Friday, 27 February 2015

Biking Birder visits Falmouth! (23rd-24th February)

Had a great time meeting Gary Prescott (the Biking Birder) on his travels through Falmouth!  A great guy attempting to break the record for birds seen in Britain during the course of one year solely by bike and foot!

I rushed down to Maenporth on the 23rd around dusk to try and help locate the King Eider for Gary's list on his arrival in Falmouth.  Although a distant duck on the sea looked to fit the bill it was simply too dark and distant to be absolutely certain so a second visit the following morning was due.

Leaving around 8am from Dan's place on the 24th, we made our way back to Maenporth via Swanpool.  First up was the Long-tailed Duck and Ring-billed Gull which I'd confidently told Gary would still be there today thanks to their ongoing presence.  As such I was rather worried when all I could point out was the Ring-billed Gull with no initial sign of the LtDuck!  Thankfully, after several more minutes of scanning there was a sigh of relief when the 1st win Long-tailed Duck flew in and landed in its usual favoured corner.  In fact, this was my first time I had seen it in flight in all the 4 months it's been present so I'm beginning to wonder if it's getting a little more edgy and keener to leave.

Gary Prescott, Me and Dan

On to Maenporth... To begin with there was only the female Eider to be seen, along with 2 Great Northern Divers and a distant grebe sp. off Bream Cove.  It was a full hour or so until Gary came back from a brief scan lower along the cliff exclaiming he had 2 distant eiders (most likely the female Common and the 1st win drk King).  Being at Maenporth and looking south meant there was a great deal of glare from the sun on the water which had been disguising the bird.  Fortunately, walking a short distance south along the coastal footpath, we obtained much better views enabling us to confirm the ongoing presence of the King Eider! Brilliant!!

Note the rather conveniently placed camera bag over the jacket, now reads "King Birder"

Best of luck Gary for the rest of your adventures! I look forward to challenging your biking birding year list record in the near future!

The usual (17th-21st February)

The final day of my brother's brief visit to Cornwall came around but we were still determined to make the most of the last few hours.  A fairly early start on the 17th allowed Dan Ephraim and I enough time to quickly nip past Maenporth (via Swanpool in order to grab the Ring-billed Gull for the day from the car window), the King Eider wasn't showing but we were notified of it's ongoing presence by other birders on site an hour or so after we left.  We did see 2 Slavonian Grebes, 2 Ravens and the female Common Eider whilst we scanned from Bream Cove.  However, our main target was to track down the putative Spotted Sandpiper at the Budock Vean in the Helford Passage.  Video footage led us to believe it was possibly the real deal but despite investing a good amount of effort we were unable to relocate it.  Ephraim picked out a Great Northern Diver in the Passage though.  It was about time we headed in the direction of Truro as we were on a time schedule for Ephraim's train back to London.  A fruitful high tide visit to Devoran allowed us to finally add the Spotted Redshank to my brothers trip list (it was even the first I'd seen in Cornwall)!  A couple Bar-tailed Godwits, a few Black-tailed Godwits, Curlew and numerous Redshank (including the "diluted" paler individual).

Spotted Redshank

"diluted" Redshank amongst regular Redshank

Carnon Downs sewage works was our final stop before Truro station, allowing us to connect with numerous Chiffchaffs and the odd putative Sibe.  A possible Yellow-browed Warbler was also heard briefly by my brother and I but we weren't able to confirm its presence.  Once dropping my brother off at the station, Dan and I made our way back towards Malpas to try our luck for the Avocet that had been there earlier in the year.  As expected there was no sign of them but Dan did well to catch a brief view of a Great White Egret flying downriver!  Unfortunately, despite being notified immediately I was only able to get a poor hind view before it headed out of view behind the conifers lining the river bank.  Perhaps the highlight of the day came when Dan and I encountered a dense flock of 22+ Blue Tits (with a solitary Great Tit tagging on with them).  Tits are renowned for congregating in winter feeding flocks but this is the first time I've seen an almost exclusive flock of them numbering so highly!

