Tuesday, 15 October 2013

That Was the Trip That Was

Well, that was my October Cornwall trip for this year. All in all I have to say that I'm very pleased with it. I'm glad that I came down when I did as there was a good selection of nice birds on offer and I managed (eventually) to see all of them apart from the Lesser Yellowlegs (which would have been no more than a Penwith tick for me anyway). The highlights of the trip for me were the Pendeen Daurian Shrike, the Hayle Black-winged Stilt, Western Bonelli's Warbler, American Golden Plover, Wryneck the Hayle Osprey, not forgetting of course the en route birds, namely Red-breasted Flycatcher, Red-backed Shrike and Short-toed Lark. There was also a supporting cast of Spotted and Pied Flycatchers and Firecrest. I managed four ticks for my Cornish List this time: the Shrike, the Bonelli's, the American Golden Plover and the Osprey so it's moving along slowly but steadily. Interestingly enough I never actually got to see or even hear a Yellow-browed Warbler whilst down here this time though it wasn't a very high priority for me, especially since I'd managed to find one back in Oxfordshire on my patch a few days before. It was a shame that the winds picked up half way through which rather put an end to the birding but at least it wasn't windy and birdless the whole time. So not a legendary trip down but plenty of birds to keep one interested.

There are a few other items to mention. Firstly, astute readers amongst you might have spotted my ID faux pas from my Nanquidno visit. Here's another shot from a more useful angle.

It it of course a Yellow Wagtail rather than a Grey as I'd originally stated though at the time it's long tail length and the fact that it was on a roof caught me napping in thinking that it was a juvenile Grey. Yellow is not that common a bird down on the Penwith peninsula so a rather nice find even if my brain was asleep when I first saw it.

I'd mentioned that there were a few outstanding micro moths to ID. At the risk of boring all but the most dedicated of moth'ers the missing moths were:

From the left to right: Agonopterix yeatiana, A. propinquella & Depressaria radiella (Parsnip moth).

One of the aspects of this trip that I'll take away with me has been the social aspect of the birding: it was great to catch up with everyone down here and really added to the whole experience. As you may have noticed, my brother-in-law never came down in the end so it was just me rattling around in the cottage. Not that I really mind being on my own but the fact that there were a lot of people down here that I know meant that it wasn't an issue at all.

So finally we come to the coveted "Bird of the Trip" award and there are no surprises that it's going to go to the wonderful Pendeen Daurian Shrike - it truly was a beautiful bird. Special mention should also go to the Bonelli's Warbler simply for being so hard to get. This of course made the eventual sightings all the sweeter. Since my brother-in-law didn't come down I wasn't able to do half the DIY tasks I wanted to which of course means another trip down in the near future. I can't wait!

The Bird of the Trip, the stunning Daurian Shrike at Pendeen.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Saturday 12th October: Portland Bill

As I mentioned yesterday, I'd decided to head off home a day early due to the continuing high winds. Also my VLW was getting a bit fed up with having to hold the fort without me and had hinted that an early return might be appreciated. I'd scoured RBA the night before for something to stop off for and a Short-toed Lark at Portland Bill had caught my eye. It had been there a couple of days and was apparently showing very well on and off on a path right next to the Observatory. I've only once ever been to Portland years ago to try and see a Balearic Shearwater for the first time. I only had a very crappy little scope and if I recall the trip was a bit of a failure and I didn't really see anything. I therefore felt that it would be interesting to explore there a bit more even if the Lark wasn't about. I'd set up my phone for RBA Scarce+ alerts from Devon and Dorset so that should something more tempting turn up en route then I could divert to that instead. Fortunately the Lark came up as still present just before I was about to leave so duly encouraged I set off just after 8am.

I'd just stopped off at Hayle to buy some lunch when I got a text from Dave Parker saying that there was a Barnacle Goose in the NW arm of Drift Reservoir. I cursed inwardly: this was the one common goose that I still needed for my Cornish list but it would take more than an hour from where I was to get there and walk down to the NW arm and then get back to where I was at Hayle. I decided to leave it and continue with my original plan.

The journey was uneventful though rather long, so I that I arrived at around midday at the Portland Bird Observatory. There'd been ominous radio silence on the Lark front from RBA but having read up Sean Foote's excellent blog, I knew that it was often flushed from the path but could very well return to it later. I nipped into the Obs to find the latest news ("still about as far as I know" I was told) and to get some directions. The path was literally right next to where I'd parked and I walked up it scanning ahead carefully. Near the top a flock of Larks flew up from a neighbouring field, flushed by some birders there. There was clearly a smaller one in amongst them with no trailing white edge to the wings. Nice but not the views I was hoping for. At the top of the hill I found out from other birders that it had been on the path about ten minutes earlier giving crippling views (of course) but had then been flushed as the path was in regular use.

A short while later another small flock of Larks came by a flew around a bit. Once again I could pick out the smaller Short-toed which seemed to be rather aggressively chasing one of the Skylarks. A few minutes later someone whistled from the top of the path that they'd had the bird. I hurried over to find that, sure enough, there it was feeding away on the path again only some twenty yards away. There were only half a dozen of us there looking at it and we all set about scoping it and trying to photograph it. However, for some reason one chap took it upon himself to start creeping down towards it next to the path and sure enough he eventually flushed it, much to everyone's disgust. I'm not quite sure why he did this  as he didn't even have a camera. Still I'd got nice views and some reasonable photos. I wandered back down the now-Lark-free path to the car to pick up my lunch.

Some nice views of the Short-toed Lark before it was flushed

Next I thought that I'd wander over to the Observatory to see if they had any good moths on show. It turned out that they'd had nothing special but I was free to rummage through the egg boxes in the big plastic bucket if I wanted. This I duly did and came up with a couple of moths that I didn't immediately recognise and so photographed for ID'ing at home.

The famous Portland Bird Observatory

 Beautiful Gothic
 L-album Wainscot

After that I went back to see if the Lark had returned yet. Still no sign though I did find a Wheatear passing through. From my vantage point I saw a bunch of people scoping the Observatory Quarry so I went over to see that was going on. It turned out to be a coach party of enthusiastic club birders all looking at one of the resident Little Owls which was hiding deep in one of the cracks in the stones. As I wandered back towards the Lark spot for one final look a couple of them started shouting out "what's that bird in the bush there". getting rather animated about it. In the end I had to put them out of the misery and tell them that it was a Linnet.

