Saturday, 6 October 2012

Saturday 6th October: Davidstow, Hayle & Land's End

Well, finally I'm back in my beloved Cornwall. Earlier this year my VLW had come down sans moi with some of her family to the cottage for a week whilst I held the fort back home and looked after the children. This massive earning of brownie points resulted in me having dibs on a week down in the cottage myself whilst she did the family duties back home. After careful consideration (see previous posting) I decided on the second week in October for my visit and so here I am. In the run up to coming down I've been following the birding news here even more keenly than usual though it seems so far to have been a very quiet autumn. I can usually tell how good things are by how gripped off from afar I am and so far I have remained remarkably unperturbed back in Oxford. Sure, there have been a few Pecs & Buff-breasts, the Marazion Spotted Crakes would have been a Cornish tick for me, the Newquay Alpine Swift would have been very tickable though I wouldn't have seen the Elenora's Falcon even had I been here but there'd not been anything really crippling to give me pangs of grippage in Oxford. In fact in the week leading up to my visit I was starting to realise that it might end up being a very quiet time down there so mentally I've been reducing  my expectations somewhat. Nevertheless, anything could turn up and things suddenly picked up with the arrival of 7 Red-rumped Swallows at Marazion the day before my arrival (why not one day later?) so there is everything to play for.

I intended to set off from Oxford at my usual time of around 9am though last minute helping of my daughters with their physics and maths homework meant that I departed a little later than intended. There'd not been anything really exciting to catch my eye on the way down and with the Red-rumps having been reported still first thing this morning I was toying with the idea of headed straight down in order to try and catch up with them. However by late morning they were "no further sign" so I decided to stop of at Davidstow to pay my respects to the long-staying Buff-breasted Sandpiper there. I was half way along the A395 when David Parker called to say that a couple of Red-rumped Swallows had been seen at Swingates at Land's End. I hummed and harred about this but in the end decided to carry on as I was more than an hour from there still and twitching swallows is rather haphazard at the best of times.

I arrived at the airfield and decided, based on past experience, to start by seeing if anyone else had found the bird before embarking on the Davidstow curb-crawl of despair myself. It didn't take long to find a group of birders staked out in front of one of the many pools and sure enough there was the Sandpiper close by, looking completely unperturbed by its admirers. In this situation, with a relatively static bird at close quarters with good light behind me, I opted for the digiscoping option for my photographic efforts. They're never going to be as good as a proper SLR but they're not too bad. As well as the Sandpiper there was another small wader nearby though it was hunkered down with it's head tucked under its wing the whole time so it was very difficult to see what it was though I would have guessed Dunlin if pushed rather than Curlew Sandpiper (which had been reported with the Buff-breast for while now).

After spending a while with the lovely Sandpiper and after a flying visit to Crowdy Reservoir to see if I could luck in on a fly-over Crossbill in the plantation (no I couldn't), I headed back to the A30 and continued on my journey to the Penwith Peninsula, arriving mid afternoon. A quick stop-off at the Hayle estuary first found the Saltings to be remarkably devoid of waders with just a couple of Barwits and a single Redshank on show. There were the usual Wigeon, Teal, Gulls and Curlew around and someone who seemed to be taking a few people on a birding tour mentioned that he thought that he'd seen a Garganey there as well swimming in the river but to my eyes they were all Teal. 

After that I decided to head straight over to Land's End just on the off-chance that the Red-rumps were still about. I wasn't really holding out much hope but the only other birds of note on RBA were a couple of flocks of highly mobile Glossy Ibises which were being reported from various locations so I thought that I might as well check out Land's End as anywhere else. There I met up with Paul St. Pierre but there was very little of note there apart from an Emperor Dragonfly, a few Swallows, a Grey Heron and a Sparrowhawk. I also nipped into Treave Moor but again there was nothing of note apart from lots of Mipits.

I was starting to get tired now so I headed back to Penzance to buy some food and then made my way over to the cottage to get settled in. I wonder what this week will bring.

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