Other bits and pieces since then include:

20th Feb:

Stithians Reservoir:

1 Slavonian Grebe
1 Goldeneye (fem)
40 Wigeon
15 Lapwing
2+ Little Egret
with Water Rail and 4 Reed Buntings at the feeders providing a great opportunity to try out some digi-scoping!

male Reed Bunting


female Chaffinch


c.40 Curlew
26 Redshank
7 Greenshank
2 Turnstone
41 Teal
3 Mallard
3+ Mute Swan etc
5 Little Grebe (1 appearing to be sum plum)

21st Feb:


1 Kingfisher on the rocks (later seen in flight across the middle of the bay)
1 Guillemot distant
4+ Gannet
Mediterranean Gull

Castle Beach:

2 Stonechat (m/f)
2 Black Redstart mm (ad male and a "paradoxus" (rarer dark form of the 1st winter male))
Grey Wagtail
Pied Wagtail
1 Chiffchaff
4+ Rock Pipit
1 Meadow Pipit
House Sparrow
4 Oystercatchers

Swanpool offshore:

2 Slavonian Grebe

On Swanpool:

1 Ring-billed Gull
1 Med Gull
1 Firecrest in holly half way along the eastern side near the bench
1 Long-tailed Duck
1 Water Rail in flight
1 vocal Coal Tit
1 Great Crested Grebe
vocal Jays in vicinity

Monday, 16 February 2015

Bro! (14th-16th February)

My brother Ephraim has come to stay with me for the past couple days!  Birding has been going brilliantly and we've far exceeded our expectations with very few hiccups along the way.

Ephraim arrived Friday (13th) evening so we both rose early the following morning for some local birding.  Opening the blinds Saturday morning revealed the long staying female Black Redstart hopping around on the neighbours roof.  Next, Dan kindly provided us with a lift to Stithians Res, picking up some tools en route to complete the work on the feeders.  Once we'd relocated the feeders across the clearing it wasn't long before the Reed Buntings and host of other garden birds were back again gorging themselves on the seed, nuts and fat balls.  The Slavonian Grebe and 93 Lapwing were still showing well from the Stuart Hutching's Hide and 2 Snipe were on the southern cutoff.

Our second destination for the day was Maenporth for the local rarity.  Fortunately, the 1st win drake King Eider was a doddle to find as it was lingering only 100m offshore still accompanying the female Common Eider.  Thanks to the stunning sunny weather 2 Peregrines also rose up over the cliff line and shot past us and a half a dozen Mediterranean Gulls flew through.  Simon kindly offered us a lift to our next query, the long-staying Long-tailed Duck which put on a semi-decent show at the northern end of Swanpool along with an adult Mediterranean Gull.

A final trudge along the coastal footpath towards Castle Beach resulted in us scoring with 3 Slavonian Grebes offshore and a Red-necked Grebe (the first since last years influx!).

Red-necked Grebe

Sunday dawned a little drearier than the day before but the overcast conditions provided Dan, Ephraim and I with decent views of the Pacific Diver in Mounts Bay off Longrock!  The key species for my brother's visit!  In addition, 6+ Great Northern Divers, 1 Slavonaian Grebe and a drake Eider were lingering in the bay.  Next up, (and my favourite bird for the day) was the stunning LITTLE BUNTING at Gulval which showed for us all after a half hours wait.

Little Bunting

Hayle was next on the cards and following the Water Pipit dip earlier in the week we managed to settle the situation by nailing it shortly after arriving at Copperhouse Creek!

Water Pipit

showing the nice white outer tail feathers

Monday (16th) started with an early lecture but all plans of working in the afternoon flew out the window with news of a Ring-billed Gull down at Swanpool.  The 1km rush down to patch paid off quickly with point blank views of the 1st winter Ring-billed Gull putting on a good performance half way along the east bank of the pool coming to bread and settling on the water barely 2m from the bank!  Back home, 2 Black Redstarts are now frequenting the neighbours roof!

Ring-billed Gull (thanks to Eph for letting me borrow his DSLR for a quick few snaps)

view through the scope!


(10th-13th February)

10th Feb:  Once again copied and pasted the past couple days of highlights with Dan. Off out of area again today, WeBS count on The Lizard and then an attempt at the Hayle Estuary stuff.

Loe Pool:

9 Great Crested Grebe
44 Pochard
11 Goosander 
(4 male, 7 female)
3 Shoveler
1 Water Rail 
8 Med Gull
21 Common Gull
381 Black-headed Gull
 (and assortment of Herring Gulls, Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Great Black-backed Gulls)
1 Firecrest

All 11 Goosander

Helston Boating Lake:

1 Whooper Swan
10 Shoveler

Helston Sewage Works:

30+ Chiffchaff
3 Siberian Chiffchaff
1 Grey Wagtail

Our attempt at locating the Gwithian Snow Buntings failed but 6 Bottlenose Dolphins were nice to see as was 1 Great Northern Diver and 1000's of Gannets diving and milling around offshore.

A final stop at Hayle resulted in dipping the Water Pipit at Copperhouse Creek but scoring with a stunning adult Kumlien's Gull on the main estuary, thanks to Brad for putting us onto the bird!

This is what a cross section through a sand dune looks like when we throw away plastics.  A sad sight at Gwithian. 

adult Kumlien's Gull at Hayle

Thanks again to Dan for a great day out!