Back at the Lark location there was still no sign of it so I would have to settle for my one set of views. As time was marching on I climbed back into the Gnome mobile and headed north back towards Oxford. It had been a very successful stop-off though with three hours of driving ahead of me still I needed to press on.

Portland, with the harbour, Weymouth, Wyke Regis and Chesil Beach in the background

I arrived back without incident into the bosom of my family at about 5pm for a most welcome cup of tea and a chance to catch up on the family news.

Friday 11th October: St Levan & Nanquidno

After yesterday's meagre returns I decided to adopt some different tactics today. In view of the continuing strong north-easterly winds I didn't bother with Pendeen this morning but instead decided to head off to the south coast which would hopefully be more sheltered. I therefore started at St Levan at the turning circle where I found someone staring intently at the trees. He'd found a Yellow-browed there yesterday evening though had seen little that morning apart from a few Redwings over. I joined him in his vigil but the area wasn't as sheltered as I'd hoped and the birding was difficult. After a while with nothing of note apart from some more Redwings over I decided to have a bit of an explore as this wasn't an area that I knew very well (apart from the Bonelli's site a few fields away which I felt I knew far too well!). I therefore took the footpath from the church over to Roskestal Farm though I had nothing to show for my efforts apart from a Fieldfare, a Dunnock and a few loafing gulls. On the way back I met Mark Wallace and we got to chatting. It turned out that he'd seen the American Goldie fly in off the sea at Porthgwarra about fifteen minutes before Ian and I picked it up at the Bonelli's site a few days ago. He'd not been absolutely certain of the ID so was interested to hear what we'd seen and heard. He'd seen very little this morning apart from a Yellow-browed at 60 Foot Cover - it was clearly going to be another tough day. After a while we went our separate ways, he to explore the fields whilst I headed back to the car.

Next stop was Nanquidno, which fortunately was at least fairly sheltered from the wind and here I did manage to see a few birds though they were few and far between. I even walked all the way over to Little Hendra and back though the only sightings of note were: one Blackcap, four fly-over Siskins, a fly-over heard-only Golden Plover and a Firecrest that someone else found and saw and that I only heard though it's slower, more deliberate call was noticeably different from the nearby Goldcrests. I did also get a very brief view of an interesting bird of prey that could have been a Hen Harrier though I didn't see it for long enough to be anywhere near certain. Interestingly, I later found out that someone else had seen a Hen Harrier in Kenidjack earlier that morning.

Juvenile Grey Wagtail at Nanquidno

By now it was lunchtime so I headed back to Pendeen, stopping at St Just to pick up a sandwich for lunch. Very little else was being reported on the grapevine or RBA so I more or less gave the rest of the day up as a bad job. With the winds forecast to continue for tomorrow as well I decided to spend the afternoon finishing off all the DIY tasks that I had and then to get ready to leave tomorrow morning rather than on Sunday as I'd originally planned. I thought that instead of slogging around some windswept and deserted valleys tomorrow here in Cornwall I could instead stop off somewhere on the way home where perhaps there might be more to see. Whilst doing my exterior painting work I got chatting to a decorator who was working on a neighbouring cottage. It turned out that he'd actually seen the Daurian Shrike down here a couple of days before it was officially discovered. He'd seen it perched by the roadside whilst working down at Pendeen and knew enough about birds to realise that it was something very much out of the ordinary (he even described it pretty well). When suddenly a whole bunch of birders started appearing down there he realised what he'd seen. Interesting!

I duly finished off my painting work, had a brief nap and then went into PZ to get some food for this evening's dinner and to fill the car up for tomorrow's journey home. After eating I packed up the cottage as much as I could so that I could get an early start the next morning.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Thursday 10th October: Pendeen & Porthcurno

As forecast the north westerly winds were swinging around to north easterly this morning, but unlike the forecast, they were stronger than predicted. This  prompted me to try my arm at a Pendeen sea watch despite the fact that the wind was too far east really. I arrived to find two groups already installed underneath the lighthouse but they'd not had much go by so far. The trouble with winds that are too northerly is that there is no shelter at Pendeen - it's full into you which isn't so nice. That would have been ok had there been something to watch but if truth be told it was a lacklustre session with very little of note. One of the two parties seemed to be spotting some stuff but as they were downwind of the rest of us and didn't seem at all inclined to share what they were seeing it didn't really help much. In the end with an ominous looking squall looming up on the horizon I gave it up as a bad job and beat a hasty retreat back to the cottage.

After some coffee and toast and with the weather brightening again I decided to do the Pendeen rounds but there isn't much shelter with the winds in this direction and the whole area was virtually birdless with one Wheatear, two Swallows (the first I've seen down here this week) and two Ravens the only noteworthy sightings - even the Snow Bunting had departed. With very little coming through on RBA I decided to crack on with some DIY on the exterior of the house, fortunately on the sheltered side from the wind so that it the sunshine it was actually very warm and pleasant. I had lunch outside in a sheltered spot and enjoyed the sunshine some more - it really was a bit of a sun trap out of the wind.

In terms of my afternoon birding outing I had hoped that something would come up on RBA or from other birders that would dictate what to do but in the absence of anything tempting I decided to head down to the south coast where I hoped it would be more sheltered. Just to do something a bit different I chose to go to Porthcurno - not somewhere that I've birded before. En route I popped into Pendeen churchard where I met up with regular Cornish visiting birder Dave (I can't remember his surname) and his wife though even the combined efforts of the three of us couldn't turn up anything at all. I did notice lots of Red Admirals about there, and in fact everywhere today, presumably pushed south by the winds.

There was a bit of a mini Red Admiral invasion today

At Porthcurno I had a good wander around there but it was virtually birdless: a few tits, a wren and a robin were about my only sightings. I decided to head over to the café there only to discover that it was closed. I started to drive home, checking out the Polgigga sports pitch en route - three Buzzards, all looking rather ungainly on the ground, and a single Wheatear. The Apple Tree Café at Trevescan was also closed so I decided to have something at home instead. On the way I picked up a Belgian lady hitchhiker who was stranded at Sennen with no further buses to take her back home. It turned out that she was staying in Pendeen so she was very pleased to get all the way back so quickly. We talked about Cornwall and how much she loved the scenery here in Penwith, much better than further north at Tintagel where she'd visited previously. I could only agree with her on that point - it's easy to get rather blasé about it all but the scenery is indeeed stunning here.

