Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Monday 24th - Pendeen & Polgigga

The weather was rather unleasant when we awoke this morning so my VLW and I stayed in bed for some time, sipping our tea and putting the world to rights. Eventually the rain passed and the wind abated and I decided to venture forth on the Pendeen rounds. Despite the improved conditions it was still hard work with not a great deal to see with 2 Raven, 2 Chough and 2 Redwing the best I could muster. Back at the cottage, given the still rather mediocre weather we decided to head over to Cape Cornwall for a swim. We'd learnt that the Boswedden Hotel has a small pool that you can hire out for an hour for a modest rate so we thought that we'd give it a try. We arrived just as the heavens opened and there was a torrential downpour. Eventually it abated and we hurried inside to find a nice small pool in which we spent an enjoyable hour splashing around. We shall certainly use this facility again next time the weather isn't that great. Our plan afterwards was to go for a walk around the Polgigga area but it turned out that my VLW had left her walking boots back at the cottage so in the end we picked up a couple of pasties from St. Just and headed back home for lunch. 

When the weather is half decent I love standing outside our cottage and staring over the fields towards the lighthouse with a cup of tea in the (usually forlorn) hope of hearing or seeing something good fly over. I was doing just this whilst I waited for the other two to get ready when I spotted a white Egret flying low over the fields in front of me. Quick as a flash I put down my tea and lifted up my bins (which I always keep close by for  just such a contingency). No yellow feet and a stubby yellow bill meant Cattle Egret - get in! I ran around the back of the cottage to keep track of it as it flew out of my sight. I soon picked it up again as it headed over to Manor Farm where it landed on a wall and surveyed the scene for a while before it flew over to the few cattle which were in the field and started walking about in amongst them. 

The Cattle Egret in flight
Standing on the wall at Manor Farm...
...and settling down in amongst the cattle

A neighbour, who'd seen me running around the back came over to see what was going on and I had to try and juggle having a coversation with him whilst sending out some texts to various local and visiting birders as well as getting the news out to RBA. Whilst Cattle Egret isn't a mega rarity, apparently it's still a description bird in Cornwall and it was certainly a Cornish tick for me as well as a very nice self-found bird. All the same I did my best to contain my excitment in front of the non-birder neighbour. He eventually went back inside and I headed back into the cottage to see if the other two were ready which they now were. So we got back into the car and headed south west once more though this time going through St. Just and on down to Polgigga.

The reason for going here was because a Barnacle Goose had been reported here yesterday, the last Goose that I still needed for my as yet modest Cornish list. The other two didn't really mind where we went and as a wild Goose chase wouldn't involve standing around for ages waiting for something to show it was decided that we could conveniently combine the search with a walk around the general area. We parked up carefully in Polgigga and headed off down the lane towards Bosistow Farm. Many years ago when we were still getting to know the area we'd stayed as a family at Faraway Cottage so there was a certain nostalgia in heading down this road again. As we walked down the road a very noisy gang of young children on bikes came bombing past with the youngest and wildest child nearly hitting us in his enthusiasm. Evantually they reached the end of the road and turned around heading back past us so that finally we were left in peace.

There were some small birds flitting in amongst the Sallows as we walked down the lane but our son L was himself intent on making so much noise that in the end I gave up trying to see what they were and instead concentrated on scanning the fields. There were quite a few Skylarks flying overhead and the usual Linnets buzzing about as well as some Mipits. Down by Faraway cottage there was a large grassy field containing lots of Gulls. In amongst them I eventually found the target Goose which posed nicely for a photo.

The Barnacle Goose
Pleased at having found the bird we carried on with our walk, deciding to head out to the coast and then down to Nanjizal. On the way I spotted a lovely corner field which had loads of really interesting arable plants in. I could have spent ages rummaging about through them all though the other two were getting impatient and started to carry on so I quickly took some snaps and then hurried to catch up. 

Cultivated Flax
Corn Spurrey
Field Woundwort
Out on the moors I found a couple of Stonechat for my troubles and then we headed down the steep path to Nanjizal. There I sat on a rock and surveyed the scenery whilst the other two went down onto the beach itself though as the tide was in there wasn't much to it. A couple of Chough came down and I busied myself with taking a few snaps.

