Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Falmouth Patch (20th March)

A couple good birds around the Fal patch today but first up a smooch around the walled garden on Tremough Campus.  Haven't been here since January for the Big Garden Birdwatch and was partly hoping to relocate the Bramblings that were there when we did the count but chances I'd relocate them and the likelyhood they had moved off didn't convince me I'd refind them.  None the less, after half an hours wait standing near the feeders a female Brambling briefly appeared in the trees near the back of the garden but was gone before I could even get my camera out.  As a result, I had to wait a further half hour before she returned, this time a little closer for a quick record shot.  Also in the garden were a pair of Bullfinches, 1 Nuthatch and a Great Spotted Woodpecker.  Spent a couple minutes searching for the reported Black Spleenwort and Maidenhair Fern but was only half lucky in finding Maidenhair Fern.

female Brambling

Maidenhair Fern

Next visit was down to Swanpool, were I arrived about an hour later.  I was rather pleased to find some Black Spleenwort between the bus station and Swanpool (ok compensation for dipping on the campus Wall Rue).  Swanpool was typically quiet but once again, I was more focused on getting good photos of the commoner species for my field notebook.


Black Spleenwort

Some proper birding did ensue shortly afterwards and the first good birds of the day were 2 Slavonian Grebes further round the bay opposite Gylly.  One individual approaching summer and the other in winter plumage.  Also met up with Greg here too and we made our way round towards Pendennis Point.  Still not much offshore but a couple Oystercatchers, 1 Turnstone and a Purple Sandpiper at the point weren't too bad (the later still in winter plumage).  Nothing visible in the Carrick Roads unfortunately before making my own way back around the east side of the Peninsula.  Here, I refound Dan's Whimbrel from this morning and 8 Red-breasted Mergansers (including 3 males) out in the Roads on the far side.  I also finally connected with my first 3 SANDWICH TERNS of the year (all in sum. plum.) as they circled, dived and called around Middle Point.  My final stop for the day were the gulls on the dock but nothing except Herring Gulls, Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Great Black-backed Gulls and a winter plum. Guillemot in the harbour.

Purple Sandpiper


Tuesday, 19 March 2013

A round trip with Dan (17th March)

Dan and I set off early morning for Helston where we soon connected with the long-staying Whooper Swan at the boating lake.  Despite associating itself with the resident Mute Swans, it did on occasion get a bit bullied by one and it remained a little wary when I approached it for a photo so I kept my distance.  It did seem wild enough, based on its skittish nature and it called occasionally when it got a bit nervous.

immature Whooper Swan at Helston Boating Lake

 with Mute Swans

The nearby sewage works hosted several Chiffchaffs of varying shades, predominantly paler individuals possibly belonging to the abietinus race.  A small Pied Wagtail roost was also loosely associated with the line of trees surrounding the sewage works but unfortunately no sign of rarer warblers (it's still a little early in the season for them).

Moving on, we made or way to Loe Pool and Bar were Dan soon located the female Common Scoter followed by a Mink that came swimming across the water directly towards us!  We later noted what could have been a second individual as it swam east to west back to the far side of the pool again before disappearingup the far bank.  Other species of note included 4 Goosanders (2 pairs) and my personal highlight, our first 3 Wheatears of the spring at Loe Bar!  They included 2 males and a female type.  A short sea-watch produced a distant flypast diver species (either Black-throated or Great Northern) and a Kittiwake riding the swell.  Unfortunately, my smart shoes weren't good enough for negotiating the extremely muddy margins to the lake so apologies Dan for having to drag you on a long detour on the return route.

 Loe Pool

female Common Scoter (a fresh water first for me!)

pair of Goosanders

Dan with Mink

first Wheatear of the year!

Next destination was the Lizard where we covered most of the southern tip both east and west of the Lizard village.  As expected, there wasn't much going on out to sea except a couple Fulmars skirting the cliff-line and a distant Gannet perched on the water.  We also saw our first butterfly species of the year including, a Small Tortoiseshell and a Peacock.  Very few passerines except a couple Meadow Pipits and plenty of Chiffchaffs.  Unfortunately for me, my bins had hazed up so badly due to the earlier rain that I could only use my scope to check the Chiffys so I turned up to where Dan was stood a couple dozen meters up the path about a minute too late for the Woodcock he had just flushed from the path, damn!

Anyway, on with the walk were my shoes were put to the ultimate test of traversing the very boggy marsh at Windmill Farm.  We uncovered a few of the mats in hope of Adders but only found a single Common Shrew and a Common Lizard among the heather (which also included Cornish Heath).  Not really any birds at Windmill Farm to be honest but after hearing a few piping calls over Predannack airfield we were soon treated to a small swirling flock of 7 Golden Plovers.

Despite being rather exhausted already, we still made three more stops.  First up was Stithians Reservoir, in the hope of Brambling but despite waiting patiently for the Chaffinch flocks to come and go, none appeared.  The southern cut-off was far more productive and after locating several Goldeneyes near the east bank, the 1st winter male Long-tailed Duck popped up from a dive, near the far northern end of the reservoir.  I was about to take some digi-scope shots of it when my eyes set on a small grebe a couple meters in front of the hide which on closer inspection turned out to be a fine summer plumage Black-necked Grebe!  More astonishingly, it had been sitting under our noses for the past 10 minutes as we scanned the distant wildfowl flocks, just goes to show that some birds might just be closer than you first imagine!

near sum. plum. Black-necked Grebe, only meters in front of the Stuart Hutchings hide!