Back home at the cottage I had a cup of tea, did a couple of small DIY tasks and then had a quick nap before dinner. I have found in the past that when the winds get up the birding can often be difficult here in Cornwall though quite a few Yellow-browed sightings came through on RBA later on so other people seemed at least to be seeing something. I may need a change of tactics tomorrow if the forecast for strengthening north-easterlies proves correct otherwise I can see myself getting rather fed up slogging around for little reward..

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Wednesday 9th October: Pendeen, Hayle & Moth Twitching

I was up with the lark this morning. In fact I woke up ridiculously early again. I sometimes get into a cycle of waking up far earlier than necessary (often when there's some exciting birding to be done) and it then takes a while before my system gets back to normal. Anyway, I did the usual rounds of Pendeen, today in the company of Ian Kendall. With the wind having increased and shifted to north westerly it was noticeably quieter with hardly any birds to be found at all though the Snow Bunting was still on its favourite bitnof path and there were three Wheatears and a Raven knocking about. Even the Meadow Pipits seemed to have buggered off - it was all rather bleak if truth be told. 

After breakfast it was once more off to Hayle estuary to try for the Osprey yet again. I'd been told that mornings were generally much better so today I made sure that I arrived in good time and sure enough within about half an hour the Osprey duly arrived and spent the next half an hour hunting the length and breadth of the estuary - the tide had just turned from high so there was lots of water. It was great to be able to watch it hunting in the bright sunshine. Also present on the estuary were a couple of Med Gulls, the dark-bellied Brent Goose, 2 Greenshank new in and a female Pintail. The Stilt was apparently still there on Ryan's Field though I didn't bother to go and take a look. Whilst there I bumped into the "Paranoid Birder" from Oxfordshire, down for a few days with Mrs. Paranoid - it's a small world!

I even managed a photo of the Osprey with my Superzoom camera

An obliging Hayle Curlew

After finally having got my Cornish Osprey tick I went back to the cottage for a celebratory cup of tea and to check out the moth trap though apart from a couple of interesting micros that I still need to ID there was nothing of note.

Next on the agenda were some Hawk Moths: RBA had reported that a couple of Death's Head Hawk Moths had been trapped in Cot overnight and were on display there. John Swann had also texted to say that he'd caught a Convulvulous Hawk Moth and that he would keep it so that I could take a look. With nothing else to tempt me I thought that I would take the opportunity to lose my moth twitching virginity. Thankfully as I was driving into Cot I met up with Phil and Hiliary who told me where the moths were as otherwise I would never have found it. Whilst wandering around looking for the right location I heard a "buzzy" pipit call as it flew overhead - it was either a Tree Pipit or an Olive-backed though I never saw it. Using the guiding principle of it's more likely to be a Tree in September and an Olive-backed in October, it was certainly interesting though I guess that we'll never know. Anyway, the moths were awesomely huge - far larger than I was expecting. I'd heard that Death's Head Hawk Moths sqweaked if you prodded them so I had a go and indeed it did! They'd also caught a Convulvulous which they'd put on a wall near by so I took a look at that too.

This picture doesn't convey just how massive a beast it was...

...and the Convulvulous was pretty big too

With my first moth twitch under my belt it was back to St Just to pick up some lunch, a quick wander down Kenidjack as far as the water treatment works whilst I ate it (I didn't see anything at all) and then back towards Pendeen. I stopped off at John Swann's house to have a quick cup of tea and a natter and to check out his Convulvulous Hawk Moth - I really was being spoilt on the Hawk Moth front today!

 John reckons that both today's Convulvulous were females - the males are more richly marked.

Then it was back to Pendeen, stopping off to check out the Calartha Farm copse which had quite a lot of birds in it today though nothing of note. The afternoon I spent in doing some DIY and then I wandered down to the lighthouse for an hour's seawatching though I only had a single Balearic to show for my efforts.

With the forecast for more notherly winds over the next few days I'm wondering what affect this will have on the birding. It can be rather bleak and depressing when it's very windy - all the birds hunker down or just bugger off altogether. Ian K was saying that in the past he's found that Yellow-browed numbers actually go up with northerly winds and there did seem to be a flurry of reports on RBA this afternoon. We shall see. I may try some more sea watching tomorrow morning if there's nothing else of note to tempt me.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Tuesday 8th October: St Levan & Hayle

I was up and about at first light this morning as I wanted to do a quick tour of Pendeen before heading out. As I mentioned in yesterday's blog posting, neither I nor Jackie had felt that we'd got good enough views to tick the St Levan Western Bonelli's Warbler yesterday so we had agreed to meet up at the car park at around 8am today for another crack at it. Before leaving for that rendezvous I had quick yomp down to Boat Cove where the female Snow Bunting was still quietly pecking away on the path. There was also a single Wheatear nearby but little else of note. I had a quick thirty second scan of the Shrike area but couldn't see it though I didn't have enough time to search for it thoroughly. After that it was off to St Levan to meet up with Ian and Jackie.

 St Levan Church - the rendezvous for Operation Bonelli's - Day Three

We were the only people in the car park when we arrived and with the sun coming out we were feeling cautiously optimistic as we headed along the path towards the Bonelli's favoured area. As we were nearing the site Ian and I heard a wader calling in flight overhead. Ian initially managed to pick it out and track it, remarking on how long-winged it looked. I eventually managed to get on it as well and it was clearly a Golden Plover species. The call was a very distinctive di-syllabic one, reminiscent of a Spotted Redshank. That, combined with the extremly long-winged look to it meant that both Ian and I were confident in ID'ing it as an American Golden Plover. We watched it as it flew away towards Porthgwarra.

At the warbler spot, we managed to get quick glimpses of what was probably the bird almost immediately though after that it went a bit quiet. Yesterday at the end it had been Ian who had got by far the most views of the bird so I'd mentally made a note to stick close to him today and for about an hour or so this I duly did though we didn't manage to see anything at all. Eventually I started to get restless and wandered off a bit only for Ian to call out that he had the bird whilst viewing from the other (west) side of the stream. He managed some great views of it though it of course disappeared before Jackie and I could get over to him. However on this other side we had a fresh perspective as well as having the sun behind us and shortly afterwards the bird showed fleetingly at the end of the sallows before it flew back on itself into one of the larger trees there. I'd managed to see it but Jackie still hadn't managed a tickable view. We then lost track of it for a while and got sidetracked by some movement a bit further away. Whilst waiting for it to reappear we heard the AGP again but couldn't see it this time. Eventually we heard the Bonelli's calling repeatedly where we'd last seen it. Ian of course managed to get some excellent views but both Jackie and I were once more looking somewhere else. We hurried back to where Ian was but predictably it had popped down again. After an agonising wait it started moving near the top of the tree where we could all get on to it and then it came out and revealed itself in all its glory for about a minute or so so that both Jackie and I could get our fill. It was such a relief to all three of us that we indulged in a celebratory group hug. I totted it up and realised that I'd spent seven and a half hours trying to get a decent view of it so the sense of relief at finally having seen it was tremendous. I really felt that I'd earned that tick!

