Thursday, 22 May 2014

Falmouth Patch (20th May)

Falmouth Cemetery:

Goldcrests, Red Admiral and a couple Speckled Woods.

Seawatching from Swanpool Point:

The odd Gannet in rather calm sea conditions.

Falmouth Bay:

2 Great Northern Divers were a treat to watch in their full summer breeding plumage but I spent most of my time gazing onto rockpools where I photographed Common Blenny, Common Sea Slater and Star Ascidian.

sum plum Great Northern Divers

Common Sea Slater, Ligia oceanica

Star Ascidian, Botryllus schlosseri

Common Blenny

Seawatching from Pendennis Point all west late afternoon until 21:15:

63 Manx Shearwaters, a couple Fulmar, 1 sum plum Great Northern Diver off the point. 1 bat species on my walk back from the point.

Falmouth Patch (19th May)

Exams were finally over so I headed straight down to patch with an added spring in my step as Greg had just texted me with news of a very late staying Iceland Gull off Swanpool!!

Falmouth Bay

Falmouth Bay:

5+ Great Northern Divers (3 in sum plum)
2 Black-throated Divers (one flying west)
2 Sandwich Terns
Gannets, Herring Gulls, 1 Rock Pipit, Guillemots and a small number of Razorbill.

Pendennis Point:

32+ Manx Shearwaters, 1 Fulmar and 8 Kittiwakes all west.

Falmouth Patch (18th May)

A minutes scanning from my bedroom window whilst revising rewarded with: 1 Red Kite (only my 4th in Cornwall but my second in two days!), 1 Buzzard and 2 Swifts.

Falmouth Patch (17th May)

Red Kite circled over my house at 13:24pm (Tregenver Road).  Only my third ever in Cornwall!

Falmouth Patch +Terek Sand!!! (16th May)

Pendennis Point:

5 Bottlenose Dolphins in the Carrick Roads between Pendennis and St Mawes leaping right out of teh water at times and putting on a good performance!
2 Black-throated Diver fairly distantly offshore
1 Wheatear
1 Rock Pipit
4 Linnets (2 adults and 2 recently fledged begging young)


4 Bottlenose Dolphin arriving from Gylly Beach area heading west (might have been different ones to those seen in the Carrick Roads)
2 Black-throated Diver
5+ diver sp. in the bay (prob. GNDs)
1 Grey Seal

one of the Bottlenose Dolphins surfacing

Later that afternoon news came through of a Terek Sand found at Amble Marshes, Walmsley Sanctuary.  I wasn't seriously considering going but was keen for an attempt on it if the opportunity arose.  I was rather surprised as a result when Dan texted with the intention of going that same afternoon.  Revision got put to one side temporarily and I rushed down to see it.  On arrival, all went quite smoothly until we reached the door of the hide.  It was locked...

Since we weren't members there was no access so we had to resort to looking through the timber slats below the hide.  Fortunately, this technique worked as I managed to pick up on the TEREK SANDPIPER quite quickly.  Thankfully, Adrian Langdon, the warden came wandering up the steps and kindly offered to let us take a look from inside the hide, providing much more comfortable viewing conditions.

believe it or not I manage to locate it through this lot before we gained access

Terek Sandpiper

Amble Marshes, Walmsley Sanctuary

more rubbish record shots

I finally managed to add a couple Sand Martins to the year list and it was nice to see a supporting cast of Black-tailed Godwits, Dunlin and Ringed Plover (mostly species I'm not that accustomed to on the Falmouth patch).  2 Hares were also resting in the field beyond the wetland.


Falmouth Patch (14th May)

A pretty exhausting patch round with strong sun being the real killer. Started at Swanvale shortly after 8am (overslept unfortunately).


Nesting Great Tit carrying in food and removing fecal sac. Bullfinch and 1 Willow Warbler singing.


3 Reed Warblers singing (all heard in short succession of each other) 1 in the northwestern corner, 1 in the middle section also on the western bank and the longest staying one remaining in the south western corner. I was lucky enough to get prolonged and decent views of the central one, rather surprising as they are usually extremely elusive here at Swanpool. A Sedge Warbler was also singing from the overgrown bank in the front garden of the house opposite the Hooked Cafe but was a little tricky to pick out thanks to all the traffic.

singing Reed Warbler at Swanpool

With recent concern over the number of Rock Pipits in the SW part of Cornwall, I was quite pleased to see 2 Rock Pipits chasing each other just below the cafe.

