Sunday, 26 July 2015

North Ronaldsay!! (11th-22nd July)

Well...  It's been a long week and a great deal has happened since I left home for my volunteer placement on North Ronaldsay up in Orkney.  The first leg of my journey took place on the 11th July, leaving London by megabus and arriving in the evening at Aberdeen following a long day on the road.  The following day was spent walking through town to the River Don to find the stream on which a Harlequin Duck had set up residence several months ago.  It had long since moved on but a female Goosander with 4 young were nice to see.  Approaching the beach yielded greater rewards with c.6 Bottlenose Dolphins tumbling over one another, 1 Red-throated Diver flew south whilst Eiders, Sandwich Terns, Kittiwakes and Guillemots were all present in high numbers.  I left Aberdeen by boat at 5pm for the crossing to Kirkwall where I was scheduled to overnight before completing the final stretch of my journey the following morning.  40 Goosander at the entrance of Aberdeen harbour, 1 Storm-petrel, Common Terns, dozens of Puffins, 2 Manx Shearwaters, 8 Bonxies, 1 dark Arctic Skua and a couple Guillemot jumplings with their parents were the highlights of the crossing.  A Common Dolphin also surfaced briefly alongside the ferry.

I finally arrived on North Ron on the 13th after a 15 min plane ride to be greeted by a beaming Kevin Woodbridge who kindly drove me down the road with the land rover to the obs.  The last week has been a massive blur of action starting with a dark Arctic Skua shooting past the land rover as we were pulling out of the airport.  Arctic Terns are everywhere and although I am taking part in a daily bird census I wont bore you with the day-to-day detailed counts.  Nevertheless, a few highlights from the week include daily counts of ever present Bonxies in the region of half a dozen along with lesser numbers of Arctic Skuas.

Kirkwall from the air

my first view of North Ronaldsay

The near total absence of trees leaves only the sheep dykes as shelter.  However, some species still seem to hang on.  Twite, for instance, have featured on nearly every day with singles appearing at random and small flocks being an occasional treat.  Soon after arriving, Gavin Woodbridge kindly invited Molly, Stephen and myself to ring a brood of Meadow Pipits he'd located down the road, a pleasant start of what was to be a week packed with ringing of all kinds.


Being abused, mobbed, dive bombed, pecked, shouted at, vomited on and being shat on isn't many people's dream but it seems to suit me well as ringing the Arctic Tern chicks from some of the colonies involve just that and it was nothing short of enjoyable.  Besides the tern's harsh behaviour, Kevin, Alison, Heather, Gavin, Stephen, George, Peter and I all joined in on the hunt for newly fledged chicks to ring, something which proved to be both very educational and enjoyable.

Arctic Tern

It takes a while to become accustomed to the fact there are hundreds of Black Guillemots lined up on the dykes around the island squeaking to one another with their unusually high pitched calls.  If there were sailing boats present I'd probably be mistaking it for wind blowing through the rigging!

Black Guillemot

Learning the names of the various lochs and crofts is also a challenge but I feel as if it's gradually coming to me.  Over the last week the team focus for us volunteers has been to count, record and log all the bird and butterfly species we encounter, paying particular attention to any evidence of fledged young.  Wheatear have been particularly prominent amongst the ground nesters with juvenile birds outnumbering the adults.  Young Meadow Pipits are also on the wing, Skylarks are foraging around the cut grass fields collecting food for young and Eiders are lingering in a lot of the bays with their ducklings.  2 pairs of Ravens are also on the island but unfortunately they have suffered repeated losses at attempted breeding due to purposeful human destruction by those trying to protect their sheep.

The shift northwards has also meant I'm privileged enough to see my first ever wild Rock Doves!  Other birds of note include 3 Purple Sandpipers at Green Skerry and the summering Whooper Swan which I've encountered on a regular basis spending the day feeding, sleeping and commuting between various lochs.  On 14th July, whilst approaching the west side of the airfield, I accidentally flushed up a very dark duck sp.  On brief views I was confident it was too dark for Mallard but the white borders to the dark speculum opposed my initial impression of Black Duck.  Fortunately, I grabbed a few photographs which seem to suggest a mixture of Black Duck and Mallard features.  Whilst I haven't concluded anything from my brief views and rubbish photos I was struck by the solid dark tone of the whole body (including upper and underparts), uniform dirty yellow bill and pale underwing contrasting strongly with the dark upperwing.  The speculum didn't show up as blue but instead a very deep purple/brown similar to the rest of the wing.  A thin white border to the speculum was noted though.  Responses from other birders have suggested a hybrid but given the unlikelihood I've decided to let it pass as probably being a darker than usual Mallard.

duck sp.

