Sunday, 15 February 2015

Sunday 15th February: Gulval, Drift & Pendeen

Today we arranged that whilst my VLW would sleep in I would get up early and get some birding done in and around Penzance before doing some more extensive food shopping and then coming back.. The rest of the day was ear-marked for various DIY tasks though we might venture out late afternoon should there be time. That was the plan and that’s more or less what happened.

I didn’t sleep that well - partly as I was woken by a Tawny Owl calling near the house. I don’t quite understand why they should be around here as there’s no woodland to speak of. I finally got back to sleep again though I awoke too early at 6:15 and was out of the house shortly after 7 a.m.  It had been a wonderfully sunny day yesterday but it had been a clear night and consequently it was a frosty start as I sped on the deserted roads over the hill towards Penzance. From my list of target species I decided to start off  with the Little Bunting at Gulval as this species was hard to get down in Cornwall. After that I thought that I’d try the Mandarin duck at Drift which should be fairly straight-forward should it still be around.

I’d been given detailed instructions by Dave Parker on where to go and so at around 7:30 a.m. I found somewhere safe to park the Gnome mobile, got my gear together and walked the few yards to the start of the footpath where three stone steps lead up to a weedy corner of a field. Here I’d been told the Bunting liked to hang out with a bunch of Chaffinches and that it could often be seen in a Blackthorn Tree to the right of the field. I was the only person there and as I arrived a number of Chaffinches flew up from the field into the surrounding bushes. I started to scan through them and then soon noticed what must be “the” Blackthorn Tree and sure enough there was the bird sitting on its own in the middle of it. It was most distinctive with it’s well marked crown stripe and detailed head markings. I busied myself with taking some photos and video though as it had only just got light and the sun hadn’t yet reached the field it was still rather dark and I had to resort to ISO 1600 to get any kind of shutter speed at all.

The Little Bunting
Shortly after this a birder from Plymouth (called Tony) turned up with a bag of seed. He managed to see the Bunting though after a short time it flew off with the Chaffinches to the far end of the field. I put the news out on RBA and as we waited for it to return other birders started to turn up though BM was the only one I recognised. Time marched on and the bird didn’t come back and I was starting to get a bit cold standing there. At around 8:45 having spent a little over an hour there I decided to move on. After all I’d already seen the bird well and I only had limited time before I was due back at the cottage. So I left the others to it and hurried back to the car in order to get warm.

My next stop was Drift Reservoir for what should be a straight-forward visit to find the Mandarin Duck. I parked up and headed down the slope towards the reservoir. Normally I would expect there to be a large mixed flock of ducks all hanging out by the gate near the car park and this was indeed where I was expecting the Mandarin to be. However, the place was almost completely deserted with just a couple of Mallards lurking by the bank to be seen. Oh well, perhaps it was further around I thought and  resolved to walk around to the hide to see if I could find it. It was still frosty as I yomped along the bank though the water itself was remarkably deserted with just a handful of gulls in the centre to be seen and a couple of Goldeneye on the far bank. Over by the hide I could see into the western arm and here I found a few Tufted Duck and a single male Pochard (which I checked carefully to rule out Canvasback and Redhead). A couple of Gadwall, 4 Wigeon and few other bits and bobs could be seen but it was all depressingly deserted. I wandered part way around the western arm with just a Chiffy as a reward and then decided to head back to the car, defeated in my Mandarin search. Still, the sun had finally broken out and it was now lovely and warm and one out of two on my target list wasn’t too bad a start.

Drift Tufties
I arranged for my VLW to text me a shopping list and was soon in PZ picking up our provisions for the day before heading my way back over the hill to Pendeen. Then it was time for a welcome cup of tea and to crack on with the day’s chores. As the weather was so sunny and calm I decided to do some exterior paint work which is always nice as there’s a chance of hearing or seeing something on the bird front. Sure enough I soon heard some Chough calling and eventually located a pair in a field to the west of the house. The sun even brought out my first butterfly of the year with a Peacock fluttering by and I even saw a Bee of some species. I made steady progress though as the day progressed it got chillier but I wanted to get the first coat of all the black masonry paint on today so I steeled myself to get it finished. By the end I was really cold and had to have a really hot bath to warm up again. Then it was time for dinner and a chance to veg out in front of the telly.

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