Saturday, 26 October 2013

Recent stuff (15th-26th October)

Absolutely no twitching in the past couple weeks so no gripping stuff to report. Only patch birds and butterflies. The 15th was an AK wildlife cruise day and volunteering on board gave me the opportunity to explore the northern most parts of the Carrick Roads from the water.  Numerous Little Egrets, Mediterranean Gulls of note along with the odd waders including 3 Whimbrel and 1 Common Sandpiper. The warm weather also produced a group of 7+ Buzzards taking advantage of the thermals along with 2 Ravens and Red Admirals. A group of Fallow Deer were also viewable from the water and we even managed a short excursion out to sea adding Peregrine, Guillemots and a Grey Seal to the day list of species.

A late afternoon excursion on the 18th down to Pennance Point where I encountered a late Painted Lady still on the wing along with a single Speckled Wood. 5 Ringed Plover, 1 Turnstone and 1 auk sp. flying west were the most noteworthy species at Pennance along with 4 Mediterranean Gulls and 2 Red Admirals. I walked further west along the coastal footpath eventually reaching Maenporth were I found a pos. White Wagtail on the beach amongst the Pieds. Unfortunately, it didn't remain long enough for me to thoroughly scrutinise it.  A pair of Stonechat were also at High Cliff.

I squeezed in a brief trip around the local woodland and some farmland neighbouring the campuson the 23rd. Butterflies seemed more productive than birds as I saw 1 Painted Lady, several Red Admirals and Speckled Woods as well as a distant Clouded Yellow sp. (a very pale looking individual, although I expect this was most likely due to it being bleached and worn)! 2 Ravens also flew over.

Today was more productive as strong gusts from the SW were beginning to built up in earnest.  A Peregrine over the house was the first bird of note for the day before I went down to Pennance Point for some sea-watching.  I took the route past Swanpool locating a skulking Water Rail on the west bank.

Sitting myself down in my favourite sea-watching spot (a mound of dirt) I began with a scan eastwards through the bay.  After some time, I picked up my first bird of note. It was a distant dark phase skua sp. most probably a Pomarine!  Its flight action was strong and steady with fast but not rapid wingbeats.  It traveled low over the water with no shearing or banking like in Arctic.  It did do a brief chase, harassing a small gull or tern and landed two or three times on the water as it went westwards through the bay.

2 Balearic Shearwaters also passed through the bay to the west (both rather late passage birds which make any sea-watch a joy) along with 2 Kittiwakes and 1 auk sp.   2 Peregrines also passed the point and 2 Mediterranean Gulls were lingering between Swanpool and Gylly.

An interesting gull sp. also went west. It was a classic Sabs/juv. Kittiwake confusion situation so I took note of as many features as possible including the colar, median and lesser coverts and overall jizz.  Size was difficult to interpret but appeared roughly Med Gull in size and black outer primaries, white secondaries and dark grey median and lesser covs made for some striking features.  I tried hard to determine whether the median covs appeared darker than the lesser covs but I could only determine a slight difference in contrast with the median covs only slightly darker (a feature I'd expect to see far more contrast in if it were a juv Kit). Despite trying my best to make out a dark colar and wedge to the tail neither were visible on the views that I obtained.  Hopefully a Sabine's will pass the point over the next couple days of strong south westerlies.  Whether I'm there and see it is another matter...

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Day with Dan (13th October)

A near full days birding with Dan doing the WeBS count as well as some general/enjoyable birding.  Nothing spectacular of note but still a fun day.

Helston Boating Lake was our usual first stop where a good scan of the lake produced the numerous Mallard we had been expecting along with the long-staying Whooper Swan.  The sewage far held Goldcrest and Grey Wagtail as it still wasn't cold enough to draw in many other warblers.

Moving on to Loe Pool, we clocked up a min total of 16+ Snipe, 3 Dunlin, 1 Water Rail, 2 Grey Wagtails and the usual selection of other wildfowl.  We were making our way round toward Carminowe Creek, stopping regularly on the way, when I picked up on a high pitched "tseee" call.  Coming closer, the call became much more audible.  It was in fact a very clear grating "tsreee", that of a TREE PIPIT!  It was unmistakable but still a bizarre record as it seems rather late for this summer migrant still to be in the area.  It continued strongly westwards directly overhead calling a further 3-4 times before being lost out of earshot as it went over the back of Bar Walk Plantation.  We compared the call to both Olive-backed and Red-throated Pipit directly afterwards but it did not fit either as it was more of a monotonous and drawn-out scratchy/grating flight call.  From Loe Bar, I picked up on a lifer, a pod of c.10 COMMON DOLPHINS!  They came closer into the bay, occasionally clearing the water entirely before moving closer inshore and towards the bar affording adequate views.  We continued wandering back after getting our fair share of views adding Peregrine, 3 Wheatear and Stonechats to our day list before reaching the car park where we chanced upon a mixed group of White Wagtails and Pied Wagtails.