Nanjizal Chough
Eventually the other two came back and we headed back up the Nanjizal path towards Bosistow Lane, thereby going around to the other side of the Goose field. I had a good look for the Goose but couldn't see it any more so it clearly has other locations that it also goes to. My VLW picked some blackberries for a crumble as we headed back to the car. By the time we got back to the car it was 6 o'clock already - far later than we planned as I had a meeting that night with some of the admin team for the CBWPS web-site who wanted to learn about my experience with running the Oxon birding site. We arrived back at the cottage at around 6:30, I hurriedly wolfed down some dinner and was out the door again in 10 minutes. The meeting, over in Marazion, was an enjoyable and productive affair and didn't go on too long as I was starting to feel rather tired now after what had been a long day. I stopped off at Sainsbury's for a quick shop on the way back and was back at the cottage by 10 p.m. After a chat and a glass of wine I tumbled into bed and was soon fast asleep, dreaming of my two shiny new Cornish ticks.

As we headed off up the hill I thought I saw bird-finding legend Lewis Thomas photographing something. It turned out that he'd been nearby and managed to jam in on the Cattle Egret on the back of my RBA message. What's more he got a superb shot of it as you can see here - far better than my puny efforts. (c) Lewis Thomson

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Sunday 23rd October - Pendeen

It was a very quiet day today. The forecast was for strong easterly winds and this was indeed what we awoke to so, with no overnight bird news that I needed to respond to, I decided to have a decent lie in today as I had a bit of a sleep deficit to make up from the last few days. Eventually at around 9:30 I got up and decided to do the Pendeen rounds though in the strong winds it was tough going and sadly there was no sign of yesterday's Black Redstart around the cottages at all. Down by the Old Count House I bumped into another visiting birder who'd just arrived for the week so we got chatting and exchanged mobile numbers in case either of us should find something good. I birded the patch diligently but with precious little reward with the highlights being 1 Redwing, 2 Chough, 1 Raven and 1 Peregrine. I worked my way down the western coastal path as far as the stream where it was mercifully more sheltered but I still couldn't find anything apart from a single Stonechat. In the end I gave up and came back to the cottage.

Next I decided to inspect the moth trap. I wasn't expecting much after the cold clear night but in the event I was pleasantly surprised as I had a trap full of Feathered Ranunculus with several dozen of them. Apart from that it was just singles of Angled Shades, Large Yellow Underwing, Lunar Underwing and a Setaceous Hebrew Character.

One of many Feathered Ranunculus

We didn't have any real plans for today so in the end we decided to do some light chorage about the cottage and packed away our garden furniture for the winter as well as bringing in a wooden bench from the shed which needed painting. After that we had lunch and then eventually decided on doing one of our classic local walks, namely down to Geevor tin mine, then up to the main road and stopping in at Heathers café for refreshments before returning along the road to the cottage. It was a pleasant enough walk and there were even a few flowers still out despite the lateness in the season. In the café we chanced upon Dave C, a fellow regular visiting birder to this area. He and his wife had also only just come down and given the windy weather had also decided to have a lazy day. We checked that our mobile numbers were up to date and both hoped that we'd see each other again later in the week at "the big one".


After our tea and walk back we mooched about the cottage doing nothing in particular. Our  eldest daughter who's currently at Durham University rang for a chat which was nice. Early evening the rain came in which put the kaibosh on any meteor spotting or mothing so we had a quiet night in. There'd been almost no RBA Cornish news today to shape any plans for tomorrow so all in all a very quiet day.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Saturday 22nd October - Back Down!

Finally I'm back down in my beloved Cornwall. Usually I would have come down much earlier in the month so this is unusual for me. However, I was watching events unfold in the birding world, keeping an eye on how things were progressing in Cornwall as well as marvelling at the autumn that the North East was having. Pendeen seemed to be doing OK with a Little Bunting seen on the road, several Lapland Buntings by the lighthouse and a Hooded Crow at Manor Farm. When my chum and bird finding machine Ian Kendall came down he managed to winkle out a Richard's Pipit as well as what he was pretty sure (but not certain) was an Olive-backed Pipit though it flew behind the coastguard cottages and wasn't seen again. Ian did mention that he was finding things rather hard work down here and my impression is that it's been a rather low key October down here so far. In discussions with my VLW, we decided that we would definitely be coming down at the end of October for half term anyway so in the end I decided that rather than coming down twice, instead I would do a few day sorties eastwards from Oxford and then just come down the once en famille at the end of the month. So I made a trip to Norfolk and one to Easington to catch up with the Siberian Accentor and so finally here I am. Of course I've missed the PG Red-eyed Vireo and this week the Isabelline Wheatear and the Siberian Stonechat which would have all been Cornish ticks for me. In fact the Vireo would have been a lifer (as would the Wheatear up until a week ago when I jammed in on one whilst twitching the Accentor). Still, I'm very much hoping that the fact that the Wheatear and the Stonechat arrived this week is portentous of good things to come for this week. We shall see.

