Thursday, 30 May 2013

Lizard Again (30th May)

Yet again I was down at the Lizard with my brother and Zak.  Whilst Zak went off to monitor the Choughs I opted for a couple hours sea-watching.  Unfortunately the wind direction wasn't in my favour with a fairly strong offshore breeze from the north.  None the less, a good number of Manx Shearwaters past the point (99.9% traveling in a westerly direction).  The highlight came at the beginning, a nice dark phase skua species.  Unfortunately due to my lack of experience in skua jizz and rather distant views, I had to put it down as a probable Arctic Skua (see field sketch).

field notes of prob. Arctic Skua

A brief check on the 2 Choughs as they fed on the cliff-face outside their nest entrance before attempting to locate the Adders that are often seen below the light house.  Unfortunately no success but another short sea-watch between Bass and Lizard Point produced 4 Sandwich Terns and a Grey Seal.  Back at the southerly point, 2 pos. Sanderling flew past and another Grey Seal showed itself.

Lizard Point

Quality Patch Duck (29th May)

I had just got back to the flat after a day out with Ephraim when a report came through of a drake Garganey down at Swanpool!  Being a county tick and a nice bird to boot, my brother, Marcus and I (as well as Richard, who we bumped into on site) quickly rushed down to Swanpool and by 7:30ish we were enjoying good views of a stunning drake GARGANEY!  It hung around the northern end of the pool, showing rather well before it started swimming purposefully towards the center then back to the southern end.  It even went on a brief flight circuit around the pool with a group of Mallards but thankfully returned, despite a little bullying from them, before finally going to roost at 9pm.  A flyover Peregrine was a nice surprise and it was reassuring to see all 4 Mute Swan cygnets still in good health.

drake Garganey at the north end of Swanpool

occasionally getting harried by the local Mallards

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Lizard with Ephraim (28th May)

My brother and I were kindly given a lift by Zak down to the Lizard as he was monitoring the feeding locations of Choughs for his masters dissertation project.  We arrived around 7:20ish and whilst Zak went off looking for Choughs, my brother and I sat down for some sea-watching.

looking east from Lizard Point

Thankfully, only about ten minutes into the sea-watch I picked up a pale phase POMARINE SKUA passing the point not too far out to sea.  Most of the ID features were clearly visible and the full spoon made the bird that more attractive!  A little further into the watch I picked up a second skua, this time a nice Bonxie, and a nice brute of a bird too as it even chased one of the Gannets briefly before moving westwards. Plenty of commoner seabirds were also passing the point, including Manx Shearwaters, Kittiwakes, Fulmars, and a nice sum. plum. Great Northern Diver.

The rest of our time was spent watching the pair of Choughs feeding in the cattle field just behind the nest site.  On one feeding excursion, the pair made an incredibly close swoop past me, barely a meter from my head as they made their way back to the nest!  My first Green-veined White of the year was an additional bonus and a Raven was also of note.  A Garden Tiger caterpillar also crossed the path in front of us at considerable speed.

pair of Choughs at the southerly point.  Feeding in the field directly north of the nest site

Green-veined White on the wing

Garden Tiger caterpillar

My brother and I decided to make a little excursion on the way back, stopping at Stithians Reservoir in the hope of locating a reeling Gropper.  Unfortunately, on arriving, a heavy band of rained passed overhead so we ended up making a diversion for the hide before continuing to the east side of the Res.  A single fly-about Whimbrel made the occasional appearance and after ambling a little further along the bank, I finally picked up the distant reeling of a Grasshopper Warbler a little further off up the side of the hill slope.  After scrambling over the fence for the third time that day we finally manged to catch the occasional in-flight glimpse of the bird as well as a Common Lizard which scuttled over the long grass.  The wind was also against us and it never emerged to sing, only uttering the odd burst of song.  On one exception it showed well for a couple seconds as I manged to locate it in the scope but otherwise, it remained very elusive.

Finally, yet another large invertebrate species, this time a Drinker moth caterpillar

Drinker moth caterpillar

Indoors Thanks to the Rain (27th May)

It rained heavily for the majority of the day so we decided to spend most of our time indoors, leaving later in the afternoon to visit some more of the local patch.  We walked down through Penryn before retracing our steps westwards back towards College Reservoir.  Unfortunately, no Garden Warblers as hoped for the but College produced a moderate number of Swifts passing over northwards accompanied by a couple Swallows.

The Patch with Family (26th May)

My parents and brother were down for the bank holiday weekend and as the afternoon wore on, we decided to head down to Pendennis Point and Swanpool Point so that I could show them some of the local patch.  There was a light breeze but it still churned up a small passage of a couple dozen Manx Shearwaters, which passed the point at least a kilometer out.  My brother did well to point out a very distant Great Northern Diver, a stunning bird in full sum. plum. whilst other highlights included a flypast Whimbrel and a Peregrine, which glided past rather unexpectedly (also pointed out by my brother Ephraim).

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Photography Trip to the Lizard! (25th May)

Had a great day down at the Lizard in the company of ace wildlife photographer, David Chapman!  We (a group of other wildlife photographers) spent the day photographing the unique flora and fauna in the Kynance Cove and Lizard Point area.

Our first highlight of the day were several spikes of Early-purple Orchid, a new species for myself and an absolute stunner with a magnificent coastal scenery as a backdrop.  A couple other Lizard specialities were also in flower including Twin-headed Clover and Upright Clover, kindly pointed out to us by the botanical group that we bumped into along the way (the twin-headed being exceptionally rare in the UK occuring solely at the Lizard whilst the Upright only occurs in two other locations in the UK!).  One of my undoubtable favourites, however, was Thyme Broomrape, a vivid red parasitic flower and an absolute stunner when seen through the macro lens.  We also encountered at least two large caterpillar species, Grass Eggar and Oak Eggar.

