Sunday, 30 October 2011

30th October: Moths & Debriefing

Readers may have noticed a distinct lack of the "moth du jour" section on the blog for my last visit. This wasn't for want of trying but I only found any moths at all on two evenings and I was a bit slow in sending the photos to John Swann who puts up with my inept moth ignorance with great patience. I have put down a moth ID book on my Christmas list so perhaps next year I'll be able to have a go myself. Anyway, there were only two moths that I found and unfortunately the photos of them are rather poor.

A black rustic

Unknown. I've had various guesses from Large Yellow Underwing,
Turnip Moth and Conformist. Feel free to offer an opinion as a comment
on this posting if you think you know what it is.

I like to reflect on my Cornish visits at the end, for my own benefit if nothing else. This time was generally rather quiet. There were the expected yellow-browed warblers and firecrests which were nice to see and I enjoyed finding the black redstart, lesser whitethroat and the possible greenish warbler locally around the cottage. On the downside I was disappointed that the Isabelline shrike didn't hang around and that the Pallas's warbler proved so elusive. On the plus side I enjoyed the en route pied wheatear and I jammed in on the bufflehead which was a great bird to see, apparently a Cornish first so an excellent county tick. Talking of which I managed four more this visit so it's moving along gently and closing in on my Oxon total. Once again the last day provided much of the action with the bufflehead and the off county pied wheatear and saved me from what would have been a very quiet visit on the rarity front. In terms of the bird of the visit award that has to be the bufflehead really which only hung around for the one full day before moving on (being briefly seen elsewhere) so I was very lucky to get it.

Bird of the trip award

Thursday, 27 October 2011

27th October: Lizard & Oldbury-on-Severn

Today was my last day down in Cornwall and I was due to pack up and head off home. The weather was once more pretty appalling with grey skies and constant rain though with little wind to speak of. There was of course the decision of what to do as I headed home and I had been wondering about having another crack at the Pallas's warbler. However the previous evening news had broken of a bufflehead on a small pond just south of Lizard village and I thought that this would be a better target than the troublesome warbler as it would either be there or it wouldn't so there would be no waiting around for Luke to endure. It was also of course a far rarer Cornish bird than the warbler.

I did hear from Dave Parker that it had flown off at 8:30 but that it could return. However I decided to have a go for it anyway and fortunately en route it was reported on RBA as being present. We found the spot without any problems and I took a few photos in the gloomy and rainy conditions whilst Luke messed around taking photos with my other camera. It was a pretty small pond that this bird had stumbled upon and though it was diving fairly constantly it didn't seem to be coming up with any fish at all.

The female/immature bufflehead
For some much better photos see Steve Rogers' site

After a short while we decided to head back to the car and on northwards towards home. En route I thought that it would be positively rude of me not to stop in to pay my respects to the female pied wheatear at Oldbury-on-Severn especially as I would be going right past it. We arrived mid afternoon to find the weather conditions just as grey and rainy as before. A fifteen minute walk found us at the yacht club building which was situated at a gloomy but very atmospheric location by the Severn estuary. With the tide right out there was a large expanse of mud and the dark overhanging cloud and drizzle gave it a very desolate air. Fortunately the pied wheatear was very reliable and was keeping faithful to a small circuit around various vantage points from which it would make regular flycatching sorties. It quite unconcerned by the attendant birders though there were only about half a dozen others, which was understandable given the time of day and the weather conditions. At one point the wheatear landed on a sign not two yards from where I was standing and it was a shame that the conditions were so poor as it would have made a great photographic subject. As it was the gloom and the rather bedraggled state of the bird meant that my photos were more record shots than works of art though at least one was able to get good close views.

The very confiding but rather bedraggled female pied wheatear

After a while I decided to continue home on my journey and given where we were starting off from for a change I chose to go up the M5 and back home via the A40, a route that I know well from visiting Slimbridge. I arrived back home early evening, tired but content with having seen some good birds today.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

26th October: Porthgwarra & Marazion

I woke up early this morning and got painting straight away before the others were up and about. Once everyone was awake we had a stroll down to the lighthouse again where today I found a fine male black redstart on the lighthouse buildings.

