Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Birding West Penwith (20th January)

I spent an enjoyable weekend heading around some good birding spots in the west of the county, including St Just, Treen Common, St Ives, the Hayle Estuary and Marazion.  The first target bird for the day was the long-staying and elusive Subalpine Warbler at St Just but despite wandering around the streets for over an hour the bird didn't decide to show.  Instead, a few year ticks including 23 Snipe in the fields opposite Princess Street, 1 male Bullfinch,a single Redwing and Fieldfare.  On to Treen Common, the second stop for the day for a casual scan of the open moorland hoping perhaps for a harrier to quarter the fields.  No harriers unfortunately but we did see at least a dozen Yellowhammers (a Cornish tick).  One of the local residents was also in the good habit of putting out plenty of seed which attracted a further 100+ Reed Buntings to the shrubs around the house.  On to St Ives were a short sea-watch produced 1 Great Northern Diver, a few Razorbills offshore and a single Guillemot diving in the surf just off the beach.  I was taken utterly by surprise when a tern species flew close past the watch point, at first I was expecting it to be a Sandwich Tern (as they do occur here in Cornwall in small numbers) but was even more astonished to see a bright red beak stare me back in the face!  Forster's Tern was the immediate bird that came to mind as it was the only species of red-beaked tern I knew that would occur in the UK during the winter (despite being a big rarity).  It made two passes relatively close to the beach during which time I made note of several but not all the of the key features.  Instead of writing a list of the features, I've decided to compile them on a drawing which I have added below.  Other than the features added to the drawing, the bird appeared relatively dark against the dark background of the sea, perhaps a result of the grey belly and chest.  We concluded that we were 95% certain it was an ARCTIC TERN (after omitting Forster's as possibility following the first pass) but since it took us all by total surprise we weren't able to get all of the smaller features such as the exact length of the tail streamers and extent of the black cap below the eye.  Since finding the bird, a rather long thread has followed on Bird Forum and what is believed to be the same bird has been relocated at the Hayle along with some better quality pictures and it is now believed to be Common Tern instead.  Follow the heated discussion on BF if you dare!

Commic Tern drawing, seen only as a flypast in Carbis Bay

The Hayle was next, species of note, mostly waders included Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Lapwing, Redshank and Grey Plover.  I also picked out a Mediterranean Gull out amongst the Black-headed Gulls2 Gadwall with the 100's of Wigeon and finally a drake Shoveler.  Several Little Egrets were also feeding in the creeks and finally 2 redhead Goosanders in one of the further channels.  The next stop, briefly near the middle of the bay in the hope of relocating the commic tern but all I could find was a single Stonechat on the dunes.  A final stop for the day at Marazion, for the evening Bittern roost.  First up was a wander along the beach were and had excellent views of a dozens of Sanderling, 6 Grey Plover, Dunlins, Turnstones, Redshanks, and a Purple Sandpiper all in a feeding frenzy literally at my feet.  Out in Little London bay, were at least 6 Great Northern Divers and probable Black-throated amongst them, although this was too distant for certain ID.  Also in the vicinity were a few Meadow Pipits on the beach and a single Mediterranean Gull.  Back at Marazion Marsh, I got news of a birder in Penzance who had been watching a distant probable Pacific Diver!  Since I had already scanned the bay between the Mount and Longrock without success I decided to spend the time focusing on the marsh instead.  During the wait, several thousand Starlings flew over the marsh in a south easterly direction, heading for Loe Pool.  Only a small group split of from the majority and decided to roost at Marazion but they were still rather flighty by the time I left and they may have moved on with the majority to Loe Pool.  A single Water Rail was rather brave in venturing out of the reed bed and I watched 2 Bitterns fly across the reedbed, a nice ending to an overly productive day.  It was also a great opportunity to get to know west Penwith a little better so it was nice to visit a few new sites including St Ives, St Just and Treen Common.

No comments:

Post a Comment