Rock Dove

As the week has drawn on Mealy Redpoll numbers have increased steadily and reaching a dozen birds or more at peak.  Several Arctic Skuas are also about (mostly dark morphs) but I've encountered the occasional pale morph near the southern end of the island.  I've also spent three evenings petrel ringing, on the 14-15th, 15-16th and 19-20th.  48 Storm-petrels were trapped on the first night (ringing 47 and retrapping a control from Norway) along with a Leach's Petrel!  12 Storm-petrels were trapped and ringed on the second and 114 Storm-petrels were trapped on the third night (including three retraps) along with a second Leach's Petrel.  I also saw 5 Storm-petrels on a short seawatch of Westness on the 18th along with Puffin, Arctic Skuas, the usual Bonxies and the lingering Black Tern which I first saw the same morning after several days of absence.  On my return to the obs I accidentally flushed a burst of colour from the dyke beside me.  It didn't take more than a glance through bins to confirm it was a stunning BEE-EATER!  I scrambled for my scope, camera and phone and just about managed to get a few distant record shots as it landed on the fence before it left in the direction of the East Links.



Leach's Petrel with Storm-petrel behind it


Leach's Petrel

partially leucistic Storm-petrel

A short seawatch on the 19th July produced 20 Storm-petrels around dusk in 30 mins and I encountered my first island Hedgehog on the cycle back to the obs.


A text from Gavin on the 20th with a suspected Pectoral Sandpiper had me running back to the obs to collect a bike before heading north again towards East Links.  I suspected the ID wasn't yet clinched so went through the extra effort of running the last stretch.  Fortunately, the bird was still present when I found Gavin and George who were both still watching it.  I must admit I was a little sceptical of the ID so remained for a good long while taking notes and sketches.  Rather alarmingly I also observed what appeared to be a fully white rump on the few times I saw it in flight, the legs were black and the stance and very grey colouration encouraged me to take some detailed sketches as I had a feeling they'd come in use later on when I'd scrutinise the books in the evening.  Sure enough, on my return, I confirmed my suspicions and voiced my opinion to the other volunteers thinking we'd made a mess up and it was in fact a WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER.  However, the others seemed rather set on sticking with Pec Sand so I left it be.  I stayed up late comparing photos and got up around 4am the following morning to double check pics and head back out into the field with the ambition of clinching the white rump.  However, on arriving at the Links there was no sign of the bird or any of the Ringed Plovers with which it had shared its stay.  Sure enough, on returning to the obs and checking the news services others on the internet had concluded that it was indeed a WRSand.  And that sums up our massive cock up of a misID!

White-rumped Sandpiper

The 21st was an improvement from the failure the day before as we all jammed in on a stunning Honey Buzzard which came drifting along the main road north through the island.  Stephen first reported it flying over Holland House but as I was in a dead spot for phone signal I only received the call and text later that day!  Fortunately, the terns, gulls and Starlings did a good job and alerted me to its presence.  Thankfully, I was able to call news through to the others who intercepted it again over Tor Ness where I could just about make it out being continually mobbed by a huge mass of birds, including an Arctic Skua!

The week was broken up nicely with the ringing of a couple Black Guillemot chicks and a single Ringed Plover chick alongside all the other previously mentioned species.  I've also been privileged to observe "drumming" Snipe for the first time as it's currently occurring all over the island throughout the day.

Stephen with a Black Guillemot chick

Ringed Plover chick

"drumming" Snipe


Non-bird highlights included a Hummingbird Hawkmoth seen on two dates at Holland House, a few Large Whites, a Red Admiral, the resident Common Seals and Grey Seals (all in abundance lingering offshore and on the rocky outcrops).  About five different jellyfish species were off the pier but I still haven't got around to identifying them.

Common Seal

unIDed jellyfish

dead Bonxie

dead Arctic Tern found amongst the colony

sunset on the island

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Staines and Patch (1st-10th July)

5th July

Staines Res. N basin: 11 adult Little-ringed Plovers with +3 large +4 small young.  2 Yellow-legged Gulls (adult and juv), 1 Redshank, Shelduck with 7 ducklings, 1 Dunlin.  South basin: 2 Black-necked Grebes.  Staines Moor: 5+ Brown Hawkers, 2 Emperor Dragonflies.

8th July

1-2 Siskin over the garden in KL.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

The big outdoors (16th-30th June)

I was based in Falmouth until the 24th June spending Mondays and Fridays working at Perran Sands and on days off I was working at the field or sorting the house out in preparation for leaving.

16th June

The 16th involved doing odd jobs around town but in amongst all the mayhem of rushing around the countryside I still managed to get singing Cuckoo and Garden Warbler on the day list as well as Tawny Owl perched on wires alongside the road, nicely eliminated in the headlamps of the car and a Barn Owl quartering fields near Treverva.

