Sunday, 25 June 2017

Saturday 3rd June

This is a very belated (three weeks late in fact!) catch-up post to finish off this visit. I awoke very early, with an unsettled stomach, seemingly fall-out from my cold and it took several cups of tea to get settled again. I only briefly fell asleep again after that so I was feeling extremely tired as we packed up to leave. As usual we stopped off en route to pick up some sandwiches and I took it nice and easy on the journey back, even stopping off for a break and some refreshments on the way. We arrived back in Oxford in time for afternoon tea and a chance to catch up with our cats who'd both been missing us greatly.

Below are some photos which didn't make the previous posts.


Large Skipper

Some of the Raven family

Rock Sea-Spurrery

Singing Stonechat

Mullein Moth Caterpillar

Looking back on the trip, of course it was somewhat marred by my illness but in between I'd managed to see something of interest. Indeed it was nice to be down at Cornwall at this time of year - usually it's all booked up by guests so we don't get the chance to enjoy it for ourselves. What's more I'd managed to get a couple of new Cornish ticks for my list in the form of the Temminck's Stint (which had disappeared the day after I saw it - phew, just in time!) and the Hobby. There'd been plenty of plants to see and whilst we hadn't managed a trip over to the Lizard for the great botany rarities it had been pleasant enough. Our next trip down is in August when with any luck there will be some sea watching to be had. I can't wait!

Monday, 5 June 2017

Friday 2nd June

I was feeling much better when I awoke this morning though with a classic Pendeen fog lingering first thing I didn't hurry to get up. Mid morning my VLW and our son went for a walk up to the village whilst I had a catch-up nap and then before lunch I managed a little wander about, seeing the six Ravens again and a few other bits and bobs.

After lunch I was feeling up to a little sortie so we decided to head over to Penzance and then Marazion. I dropped the other two off in town and then went to check out Jubilee Pool and the bus station whilst I waited for them. At the first location there were about a dozen or so each of Turnstone and Dunlin roosting on the rocks but I found a Common Tern, initially on one of the yellow buoys before it flew to the rocks just offshore from the pool. This species is actually rarer than Arctic Tern down here so it was nice to get reasonable views. There was nothing of note over by the bus station.

The Common Tern on the rocks

Over at Marazion we parked up at Jordans and bought tea and snacks which we ate whilst staring at the sea. I nipped over to the marsh to see if I could spot anything though to start with all I could find were a few Grey Herons and Canada Geese with a Cetti's and a few Reed Warblers to be heard singing. Overhead there were a couple of soaring Buzzards but after a while I spotted what I'd secretly been hoping for: a Hobby! This has been a bit of a Cornish list bogey bird for me for a while. They don't breed down on the Penwith peninsula (as far as I know) so you'll only catch them on passage and usually I'm not around in May so I'd yet to see one. This one soared about for a bit catching a dragonfly on the wing before landing in the Cheshire Homes trees for a preen where I was able to take a crappy record shot of it.

Hobby record shot

After a while my VLW gave me a call to summon me back and it was time to head off for a spot of food shopping. We'd promised our son that we would get fish & cnips one evening so we decided to head over to St. Just for this. First we nipped into Kenidjack to say hello to the donkeys. I tarried higher up the hills rummaging about the various flowers to see if I could find anything of interest but it was all the usual stuff. Still, at this time of year there was lots to look at.

Then it on to St Just to pick up some fish and chips before driving down to Cape Cornwall to eat them whilst staring at the sea. It was such a beautiful evening that we decided to have a little wander about and once again I was very taken with all the flowers. I even discovered a huge "hanging" of Hottentot Figs down one side of the cliff, which I've only seen before at the Lizard. I also found what I think is some genuine Western Clover

Western Clover (I think). The head was pure white with no pinkish base petals. The leaves were plain and had no translucent veins in them. Please feel free to correct me on this though
Then it was back to the cottage for the evening where I was soon fast asleep, dreaming of soaring Hobbies.


