Sunday, 7 August 2011

Sunday 7th August: Porthgwarra

Saturday was rather quiet: I chose to have a lie in rather than getting up early and for our family activity we mooched around Penzance and Marazion so I only managed a quarter of an hour at Jubilee Pool where I picked out another ocean sun-fish as well as 1 sandwich tern and 1 fulmar. I did get a call from John Swann saying that his moth trap was heaving with moths so I went over for a brief look. I came away completely amazed at the sheer variety of moths which to my inexpert eye all looked confusingly similar but John and his wife were expertly sorting through them all.

Whilst I was out and about on Saturday news came through on the information services about a probable Atlantic Petrel that was watched for five minutes off Porthgwarra which got me thinking about paying a visit there. The Sunday forecast was for a moderately strong south-westerly wind so I got up at six and was sitting down at Gwennap Head at around 7am. In previous posts I've discussed how locals tend to use Hella Point instead of Gwennap Head but I wasn't sure today whether there would be many other locals about as the wind forecast was only moderate so I'd decided to seek out the Sea Watch team to be sure of company on the two hours that I'd allotted myself for my morning session. There were a couple of chaps at GH whom I assumed were part of the Sea Watch South West team but later learnt that they were just a couple of birders and that the SW team normally watch from lower down the Head. They were both very proficient though (certainly more than me anyway) and were continually calling out very distant birds in a very helpful manner including marking the moment when the bird was actually passing over the Runnel Stone, giving one a good chance of finding it had one not already connected. One thing that I noticed was that it was much more convenient having the Runnel Stone directly opposite rather than diagonally distant as it is at HP.

There's always a problem with what to do about photos when blogging about a sea-watching session. I took along my Canon super-zoom to try it out on the Runnel Stone which is about 1.5km south from Gwennap Head so the fact that you can just about read the writing on it is quite impressive. I did try taking photos of Cory's as they went by but failed miserably to capture any of the birds.

It turned out that I'd jammed in on a really good Cory's day and during the two hours I was there I personally saw 19 Cory's, 6 sooties, a bonxie, 6 or so balearics, one common and half a dozen commic terns. The two chaps had a few more birds that I didn't get on to and had seen one or two Great Shearwaters go by before I arrived but none passed while I was there. It was good to get more hours sea-watching experience under my belt though I'm going to have to work on my stamina: at present I find that after a couple of hours my eyes grow rather tired and I find it difficult to focus, especially on the tiny specks that are literally a mile away. I can only assume that this comes with practice.

On the way back to the car at PG I came across these two Small Pear-bordered Fritillaries. The upper one is presumably a tatty old first generation (Ed.: apparently this is not actually likely according to John Swann) and the pristine new lower one a second generation. It's only the south-west apparently that has a 2nd generation of SPB Frits.

I'm sure that you must all be agog with anticipation, wanting to know what today's moth is going to be. Well it's apparently (thanks to John Swann once again) a Bright-line Brown-eye.

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