A record shot of the black redstart - a tricky shot of a dark
bird taken against a very bright background

My brother-in-law set off for home shortly after that and as I'd already done my morning painting session I decided to head over to Porthgwarra to look for the Pallas's warbler that had been showing in the sallows just north of the car park. Luke wanted to stay in the car for a while and I went to stake out the sallows where I found John Swann, Dave Parker and a few others staring at the impenetrable vegetation. The bird had apparently only been showing briefly and very infrequently so it looked like it might be a long wait. After a while with no sign so far Luke got bored so we went off to the shop to get a cup of tea and a flapjack for myself and an ice cream for Luke which we ate back at the sallows. Luke kept himself amused for a while by playing with my old point and shoot camera and he seems to be developing an interest in photography. We did hear the warbler call a few times though it obstinately didn't show and eventually Luke had had enough and we had to leave. I was told that the bird did finally show itself but not for another hour and a half so that would have been a long wait indeed.

After my afternoon painting session we nipped into Penzance for some shopping and for Luke to visit the playground at Marazion. Whilst there I checked out the mouth of the Red River for interesting pipits or wagtails but the best I could come up with was an adult Med. gull.

Med. gulls are always lovely to find

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

25th October: Pendeen & Nanquidno

After yesterday's downpour it was pleasantly calm and sunny. First thing, before Luke was even up I nipped out for a quick tour of the garden and a walk down to the lighthouse. The usual three ravens were still about and I found a late wheatear in the field next to the road. In the garden of Old Count House there was a small tit flock working its way along the bushes and at the tail end of this gang was a lovely lesser whitethroat, looking very smart indeed as it poked about in the foliage. It didn't have the pale sandy look of a central asian but even so a lesser whitethroat is surprisingly rare for the Penwith peninsula. In fact John Swann told me a story of how once at Porthgwarra everyone was lined up by the car park sallows looking for a red-eyed vireo. After a while someone called it out and all eyes turned to the bird. Almost immediately after that someone else called out a lesser whitethroat and apparently all the Cornish birders immediately switched to looking at that instead such was its rarity value!

Pendeen rock pipit

Later that morning, after my painting session, we were just contemplating where to go when news broke about an Isabelline shrike by the airfield at Nanquidno so I quickly mobilised the troops and we set off. There, Luke and my brother-in-law waited by the car whilst I went to check things out. Dave Parker, John Swann as well as plenty of visiting birders were all there but there was no sign of the shrike. It later turned out that according to the original finder it was working it's way along a hedge rather than staying put so was very much in transit which was a shame as it would have been a nice bird to see. Our party decided to nip down to Nanquidno valley itself briefly where Luke had a paddle in the stream with his wellies before we headed back to base.

Nanquidno buzzard - not really much compensation for the lack of shrike

That afternoon I did some more painting whilst the other two headed off to mess around at the local beach. Whilst I was busy painting a window that looked out into the garden I spotted the lesser whitethroat again in my own garden now - a fine Cornish garden tick. I sent a text to John Swann who lives nearby and he nipped over and managed to see the bird for himself.

Monday, 24 October 2011

24th October: Sennen Cove

Today was a bit of a wash-out. It was only moderately windy but it poured with rain all day. With little prospect of doing much outdoors in the end we elected to partake in that great British tradition of driving somewhere to look at the sea from the comfort of our car. I chose Sennen Cove where we parked right down by the harbour and spent some time watching someone daring himself to walk out along the small harbour wall despite the waves crashing over it. In the end sense prevailed which was just as well...

I'd chosed Sennen Cove partly because a couple of first winter yellow-legged gulls had been reported there this morning but all I could find was a first winter Med. gull.

Later that afternoon when the rain finally lifted we headed over to Penzance so that Luke could choose something from the Pirate gift shop as promised. There were no purple sandpipers on the harbour walls though I did find a few turnstones on the jetty.

Penzance turnstones

Sunday, 23 October 2011

22nd & 23rd October: Kenidjack

My wife and our two daughters were jetting off to Paris for a few days so I decided to take the opportunity to head back down for another visit to Cornwall with my five year old son Luke and one of my brother-in-laws in tow. There was plenty of decorating to do but as usual I was hoping to be able to get in some birding in between painting sessions though with Luke accompanying me my birding options would be much more restricted: no sea watching for example and there would be a limit on how long he would wait patiently somewhere if I were waiting on a bird to show. As usual I'd been following the bird news in Cornwall and there had been some interesting stuff about: a couple of red-breasted flycatchers, several yellow-browed warblers and to top it all a scarlet tanager at St. Levan though apart from the original finders this had only been seen once for five minutes in the morning despite a good crowd looking out for it all day. However, a day or so before I was due to come down most of these birds seemed to have cleared out and it had all gone rather quiet.