Anyway, with nothing vitally pressing on the bird front to warrant an early start (I figured that the Cape Cornwall Stonechat which was around yesterday afternoon would either have gone or it would be around all day and sadly it was the former) we departed from Oxford at around 10 a.m. There was moderately heavy traffic on the M5 south of the M4 junction but nothing too serious. However the Bodmin roadworks on the A30 were as terrible as ever and in the end the whole journey took a gruelling five and a half hours instead of the usual four. We finally arrived mid afternoon for our customary cup of tea in the Sainsbury's café before doing our shopping and heading over to the cottage. As I was unpacking some movement caught my eye and I looked up to see a lovely Black Redstart feeding away quietly, using the surrounding buildings as a surveillance perch as they are wont to do. After it played run around with me for a while, eventually I was able to get a passable photo of it. I do love this species and really hopes that it sticks around for a while.

The Black Redstart
Later on my VLW and I had a wander down to the lighthouse to get some fresh air. Down by the Old Count House I heard a bird singing which I really couldn't place. It had a very rhythmic simple song that had me thinking of some New World Sparrow and I got terribly excited. After an agonising five minutes it seemed to move around to behind the garage and when I went round to look I saw it. It was a Robin - I couldn't believe it! I've never heard a Robin sing in such a way before, most unusual and really had me fooled. 

Anyway, after that excitement we headed back to the cottage where we ate and got settled back in. Despite the rather clear conditions I decided to put out the month trap and had a couple of Angled Shades come to investigate almost immediately. I'm still not expecting much in the trap tomorrow morning, we shall see. After watching a movie we nipped outside to look at the Orionids meteor shower which is reaching its peak this weekend. Fortunately it was very clear and we got good views of several though the wind was picking up and it was rather cold so we didn't stay out too long. Soon it was time to turn in for the night. It was good to be back.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Thursday 25th August - Mostly About Moths

As readers will no doubt have guessed I'm back home in Oxford now after an uneventful journey on Saturday. Looking back on the week, as a family we all enjoyed the holiday and from a birding perspective I achieved my two main goals which were to see the Dalmation Pelican (by the skin of my teeth!) and the Hudsonian Whimbrel (finally!). It would have been nice to have managed a proper sea watch (one of these years!) and I'd have like to have seen the Little Terns but we can't have everything. I managed to see a few new plants and all in all it was a good trip.

I've been waiting before posting this last post because I had a bunch of moths from my two trapping sessions that I wanted to go through and ID. I think that I've more or less achieved this now but do let me know if you disagree with any of the ID's. The main moth de la semaine was Flounced Rustic - I got good numbers of this as well as some Square-spot Rustic and Small Square-spot Rustic. 

Flounced Rustic
There were also the usual migrant moths: Rusty-dot Pearl, Dark Sword Grass, Small Mottled Willow and Rush Veneer

Small Mottled Willow

The things that I were most interested in were some specialities of either coastal regions or the South West, especially things that I'd not seen before. These included Devonshire Wainscott, Agonopterix umbellana, Hoary Footman, Notocelia incarnatana and Delplanqueia dilutella.

Devonshire Wainscott

Hoary Footman

Notocelia incarnatana
Delplanqueia dilutella
Agonopterix umbellana (sorry for the poor photo quality)
All good stuff! So that was my August trip. Next stop is the highlight of my Cornish birding year when I'm back down in October for the peak of the birding season.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Friday 19th August: Pendeen & Marazion

Increasingly strong winds were forecast for today culminating in a proper storm tomorrow. The wind direction was South East veering around to South West so Porthgwarra would be the place to go but as I've mentioned previously, when I'm en famille it's rather hard to get away as it's a half hour slog down there in the first place plus the walk from the car park to the watching point all takes time as well. So, as previously, I went to Pendeen instead though in the conditions I wasn't expecting a great deal. 

