Monday, 23 March 2015

Sunday 22nd March: Pendeen

Thankfully I managed to sleep a lot better and awoke at the more civilised hour of 7 a.m. I had a quick walk down to the lighthouse to see if I could find my Wheatear but had no luck and after a quick breakfast it was time to crack on with the DIY. I finished off touching up some of the outside work in the lovely sunshine whilst my VLW did the same with the interior. Then it was time to clear up the cottage and to pack up to head off home. The AHG came on the pager as having been back in the field again but there was no chance of me being able to take a look and frankly unless there was a closer vantage point there seemed little point anyway. All the clearing and packing took some time so it wasn't until about 1:30 p.m. that we were finally ready to leave. The only bird sightings of note whilst all this was going on was a single Raven and a Meadow Pipit staking out its territory with its song.

We stopped in PZ for fuel and sandwiches and then headed off on the long slog back home. Fortunately the traffic was light and there were some interesting programmes on Radio 4 to keep us occupied. As we sped northwards I reflected on the stay: it was always going to be about the DIY rather than the birding but it is such a pleasure being outside in such a beautiful part of the country.  The take-homes for me from this trip were: lots of hard DIY work, some frustrating staring at distant gulls, being outside in the bright sunshine (I even got a tan!), the eclipse, singing finches, cronking Ravens, early spring plants and some new moths. My VLW and I discussed the possibility of coming back later in the spring, not to work but just to enjoy being here. That would be quite a novelty for us - people who stay in our cottage just don't realise how much hard work goes into it all.

Pendeen Raven

Saturday 21st March: Hayle & Pendeen

I awoke far too early this morning, especially given how hard we'd been working yesterday. Rather than just lie there in bed until it was time to crack on with the DIY I decided to get up and pay another visit to Hayle to see if I could actually see the gulls properly. It was a lovely sunny and calm morning as I sped over the deserted roads towards PZ and then on to the estuary, arriving shortly after 7 a.m. The tide was right in this time and all the birds were tucked in the corner near the station platform though as I started looking through them the gulls at least started to move out onto the water. There were also a few waders to look through and I managed to turn up 2 Grey Plovers, a Black-tailed Godwit, 4 Greenshank, 2 Dunlin and several dozen Redshank. I searched carefully through the gulls several times from all possible vantage points and can say that I looked at every single bird there but there was nothing of interest. Satisfied that there was nothing I was missing I headed back to the cottage for some breakfast and to crack on with the day's work.

Gulls at Hayle
Today I was working outside again though thankfully the weather was perfect and it was a treat to be outdoors in such a location. The Ravens were still about and the tinkling of Goldfinches and Linnets offered a constant accompaniment to my work. During my coffee break I did the moth trap and was rewarded with a couple of new garden ticks - not that that's hard with my cottage garden list under 100 moths. The two new ones were March Moth and Diurnea Fagella.

Diurnea Fagella
March Moth
To have a break from the work I did have a little wander about the general area to see what spring flowers were about. 

Three-cornered Garlic
There was even some Western Ramping-fumitory flowering in the sheltered spots.
This species is indigenous to the far south west
Navelwort - so called because it looks like a navel
We worked hard all morning. I was just getting to a natural stopping point and thinking about lunch when a text came through on RBA of the 2w American Herring Gull again near St Just that morning. This bird had been found by M.A. at Drift about a week ago but had not been seen since. I went to consult my map and RBA on the computer. It turned out that it had been reported last thing yesterday evening on RBA as having been around for an hour and a half later afternoon as well. Consulting the map it turned out to be literally just five minutes up the road. I decided to go and find out more and hurried off for a look. 

I headed off in the right general directions and then gave P&H a call to find out the exact location - they were able to point me to the correct vantage point by the entrance to Botrea Farm. I arrived to find M.A. by his car. The field in question turned out to be a distant large ploughed field down in the valley near Jericho Farm just by the Pendeen turn-off. Sadly all the gulls had flown off and M.A. suggested that coming back again late afternoon might be the best tactic. I quizzed him for some details and thanked him for his help before heading back to the cottage, resolving to come back late afternoon should the workload allow it.

My VLW and I worked solidly for much of the afternoon. A decorator came round to discuss doing some of the work next week that we weren't able to do ourselves and we showed her what needed doing. Late afternoon I'd done all the things that I wanted to do and we needed to go and buy some paint for the decorator's work so I headed back to PZ, deciding to stop in at the gull spot en route to see what the situation was. There I met another birder scoping the field but he lamented that it was so far, the light so bright and there was so much heat haze that it was a near impossible task. I set up my scope and could only agree - it was going to be impossible to pick out the subtle features of an AHG in such conditions. The other bloke soon left to be replaced by P&H - it was nice to see the two of them again. I briefly got excited when I picked out one HG gull that seemed to have a red bill! Excitedly I pointed it out to the other two though when it turned its head the other way the bill was clearly yellow. It just showed how hard it was to read colours in the bright light. P&H decided to give up and I chose to head on into PZ to do my shopping and then return to see if it was any better. At that moment a "reported possible" Purple Heron came on the pager at St Leven by a wet field next to the playing field. Hmm, there were no playing fields at St Leven proper, did they mean Polgigga? It was all very vague. P&H decided to check it out and promised to tell me if they could find it. Meanwhile I headed over to B&Q for my paint and then Sainsbury's for some provisions. P&H reported back "no sign" and I headed back to the gull spot. There I found M.A.'s car parked up but no sign of him. I wondered whether he had a better vantage point that he was using - it was hard to see how he'd managed to ID the gull otherwise. I had a quick scope and whilst the light wasn't quite as harsh as before the conditions were still too difficult. Defeated I headed back to base where I finished off a few tasks and then we had something to eat. That evening we did some touching up of the interior paintwork before collapsing into bed. It had been a long and exhausting day with what seemed to be a recurring theme on this trip of trying to look at gulls that were too far away.