I didn't leave Oxford until late morning after dropping off the Paris contingent at the bus station so it was late afternoon by the time we arrived in Cornwall. I decided to head straight over to Kenidjack which from the RBA texts seemed to be the only place with any birds about that day. We headed down to the end of the valley where a couple of yellow-browed warblers were supposed to be though in the windy conditions they were not very cooperative and I only got very fleeting views of one of them. As it was getting late and Luke was starting to complain I didn't stay too long but headed off to the cottage to get unpacked and to rustle up some food.

The Kenidjack mine ruins

The next morning I put in an initial painting session whilst Luke watched some DVD's. About mid-morning I felt like a break so I decided to head back to Kenidjack to see if I could get better views of the yellow-broweds. This time we took a picnic which I was hoping would keep Luke occupied for a while before he would start to complain about being bored. There were quite a few birders around this morning though once again the yellow-browed warblers offered only rather fleeting views and occasional calls. There were also a couple of firecrests in the garden of the last house which gave the occasional glimpses. One of the highlights was a lesser redpoll (a Cornish tick) which flew over us a number of times calling loudly. To round things off a couple of chough were flying around and calling as Luke and I headed back up the valley for home.

You may have noticed the distinct lack of bird photos on this posting:
this is due to their elusiveness. Instead here are some of the Kenidjack
donkeys which were much more cooperative.

Back at the cottage whilst I was hard at work painting I spotted an interesting warbler in the garden briefly: it had uniform greenish upper parts but a pale silvery underparts with faint darker smudges on the breast. It's supercilium was moderately strong, it's didn't seem to have a particularly long primary projection and I thought I caught a glimpse of a wing bar. Had I been certain of the wing bar I would have claimed it as a greenish warbler but from what I saw I can only have it down as a possible.

My brother-in-law arrived early afternoon. I'd made an agreement with Luke that each day we'd do something that he wanted to do so we walked up to the Pendeen playground and spent some time there messing about on the zip wire.

Friday, 7 October 2011

October 7th: End of Visit Debriefing

So another trip to Cornwall has finished and I'm back home in the relatively birdless county of Oxon. Now, Jonathan Lethbridge does warn against providing lists within blogs as it is apt to cause over-excitment amongst birders but I shall throw caution to the wind and provide one of the main birds that I saw during my visit

2 Red-backed Shrike
1 Lesser Yellowlegs
2 Pectoral Sandpiper
2 Black Kite
1 Glossy Ibis
1 Semipalmated Sandpiper
2 Great Shearwater

Those amongst you who have been paying attention might have noticed that almost half this list was obtained on the last day which went some way to redeem what was quite frankly a rather quiet week by Cornish standards.

As far as commoner birds were concerned there were also:
3 Snow Bunting
1 Pied Flycatcher
2 Dotterel
4 Yellow Wagtails
2 Common Redstarts

As always I thoroughly enjoyed my trip. I have enjoyed getting to know the local sites better and also the local and visiting birders whom I've generally found to be a helpful and friendly bunch. It was great to see more Nearctic waders and my personal tally for this autumn is now 10 different ones, all but one (Slimbridge semi-P) being in Cornwall. As far as my Cornish county list is concerned I managed to add a surprising eight birds to this and whilst I'm rather coy about the exact total whilst it is still so small I can reveal that I have now passed the 200 mark and I am fast closing in on my Oxon county total.

As for my next visit, I'm going to be back in a couple of weeks time at the end of the month, this time with my five year old son Luke in tow as well as my other brother-in-law with perhaps the rest of the family joining us later though they're off to Paris for a few days of girly shopping at the start of the week.

Finally, the bird of the trip award goes to.... the Land's End Red-backed Shrike which was so great to see at close quarters in such lovely evening light.