I decided to take the road around to Maenporth in order to check the numerous fields on the way. Although it looked like good habitat the tall hedgerows and continuous stream of cars heading down to the beach made it nearly impossible to check most of the high-potential areas.


1 Fulmar, nesting pair of Rock Pipits carrying in food and removing/dropping fecal sac in the sea.  Little Egret, Whitethroats, 1 Stonechat pair, 2 House Martins, Swallows, 2 Kestrels and a couple of Ravens. Highlight was a pod of 8+ dolphins lingering offshore (tricky IDing but probably Commons based on small size, long beak and rather pointed dorsal fin, not blunt enough as I would have expected for Bottlenose). They were behaving rather relaxed and touring the area between Rosemullion and the larger tanker ships. It was a little frustrating to see the number of sailing boats who, on seeing them, irresponsibly ploughed straight towards them with little respect for their space.

dolphin sp. (probably Commons)

Pennance Point:

view over Falmouth Bay from Pennance Point

Singing Skylark, Blackcaps and a Robin carrying food to a nest site.


Final bird of the day was a Whimbrel piping low over Swanvale just as I entered the Nature Reserve.


Quite a few Speckled Woods, Large Whites, Orange-tips, Red Admiral and blue sp. hanging around a holly bush (possible hint as to the species).

Falmouth Patch (13th May)

A short excursion down to the coast with Matt in the late afternoon heading straight for Swanpool Point. 2 very distant divers in the bay (most probably GNDs), 8 Manx Shearwaters west, 1 Fulmar (couldn't see any on the cliff ledges at the Hooked Cafe though unfortunately), c.20 auks west, 1 sum plum Guillemot in the bay and 3 Oystercatchers.


The pair of Mute Swans now with 8 cygnets whilst 3 Swifts and a couple of Swallows flew over.

Falmouth Patch (11th May)

I was out birding this morning from 6am until 9:20.

Seawatching from the Hooked Cafe was a bit intermittent this morning as I even had a wander up to the golf course but kept an eye on the sea most of the time. 1 diver sp. flew west into Helford Passage followed by 2 Shelduck (a good patch bird). A partially leucistic male Blackbird on the golf course was about the only species I encountered along with the occasional Swallow heading west and 3 Swifts over Swanpool.

Heavy bands of rain were moving through which pushed a batch of Manx Shearwaters westwards in front of it, along with some Kittiwakes, but by the time Dan arrived and we headed around to Pendennis there were none moving but I got onto about 5 Great Northern Divers from the point.

2 Whitethroats were also singing at the point and a John St Ledger.

Went down to the coast again c.4pm for a short seawatch from Swanpool Point.  No Manxies what so ever! A very distant sum plum Great Northern Diver and some Gannets diving close off Gylly beach were about the only highlights.  Swallows were hawking along the tideline and 3 Swifts flew over and 1 Green Woodpecker in the cemetery.

Falmouth Patch (10th May)

Seawatching late morning with Dan. A strong SW-W wind with white horses throughout the bay. Glare was a bit of a problem too as the waters around St Anthony's Head were reflecting quite a lot of sunlight by the time we arrived, making it all the more tricky.

Pendennis Point

Counted 92 Manx Shearwaters between 9:40-10:14am (all moving westwards), that's 2.7 per minute.
Fulmars, Gannets and Kittiwakes also trickling through in smaller numbers and at least 4 Great Northern Divers on the sea (one in sum plum).  A Wall Brown was also flying around at Little Pendennis and a partially leucistic male Blackbird collecting worms.

partially leucistic Blackbird

Wall Brown


1 Reed Warbler singing and a Great Crested Grebe with a couple Swallows also lingering about.

Friday, 9 May 2014

RISSO'S Lifer on patch!! (8th May)

A pod of Risso's Dolphins where reported and filmed on the 7th whilst breaching through Falmouth Bay but since I'd just come out of an exam, I got the news fairly late and didn't go out patching until the next day.  I had yet another exam in the morning but the afternoon off so I decided to leave my phone at home just in case any gripping news came through.  Thankfully it was a good decision as the dreaded text message I got from Dan on my return, concerning a White-billed Diver that he'd seen flying past Pendennis Point, would have been enough to throw my concentration right off!

