It was time for me to head west once more down to Pendeen to check on what the builders had been up to since my last visit. The rest of my family had had more sense than to leave the warmth of the house so it was just going to be me. I put on my sad face when I discussed this with the family but secretly a part of me was thinking: "hoorah! more birding time!". This time I wasn't going to be doing any DIY but just to inspect the work and to meet up on site with the builder so it was going to be a flying visit: down on Sunday and back on Tuesday. As usual I took a look to see if there was anything of interest birding-wise to stop off at on the way down but the best I could come up with was the long-billed dowitcher at Lodmoor in Weymouth. Calling it "on the way" was stretching it I know, but technically going down via Weymouth would only actually add another 20 miles to the journey though probably add at least an hour in travelling on the minor roads.
Sunday 5th December
I had been thinking of heading off pretty early on Sunday morning but the forecast was for thick fog for much of the southern half of the country which would only slowly clear and I didn't want to arrive at Lodmoor too early only to be stuck in the car park waiting for the fog to lift. Eventually I hit on the brain wave of googling for Weymouth webcams and found one which showed that it was nice and clear on the coast already so I set off at around 9:30, arriving a couple of hours later to be greeted by bright sunshine and temperatures verging on balmy after the last few days. The dowitcher had been reported at the viewing shelter a couple of hundred yards from the car park over the last few days so I headed off in that direction. There I made enquiries only to be told that it was currently on show at the "hump" (the south-east corner of the reserve) and that the red-breasted goose was along the track that runs along the east side of the marsh, in the last pool on the right. I'd not bothered to switch on bird alerts for Dorset so the goose was news to me. I headed off in that direction and soon found the hump. There were plenty of birds to look at: dunlin, black-tailed godwits, lapwings, snipe, shelduck and teal being the main ones. The habitat looked really good and the birds seemed to be relishing it. I couldn't immediately see the dowitcher so I decided to go and check out the goose first.
The goose was on a half-frozen pool where it was swimming around and bathing, doing a rather strange somersault as it did so which I've not seen any bird do before. I took some video footage though one was viewing through reeds so the it's rather frustratingly obscured. No one there had any particularly strong thoughts on its provenance though it was apparently not the plastic bird that has been down in Devon and it was not reported again after that day.
Some video footage of the red-breasted goose doing somersaults as it washes
Having "lucked in" (using the UK definition where "lucked out" means to have bad luck, whereas in the US it perversely means to have good luck!) or perhaps I should say "jammed in on" the goose, it was time to go back for the dowitcher. I strolled back to the hump and worked out that there was a blind spot behind the hump itself. I therefore repositioned myself and soon found it busy feeding away. Shortly after it flew to an easier point to view and gradually worked its way closer and closer so that in the end I had excellent views. Naturally I tried digiscoping it but discovered that a dowitchers have their bills under water almost all the time so that one has to keep one's finger held down constantly on the camera shutter hoping to capture the brief moment when it pops its head up. In this respect they're even worse than godwits which also have this characteristic. Anyway I managed a few acceptable shots as well as some video footage.
Some video footage of the dowitcher feeding. My apologies for the loud conversation going on in the background - it wasn't anything to do with me.
Not wanting to arrive too late in Cornwall and concerned at how long the cross country section from Weymouth back to the motorway might take, I didn't hang around too long before setting off again. As it turned out the rest of the journey was fine and I arrived in Cornwall just as it was getting dark. Having consulted the tide timetable before coming down I knew that high tide was at dusk today and would be even later tomorrow. As I was keen to see the purple sandpipers on the rocks by Jubilee Pool I knew that today was going to be my best chance so I headed straight over there. They weren't there when I peered over so I had a little wander around the harbour peering down at the harbour walls for possible roosting spots. All I could find however was a few turnstones and rock pipits so I headed back to the usual spot where amazingly the birds had turned up and were all tucked up asleep. There were about 15 sandpipers and a similar number of turnstones all standing on the edges of the harbour wall. I took some photos though in the half light they are of poor quality.
After that I headed off to the supermarket to buy provisions for the duration of the stay then it was off to the cottage to store the food in the fridge & to have a meal. The cottage was absolutely freezing as they were still installing the central heating so I did little more than nuke up a microwave curry, gulp it down and head off to the B&B in Pendeen (The Old Chapel) where I was staying. This had the most amazingly hot hot water for a reviving bath and a pub conveniently located on the opposite side of the road. After such a long day I slept well that night.