Thursday, 8 September 2011

Thursday 8th September: Drift, Hayle & Marazion

Thursday dawned, not with the strong winds that had been forecast at the start of the week but with hardly a breeze and instead a thick fog. Now Pendeen is especially prone to fog which is often very localised so if you go over the hill towards Penzance or further west you soon find yourself clear of it but this morning a quick check on some local web-cams revealed that it was actually quite extensive. With no prospect of sea-watching, today I thought that I would take the opportunity to catch up with some of the commoner waders that I still needed for my Cornish list. So after a prolonged morning painting session (to give the fog a chance to lift) I headed off to Drift reservoir where I was hoping for spotted redshank and ruff, both of which had been reported yesterday.

I arrived to find it still rather misty though clear enough at least to see to the far bank. As I walked along the bank I met a couple of birders who were leaving who reported seeing one of the juvenile pec. sands (the count had now gone up to four birds!). In the hide itself I found Dave Parker staking out the north-west arm. He said that he'd never seen the reservoir so low at this time of year though of course the resulting exposed shore line was great for waders. However the low water had exposed a small "cliff" which dropped off away from us as we were sitting in the hide so that there was a large area which was hidden to view. Consequently it was a matter of waiting until birds wandered out into view. There were plenty of ringed plover in view and a green sandpiper in the creek and Dave had seen a juvenile dunlin briefly. After a while the spotted redshank waded out into view giving me another Cornish tick before it went back out of sight. A couple of common sandpipers were working their way along the far bank. I spotted an Arctic tern hawking over the reservoir and then another flock of six birds came through. As it was just a matter of waiting we passed the time very pleasantly chatting away and Dave filled me in on past local birds and the local birders. After a while Paul Semmens joined us, apparently he does the birding commentary for the Scillonian crossing. As there was not much about he said that he would go and check the north-east arm which required going back up to Sancreed and then around to the other side. We asked, only half jokingly, if he could flush the birds from that arm back down to here and he said that he would see what he could do though it would take about half an hour to get around there. Sure enough within about half an hour we started to get some birds coming round to our side. First a pair of greenshanks, then a ruff and a knot came in and landed on the point very close by, the ruff being another Cornish tick. We were hoping that the smaller waders would come through but either he didn't manage to "flush" them (larger waders are usually more skittish) or they'd gone to another part of the reservoir. Eventually we'd had enough and walked back together with Dave taking the opportunity to point out some rare plants which had quickly established themselves on the exposed mud of the reservoir side.

A record shot of the knot and the ruff in the mist

Back home I did my afternoon painting session and then contemplated my afternoon birding outing. A buff-breasted sandpiper had turned up at Hayle and there was a juvenile pectoral sandpiper at Marazion. Moreover a juvenile little stint (which I still needed for the county) had been seen at Hayle the last few days so I thought that I would head off there for high tide once again. As I arrived, I had the pleasure of bumping into John Chapple, whom I'd met a couple of times previously at Treve Common (greenish & melodius warbler the first time and woodchat shrike and sub-alpine warbler the second) who was there with his camcorder looking for material for another of his superb videos (see his excellent blog). He was looking for the Baird's sandpiper whereas I wanted to pay my respects to the buff-breast so we went our separate ways. There were a few people looking at the buff-breast from the road side of Ryan's Field as it was at the back of the largest island there. As it was rather distant I had to resort to digiscoping rather than using the super-zoom but a few shots managed to come out OK.

Digiscoped shots of the buff-breasted sandpiper (Click to enlarge)

As there was no sign of the little stint, after a while I decided to head on back home but thought that I would pop in briefly at Marazion to check out Dave Parker's juvenile pec. sand. This was partly as it was on a part of the marsh that I wasn't so familiar with so at least it would be a chance to learn some more about the site. Just as I was walking down to the marsh I got a text from Dave saying that he was at Hayle and had just found the little stint all the way up at the North end of Carnsew Basin on the seaward side. I decided that it was too late to head back there now and carried on at Marazion. I soon found the standing stone by the pool on the eastern side of the marsh and sure enough there was the pec. sand skulking around at quite a close distance. The light was terrible but I had a go with the super-zoom and at ISO 400 managed to get a record shot or two.

The Marazion pectoral sandpiper (Click to enlarge)

After that it was back off home for food and more painting. It had been a good day with two more Cornish ticks and a couple of nice Neartic waders to boot.

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