Friday, 30 November 2012

Bits and Bobs (28th-30th November)

Just a few bits and bobs from the past few days.  Didn't go out birding at all the closest I got was an early morning shop to ASDA at 2am which produced a single Red Fox in the car park, my first Cornish Fox so a very welcome sight!  Also several Redwing Turdus iliacus calling whilst migrating overhead in the pitch black at night, one of my favorite winter sounds.  Also had this Feathered Thorn in the flat early one morning whilst in the kitchen.

Feathered Thorn

Thanks for ID Spider!

Waxwing at last (30th November)

This afternoon I eventually took the opportunity to go and visit the Waxwing in Falmouth.  I arrived after about 2:45 and hadn't even got off my bike at Marlborough Crescent before I set eyes on WAXWING!!!  5 WAXWING Bombycilla garrulus in total to be precise.  They performed amazingly, perched on the overhead wires and TV aerials before making quick visits to the berry bushes below them.  As well as allowing amazingly close views they also made it to my year and Cornwall list!  With a little light left in the day, I went on to check out for the Dusky again.  No sign unfortunately,  although I bumped into Greg again and enjoyed good views of a Firecrest Regulus ignicapillus along with several Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita.  A Robin Erithacus rubecula gave me some aggression as it attempted to collide with my face in retaliation against the little bit of red T-shirt that was stuck out above my collar.

Waxwing! quality winter visitors

Once again another dip on the Dusky, it seems it'll just have to require patience.  A lot of it.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Red-necks (28th November)

Despite Wednesday being my usual day off, I had two appointments that had me kept in uni until 4pm so it was only after this that I managed to rush down to Gylly beach in hope of the Red-necks before hoping moving on to the Dusky.  I arrived at Gylly fairly quickly but the light was already dwindling fast and I only managed a short period of descent scope views of a Great Northern Diver Gavia immer close in the bay before I found the 2 RED-NECKED GREBES Podiceps grisegena that I was here for.  They were much more distant but the distinguishable features were still adequately visible for a few minutes before it simply became too dark to see anything, so I resorted to staring at the GN Diver again bobbing around on the water in the reflection of the town-lights,  a nice way to end the evening.

I never managed to get to Swanvale to check for the Dusky as it was simply too dark so it'll have to wait till Friday.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Dipped a Dusky and brows still not wearing off (24th November)

I was originally planning on going for the Subalpine Warbler in St Just but when news finally got to me in the evening of a Dusky at Swanvale, only a few miles down the road, the careful planing for the trip to St Just went out the window.  Early morning arrived and I found myself standing in the pouring rain at Swanvale, the only pair of eyes about looking for the bird.  I hung around for a few hours getting miserably wet not seeing much other than the occasional Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita trying to fool me.  The horrible weather (which continued throughout the day) was briefly lightened when a Firecrest Regulus ignicapilla came flitting through the vegetation   Next, I decided to wander up towards Pennance Point to take a break from staring at blank bushes.  I was stood at the entrance to Swanvale and only seconds after I had found my third YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER Phylloscopus inornatus in the past 9 days an old woman came up to me trying to lecture me on her bird feeders and Robins!  As much as I like chatting to novices, they always seem to turn up when your most engrossed in looking at something and haven't got the time to either answer questions on what peanuts one should put in feeders or how many Buzzards they've seen flying over their house, just a little fact I've picked up along the way.  All the same I still did get decent views of the bird as it flashed its brightly edged tertials and brilliant super.  Down at Pennace, I picked up on 2 Great Northern Divers Gavia immer as well as the odd Guillemot Uria aalge amongst them.

 both of the Great Northern Divers

A Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla also went past the point and a Mediterranean Gull Larus Melanocephalus was at Swanpool.  On my return to Swanvale to continue the search, three more uni birders joined in the search (at last a a little moral support).  Still no luck and after a few more hours I once again found myself alone staring blankly at more Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita and Goldcrests Regulus regulus.  The Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus came through briefly but wasn't quite compensation for my first Cornish rarity dip.  Here's hopping it gets refound and hangs around long enough for me to see.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Another brief local patch round (22nd November)

Got up early this morning to fit in a brief mooch around one of the many local patches (the footpath by the quarry).  There was very strong wing threatening to blow whole branches of trees so there was little chance of me refinding the YBW from last week.  Instead I made my way slowly on through the fields were I got a better view over the quarry itself.   Here I observed one Raven Corus Corax battling through the rain and wind.  The highlight, a Peregrine Falco peregrinus I found perched inside the quarry had anything but flying on its mind and simply staked out the bad weather but was gone before I returned back to Campus.

