Thursday, 13 January 2011

Thursday 13th January: Rainy Birding & Doing the Scaup Double

The next day dawned still foggy in Pendeen so once again there was no point in doing anything on that side of the coast. I was due to return home today but thought that it would be rude of me not to put in at least a morning's birding before my long journey back. My plans were to have a look around Drift reservoir for the elusive white-fronted goose and then head over to the Hayle area for Carbis Bay and St. Gothian Sands NR where there was supposed to be a scaup hanging around. Through chatting to Dave Parker I'd discovered that the lesser scaup at Drozmary that I'd not seen on the way down was probably a returning bird from last year and that last time it used to commute between Drozmary Pool and nearby Colliford Lake though the latter was very difficult to view. What this meant was that there was a fighting chance that it might still be at Drozmary Pool and I therefore resolved to stop off there on the way back.

My first port of call was Drift reservoir where it was still rather foggy. However the white-fronted goose had been reported the previous day despite the thick fog so it must be possible to view it. Having not ever walked around any part of it I thought that at least it would be useful as a paid up member of the CBWPS to get to know it a bit better. I made my way around to the bird hide without seeing anything particularly unusual so I took a few minutes to shelter from the sporadic rain within the hide. Whilst in there I heard some geese and saw a few birds come in to land over the brow of the hill opposite on the north side of the reservoir. This at least explained why I'd not been able to see the birds: they were clearly feeding in a field that you couldn't see from the usual viewing points. I wondered whether there might be a line of sight to them from the west corner of the reservoir so walked around there to a wooded area where I managed to see a firecrest and a green sandpiper flew over calling. Unfortunately however there was no sign of the geese so I retraced my steps back to the car. At least I'd got a bit of a walk in which would stand me in good stead given that I was due to spend some time in the car that day on the journey back.

Next it was on to Carbis Bay. Although I'd only recently discovered this spot for myself, I was already starting to appreciate it: it's very sheltered from most wind directions, one can bird from the car if the weather is too bad and the bay seems to act as a trap for bait fish so there are often lots of birds close in to view. Some balearic shearwaters had been reported in the last few days but there were none there that day. There were however at least 20 red-head goosander, 75+ kittiwakes and 30+ razorbills as well as hoards of cormorants and shags and a couple of seals. There was a concentration of gulls in one corner which were presumably getting excited over a close-in shoal of fish.

It was still pretty misty but I managed a distant videograb of some of the goosander which came out onto the beach for a while.

Next it was on to St. Gothian Sands NR which I'd not birded before though I'd been to visit the beach en famille on holiday. It was rather windy here with driving rain so conditions were far from ideal: the main problem was continually getting rain on the optics. Fortunately the scaup was hanging around quite close in and I managed some video footage of it preening. Apart from the scaup there were a couple of shelduck a few gadwall and little grebes and plenty of pochard and tufted duck. I also disturbed a flock of 4 meadow pipits which flew away calling plaintively. There was a flock of large gulls on the far side of the central island though I didn't bother giving them a grilling.

The adult female scaup at St. Gothian Sands NR, Gwithian

With the greater scaup in the bag it was time to set off along the A30 to see if I could do the scaup double and see the lesser scaup as well. This time I had Drozmary to myself though what with the wind and rain this was understandable! Down by the waterside I scanned carefully across the lake finding similar birds to last time though there was a male goldeneye present which wasn't there on my last visit. Towards the end of my scan I came to a flock of diving tufted ducks so I had to scan slowly through these least I missed anything whilst it was underwater. Fortunately I soon picked out the drake lesser scaup diving away in the distance. It was very difficult to take any video footage of the bird as it spent so much time underwater though fortunately it didn't actually swim any great distance while submerged so in the end I adopted the tactic of focusing on the area where I'd last seen it and then zooming in with the camera once it came up. With some editing to remove the long periods of empty water I managed to come up with a short period of record-shot footage but at least you can tell what it is.

Drozmary Lesser Scaup record-shot video.

With the scaup double safely in the bag it was time to head back home after a successful though rather inclement three days. I'd managed to add a few birds to my fledgling Cornish county list though my present total is too embarrassingly small to mention in public. I've also realised that I've only once been to Cornwall in the summer so there are some really common warblers that I've not yet seen down there. With any luck this year I'll be able to rectify this. With the builders nearing the end of their work it will soon be time for us to get down there to start the decorating which will mean more time birding in my favourite part of the country


  1. I'm amazed this has only 5 followers .. Great blog .. will stick a link up on mine for you