19th June

An early morning start to check the moth trap at Dan's field (and seeing a Badger run alongside the car) then straight back to Penryn before catching a lift to work.  This was followed by a mornings seawatch at Perran Sands which yielded at least 15 Common Dolphins in the bay perfecting their hunting technique.  This was done by dividing the pod in two groups with half the individuals speeding across the mouth of the bay herding the shoal of fish closer inshore to shallower waters before the second pod lay in wait closer inshore, intercepted the fish attempting to make an escape around the cetacean's barrier.  The afternoon was spent enjoying the company of hundreds of Silver Studded Blues on the sand dunes behind the caravan site!

20th June

The following day was spent nest recording at Stithians Reservoir with Daniel Eva.  We had some success discovering a few Sedge Warbler nests, checking the last of the tit boxes (almost all fledged or failed now) however, unfortunately the Buzzard nest that had three chicks in last time we checked had failed with no sign of the young.  We were also quite surprised to see that the Great Crested Grebe pair which had nested in the southern corner of the main reservoir which had been dangerously exposed to land predators due to dropping water levels had successfully hatched two chicks.  As a twist, the original clutch had included five eggs but these had dwindled down to only two, including a Little Grebe egg that had been dumped in the nest (almost Cuckoo like behaviour!).  This had then hatched along with the single GCG chick and was now ridding around on the parents back alongside it!

23rd June

My Dad was down in Falmouth from the 21st-24th June to help me transport the last of my belongings home.  Alongside all the work we managed to take a day off and visit the Roseland peninsula.  5 Cirl Buntings and 2 Painted Ladys were the highlights along with a very brief glimpse of what appeared to be a Hummingbird Hawkmoth.  Later that evening, Dan, Simon, my Dad and I headed down to Croft Pascoe for Nightjars.  We arrived just in time to be hear the sound of churring and connected with a total of 3-4 Nightjars (2-3 males and a female).  A reeling Grasshopper Warbler was an extra bonus.

25th-30th June

Back home in Kings Langley again...

Haven't indulged myself in a great deal of exciting birding but I have been out a lot with my brother.  Highlights over the last couple days include 2 Mandarin (one female with 4 ducklings) and a pair of Egyptian Geese with 5 goslings along the canal near Cassiobury.  Garden Warbler, Common Tern and Reed Buntings at Croxley Common Moor were nice to see.  There was also a singing male Reed Bunting at the lock house on the canal just south of the M25 junc. 20 (a rare occurrence just outside the patch limits!) and a rattling Lesser Whitethroat has set up territory at Balls Pond Farm.  2 Little Owls are also on patch as was an Emperor Dragonfly, Fox and the first Ringlets and Marbled Whites are emerging.  Red Kites, Buzzards, Sparrowhawks and to a lesser degree Kestrels have all encountered frequently.

Monday, 15 June 2015

More birding stuff... (7th-15th June)

I've been extremely busy recently, working at Perran Sands, a caravan park on the north Cornish coast as well as providing a helping hand with Dan at his small holding.

Perran Sands

Much of it has been a blur and I can't remember exact day-to-day occurrences but here goes.  Pretty much had daily sightings of Painted Lady, often two or three per day!  It may well prove to be an indication of an influx into the country of this species.  10th June was spent largely on the saddle of my bike taking in much of the Cornish countryside.  Starting at Camborne I biked over to Hayle (Whimbrel, Dunlin and 4 Red Kites of note) then St Ives for a seawatch.  This yielded very little other than some Manx Shearwaters, Kittiwakes, auks and some Shags.  I then bisected West Penwith, taking the B3311 south towards Penzance stopping at the tin mine of Wheel Reeth directly next to the road.  Most of my time was spent resting my eyes but a surprise adult Gannet cutting across the peninsula whilst circling upwards in order to reach Marazion was confirmation enough for me that seabirds truly are comfortable with crossing landmasses!

Once arriving in Marazion the time had slid away and it was now approaching mid-afternoon giving me a fighting chance for my main target species, Squacco Heron.  Waiting patiently at the side of the marsh revealed singing Cetti's Warbler, Reed BuntingLittle Egrets and c.10 Grey Herons, and eventually after some time of waiting I caught a satisfactory flight view of the SQUACCO HERON as it crossed the full length of the marsh from near the standing stones to the railway bridge.  I waited until 7pm for further views but with darkness impeding on my time and a long bike ride back still lying ahead of me I decided to call it a day.  Additional highlights included a probable Hobby at the far back of the reserve (a bird that would have been a county tick!  One was seen the following day hunting bats at over the reserve), 1 Red Kite, 6 Sanderling on Marazion beach and numerous bats flying around the fields as well as a Badger and Fox crossing the road in front of me near Helston-Falmouth.

a blanket of cloud approaching on my ride back to Falmouth, the panoramic shot has given it a fish-eye look

I've also continued helping Daniel Eva with nest recording at Stithians Reservoir.  Most of the Blue Tits and Great Tits have fledged (below average numbers this year I'm afraid), but we did find 2 Sedge Warbler nests in compensation along with a Chiffchaff building a nest not to mention checking in on all previous records of breeding birds in the area.

