I was due back down in Cornwall to make a start with decorating the cottage and the plan was that I would go down on the Friday to get on with it and then the rest of the family would come down at the start of next week which was half-term. This arrangement of my travelling down on my own suited me fine as it meant that, now that I was busily engaged in getting my Cornish list off the ground, I would be able to get in some birding en route at the "top end" of the county. I had been thinking of exploring the Fowey valley for some of the woodland species but I was also keen to stop off at Walmsley Sanctuary by Wadebridge as there were a few species there that I needed to catch up with. In the end I decided to stop off very briefly by the Fowey for a lunch break before heading on the Walmsley for a more prolonged birding session. I also wanted to nip in at St. Gothian to see if the ring-necked duck was around there though it had not been reported for a couple of days now and I was not overly optimistic.
The journey down from Oxford was uneventful and it was at around lunch-time that I turned off at Bolventor for the River Fowey. This turned out to be a beautiful small, shallow and clear river running down the valley, often tree-lined for part of the way. I could imagine just how stunning it must look in spring and summer but even now in the depths of winter it had a great charm to it. The river looked spot-on for dipper and sure enough I soon spotted one as I drove along beside the river though it sped off before I could get off a record shot. I stopped off in a layby for lunch which I ate with the windows open so I could listen out for birds. I was soon rewarded with the sound of a male reed bunting singing away and I quickly spotted him on the telegraph wires. Why so excited about a reed bunting? Well, since I've been compiling my Cornish list I've had to think carefully about certain species as to whether I've actually seen them in the county. Reed bunting was one bird in particular that I kept saying "I must have seen one somewhere" but I couldn't actually think of an incident when I had so it was nice to get a confirmed sighting. I didn't spend much time in the valley as I wanted to make sure that I had enough daylight for my other en route visits so I soon headed back to the A30.
Next stop was Walmsley where there were supposed to be some spoonbills, a variety of over-wintering geese and a "tundra" peregrine: a northern sub-species of peregrine that had been around for a while. I'd not visited this site before so it was also a chance to get acquainted with it and to suss out things like parking etc. As I was walking across the field to the site I met a birder who was just leaving. We got chatting and it turned out that he used to live in Oxford. He was most excited to meet someone from his old home town and we chatted for some time about his old haunts. When I arrived at the Tower Hide (made famous or rather infamous by the recent American bittern twitch) I found that my key wouldn't work in the lock. After some five minutes of trying every conceivable trick to coax it open in the end I admitted defeat and resorted to peering around the side of the platform by the door. I could make out the three spoonbill asleep on an island and in the distance was the goose flock and I soon picked out the bean goose and the three pink-footed geese though there was no sign of the barnacle geese. Down at the bottom of the steps there was a gap in the fence and from here I did some more scanning spotting a number of duck including tufted duck, pochard, shoveler, pintail and there were also some curlew and snipe dotted about the place. At the back of the area near where the geese were there was a large earth mound and on top of this I spotted the tundra peregrine: it's amazing how raptors like sitting on earth mounds. It was large and had very distinctive pale head markings so it looked quite different from our normal peregrine. I was taking some distant record video footage when two other visitors turned up so I was finally able to get into the hide itself. I took the opportunity to compare keys and it was clear that my key was missing an extended middle prong which was why it wasn't working. I took some video footage of the geese and chatted for a brief while with the visitors before I had to head back to car as time was marching on.
Some record video footage of the distant bean goose
The "tundra" peregrine on the earth mound
My third and final stop of the day was St. Gothian LNR at which I arrived at around 4pm. It was threatening to rain as I got out of the car and by the time I'd got half way around the pool the heavens opened. I gave all the ducks a thorough grilling but the best I could come up with was the adult female scaup which I'd seen last time I was down and there was no sign of the drake ring-necked duck. In the downpour I didn't linger but instead headed off to Penzance to get some provisions and then to head over to the cottage to see what sort of state the builders had left it in. Fortunately they'd done a good job of clearing it out and I was pleasantly surprised at how comparably habitable it looked.