Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Falmouth and a Lizard visit (16th-22nd January)

Been busy with Uni work but still managed to do a decent amount of birding (mostly patching).

A couple hours down at College and Argal Res's on the 17th produced the usual expected species, but at least something to add to the patchwork challenge list.

College Res:

1 hybrid 1st winter drake Scaup x Pochard (still open for debate after being present for a good month or so)
2 Mute Swans
3 Canada Geese

1 hybrid Canada x Greylag
3 Great Crested Grebes
1 Little Grebe
93 Wigeon
2 female Goldeneye
10 Teal
18 Tufted Ducks
33 Coot
40 Curlew
7 Cormorants
3 Grey Heron
28 Black-headed Gulls
2 Great Black-backed Gulls
31 Herring Gulls

Argal Res:

2 Mute Swan
2 Tufted Duck
3 Mallard
1 Cormorant
6 Black-headed Gulls

Some crappy pics of the presumed hybrid show that the black extends beyond the nail, the continuous slope from the forehead to the bill and the peak in the central part of the crown all lead me to believe that this is a Scaup x Pochard hybrid. The dark culmen is also a supportive feature as neither Tufted Duck nor pure Scaup have this.

possible hybrid 1st winter Scaup x Pochard

A visit to the Lizard with Dan on the 18th, in order to conduct a WeBS count was also due.  We incorporated the usual areas of freshwater and a lagoon, including Helston Boating Lake, Loe Pool, Hayle Kimbro and Croft Pascoe. Not much at any of them to be honest. The long-staying Whooper Swan still residing at Helston. I only gave it a quick look as I was predominantly concerned with the half dozen Chiffchaffs around the sewage works mingling with a rather pale individual (wasn't possible to confirm as the hoped for Sibe due to poor views).

Moving on, we cut out most of the usual walk around Loe Pool as the water level had risen so substantially that the majority of the footpath had been flooded. This made access rather difficult and there was little point in checking the corners of the pool as most of the wildfowl had moved off and the muddy margins were entirely submerged. 3 Goosander were the only highlight. Next up was A detour down to Lizard with a brief stop at Hayle Kimbro. Rarities included a local birder and 2 Snipe.

It was my idea to fit in some sea-watching at the point and it took some encouragement to finally convince Dan to take up the offer. As it happened, there wasn't much to be had except for a continuous stream of Guillemots and Razorbills.  None the less, it was an extremely educational sea-watch providing one of the few opportunities possible to study the JIZZ of the commoner auks at a relatively close range without getting distracted by other stuff.  It took some time for the first (and only) bird of note to fly past, a diver sp. which I was almost convinced fitted the role of Red-throated but after some contemplation and a bit of self criticism of the features I'd been able to pick out I decided to bin it.

Croft Pascoe was entirely void of birds, save a single Stonechat so it was straight to Stithians for our final stop of the day.  As usual, not much here either but the long-staying Slavonian Grebe did put on a good show as it came within reasonable distance of the hide.

Thanks once again Dan for the driving!  As usual, on returning home and checking RBA the next day both Richard's Pipit and Little Auks had been seen the same morning we had visited, DAMN!  I have the feeling the majority of the birds we've dipped during our brief excursions to the peninsula have been seen in the morning and with a touch of mild suppression, it takes a while for the records to circulate.  I definitely think it's time we visited the place first on our next WeBS count round.

The following day involved yet another early start and although I was very keen to get out on patch, it took some effort rolling out of bed.  I eventually manged to leave the house by 8am and went straight for Swanpool and Pennance Point. The seawatch was relatively quiet with a couple flypast Kittiwakes, auks and 3 Great Northern Divers.  3 other diver sp. far out in the bay were probably Black-throated but it was tricky telling for certain.

Moving on, a Peregrine flew over at Maenporth and a good exploration of the local farmland yielded 25+ Skylarks, Rooks (a long awaited foot it tick for the both of us), a Red Fox was an additional bonus along with our first Red Admiral of the year!  Still no Linnet for the both of us though!

Dan left for home once we reached Swanpool before I continued alone back towards the coast for a second visit. I headed straight for the cafe at Swanpool as I couldn't be bothered to walk all the way down to Pennance again.  Fortunately, it was worth the effort as there was still plenty to see from the cafe, including 2 Common Gulls (an adult and 1st winter), 2 ad. Mediterranean Gulls and 2 Black-throated Divers.  Most surprising of all was a flock of 18 Great Northern Divers in a close-knit feeding group only c.200m off Penannce Point (a rather unusual sighting given that GNDs prefer to spread themselves out whilst BTDs have a greater tendency to feed in groups!)  They put on a good show and remained at the surface for some time between dives, allowing a through check to make sure it consisted 100% of GNDs.  This may be one of the largest single flcoks of GNDs to be recorded in the Falmouth area to my knowledge!  Another single Great Northern Diver was also drifting closer inshore towards Swanpool Point.

15 of the feeding flock of 18 Great Northern Divers

It took some time to finally connect with my first coastal grebe of the day, a nice Red-necked Grebe, only a couple hundred meters offshore.  Of added bonus was my first BONXIE from patch which flew westwards through the bay.  It was rather distant and almost unIDable but JIZZ, shape and its large size, along with a brief harassing of a gull, put any doubt out of mind.

Also a bit of a weirdo in the form of a Herring Gull with yellow/horn coloured legs (diet?).

Herring Gull with yellow/horn coloured legs (more obvious than photo suggests)

The 20th was fairly productive, particularly with regards to the Foot it list which I've been working on since returning to Uni earlier this year.  Despite starting eight days into the January, I've clocked up 69 species for the list (within a 2 mile radius of my house).  A brief visit to Swanpool, Swanpool Point and neighbouring Gylly and Castle Beach rewarded Matt and I with 3 adult Mediterranean Gulls, 6 Ringed Plover, 6 Turnstone, 2 Little Egrets, a couple Guillemots and Razorbills.  The vast majority of feeding Shag flocks and all the diver had moved off along with the remaining grebes.  We ended up scouring the beaches for washed up corpses and came across 3 dead Shags (2 headless), 1 Guillemot and 1 unIDable headless Guillemot/Razorbill.

Castle rewarded us with the usual Black Redstart and 2 Whimbrel. 3 Stonechat (2 males and a female) were also an additional bonus for the foot it list and a surprise Grey Wagtail flew over.

Spotted Ray egg case found at Gylly Beach

Today (22nd) scored highly on the patch highlights with the usual local patch Dipper showing nicely along with a flyover MERLIN!!! Matt and I had just entered the limits of the campus before we noticed the dark brown falcon fly past, staying in view for a good half minute.  A brilliant campus tick for the University Birdwatch Challenge and it certainly made my day!

I'll leave you with a quick sketch I did a couple days ago on diver JIZZ, enjoy! :)

sketches on diver JIZZ

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