Patching has largely been neglected but this hasn't been of much concern as I've spent most of my time up at Treverva where regular Painted Ladys and Garden Warblers have been on the agenda instead along with my first emerging Large Skipper.

Garden Warbler showing well and singing in the open at Stithians Reservoir

Bodmin Moor (6th June)

Had a great day birding Bodmin Moor with John St Ledger.  With his experience of the site we didn't have much trouble finding our target species.  First on the agenda were 3 Cuckoos (2 males and a female) the latter receiving more than her fair share of attention from some angry Meadow Pipits which seemed rather intent on mobbing her.  She also seemed to constitute a good portion of 1st year flight feathers which almost gave the impression of a hepatic type bird.  5 Whinchats were an additional highlight as we were privileged to see them at their only breeding site in Cornwall!  The four males in song were particularly outstanding!  Back near a water treatment works we could hear 2 Redstarts calling inside the complex however the westerly winds were responsible for suppressing any activity occurring on the visible eastern side of the private site.  However, all was not lost as we located a male feeding a juvenile in a nearby farm on our return.  4 pairs of Wheatear were also found with a total of six young along with numerous other individuals dotted around the slopes.  A Lesser Redpoll also flew over and a couple Black-headed Gulls were on the moors.

singing male Whinchat!

 Brown Willy, the highest point in Cornwall!

female Cuckoo, with initial views like this it looked like a hepatic bird

better views revealed that it was simply inheriting a good portion of 1st year flight feathers instead

juv Wheatear

only got a shot of the juv Redstart, the male was too restless to be able to get a digi-scope pic

Other species of note included Green Hairstreak, 3 Painted Lady and a couple Small Heath butterflies, a Roe Deer and some stunning scenery.

In all a very enjoyable day out with John, thanks again for the lift and the company!

Friday, 12 June 2015

BEE-EATERS!! (5th June)

As it turned out I was supposed to be at work on Friday (cleaning caravans at Perran Sands as a temp job).  However, the guy providing me with a lift forgot to pick me up so as usual I was stranded on patch.  Given that I already had my bins and scope to hand I decided to go straight to Pendennis to pass the time.  Seawatching produced little of note so I continued to bike it to Swanpool where equally little was of note.  Getting rather tired of patching I decided to push myself a little further by walking the rest of the way to Maenporth and Rosemullion until I decided to give up.  As was soon to be revealed this flourished into a brilliant outcome.  The full walk encompassed a great variety of butterflies includig 11+ Painted Ladys, 1 Clouded Yellow, multiple Orange-tip, Red Admiral, Small Copper, Common Blue, Speckled Wood and Wall Brown.

Arriving at Bream Cove, I crossed the brook and was just contemplating its resemblance to the valley at Porthgwarra which in turn reminded me of the 4 Bee-eaters that were there yesterday.  This triggered me to fantasise about the possibility of Bee-eaters here but yet again I assumed I was expecting too much.  Gravitating my mind back to reality, I scrambled around the back of some bushes for a piss which is when I heard a couple purring trills.  These did tug at my conscience enough to contemplate Bee-eater but even so it wasn't convincing enough so it was only when I had swung my rucksack back over my shoulder that I decided to glance upwards in search of the sound to be greeted with the spectacularly stunning sight of 2 BEE-EATERS!!!  Panic shortly ensued knowing this was a dead-spot for any internet signal (as I found out earlier in the year when I encountered the King Eider after several days of absence and tried to get the news out).  Thankfully I managed to get the news through to John St Ledger, Dan and Simon but after having lingered for a minute or two in the top of a tall oak tree both birds took flight, circled up a little and then flew SW.

one of the two Bee-eaters at Bream Cove

The valley at Nansidwell Farm leading into Bream Cove

Bream Cove

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Life and Birding (11th April-2nd June)

After many years of education and academia I am finally left to my own devices.  Thanks to the huge support from my loving family and friends I've wound my way through these beginning stages of life and now find myself graduating in BSc Environmental Science, give it another few years to stew and I wonder what'll be on the horizon then.

With my final exams preoccupying me with indoor revision time I must admit this drove me close to insanity.  However, a few well placed revision breaks along the way helped with the moral boost.

12th April:

Incombe Hole with my bro Ephraim in the hope of seeing some Ring Ouzels.  Despite negative news from a birder just leaving we did a good job and located 8 Ring Ouzels in the sheep fields near Middle Path Farm.