With a few hours of daylight left, we opted for Argal and College Reservoir.  The usual water birds at Argal, including 6 Great Crested Grebes (a good number for the res) and a flyover Peregrine.  College also had its surprise, a very showy Bittern in the southern section, fishing in and around the swampy area and 2 Goldeneyes further out into the Reservoir.

 Bittern in the southern corner of College Reservoir

in its unusual fishing posture as it held its head out horizontally before striking 

In all, a rather enjoyable days birding.  Once again, thank you very much Dan for all the driving and putting up with a pathetically ill prepared birder (me), I promise to wear boots on the next occasion.

Mega Fern (14th March)

My first trip to Kennall Vale, an area of woodland which is a rare habitat for Cornwall, and also a nice setting for our penultimate conservation field trip for this term.  My group recorded about 90 species in total for the afternoon with the mega highlight being the very rare Tunbridge Filmy-fern!  The name might not mean much to you or I but it was indeed something to appreciate if not just for it's rarity status.

Tunbridge Filmy-fern

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Local Rarity and a Bit of Drama (13th March)

Trefusis Point

I took a portion of the afternoon off and with Dans advice on twitching the local rarity, I made my way down to Penryn River, where I soon located the winter plumage Grey Plover!  Apparently this is quite a good bird for the area with an average of roughly only a single bird per annum!  Also about were several Little Egrets, 2 Mediterranean Gulls (including 1 summer plumage bird), a small flock of Teal and a small selection of waders, including GreenshanksRedshanksCurlews and an Oystercatcher.

Grey Plover

After working my way through Flushing and arriving at Trefusis Point, I came across a bird that was obviously in sever distress flapping and rearing up in the water.  It was only about a meter or two offshore but still a bit too far away to be able to catch it.  I was horrified to find that it was in fact an immature Shag with a fish hook pierced through both its beak and throat!  As a result it had its beak closely pressed against its throat, unable to do much except wriggle and attempt to pull the hook out, which would have torn its whole throat open!  Thankfully, a walker came passed and notified one of the other locals in Flushing who soon arrived by boat, took the bird out of the water and in 5 or so minutes removed the hook and returned it to the water, phew!!  Although it had obviously gained serious injury, it began diving but no sooner had it resurfaced, it appeared to have a severely bulged throat (most likely a result of the past presence of hook).  It didn't get much better when 2 Great Black-backed Gulls noticed the bulge in its throat  and in the belief that it had caught a fish they dived on it!  As it swam out of view the bulge was subsiding but all I can do now is wish it the best of luck.

With the drama over, I made my way a little further around the headland where I found a bunch of rusty fish hooks and fishing line dumped on the beach and only a little further off, fishermen!  The scene could not have been more poignant with the story simply unraveling in front of my eyes, I left.

Back to the birds again.  I diverted my attention to a littoralis Rock Pipit that I found at the Point before heading back along the coast which seemed to be experiencing an influx of Chiffchaffs.

littoralis Rock Pipit

Half way back along the river, I bumped into Dan where we relocated the Grey Plover roosting with a small group of Curlew at high tide, before walking back together and finally back up to Campus.

I bypassed the Dipper stream on the way down but it has experienced a foot drop in water level so it is likely that they would have moved off or simply relocated to another nearby stream.

Fal (11th March)

Went down to Swanpool again with my friend to get some more pics for the field notebook but we ended up spending more time staring out to sea which was building up some large breaker waves! A winter plumage Mediterranean Gull was of note as we walked along the cliff towards Pendennis and I found a drake Common Scoter floating out to sea (seen from Castle Beach).  There was also a seriously strong wind blowing and facing in to it was more painful than was necessary so in the end photography got abandoned and we decided to head back.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Local Farmland (9th March)

Woke up very late on Saturday but still had to do some work before I finally had a brief opportunity to get out.  I opted for a walk up the road and around the farmland near some wind turbines at the top of Penryn.  Obviously not a lot about but a Curlew in the field was a bit of a surprise.  The highlight was undoubtedly a great view of a Stoat that bounded up the road towards me before quickly leaping into the hedge after flashing its obvious black tipped tail at me.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Dolphins on the Patch! (8th March)

Yet another trip down to Swanpool this afternoon to photograph more birds for the field notebook.  Yet again the Water Rail at Swanpool was showing fairly well but I gave it a rather large crumb of bread which seemed to fill it up sufficiently so that it didn't bother making another appearance.  Otherwise, it was fairly quiet and most birds seemed a bit less approachable, even the gulls, so I trudged my way up to Pennance Point for a bit of a break from the non-cooperative birds.  I was just scrambling through the brambles to reach my favourite spot for sea-watching at Pennance Point when I suddenly realised the unmistakable shape of a cetaceans dorsal fin break the water!  I rushed across to reach the point at the cliff and soon had stunningly close views of a pod of 4 Bottlenose Dolphins casually passing the point and heading into Swanpool Bay!  They hung around for at least 15-20 minutes before moving gradually in the direction of Gylly beach were I lost them.

