Thursday, 11 June 2015

Life and Birding (11th April-2nd June)

After many years of education and academia I am finally left to my own devices.  Thanks to the huge support from my loving family and friends I've wound my way through these beginning stages of life and now find myself graduating in BSc Environmental Science, give it another few years to stew and I wonder what'll be on the horizon then.

With my final exams preoccupying me with indoor revision time I must admit this drove me close to insanity.  However, a few well placed revision breaks along the way helped with the moral boost.

12th April:

Incombe Hole with my bro Ephraim in the hope of seeing some Ring Ouzels.  Despite negative news from a birder just leaving we did a good job and located 8 Ring Ouzels in the sheep fields near Middle Path Farm.

14th April:

An early start to try for yesterday's Bluethroat at Amwell.  Given the clear spring skies and it was a keen male intent on getting to its breeding grounds I doubted it would be there but Chris, Ephraim and I decided it was still worth a shot as there was a chance we might be able to bump into a few other bits and pieces.  No sign of the Bluethroat of course but 2 Black-necked Grebes in their breeding plumage finery along with my first Sedge Warblers and Willow Warblers of the year.  4 Oystercatchers flew over and Common Terns were hawking over the water.  We decided to cut our losses and head to Cliff Pools instead in the hope of connecting with the small party of Black-winged Stilts.  Several excursions down the wrong footpaths led to repeated failure.  However, we did discover 6+ Nightingales, 1 Wheatear, numerous Avocet, Black-tailed Godwits, our first Whitethroat of the year and the odd Cetti's Warbler.  Ephraim was on a role in terms of waders as he found a Ruff, a nice Common Sandpiper and did a good job of finally picking out our first Black-winged Stilt of the day!  A little more scanning revealed all 5 of the originally reported birds to still be present.  We spent a good while scanning backwards and forwards through the scattered group before we finally tallied up a new and higher total of 6 BLACK-WINGED STILTS (including a stunning male)!

Higham Marshes

Sh4rpy and Ephraim approving of our additional Black-winged Stilt find, nice one guys!

Black-winged Stilt 1...

Black-winged Stilt 2 and 3...

Black-winged Stilt 4 and 5...

...and Black-winged Stilt 6!

26th April:

Pendennis Point: 2 Basking Sharks (one breaching three times!  Something I have never experienced before), 4 Great Northern Divers (3 sum plums), 15 Common Scoter, 1 Shelduck, 1 Whimbrel along with a good movement of Manx Shearwaters and auks.  A pod of 15+ Common Dolphins also appeared in the same area as the sharks and a Wall Brown at the point was my first of the year!

The largest Basking Shark's dorsal fin

Stithians Reservoir:  Nest recording with Dan and Daniel.  The tits have already started laying, crows are on the nest and we also found Dunnock chicks.  We had two surprises, the first was watching Daniel sink knee hight into a particularly wet patch of ground in his brave attempt at providing me with a piggy back as I wasn't wearing appropriate footwear and the second surprise in the form of a stunning male Golden Oriole which flew over the road in front of us before perching briefly in the top of some small trees at the southern end of the reservoir!  Well done to Dan for being the first to pick it out despite being laden with carrying the ladder which we were using to check the nests.  2 Stock Doves also flew over (only the second and third I've ever seen in the county!).  Butterflies of note included Speckled Wood, Small White and Peacock.

Male Golden Oriole!

27th April:

Today, headed up to uni with Dan, stopping at the Penryn River on the way up to check Gorrangorras.  2 Common Sandpipers, 2 Whimbrel and a Peregrine over ASDA were the highlights (decent given the lowish tide).  Dan continued to check the res's whilst I was in a revision session at uni so it was only about an hour later that I noticed his text informing me of a Blackwit at College Res.  By the time I made it to the site there was no sign of it.  I did hear a Garden Warbler on the north side, a Whitethroat on the east side though, 6 Sand Martins and 3+ Swallows flew through followed by a group of 4 Buzzards all drifting west across the reservoir in unison.

