Monday, 10 February 2014

Quality and Quantity (1st-10th February)

To begin, the February was rather rewarding with a patch tick in the for of an adult Little Gull!  I was already running towards Castle Beach after lectures had finished for the day as I could see a large congregation of gulls closely grouped in the cove.  With my mind set on the possibilities of finding Iceland or Little Gulls I was rather keen to get there first but alas another local birder had made it there first and managed to relay the news of the Little Gull to Dan who kindly past on the good/bad news to me.  The strong winds had also brought in a couple more Mediterranean Gulls, including a 1st and 3rd winter birds, alongside the usual adults.

Patching continued much the same until the 7th when I managed to fit a quick visit into area around uni, were I came across both Dippers still frequenting the local stream (one even singing).  I have a feeling they could be a pair as they seem to be very tolerant of each other and I only ever see one singing.  The same day also involved a trip to Hayle in search of close views of divers.  Carnsew Pool did not disappoint as we came across a nice selection of waders, raptors and 3 Great Northern Divers as we had hoped.  Other bits and bobs included Peregrine, Sparrowhawk, several Mediterranean Gulls, a Kingfisher and good numbers of Bar-tailed Godwit on the estuary.

The 8th was certainly a hectic day as Guille and I decided to head down to the coastal patch together.  The aim was to relocate the Red-necked Grebe for Guille's life list but alas we failed to connect.  Instead, we concentrated our efforts on scouring the offshore zone for divers.  8 Great Northern Divers and a single Black-throated Diver were the max I could manage.  A Grey Seal also swam past but so far it wasn't really worth the effort as we were having to deal with extremely strong winds which threatened to blow us clean out to sea!

We gave up around 12:40pm and walked up to the coastguard car park where we were able to get in the car safely without all Dan's belongs being swept out of the door.  We packed everything in and were soon heading back down the road towards Penryn River when Guille and I both glimpsed a large fully pale winged gull from the car window as we drove down Castle Drive.  I kept my mouth shut and waited for a slightly better view after the trees had passed but Guille braved the shout and some thing along the lines of "GLAUCOUS GULL!!!!!!" came out.  I managed to echo his shouts of excitement and we all slowed down in the middle of the road to gawp out of the window and sure enough a stonking Glonk glided us past!!!  A quick decision was made and instead of abandoning the car in the middle of the road, we did the sensibe thing and continued to the closest car park, bailed out and waited for it to pass.  A nerving couple minutes passed but we did eventually relocate it cruising around at Castle Beach along with the accumulation of other large gulls.  Awesome!!!

A second decision was made and we shot around to Castle Beach by car where we obtained decent views of it once again in flight before it gained height and headed inland.  Another patch first for the lot of us, good job guys!

here's the Glaucous Gull!!!

pure awesomeness, on patch as well

The day also rewarded us with stunningly close views of Kittiwakes, some heading westwards through the bay at only a couple meters range affording excellent views!

The following day (9th Feb) was essentially a reversal back to reality and although I relocated the Red-necked Grebe after it's short absence there were only a couple Great Northern Divers and Black-throated Divers to entertain.  However, as the day progressed, it soon became apparant that diver numbers were rocketing thanks to the previous weeks storms.  I counted an impressive total of 26 Great Northern Divers in the Carrick Roads whilst scanning from Pendennis Point.  The walk there also rewarded me with the usual Black Redstart still residing at Castle Beach and a pair of Stonechats in the same location.  JSL gave me the tip off to properly check the point and sure enough the search payed of with a  total of 4 Purple Sandpipers resting amongst the eroded grooves in the rocky headland.  The wintering Whimbrel also showed at Castle Beach and several Turnstone were also kicking about.

three of the Purple Sandpipers

female Stonechat at Castle Beach...

...alongside the Black Redstart

Next stop was the docks where I hoped to locate some mergansers but alas the only decent species of note there was yet another Great Northern Diver.  Even gulls were thin on the ground here, only including Herring and Great Black-backs as far as I was aware.

The day had been exhausting to say the least as counting divers is a demanding and difficult process due to their habits (not to mention the difficulty of negotiating a torrential downpour of hail!).  So, when I returned to check Falmouth Bay I almost kicked myself when my eyes met the sight of a sea of divers...  I tried my best but the apple and tangerine I had had for breakfast were beginning to wear off now that it was approaching early evening but I couldn't leave without checking the Black-throats at least.  A total count revealed 17 Black-throated Divers and at least 12+ Great Northern Divers with numerous more which probably went uncounted.  A Slavonian Grebe was also a pleasant surprise.

Toady (10th feb) revealed more diver activity and together with Matt and Dan, we worked our way round to the small hut overlooking Castle Beach.  I clocked a total of 22+ Black-throated Divers and about half a dozen Great Northern Divers, 2 Slavonian Grebes and a record count of 6 Red-necked Grebes!!!  A very impressive total for the Falmouth patch!

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