Bottlenose Dolphins

Also saw my first butterfly sp. of the year at Tremough Campus although it was only a flypast so couldn't get an ID but it looked possible for a Red Admiral.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Swanpool Repeat (6th March)

Once again down to Swanpool with Matt to get a few more pics for our field notebook.  The usual suspects including the extremely tame Robins (both feeding from the hand), usual selection of tame waterfowl and 2 very confiding Water Rails, one taking bread from only a couple feet away!

Water Rail

atmospheric shot of a male Tufted Duck

same setting with a Black-headed Gull

bread feeding!

Cock Up (5th March)

A dusk visit to a local patch of moorland just up the road in hope of Woodcock but despite staying till darkness all I had was a probable one shot behind me before I noticed it flying out of sight over the brow of the hill.  Other than that it was rather barren and quiet wandering around the abandoned quarry.  Only a couple Fieldfare about and a few flyover Meadow Pipits so it seems I'll have to try once again.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Swanpool (4th March)

A trip down to Swanpool with Matt (a fellow Env. Sci. student) to photograph some of the commoner bird species for our conservation field notebook.  Soon after arriving we had nothing short of amazing views of a very confiding Water Rail that strutted around in the open for our cameras for at least 15 minutes and was still showing brilliantly when we left!

amazing photographic opportunity of this Water Rail

more typical views of the other Water Rail we saw shortly afterwards

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Rosenannon Downs (2nd March)

A full days birding up at 4am and returning at 12am (20 hours on the go in total, maybe a bit excessive).  All the same, it was still definitely worth it and since it was the weekend I thought I might as well take the opportunity for a good break in a beautiful scenic landscape before returning to the books.

The day was rather enjoyable but delays on the train meant I had a two hour to wait at Par.  Not such a disaster as it may seem as I spent the time going down to the nearby beach bypassing the football pitch to check the 100's of Black-headed Gulls.  There was in fact 1 ad. win. Mediterranean Gull among them.  It was ringed but it seemed the metal ring itself had slipped slightly over the upper part of its foot, causing it considerable discomfort as it was hobbling about on the grass, not such a nice sight to see and a note to all ringers to please make sure the ring is attached appropriately to ensure this does not happen in future!  Anyway, 1 diver sp. offshore at the beach and at least 7 Great Crested Grebes also on the sea (including 1 pair in courtship).  There were barely any birds on the beach except for 3 Rock Pipits and a Stonechat due to a lot of disturbance by dozens of dogs.  I count myself lucky that only one came to piss on my bag and coat (slight hint of sarcasm).

Sea or Portland Spurge

Rosenannon Downs

I finally arrived in Roche but there was still a couple miles by bike between the station and the downs, made a little more enjoyable by the sight of dozens of Fieldfare and Redwings.  Eventually arriving at Rosenannon Downs by late morning, I noticed a flock of c.20 passerines fly over and land in some long grass near the road.  I wondered over to check it out but accidentally flushed them before they all flew some distance up the downs near the top of the hill.  A bit of walking ensued but together with a small group of other assembled birders, we located the LAPLAND BUNTINGS feeding and scurrying about on the ground!  It certainly wasn't all as easy at it sounds, as getting any glimpse or view at all of them on the ground was extremely difficult and most of our views were restricted to flight views.  All the same I managed to enjoy watching the flock for the better part of the day and afternoon and managed to pick out at least 1 stunning male whilst in flight and briefly perched on the ground.

typically obscured view of one of the Lapland Buntings

Other birds of note at Rosenannon included a Peregrine making a brief attempt at harassing on of the many Snipe.  Also about were plenty of Skylarks, a couple of Meadow Pipits3 Stonechats and a Tawny Owl calling throughout much of the late morning.

Unfortunately I dipped on my next target species, Willow Tit, which I had been hoping to locate in the nearby woodland but all I could find were 2 Marsh Tits, and a Nuthatch.  Once again I headed back up onto the downs, this time to the far northern end where the occasional Snipe and even a Hare suddenly shoot out from where I was stood, both giving me a massive shock!

On my walk back across the downs again I suddenly stumbled across a very confiding female Lapland Bunting which provided relatively excellent views for some time, allowing me to try my best at digi-scoping it through the dense grass.

female Lapland Bunting, showing down to a couple of meters!

As dusk fell, and the number of birders gradually ebbed away, I was left standing on the downs alone in the dark.  Not as spooky as it may seem but still a great experience when an adult male HEN HARRIER came flying in to quarter the section of moorland near the road!  It stayed for about five minutes performing amazingly and was nothing short of an absolutely incredible and stunning bird!  Another short wait in hope of Woodcock was in fact rewarded with a brief appearance of a flyover SHORT-EARED OWL which headed in the direction of Rosenannon.

Last birds of the day were 2 calling Tawny Owls at Roche station before another long bike ride back to Tremough.