Back at the car park I had a quick look around the turning circle but there was little of note so I decided to head back home. En route I stopped off at Polgigga sports field (30 Pied Wagtails), the Sennen School Quarry (one Chiffy), Pendeen Stores copse (nothing) and Calartha copse (also nothing). I spent ten minutes looking for the Shrike but still couldn't find it so it looks like it had finally left. I did manage to see a single Whinchat and a Raven for my troubles though. After that it was time to empty the moth trap. The weather hadn't been that great during the night and there were only a few moths in the trap with a Delicate being the pick of the bunch. I then had some lunch, followed by a nap to catch up on some sleep.

 The aptly named Delicate

So far on the trip down I'd only been birding so I felt that it was about time that I started earning my keep. Accordingly I got out the DIY stuff and started to work on one of the outside walls that needed painting. The filler that I'd put in previously had all been washed away so I used some Extreme Exterior Caulking instead which seemed to do the job nicely. A cup of tea and a scone as reward for my work and then it was time to head out again. 

I still hadn't caught up with the Hayle Osprey so I thought that I'd give it another go as the tide would now be quite high though the weather was very "drear" as the Scots would say. At the causeway I met up with Phil and Hiliary and we passed the time catching up on news and chatting. Needless to say the Osprey never showed and there was no sign of the Lesser Yellowlegs either so it looks like that has moved on. We did get very nice views of the Black-winged Stilt and at the end when I was the last person left by the bridge it came very close - a gorgeous looking bird even in the half-light of dusk.

The lovely Black-winged Stilt

After that it was back home to the cottage to sort out some food and set up the moth trap for the night. It had been another successful day with a nice Bonell's sighting as a reward for a lot of hard graft and a bonus American Golden Plover to boot. I wonder what tomorrow will bring.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Monday 7th October: Pendeen, Hayle & St Levan

Today dawned reasonably pleasant on the weather front with only a gentle breeze and sunny internvals. I decided to get out and do the Pendeen rounds as soon as it was light but was beaten to it by Ian K and Paul BT who had more or less finished by the time I was out. The wonderful Daurian Shrike was still about and a steady passage of birders came and went throughout the morning. I managed to get down to see the Snow Bunting this morning just above Boat Cove which showed down to a few feet in the morning light. I also took a little wander along the southern coast path just down to where the stream crosses the path and on the way managed to get nice views of a Wryneck for a couple of minutes. I even managed a crappy record shot. I was back home for breakfast when Ian texted from up the road saying that he'd had a possible fly-over Serin headed down to the cottages so I went out to take a look but couldn't see or hear it. There was a single Wheatear knocking about and a couple of Ravens cronking around but that was it.

The Boat Cove Snow Bunting

Wryneck Record Shot

The Stonechat - the photographer's friend as they pose very nicely

I returned to the cottage to finish off breakfast and to sort through the moth trap. There were about 30 moths in total, most of them Feathered Ranunculus, but with a few Autumnal Rustics, Square-spot Rustic, Black Rustic, a couple of Rosy Rustics, a Dark Sword Grass, a Setaceous Hebrew Character, Angled Shades and a Feathered Brindle plus some other bits and bobs. Nothing out of the ordinary but it's always interesting to trap away from home to see what turns up.

Feathered Brindle - thanks to John Swann for confirming the ID

I was wondering what to do next when a message came through on RBA about the Lesser Yellowlegs still being at Hayle first thing that morning along with the Osprey. With nothing else to tempt me I thought that I'd go to take a look and have another attempt at getting Osprey on my Cornish list. The tide was right out by the time I arrived and many of the birds were rather distant. There were two Med. Gulls and the dark-bellied Brent Goose still though no sign of either the Stilt or the 'Legs. Over on Ryan's Field there were a couple of Ruff and a Knot along with the usual suspects. There was of course no sign of the Osprey and I realised that high tide was probably going to be much better for seeing it as well as all the wading birds so I made a mental note to come back in the evening.

Hayle Med Gull

On the way back to Pendeen I stopped off to check out the churchyard (nothing), the copse by Boscaswell Stores (a Spotted Flycatcher) and the Calartha Farm copse (a probably male Pied Flycatcher). The latter bird was only "probable" because at that moment the Bonelli's warbler came up on the pager as showing again so I decided to give up on trying to nail down the Flycatcher and instead to head back to St Levan for another crack at the Bonelli's.

 Pendeen Stores Spotted Flycatcher

The journey down to St Levan was even more tortuous than usual: I got stuck behind a huge coach which had great difficulty down the narrow roads and then had to wait five minutes whilst an entire herd of cows crossed the road for milking. Eventually I arrived and hurried back to "the spot". It turned out that it had been seen a couple of times but nothing within the last hour. With nothing better to do I was happy to spend some time on staking out the bird and settled down for a long vigil. Gradually others arrived including Ian K & Jackie, John Swann and Lewis Thomson. After a while I managed the briefest of views of something which flitted down into a clear area and then straight back up again. It was the right size, shape and jizz but not enough to be certain of it at all and nobody else saw it. As time wore on with no further sightings gradually people started to leave and eventually there were just a few of us left. Finally between us we managed some more views - some people got enough to be happy with whereas I got the most fleeting of flight views which others assured me was the bird. Not really satisfactory as far as I'm concerned so I may well have to return a third time. This bird is proving to be a bit of a bastard. Grrrr!

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Sunday 6th October - Back at Last!

It's been far too long since I was last down in my beloved Cornwall. We've been rather busy en famille with our two daughters both taking important exams this summer and then we stupidly forgot to reserve the cottage for ourselves so that it ended up being booked solidly right through the summer holiday period. This was great on one level, but not very useful from the point of view of being able to come down ourselves. Anyway, we've resolved not to make the same mistake again next year. At least I did remember to book the cottage in October for the all-important peak birding season. So I'm back down for about a week and without the family. Of course I'll miss them greatly though it does leave me free for unimpeded birding so I'll be too busy to miss them much! My brother-in-law is planning on coming down for a few days at some point in the week to help with a few minor tasks around the cottage so I will have some company for some of the time.