29th April:

WeBS count again.  Dan and I were several days late as ever but given it was spring and the counts were optional, there was less urgency for it to be conducted on the correct day. Starting at Porthleven at first light and heavy rain, we worked our way south along the coastal footpath.

Whimbrel featured strongly both on our walk to and from the pool, 32 feeding in the fields directly south of Porthleven, 8 additional birds travelling along the shoreline and 6 distant birds flying south. Several singles were also heard flying over Loe Pool but were obscured by the canopy. 1 Great Northern Diver was offshore.

Wildfowl numbers had predictably dropped as they're all busy returning to their breeding grounds further north so were excused in their absence. None the less, a few Great Crested Grebes, Mallard, Coot, Moorhen, Cormorants, Grey Heron and even 2 Shelduck remained.  Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Herring Gulls were probably in single and double figures respectively but they still managed to encourage a worn 2nd CY Iceland Gull to join them in the Carminowe Creek.  15+ Reed Warblers were also well established along with 2+ Cetti's Warblers.  Other birds of note included 8 Bullfinch, 3+ Chiffchaff and 3+ Willow Warbler, 8+ Blackcap, a small influx of Robins and Blackbirds on the surrounding slopes and a singing Whitethroat.

Iceland Gull (far left) with accompanying Herring Gulls

Iceland Gull

The Hayle Kimbro area hosted singing Cuckoo and Grasshopper Warbler.

Moving on to Lizard Point we had decent views of a Basking Shark off the point, 3 Puffins flew west (diluted amongst the hundreds of Guillemots also tracking in the same direction).  Manx Shearwaters were also passing through in good numbers along with the occasional Fulmar, group of Gannets and the odd Kittiwake.  6 Turnstone also flew around the point.

Given that we had to be back in Falmouth by 1pm, we used the last of our time checking the approach road to Kynance Cove.  2 Sedge Warblers singing and several more Whitethroats were the main birds of note.

2nd May:

Highlights in rain and dense fog from a quick shoot around the local area with Dan and Matt.  Swanpool: Long-tailed Duck, c.4 Sand Martins and 20+ Swallows.
Gorrangorras:  Whimbrel, Greenshank and Oystercatcher.
Stithian's Res:  1 Swift (my first of the year), 20+ Swallow, Sand Martin, 4 Little Grebes, 4 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Little Egrets, 1 Grey Heron, 3 Reed Buntings and a selection of other usual garden birds visiting the feeders.

3rd May:

Revision time again so cooped up indoors slowly loosing my mind. What a relief to see 2 Swift shoot past the window (my first on patch this year).

5th May:

Walked down to the coast yesterday afternoon after my exam to take a break.  Ended up seawatching from Pennance Point until dusk.  Dan paid a brief visit and together scanned around a little from the Hooked Cafe.

Swanpool: 1 Long-tailed Duck, 3 Mute Swans (pair nesting at the southern end +another adult nearby that seems to be well tolerated by the nesting pair)

Seawatching from Hooked Cafe and later Pennance Point (all west unless otherwise stated): 9 Whimbrel (also 7 below the cafe may have been different individuals), 1 Puffin, 15-20 Manx Shearwaters per minute, dozens Fulmar (2 on the cliffs), small wader sp., 1 Shelduck, 5+ Kittwakes, 5 Great Northern Divers on the sea (4 in sum plum).

6th May:

Arranged another session for this morning with Dan as we hadn't done much seawatching this year, and the SW blow seemed promising - false promise really again as it turned out.

Started off interestingly with a Swift at the base of the peninsula - seemingly being chased by a Herring Gull!

Pendennis Point c8:00-10:00am all west unless stated otherwise:

5 Sandwich Tern
1 Bonxie
6 Kittiwake
2 Whimbrel east and into the Carrick Roads
2 Great Northern Diver, west then pitched onto the sea.
An additional c.4 Great Northern Divers - 3 sum plum, 1 imm/winter
5+ Guillemot
1 Puffin
Fulmars, Gannets and distant Manx Shearwaters all present in reasonably low numbers,
Cormorants and Shag.

