I'm back again in my favourite part of the country. It's been far too long since the last visit which was in fact my October excursion. We were supposed to come down to see the New Year in but the weather forecast was so appalling that we wimped out in the end. Anyway, it's half term so I've come down with my VLW and our youngest child, that being our seven year old son L. We're not going to stay too long but just wanted to see how the cottage had survived the extreme weather. We're located in a very exposed spot that bears the full brunt of any south-westerly winds so it would have taken a real hammering. Our fingers were firmly crossed that every thing was still OK as we made our way down on Monday, stopping off en route to visit my VLW's sister and her husband who have recently moved down to North Devon. Thus it wasn't until after dark on Monday that we finally arrived in Penzance where we got in some shopping and then booted up the cottage which was at least still standing.
The next day I decided to have a lie-in rather than get up early to chase after stuff. It wasn't that there wasn't anything to see it's just that I didn't feel particularly like getting up. There were a few interesting birds that I was keen to catch up with whilst I was down her. All the action seemed to be down Penzance and Marazion with a 1st winter Surf Scoter, an adult Kumlien's and several Glaucous Gull all hanging out in Mounts Bay. The icing on this avian cake though was a 1st winter Laughing Gull that Dave Parker found on Monday morning. He'd discovered it first thing in the morning though despite what I presume was extensive searching it wasn't seen again until late afternoon when one person saw it briefly.
We started the day with an inspection of the cottage - no major problems though the damp patches in the usual places were far more severe than usual. We made up a shopping list for both food and DIY materials and after a leisurely breakfast we headed over to Penzance. After visiting B&Q we decided to try out the new Sainsbury's which unlike Tescos at least had a nice café. As we were sitting there enjoying our coffee an RBA text came through reporting the Laughing Gull which had apparently been seen again briefly at Marazion before flying off. We therefore hatched a plan: after our shopping we'd go and hang out at the beach for a while, L could make sand castles, my VLW could listen to her iPod and gaze at the sea and I could scan the loafing gulls for American vagrants. Thus it was that we installed ourselve at Marazion by the Red River estuary where there was a good selection of loafing gulls for me to grill.
Loafing Marazion Gulls
Needless to say there was no sign of the Laughing Gull which as far as I can tell has only been seen on three occasions, in each case briefly, by three observers. By way of compensation there were a couple of Great Northern Divers feeding close in by the rocks, lots of Herring Gulls, 6 Common Gulls and a smattering of Black-headed Gulls. An adult Kittiwake turned up and had a vigorous preen and in the wonderful sunshine with hardly any wind it was all very pleasant. Just as I was starting to pack up who should turn up but Phil and Hiliary, out looking for the Laughing Gull as well. We caught up on news and then went our separate ways.
By now we were feeling rather hungry after all our fresh beach air so we headed over to PZ where we managed to get some lunch. My VLW wanted to check out some of the local shops for some accessories for the cottage so I took L down to the bus station where one could get a nice vantage point overlooking the sea. There we passed a very pleasant oour and a half, me scanning the sea whilst L watched some of the local lads practising jumps and flips around and off the sea wall. On the bird front the Surf Scoter was about and floating about happily nice and close in. This was in very pleasant contrast to last time I tried to see this species down here in Cornwall when I put in many hours before getting a very brief and distant view. In the bright sunshine I managed the best views I'd ever had of this normally rather distant species. There was also a lovely confiding Black-throated Diver which sailed past at close quarters, giving me a chance to grab some digiscoped photos. A birder from Falmouth managed to turn up the female Eider which was having a nap over towards Long Rock. Someone else spotted a Peregrine overhead as well as picking out the two Black Redstarts further along on the coastal path near the railway signal box. There was also a Guillemot fishing away very close in and two rather distant Great Northern Divers (perhaps the Marazion ones again). All in all a very pleasant bit of birding.
The Black-throated Diver and the Guillemot...
...and the Surf Scoter
After that it was time to make our way back to the cottage. Though it was by now rather late we busied ourselves applying a coat of paint to our rather weathered garden furniture. We were going to bring it indoors to dry over night but we found that because of the weather the second half of the double doors were so swollen that we couldn't open them. In the end we had to leave it outside overnight but we may well end up having to re-do it all tomorrow. After that it was time for food and to relax after what had been a very enjoyable day with wonderful weather and some nice birds to boot.