The ubiquitous Red Chestnut
Common Quaker

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Friday 20th March: Pendeen & Hayle

Today it was all about getting down to some serious DIY. We divvied up the work so I would do the exterior stuff whilst my VLW would crack on with the various interior jobs. Before I knuckled down I did take a quick stroll down to the lighthouse just to see what was about. I'd been hoping for a Wheatear as a few were being reported in the county now but sadly there was no sign of one. In fact the best I could muster was a singing male Stonechat.

One of the perks of working outside at Pendeen is that one can get a good idea of what birds are around. During my travails I managed to see five Ravens (including a great sighting of all of them flying just over my head). Apart from that there was a single Buzzard and the usual commoner stuff.

I had run the moth trap last night and during my coffee break I did the trap; Not that it took very long with a total of 5 Red Chestnuts, one Common Plume and one Depressaria species (to be identified). I also found an Early Grey out in the open on a neighbour's wall.

Early Grey
Of course there was the matter of the Solar Eclipse to be watched as well. As the time drew closer to the 9:25 a.m. peak, an eerie half light fell over the area. Clouds were scurrying over the sky regularly though leaving gaps in between. This was actually rather useful as one could view the sun through cloud of the right thickness and even take some photos. Here's a shot at what was pretty near the maximum coverage. All pretty awesome (in the true sense of the word).

The eclipse
Late morning I needed to head into PZ to get some more DIY provisions and I managed to blag a very brief detour to the Hayle estuary. I wanted to look for the 2w Caspian Gull that had been loitering there on and off (more off than on by the sound of it) for the past couple of weeks. This would be a much needed Cornish tick for me though having asked M.E. for details, I'd been told that it was very much hit or miss and that lots of time would be required (something I didn't have on this trip) if it was even there at all still: the recent decent weather may well having pushed it off. 

I arrived to find the tide right out and the estuary pretty deserted: being used to seeing it crammed full of birds in the winter it was quite a shock to see it so empty. The gulls were all at the far end, facing away from me into the wind. What's more, in the bright sunshine it was very hazy and the combination of all these things meant that it was a near impossible task to pick them out. Had I had the time I would have gone over to the old jet wash though I could see that it was now being used as a hand car wash centre and so presumably it was not longer possible to park there. I didn't have the time to walk that far so did a couple of quick scans though in the circumstances it was useless even trying. Defeated I quickly gave up and headed back home.

The rest of the afternoon was spent cracking on with the DIY and by the end of the first day great progress had been made both inside and out though we were both exhausted at the end. We retired early and with the local Tawny Owl serenading us briefly, we were quickly asleep..

Friday, 20 March 2015

Thursday 19th March : Back Down Again

As I hinted at the end of my last posting, I'm back down in my beloved Cornwall, this time with just my VLW for company. The reason for our return visit was to complete preparations for the start of the holiday letting season, specifically to bring down some puchases for the cottage and to finish off some renovation work. We left Oxford at a rather leisurely mid morning time and our journey down was smooth and uneventful so we arrived in Penzance some four and a half hours later. There we stopped off at a supermarket for some shopping before heading off to the cottage to unpack.

One of the reasons for coming back had been to check out the fruits of the various tasks that we'd commissioned in our absence. Our electrician had installed a movement-activated exterior light which looked very good. Our plumber had serviced the boiler, fixed a leak, fixed a noisy tap and tweaked the hot water so that it wasn't quite so scalding - all done and working well. However, we'd also asked our handy man to do some exterior decorating which needed doing but it turned out that he'd not done any of it - not good! There then follwed a phone call to him where it turned out that another job he'd been on had overrun. Now I don't have a problem with that, after all these things happen, but I do have a problem with him not bothering to tell us so I was not a happy bunny. I sent out some enquiring e-mails to see if anyone could recommend some decorators but apart from that I was too tired to do much else so my VLW and I had a stroll down to the lighthouse to clear our heads. It was a gorgeous spring afternoon with hazy sunshine and hardly any wind - a real treat for normally wind swept Pendeen. Along the roadside I came across some lovely delicate little flowers which turned out to be Danish Scurygrass - easily identifyable because it flowers before any of the others.

Danish Scurvygrass
On the bird front there was precious little to report with three distant circling Buzzards, a Goldcrest singing in our garden and the usual assortment of Goldfinches and Linnets twittering away on the overhead wires. Back at the cottage we made a list of what needed doing first and we even managed to do some of the interior stuff that evening just to kick things off.

I'd brought my moth trap down with me but as it was a clear night I wasn't going to bother putting it out. However when a Red Chestnut turned up at the "moth light" (our outside porch light) I decided to have a go anyway though I wasn't expected a great deal from it.

After some discussion we decided that over the coming few days we'd attempt to do the worst of the exterior work ourselves that should have been done by our handyman. This meant that we were going to have a very intense DIY binge ahead of us with not much free time for birding. Not that there seemed to be much about at present - it had all gone rather quiet on the news front down here anyway. So expect some blog entries mostly about our renovation efforts over the next few days. Still you never know what might turn up.

Red Chestnut