I tried not to act all that gripped off but still headed out to Pennance Point with him just in case it had pitched down on the sea at Maenporth.  No luck unsurprisingly but I did see 2 Great Northern Divers (including a stunning sum plum individual).  Out of nowhere, I suddenly picked up on a pod of dolphins as they swam along the shoreline below the coastal footpath.  On raising my bins and calling them out to Dan, we soon new exactly what they were.  They were 3+ RISSO'S DOLPHINS!!!  A patch cetacean mega, very likely some of yesterday's individuals!!  They gave good views for a short while, showing their diagnostic long hooked dorsal fin, blunt forehead and scarred sides. Occasionally one would come far enough out of the water to see the pale blueish/grey flanks and before diving one tipped its tail upwards showing the swept-back pointed flukes. They were an awesome lifer!!!

As they left I pointed my little digital compact camera in their direction and fired off some random shots, to my utter surprise once reviewing my pics, I actually managed to capture the diagnostic dorsal fin shape on one individual.

Risso's Dolphin, a rubbish record shot but still showing the diagnostic dorsal fin shape

Other bits and pieces included Ravens, Swallows, House Martins, Swifts, Stonechats and singing Whitethroats.

A final decision to do some seawatching from Pennance Point was not as eventful as I had hoped but still managed totals of 87 Manx Shearwater, 3+ Kittiwakes and 6 Sandwich Terns.

The Swifts are back! (5th May)

Finally seen my first 2 Swifts of the year from my bedroom window whilst still lying in bed.  They've been hawking over the playing field opposite the house most days since.

Great Spotted Cuckoo!! (4th May)

With the first half day taken up with helping out on campus Eco Soc stall, it was only later that day that the opportunity arose for Dan, Birdy and I to head down to Lizard for the GSCuckoo.  I still had to walk to campus to help out at the stall but made a quick stop via Gorrangorras, Penryn River, where I logged 2 Whimbrel.  The Cuckoo had been showing throughout the day (albeit badly) before we got there but on arrival there was no sign of it at all.  The drive down was quite eventful though as Dan did very well by picking out a Red Kite circling northwards over Polwin Manor Farm (a scarce bird for the far SW, particularly Cornwall!) and as we were driving down the track to Carn Goon, I managed to pick out the sound of a reeling Grasshopper Warbler at the side of the track.  Sure enough, we stopped, looked out the window and there it was sat reeling away at the top of a clump of bramble and gorse, a brilliantly easy year tick!

The search for the cuckoo was then to ensue and we spent longer than we had hoped tramping up and down the various footpaths and bridleways in the vein hope of connecting with it.  I must admit it was rather frustrating that the other "observers" weren't putting in their fair share of effort as they simply remained rooted to one spot staring at the one area directly in front of them whilst Dan and I scouted the entire area as thoroughly as we could.  However, the reward came on my final walk down to Kynance Cove, just as the sun began to reach the horizon the GREAT SPOTTED CUCKOO came shooting across the moors between a few clumps of bushes!!!  Frantically waving to the rest of the people, a small stampede ensued and before long all but two people secured decent flight views of it before it went to roost.

The Great Spotted Cuckoo spot

Other species of note included a showy Cuckoo and a flyover Marsh Harrier without a tail.

Many thanks, as always, to Dan for the driving!

Divers and Black Guille again! (2nd May)

I was out at sunrise today for a quick break before continuing with work.  As a result, I was fortunate enough to locate 2 Red-throated Divers in the bay shortly before they took off and left towards the Lizard (a rather good patch birds!).  6 Great Northern Divers were still lingering in the bay and a Whimbrel was on the rocks below Pennance Point.

Dan arrived on scene a little later and together we headed around to Pendennis for a brief seawatch.  We only intended to stay for 10 mins but when my first patch Arctic Skua (a nice dark morph) came charging through from the east I could barely bring myself to leave.  Thankfully we didn't as Dan soon picked out a 1st summer Black Guillemot flying into the mouth of the Carrick Roads, where we watched it bobbing in glistening water at the mouth of the Roads.

