Saturday, 25 October 2014

Saturday 25th October: Porthgwarra & Penzance

As I foretold in my last post, I'm back down again for half term week, this time en famille (though actually our two daughters are away up north so it's just my VLW and our eight year old son). This of course does rather cramp my birding style though as I'd already had a fair crack of the whip two weeks ago I decided that I was going to try not to cause too much family tension by running off pour chercher les oiseaux all the time. Therefore I've mentally prepared myself not to push it (unless of course it's something really good!) but instead to go with the family flow.

That was the plan anyway but then of course the Yellow-billed Cuckoo turned up at Porthgwarra. This species is well know for not surviving very long (poisoned by our caterpillars apparently) so it was always going to be a long shot to try and see it. It was found on Thursday and showed really well on Friday thus dangling the carrot of hope in front of me. I persuaded the family that rather than going down on Saturday as orignally planned, perhaps we should brave the Friday night start-of-half-term traffic maelstrom to get there a day early so this is what we did. Of course it turned out to be the nightmare journey that one should expect though at least there was no actually stationary traffic on the M5. Exhausted, we finally arrived at the cottage at around midnight, unpacked and crashed into our beds.

I of course had a dawn start ahead of me so it was all too soon that I was awake again and out of the door leaving my VLW slumbering in her bed. I arrived at PG at around 8am and started walking up towards to phalanx of twitchers that I could see by the dried up pool in the half light. Whom should I meed just past the Coastguards but a selection of Oxon's finest birders down for the Cuckoo. It was good to see them and we wandered over to the twitch line hoping against hope that the Cuckoo had somehow survived another day.
Me with the Oxon Posse
The bird had been first seen yesterday at around 9am so we weren't too bothered initially and passed the time watching the various flocks of Golden Plover zoom around overhead. There were also a few Skylarks going over as well as a couple of Reed Buntings. As time marched on past 9am people started to get restless including myself. I wandered about and bumped into Lewis Thompson, back down again for a long weekend. Whilst we were nattering we watched as some birders started to get more adventurous and moving closer to the general twitch area, walking some of the closer footpaths to see if they could stir things into action. Finally LGRE entered the sallows where apparently it had gone to roost to see if he could find the body but he came up empty handed. After that the crowd soon started to disperse.

I decided to walk back to the car along the nearer footpath and as I did so I met Lee walking the other way who reported that there was a Dartford Warbler up ahead in the gorse. That was at least some consolation so I hurried over to take a look and sure enough there it was, hanging out with a couple of Stonechats. Now this is actually a pretty good bird for PG as they no longer breed there so probably just an overwintering bird. I watched it briefly but then conscious of time marching on I headed back to the car and home to the family.

You know a twitch isn't going well when the only photo is of a bare piece of moorland!
Having spent a good part of the morning out birding I decided that I couldn't really do any more for the day - even when a Red-breasted Flycatcher (which you may recall I still need for the county) was reported at Nanquidno I remained unmoved. So instead we passed the time pottering about the cottage, making an inventory of what needed to be done whilst we were down there (it's never just a holiday when we're here). Then, after a brief nap to catch up on sleep, it was off into Penzance to do a spot of food shopping and to nip into B&Q. Of course whilst we were there I had to have a quick look to see if the Rose-coloured Starling was still around and I soon picked him out from his darker cousins.

The Penzance Rose-colooured Starling on its favourite wires
Whilst out and about I was of course getting RBA text updates - there were far more than usual as all the Cuckoo twitchers started to work their way back home and all the local rarities were reported numerous times during the day. I was pleased to hear that the Oxon contingent caught up with the Flycatcher as well as the Drift Ring-neck and the Hayle Yellowlegs - some consolation at least for their long overnight journey down. For myself meanwhile it was back to the cottage with the family for dinner and a chilled evening doing nothing.

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