Kynance Cove

Early-purple Orchid

Thyme Broomrape

Oxeye Daisy


More Early-purple Orchids

Spring Squill

Grass Eggar

male Small Copper

typical patch of coastal flower

Upright Clover

jumping spider species

Twin-headed Clover

Common Blue

Oaker Eggar

On reaching Lizard Point, we bumped into the nesting pair of Choughs, returning to the nest occasionally to attend their chicks which had apparently only hatched yesterday!

pair of Choughs at Lizard Pont

Other highlights included a male Wheatear (having seen them mostly on migration I have never seen or heard one singing before so that was an additional bonus to seeing the bird!).  A couple butterflies were also on the wing including numerous Wall Browns, the occasional Common Blue and a single male Small Copper.

Just after getting back, it was back off out again into the field.  This time it was with a group of EcoSocers to set up moth traps at Argal and College Reservoir.  I took a brief scan for the Scaup but it seemed that had sadly moved on.  It wasn't all that bad as one of the members found this Glow Worm in the middle of the path in broad daylight!

female Glow Worm

GO GREEN day! (24th May)

A bit of a dude event yesterday but it was still fun.  Together with Lawrence, I did another bird trip around Swanpool as part of the RSPB GO GREEN day.  It seems all the other uni students were too preoccupied with post-exam drinking which meant it was only us to doing the birding!  Nevertheless, an enjoyable day down on the local patch.  Swanpool still hosted the Great Crested Grebe, 2 Little Grebes and my first Cornish House Martins of the year.

I decided to take the coastal footpath towards Maenporth, a stretch I don't often do where I bumped into the usual array of coastal species including a pair of Stonechats fiercely "chacking" away at me (perhaps defending a nest) and I had a brief view of a Grey Seal in the bay at Maenporth.

Grey Heron at Maenporth, sat rather unusually on its back end!

Back at Pennance Point, I did another hour or so sea-watching to compare against yesterdays passage of Manxies.  Today only produced a handful of Manx Shearwaters, about 6 lingering around a fishing boat that was heading back to the harbour and the odd two or three shearing westrards.  The usual 6 Sandwich Terns also flew past the point (I expect they are the same individuals that have been remaining in the area over the past couple days/weeks).

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Swanpool and the Coast (23rd May)

My first full day without exams.  I woke up around 12pm (relatively early for me) and took the bus down to Swanpool with Marcus.  We arrived around 1ish before making our way to Gylly where 6 Sandwich Terns put on a nice show for us, diving and hovering close to the beach.  Swanpool Point was better than usual and most surprising of all were 2 Dunlin (both in sum. plum.) and a flock of 7 Sanderling (some also in their breeding plumage) (both Falmouth ticks for myself and good to have on the list as waders are all too often flushed by the excessive number of people and dogs on the beaches and rock pools).  A single Whimbrel accompanied by 4 Oystercatchers were more in the ordinary and a nice male Wheatear put on a good show.

Sandwich Tern at Swanpool Bay

 4 Oystercatchers with the Whimbrel resting near the center

There was little out of the ordinary at Swanpool.  The Mute Swan pair had managed to keep 4 cygnets whilst the Mallard pair still had 8 ducklings.  The Great Crested Grebe was also still out on the water.

Pennance Point, my next stop, wasn't particularly exciting other than a moderate passage of 60+ Manx Shearwaters rather distantly offshore.  Below a couple inverts, including one of my first Small Whites of the year.

Tawny Mining Bee

Small White

Making my way round to Pendennis again, I bumped into this rather confiding juvenile Song Thrush thanks to its incessant begging calls.

juv. Song Thrush

The Carrick Roads

Next, a brief sea-watch from the point between 20:00-20:50.  The moment I sat down I set eyes on an impressive flock of 80+ Manxies, "shearing" westwards.  The passage was certainly impressive, despite the fact it only involved the one species but during the first 10 mins in which I was bothering to count, at least 200+ Manx Shearwaters had past the point!  These included large groups of up to 80 birds on two occasions interspersed with regular movements of 10-20 birds every minute or so.  A small group even decided to land briefly on the water before moving off again.  In all, a rather surprising and impressive passage of Manxies given the fact that offshore northerly winds had been blowing moderately all day!  None the less, these represent the largest number that I have seen from the Falmouth patch!

Falmouth docks

Back at the flat, a little successful co-ordination from flatmates over facebook soon had us running outside to watch a Hedgehog running around in front of the flat.

Hedgehog outside the flat

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Mothing at the Lizard! (22nd May)

My final exam of 1st year Uni is now finally behind me!  As usual, there was no better way to round the evening off nicely with a trip down to Lizard for some crepuscular birding and moth trapping with Greg (a fellow 1st year).  We'd borrowed two moth traps from the Uni and our hopes were set high with Emperor Moth on our minds.  Having never taken mothing very seriously at all I had little idea what to expect but the evening certainly turned out to be exciting.  Shortly after setting up our second trap, we heard a Cuckoo calling, at 9:30pm!  Even more bazaar was a second call (possibly from a different individual) half an hour later!

Dusk over moorland at the Lizard

trap light at dusk

Whilst wandering between the traps a Tawny Owl was also heard calling in the coppice and a pipistrelle sp.  flew ahead of us.

On our second check of the traps we were nothing short of thrilled to find an absolutely stunning female EMPEROR MOTH glare up at us!  We studied it for some time and finally concluded that it was indeed an absolute stunner!!!

Emperor Moth!!!  What a beauty!

Me and the Emperor

...and a pug sp.