The Bird of the Trip

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Thursday 6th October: Pendeen, Stithians & Davidstow

On my last morning down in Cornwall I awoke to the predicted strong north-westerly wind: clearly a Pendeen Day and given how close I was it would be rude of me not to at least pop in first thing for a sea watch before heading home. In the car park I met Dave Parker who was just getting out of his car and soon after we'd installed ourselves in front of the light house a couple of other birders turned up including a chap whom I'd met with and chatted to the previous day at Stithians whilst not seeing the Glossy Ibis. It turned out to be a most enjoyable sea-watching session: for a start "callable" birds were coming almost constantly with a steady stream of sooties, balearics, arctics & bonxies, with some more interesting stuff turning up occasionally to spice things up. The highlights were two Great Shearwaters going through at a reasonably close distance, a juv. Sabines that I didn't get on, a few Grey Phalaropes, plus lots of the commoner stuff. What's more it was a nice small group, we were all sitting close together so you could easily hear what people were saying (important for someone like me who finds it difficult to hear with background wind noise these days) and we all got on well. In this group I felt confident enough to make a fool of myself by calling a kittiwake as a possible Sab etc. Unfortunately all too soon I had to leave to head back to the cottage though all in all I'd say that it was probably one of the most enjoyable sea-watches I've had so far.

Back home I had to have breakfast, pack the car and get my brother-in-law up to speed on how the heating etc. worked so it wasn't until around 10:30 a.m. that I finally departed. Naturally enough, I wasn't going to head straight home without stopping off somewhere and first port of call was back to Stithians Reservoir where the finicky Glossy Ibis had been reported on RBA as showing again this morning. This time it all worked out as it was supposed to and I turned up to find plenty of other birders all watching the Ibis which was there feeding away in one of the pools by the shoreline. It was rather distant but one could get reasonable enough views so I took some digiscoped shots for the record and headed on up the A30.

The Stithians Glossy Ibis

The second port of call was Davidstow Airfield or "Mordor" as it has been christened by Badger: he'd gone there a couple of days ago for the semi-P to find Davidstow completely fog bound and a desolate birdless wasteland. I must admit I do find birding there really difficult: if the bird you're looking for isn't in one of the obvious big pools then there is a vast area to search through and I have spent several fruitless hours there in the past looking for stuff. This time I chose some different tactics: after a quick check on the main pools I decided to look at the other cars there to see if any looked like they were watching something good. I saw one near the road which had been stationary for some time so I headed over and sure enough there was the Semi-P by the side of a large puddle right next to the main road. The great thing about Mordor of course is that when you do find a bird you get cripplingly good views and I watched this delightful Nearctic vagrant down to just a few yards. At one point someone (a non-birder) turnd off the main road and drove at high speed right through the puddle where the sandpiper was. I felt sure that the bird must flush or even worse be run over but it just scuttled out of the way and seemed remarkably unperturbed. The guy who'd been watching the bird before me told me that there was also a Snow Bunting on the next cross runway and sure enough when I went to look there it was, remarkably my third one in a week down here in Cornwall. On my way back to the road I took pity on another car whose occupants were looking around forlornly and told them where the semi-P was which they much appreciated. With a long drive ahead of me I pointed the car in the direction of Oxford and headed for home.

...and a bonus Snow Bunting

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Wednesday 5th October: Pendeen, Porthgwarra & Stithians

This morning the weather was much more typical for October with wind, grey skies and patches of fog. As today was my last full day here before heading off home I wanted to finish off one more window before going out for some birding. I had to be back by mid afternoon as my brother-in-law was coming down today: some friends of his and he were going to be using the cottage from tomorrow for a few days so he was coming down a day early to get things ready for them and for me to show him the cottage ropes.

As a snow bunting had been reported at Pendeen yesterday just past the lower car park I was planning on nipping out to check it out once it had got properly light. However whilst I was still thinking about this a text came through on RBA reporting it as present this morning along the track to Manor Farm. I finished off half the window and then popped out where sure enough there it was. It was more flighty than they often are and wouldn't let me get too close before flying off over the wall though it soon came back again. Just at that point I met up with a visiting birder who was staying at Calartha Farm. It turned out that he'd found the bird this morning (and yesterday) and was back for a second look.

Light conditions were so bad that in the end I resorted to a bit of video footage of the bunting

I returned home, finished off my window and contemplated my birding for the morning. I was waiting on news about a Glossy Ibis that had been seen at Stithians yesterday morning but so far I'd not heard anything. I therefore decided to nip down to PG to have another look for the elusive RT Pipit. This time I decided to walk in from Arden Sawah farm for a change which gets you onto the west side of the Moor a lot quicker and gives you some farmland fields to search through to boot. On the moor I met Dave Parker and Mark Wallace who'd just found two more Crimson Speckled moths. Honestly! These are clearly Trash Moths rather than Megas: I'd now seen four of them in the space of a few weeks! Mark was exploring some of the more obscure corners of the moor and we tagged along until I got a text saying that the Ibis was showing at Stithians so I decided to head off for it. On the way I pulled over at the Polgigga cricket pitch where there were loads of wagtails (it's well know for them). In amongst the pieds/whites I managed to find a single Yellow - not such a common bird for Cornwall.