I had been humming and hawing about when exactly to come dowm but when the wonderful Daurian Shrike turned up at Pendeen it was sufficiently tempting to push me into action. I had originally intended to come down on Saturday but I don't generally like travelling down on that day because of the traffic and I also had a couple of social events to go to that day so I decided to head down first thing on Sunday morning instead.

As usual I looked around to see if there was anything of interest en route to stop off for. A Radde's Warbler in Devon caught my eye though from reports it seemed rather elusive and I wouldn't have time to hang around staking it out so in the end I opted for a Red-breasted Flycatcher at Wyke Regis, near Weymouth which seemed to be showing really well. I set off at around 8:30am and by this time both the Pendeen Shrike and the Flycatcher had been reported as still present so it was a relatively stress-free drive down to Dorset.

I'd been to Wyke Regis once before for a Hume's Warbler on the way back from Cornwall but that had involved a bit of a walk from the main road. The Flycatcher on the other hand could be viewed from the road itself and it was literally a 20 yard stroll from where I parked to the twitch line. There were initially only about ten people present but what seemed like a whole coach-load of birders suddenly turned up. It turned out that they were on some club birding outing and their noisy chatter and enthusiastic ignorance rather changed the atmosphere of what had previously been a rather sedate and peaceful twitch. Anyway, back to the bird -it turned out it was showing periodically on its favourtie branch of some ivy be-decked tree and a bit of patience was soon rewarded with some sightings though it was a good 75 yards away in dappled shade so the views weren't exactly crippling. There was also a nice Red-backed Shrike in the neighbouring hedge which I hadn't know about - a very nice bonus bird.

Little more than record shots of the Flycatcher sitting on it's favoured branch

A Bonus Red-backed Shrike

I wanted to be in Cornwall in good time so that I could go to the supermarket before Sunday closing and my detour via Weymouth had added a good bit of extra time to my journey so having seen both birds reasonably well I didn't hang around and after a quick cup of tea from the flask I headed off on the A35 towards Honiston and Exeter where I could rejoin the M5 and get back on the main route. I made good time and managed to arrive in Penzance just after 3pm. My first priority was to get some more fuel and to buy some food before the supermarkets closed (I'd been caught out with this on previous visits). After that I was free to get down to some birding.

A Lesser Yellowlegs at Hayle had come on the pager. I wasn't so interested in that as the Osprey whcih was also mentioned and which I still need for my fledgling Cornish list.  I therefore headed back the way I'd come to the Hayle estuary causeway. I parked up and immediately came across John Chapple and Kate Thornton by the causeway. They'd already done all the hard work for me and pointed out two Med Gulls, a dark-bellied Brent Goose, the long staying Black-winged Stilt though the Lesser 'legs had apparently flown over towards the far side so that one would need to view from the station. We managed to find at least one of the two Little Stints in amongst the wader flock and there was the usual supporting cast of Wigeon, Teal, Curlews, Geese and Godwits.. They hadn't seen the Osprey whilst they'd been there and I didn't really have time to go chasing after the Lesser Yellowlegs so after a short period I decided that I needed to go and pay homage to the Pendeen Shrike.

Some 20 minutes later I pulled up at Pendeen by the coastguard cottages where, judging by the number of cars parked up there, the Shrike was obviously still about. Indeed it didn't take too long before I was watching what turned out to be an absolutely stunningly beautiful adult male Daurian Shrike.It had a wonderful peachy wash over its white breast and underparts, a smart black eye mask and a strikingly rufous tail that really caught the afternoon's sunlight nicely. In fact I can honestly say that this was the most beautiful Shrikes of any species that I'd seen - it really was a special bird.

What a stunner! The Pendeen adult male Daurian Shrike

There was a supporting cast of several Stonechats, at least one Whinchat and plenty of Mipits buzzing around though there was no sign of the two Wrynecks that were supposed to be in attendance - I guess that there were too many people around. John Swann was there so we had a little chat and I caught up on some of the local news. Apparently a very confiding Snow Bunting was hanging out by Boat Cove and the long-staying Wryneck down by the lighthouse was still about. Apart from that there were a few Wrynecks and Yellow-browed Warblers in other locations. He also confirmed something that John Chapple had mentioned about a Bonelli's Warbler down towards the St Levan area which piqued my interest.

I was in two minds about going for it and had started to walk down to Boat Cover for the Bunting but when John later passed on a message saying that the Bonelli's was still about I decided to have a shot even though by now it was getting rather late. Thus I sped off in the Gnome-mobile along what were by now very familiar roads to me. I wasn't at all optimistic but at least it would be a reconaissance trip for tomorrow when I could come back if the bird was still about. At the site I met up with Ian Kendall and his partner, Tony Mills and Paul Bright Thompson. Paul was a Bershire birder who had found the Pendeen Shrike (& a Yellow-browed in Pendeen churchyard) and Ian I knew from last autumn when he'd found the Pendeen Olive-backed Pipit. I'd forgotten just how sociable birding down in Cornwall was in October - it was really nice all chatting away together. Anyway, things weren't looking good on the bird front - it hadn't been seen since about 4:30pm when it was briefly spotted by someone else - none of the people present had seen it. What's more it had got rather cloudy and it was starting to get foggy. We all started at the sallows intently but there was remarkably little movement of any kind. A water rail was squealing away in some nearby Phragmites but it was a fruitless effort. In the end it got too dark and we had to call it a day and headed off on our seperate ways.

I went back to the cottage to unpack my stuff, sort out some food and to set up my moth trap for the night. It had been a very enjoyable first day back down here with a nice tally of good birds already under my belt. Let's hope that something really stonking turns up this week (and that I get to see it of course!). It's good to be back!

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Saturday 6th April: Buttermilk Hill

Today it was a case of getting up early, finishing off packing and then head off back home. Of course typically today was by far the best weather of the week with lovely sunshine and for once very little wind. I have found that after a while the incessant wind does start to get to you and it was a relief finally to be out of it. We actually managed to stick to our plan reasonably well and left the cottage by nine a.m. I had managed to persuade the family to take the scenic route along the North coast and to allow me to stop off at Buttermilk Hill briefly to have a last try for a Ring Ouzel. It was a perfect morning and I would have loved to have had enough time really to explore properly but instead, with the others waiting back in the car I had to be quick. I yomped up to the saddle between the two hills and found the pond which I had been told was a good area to try. Sure enough there were four black thrushes loitering in the area but they turned out just to be Blackbirds. I went up to the summit and scanned the far side for movement but found nothing other than a few mipits. An impatient call on my mobile from my VLW told me that my time was up and I made my way back down to the car, reluctantly having to accept that I'd not managed to catch up with this species on this trip down. We made our way back to the A30 and after stopping off to buy lunch sandwiches at a convenient supermarket headed off north and back home. En route I got a text from Dave Parker telling me that there was a Ring Ouzel on Buttermilk hill late morning! I just laughed - clearly the birding gods didn't want me to see one on this trip and I just had to accept that. Oh well, they'll have to keep until another trip down here.

