Friday, 29 August 2014

Catch up (13th July-29th August)

Well well well, here's my sneaky attempt to catch up on over a months deficit in blog posts.  I do have an excuse though.  I've been awake for nearly 20 hours per day doing data collection for my dissertation with barely any internet access so I've unceremoniously clumped all my casual sightings into one long post.

Best not ask for an exact dates and accounts as I've forgotten the majority but here goes...

Spent an afternoon on the 14th July at Pitstone with Dad and Eph and heard 2 Quails singing from the cornfield.

I only had half a day spare on the 15th after having spent the first half at the dentists.  It was my last chance at a twitch before I had to head back to Falmouth.  It was all rather frantic and unplanned but I grabbed a train from the Finchley area, ploughed through London and was soon speeding through the countryside towards Great Yarmouth.  Knowing there's a mega at the end of it did make the trip all the more gruelling but the final burst sprint to the mudflat was certainly worth it when I set eyes on the prize GREAT KNOT!!  The next few hours were spent watching it in gradually improving light conditions, giving me a chance to appreciate its subtle differences as it ambled around with a group of Knot.  Whimbrel and Mediterranean Gulls were also present.

The following day I was back on the Falmouth patch.  Rather happily, I managed clock my train target species, a Common Sandpiper, which the train flushed from the seawall as we passed Dawlish Warren.  Patch on the other hand produced a flock of c.58 Common Scoter, Mediterranean Gulls of varying ages and a couple 100 Manx Shearwaters moving offshore.  Most bizarre of all was a Roe Deer attempting a sea swim off St Anthony's Head.  Unfortunately for it, it was pursued by some idiots in sailing boats who forced it further and further from land.  Thankfully, the deer saw sense, turned around and headed back to land.  I can't be sure it made it back safely as it disappeared behind a rock but it may well have done.

The rest of the month and up until 24th August was almost solely dedicated to dissertation data collection in a study to determine moth diversity across the urban to rural fringe of the Falmouth and Penryn area.  I'm indebted to many local residents who kindly offered their gardens for me to leave moth traps in.  I'll get round to posting the interesting stuff on my other moth blog later in the month.

I did take one day off for birding and thanks to a lift from Sean Foote, we made our way early am to Pendeen for an awesome seawatch.  Thankfully, we'd chosen one of the best days this year for the larger shears and after the first two hours of promising Manx Shearwater passage it finally kicked off with double figures of both CORY'S SHEARWATERS and GREAT SHEARWATERS!  It was truly awesome, with a supporting cast of regular Sooty Shearwaters and Baleraric Shearwaters.  After several hours sitting on the very comfy grassy cliff in surprisingly good weather, the realisation that I hadn't had much sleep at all for the past few weeks gradually dawned so I could hardly resist slumping back and let the sleep overcome me.  Next thing you know there's a report of a Fea's past St Agnes, that's 30 mins away as the Fea's flies so eyes were reluctantly temporarily re-opened but to no avail, it never came.

Thanks should also go to Dan who kindly lent me his tripod making seawatching a fraction of the ordeal it normally is when I use my ball and socket head.

Falmouth patching continued sporadically up until 24th August with the occasional seawatch from Pendennis.  This rewarded Dan and I with plenty of Manx Shearwaters, the occasional flock of Common Scoter, Sandwich Terns and increasing number of Mediterranean Gulls.  On two visits by myself I also clocked a single Sooty Shearwater, Balearic Shearwater and an immature Eider, all rather decent patch birds!  Grey Seals are still lazing about on Black Rock with a nice bull individual even checking out Pendennis Point.  I also saw my first patch Wheatear of the autumn and a total of 3 Clouded Yellows (including one helice form!) between the point and Swanpool.  From then onwards, I encountered more and more Clouded Yellows, including one individual flying through some farmland near Treverva and double figures around Stithians Res whilst on a brief foray out of Falmouth to see the local Wood Sandpiper which was showing intermittently by the southern cut-off.  A juv Peregrine also made an appearance on my visit there.  By mid-August, the butterflies had calmed down but I still saw another impressive lepidoptera, a Hummingbird Hawkmoth in Falmouth town whilst checking one of the traps with a second brief view of another probable individual at Pendennis Point around dusk.  Plenty of cycling between moth traps also led to the discovery of a road-kill Mole (a "life" tick, in the broadest sense possible) and rather unfortunately the pulverised remains of a Tawny Owl.  A live Hedgehog crossing the road near The Beacon was a pleasing sight, particularly as it wasn't in the same state as the others.  Equally pleasing to see was the occasional Badger whilst scouting around the outskirts of town.

Whilst seawatching on the 18th August, I picked up on a juv Marsh Harrier coming in from the SW, perhaps a wonderer from the Lizard area, a totally random record for an equally random patch bird!

Argal and College Res also got some attention and as well as hearing a Common Sandpiper at the later site (whilst setting up moth traps) I never saw it.  Better luck was had at Argal Res, where Dan and I saw 2 Common Sandpipers and I connected with a hunting Peregrine earlier in the season.  Linnet numbers have also increased dramatically to 300+ birds using the stubble fields.

Patch has also produced 2 Fulmars chicks on the cliffs at Swanpool, the occasional cetacean, mostly Bottlenose Dolphins and a surprise dead Common Dolphin washed up on Castle Beach on the 2nd August.  It had a plain white zip-wire around the fluke, my guess is it was by-catch and for ease of extracting from the net and towing, the zip-wire was attached.

Whimbrel have been seen or heard almost daily with singles flying past the point regularly and two birds at Penryn River.  Other goodies at Gorrangorras included up to 9 Ringed Plover, 4 Dunlin, half a dozen Turnstone50+ Redshank and the odd Curlew.  My most "inland" Fulmar also flew over whilst checking the waders, over 2km from its usual marine habitat.

Back home in Herts the patching continued with my first Hobby of the year appearing on the 28th August near the canal.  I saw what might have been the same individual again today along with 2 Yellow Wagtails and a steady build up in number of Swallows and House Martins whilst the canal produced two smart Kingfishers.

All in all, very little serious birding given the sever lack of time but it's amazing what one sees without even trying!

Off to California now!!!

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