Sunday, 2 November 2014

Catch-up (12th September-24th October)

Lots of stuff to catch-up on once again.  Starting in Herts on my local patch in Kings Langley, I'd just returned from the US and was out on patch again on a regular basis.  I can only remember a small fraction since I rarely take field notes so it's very likely I'll accidentally miss out a hell of a lot of stuff.

A single Stonechat (joining a single Whinchat) at Balls Pond Farm was certainly an excellent bird, representing my first ever on patch!  Equally thrilling were 2 Spotted Flycatchers in two days!  Following a long gap of about three years without any patch records it was brilliant to see some again.  Flyover Yellow Wagtails were also fairly regular and it was only a matter of time before I located the cowfield in which they were feeding, where I found a total of at least 20+ Yellow Wagtails.  Hobbys appeared on several days over the canal and neighbouring farmland down Barnes Lane with Kestrels, Buzzards and Red Kites in good supporting numbers.  Also counted a record breaking patch flock of 60+ Meadow Pipits.

Back in Cornwall for uni, patching was turning over a regular passage of Balearic Shearwaters, almost on a daily basis in late September and early October, with an encouraging total easily reaching into the hundreds!  Arctic Skuas and a few Bonxies also cropped up on the seawatch as did a small passage of auks.  Dan and I made a visit to Lizard on the 22nd September for a WeBS count where we were fortunate enough to jam in on a co-found SPOTTED CRAKE at Loe Pool!!  Seawatching from Lizard point on the 22nd September and 19 October produced couple of Bonxies, Arctic Skua and Balearic Shearwaters.  Stithians Res also hosted a 1st win male Garganey whilst Clouded Yellows were still out in force with singles on patch appearing every now and then along with good numbers on the Lizard.  I also found a Hummingbird Hawkmoth on Pendennis on the 1st October and added Mediterranean Gull and Peregrine to the garden list (not that I even keep one).


abberation caeruleopunctata Small Copper (with blue spots on the hindwing)

Co-found Spotted Crake with Dan!


I've done a fair amount of mothing too but invariably in my small concrete back garden, hopefully I'll get around to adding the moth totals to my mothing blog soon.  The early morning starts certainly raised my awareness for the influx of Grey Wagtail numbers which I seem to be encountering quite a lot of in the SW at the moment.  Kingfishers have also been present in higher numbers with birds appearing on the railings of Pendennis Point, two at Swanpool and a couple at the res's.  Argal Reservoir, despite offering some brilliant habitat thanks to the low water level hasn't had barely any peace from the dog walkers and walkers who've been traipsing all over the banks including the nature reserve section!  This has obviously accounted for the desolate banks, on one visit the only bird I could find on a whole walk around the reservoir was a single Grey Heron.  A single Barn Owl was nice to see on some farmland near Argal as were the occasional Snipe.  Patching also produced the usual Whimbrel past Pendennis, increasing number of Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Turnstone and a couple of waders at Gorrangorras and Devoran.  The former produced 50+ Redshank, Curlew in variable numbers, Whimbrel, Common Sandpiper and a couple of Dunlin.  Devoran offered a single dark-bellied Brent Goose, Knot and larger totals of the commoner waders.

25th September marked the first returning patch Firecrests with a single at Swanpool Point, followed by several other individuals paving the way and reaching 4+ Firecrests on the 24th October just outside the Penryn campus in a small section of woodland making a massive racket.

3 Greenshank on Argal Res on the morning of the 11th October was quite a surprise site first for me!  Single Swallows were also appearing over town and about four over Swanpool was a sign that they haven't quite left us yet.  I also located a probable Yellow-browed Warbler in Kimberely Park on the 4th October along with 2 Firecrests but despite investing some effort I couldn't relocate it.

I got my first Redwing of the autumn on the 18th October with birds now regularly flying over in the dark giving their gripping "tseep" calls in the dark but Fieldfare have yet to appear.

An EcoSoc bird trip to St Ives was a brilliant half-day break on the 21st October.  Highlights included a single Long-tailed Skua, several Pomarine Skuas, douzens of Arctic Skuas and Bonxies, a couple of Leach's Petrels and flocks of Kittiwakes, Common Scoter and a steady passage of Balearic Shearwaters.  A couple of Grey Phalaropes also flew past but the most thrilling experience were undoubtedly the excellent point blank views given by many of the skuas including one particularly confiding Pom landing a couple meters offshore before taking off and flying directly over our heads!

The 23rd October brought with it a mega within fairly easy reaching distance so thanks to a lift from Dan, we ended up rushing for Porthgwarra.  Some searching later and I locked onto the YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO briefly perched up on the stunted willows.  It clearly wasn't preferring the western side of the bushes so I opted for the eastern side where I got cracking views of it working it's way across the base of the willows, just goes to show the value of breaking away from the crowd and investing some effort searching rather than relying on others to relocate it.

phone pic of the Yellow-billed Cuckoo

looking from the eastern side of the willows across the valley at Porthgwarra

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