Sunday, 3 July 2011

Sunday 3rd July: the North Coast

I was due to go back down to Cornwall again for a week: there was still much to do and my sister and a friend were coming down and a few things needed to be done to make things habitable for them. As always, I'd been following things down in Cornwall and knew that even down there it was remarkably quiet with nothing of note being seen at all. Given this lack of anything interesting to chase I planned to do some more work on my fledgling Cornish list and also with my new-found interest in butterflies (see Surviving June) I thought that I would take this opportunity to chase down some of the local specialities. On top of all this, July marked the start of when things begin to get interesting on the sea-watching front so I would keep a weather-eye on the charts and if there was a good wind I was planning to get in a spot of sea-watching.

With nothing of particular note to stop in on on the way down to Cornwall I thought that I would take a look at some Cornish sites along the north coast en route. The plan was to work on the Cornish list and also to take a look at some sites that I'd not yet visited. I'd been making some enquiries (thanks are due to John Swann and Colin Selway for their help with this) and had been given a few tips on where to visit for various species.

My first port of call was Walmsley Sanctuary near Wadebridge where the target bird was red-legged partridge. As I walked across the field towards the hide a flock of 5 stock doves flew up which was an unexpected bonus county tick. It turned out that they bred near there and there were even a couple of youngster sitting on some poles in front of the tower hide. All was quiet on the pools themselves with a couple of herons, a lone wigeon and a few miscellaneous ducks about. In the hide I met a nice couple from Heligan whom I'd met before at Marazion. They'd heard some partridges near the other hide so I went to take a quick look though all I could find in that area were a couple of soaring buzzards. I wandered back, scouring the fields and thought that I heard a distant calling bird but couldn't pin it down.

One of the young stock doves near the hide

Whilst there I thought that I would nip over to the other side of the road to take a look at Dinham Flats as part of my getting to know new Cornish sites. After walking through a couple of fields I found the hide though with the tide right out there was not much to see apart from a single little egret, a few shelduck and some black-headed gulls. As I returned to the car however I heard a male partridge singing from just the other side of the hedge from me. I crept forward to take a look but he heard me and I heard the whirr of wings as he sped off so I ran forward and managed to see him flying across the field. Result!

A shelduck on Dinham Flats

Next stop was Trevose Head to look for Corn Bunting. This turned out to be fairly straight-forward and I had no sooner turned off for the Head when there one was on the hedge right by the road though it flew off before I could take a photo. Despite already having achieved my goal I decided to go and take a look around anyway. It was all rather scenic though not as rugged and beautiful as the Penwith peninsula (to my eyes at least). I had a quick wander around and found a couple more corn buntings on the tamarisk hedging that lined the road. One male was singing by the road side so I got out and did some digiscoping. Job done, next stop Penhale Dunes.

Unfortunately this corn bunting remained partially
obscured by the tamarisk the whole time

I'm a sucker for a lighthouse photo so here are
a couple from Trevose Head

I wanted to visit Penhale Dunes for the butterflies, in particular the silver-studded blues which are a localised and rare small blue butterfly which you don't get in Oxon (that I know of). I'd done some research and managed to find the appropriate layby by the footpath and set off across the dunes. One aspect of nature that I particularly enjoy is exploring different types of habitat so it was nice to spend some time in amongst the dunes. At first I didn't spot very much but as I ventured further I saw the odd dark-green fritillary zip by though in the wind they weren't hanging around at all. After a while I spotted what looked like a dried up pond area which was sheltered by dunes on three sides which looked rather promising so I went over to take a look. Sure enough it was full of silver-studded blues as well as up to three dark-green fritillaries. I spent some time trying to take photos but many of the blues were past their best by now and they wouldn't easily let me get very close so I never got the classic closed-wing shot of them showing off their silver studs. Still it was great to see them all and I walked back to the car a happy bunny.

A couple of silver-studded blue shots

A very heavily-cropped record shot of a dark-green fritillary,
the only shot I was able to get though at least you can see the
dark green wash on the lower underwing which gives it its name.

It was getting rather late in the day now so I headed on down towards Penzance, just nipping in briefly to the Hayle estuary where it was high tide and a few waders were waiting it out in Ryan's Field. On to Pendeen to open up the house and to have something to eat. It had been a long but very enjoyable trip down.

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