Hotentot Fig - purple form & yellow form, draping the Cape Cornwall cliffs

Friday, 2 June 2017

Thursday 1st June

I passed much of today wrestling with my cold, mostly bed-ridden or dozing on the sofa. I did venture out for a brief walk which gave me the chance to see some of the local bird life. The resident Ravens seemed to have at least three juveniles in tow now. As well as the two adults there appeared to be another bird around as well, perhaps one of their offspring from the previous year. I managed to get a photo of the Sedge Warbler, which seemed to have seen of its rival and had sole claim to the territory. Apart from that it was all the usual stuff though the weather was better than forecast and much appreciated. My VLW and son when out for a walk in the afternoon whilst I rested. I would have loved to have gone with them but I simply had no energy. I can't wait for this cold to be over.

Two of the Ravens
The victorious Sedgie

Whitethroat



Wednesday 31st May: Pendeen

As feared, the sore throat had developed into a fully-fledged cold, no doubt the same one that our son had been sufferring from. What's more it seemed to be a real stinker and I felt like I had very little energy to do anything. I did have a very gentle wander about in the morning, rummage about in the plants to see what I could find. A lovely Green Hairstreak was a nice find, several Painted Ladies flew by and I had a close encounter with a Hummingbird Hawkmoth though I wasn't able to get any photos before it flew off again. There were a couple of very vocal Sedge Warblers having a "sing-off" in the valley and I watched for a while, marvelling at how energetic their songs were.

Green Hairstreak

Dyer's Greenweed
After my walk and some elevenses I took to my bed for much of the day, catching up on back episodes of podcasts and generally resting. We did manage a stroll down to Boat Cove late afternoon which was nice and sheltered from the prevailing southerly breeze and was in fact a nice sun trap. On the wildlife front, apart from a single seal and a family of Stonechats there was little of note. Then it was back to the cottage for more dozing and resting before turning in for the night.

Rock Sea-spurrey, growing by the cottage

I didn't bring the moth trap down (partially as I'm rather losing interest in moths) though the porch light did attract this Common Swift before I went to bed tonight.

Tuesday 30th May: Hayle

As this year we are not letting out our cottage to the wider public, but instead just allowing  friends and family to use it, this has meant that we've had more opportunity to come down and stay in it ourselves. Whereas in the past we'd never have come down for the summer half term week, partly because of our two daughters having to revise for exams and partly because it would  have been booked anyway, this time with the two daughters both being off at University we thought that we'd take advantage of the situation and come down for at least some of the week. L, our son had just been getting over a really nasty cold and I had work to do so in the end we didn't head down until Tuesday. As usual, general family inertia meant that we didn't even leave Oxford until well after 11 a.m. though the roads were reasonably quiet and at around 3:30 pm we arrived at the Hayle roundabout. Here I dropped the other two off at the shops so that they could visit the café whilst I sped on to the next junction and on to Ryan's Field at Hayle. The reason for this was that a Temminck's Stint had been frequenting this spot for the last few days, a species that I needed for my fledgling Cornish list. Now this isn't that rare a wader nationally and in fact I've even found them on my local patch at Port Meadow but it seems much less common in Cornwall so I was keen to see it. I'd been sent a suitably gripping photo by P&H this morning so I knew that it was still around. On arrival I didn't have to guess as to where it was located as there were three people on the road-side, looking over onto Ryans' Field intently. The Stint was indeed located here and what's more was nice and close enabling me to take some reasonable photos both with my superzoon and via some digiscoping.


The Temminck's Stint
I was just crossing the road to have a quick scan of the estuary (nothing of note) when I spotted this rather striking Easter Gladiolus growing in the central reservation.


Eastern Gladiolus
I hadn't seen this species growing in the wild before but after return to Hayle to pick up the others and then resuming our journey I noticed quite a few of them along the road-side so it's obviously a local speciality. Indeed, in general I was really struck by the great collection of wild flowers growing on the verges. I even spotted a Pyramidal Orchid by the Hayle roundabout.