12th Feb:  Black Redstart still kicking around my backgarden.

Patching Pieces (21st January-9th February)

It's been fairly eventful recently with the Black Redstart still making regular visits to my back garden until early Feb (although I haven't seen it for the past few days so I assume it's moved on). I even managed to see it cough up a pellet one day after shaking it's head in frustration before a small ball rolled out of it's throat, quite fascinating!

A visit to Swanpool on the 24th January confirmed the ongoing presence of the 1st winter Long-tailed Duck, Great Crested Grebe and 2 Water Rails (one even grabbing a small Mullet from the stream!), 2 Ravens and a Chiffchaff. Swanpool Beach hosted 16 Turnstone, 1 Great Northern Diver and 15 Fulmar on the cliff face whilst Pendennis offered the usual 2 Whimbrel, 1 ad Mediterranean Gull, 1 Great Northern Diver and 3 Slavonian Grebes towards Castle Beach. A quick nip over to Stithians Reservoir produced 1 Slavonian Grebe, 2 Goldeneye, 4 Snipe and a selection of wildfowl.

A quick nip past the Penryn River on my way between home and campus on the 24th January produced a single Mediterranean Gull, 1 Greenshank, a couple Redshank, Curlew and half a dozen Teal.

Another brief return to the coast on the 27th January produced Long-tailed Duck, Great Northern Diver and 2 Slavonian Grebes yet it was only on our return home that we noticed the mega news of a King Eider reported in the neighbouring cove! Needless to say, Maenporth was our first destination the next morning.

The 28th January dawned with rain and overcast conditions and it was still dark when I left the house. Fortunately, on arrival we picked up the 1st winter drake KING EIDER (lingering offshore with a female Common Eider) shortly after arriving and enjoyed progressively better views as the day elapsed! An absolutely brilliant local bird which Dan was also keen to add to his Falmouth List so a short trek back to Pennance Point followed by a scan back across the bay allowed us the opportunity to view the bird from within patch limits too.  Other bits and pieces on the day include the usual 1st winter Long-tailed Duck and 1 Mediterranean Gull.

view into Falmouth Bay, the two small dots in the bottom right corner are the King Eider and Common Eider

1st winter drake King Eider

King Eider with female Common Eider

directions for anyone wanting to twitch the King Eider

30th January:  Helped lead an EcoSoc bird trip around Marazion.  Unfortunately no Starling murmurations as we had hoped but a couple Great Northern Divers offshore and 2 Bitterns in flight were nice to see.

1st Feb: Went shopping into town but had a cursory glance at Penryn River.  3 Mediterranean Gulls, 4 Buzzards and 30 Teal being the highlights.

After a week of dissertation presentations full of rather hectic things going on I finally had the opportunity to head out on patch again for a proper spin around the area to double check on the reported absence of the King Eider.  Fortunately, I came across it again fairly easily lingering a short distance offshore loosely associated with a feeding group of Shags (there was no sign of the female Common Eider though).  However, conditions were a little choppy on the sea but that didn't discourage half a dozen Mediterranean Gulls, some Common Gulls and 1 Kittiwake from scouting the area.  2 Ravens also flew over and a Peregrine also showed nicely.  Other bits and pieces include 1 Redshank on the mud at the outlet channel at Maenporth, 1 Stonechat and the Long-tailed Duck at Swanpool.

8th Feb: Roseland with Matt Pearce, Dan Chaney and Greg Adams (highlights copied from the Falmouth Thread on BF)

Turnaware Point

Redshank, Kingfisher, 2+ Great Spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker (h), 2 Common Gull, c.150 Lapwing in flight

St Just in Roseland

1 Whimbrel
3 Greenshank
1 Redshank
4 Curlew
2 Little Egret
and in the Carrick Roads -
27 Black-necked Grebes
3+ GN Diver
8 RB Merganser

Gerrans Bay from Pendower

10 Black-throated Diver
3 GN Diver
1 grebe sp. (probably Slavonian)

153 Skylark in the centre of the Roseland Peninsula, 2 Sparrowhawks circling over suitable nesting habitat and 2 Raven.

Probably timed it all wrong for Avocets at Malpas, but between Malpas and Truro 20+ Shelduck, 15+ Black-tailed Godwit, Mediterranean Gull.

Some phenology: Red Admiral at St Just in Roseland, Small Tortoiseshell at Pendower.  Lots Great Spotted Woodpeckers drumming.

9th Feb: Stithians with Dan.  Juvenile Peregrine showing nicely on the mud in front of the hide and perching in the nearby trees on the banks of the reservoir.  1 Slavonian Grebe, 4 Snipe and 2 Goldeneye.