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