We nipped into  Sainsbury's for the usual shop and I took the opportunity to catch up on a quick cup of tea which I'd missed out on whilst twitching the Stint. Then it was over the hill to Pendeen to boot up the cottage. As we drove down the Lighthouse Road I was once more struck by the wonderful flowers and started to realise what we'd been missing out on by not coming at this time of year. We had a quick wander down to the lighthouse to stretch our legs and then settled in to the cottage for the evening. I noticed that I had a rather ominous sore throat which had been coming on during the drive down and I very much hoped that a good night's sleep would see it off.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

13th, 14th & 15th April: Geevor, Trengwainton & Back Home

13th April
We had a very quiet day in Pendeen today. The weather was still dry with sunny intervals but with the chilly northerly wind that meant that I sought out the sheltered side of the cottage for painting my bench outside. I did have a quick wander around the Patch in the morning and met up with JL who was scanning the area from the top of the the cliffs as is her wont. She reported a few Manxies going through and a couple of Stock Doves but little else of note. For my own part I couldn't find anything of particular interest. 

There's always a Stonechat to photograph down in Cornwall

After lunch we couldn't agree on what to do. I'd received a text from P&H that morning saying that there were several Ring Ouzels at Buttermilk Hill so I tried to persuade the rest of the family that they wanted to head over towards St Ives but I couldn't get anyone else interested. So in the end we decided to walk over to Geevor to have tea at the café there (now that Heathers has gone). By way of some variety we walked across country along the footpath towards Lower Boscaswell rather than along the coastal path. The tea and cake there was reasonably good. I even had some carrot cake, which used to be a weakness of mine before I went gluten free. I paid the price afterwards with about half an hour of indigestion but it was good cake so on balance it was worth it. We walked back via the village and popped up to the church where the churchyard was looking lovely with a sea of primroses surrounding the church. Then it was back down the road and back to the cottage where we settled in for the evening.

I found this Slender Speedwell in the playground at Pendeen. It's not a species that I've come across back in Oxon but I subsequently found it in a few other places in Cornwall
14th April
The next day was similarly low key. As it was our last full day here we pottered around the cottage, finishing off our respective DIY tasks. In a quick wander about the Patch I did manage to spot a Peregrine flying away down the valley briefly but that was about it. In the afternoon we headed over to Trengwainton gardens for their Easter Egg Hunt day which the children were keen to do. We'd not visited there before but the gardens were lovely with a wonderful overgrown and unkempt feel. I managed to hear a couple of Nuthatches piping away in the woods - quite a rare bird for the Penwith area and which I've only seen before in the county at Golitha Falls. The Trengwainton café turned out to be superb with a great range of gluten free cakes and scones so we spent quite some time there before eventually heading back to the cottage to start packing up.

I didn't bring my moth trap down with me but this Early Thorn came to the porch light this evening
15th April
On Saturday it was time the usual laborious packing up process. As usual it took far longer than we expected and things were further delayed when we were just about to leave Penzance only to realise that we'd left something behind so it was back to Pendeen once more. Finally at around midday we were properly on the way. Our journey back was uneventful and the roads were mercifully free from traffic so we made good time, arriving back in time for afternoon tea.

Friday, 14 April 2017

12th April Drift

After yesterday's glorious weather it was back to chilly northerly winds again. There were periods of sunshine which meant that in the sheltered spots it actually felt quite warm but, when exposed, the wind really took the edge off things. There was no real plan for today so we pottered about doing more DIY tasks at the cottage. I carried on sanding and painting the bench that I was working on and my VLW worked on her windows whilst our two daughters did their Uni work inside. On a break I did have a wander around Pendeen but there was nothing of note.

Come the afternoon we were ready to head out somewhere. With some of the others wanting to head over to Penzance to look at the shops I offered to drive them over and then do something myself before picking them up again. With little on offer anywhere on the Penwith peninsula in the end I opted for a walk down to the hide at Drift reservoir to see if I could find the long-staying Pink-footed Goose that was there. I arrived to find the wind barrelling down the length of the reservoir though in the sheltered spots it was rather pleasant. There were a few Willow Warblers, Chiffchaff and a single Blackcap all singing away along the shoreline and I did a bit of botanising as I wandered along.

Wood Sorrel
In the sanctuary of the hide it was rather pleasant though looking out through the slots there was precious little to see with just four Gadwall, a smattering of Mallard and a few loafing gulls in the middle. A few Sand Martins started to come in and numbers gradually increased until there were about 30 hawking over the water. I'd read reports of 10 times that number having been seen the previous day so they're obvious stopping off to feed before working their way up the county.