I arrived at Stithians at just about the same time as a local birder whom I met a few days earlier at the Dotterel field so we looked around together. Far from it being a simple matter of tick & run there was no sign of it. We even had a good snoop around south of the causeway in the Southern Cutoff area but there was nothing more than a single Grey Heron. After a while we admitted defeat though my companion decided to check out the Northern Causeway on his way home and took my number in case he should find it. He had no luck and I headed back to Pendeen, stopping off at White Gate Cottage just to check that the Snow Bunting was OK (it was). I was just back in the house making a cup of tea when (you guessed it) Dave Parker rang. Apparently the Ibis was showing at the Norther Cutoff right now. Drat and Double Drat! I didn't have time (or the energy quite frankly) to head straight back out again as I had to get the cottage ship-shape. I would have to try on the way home for it tomorrow though it clearly was being elusive. I spent the rest of the time getting the cottage ready and packing for tomorrow's departure. It had been a rather frustrating day with only a nice Snow Bunting and a Yellow Wagtail to show for my efforts. Still that's birding - if it was easy all the time we'd soon get bored with it.

The bunting this afternoon when the light was at least a little better

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Tuesday 4th October: Hayle, Marazion & Porthgwarra

Once more it was a reasonably nice start to the day though the mist and fog rolled in even earlier than yesterday and Pendeen was once more fog-bound before 10am. I did a quick check of the local Pendeen spots again on the way to get some milk from the local store but there was nothing of note. After my morning painting session I decided to head over to Hayle for a change of scenery and to check out the waders and gulls. I'd timed it so that it would be high tide and indeed all the birds were conveniently located close to the Hayle bridge by the causeway when I arrived. There was nothing of particular note with the highlights being an adult winter-plumage Med. gull, 3 Sandwich Terns, 1 Grey Plover and a handful of Black and Bar-tailed Godwits. Ryans Field held just four Godwits and a quick check at Copperhouse Creek found just a few Ringed Plovers in amongst the Curlew.

Hayle birds at high tide

On the way back I popped into Marazion where the Pec. Sand was still as ridiculously tame as ever and the three Brent Geese were still there.

Up close and personal with the Pec. Please note the bird was feeding away quite happily whilst they were there and was in no way put off by their close proximity.

The three Brent geese were still around

I'd got back home and was making a sandwich when I got a text from Dave Parker saying that at Porthgwarra there was a Red-backed Shrike, 2 Snow Buntings and most interstingly a Red-throated Pipit which had been flying around for the last five minutes. This sounded as though the Pipit might actually be gettable so I went straight back out the door and arrived some half an hour later where I soon met up with Dave. Apparently only the two of us were foolish enough to go searching for the Pipit in the mist on Porthgwarra. We spent a good couple of hours tramping around the moor chasing after any Pipits, hoping that one would give the diagnostic call but to no avail. After a while the fog became so thick that all sensible birds would be hunkered down and we had to admit defeat. The highlight of the trip was when we spotted a very white moth which flew down and landed not too far from where we were standing. From my previous PG moth experience I was wondering whether it might be a Crimons Speckled moth (one of only a handful that I can actually recognise) and low and behold indeed it was. Excitedly I texted John Swann about it only to be told that Mark Wallace had actually already found it earlier in the day (along with the Shrike, Pipit and Buntings). Still, it was nice to find another Mega, albeit a mothy one. For the second time in a few days I headed home from a fruitless session searching for rare pipits with Dave. Hopefully it will be third time lucky!

Moth du Jour: my second Crimson Speckled Moth find of the month on Porthgwarra!