14th April:

An early start to try for yesterday's Bluethroat at Amwell.  Given the clear spring skies and it was a keen male intent on getting to its breeding grounds I doubted it would be there but Chris, Ephraim and I decided it was still worth a shot as there was a chance we might be able to bump into a few other bits and pieces.  No sign of the Bluethroat of course but 2 Black-necked Grebes in their breeding plumage finery along with my first Sedge Warblers and Willow Warblers of the year.  4 Oystercatchers flew over and Common Terns were hawking over the water.  We decided to cut our losses and head to Cliff Pools instead in the hope of connecting with the small party of Black-winged Stilts.  Several excursions down the wrong footpaths led to repeated failure.  However, we did discover 6+ Nightingales, 1 Wheatear, numerous Avocet, Black-tailed Godwits, our first Whitethroat of the year and the odd Cetti's Warbler.  Ephraim was on a role in terms of waders as he found a Ruff, a nice Common Sandpiper and did a good job of finally picking out our first Black-winged Stilt of the day!  A little more scanning revealed all 5 of the originally reported birds to still be present.  We spent a good while scanning backwards and forwards through the scattered group before we finally tallied up a new and higher total of 6 BLACK-WINGED STILTS (including a stunning male)!

Higham Marshes

Sh4rpy and Ephraim approving of our additional Black-winged Stilt find, nice one guys!

Black-winged Stilt 1...

Black-winged Stilt 2 and 3...

Black-winged Stilt 4 and 5...

...and Black-winged Stilt 6!

26th April:

Pendennis Point: 2 Basking Sharks (one breaching three times!  Something I have never experienced before), 4 Great Northern Divers (3 sum plums), 15 Common Scoter, 1 Shelduck, 1 Whimbrel along with a good movement of Manx Shearwaters and auks.  A pod of 15+ Common Dolphins also appeared in the same area as the sharks and a Wall Brown at the point was my first of the year!

The largest Basking Shark's dorsal fin

Stithians Reservoir:  Nest recording with Dan and Daniel.  The tits have already started laying, crows are on the nest and we also found Dunnock chicks.  We had two surprises, the first was watching Daniel sink knee hight into a particularly wet patch of ground in his brave attempt at providing me with a piggy back as I wasn't wearing appropriate footwear and the second surprise in the form of a stunning male Golden Oriole which flew over the road in front of us before perching briefly in the top of some small trees at the southern end of the reservoir!  Well done to Dan for being the first to pick it out despite being laden with carrying the ladder which we were using to check the nests.  2 Stock Doves also flew over (only the second and third I've ever seen in the county!).  Butterflies of note included Speckled Wood, Small White and Peacock.

Male Golden Oriole!

27th April:

Today, headed up to uni with Dan, stopping at the Penryn River on the way up to check Gorrangorras.  2 Common Sandpipers, 2 Whimbrel and a Peregrine over ASDA were the highlights (decent given the lowish tide).  Dan continued to check the res's whilst I was in a revision session at uni so it was only about an hour later that I noticed his text informing me of a Blackwit at College Res.  By the time I made it to the site there was no sign of it.  I did hear a Garden Warbler on the north side, a Whitethroat on the east side though, 6 Sand Martins and 3+ Swallows flew through followed by a group of 4 Buzzards all drifting west across the reservoir in unison.

29th April:

WeBS count again.  Dan and I were several days late as ever but given it was spring and the counts were optional, there was less urgency for it to be conducted on the correct day. Starting at Porthleven at first light and heavy rain, we worked our way south along the coastal footpath.

Whimbrel featured strongly both on our walk to and from the pool, 32 feeding in the fields directly south of Porthleven, 8 additional birds travelling along the shoreline and 6 distant birds flying south. Several singles were also heard flying over Loe Pool but were obscured by the canopy. 1 Great Northern Diver was offshore.

Wildfowl numbers had predictably dropped as they're all busy returning to their breeding grounds further north so were excused in their absence. None the less, a few Great Crested Grebes, Mallard, Coot, Moorhen, Cormorants, Grey Heron and even 2 Shelduck remained.  Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Herring Gulls were probably in single and double figures respectively but they still managed to encourage a worn 2nd CY Iceland Gull to join them in the Carminowe Creek.  15+ Reed Warblers were also well established along with 2+ Cetti's Warblers.  Other birds of note included 8 Bullfinch, 3+ Chiffchaff and 3+ Willow Warbler, 8+ Blackcap, a small influx of Robins and Blackbirds on the surrounding slopes and a singing Whitethroat.

Iceland Gull (far left) with accompanying Herring Gulls

Iceland Gull

The Hayle Kimbro area hosted singing Cuckoo and Grasshopper Warbler.

Moving on to Lizard Point we had decent views of a Basking Shark off the point, 3 Puffins flew west (diluted amongst the hundreds of Guillemots also tracking in the same direction).  Manx Shearwaters were also passing through in good numbers along with the occasional Fulmar, group of Gannets and the odd Kittiwake.  6 Turnstone also flew around the point.