Next stop was Croft Pascoe and Hayle Kimbro where the combined total came to 2 Mallard, hardly the reward we were hoping for in our diversion down to the Lizard!

A brief check at Stithians on route back to Falmouth was a little more productive as we found 1 Ruff and a Dunlin on the muddy margins of the southern end of the reservoir.  A Ringed Plover also flew in and a Wheatear was also skirting the muddy banks.

Once back in Falmouth, we made a brief check of Gorrangorras, noting a single Whimbrel, 2 Greenshank, 3 Dunlin and 4 Bar-tailed Godwit.

Rather frustratingly, my camera did not store the photos I took of the dolphins despite taking about 20 odd pics!  It did decide to keep the photos I took of the Wheatear though, bizarre!  In fact my memory card even refuses to be forcefully pushed into my camera.  About time I smashed it against my desk like I did with my previous one...

Patching (12th October)

Another morning patch visit since it was the weekend.  I saw a total of 109 Redwing to start the day, my first of the autumn.  Also of note were 3 Ringed Plover and 1 Whimbrel.  I met up with Dan at the point and together headed down to check Gorrangorras briefly for the waders.  5 Greenshank, 1 Whimbrel, 8 Turnstone and a Snipe were the best we managed before I continued by myself to the cemetery.  Not much about but it was my first proper visit to the site and the lack of disturbance and scattered trees and shrubs do look promising for flocks of winter thrushes.  No doubt I will be back there soon.

With little else to do I went back to seawatchng, this time from Pennance Point.  I continued adding to the auk totals, finishing at 75 birds W and 1 E at around 15:45.  2 Common Scoter and 1 Mediterranean Gull also flew past and I encountered my first Swanvale Water Rail of the autumn.

Patching (9th October)

A patch visit from Swanvale to Pendennis to make the most of the remaining light for the afternoon.  5+ Mediterranean Gulls dotted along the coastline, 1 Whimbrel at Pendennis and a calling Common Sandpiper at Pennance made the highlights.  I spent the majority of my time trying my best to pick out any cetaceans underneath all the havoc of 100's of Gannets diving and swirling in the distance but it was sadly too far to make out any fins.  I also saw 2 Grey Seals from the point along with 7 flypast auk sp.s and a calling Tawny Owl on my way back home.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

West Cornwall Birding (6th October)

A full days birding with visitors from Herts. It was good to catch up with Sh4rpy, Brendan, Paul and Tony with whom I toured the south west part of Cornwall jamming in on some quality birds. We squeezed all five of us into the car and began a long trip round to the Roseland.   As the crow flies it's only half a dozen miles away but thanks to the Carrick Roads, we had to do a 50 mile detour via Truro to reach the other side!  On arrival, we wondered the fields and football pitches but to little avail. Our first site stop did however produce a calling YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER in the tall hedge in the car park at Gerrans and we later relocated it calling nearer the church.  I was desperately cleaning out my bins as I could see something interesting hopping about in the bush (my bins were still fogged up from my Lizard trip several days ago) so by the time I had raised them to my eyes it was too late and only Brendan and Tony had connected. I did however locate a Spotted Flycatcher and numerous Meadow Pipits in the nearby horse field.  Other species of note included flyover Skylarks, 1 Reed Bunting and a Clouded Yellow flew past.

Our next destination, Hayle Estuary, rewarded us with yet more excellent views of the BLACK-WINGED STILT from the causeway.  Whilst stood on the causeway, another birder approached us and pointed down to the nearby bank exclaiming something along the lines of "that isn't a Wood Sand is it?"  Sure enough the bird wasn't a Wood Sand but in fact a stunning juvenile LESSER YELLOWLEGS!  We had only just set eyes on it, rattled of a couple digiscope pics and pointed out a couple features in favour of this species before it flew in the direction of Lelant Saltings Station where it was lost to view.

Black-winged Stilt, showing well!

and the Lesser Yellowlegs, also showing well!

We left shortly afterwards as Brendan wanted to head back to the caravan site.  We made a brief stop at Treen first and whilst I scanned the fields for the recent Richard's Pipit (to no avail), the other connected with 2 YBWs near St Levan.  All I managed was a calling Whimbrel.  Back at the caravan site, Chris, Paul and I scanned the surrounding heathland and were rewarded with 2 Whinchats, 2 Ravens and 2 Stonechats.