Opposite-leaved (Golden) Saxifrage
I could have stayed in the hide for some time though with time marching on it wasn't a practical option and I started to head back to the car, disturbing a Common Sandpiper as I walked back along the shore. Then it was back over to PZ to pick up the others and then to head back over the hill to Pendeen.

Even the resident Muskovy Duck wasn't impressed with things today


Common Vetch

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

11th April: Pendeen, Kenidjack to Pendeen

Today we awoke to glorious weather. Yesterday's insidious northerly wind had subsided and there was just a gentle breeze and wonderful hazy sunshine. Indeed so inspired was I by the weather that I decided to have a wander around the Patch to see what I could find. Down by The Old Count House I found a Willow Warbler in the garden, looking rather dazed from it's recent migration efforts. Despite careful looking I could find no sign of the Black Redstart by the lighthouse though there was the usual Stonechat and lots of Linnets. Indeed Linnets were everywhere this morning and their twittering song could be heard nearly constantly. I found another Willow Warbler back in the cottage garden and down the coastal path there were more Stonechats and Linnets but nothing else of note.

Linnet - very much the bird of the moment down by the Watch
I returned to find that in my absence my VLW had been getting on with sorting out the damp in a window whilst I'd been out and about. Therefore, I dutifully got on with various tasks about the cottage and we got the garden furniture out for the summer and checked that it was OK. Whilst working I noticed that there was a steady movement of Swallows and Sand Martins overhead. They were either coming in off the sea directly or working their way up the coast but the passage was nearly constant all morning. I scanned the flocks carefully, looking out for a Red-rumped interloper in amongst them but sadly couldn't find one. Still it was heart-warming to think that these little birds had been the other side of the channel only this morning and had taken advantage of the abatement of yesterday's north wind to cross the sea to be with us once more.

The weather was so nice that we had lunch out in the garden before decided to take advantage of what was probably going to be the best day of the week to enjoy a coastal walk in the afternoon. So after lunch we headed up the hill and caught the bus to St Just. There, we nipped into the Co-op to buy some ice creams and snacks before heading off towards Kenidjack along the Boscean road. The lne was lined with Alexanders with Greater Stitchwort and Common Dog Violets hidden away like jewels in amongst the prevailing green. The sun was warm and there were Rabbits in the fields - it was all very spring-like.

Greater Stitchwort
Down in Kenidjack there were loads of Chiffchaff all singing away. There was also a soaring Buzzard overhead but little else of note. With the Gorse in full flower at the moment it all looked gorgeous. We went to say hello to the two donkeys there who were both looking very healthy, Then it was up the hill to the old rifle range where we stopped for a snack. We ambled along the coastal path back towards Pendeen, chatting and admiring the scenery and flowers. There was't the same passage of Hirundines here as there had been at Pendeen though I did see a couple of House Martins come in with a pair of Swallows. There were loads of Stonechats to be seen as we walked: I must have counted at least 6 males along the route.

One of many Stonechats
At Geevor, I scoured the unworldly landscape carefully as one can almost guarantee a Wheatear here and sure enough I found one sitting quietly on a rock and looking frankly exhausted. It allowed close approach so I took some quick photos and then left it to recuperate. I also spotted a Rock Pipit in the same area but that was about it. 


Geevor Wheatear
We were on the home stretch now and arrived back at Pendeen late afternoon for a very welcome cup of tea. 


I found this Spring Squill by the path between Geevor and Pendeen
Whilst the others put their feet up I went for a final ramble down to the lighthouse. On the way I spotted a couple of Jackdaws sitting on the back of one of the cows, plucking hair off it back and then flying over towards the cliffs, presumably to line their nests; the cow didn't seem to mind. Down at the lighthouse it was all quiet and there was once again no sign of the Black Redstart so I'm assuming that it's now gone. Back at the cottage after a meal, we were all rather tired after our walk so we settled in for a quiet evening and then an early night.

This Pheasant has been around all week though usually I only hear it rather than see it

Monday, 10 April 2017

10th April - Tregeseal, Cot & Marazion

The weather forecast for today was for cooler breezier conditions and this was indeed what we awoke to with a rather stiff northerly wind making conditions distinctly chilly despite the lovely sunshine that prevailed for much of the day. It was a bit of a shame as yesterday there'd been a few new birds in the county with a second Penwith Woodchat Shrike turning up as well as a Nanjizal Wryneck. However, sadly a northerly wind was rather going to put the kaibosh on any further drift migrant action.