Given that we had to be back in Falmouth by 1pm, we used the last of our time checking the approach road to Kynance Cove.  2 Sedge Warblers singing and several more Whitethroats were the main birds of note.

2nd May:

Highlights in rain and dense fog from a quick shoot around the local area with Dan and Matt.  Swanpool: Long-tailed Duck, c.4 Sand Martins and 20+ Swallows.
Gorrangorras:  Whimbrel, Greenshank and Oystercatcher.
Stithian's Res:  1 Swift (my first of the year), 20+ Swallow, Sand Martin, 4 Little Grebes, 4 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Little Egrets, 1 Grey Heron, 3 Reed Buntings and a selection of other usual garden birds visiting the feeders.

3rd May:

Revision time again so cooped up indoors slowly loosing my mind. What a relief to see 2 Swift shoot past the window (my first on patch this year).

5th May:

Walked down to the coast yesterday afternoon after my exam to take a break.  Ended up seawatching from Pennance Point until dusk.  Dan paid a brief visit and together scanned around a little from the Hooked Cafe.

Swanpool: 1 Long-tailed Duck, 3 Mute Swans (pair nesting at the southern end +another adult nearby that seems to be well tolerated by the nesting pair)

Seawatching from Hooked Cafe and later Pennance Point (all west unless otherwise stated): 9 Whimbrel (also 7 below the cafe may have been different individuals), 1 Puffin, 15-20 Manx Shearwaters per minute, dozens Fulmar (2 on the cliffs), small wader sp., 1 Shelduck, 5+ Kittwakes, 5 Great Northern Divers on the sea (4 in sum plum).

6th May:

Arranged another session for this morning with Dan as we hadn't done much seawatching this year, and the SW blow seemed promising - false promise really again as it turned out.

Started off interestingly with a Swift at the base of the peninsula - seemingly being chased by a Herring Gull!

Pendennis Point c8:00-10:00am all west unless stated otherwise:

5 Sandwich Tern
1 Bonxie
6 Kittiwake
2 Whimbrel east and into the Carrick Roads
2 Great Northern Diver, west then pitched onto the sea.
An additional c.4 Great Northern Divers - 3 sum plum, 1 imm/winter
5+ Guillemot
1 Puffin
Fulmars, Gannets and distant Manx Shearwaters all present in reasonably low numbers,
Cormorants and Shag.

Popped past Penryn River on my way back from campus.  1 Whimbrel, 5 Mute Swans, 2 Great Black-backed Gulls (not sure I've seen them at Gorrangorras before).

8th May:

2 Wheatear in my backgarden this morning (one without a tail)!

female Wheatear

and the one without the tail

11th May:

Had a wander around after finishing my second exam yesterday afternoon. In fact, just before entering the exam hall 8 Buzzards flew over campus in unison, I wonder if Honeys will be on the move through the county soon?  My intention was to check out the belated news of a Hoopoe in the direction of Argal so I headed past College Res and made my way across the farmland.  I checked the fields either side of Hillhead Road as thoroughly as I could (three of which were ploughed).  One ploughed field in particular seemed to fit the description of the directions quite well but the farmer was in the process of ploughing in manure so I wasn't able to scan the whole area. A male Wheatear, c.10 Buzzards, 100+ Herring Gulls and 40+ Jackdaws seemed to be making good use of the freshly tilled earth.

Walking through town towards Swanpool yielded a constant presence of Swifts circling over town, 4 House Martins and numerous Swallows.

Swanpool still hosted the Long-tailed Duck (it even did two full circuits of the pool).  Two pairs of Coot seem to have set up territory and are sitting on nests with a third adult attending to two chicks.  Dan also paid a visit for an hour and together saw 1 male Wheatear at the Hooked Cafe, Sandwich Tern on the buoy and a Kestrel flew over.

Seawatching from Swanpool and Pennance Point: 3 Great Northern Divers (2 sum plums), 2 Manx Shearwaters, 1 distant prob Puffin on the sea, a couple Guillemots and a large all dark duck sp. diving off Maenporth (difficult to be sure of its identity due to low light and distance, perhaps just a scoter but seemed too large).

Falmouth Town: Hedgehog crossed Florence Place, 2+ Whimbrel flew north whilst calling in the dark and 2-3 bats flying around the northern end of Swanpool on my way back home!

12th May:

Short trip down to the coast with Matt this afternoon. More talking than birding but still picked up on a few odds and ends.  Long-tailed Duck still on Swanpool with the pair of Mute Swans proudly showing off their 8 cygnets! 1 Mallard duckling, 3 Reed Warblers chasing each other around at the northern end of the pool, 2 Oystercatchers and 2+ Sandwich Terns offshore. Also dabbled in a bit of rock pooling, as ever I have no idea what I'm actually looking at but it's still one of life's best joys!