Monday, 19 November 2012

These probables are really winding me up! (19th November)

Didn't go out today, instead the birds came to me (or at least one did).  The only problem being I wasn't fast enough at IDing them.  It was only at about 5-6ish pm with little/no light that I got the first and only bird of note for the day.  I was chatting to friends outside the flats when all of a sudden what could only have been a Woodcock came pelting towards us from over the top of the flat, veering sharply away as it came towards the street lamp and vanished as quickly as it had come back into darkness.  All I could get on it was a brown bared woodpigeon-like bird.  I only saw it for a few seconds (should still have been long enough to get an ID) but it took me by such surprise that I wont count it (this always seems to be the case for this bird always short glimpses as it zooms away from me after being flushed from the undergrowth, never good views, shame).

Here's a list of probables I've had this year which I still haven't managed to nail.  That's right I don't have anything better to do than wind myself up!

Woodcock-one just today, not to mention the numberous others
Velvet Scoter-a scoter sp. with white secondaries flew past Rustington in early January
Pomarine Skua-one past the Lizard after coming down to live in Cornwall, didn't have my scope ready and only bins at hand
Black Kite-one very briefly over the fields behind theRSSKL back in April, strangely this was at a similar time as numerous other records of Black Kite in the county although none of them were records for certain
Melodious Warbler-a self-found bird on Scillies first thought it was Melodious then Icterine then Melodious again (not much chance it will ever resolve itself sadly, would have loved to add it to the life list)
Slavonian Grebe-a very distant bird off Old Hall Marshes when twitching the Red-breasted Goose back in February
Black-throated Diver-also at Old Hall Marshes on the same day as the prob. slav.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Even more scarcities (one of them (maybe) even self-found!) 18th November

Another good days birding (sorry Sh4rpy for stealing your blog title).

I woke up early in preparation to leave for Loe Pool but accidentally fell asleep again.  Thankfully I woke up an hour later, still relatively early although it was beginning to get light.  The long bike ride was certainly worth it in the end, as was wading through the muddy footpath as the first bird I raised my bins to on the Pool was a 1st-win. drake RING-NECKED DUCK Athya collaris!  Having connected with the target bird for the day within seconds of arrival I now had the rest of the day free for some casual birding (I love it when twitches are that easy).  I hung around for a while watching it, digiscoped it, took field sketches and notes before moving on.  The second bird of note for the day was a very close flypast Water Rail Rallus aquaticus which past only a few meters away as I was watching the american.

 1st-win. drake Ring-necked Duck

 amazing scenery

 with friends!

 just a glimpse of the underside

Loe Pool, from Porthleven Sands

 triple rainbow, probably not visible in pic unfortunately

some moree stunnin coastline, all on the doorstep

Next stop was Porthleven Sands.  By now the sun had come out, the temperature was rising and the day could only get better and indeed it did, although it took a bit of work!  From the beach, I watched a few Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla fly past, 1 prob. Great Northern Diver also went SE but once again I was unprepared with only bins quickly at hand (unfortunately this is a repeating occurrence as it seems this is the 12th flypast diver sp. I have had this year that I have been unsuccessful in IDing!).  Anyway, other species of note included 1 Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus, 2 Raven Corvus corax and plenty of Stonechats Saxicola rubicola from the coastal path (along with considerably more Meadow Pipits Anthus pratensis.  To top the day of, after checking on the Ring-necked Duck again, I was wandering back through the grass field east of Carminowe Creek bordering a line of trees overhanging a small stream (which feeds into the creek).  I heard two "hweet" notes, spun around and had already come to a conclusion as to what it was, I had drilled the notes deep into my head using the xeno-canto website in the past week and now the preparation was paying of!  After about five minutes wandering up and down the line of trees I finally came across what I was expecting  another YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER Phylloscopus inornatus!  Once again I was utterly stunned with my success to first ID the bird by call!  I'm getting better at this Yellow-browed game!

Finally, whilst bent over unlocking my bike I felt the wind pick up, oblivious to what was happening, I looked up to realised the cause for the fresh breeze was infact due to large swathes of Stralings Sturnus vulgaris flying low over my head towards the Marazion Marsh roost site, a brilliant way to end the day with one of natures miracles.