Chris and I lost the vote to head for Pendeen and instead we all retraced our steps back to Hayle were we reconnected with the Lesser Yellowlegs and Black-winged Stilt (both showing exceptionally well!)  A couple other highlights including Little Stint, 2 Lapwing, 1 Brent Goose, 2 Raven, 1 juv. Ruff a lingering Osprey and my personal highlight and Cornish Tick ..........STOCK DOVE!

good views of the Lesser Yellowlegs (digiscoped)

I was kindly given a lift back to Falmouth and en route made a short stop at Marazion for a casual walk along the beach and scan of the marsh.  I picked out a Whinchat on the marsh, 4 Turnstone on the beach and 2 Sandwich Terns offshore but a Snipe was the only other species of note.  Quite a few Pied Wagtails were also assembled on the beach before flying across the road to the marsh were they went to roost.

Many thanks to the chaps from Herts for offering me a lift, it was great to catch up with you.  Good luck with the rest of your Cornwall visit!

Intermedius LBBGull? (5th October)

A brief check at Swanvale, Swanpool and Pennance Point after uni.  I did a brief scan through the gulls on Swanpool where I encountered 2 Lesser Black-backed Gulls.  Both very different individuals with striking differences compared to the usual set of features associated with graellsii.  A very dark slender individual (possibly an intermedius) and a much paler bird (sorry no pics), closer in resemblance to Herring Gull proportions.  take a look at the thread (which contains further notes and features).  Any opinions welcome.

possible intermedius Lesser Black-backed Gull

possible intermedius and the paler LBBGull

Moving on to Pennance Point, I bumped into Dan and did more chatting than birding.  None the less, we still saw a couple Chiffchaffs, 1 Sandwich Tern and a juvenile Stonechat at the golf course.  A Vestal moth was a bonus highlight and as the light gradually faded we did a brief scan of Pennance Point, counting in the region of c.5000 Herring Gulls roosting off Maenporth.

Swanvale (4th October)

I didn't get out until late so only just made it to Swanvale before the light faded. Even then, I was too busy unscrewing my bins to clean the damp out from the inside after yesterdays escapade down to the Lizard in the pouring rain...

Anyway, never got round to seeing much despite waiting at Pennance Point for the gull roost. Nothing, so I headed back and heard a pair of Tawny Owls calling.

Black Letter Day (3rd October)

After reports of a Black-eared Wheatear down on the Lizard the day before, I set of early morning in the direction of Helston where I planned to take the bus down to Lizard.  4 Tawny Owls were still calling on my bike ride to Helston (just to give you an impression how dark it still was).  Unfortunately, only 2 miles from town, I took a wrong turning and ended up doing an unnecessarily long detour that cost me the bus trip down to Lizard (I only missed it by a matter of seconds as I saw the bus leave in front of my eyes).  I was still eager to get there as soon as possible so ditched waiting for the next bus and did the full trip down to the Lizard by bike.

On arrival, it started to rain and within an hour or so it was pouring down and the dozen or so birders who had arrived scuttled for their cars.  With no sign of the bird, I decided on wandering around the nearby fields in the vein hope of relocating it.  I did encounter a Spotted Flycatcher and a Yellow Wagtail on one of the horse fields but still no luck with the Black-eared Wheatear.  There were still a couple Northern Wheatears dotted about the place but as time ran out I had to return to uni.  It was only on my bike ride back that I received a text from a friend with the words "Ooh unlucky :P yeah the bird photographed is just a bog standard Wheatear"!!!

Sure enough, once back at uni, I had my first opportunity to see the pics.  I couldn't resist a couple profanities exiting my mouth!  After all, I had just cycled 40 miles in the rain, my bins fogged up and I can only see through them clearly after 5 days of cleaning them out, my phone is broken thanks to the damp and I was nicely decorated with the muddy water and gunge that littered the road thanks to the lack of mudguards (stolen earlier in the year).

In all, a very exhausting twitch, for a Wheatear...

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Wet, windy and a Whinchat (1st October)

A brief excursion onto the patch before heading back and starting work for the day.  The rain wasn't very pleasant but I still braved some seawatching.  It was still as poor as the last couple days due to inappropriate wind directions (SE) so all I saw were 5 Mediterranean Gulls and an increase in Gannet numbers compared to the last couple days, on which I nearly drew a blank for this species!

I moved on towards the golf course and was soon rewarded with a Whinchat (a good Fal bird!) perched up on the scrubby area near the highest point of the course and along with a nearby Wheatear which both showed well in the drizzle whilst all the other birds hid in dense cover.

Whinchat at the golf course