Reflecting on the trip on the way back home, it had been a rather low key affair from a birding perspective but then I'd been expecting that anyway: there'd not been much around to go for and the weather and the time of year combined to make it all rather quiet. I had in fact been extremely lucky to be around when the Garganey had turned up at Marazion: this species is quite hard to get in Cornwall (it was a tick for Cornwall visiting veterans "P&H" i.e. Phil Taylor and Hiliary Mitchell too) and it only stayed the one day so that had been a real piece of luck. The Brambling had also been a lovely bird to have around the cottage whilst we'd been decorating so there'd been some nice highlights to the trip. We'd not quite managed to finish all the exterior decorating so I should be back down fairly soon when there's some nice weather and the cottage is unoccupied. This should give me another chance to chase after Ring Ouzel which has now been promoted to the status of a Cornish bogey bird for me.

Bird of the Trip: the Marazion Garganey popped it's head up for all of five seconds 
whilst I was there. Fortunately I captured it on video, hence this rather crappy 
grab which at least allows you to see it's head properly.

Friday 5th April: Men-an-tol & Chyandour

Lots of decorating today but not much birding to report. My morning Pendeen rounds revealed little more than the two Ravens still hanging about. All of the morning and some of the afternoon was spent in finishing off the various outside decorating tasks that we had as this was to be our last full day down at the cottage. By mid afternoon this was all complete and it was time to head off for some non-decorating R&R. My VLW wanted to do a spot of shopping in PZ so I dropped her off and then Luke and I went back to Men-an-Tol to have another look for the Ring Ouzels. There'd been a "no sign" report first thing this morning but with little else around on the peninsula at present I thought that I might as well take a look. On the previous visit the two ploughed fields (the first two fields on the right as you walk up the track) had been full of birds with all the Wheatears and Thrushes on the first one and loads of Gulls on the second. However, today they were completely birdless. We walked up as far as the start of the moorland checking the fields on the left and right assiduously but the only bird that I saw was a single Golden Plover (presumably the same bird that I saw the other day). 

We went back to Penzance and as we had a bit of time left before our rendezvous with my VLW, Luke and I walked along the sea defences at Chyandour to look for the Black Redstart. There was no sign of it and the only things I could find were a couple of Turnstones on the rocks and five Common Scoter off-shore (two males and three females). We met up with my VLW and then went off for some tea and cake before heading home to pack, ready for leaving first thing tomorrow morning. That evening, to rub salt into my wounds, a tardy "still present" message came through for the Ouzel at Men-an-Tol for midday. I must admit that I do find that Ring Ouzels can be right little so and so's when it comes to twitching them - they seem to be very good at hiding!

Chyandour Turnstone

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Thursday 4th April: Pendeen & Men-an-Tol

It's been another quiet day today. The weather wasn't as nice as yesterday with lots more cloud and the wind was stronger and in a north-easterly direction, making some of the exterior decorating tasks rather tiresome. Lying in bed this morning with my tea and chatting to my VLW I managed to see the male Brambling out of the window - a nice start to the day though I only managed to photograph the back of his head. 

Dunnock and the back of the Brambling

My morning rounds found very little of note apart from the two Ravens again and the Sandwich Tern close in off the Watch. The wind was so strong down by the lighthouse that it was a struggle to even breath so I didn't linger at all. After that we pottered around the cottage doing various DIY tasks and I bumped into John Swann and a friend at the bottom of the garden. They came in to have a look for the Brambling but it's very elusive: despite being around the cottage most of the time I've only seen him for a couple of minutes each day. It turned out that it was they who'd reported the three Ring Ouzels at Men-an-Tol the previous day and as I still need it for my Cornish list I took careful note of where they'd seen it. They soon wandered off to look for the Black-necked Grebe from a couple of days ago at Portheras beach and I went back to my chores.

One of the Ravens being watched warily by a Crow

Late morning we needed to pop over to PZ to run some errands.We picked up a couple of pasties whilst we were there and went back via Madron and stopped off at Men-an-Tol. Given the wind, Luke and my VLW decided to stay in the car, eat their pasties and listen to the radio whilst I when on an Ouzel hunt. Despite carefully scouring all the fields I drew a blank. On the way back I found a field which had large numbers of Wheatears in as well as a single Golden Plover and in the distance I managed to spot a variety of Thrushes which looked promising: there was a single Song Thrush, four Fieldfares, a couple of Redwings, a pair of Blackbirds and a bird which flew directly away from me and down over a dip which migh have been an Ouzel though I couldn't be certain. Despite trying to view the field from all angles I couldn't relocate it and with my family in the car growing impatient I had to admit defeat. We headed back home to do a few more tasks and then wind down for the day.

Later that evening a single Ouzel was reported at Men-an-Tol on RBA so I may well have to make a return visit tomorrow.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Wednesday 3rd April: Pendeen

Today was a very quiet but productive day - in fact it was quiet throughout the county with little of note on the pager and even yesterday's Garganey had moved on. The weather was beautifully sunny and out of the keen wind it was even warm! Once more I had a lie in and then did my morning rounds about the cottage, this time in the company of Luke who wanted to get out for a walk. There were two Wheatears along the road to the lighthouse today and on the lighthouse itself I found a lovely female-type Black Redstart but apart from that there was little of note.

A record shot of the lighthouse Black Redstart

The entire day was spent in painting the outside of the building, at least until the wind strength got up to the point where it was no longer safe to balance precariously on a ladder and try and paint. One benefit of being outside all the time was that one could hear the local birds: 2 Ravens today and 3 Chough were the highlights. After a cup of tea with our neighbours we went for a walk down to Fisherman's Cove (though apparently it's actually called Boat Cove) where I found a lovely Sandwich Tern hunting just off shore. I had a go at photographing it with my Superzoom and whilst the results weren't great you can at least tell what it is!