Today we were going to get cracking with some of our DIY tasks but before I kunckled down to it I decided to start the day by looking for Woodchat Shrikes nearby in the St Just area. One has been gracing the hedgerows south of the Cot valley for several days now but as I mentioned above, a second bird was discovered yesterday in Tregeseal and as that was slightly easier to get to I decided to start off with this one first. This location was actually one that I wasn't familiar with so I did a bit of asking around yesterday evening before eventually learning that the bird had been seen off the long track that leads to the vicarage that lies on New Road to the south of Tregeseal itself. I didn't bother starting too early so it wasn't until around 9:30 that I arrived and parked up in a convenient layby near the start of the drive. As I was getting ready a nearby dog walker told me where the Shrike had been located yesterday which reassured me that I was at least at the right spot. I spent some twenty minutes working my way back and forth along the drive though there weren't that many hiding places for a Shrike there and there was no sign of it at all. I therefore soon gave up on this bird and decided to try for the long-staying Cot bird instead. I nipped over to the Cot valley and parked by the power sub-station before yomping across the stream, up past the Youth Hostel and up the steps that lead up to the footpath across the bulb fields. The bird was supposedly located near the junction between the first and second fields and as I approached I could see another birder working his way across the field though he was at the far end of the field by the time I arrived and he did't seem to be watching anything so I decided to try and find it for myself. A quick scan and I spotted the bird briefly in the hedges bordering the fields to the seaward side of the field that I was on. I set up my scope and fortunately it soon posed nicely on some bare branches enabling me to take some digiscoped photos of it.



This was just my third ever Woodchat Shrike, though with all three of them having been seen in Cornwall it wasn't any kind of tick other than a year one - still they're always nice birds to see. I didn't have the luxury of spending too long watching it though as I was all too aware that my VLW would already be cracking on with the DIY and it wasn't fair to have her shoulder all the burden of the work. Therefore with some photos in the can I hurried back to the car and back to the cottage where I spent the rest of the morning sanding down a wooden bench ready for painting.

By the end of the morning the bench had been sanded but I had a bit of a headache from using the power sander for such a long time so I wandered down to the  lighthouse to clear my head and to see if I could find the Black Redstart from yesterday. In the stiff breeze there wasn't much to be seen apart from a female Stonechat and a couple of Dunnocks and there was no sign of the Redstart. The two Ravens were about as usual but there were no Chough about at all -  I presume that they're off breeding somewhere else at this time of year.

Back at base, we had lunch and then planned what to do for the afternoon. As we needed to do some shopping we decided in the end to head over to Marazion and to do our usual wander along the beach for tea somewhere. There was remarkably little bird life on the beach as we walked - I'm more used to the winter months where there are good numbers of waders and gulls but the shoreline was nearly deserted. We had some tea in the Godolphin Arms overlooking the Mount and I managed to spot a passing Sandwich Tern out of the window as we sat there. Then it was back to the car and a short hop to Sainsbury's for some shopping before we headed back to the cottage for the evening.

Fortunately the forecast is for much calmer conditions tomorrow though it will still not be that warm. Let's hope that the drop in wind will be enough to encourage more drift migrant action.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Sunday 9th April - Pendeen

I'm back down in my beloved Cornwall for a family Easter holiday. We don't often get a chance to come down at this time of year because it's often booked up by holiday makers. However, this year as the cottage needs a fair bit of renovation we've decided not to let it out to the public but just to let friends and family have use of it instead. So this new regime meant that we were able to come down for the Easter period for the first time in years and with both girls back from University we were going to have the full complement of family members for this trip.

Our departure from Oxford was somewhat delayed by a last minute work crisis but finally at around midday we were on the road. Apart from heavy traffic at the start of the M5 the journey was uneventful and we arrived in Penzance mid afternoon for our customary tea and shop at Sainsbury's before heading over towards the cottage. Whilst we'd left Oxford in glorious sunshine and scorching temperatures (for spring at least) the forecast for the far South West was some ten degrees less than Oxford so we were pleasantly surprised to find that it was actually quite warm and sunny though with a bit of a breeze that was keeping the edge off the temperatures.