Monday, 3 October 2011

Monday 3rd October: Pendeen, Marazion & Drift

This morning I awoke once more to bright sunny conditions. With nothing particular that I wanted to see having been reported I decided on having a long painting session and then to do a bit more local Pendeen birding. By the cottage itself there were far fewer Wheatears around this morning and just one Whinchat. I wandered up the road into Pendeen itself, checking out the small roadside pool and the Calartha Farm copse before having a look in at Pendeen church. The habitat here looks great for finding something and today I managed a nice Spotted Flycatcher. As I walked back to the cottage I could see a bank of fog and mist heading in off the sea and sure enough within half an hour Pendeen was enveloped in a thick fog which, judging from the Land's End webcam, seemed to stretch all along the North coast.

Who ate all the flies?
I'm normally struck by how slim and long-winged
Spotted Flycatchers look but this one looked distinctly portly.

After another long painting session, by mid afternoon I was ready to sally forth once again. In view of the foggy conditions I elected to head over to the other side of the peninsula to Marazion where I managed to catch up with the very confiding Pectoral Sandpiper which allowed approach down to a few yards. I also had a wander along the east side of Marazion marsh just to explore though I didn't see anything of note. Back on the beach at Marazion there were three pale-bellied Brent Geese on the shore and I had a quick rummage through the Rock Pipits and Wagtails by the mouth of the river for anything rarer but without success.

The Marazion Pectoral Sandpiper was incredibly tame
& it was a shame that conditions were so gloomy as otherwise
it would have been an opportunity for some great photographs

The three Pale-bellied Brent Geese

Rock Pipit

I nipped into Tesco's for some provisions and decided on the way back home to check out the two Black Kites which were apparently showing well just past Drift. I pulled into the layby to find Paul Semmens there photographing the two birds which were showing almost constantly, flying at low altitude at a distance down to 100 yards. I took some record shots but conditions were pretty gloomy. Then it was off home for something to eat and a final bout of painting.

A record shot of one of the two Black Kites

Moth du jour: Autumnal Rustic
(ID as always courtesy of John Swann)

Sunday 2nd October: Pendeen & Polgigga

Today was once more sunny and warm which was great for being out and about but good birds seem to be a bit thin on the ground in Penwith. Whilst I've been getting Cornish ticks to keep me amused, the truth is there hasn't been anything really good about for a while. Sure there are a couple of Pec. Sands, some Wrynecks and a Black Kite or two but I seem already to be acquiring a rather blaisé attitude to stuff that would get me really excited back in Oxford. There was nothing in particular that I wanted to see from yesterday (I've given up on the Nanquidno Hawfinch) so in the morning I thought that I would just have a wander around locally to see what I could find and so that I could crack on with the painting. In general, if there's nothing particular to go after I want to be able to bank some extra painting time to compensate for times when I have to drop everything for something good.

During my Pendeen wander I kept hearing a distant down-slurred call which had me thinking of Red-throated Pipit. I could never see the bird but I was hearing so many that either there was a mass invasion of RT pipits or it was something else. Eventually I heard one well enough to realise that they were actually of course Siskins flying over though you wouldn't tend to associate that species with the open farmland of Pendeen. On my local wander I found a Clouded Yellow, at least half a dozen Small Coppers and a rather worn male Common Blue. There were still loads of Wheatears about and several Whinchat as well.

There were loads of wheatears about near the cottage
this morning. They are such lovely photogenic birds. This
one has a couple of crane fly legs sticking out of its mouth still

A couple of Small Coppers thinking about getting frisky

The combination of the heat and the fact that I hadn't slept too well meant that a post-lunch Power Nap was called for and I felt much better for it. I'd just started my afternoon painting session when I got a text from Dave Parker: the two Dotterel were back in their field between Higher Bosistow and Raftra and the Tawny Pipit had been reported as well. I hurriedly finished the window that I was on and then set off towards Polgigga once more. There I met up with Dave and another birder (whose name I've unfortunately forgotten) who were watching the two Dotterel in the field. There was also a Golden Plover and a Whinchat but no sign of the pipit which apparently was seen by friends of the couple who'd found the Dotterel but by no one else. Dave and I decided to have a trawl around the surrounding fields to see if we could turn it up but despite a thorough search of all the bare fields we couldnt find it.

Digiscoping conditions were far from ideal and I
only took three shots of the Dotterel. Fortunately this one came out ok.

I drove home, stopping in at the Sennen Cove car park where the Snow Bunting had been reported again but I couldn't see it on a quick drive around the car park and also at Nanquidno where a brief wander down the valley revealed nothing at all though it was getting late by now. So it was back home for dinner and more painting.