15th May:

Over an hour and a half period I had three separate sightings of a Red Kite (possibly all different individuals).  Seen from my bedroom window whilst revising.

18th May:

Completed my degree at midday yesterday!  Treated myself to a Night Heron twitch.

All easier said than done of course!  First, a 13 mile bike ride down the A39 towards Truro then a casual walk down the west side of Tresillian River.  Despite being last sighted at 11:30 I was only able to arrive on site at 1pm dues to my final exam earlier that morning.  No sign of the Night Heron when I arrived but 12 Shelduck, 3 Whimbrel, 1 Curlew, 2 Mute Swans, 3 Coal Tits (including 2 fledglings), 9 Long-tailed Tits (mostly fledglings), 3 Bullfinches, 2 Swifts, 30+ House Martins and 20+ Swallows were all decent company.  Growing tired waiting at the pool I decided to walk downstream towards St Clement and shortly before arriving at the village I picked up on a song I haven't heard in a long time, looking up revealed a surprise Spotted Flycatcher!

A full seven and a half hours passed whilst I waited at the edge of the pool, at least 15 people must have come and gone leaving Daniel Eva, John Chapple, an elderly couple and myself to wait it out.  Daniel received a quick glimpse of it as it flew from back of the surrounding cover towards a little ditch a little further down the path.  This we approached with caution but inadvertently flushed the adult Night Heron from beside the path were we obtained some stunning views as it surveyed us from an overhanging branch. Intent on feeding it soon pitched down into the stream below where I was just about able to make out its back end.  Five minutes later it flew up again and headed back to Tresemple Pool where we were unable to relocate it (presumably as it was now feeding in low cover again).  All this activity was compressed into the hours 8:15-8:40pm so anyone planning on connecting with it is best off checking it at nightfall.

never seen a Little Egret sitting down before

finally... the Night Heron!

A major drawback from this escapade involved a long bike ride back in the dark with my bike lights failing making the trip particularly dangerous, not to mention the cars overtaking at 70mph down the hill into Devoran!

19th May

Today was a little more relaxing. Out at 8am, Dan and I made it down to Pendennis Point. Strongish northerly winds were probably responsible for the low totals with most birds being pushed far offshore and out of view.  Seawatch totals:

8 Great Northern Divers (6 west, 1 east, 1 in Falmouth Bay)
1 Whimbrel west
c. 20 auks west
2 Oystercatchers

There was also a male Wheatear at the point (seemingly a nominate bird with very little pink-buff on the chest), 1 Rock Pipit and a small trickle of Swallows.


1 Rock Pipit
20+ Jackdaws


Perhaps one of the main surprises of the day was actually the absence of the long-staying Long-tailed Duck which didn't appear despite thoroughly checking the pool (maybe just hiding in the reeds from the strong winds, she's done that before). Perhaps the migratory instinct got the better of her though. She's stayed for a total of 189 days (approx. 6.5 months)!

Also present:
Mute Swan pair with 8 cygnets
4 Coot nests, pair with 4 chicks, pair with 2 chicks and pair with 1 chick (all small)
Mallard ducklings: 1 large, 2 small
Moorhen chick: 1 large
2 Reed Warblers singing

Pennance Point:

2 Great Northern Divers off Maenporth
2 Guillemots
c.10 Gannets hunting close inshore
8 Fulmar on the cliffs with several others offshore
1 Painted Lady
1 Wall Brown

20th May:

Full day working/birding with Dan.  Started with the WeBS count at Stithians Res.   Not a great deal about in terms of wildfowl except Grey Herons, Little Egrets, Little Grebes and Mallards.  A few Sedge Warblers were dotted around the reservoir along with 1 Stonechat, 1 Cuckoo and 4 Reed Buntings.

Fields near Treverva: 1 Four-spotted Chaser (my first dragonfly of the year), 1 Painted Lady, 1 Small Copper and a few Speckled Woods.

This Green-veined White struck as unusual as it didn't have a distinctive upperwing with the typical dark tip and central spot.

Green-veined White

22nd May:

Patching by myself this morning so it would come as no surprise that I spent most of the time seawatching from Pennance Point.  Highlights included:

13 Great Northern Divers (12 on the sea, 1 west) all but two in sum plum
1 Red-throated Diver flew west into the bay then landed off Maenporth and immediately began diving
1 dark phase Pomarine Skua/Arctic Skua (very distant but jizz seemed to indicate Pom) flew west
trickle of Manx Shearwaters, Guillemots and 40+ Kittwakes
pod of c.15 Bottlenose Dolphins at first distant offshore before heading closer in
3 Wall Brown on the point

Another visit down to Pennance Point after a quick nip into Truro.

