A short-toed lark had been seen the previous day in the Polgigga area so today my early morning birding trip was to see if I could re-locate this bird. Polgigga often gets lots of good birds hanging out in the various fields or sitting on the telegraph wires so I was careful to keep my eyes peeled the entire time. I initially worked my way over from Lower Bosistow Farm towards Faraway Cottage but as I neared Higher Bosistow Farm I heard a bird call distinctly close by from within the farm garden. What was noticeable was that I didn't recognise the call at all: it was definitely something that I didn't know. Now I like to think that I know most of my common bird calls and when I hear something that I don't recognise, usually this means that it's something good. Indeed the last time that this happened to me was when I was on my home patch of Port Meadow a couple of years ago when I heard a very distinctive call that at the time I didn't recognise. When I came across the call a few months later it turned out to be a common rosefinch, not such a big deal here in Cornwall but it would have been an Oxon county first. The Bosistow bird called perhaps half a dozen times and I never saw it. When I was asked what it sounded like later, the best I could come up with was a New World sparrow. It didn't sound like a warbler at all yet sounded like quite a small bird. No doubt I'll come across the call in a few months time and will be suitably gripped off when I discover what it was but it was clearly another one that got away.
I resumed my search for the lark and had just got to Faraway cottage and was viewing the bare earth field (one wheatear and a few loafing gulls) when a couple of larks flew up nearby. One was clearly a skylark but the other bird was slightly though definitely smaller. The two flew around together for a couple of minutes with the larger skylark appearing the harass the smaller bird from time to time before they both landed in a nearby field in which a fading daffodil crop had been planted. I gave Dave Parker a quick call and went over to take a look though it was impossible to see between the rows of flowers so if it had been skulking in there then I would never have seen it. I was hoping that it might flush and give a diagnostic flight call in doing so but it never did so became another one that got away.
I wanted to get to know the various footpaths in the area and so walked over to Arden-Sawah farm, to the ruin at Trevean and then back to Higher Bosistow but the trip was largely birdless. Back down near Lower Bosistow farm a curlew flew over but that was it. I headed back to the cottage arriving later than my usual 9a.m. time that I like to be back so I'd used up a few birding brownie points on that one.
A short time later I got a call from Dave Parker saying that a woodchat shrike had been found at Treve Common, near Land's End. Interesting but not too gripping as I already had it for my Cornish list. A while after that he phoned again: now there was a subalpine warbler there as well which I did still need so the grip-off feelings started to well up within me. Initial negotiations with my VLW didn't look to promising so I carried on painting though my brush strokes may have been tinged with disappointment. Next John Swann phoned to say that he was watching both birds so I negotiated a little harder and finally managed to secure a pass to head off for a quick twitch with the proviso that I did some painting that evening instead. Fortunately both birds obliged and were duly seen within five minutes of my arrival. Treve Common is quite a remarkable spot because it doesn't look that special but the hedge that runs along the south-west corner has a deceptively deep ditch that offers a lot of cover and the subalp was skulking around in there. Behind this hedge there was a second hedgerow in which the woodchat shrike was located. Astute readers may remember that it was here that I saw the greenish warbler and the melodius warbler last year in this same area - another great Treve Common double. In fact John Chapple, who found the melodius and with whom I co-found the greenish was there again with his video camera and he managed to take some footage of the warbler which I will add to this posting once he has published it.
Some video of the subalpine warbler taken by John Chapple
Back from my twitch in good time, we decided to head over to St. Ives to take advantage of the good weather and I was happy to watch L as he paddled in the sea while my VLW did a spot of shopping. That evening I duly did my painting stint and each brush stroke was tinged with joy at another great Treve Common double!