(Just got an e-mail from Dave Parker from the CBWPS saying that someone else also found the Yellow-browed Warbler at Loe Pool (most likely before I got it) so unfortunately I might not be able to count it as a self-found, shame)

Friday, 16 November 2012

Self-found Browed Confirmed!!+Pendennis (16th November)

I staked out the browed warbler site the following day after I first saw it (15th November) in hope that it would have remained overnight.  Here I also met up with Dan Chaney (a local birder to Falmouth) but unfortunately we drew a blank despite looking from first light.  However, I did see a phyllo. warbler briefly come through along with a tit flock but it was all too brief to ID.  Enough with tramping around in a dark, dreary and damp woodland, we decided to focus our efforts on the nearby Penryn River, only a short car journey down the road.  We arrived to see pretty much the usual expected species including 3 Greenshank, several Redshank Tringa totanus, Curlew Numenius arquata, Turnstone Arenaria interpres and Little Egrets Egretta garzetta (feeding in the nearby cow field).  We moved on quickly to Falmouth docks overlooking the roofs with their accompanying selection of large gulls, including a relative large portion of Great Black-backed Gulls Larus marinus.  Pendennis, our penultimate stop for the morning produced 3 Purple Sandpipers Calidris maritima (first located by Dan) whilst the occasional Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus also flew past.  On to our final stop off, Castle and Gylly Beach.  Dan once again pointed out a regular Stonechat spot and minutes later a fine male Stonechat Saxicola torquata popped out on the bramble.  Black Redstarts were also on our mind and just as we were about to leave I managed to pick two dark birds flitting about near the wall.  Sure enough, a quick look through the scope revealed a Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros (a female or 1st-summer type) (the other one got away unfortunately).  In all a rather productive start to the day before heading back to uni in time for my first lecture of the morning!

Still rather desperate to get a positive ID on the browed warbler, I returned latter in the afternoon and was very lucky indeed to reconnect with it in almost exactly the same place as to where I found yesterday!  Thankfully it confirmed my belief (based on yesterdays fleeting glimpses) that it was infact a YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER Phylloscopus inornatus!  It performed rather well, feeding in the Maple trees lining the edge of the footpath, occasionally hovering and gleaning insects from the underside of leaves in its characteristic fashion.  As the sky darkened, it suddenly vanished, not after I had enjoyed its presence for some considerable time.  In all a very satisfying end to the day with another self-found scarcity under my belt (Cornwall birding is certainly reaping in the rewards)!

a selection of the better photos of the Yellow-browed Warbler

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Self-found Browed! (15th November)

Finally, is all I can say.  After my first lecture of the day ended at 1ish, I was in debate whether I should go out briefly just to check the local patch.  With only an hour to spare, I finally decided I would go just up the road to my closest public footpath, after all, I should be keeping up a local patch now that I live in Cornwall.  A good decision it certainly was.  I checked the surrounding fields watching a flock of 28+ Lapwing Vanellus vanellus swirling around then moved on further up the path.  I could hear Long-tailed Tits Aegithalos caudatus ahead and was partly debating whether to turn back when it came to mind that I should probably just go through the small extra effort of walking the few additional steps up the path just to check there weren't any YBrowed's hanging around with them.  Barely seconds later and I was staring gobsmacked at a BROWED WARBLER!  I could barely believe the chances.  It performed rather well and was feeding in the maple tree, relatively low down, showing all the obvious features but as always when confronted with scarcity (or any rarity for that matter) all the ID features you have crammed into your head seem to leave.  Unfortunately I couldn't hang around for a certain ID to make sure it wasn't Hume's as I had to get back to uni for lectures so I promised I would be back for it as soon as the statistics was over.

Skip a few hours and I was back on the path, the statistics test thankfully now behind me and infront of me was the Browed Warbler again.  I had barely refound it when it turned its back and fled, unfortunately I couldn't relocate it in the dwindling light so it seems its a task for tomorrow morning.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

College Reservoir (9th November)

Friday afternoon I went down to College Reservoir briefly to do a bit of local patch work.  I sat at the bench on the north east end of the reservoir and had barely sat down when a flock of 20+ Curlew Numenius arquata flew in, landing in the fields to the west of the reservoir.  A few species on the water but nothing unusual  just the common wildfowl, predominantly Wigeon Anas Penelope.  It took some time for me to finally realise there was also a male Goldeneye Bucephala clangula on the water but I only briefly saw it before it dived, after which I lost it for some time and only refound it after some time of scanning.

Stithians Reservoir (10th November)

Winter weather was really setting in today and the cycle to Stithians Reservoir (my first visit to the site) was not particularly enjoyable.  However, the walk round the reservoir with another third year Exeter student, Jack Shutt, brightened the day up considerably (thanks Jack).  We squelched our way round the east side of the muddy path, coming across nothing interesting.  I'd unfortunately missed Jacks earlier Yellow-legged Gull thanks to myself getting lost.  We staked out both hides for a short while but nothing except a few Wigeon Anas Penelope to report, the odd Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis and Raven Corvus corax.  The biggest surprise was a flock of 8 Snipe Gallinago gallinago circling around the southern end of the reservoir.  From the cut-off section of water (overlooking a small feeding station) we located a single Marsh Tit Parus palustris coming to the feeders (a rather scarce bird down here in Cornwall).  We were about to leave when I suddenly realised that there was a brave Water Rail Rallus aquaticus that had decided to venture out into the open and began feeding under the feeders before it sprinted for cover only seconds later.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Tawny's on Campus (6th November)

A male and female Tawny Owl Strix aluco calling somewhere on campus as I'm writing up my essay.