As we turned into the cottage drive a large moth flew across the road - I'm guessing that it was a Hummingbird Hawkmoth though I couldn't be certain. We unpacked the car and booted up the cottage before heading out for a walk down to the lighthouse to stretch our legs. A small Chat was sitting on the wall as we walked down towards the lighthouse gate which flicked over the wall as we approached revealing the striking red tail of a Black Redstart. Whilst the others soon headed back to the cottage I lingered a bit and managed some better views (and a photo) for my troubles.

The Black Redstart eventually obliged me with a post-top photo
I also scored a bonus singing Stonechat
We had a quiet evening in at the cottage with just a quick bonus excursion down to the lighthouse again at dusk though it had got rather cold by then so we didn't linger.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

17th February - Back Home

It was time to head back home already: my VLW's mother was rather poorly so we were going to head home early so that my VLW might go to visit here on Sunday. Therefore we got up and spent a good couple of hours packing up the cottage and getting ready to depart. I kept an eye out for interesting birds during this process but the only thing of interest that I saw was one of the Ravens and there was no sign of the Black Redstart. I don't know where this bird is hanging out but it's somewhere quite well hidden as even on days when I see it, it's only very occasionally. One of the coastguard cottage gardens I suspect.

Anyway, we were on the road by about 11:30 and after the usual stop-offs to dump the recycling, to fill up with petrol and to buy some sandwiches for lunch we were finally properly off some time after midday. As I drove I reflected on the trip: it had been a nice, albeit rather low key visit but then in February that was only to be expected really. I'd got my Avocet Cornish tick and had caught up with the Green-winged Teal, the Spoonbill, the Iceland Gull and the Water Pipit all at Hayle. I'd also found a Firecrest there and a local Black Redstart at Pendeen. We'd enjoyed some remarkably good weather this week which had really helped to make for a very pleasant few days away - I think that our experience would have been very different had there been torrential rain and gales all week.

We arrived back home at Casa Gnome later afternoon after an uneventful journey where our two cats were very pleased to see us once more.

I'll leave you with some Danish Scurvy grass - just coming into flower at Pendeen

Friday, 17 February 2017

16th February - Pendeen

I don't know what it is about the cottage but for some reason I seem to struggle with sleep when I'm down here. After last night's problems, predictably I awoke in the middle of the night again. This time, however, rather than lying in bed fretting I got up immediately and went to another room where I did a good session of EFT. For those of you not familiar with this, it stands for Emotional Freedom Technique and is a weird process of self-tapping whilst saying positive things (see the web-site for more details). My VLW swears by it and used it to cure a severe bout of insomnia last year and I've now taken to using it in all sorts of situations with great affect - it really is quite amazing! After about half an hour of tapping out all aspects of my insomnia that I could think of I came back to bed and was soon fast asleep.

After our usual morning cup of tea in bed whilst putting the world to rights we decided on a local Pendeen day today as there were some DIY tasks that needed doing; we'd also arranged to meet up with our handyman at the cottage early afternoon so we couldn't stray too far today anyway. I started off doing the initial preparation for a part of our bedroom that needed re-painting and then whilst that was going off I went out for a little walk around Pendeen. There were the usual two Ravens and pair of Chough and various other bits and bobs but nothing particularly out of the ordinary and I didn't see my Black Redstart. Still it was nice to be wandering about the place re-acquainting myself with its various nooks and crannies.

The two Pendeen Chough
Back at the cottage I did a little bit of office work until lunch and then we met up with our handyman to discuss some jobs that we wanted doing. After that I did the next layer of preparation on my painting and then we decided to head out for an afternoon walk. Just as we were getting ready the Black Redstart appeared in the field next to our cottage and I did my best to take a photo though it was rather distant.

This photo doesn't really do justice to what was a great looking bird
As it was getting late we opted for the usual loop down to Geevor then up into Pendeen and back down to our cottage. We normally stop off at Heathers Tea Shop on this route but a bit of Googling seemed to indicate that it wasn't presently open so we went for the Geevor café instead, managing to get there just in time for a quick tea before it closed for the day. In Pendeen we discovered that Heathers had closed for good and was up for sale. A sad day indeed!

