Saturday, 10 September 2011

Saturday 10th September: Porthgwarra & Nanquidno

Saturday had originally been forecast for very strong winds. In fact a couple of Oxon birders had been planning on coming down for it though as the day approached the forecast kept being downgraded so by the time it was Friday evening I suggested to them that it wasn't going to be the spectacular blow they were hoping for and indeed so it turned out: it was indeed windy but not enough to travel all that way just for one day. I decided that I would still pop down to Porthgwarra but as usual I would do my morning painting first of all.

I arrived mid morning to find a rather modest crowd assembled at Hella Point, mostly visitors, and to discover that it had been a very quiet morning. I settled down and after a while someone picked out a great shearwater which was reasonably close. Apart from that there was one close arctic skua, a sooty and a few bits and bobs, all rather quiet though some of the visitors were very pleased to get the great shearwater. After a while the sun moved round so the whole of the sea was very brightly lit and it became very difficult to see anything. I now started to appreciate why the Sea-Watch South West team stop between 12 and 2 each day: it's just impossible to sea-watch if there is any sun on the water when looking due south. I therefore took the opportunity to explore the moor instead to look for the wryneck which had been reported the last few days. I initially scoured the gully just round the corner from the Coastguard Lookout but with no luck so I decided to head over to the Dried Up Pool. As I was wandering down the middle of the three tracks that lead to the Wall I spotted a moth fluttering about by the side of the path. As readers will know, I know next to nothing about moths but am interested enough to photo any that I do come across and I generally try to work out what they are (usually by asking John Swann!). It was a very striking white moth with small black and orange dots on it. I soon forgot about it and went back to my wryneck hunting though once again I had no luck with it. I did hear a rasping fly-over call which had me thinking citrine wagtail though it only called once and I never saw the bird. As I was wandering around I started to get texts from people back at Oxon: apparently a first winter citrine wagtail (a county first) had been found at Farmoor reservoir and I felt suitably gripped off at missing it. After a while I trudged back to the sea-watching point to learn that things hadn't improved since I left.

The moor is still looking very pretty with a lovely contrast
between the purple heather and the yellow of the gorse.

whilst not finding the wryneck I came across this
toad in the middle of the path

At that point I decided to head off home and was just walking past the coastguard cottages when I got a text from Dave Parker saying that a black kite was lingering over Najizal valley. That wasn't far from where I was so I got out the scope on the off chance that I could spot it from where I was and blow me, there it was! It was soaring over in the Najizal direction being mobbed by a kestrel and with a buzzard for company. I watched it for a few minutes as it appeared to move into Porthgwarra air space over the moor though at the far (Nanjizal) end. I sent Dave back a text saying where it now was and then headed back to the car and headed for home, pleased with the bonus kite sighting which went some way to compensate for the Oxon citrine grip-off.

As I was nearing St. Just airfield I got a Bird Guides text saying that the wryneck had been seen that day at Nanquidno still so on impulse I turned off to take a look. I decided that I would stake out the spot for a while and spent at least and hour and a half staring into the bracken and brambles but to no avail. There was a peregrine buzzing around and the chough were still there but that was about it. Various other birders came, stared unsuccessfully and went off again before I too gave up. As one of them put it "wrynecks, they're right buggers!".

Back home I had plenty of painting to be getting on with as I was intending to head back home tomorrow so I needed to finish everything off. That evening I was checking up on sightings on Cornwall Birding where I spotted a reference to a Crimson Speckled Moth which had been seen at Porthgwarra. This reminded me of the moth that I photographed earlier in the day so I Googled the image and low and behold this was indeed what I'd found. I guessed from the fact that it had been mentioned on the web-site that it must be quite a rare moth and after exchanging some e-mails with John Swann I learnt that in fact it was a Mega in the moth world and that the last one that had been seen in Cornwall was in 2006. It's a shame that the full impact of its rarity is lost on me: had it been the bird equivalent I would have been suitably elated but I've not knowingly seen most of the commonest of moth species and this was just another one that I didn't know though I would definitely recognise one if I saw it again.

Here's the Mega moth: a Crimson Speckled Moth,
possibly the rarest thing that I've found to date!

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