Popped past Penryn River on my way back from campus.  1 Whimbrel, 5 Mute Swans, 2 Great Black-backed Gulls (not sure I've seen them at Gorrangorras before).

8th May:

2 Wheatear in my backgarden this morning (one without a tail)!

female Wheatear

and the one without the tail

11th May:

Had a wander around after finishing my second exam yesterday afternoon. In fact, just before entering the exam hall 8 Buzzards flew over campus in unison, I wonder if Honeys will be on the move through the county soon?  My intention was to check out the belated news of a Hoopoe in the direction of Argal so I headed past College Res and made my way across the farmland.  I checked the fields either side of Hillhead Road as thoroughly as I could (three of which were ploughed).  One ploughed field in particular seemed to fit the description of the directions quite well but the farmer was in the process of ploughing in manure so I wasn't able to scan the whole area. A male Wheatear, c.10 Buzzards, 100+ Herring Gulls and 40+ Jackdaws seemed to be making good use of the freshly tilled earth.

Walking through town towards Swanpool yielded a constant presence of Swifts circling over town, 4 House Martins and numerous Swallows.

Swanpool still hosted the Long-tailed Duck (it even did two full circuits of the pool).  Two pairs of Coot seem to have set up territory and are sitting on nests with a third adult attending to two chicks.  Dan also paid a visit for an hour and together saw 1 male Wheatear at the Hooked Cafe, Sandwich Tern on the buoy and a Kestrel flew over.

Seawatching from Swanpool and Pennance Point: 3 Great Northern Divers (2 sum plums), 2 Manx Shearwaters, 1 distant prob Puffin on the sea, a couple Guillemots and a large all dark duck sp. diving off Maenporth (difficult to be sure of its identity due to low light and distance, perhaps just a scoter but seemed too large).

Falmouth Town: Hedgehog crossed Florence Place, 2+ Whimbrel flew north whilst calling in the dark and 2-3 bats flying around the northern end of Swanpool on my way back home!

12th May:

Short trip down to the coast with Matt this afternoon. More talking than birding but still picked up on a few odds and ends.  Long-tailed Duck still on Swanpool with the pair of Mute Swans proudly showing off their 8 cygnets! 1 Mallard duckling, 3 Reed Warblers chasing each other around at the northern end of the pool, 2 Oystercatchers and 2+ Sandwich Terns offshore. Also dabbled in a bit of rock pooling, as ever I have no idea what I'm actually looking at but it's still one of life's best joys!

15th May:

Over an hour and a half period I had three separate sightings of a Red Kite (possibly all different individuals).  Seen from my bedroom window whilst revising.

18th May:

Completed my degree at midday yesterday!  Treated myself to a Night Heron twitch.

All easier said than done of course!  First, a 13 mile bike ride down the A39 towards Truro then a casual walk down the west side of Tresillian River.  Despite being last sighted at 11:30 I was only able to arrive on site at 1pm dues to my final exam earlier that morning.  No sign of the Night Heron when I arrived but 12 Shelduck, 3 Whimbrel, 1 Curlew, 2 Mute Swans, 3 Coal Tits (including 2 fledglings), 9 Long-tailed Tits (mostly fledglings), 3 Bullfinches, 2 Swifts, 30+ House Martins and 20+ Swallows were all decent company.  Growing tired waiting at the pool I decided to walk downstream towards St Clement and shortly before arriving at the village I picked up on a song I haven't heard in a long time, looking up revealed a surprise Spotted Flycatcher!

A full seven and a half hours passed whilst I waited at the edge of the pool, at least 15 people must have come and gone leaving Daniel Eva, John Chapple, an elderly couple and myself to wait it out.  Daniel received a quick glimpse of it as it flew from back of the surrounding cover towards a little ditch a little further down the path.  This we approached with caution but inadvertently flushed the adult Night Heron from beside the path were we obtained some stunning views as it surveyed us from an overhanging branch. Intent on feeding it soon pitched down into the stream below where I was just about able to make out its back end.  Five minutes later it flew up again and headed back to Tresemple Pool where we were unable to relocate it (presumably as it was now feeding in low cover again).  All this activity was compressed into the hours 8:15-8:40pm so anyone planning on connecting with it is best off checking it at nightfall.

never seen a Little Egret sitting down before

finally... the Night Heron!

