Friday, 3 February 2012

Friday 3rd February: Loe Beach, Carnon Downs, St. Clements & Chapel Amble

Today I was heading back home again. With nothing of note that I was interested in twitching on the way home I decided to do some more work on my county list. I was all packed and out of the cottage door by 9 a.m. and I chose to explore the Falmouth & Truro area en route.

First stop was Loe Beach at Feock where one can view the strangely-named "Carrick Roads", the large centre of the Falmouth estuary complex. This spot was well known for over-wintering black-necked grebes and red-breasted mergansers, both of which I needed for my county list. It was stunningly sunny and the estuary water was flat calm when I arrived. As I was setting up my scope a raven flew over cronking loudly. Scanning all around the bay I managed to find at least 40 black-necked grebes with all but one of them right in the hazy distance. together with dozen or so red-breasted mergansers. Whilst I was there a party of school children were on the beach and one of the teachers, seeing me with my scope, came over and asked that I didn't include any of the children in any photos that I might take. The birds were all too distant for even me to bother with digiscoping but whilst I can understand the sentiment behind her request surely legally there is nothing to stop one taking photos of anyone that one wants to in a public place, or am I wrong? Anyway, I wasn't going to take issue with it but having got my two target birds I headed off.

Loe Beach was very bright and sunny

I'd noticed just as I turned off for Feock that Carnon Downs was just on the other side of the A39. There yesterday a yellow-browed warbler and a Sibe chiffy had been reported at the sewage works so I thought that it would be rude not to pop in seeing as I was in the neighbourhood. The only problem was that I didn't know where the sewage works were. I asked a couple at a bus stop though they were visitors and didn't know. I also rang Dave Parker and asked him though he wasn't sure either. In the end I was just driving back to the main road when I drove right past it. I pulled in where there a couple of birders looking at the settling tanks. As soon as I got out of the car I spotted the yellow-browed flitting around in the conifer tree under which I'd parked and indeed it stayed in the tree the whole time that I was there. It turned out that some bird ringing was going on that morning and the two ringers came back to announce that they'd just caught a couple more yellow-browed warblers! I watched as they went through their ringing bags, carefully processing each occupant. It was most interesting as the chief ringer would point out what he was finding on each bird. One chiffy had a fault line across the tail and very short legs. This fault line apparently corresponds to a period with a shortage of food so the feathers aren't so strong in that area and consequently are more prone to breakage. He also showed how by blowing on the belly feathers you can expose the skin to see how much fat there is. Apparently, when cold weather is due birds change their behaviour to put on more fat reserves. Normally, they only have to feed in the morning and evening to get enough food but by feeding longer they can put on reserves to help survive the cold. The downside of extra reserves is that they become heavier and consequently slower moving and are therefore more prone to predation. The ringers very kindly posed for some photos before releasing the two birds. It's not every day that you get to see three different yellow-browed warblers so well, especially when I think back to how elusive the pair at Kenidjack were last autumn!

yellow-browed warblers in the hand

Next stop was St. Clements to the Tresillian river. I'd been here in the autumn for the lesser yellowlegs but today's target was a couple of avocet which had been reported on the river though they'd not been mentioned for at least a week so I wasn't holding out much hope. There were loads of redshank and a few curlew, shelduck and dunlin along the river shore and at Tresemple Pool a single spotted redshank was struggling in the largely-frozen pond though there was no sign of any avocet.

The spotted redshank

I was more or less ready to head for home but I thought that I would make one final detour to try for the glossy ibis at Chapel Amble again. Although I'd not see it on the way down it had been reported again yesterday so I was wondering whether that day I'd got there too late and it had gone off to roost somewhere. However, today I arrived to find the flooded field largely frozen and no sign of the bird so no luck once again. By way of compensation I did come across a flock of five red-legged partridges wandering around in the road nearby. It was getting on now and I didn't want to be too late back home so I headed off up the A30, arriving home safe and sound a few hours later.

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