A Foul/Fal Seawatch (26th April)

Heavy rain was my greeting back to Falmouth.  None the less I headed straight out after the long train journey to get some fresh air before starting on revision.  I opted for the Hooked Cafe and a seawatch as long as the afternoon would last.  For the next five or six hours band after band of heavy rain and fog came through but thankfully the cafe had pulled a layer of canvas over the outside seats spoiling me with a dry seawatching spot!

sheltered seawatching from the Hooked Cafe, Swanpool

It was only because I remained dry that I managed to stay there for so long, which enabled me to log an impressive total of 238 Whimbrel, mostly moving westwards through the bay and some heading a little further inland.  Other stuff included 9 commic terns (probably Arctics, which would have been a patch tick as they are rather infrequent this far west), 1 Great Northern Diver, 3 Sandwich Terns and a Grey Seal.

some of the migrant Whimbrel moving through the bay

KL Patching again (23rd-25th April)

Back on the KL patch again:

23rd April

1 White Wagtail still frequenting the ploughed field by Middle Farm, a male a female Wheatear and my first 4 House Martin for the UK.

24th April

Much the same as yesterday with 1 White Wagtail remaining, a record total of 4 Wheatear for the patch (2 males, 2 females), 3 Fieldfare lingering in one of the corners of the ploughed field and a flyover Yellow Wagtail as the highlight.

25th April

My last day on patch before heading back to Falmouth for exams.  The Little Owl was showing nicely which was a nice surprise given it's not out on show as often as it used to be, a Yellow Wagtail flew over westwards and a Lesser Whitethroat was rattling in the hedgerow by Balls Pond Farm.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Germany! (13th-20th April)

Well well well, no blog update for nearly a month!  I'll admit it was nice taking a break from writing but the sightings need to be posted so here goes...

It's exam time at the moment but since I have a break I thought I'd bring you up to speed on my family holiday abroad to Germany whilst visiting our relatives.

13th April

Leaving early morning on the 13th April started, as always, with a considerable amount of yawning, moaning and eventual reluctance as we headed off for Dover to complete the long journey, as usual, by car (a Red Fox wandering along the side of the motorway was the highlight).  The crossing was, as one might expect, enjoyable but not extremely eventful.  None the less, I stayed outdoors for the entire trip, as I always do in order to clock any passing seabirds.  Highlights included 22 Common Scoter, loads of Kittiwakes, 2 possible Yellow-legged Gulls, 2 diver sp's heading north, crossing well ahead of the bow (they were probably Red-throats but I couldn't be certain) and my first Common Terns of the year (on the French side of the channel).


A brief stop at Marais de Guines, which my brother had selected in the high hope of finding Golden Oriole, Bluethroat and Marsh Warbler.  Unfortunately, we were rather disappointed as we only heard one reeling Grasshopper Warbler, a singing Cuckoo, Marsh Harriers and our first Sedge Warblers of the year.  A Coypu was a surprise to find as we'd both never seen one before but other than that it was fairly average aside from our first Speckled Wood of the year too.


14th April

Our first proper stop was Aachen to see aunt, uncle and cousins.  My younger cousin was quite keen on going birding with me early the next morning and after a short wander through the town we came across a nice slice of woodland flanking a small stream.  Our luck was in as I managed to show my novice younger cousin her first SHORT-TOED TREECREEPER along with a single Red Squirrel feeding in the trees (a species she is far more accustomed to than me).  We headed out again soon after lunch and clocked yet another 2 Short-toed Treecreepers, all in full song and easy to locate, followed by my first House Martin of the year and singing Firecrest.

Red Squirrel antics!

Short-toed Treecreeper

We had to leave for our second destination later that day so it was back in the car and traveling eastwards for yet another couple hours.  Fortunately, my brother and I ticked 2 BLACK KITES from the car as we sped along the motorway before arriving in Pantenburg to be greeted with my grandma and a singing male Black Redstart.

15th April

I started with an equally early rise and was out by 7am birding the local woodland.  Firecrests and Hawfinches inhabited the wood in overwhelming numbers and it wouldn't be much of an exaggeration if I said I didn't take a single step in the forest without hearing or seeing one or both of the species.  Black Redstarts littered the surrounding farmland, as did Tree Sparrows and before returning for breakfast, I also found a female Redstart, a singing Willow Tit and a rattling Lesser Whitethroat.

