see the Snow Bunting this morning just above Boat Cove which showed down to a few feet in the morning light. I also took a little wander along the southern coast path just down to where the stream crosses the path and on the way managed to get nice views of a Wryneck for a couple of minutes. I even managed a crappy record shot. I was back home for breakfast when Ian texted from up the road saying that he'd had a possible fly-over Serin headed down to the cottages so I went out to take a look but couldn't see or hear it. There was a single Wheatear knocking about and a couple of Ravens cronking around but that was it.

The Boat Cove Snow Bunting

Wryneck Record Shot

The Stonechat - the photographer's friend as they pose very nicely

I returned to the cottage to finish off breakfast and to sort through the moth trap. There were about 30 moths in total, most of them Feathered Ranunculus, but with a few Autumnal Rustics, Square-spot Rustic, Black Rustic, a couple of Rosy Rustics, a Dark Sword Grass, a Setaceous Hebrew Character, Angled Shades and a Feathered Brindle plus some other bits and bobs. Nothing out of the ordinary but it's always interesting to trap away from home to see what turns up.

Feathered Brindle - thanks to John Swann for confirming the ID

I was wondering what to do next when a message came through on RBA about the Lesser Yellowlegs still being at Hayle first thing that morning along with the Osprey. With nothing else to tempt me I thought that I'd go to take a look and have another attempt at getting Osprey on my Cornish list. The tide was right out by the time I arrived and many of the birds were rather distant. There were two Med. Gulls and the dark-bellied Brent Goose still though no sign of either the Stilt or the 'Legs. Over on Ryan's Field there were a couple of Ruff and a Knot along with the usual suspects. There was of course no sign of the Osprey and I realised that high tide was probably going to be much better for seeing it as well as all the wading birds so I made a mental note to come back in the evening.

Hayle Med Gull

On the way back to Pendeen I stopped off to check out the churchyard (nothing), the copse by Boscaswell Stores (a Spotted Flycatcher) and the Calartha Farm copse (a probably male Pied Flycatcher). The latter bird was only "probable" because at that moment the Bonelli's warbler came up on the pager as showing again so I decided to give up on trying to nail down the Flycatcher and instead to head back to St Levan for another crack at the Bonelli's.

 Pendeen Stores Spotted Flycatcher

The journey down to St Levan was even more tortuous than usual: I got stuck behind a huge coach which had great difficulty down the narrow roads and then had to wait five minutes whilst an entire herd of cows crossed the road for milking. Eventually I arrived and hurried back to "the spot". It turned out that it had been seen a couple of times but nothing within the last hour. With nothing better to do I was happy to spend some time on staking out the bird and settled down for a long vigil. Gradually others arrived including Ian K & Jackie, John Swann and Lewis Thomson. After a while I managed the briefest of views of something which flitted down into a clear area and then straight back up again. It was the right size, shape and jizz but not enough to be certain of it at all and nobody else saw it. As time wore on with no further sightings gradually people started to leave and eventually there were just a few of us left. Finally between us we managed some more views - some people got enough to be happy with whereas I got the most fleeting of flight views which others assured me was the bird. Not really satisfactory as far as I'm concerned so I may well have to return a third time. This bird is proving to be a bit of a bastard. Grrrr!

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Sunday 6th October - Back at Last!

It's been far too long since I was last down in my beloved Cornwall. We've been rather busy en famille with our two daughters both taking important exams this summer and then we stupidly forgot to reserve the cottage for ourselves so that it ended up being booked solidly right through the summer holiday period. This was great on one level, but not very useful from the point of view of being able to come down ourselves. Anyway, we've resolved not to make the same mistake again next year. At least I did remember to book the cottage in October for the all-important peak birding season. So I'm back down for about a week and without the family. Of course I'll miss them greatly though it does leave me free for unimpeded birding so I'll be too busy to miss them much! My brother-in-law is planning on coming down for a few days at some point in the week to help with a few minor tasks around the cottage so I will have some company for some of the time.

I had been humming and hawing about when exactly to come dowm but when the wonderful Daurian Shrike turned up at Pendeen it was sufficiently tempting to push me into action. I had originally intended to come down on Saturday but I don't generally like travelling down on that day because of the traffic and I also had a couple of social events to go to that day so I decided to head down first thing on Sunday morning instead.

As usual I looked around to see if there was anything of interest en route to stop off for. A Radde's Warbler in Devon caught my eye though from reports it seemed rather elusive and I wouldn't have time to hang around staking it out so in the end I opted for a Red-breasted Flycatcher at Wyke Regis, near Weymouth which seemed to be showing really well. I set off at around 8:30am and by this time both the Pendeen Shrike and the Flycatcher had been reported as still present so it was a relatively stress-free drive down to Dorset.