It was one of those Pendeen mornings with bright sunshine behind me as I watched which meant that everything was brilliantly lit up. In these circumstances I often end up using my bins which gives a much wider field of view as you can see every bird really clearly. I soon got into the zone of watching the changing colours of the Manxies as they sheared away: brown or black above (depending on how the light caught them) and gleaming white below. One bird remained brownish below as well and turned out to be a Balearic Shearwater, which was nice. I also had a Ringed Plover and a Golden Plover go by but apart from that it was just the usual stuff. Later in the day I got various RBA reports of a good passage of Cory's at PG which made me a bit envious but then you can't see everything.

Back at the cottage there was a minor spot of DIY to do and some general pootling before we had lunch and then headed out for the afternoon. The others wanted to look around the shops at Newlyn and PZ which of course I wasn't really interested in. Instead I had a brief peer around the rocks at Tolcarne (five Turnstones and some loafing gulls) and at the bus station (a few Fulmars out in the bay) before giving up and listening to the radio whilst I waited for the others to return. Then we headed over to Marazion and parked up next to Jordans to watch a weather front come in while enjoying some take-away tea and cake. As we watched the weather went from bright sunshine to dark clouds and lashing rain before clearing again in about fifteen minutes. 

The weather front just hitting the Mount
After that I went for a stroll (if it can be called that given how strong the wind was) along the shore to find the usual Marazion beach wader flock. I caught up with them eventually: there were several hundred birds, mostly Ringed Plover and Dunlin with some Sanderling and a few Turnstone as well and I busied myself with trying to take some photos but the wind was so strong that the only way that I could do it was to lie on my belly and rest the camera on the edge of the concrete breakwater.

Ringed Plover
A mixed bag of waders

After we'd all had enough, it was back to the cottage via Sainsbury's to pick up some food. After dinner it was time to start packing the car and we were treated to the spectacle of the next weather front in the impending storm coming in. It was quite a sight to behold!

More weather - unfortunately the photo doesn't really do justice to it

Thursday 18th August: Porth Kidney & Mousehole

We awoke to a thick Pendeen fog this morning, brought on by the calm conditions. As any parents of children of the right age will know, today was A-Level Results day and our younger daughter was nervously awaiting her results to see if she was going to be able to get into University or not. Her official first choice was Strathclyde but she'd actually been more inclining towards Swansea (her second choice) of late. The wind direction today was actual a moderate North West so normally I'd be down at the Watch from first thing but I felt that in the circumstances I should be around to lend moral support at this difficult and potentially holiday-spoiling time. Instead my VLW and I lay in bed listening to the sound of Daughter 2 getting up (she sleeps in the room above us) and firing up her lap top to see what had happened. Fortunately, the outcome was good as, despite not getting quite the grades that she was hoping for, Swansea still accepted her which was a great relief all round. Back to holiday mode!

The moth trap was quite full and my children and I helped to sort through it though as things were rather damp from the fog in the garden I ended up storing the moths in a cardboard box by way of a shelter for the day. 

The best of the catch (at least as far as the children were concerned) was this giant female Oak Eggar
As the others were in no particular hurry to get out, I suggested that whilst they pootled around the cottage I would go out on a birding expedition. 11 Little Terns (a species which I still needed for Cornwall) had been reported over at Carnsew Basin at Hayle yesterday evening though we'd been at our dinner party then so I'd not been able to do anything about it at the time. According to Dave Parker (who'd found them), they'd looked settled so I decided to go and take a look this morning. The fog was incredibly think up on the hill between Pendeen and Penznce with viewing down to about 30 yards so I had to take it very slowly though fortunately it was clearer over the other side. I stopped off very briefly by the causeway bridge at Lelant (where I noticed they've re-done the pavement to include a cycle track) though there was nothing of note. Similarly, Carnsew Basin held almost nothing. Dave had suggested that as it was low tide then Porth Kidney Sands might be a better bet so I went to take a look. This was not a site that I'd actually been to before but by following signs for the beach I managed to find a large car park that overlooked the Hayle river estuary. 