A major drawback from this escapade involved a long bike ride back in the dark with my bike lights failing making the trip particularly dangerous, not to mention the cars overtaking at 70mph down the hill into Devoran!

19th May

Today was a little more relaxing. Out at 8am, Dan and I made it down to Pendennis Point. Strongish northerly winds were probably responsible for the low totals with most birds being pushed far offshore and out of view.  Seawatch totals:

8 Great Northern Divers (6 west, 1 east, 1 in Falmouth Bay)
1 Whimbrel west
c. 20 auks west
2 Oystercatchers

There was also a male Wheatear at the point (seemingly a nominate bird with very little pink-buff on the chest), 1 Rock Pipit and a small trickle of Swallows.


1 Rock Pipit
20+ Jackdaws


Perhaps one of the main surprises of the day was actually the absence of the long-staying Long-tailed Duck which didn't appear despite thoroughly checking the pool (maybe just hiding in the reeds from the strong winds, she's done that before). Perhaps the migratory instinct got the better of her though. She's stayed for a total of 189 days (approx. 6.5 months)!

Also present:
Mute Swan pair with 8 cygnets
4 Coot nests, pair with 4 chicks, pair with 2 chicks and pair with 1 chick (all small)
Mallard ducklings: 1 large, 2 small
Moorhen chick: 1 large
2 Reed Warblers singing

Pennance Point:

2 Great Northern Divers off Maenporth
2 Guillemots
c.10 Gannets hunting close inshore
8 Fulmar on the cliffs with several others offshore
1 Painted Lady
1 Wall Brown

20th May:

Full day working/birding with Dan.  Started with the WeBS count at Stithians Res.   Not a great deal about in terms of wildfowl except Grey Herons, Little Egrets, Little Grebes and Mallards.  A few Sedge Warblers were dotted around the reservoir along with 1 Stonechat, 1 Cuckoo and 4 Reed Buntings.

Fields near Treverva: 1 Four-spotted Chaser (my first dragonfly of the year), 1 Painted Lady, 1 Small Copper and a few Speckled Woods.

This Green-veined White struck as unusual as it didn't have a distinctive upperwing with the typical dark tip and central spot.

Green-veined White

22nd May:

Patching by myself this morning so it would come as no surprise that I spent most of the time seawatching from Pennance Point.  Highlights included:

13 Great Northern Divers (12 on the sea, 1 west) all but two in sum plum
1 Red-throated Diver flew west into the bay then landed off Maenporth and immediately began diving
1 dark phase Pomarine Skua/Arctic Skua (very distant but jizz seemed to indicate Pom) flew west
trickle of Manx Shearwaters, Guillemots and 40+ Kittwakes
pod of c.15 Bottlenose Dolphins at first distant offshore before heading closer in
3 Wall Brown on the point

Another visit down to Pennance Point after a quick nip into Truro.

Limited movement of Manx Shearwaters and Kittwakes with c.3 Great Northern Divers lingering.  8 Mute Swan cygnets still surviving at Swanpool and a terrapin on the raft at the northern end.  Also saw a cat "playing" with a live mouse sp. (think it was a Wood Mouse) on my bike ride back home. I shooed the attacker away but the mouse seemed to be rather stunned before it ran into the cover of a nearby hedge were it was soon pursued by the cat again.  Unfortunately, I'm not sure how it ended as they both disappeared into the hedge.

23rd May:

First Clouded Yellow of the year up on farmland near Treverva, a Painted Lady and 2 Garden Warblers.  Whimbrel and Cuckoo at Stithians Reservoir.