Moth du jour: Square Spot Rustic

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Saturday 1st October: Polgigga Twice & Nanquidno

Today the weather was full-on gorgeous. There was none of the mist or fog and it was much calmer so it was great to be out and about. With nothing in particular that I wanted to chase down I was in no hurry to get out this morning so instead had an extended morning painting session and it wasn't until about 10:30 that I started to think about where I wanted to visit. With no RBA updates so far to provide any clues I decided that I would head over Polgigga way to see if I could find anything good myself. On the way I stopped in at Sennen Cove to check on the Snow Bunting but there was no sign of it. As I was driving through Sennen just near the church I spotted a Turtle Dove just by the side of the road though it flew off as I drove past.

I parked up at Trevilley and started walking over to Polgigga via the footpath that goes through Nanjizal valley. I soon came across a Clouded Yellow flitting around in one of the fields. On my journey I saw loads of Wheatears and there were plenty of Meadow Pipits buzzing around as well. I was particularly looking out for Short-toed Larks and rare pipits for which this area is a bit of a hot-spot though without any luck. I grilled all the starlings on the wires at the lane but there was no sign of the Rose-coloured Starling though it hadn't been seen yesterday either. Next I walked along the footpath that heads west from Higher Bosistow as a couple of Dotterel had been reported in the recently tilled field there. I soon found the field but the only occupants were more Wheatears and six Skylarks. There was nothing further of note on my return journey.

I got quite excited at seeing this Clouded Yellow.
By the end of the day I'd seen half a dozen or so and realised
that they weren't actually that unusual.

I know very little about dragonflies but I
believe that this is a Common Darter

I had been thinking of heading straight back home but news had come through that the Hawfinch had been showing again at Nanquidno so I popped into a shop to buy a sandwich & drink & decided to eat them at Nanquidno whilst starting at some Blackthorn bushes in case the Hawfinch should decide to pop out of them. I arrived to find the car parking area almost full and John Chapple there staring intently into the field opposite. It turn out that he was watching a trio of Yellow Wagtails which were following the horses around the field as is their wont. Yellow Wags are hard birds to come by in Cornwall so I was pleased to get this county tick. I went over to the Hawfinch area where in the company of a couple of visting birders we waited and watched. After a while I decided to try a bit further down and left the others. Soon after they started gesticulating wildly to me so I ran back only to discover that it had shown briefly but had disappeared again. Having seen the bird the other two went off but I stayed put, being joined by John, Laurie Williams and a few others whom I didn't know. We passed a very pleasant hour or so chatting away and during this time John picked out a pair of Redstarts on the hillside opposite, again not an easy bird to see in Cornwall and yet another Cornish tick. John said that he charged half a pint per county tick and a pint for a lifer so that was already a pint I owed him, an absolute bargain as far as I'm concerned. A number of siskins flew over and I saw four more Clouded Yellows whilst waiting for the finch so it was clearly a good day for them. Back in the car park the lovely Pied Flycatcher was showing again by the car. However my afternoon painting session was long overdue so I headed for home.

The Nanquidno Pied Flycatcher, still as lovely as ever!

I'd just walked in the door when I got a text from Dave Parker saying that there was a Tawny Pipit down at Polgigga. After a couple of phone calls, one to Dave and another to Paul St. Pierre, who'd actually found the bird, I decided that I would have to have a try for it though it was getting late and I'd still not done my afternoon painting. Still you can't turn down the chance of a Tawny Pipit so I sped back off towards Polgigga, parked at Trevilley once again and yomped quickly down to Nanjizal. I soon found the exact field were Paul had found the bird and spent a good hour searching carefully down each furrow but apart from a load of Wheatears there was nothing else. There was one moment of excitment when one of the Wheatears started flying low and fast towards me. At first I couldn't work out what was going on until suddenly a Sparrowhawk appeared and took the Wheatear in a puff of feathers before flying off with his prize. A sad end to such a lovely bird but very exciting to see the hawk make its kill. As it was getting dark I eventually headed back to the car, scouring the other large earth field carefully on my way back but to no avail. Back home I had to put in a good evening painting session to compensate for such a long day out but with two county ticks I couldn't really complain.

Back by popular demand (well Badger likes it) is the "Moth du Jour" section. Today's offering is a Setaceous Hewbrew Character (ID as always courtesy of John Swann). My mothing consistes of turning on the outside light in the evening, catching what I find in the area in a glass, taking it inside to photograph and then releasing it again.