A sad day as Heathers was much loved by visiting birders
We wandered back to the cottage as the light started to fade and I did a bit more of my painting work before heading back into Pendeen. I'd been contacted by a reader of my blog who also was a birder with a cottage in Pendeen who'd suggested a drink in the North Inn. One aspect of birding that I always like is how you can meet with a total stranger and have loads to talk about and we passed a very pleasant time supping our beer and regaling each other with our birding tales. Then it was back home for dinner and time to put our feet up in front of the telly after what had been a low key but productive day.




Wednesday, 15 February 2017

15th February - Hayle & Pendeen

Once again I managed to have a rather poor night's sleep. I was woken up by a passing rain shower in the night and somehow couldn't get back to sleep again for several hours so once more I was rather tired when I finally got up this morning. My VLW had also had a poor night and was still dead to the world when I awoke so I tip-toed about the cottage until she was awake. 

We didn't really have a plan for today except that Badger, my birding chum from Oxon and partner in crime for the running of the Oxon Birding Blog, was down in Kernow with his VLW and we'd made a tentative arrangement to meet up at the Hayle estuary. Once my VLW was awake I checked that this was OK with her and having been given the green light, I hastily got ready and set off for our 10 a.m. rendezvous at Hayle. The weather was absolutely gorgeous down by the estuary with bright sunshine and very little wind. We started off at Ryan's Field where the long-staying Spoonbill was tucked up asleep though he did lift his head once long enough for me to take his photo.



There were the usual Med Gulls, a flock of 50 or so Golden Plover, the roosting Avocet and right at the back was the Water Pipit that I'd sort of seen last time. Badger is a master of the video and spent some time taking some footage for what will no doubt be an excellent montage in due course. After we'd both had our fill we wandered over to the causeway where Badger almost immediately picked out the Green-winged Teal, in amongst his Eurasian cousins by the bank of the river.

The Green-winged Teal

We soon started grilling the gulls, looking for one of several rarer gulls that had been frequenting the estuary of late, namely a Caspian Gull, the Ring-billed Gull and an Iceland Gull. In the bright sunshine it was hard work as all the colours were bleached out and it was difficult discerning the different shades of grey. Badger and I spent some time debating a distant gull which in then end we decided was just a Common Gull rather than the RBG. Gull numbers were lower than last time I was here and it didn't take long to work through them all though with a steady coming and going of birds one had to keep re-scanning regularly. Eventually I picked up the Iceland Gull quite close in in front of us. It had a good wash and brush up before having a brief loaf on the estuary until eventually it flew off in the general direction of Helston, one of its other regular loafing spots.


The Iceland Gull - better views than yesterday at Mousehole!

There were good numbers of Dunlin on the estuary today with a flock of at least 100 birds along with a scattering of Barwits, a few Shelduck and a single Grey Plover. It was very peaceful sifting through all the birds and we whiled away the time together until I felt that I should probably be heading back. So I bade Badger farewell and headed back towards the car park. I was nearly back at the hide when I heard a Crest calling in the scrub. Expecting a Goldcrest I lifted my bins to find a lovely Firecrest in front of me. I followed it through the scrub for a short while before I lost it somewhere. I gave Badger a call to let him know but for some reason he wasn't answering his phone so I went back to tell him personally in case he was interested. Then it was back to the car and off towards PZ. I did nip into St Erth for one last try for the Cattle Egret but there was only one Little on display so I officially gave up on the bird - it is now dead to me.

Avocet and Green-winged Teal


In PZ I nipped into Sainsbury's for some provisions and then headed back over the hill to Pendeen. I was just walking back to the cottage when I put up something which flew over my head and over the rooftops behind me. In the bright sunshine I caught a good look at a bright red tail, black body with some white in the wings - it could only be a male Black Redstart. I had a quick look around the other (sheltered) side of the cottages but it was almost certainly hiding in one of the gardens there out of sight and I had to leave it.

The rest of the day was spent in pootling around the cottage doing DIY tasks  as well as having a catch-up nap. I did manage to see the Black Redstart again briefly but properly this time. It was a cracking full adult male - I'd love to get a decent photo, perhaps tomorrow if there's less wind. Apart from that there were two Chough and the usual two Raven, a flock of Linnets again and a Kestrel but that was it. As usual we vegged out in front of the telly in the evening before turning in. It had been a good day's birding: I'd managed to catch up with some more of the long-staying Hayle birds and had turned up a Firecrest and a Black Redstart of my own. Not bad for February!