Pendeen Sandwich Tern

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Monday 1st & Tuesday 2nd April: Pendeen & Marazion

Well, I'm back down in my beloved Cornwall for another visit, this time with my VLW and our six year old son Luke. We're down to do some exterior decorating on the cottage as well as sort out a few bits and pieces and also to enjoy our favourite county some more of course. The decorating we're doing because the quote that we got from our builder (the reason for the last visit) was so large that we thought that for that price we could do it ourselves. On the birding front, there didn't seem to be much about in the county of late and with the family in tow as well I wasn't expecting much birding action. Nevertheless there's always something to see and I was hoping that at least I might be able finally to catch up with a Ring Ouzel in the county if nothing else.

We had family over for the Easter weekend itself so it wasn't until Easter Monday that we were able to get away and because we'd not had time to prepare before hand it wasn't until after midday that we finally set off. The traffic was rather busy and at one point we even opted for a detour around Bath and Bristol as there were signs reporting jams on the start of the M5. Thus we didn't arrive until late afternoon, where after a brief stop for some essential provisions we headed straight for the cottage. As I was unpacking the car I was surprised to spot a smart finch hopping around in front of the terrace of cottages next to our place. Closer inspection revealed it to be a smart male Brambling nearly moulted into proper summer plumage - very nice! A stroll at dusk down to the lighthouse and I just managed to make out the distinctive tail of a Wheatear flying off into the darkness.

The next morning I made no attempt to get up early and go birding but instead opted for a bit of a lie in with a cup of tea chatting to my VLW. It was nice and sunny outside and forecast to stay like that all day - much needed after the depressing greyness that we've had for so long. After getting up I made a quick stroll around the cottage area and down to the lighthouse where I found three Wheatears hanging about near the road but little else. There was alas also no sign of the Brambling. Next it was on with the work: to start with we had some new garden furniture to assemble (the last metal set had rusted away within a year so we'd bought a hardwood set instead this time). Then it was time to get up on to the roof of the building to see how windy it was. Fortunately, despite the forecast it didn't seem too bad and certainly good enough to do some painting so I passed the next few hours hanging over the edge of our roof using a roller to paint the walls of the top of the central tower part. Given how exposed the whole place is I was using proper lighthouse paint which hopefully would stay on longer than the conventional paint had done. I kept my bins and camera with me the whole time in case I should hear something good but the only distractions were a couple of Ravens and a couple of Buzzards.

Always a sign that spring is finally on the way

By lunchtime I'd managed to put a first coat on all around the top of the building where the paint had been coming off. After a mercy dash to St Just to pick up some tin foil to wrap up my brushes (Pendeen stores had run out), we had lunch and then decided to head over to Penzance for some food shopping and to see if we could score a tea somewhere. We were just sitting in the Renaissance Café munching on a brownie where an RBA text came through reporting a Garganey at Marazion. My VLW agreed that we could head back home "via" Marazion and so we finished off our refreshments and headed off. There I found Phil and Hiliary at the viewing point admiring the sleeping duck. They've finally made the move down here full time and were enjoying their first full week as Cornish residents. We chatted for a while, saw the Bittern very briefly and then I had to head back to the family who were waiting in the car to go home.

 Garganey is a Cornish tick for me

Back home I went for a brief stroll down towards Portheras beach before dinner. A Black-necked Grebe had been reported there yesterday but although the tide was right in all I could find were a couple of Shags and a Guillemot. Whilst walking down I got a text from back home in Oxfordshire saying that a 1w Ring-billed Gull had been found in the Faarmoor roost by Nic Hallam. Whilst it's not that big a deal down here in Cornwall, back home that's a real county mega and I was suitably gripped off by this. I later found out that it had been seen briefly just by Nic and that two other county birders who were even already there at the reservoir didn't manage to see it before it flew off. So well and truly untwitchable and my emotional equilibrium was restored. 

As a nice bonus, at the end of the day the Brambling put in an appearance again and I was even able to take a few shots through the cottage window of it. A very nice end to what had turned out to be a nice albeit low key day.

 It's nice to see a Brambling more or less in full summer plumage

Friday, 1 March 2013

Tuesday 26th February: Homeward Bound

Today I was heading back home already, the end of an all too brief visit. Before I could leave though I had lots to do in the cottage first: some final finishing off of my touching up work and cleaning up after myself to a standard fit for our first guests in a couple of weeks time. Thus it wasn't until nearly midday that I finally left the cottage and headed on up the A30.

Of course I was going to stop off somewhere en route but given the lateness of my departure I opted for just one brief detour. I'd been given some details of where to look for the release scheme Cirl Buntings so decided to go and take a look. I'd been given a couple of locations to try but when I arrived at the first one I wasn't exactly sure where to go. I wandered around a bit and found a couple of bird feeders outside a house but they were empty - were they supposed to be the feeders that the Cirl would come to? I checked out a few nearby fields but there was nothing very promising and it was blowing a real gale so any sensible Bunting would be well hunkered down. I wandered back to where I'd parked. In a nearby thicket of bramble a few House Sparrows were chirping away noisily though they were impossible to see in the denseness of the cover. I wandered down a footpath a little and found a stubble field though its only occupants were half a dozen Skylarks. Defeated I headed back towards the car. I'd just got back to the bramble thicket when I spotted something moving on its edges: a Cirl Bunting! It crept deeper into the brambles before I could get my camera out but at least I'd had a reward for my efforts.

I went on to the second location which was in a little hamlet and had another wander around. There were plenty of Chaffinches around everywhere and some birds coming to some feeders but no sign of any Cirls. With time marching on, a sighting already in the bag and the first signs of a cold starting to take hold within me (I blame standing around on Rosenannon Downs for hours in the freezing cold!) I didn't linger but headed back home to Oxford, arriving early evening.

With no photo of the Cirl Bunting I offer instead some 
Hayle estuary Teal from yesterday

Looking back it had been quite a productive little visit despite the quietness of the time of year. That's the advantage of having a county list to work on: it gives you something to go for even when all is quiet. I'd managed to add four ticks to my list as well as the release scheme Cirl Bunting, namely: Green-winged Teal, Short-eared Owl, Yellow-legged Gull and Brambling. Of course after a while I'll have got all the easy Cornish ticks and it will become progressively harder to find stuff that I still need but for now it was keeping me happy. With spring now just around the corner I couldn't wait to come back down to my favourite part of the country.