Limited movement of Manx Shearwaters and Kittwakes with c.3 Great Northern Divers lingering.  8 Mute Swan cygnets still surviving at Swanpool and a terrapin on the raft at the northern end.  Also saw a cat "playing" with a live mouse sp. (think it was a Wood Mouse) on my bike ride back home. I shooed the attacker away but the mouse seemed to be rather stunned before it ran into the cover of a nearby hedge were it was soon pursued by the cat again.  Unfortunately, I'm not sure how it ended as they both disappeared into the hedge.

23rd May:

First Clouded Yellow of the year up on farmland near Treverva, a Painted Lady and 2 Garden Warblers.  Whimbrel and Cuckoo at Stithians Reservoir.

26th May:

Seawatching off Pennance Point was quiet but a little unusual. Having only seen my first 2 Barrel Jellyfish that morning washed up on Penryn River at Gorrangorras I was very pleased to see a further 2 Barrel Jellyfish live just off the point!  Other unusual sightings included a Buzzard circling over the bay out to sea, 2 House Martins heading east on the seawatch followed by a few Swallows.  The highlight was the flock of c.42 Dunlin which were easily picked out with the naked eye crossing the bay like a white shimmer over the water.   It seemed they'd come from the direction of the Helford Passage but on nearing the centre of the bay they began to gain height and flew inland over Maenporth.  3 Great Northern Divers were also of note.

one of the two Barrel Jellyfish washed ashore at Gorrangorras

27th May:

1 Painted Lady in the garden then a late afternoon-dusk seawatch.  Very little passing Pennance Point despite waiting several hours.  It was great to see a total of 8 Barrel Jellyfish just meters from Pennance Point spread out along a 100m section of the coast! A few Manx Shearwaters were moving about, 3 Great Northern Divers (2 sum plums flew west and an additional immature was sat on the sea just off the point). The occasional Fulmar, group of Guillemots and Herring Gulls following the fishing boats was about it...

three of the eight Barrel Jellyfish just off Pennance Point

Pennance Point, my favourite place on patch!

28th May:

WeBS counting with Dan again.  Croft Pascoe, Hayle Kimbro, Lizard Point, Loe Pool and Helston Boating Lake all covered as usual.  The highlights included 3 Marsh Fritillaries (my first of the year) and c.5 Risso's Dolphins past the point (fortunately just picked them up coming from the east after stepping into the car ready to leave!).  Also came across fledgling Grey Wagtails and a Goldcrest fledgling.

Orange-tip at Loe Pool

30th May:

Day out birding with local Falmouth birder John St Ledger.  We encompassed Rinsey Head, where we had nice views of nesting Kittiwakes, Fulmars, ShagsHerring Gulls and 4 Stonechat (including 2 juvs).  Then on to Marazion were the best we could muster was a Cetti's Warbler exploding into song.  Eventually, on to Drift were we were hoping for the Purple Heron.  This we dipped in exchange for a singing Lesser Whitethroat near the dam, a distant Red Kite, 2 Painted Ladys, 1 Wall Brown and a Small Copper.  Our penultimate stop at Lands End revealed 1 Chough (colour ringed), a trickle of Manx Shearwaters and several pairs of Razorbills on the rocky outcrops.  A final stop at Hayle produced the long-staying 1st summer Ring-billed Gull near the causeway along with 3 Curlew, 1 Bar-tailed Godwit and 6 Shelduck (with an aditional 2 ducklings).  Many thanks John for the lift and the sandwiches from your wife, much appreciated!

Kittiwakes at Rinsey

Great Crested Grebe with young at Drift Res

Ring-billed Gull at Hayle

31st May:

Nest recording with Daniel Eva in the Stithians Reservoir area.  We had a great day finding and recording the local breeders including: 3 Willow Warbler, 1 Chiffchaff, 2 Magpie, 1 Buzzard, 1 Sparrowhawk, 3 Carrion Crow, 1 Woodpigeon, 1 Canada Goose, 1 Great Crested
, 2 Song Thrush, 3 Wren, 3 Long-tailed Tit, 3 Dunnock, 1 Chaffinch, 8
Great Tit
, 9 Blue Tit.

Other species likely breeding on site of which we haven't yet found nests include:
Mallard, Coot, Moorhen, Little Grebe, Garden Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Whitethroat,
Reed Bunting, Robin, Blackbird and possibly Jay and Bullfinch.

Other highlights included Southern Marsh Orchids and a female Adder!

The feeders at the southern cuttoff of Stithians Reservoir

Southern Marsh Orchid

my first Adder (a female)!

2nd June:

6.5 hours at Pennance Point (1-2hrs sleeping the rest seawatching).  2 Pomarine Skuas (dark and pale phase flew west), 1 Bonxie west and 4 Great Northern Divers in Falmouth Bay.