14th February - Marazion, Penzance & Mousehole

I didn't sleep that well last night: for some reason I woke up at 3 a.m. and in the end it took a couple of hours and finally a quickly-downed large glass of wine to get back to sleep. Once I was finally back under I was dead to the world and I slept through our alarm this morning. The reason for the alarm was that we needed an early start as we were going  to head up-county to meet my VLW's niece who'd just had her second daughter. Finally awake, there was just time for a quick wash and breakfast before heading out. Whilst getting ready, I did grab a few moments to stare out of the window at the glorious weather to see what bird life there was this morning. There was a lovely flock of 30 or so Linnets in the field next to the cottage and the two Ravens were back on their favourite perch by the stone wall. 

Local Linnets


By 9:30 we were off and on the road only to receive a text that the niece was running a bit behind and could we make it a bit later? As it turned out this suited us well as we could then pop in to the Cambourne B&Q en route to pick up a few things that we needed for the cottage. As I have blogged about before, it's a crying shame that the PZ B&Q closed - there's now no where local to source things like this any more and we now need to grab opportunities like this at Cambourne when we can. We got most of what we were looking for there and then headed on to meet up with the new family member who seemed a bonnie wee girl and we passed a pleasant couple of hours making her acquaintence.

By the time we left it was getting on for lunch time so we decided to pick up some sandwichess on the way back and to head over to Marazion beach to eat them. We did nip into St Erth as we passed in order to have another go at the Cattle Egret but once again all I could find were its commoner cousins. Marazion was gorgeous and bathed in beautiful sunshine and we passed a pleasant hour or so munching on our food and messing about on the beach. There was a nice flock of 100 or so Sanderling, looking for all the world like little clockwork toys as they ran about on the beach. I didn't bother scanning the sea as at this timeof day I would have been staring straight into the sun from this vantage point.



Marazion Sanderling


Next my VLW wanted to pick up a few things in PZ so we parked up near the bus station and I scanned from there (as it was a better angle for the sun) whilst our son L clambered about on the rocks. There wasn't much to see and the best I could manage was the usual drake Eider, one Guillemot and a couple of Razorbills as well as a couple of Rock Pipits in amongst the rocks. My VLW returned to report that most of the shops that she wanted to visit seemed to be closed already, some sort of local early closing "dreckly" concept I  suppose.

Tolcarne Eider


Next it was on to Newlyn where she had a few more shops to visit. I did a flying stop at Jubilee Pool to check the Battery Rock beach where there was a nice little mixed flock of Dunlin, Ringed Plover and Turnstone but sadly no Purple Sandpipers. At Newlyn we parked up at the Tolcarne Inn and whilst my VLW pootled about in the shops, L and I went to look at the harbour. There were almost no gulls about at all though L very much enjoyed looking at all the ships and has now decided that he's going to buy himself one when he's grown up

Newlyn Turnstones enjoying some spilt food


Finally with time marching on it was over to Mousehole for the Rock Pool Café. More precisely, the other two went to the café whilst I joined the small party of St Clement's Island gull roost watchers in the car park. There was MA, ME, MJS and RV, the latter being a young lad who told me that he read my blog (nice to meet you!). It was really slow going with the roost this evening and I was soon longing for the other two to come back from their post-café walk into the town so that I could get out of what had suddenly become rather biting cold. Just before they returned I managed salvage something from the session when I found the first winter Iceland Gull on the rock. I was just getting the others onto it when my party returned so I took a quick bit of record-shot video and then went to join them in the sanctuary of the car.



Then it was back home to the warmth of the cottage for a bite to eat and a chance to put our feet up in front of the telly. It had been a very relaxing day with remarkably little DIY at all. My VLW and I both remarked that it seems rather strange just to be down here enjoying ourselves rather than rushing about doing various tasks but I'm sure that we'll get used to it. The weather is forecast to be pretty reasonable tomorrow as well so I suspect that there might well be more time spent outdoors enjoying ourselves. Long may it continue!