It was a slightly later start for my brother but we still enjoyed a decent days birding as we ambled up to Die Altenberghütte later that morning.  It's a small hut overlooking a wooded valley orientated brilliantly to overlook any migrants using the valley to follow its north south orientation.  We were not disappointed and as the thermals developed we picked out a circling GOSHAWK and an Osprey flying northwards!  1 Black Stork was a bonus as were 4 Black Kites on our return home.

view from the hut

16th April

Yet another early start but I was a bit less hasty and arrived at the wood half an hour later than usual.  The Firecrests and Hawfinches were by now a lot quieter but surprises came in the form of a flyover Marsh Harrier (a rather random record for an area bordering woodland and no marshes for a couple dozen kilometers!).  I even had a decent view of a Short-toed Treecreeper climbing the same tree as a Eurasian one, providing a good comparison but the undoubted highlight was a BLACK WOODPECKER which took off from above me before vanishing without trace through the wood (only a couple dozen meters from where I had seen one last year!)

A nice singing male Whinchat boosted the day a little as did the ever present Black Redstarts.

Yet another visit to Die Altenberghütte produced a flypast Black Woodpecker, singing Firecrest a single Osprey following the river northwards and two butterfly species in the form of Small Tortoiseshell and Green-veined White.

Die Altenberghütte

looking south from the hut

...and looking north

vis-migging in the shade

Osprey going north

17th April

Much the same as the other couple days except for the later start as Ephraim and I only started vis-migging from 11am.  4 Black Kites (1 west, 3 north), 1 Goshawk circling at the southern end of the valley, 1 Peregrine and 2 Ravens.  The usual Red Kites, Buzzards, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel also put on a decent performance.  Comma was the only butterfly of note.

Black Kite over my head

18th April

Our first day exploring beyond Pantenburg.  Exploring might not actually be the right term as we had already discovered Sangweiher and it's good potential on previous visits but we knew at least that it deserved some coverage since it was only 7km up the road.  On the short bike ride alone, we encountered Short-toed Treecreeper, 2 Black Redstarts, cycled through 9 Firecrest territories proclaiming them in full song (compare that to 2 Goldcrest heard on the same journey), 3 Lesser Whitethroats, Marsh Tit, a Yellow Wagtail and my first 2 Whitethroats of the year.

Once arriving at Sangweiher we were treated immediately to a nice Spotted Redshank, progressing into sum plum whilst a couple Lesser Whitethroats rattling in the hedgerows added to the days total.  Rain shortly ensued forcing c.103+ hirundines to begin hunting low over the small body of water.  Here we saw our first 2 Sand Martins of the year and smaller numbers of House Martins with the majority constituting Swallows.  Other species of note included a Black Kite circling eastwards over the lake, 3 Willow Tits showing spectacularly well whilst singing and calling, a flyover Snipe, 3 Hobbys, a singing Reed Warbler, 1 Firecrest and a Marsh Tit.  Our quest for last years Grey-headed Woodpecker was nearly successful as I caught a brief view of what was almost certainly one flying across the tops of a line of alder and mixed deciduous trees at the edge of the reserve (barely a couple dozen meters from where I had seen one almost exactly one year ago).

Spotted Redshank

Willow Tit

19th April

Yet another visit to Die Altenberghütte, this time 2 Black Storks flew over and after first picking them out in the far distance as tiny dots, we were extremely fortunate to have one head directly towards us and chose the precise area of stream in front of the hut to land!  It was as if we had won the lottery, since it could have chosen any random spot in the huge network of valley systems but instead had decided to chose the one particular spot below us against all the odds!  None the less, just as it was coming in to land it vanished behind a bunch of overhanging trees and in a desperate attempt to get a perched view of it, I left the hide to have a walk along the path.  In the meantime, my brother stayed behind and obtained gripping views and pics of it wading out into the water!!!

A stunning Black Stork!

whilst it was still in the distance

Other species of note included a further 2 prob. distant Black Storks, 1 Hawfinch and a male Yellow Wagtail flying northwards overhead.

20th April

Our last day in Germany and as usual my brother and I decided the best way to spend it would be to revisit the same old Altenberghütte where we could put our feet up and wait for the good stuff to move through.  No birds of particular note except a single Hobby and 3 Hawfinches.  The highlight came bombing through near the end when we noticed a large orange butterfly sp. shoot past the hut!  Alarm bells started ringing as we followed it around before it landed on some low hanging oak branches, it was a LARGE TORTOISESHELL!!

Large Tortoiseshell!

A crater lake we visited the same day

That evening we were back on the ferry bound for Dover.  Dad also did well as he pointed out 2 Harbour Porpoises passing the ship whilst I clocked a total of 5 Bonxies.

Bonxie getting a bit of its own medicine and gettig chased by a gull

pier at Calais