Friday, 29 July 2011

Friday 29th July: Hayle & St. Just

My usual tactic when I'm down in Cornwall en famille is to get up early and doing a couple of hour's birding before spending the rest of the day doing family stuff. As discussed in the previous entry, in the absence of good sea-watching conditions waders were going to be the order of the day. Accordingly, the first morning I was up at around 6am with the intention of checking out various potential passage wader spots. First stop was the Hayle estuary where the tide was on the way out. I was keen to see if the wood sandpiper was still about but despite careful scrutiny I couldn't find it anywhere. Apart from the usual suspects the best I was able to come up with were one adult Mediterranean gull and one common sandpiper. Next it was on to Marazion and as it was still nice and early there were quite a few waders about on the beach, namely: 7 sanderling, 3 dulin, 2 ringed plover, 1 whimbrel and a juvenile Med. gull. To round things off I stopped off at Drift reservoir which I'd not visited during the summer before and the water levels were quite a way off their highs revealing a decent muddy shoreline. Down near the hide on the opposite shore there were a couple of greenshank and at least 4 green and 4 common sandpipers. Unfortunately however, there was no sign of the juvenile little ringed plover that had been reported recently.

The juvenile Med. gull on Marazion beach first thing. It appears
to have a slightly deformed upper bill which extends beyond it's
lower bill to make a slight hook.

Our relatives, who'd been staying in the cottage the previous week, were still around in the morning so we went for a quick walk down at Zennor (a buzzard and a sparrow hawk being the pick of the sightings there) before they headed off back home and we went back to the cottage. Just as we arrived I got a text from Dave Parker saying that the Black Kite that had been around for the last couple of days was lingering near the St. Just airport. Usually in Cornwall Black Kite sightings are just single-observer fly-overs (SOFO's) so to have one lingering was a rare thing indeed. I managed to wangle a pass from my VLW and sped off in hot pursuit. I had assumed that Dave would be there with others watching it but when I pulled into the layby by the airport there was no one there. I therefore gave him a quick ring only to find out that he was stuck at work and that it had been seen at Carn Brae (a nearby hill) so I went off there where there was at least a good vantage point though given the sunny conditions it was rather hazy. Another message from Dave: it had now apparently moved off towards Kelynack so I trained my scope in that direction and spotted several soaring birds. I fancied that I could make out kite-like wings on one of them though it was hardly conclusive in the haze so I headed off in that direction to see if I could get a better view. There didn't seem to be a good vantage point there and I decided that I'd probably used up all the time that I had on my brief "twitching pass" and started to head back to the cottage. As I drove along just passing Bosavern I spotted a chap with a long lens looking intently into a field so I slowed down, wound down the window and asked if he was looking for the Black Kite. In response he pointed in the sky and blow me if it wasn't right there circling over the field! I did some "creative parking" and hurried to join him, bringing the new camera with me and during its pass over us I managed a record shot.

My effort as the kite flew over

Whilst we were watching the bird I got chatting with the other chap who turned out to be Chris Griffin, whom I'd met earlier on in the year a couple of times at Nanquidno, once when we were looking for a Melodius Warbler and another time for a Golden Oriole, and who is currently staffing the RSPB centre at Land's End for the summer. It turned out that he'd been having a very good day: that morning he'd found a couple of small swifts at Nanjizil which he reckoned were Plain Swifts which would be a first for Britain!

A fantastic photo by Chris Griffin (see his great blog).
It's interesting to note that it's missing quite a lot of flight feathers
which gives it a very distinctive notched look which you can also see in my photo

I was conscious of how long I'd been away already (I'd told my VLW that I wouldn't be long) so I didn't linger long before heading back to base, most pleased with my afternoon sortie. It had been a productive first full day back in Cornwall.

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