Porth Kidney Sands
In the distance I could see some Terns though they turned out to be 13 or so Sandwich Terns with one Med Gull in amongst them. I did spot a couple of Terns flying along the shoreline which didn't look like Sandwich and which seemed to have the long-winged look of Littles though they were too far away for me to be sure. I also spotted one Tern flying around which seemed to have a rosy breast and long streamers and pale wings so of course I was thinking of Roseate but again it was just too far away to be certain

Back at the cottage we had lunch before heading out for the afternoon. Today's location was Mousehole as the others wanted to potter about amongst the shops. I was in two minds about whether to tag along or to go and see something but in the end I couldn't think of anything that I obviously wanted to do so I came along. By way of somethinng different, we parked up in a layby along the Newlyn to Mousehole road and took a footpath down to the concrete path that borders the shoreline all the way along there. This offered a very pleasant alternative to walking along the busy road and it meant that we didn't have to endure the parking and driving nightmare along the tiny streets of Mousehole. On the way I took snaps of any interesting plants that I found and we spotted a loafing seal nearby.

White Fumitory
Marsh Woundwort

Once in Mousehole we decided to visit the Rock Pool café which I'd learnt about earlier in the year when looking for the American Herring Gull. My VLW  has a thing about small sheds or shepherd huts in gardens and we managed to secure the garden "shed" table. The great things about this café was that they had a very large selection of gluten-free cakes - I was almost overwhelmed by the choice. The tea, cakes and location were all first rate and we unanimously decided that this was our new Tea Room of Choice for Cornwall, surplanting Delicious in Marazion (which has now closed anyway).

After our tea, the three girls went off for some girly shopping whilst our son decided to do some paddling in the harbour so I sat on a bench and kept an eye on him. It was all very pleasant and I happily watched the people coming and going about Mousehole. 

Mousehole haarbour

Eventually the others came back and we headed off back towards the car and the cottage. After a hearty pasta dinner we all realised that we were rather tired so after a bit of vegging out I released the moths out of their box into the garden and we went to bed relatively early.

Wednesday 17th August - St Ives

We awoke to the continuation of the really strong south easterly winds so none of us was particularly in a hurry to get out today. Instead we pootled around the cottage for a while doing the odd DIY task and I did a quick tour of Pendeen but in the wind all I could find were a few Stonechats in a sheltered spot down along the coastal path.

Pendeen Stonechat
Eventually after much debate we decided to head off to visit St Ives for the day. We always end up going here every time we visit as a family though I usually opt for something else instead as I'm not a great fan of either shopping or crowds. However, with the winds all wrong for sea watching and with nothing else of interest to look at in the end I decided to tag along. We drove the scenic route along the coast to St Ives before entering the bedlam that was the Park and Ride. There were countless cars there and even with two overflow parking fields there were loads of poor souls driving around helplessly looking for a place. We were lucky in that I chanced down one section just as someone was leaving so we were able to grab their spot. Rather than endure the hoards on the park and ride bus we decided to walk down to the town which actually took far less time than we expected and left us wondering why we hadn't always been doing that. We headed off to the main harbour area to buy some pasties for lunch and I even managed to find one place that sold gluten-free pasties.

Even in an urban environment there's always something to see: Common Calamint

In the car park I found one of the Canadian Fleabane agg. - probablu Bilbao Fleabane
Lesser Swine-cress by the path down the hill

After lunch we parted company with the others heading off to do some shopping whereas I wandered over to the island to look at the wildlife and to escape the crowds. It was relatively sheltered over by the island and I spent some time rummaging through the plants and watching the birds on the sea. There were ten or so Mediterranean Gulls including one juvenile as well as 3 Sandwich Terns. As I walked along the path a Wheatear buzzed over me and headed over the hill. I sat on a bench and took it all in, rather enjoying the relative solitude and the scenery. Eventually it was time to rendezvous with the others so I started to head back only to spot a swift species hawking rather low over the brow of the island hill. I tried my hardest to make it somethinng interesting but unfortunately it was clearly just a Common Swift.

Silver Ragwort
One of the many Med Gulls

Back with the others we headed off in search of a much-needed cup of tea. The wind was dropping now and it was instead becoming rather murky as we headed back up the hill to the car. We'd been invited round to dinner by my VLW's niece who lives a bit up-county with her husband and daughter so we headed off on the half hour journey to their house. There we passed a very pleasant evening eating and catching up before heading back home to the cottage rather late. As it was at last nice and calm at the cottage I put out the moth trap before we all turned in for the night.