26th May:

Seawatching off Pennance Point was quiet but a little unusual. Having only seen my first 2 Barrel Jellyfish that morning washed up on Penryn River at Gorrangorras I was very pleased to see a further 2 Barrel Jellyfish live just off the point!  Other unusual sightings included a Buzzard circling over the bay out to sea, 2 House Martins heading east on the seawatch followed by a few Swallows.  The highlight was the flock of c.42 Dunlin which were easily picked out with the naked eye crossing the bay like a white shimmer over the water.   It seemed they'd come from the direction of the Helford Passage but on nearing the centre of the bay they began to gain height and flew inland over Maenporth.  3 Great Northern Divers were also of note.

one of the two Barrel Jellyfish washed ashore at Gorrangorras

27th May:

1 Painted Lady in the garden then a late afternoon-dusk seawatch.  Very little passing Pennance Point despite waiting several hours.  It was great to see a total of 8 Barrel Jellyfish just meters from Pennance Point spread out along a 100m section of the coast! A few Manx Shearwaters were moving about, 3 Great Northern Divers (2 sum plums flew west and an additional immature was sat on the sea just off the point). The occasional Fulmar, group of Guillemots and Herring Gulls following the fishing boats was about it...

three of the eight Barrel Jellyfish just off Pennance Point

Pennance Point, my favourite place on patch!

28th May:

WeBS counting with Dan again.  Croft Pascoe, Hayle Kimbro, Lizard Point, Loe Pool and Helston Boating Lake all covered as usual.  The highlights included 3 Marsh Fritillaries (my first of the year) and c.5 Risso's Dolphins past the point (fortunately just picked them up coming from the east after stepping into the car ready to leave!).  Also came across fledgling Grey Wagtails and a Goldcrest fledgling.

Orange-tip at Loe Pool

30th May:

Day out birding with local Falmouth birder John St Ledger.  We encompassed Rinsey Head, where we had nice views of nesting Kittiwakes, Fulmars, ShagsHerring Gulls and 4 Stonechat (including 2 juvs).  Then on to Marazion were the best we could muster was a Cetti's Warbler exploding into song.  Eventually, on to Drift were we were hoping for the Purple Heron.  This we dipped in exchange for a singing Lesser Whitethroat near the dam, a distant Red Kite, 2 Painted Ladys, 1 Wall Brown and a Small Copper.  Our penultimate stop at Lands End revealed 1 Chough (colour ringed), a trickle of Manx Shearwaters and several pairs of Razorbills on the rocky outcrops.  A final stop at Hayle produced the long-staying 1st summer Ring-billed Gull near the causeway along with 3 Curlew, 1 Bar-tailed Godwit and 6 Shelduck (with an aditional 2 ducklings).  Many thanks John for the lift and the sandwiches from your wife, much appreciated!

Kittiwakes at Rinsey

Great Crested Grebe with young at Drift Res

Ring-billed Gull at Hayle

31st May:

Nest recording with Daniel Eva in the Stithians Reservoir area.  We had a great day finding and recording the local breeders including: 3 Willow Warbler, 1 Chiffchaff, 2 Magpie, 1 Buzzard, 1 Sparrowhawk, 3 Carrion Crow, 1 Woodpigeon, 1 Canada Goose, 1 Great Crested
, 2 Song Thrush, 3 Wren, 3 Long-tailed Tit, 3 Dunnock, 1 Chaffinch, 8
Great Tit
, 9 Blue Tit.

Other species likely breeding on site of which we haven't yet found nests include:
Mallard, Coot, Moorhen, Little Grebe, Garden Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Whitethroat,
Reed Bunting, Robin, Blackbird and possibly Jay and Bullfinch.

Other highlights included Southern Marsh Orchids and a female Adder!

The feeders at the southern cuttoff of Stithians Reservoir

Southern Marsh Orchid

my first Adder (a female)!

2nd June:

6.5 hours at Pennance Point (1-2hrs sleeping the rest seawatching).  2 Pomarine Skuas (dark and pale phase flew west), 1 Bonxie west and 4 Great Northern Divers in Falmouth Bay.

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