Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Birding gets weird (11-19th February)

I've been out of the Fal area three times in the past nine days, must be a record!  First up was an Eco Soc trip to Marazion in the hope of watching the Starling roost at dusk but as I had feared they didn't appear and we had to return just a tad disappointed.  None the less the supporting cast of birds was thrilling and despite a band of rain passing through from the south west, we managed to make the most of the intermittent sunshine.  I was rather preoccupied with leading the group so couldn't spend to much time looking but we still connected with the stunning adult KUMLIEN'S GULL as it came hunting up the strand line and riding the breaking waves.  It showed brilliantly for the time we were there along with 2 GLAUCOUS GULLS (an adult and juv.).  All were truly awesome!

adult Kumlien's Gull

juv Glaucous Gull

adult Glaucous Gull

The gulls kept us entertained for the majority of the time and as we came ambling back along the road we added Snipe to the day list.  We stayed in the car park a little while longer hoping in vain for the murmurations to arrive, 2 Bitterns did fly across the reeds so the day did end on a relative high.

St Michael's Mount

Marazion Marsh

That Saturday (15th), Dan and I headed out to the Lizard again for the monthly WeBS count and with a couple additional target species in mind we made a detour back towards Mounts Bay.  With a string of previous accounts of gripping birds flying past Lizard before we had arrived on past WeBS counts, we decided to head straight for the point for an hours sea-watch and sample the birds on offer.  Razorbills got the immediate attention as there were several dozen going past per minute.  There were far fewer numbers of Guillemot among them but other seabirds such as Fulmar, Kittiwake and the usual gulls were decent enough support.  Dan called a close fly by Bonxie, a welcome winter record for the both of us and I returned the favour with a single flypast Black-throated Diver.

The WeBS count wasn't going to do itself so we decided to cap it around mid-morning to check out Hayle Kimbro and Croft Pascoe.  Nothing much at either, just a couple Stonechats.  Helston Boating Lake was the next stop.  I usually see the long-staying Whooper from car as we drive past but this time I failed so unfortunately the swan had to be dipped as I focused my attention on the sewage works instead.  The Sun was really braving it and so were the Chiffchaffs but little else other than a Redwing of note (probably my last for this winter).

Loe Pool next, as usual, but this time the water level had risen substantially higher than normal so that it was only just passable in wellies (I still failed to keep one of my feet dry though).  From the inland side of the bank, we scanned the 500 odd gulls with the prospect of white-wingers strongly on our minds.  Dan got lucky first and pointed out 2 GLAUCOUS GULLS, both stunning adults which had frustratingly arrived only minutes after I had checked the exact same spot!  More scanning ensued before I picked out yet another white-winger, this time an equally impressive juv ICELAND GULL, brilliant!!

2 adult Glaucous Gulls

juv Iceland Gull

Full up on white-wingers we decided to head for the car and Marazion but we had only just got through the worst of the floods when I came across perhaps the most bizarre thing we saw that day.  It was something black and white which I caught out of the corner of my eye.  I pointed it out immediately without even putting a name to it.  A grin came across Dan's face as the casual response of "No waaaaaaay" confirmed to our shocked eyes that we were truly looking at a Guillemot sat on the bank of a stream in a small wooded valley!!!  It was totally, totally random!!

Guillemot trying its best to be a Dipper

somewhere in there



We decided to leave the bird after considering to catch it and bring it to a vet but it was still healthy enough to escape our efforts so we trusted that it would (with a degree of shear luck) make it back out to sea again by swimming downstream.

The rest of the day went by surprisingly smoothly and although we spent quite a bit of time scanning from the harbour at Penzance for the Surfie I did eventually find it.  For me the 1st winter drake SURF SCOTER was a lifer, another brilliant but slightly weird looking bird, it's something about the bill...

Heading back in the direction of Marazion Marsh, we spent a little while tracking down the KUMLIEN'S GULL along with an adult GLAUCOUS GULL before deciding to aim for better views of the Surfie again.  From the Sainsbury's car park, we worked our way back to the beach and had decent views of it a little closer to the beach.  A fly by Long-tailed Duck was of added interest along with 1 Common Scoter, several Great Northern Divers and a mixed flock of Sanderling, Dunlin and Ringed Plover also flew in.

It was getting late in the day and since my Dad and brother were down to visit me, it was time to head back and meet them in Falmouth as they had just arrived.  We made one final stop on the way back to check out the College and Argal Res's.  Not particularly much at either but the Bittern was showing nicely again at the southern end of College and the hybrid Scaup thing was still kicking about.


The following day was spent walking a short section of the coastal footpath with Dad and Eph near Portreath.  The cliff line isn't usually the most productive in terms of variety of bird species but a total of 6 Ravens performed well for us and I saw my first 2 Peacocks of the year flying in bright sunshine.  We also paid a quick visit to the resident Dipper on the patch stream.

Not much has been happening since then up until yesterday (18th Feb) as I was walking back from the bus stop I took a glance upwards to see a gull that was gliding low over the houses towards me.  I tried to pick out some dark wing tips but despite coming ever closer I still couldn't see any until the point at which it came rushing low overhead and all doubt was out of mind.  The fully white underwing and and chubby build belonged to that of a adult GLAUCOUS GULL!!  I could barely beleieve it and remained stuck to the spot in the middle of the footpath in pure shock.  It soon hit me that I was only a dozen or so meters from the front of my house so I quickly rushed into the front garden, got my bins out of my bag (glad I'm always prepared) and bagged it as a garden tick!!!  It stayed in view for a good couple minutes as it gradually gained hight over the playing field giving me just enough time to rush indoors grab my camera and memory card before rattling of a couple shots.  Only once the bird had gone did I discover the horrifying truth that I hadn't quite pushed the memory card fully into the reader so was blissfully unaware that I was actually taking photos of absolutely nothing, damn!

Ah well, amateur mistakes happen, still thrilled Glauc is on my garden list!

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