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Monday 25th February: Hayle, Stithians & Marazion

As I was intending only to have one full day down in Cornwall before heading back home I knew that today was going to be a busy one! I had to do all my chores for the cottage, meet up with the builder to discuss some work and also try to cram in as much birding as possible into the one day. Accordingly, before it was light I was heading out the door and over towards Hayle where my first birds of the day were to be looked for. Just as I was leaving Pendeen heading for Penzance I spotted a lovely Barn Owl hunting by the chimney ruins - a very nice start to the day. The reason for my early start was that I wanted to look for Jack Snipe over at Copperhouse Creek and had been told that I had to get there before the dog walkers arrived. Fortunately the tide was in my favour and it was just about still covering the reedy east corner when I pulled up so there was no possibilty of any prior doggy intervention. I realised that I probably should have brought wellies rather than just my walking boots but it turned out that the mud was only an inch or two deep before one hit gravel so I was going to be all right, albeit rather muddy. I spent the next hour or so tramping around looking for that tell-tale underfoot flush but all the birds were Common Snipe that sped off before I got anywhere near them. Oh well, another time. The weather was actually really nice first thing with some sunshine and none of that biting north easterly wind that was so chilling. The estuary was full of the usual birds but a Greenshank caught my eye as being more noteworthy for this time of year. I had a quick look for the Water Pipit on the salt marsh on the other side of the road but couldn't see any sign of it. A calling Blackbird in Phillack was giving a reasonable impersonation of a Rosefinch which had me going enough to go and check just to be on the safe side. One's got to check these things out even if they usually end up being nothing. Oh well, on to the next location.

A Little Egret in the morning sunlight

Next stop was just around the corner at the Hayle estuary to look for some Yellow-legged Gulls. Now Cornish readers may not really be aware of this but back home in Oxford I'm known for being a bit of a gull addict and regularly spent my evenings checking out the gull roost on my local patch of Port Meadow, and delighting in picking out Caspian Gulls and Yellow-legged Gulls from the throng. In fact we had a real purple patch on the Meadow at the start of the month with two Glaucous Gulls, an Iceland Gull, countless Yellow-legged Gulls and four different Caspian Gulls all in the space of two weeks. Back in Cornwall there are not usually the same gulling opportunities. Sure there were Med Gulls to pick out from the Black-headed's but one was not faced with a flock of thousands to sift through like back home. Even here on the Hayle estuary there were probably only a couple of hundred gulls or so to look through. Yellow-legged Gull is much rarer down here than in Oxon where I can reasonably expect at least one in most evenings - in fact here it would be a Cornish tick for me. There were supposed to be two or three of them about at present: an adult, a third winter and a first winter. I parked up at the Jet Wash and set about scanning through the birds. By this time it was still sunny (a bad thing for gulls as it's hard to judge the mantle colours) and to make matters worse the tripod-shaking bitter wind was back. However with only relatively few birds about to search through it didn't take me too long to find at least the adult and the third winter. One fact which makes gulling easier down here in Cornwall is the absence of argentatus Herring Gulls. Back in Oxon we get a mix of both types and everything in between but here they are all pure "British" Herring Gulls and consequently much more uniform in appearance which makes something different much easier to pick out. The third winter was rather advanced with hardly any brown streaks left in it though the absence of almost any white apical marks in its long dark primaries was rather a give-away. The adult bird really stood out from the argenteus Herring Gulls as well with it's strikingly dark mantle and very long primaries though its legs only had a pale yellow hint to them at this time of year.

The adult bird

I next moved on to the river bridge to see what was about with four Grey Plover and a few Bar-tailed Godwits being the only waders of note. I could only spot three Mediterranean Gulls in amongst the smaller gulls (two adults and a first winter). As the light was still very good I spent a little time taking a few snaps with the Super-zoom camera. After that it was time to head back to the cottage to get on with my chores for the morning and to meet up with the builder.

Hayle Oystercatcher

I managed to get all my work at the cottage done fairly quickly and the meeting with the builder was surprisingly brief so I soon found myself with some free time on my hands. I therefore decided to head east to Stithians Reservoir to see if I could catch up with the Brambling that had been regularly visiting the feeders there for some time now. I arrived to find John St Ledger in the hide watching the feeders and I soon managed to add Brambling to my Cornish list. There were at least two birds coming regularly to the feeders or feeding on the ground below along with at least 30 Chaffinch, some House Sparrows, a few Reed Buntings and a very secretive Water Rail skulking around under the feeders that would scurry off at the slightest noise, so I wasn't able to get a photo of it at all. I munched on my packed lunch and enjoyed the coming and goings of all the birds for about an hour.

 Brambling is one of my favourite finches

After that I nipped over the road to check out the main reservoir where there was supposed to be a juvenile Long-tailed Duck about. In the hide I met Alex Mckechnie though he'd not see any sign of it. Back on the causeway road I found a couple of other birders who apparently had seen it briefly about twenty minutes ago with some Tufted Ducks though I couldn't find it at all. The biting wind was still making things difficult so I didn't stay too long before heading off for somewhere more sheltered.

Whilst I was in the neighbourhood I thought that I would drop in on the juvenile Whooper Swan which had been spending some time on Croft Pascoe after having originally been found on the Helston boating lake. Clearly lost it had decided to stick around at Croft Pascoe for a while where at least there was plenty for it to eat. It looked rather forlorn on its own - let's hope that it manages to find its way north to meet up with others of its own kind in the spring.

The lonely juvenile Whooper Swan

After that I wondered what to do next. I contemplated looking for the mixed Bunting flock (Lapland and Snow) on Treen Common but the prospect of spending more time out in the wind wasn't that appealing. Instead I opted for the shelter of Marazion where the sea was relatively and calm and I would be out of the wind. A scan of the bay to the west of the Mount found only a couple of Great Northern Divers so I moved to Marazion itself and found a nice little viewing spot in the form of a tiny public garden right next to the Godolphin Hotel that allowed me to view the bay to the east of the Mount. To start with there was a large flock of waders directly below me all seeking shelter from the high tide and gorging themselves on the invertebrates in the exposed sea weed that had been washed up against the wall. There must have been at least 50 Sanderling, 30 Turnstone and about 20 Dunlin as well as a Rock Pipit and a single Knot. It was a delight to watch the birds scampering about at such close quarters. Out in the bay a couple of huge rafts of roosting gulls were assembling: the big gulls were way over in the distance but close by was the small gull roost and in amongst the hoard of at least a thousand Black-headed Gulls I found twelve Med. Gulls (ten adults, a second winter and a first winter). I had been hoping for some Black or Red-throated Divers but there were none to be seen. 

After a while it started to get dark so I headed back to the cottage for something to eat and to get on with my evening chores. It had been an enjoyable if rather low-key day's birding.