Good birds on campus and finally the live equivalent! (6th November)

My Environmental Science course involved a ringing session today on campus and together with the Zoology Students we enjoyed very close up views of Goldcrest Regulus regulus, Blackbird Turdus merula, Blue Tit Parus caeruleus, Great Tit Parus major, Greenfinch Carduelis chloris, Goldfinch Carduelis carduelisDunnock Prunella modularis and the highlights, a female Nuthatch (an absolute stunner up close in the hand), a male Firecrest Regulus ignicapillus and a feisty young Great Spotted Woodpecker Denrocopos major!  A very enjoyable experience as all of us were allowed to ring a t least one bird (a 1st win. female Greenfinch for me).

ringed Great Spotted Woodpecker

A Raven Corvus corax also flew over during the session before we finished at around 9am.  News soon came in of a Great Northern Diver at Swanpool (thanks Dan).  I was much in need of the live equivalent as I had only recently found a dead one at Marazion so I cycled quickly down to Swanpool in hope of getting a relatively easy tick.  Not so.  I spent about 40mins on the beach and could find nothing except for a Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus.  After giving up at the beach I decided to move on to Swanpool Point and finely after another long scan I came across the GREAT NORTHERN DIVER Gavia immer casually floating in the distance near Pennance Point   I quickly rushed round to the point in hope of better views but on arrival it took me another 40mins to again reconnect with the bird (I wonder why it took sooo long, I'm not that bad a birder!)  At least I got much better views and for a few seconds as the glare of the sun on the water diminished it gave a brief good view before diving again, happy at last!!!

maybe the worst record shot of a Great-northern Diver, you'll have to trust me on its ID

Forgot to mention I also saw a Red Admiral during the ringing session when there was a brief period of sunshine (so far the latest I've seen them so far this year).  Who knows it might be my last till next year?

Monday, 5 November 2012

First Waxwing dip! (5th November)

I've never really bothered twitching Waxwing before as I saw plenty of them in the 2010/11 winter but was rather missing them after a long gap of over a year so I decide to go and twitch the relatively easy-to-connect-with birds only a few miles from the campus at Mylor Churchtown.  It still required a tiring bike ride but I arrived around midday and had a wander around the churchyard.  Unfortunately there was no sign of them from the beginning and despite their obvious absence I still remained for a few hours aimlessly ambling around the churchyard a little disappointed and surprised to say the least with my first Waxwing dip! Only after a few hours did the first good bird pop out, a single Firecrest Regulus ignicapillus making brief appearances from the yew trees.  1 Raven Corvus corax was the only other bird of note.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Marazion and Lands End with my Family (3rd November)

My family were down in Cornwall for the weekend kindly going through all the effort to drive down from Hertfordshire (thanks family).  On Saturday we decided to make a casual afternoon birding outing to Marazion and Lands End.

As my family take so long to get up and going (no offence intended) I decided to get up earlier and walk Theo along the footpath along with my trusty bins and scope.  We headed SE along the coastal path not seeing much other than a male Blackcap, a few Grey Wagtails and the highlight, 4 female Red-breasted Mergansers.

a row of 4 Red-breasted Merganser

We eventually arrived at the Marazion, around midday.  My brother and I began walking along the beach searching through the Meadow Pipits Anthus pratensis and Rock Pipits Anthus petrosus in hope of something more exciting when my brother suddenly came across 2 PURPLE SANDPIPERS Calidris maritima feeding with the Turnstone Arenaria interpres  (well done Ephraim by the way).  We watched them feeding together at a very close range allowing some reasonable photographic opportunities before continuing down the beach.   Further down the beach, we met up with my parents again.  Our dog was with them and out of the corner of my eye, I noticed him walk up to something on the ground and sniff it, as I walked over, I was astonished to find that it was a dead washed-up GREAT-NORTHERN DIVER!  A very sad sight.  There was no clear evidence as to the cause of its death and it was still fully intact.  A stunning bird especially when we were able to admire it from such close range.  I went straight for the feet, an amazing adaptation to a pelagic life as they are set far back and their squashed appearance is another way ingenious solution to reduce drag through the water.

 Purple Sandpiper on Marazion Beach

 both of them

 St Michael's Mount

 dead Great-northern Diver, a very sad sight

the amazing adaptations displayed by the tarsus

Lands End was less productive and the limited time we had left, along with the dwindling light meant we could only see the Gannets Morus bassanus out to sea and the magical Scillies way in the distance.

Lands End!