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.

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