I'd been to Wyke Regis once before for a Hume's Warbler on the way back from Cornwall but that had involved a bit of a walk from the main road. The Flycatcher on the other hand could be viewed from the road itself and it was literally a 20 yard stroll from where I parked to the twitch line. There were initially only about ten people present but what seemed like a whole coach-load of birders suddenly turned up. It turned out that they were on some club birding outing and their noisy chatter and enthusiastic ignorance rather changed the atmosphere of what had previously been a rather sedate and peaceful twitch. Anyway, back to the bird -it turned out it was showing periodically on its favourtie branch of some ivy be-decked tree and a bit of patience was soon rewarded with some sightings though it was a good 75 yards away in dappled shade so the views weren't exactly crippling. There was also a nice Red-backed Shrike in the neighbouring hedge which I hadn't know about - a very nice bonus bird.

Little more than record shots of the Flycatcher sitting on it's favoured branch

A Bonus Red-backed Shrike

I wanted to be in Cornwall in good time so that I could go to the supermarket before Sunday closing and my detour via Weymouth had added a good bit of extra time to my journey so having seen both birds reasonably well I didn't hang around and after a quick cup of tea from the flask I headed off on the A35 towards Honiston and Exeter where I could rejoin the M5 and get back on the main route. I made good time and managed to arrive in Penzance just after 3pm. My first priority was to get some more fuel and to buy some food before the supermarkets closed (I'd been caught out with this on previous visits). After that I was free to get down to some birding.

A Lesser Yellowlegs at Hayle had come on the pager. I wasn't so interested in that as the Osprey whcih was also mentioned and which I still need for my fledgling Cornish list.  I therefore headed back the way I'd come to the Hayle estuary causeway. I parked up and immediately came across John Chapple and Kate Thornton by the causeway. They'd already done all the hard work for me and pointed out two Med Gulls, a dark-bellied Brent Goose, the long staying Black-winged Stilt though the Lesser 'legs had apparently flown over towards the far side so that one would need to view from the station. We managed to find at least one of the two Little Stints in amongst the wader flock and there was the usual supporting cast of Wigeon, Teal, Curlews, Geese and Godwits.. They hadn't seen the Osprey whilst they'd been there and I didn't really have time to go chasing after the Lesser Yellowlegs so after a short period I decided that I needed to go and pay homage to the Pendeen Shrike.

Some 20 minutes later I pulled up at Pendeen by the coastguard cottages where, judging by the number of cars parked up there, the Shrike was obviously still about. Indeed it didn't take too long before I was watching what turned out to be an absolutely stunningly beautiful adult male Daurian Shrike.It had a wonderful peachy wash over its white breast and underparts, a smart black eye mask and a strikingly rufous tail that really caught the afternoon's sunlight nicely. In fact I can honestly say that this was the most beautiful Shrikes of any species that I'd seen - it really was a special bird.

What a stunner! The Pendeen adult male Daurian Shrike

There was a supporting cast of several Stonechats, at least one Whinchat and plenty of Mipits buzzing around though there was no sign of the two Wrynecks that were supposed to be in attendance - I guess that there were too many people around. John Swann was there so we had a little chat and I caught up on some of the local news. Apparently a very confiding Snow Bunting was hanging out by Boat Cove and the long-staying Wryneck down by the lighthouse was still about. Apart from that there were a few Wrynecks and Yellow-browed Warblers in other locations. He also confirmed something that John Chapple had mentioned about a Bonelli's Warbler down towards the St Levan area which piqued my interest.

I was in two minds about going for it and had started to walk down to Boat Cover for the Bunting but when John later passed on a message saying that the Bonelli's was still about I decided to have a shot even though by now it was getting rather late. Thus I sped off in the Gnome-mobile along what were by now very familiar roads to me. I wasn't at all optimistic but at least it would be a reconaissance trip for tomorrow when I could come back if the bird was still about. At the site I met up with Ian Kendall and his partner, Tony Mills and Paul Bright Thompson. Paul was a Bershire birder who had found the Pendeen Shrike (& a Yellow-browed in Pendeen churchyard) and Ian I knew from last autumn when he'd found the Pendeen Olive-backed Pipit. I'd forgotten just how sociable birding down in Cornwall was in October - it was really nice all chatting away together. Anyway, things weren't looking good on the bird front - it hadn't been seen since about 4:30pm when it was briefly spotted by someone else - none of the people present had seen it. What's more it had got rather cloudy and it was starting to get foggy. We all started at the sallows intently but there was remarkably little movement of any kind. A water rail was squealing away in some nearby Phragmites but it was a fruitless effort. In the end it got too dark and we had to call it a day and headed off on our seperate ways.

I went back to the cottage to unpack my stuff, sort out some food and to set up my moth trap for the night. It had been a very enjoyable first day back down here with a nice tally of good birds already under my belt. Let's hope that something really stonking turns up this week (and that I get to see it of course!). It's good to be back!