Saturday, 17 October 2015

Trip Round-up

Looking back on my trip it's been a good one for me. These autumn trips to Cornwall can sometimes be a bit hit and miss if the weather is wrong but there was enough around this week to keep me fully occupied and there weren't those constant south westerlies blowing that can rather kill everything off. Of course it seemed that north Norfolk really got the birds this week but still I'm happy enough.

One of the things that I most enjoyed about this week was working the Pendeen patch with Ian Kendall. It's not an easy place to bird as there's not much obvious cover and it's nice to bird it with someone who shares my obsession with the place. Also birding with someone who's such a good birder as Ian compared to my relatively modest abilities was a real privilege. Chasing down every "chack" or "tack" meant that one was always kept alert and vigilant and his hearing is phenomenal so all in all a real learning experience.

In terms of listing I managed to add five Cornish ticks which was great, especially finally catching up with my Ring Ouzel bogey bird.  This was even better than the four tick haul from my spring trip here this year. The only disappointments were not seeing the Cot Rosefinch and also missing the Cackling Goose on the way home.

Back of the Camera shot of the Land's End Dusky Warbler taken by the finder Lewis Thomson (c) (Twitter: @LT_FoD)

So onto some summary lists

Headline Birds
Alpine Swift (Cornish tick)
Pallas's Warbler (Cornish tick - jointly self-found)
Dusky Warbler (Cornish tick)
Umpteen Yellow-browed Warblers

Supporting Cast
Snow Bunting
Dartford Warbler
Ring Ouzel (Cornish tick)
Crossbills (Cornish tick)
Short-eared Owl
possible Lapland Bunting

As I've hinted, I'm due back in about a week's time for the annual autumn half term break though that will be with my family and will involve some actual work renovating the cottage so I don't know how much birding I'll get done. We shall see.

I'll leave you with an Autumnal Rustic - the mothing was rather lack lustre this time round with poor catches of just the usual suspects

Friday 16th October: Pendeen & Exmouth

It was time to go home today. as our younger daughter was going to a University open day the next day and I had to be back home to look after our son. My early waking got ridiculous this morning (or more like the middle of the night) so in the end I got up and knocked back some alcohol which knocked me out enough to doze fitfully. I got up at around 6:30, had a quick cup of tea and check of the CBWPS site (nothing that I needed to chase after) then it was a quick shower and time to pack up the cottage. Fortunately as it was just me and as we (i.e. the family and myself) would all be coming back in a little over a week's time, there wasn't too much that I needed to do. In fact I'd done most of it by the time I saw Ian Kendall's car arrive down in the lighthouse car park, today with Jacquie and Flint as well. I hurried to meet them and we started to do the rounds. It was clear that there wasn't much movement about today: there was very little going overhead and hardly any birds on the ground either. We spent 10 minutes listening closely to a "tack" that we just couldn't locate which turned out to be the Tamerisk! A Golden Plover flew by calling and a Raven cronked overhead but that was about it. I couldn't stay for the full tour and soon left to complete the packing and to head on out. Just as I was finishing things off I spotted a Short-eared Owl flying in off the sea past the cottage, a nice Patch tick to end my stay.


The reason for my wanting a prompt departure from the cottage was that I wanted to stop off at Exmouth to try and see the Cackling Goose. You may remember that I made an abortive attempt on the way down but renewed news of the Alpine Swift had taken precedence. Ian had stopped off for it on the way down himself without success so it was by no means easy and over the last couple of days reports of it had become intermittent. Part of the issue of the timing was to do with the state of the tides. Once it goes too far out the birds are so distant that they can't be seen at all.

I wanted to get there for eleven but in the end it was midday by the time I arrived. I spotted someone in the car park scoping away and hurried over to him, hoping that he'd be able to show me the Goose but sadly neither he nor anyone else there (there were quite a few birders further up on the point) had seen it at all. I more or less knew then that I was going to dip it but I thought that I'd have a quick scan through anyway. At the very least it was breaking up the long journey home and to be honest it was nice just to see so many birds all on show. I realised that most of my birding this week had been peering through dense vegetation for brief glimpses of things so to see thousands of birds out in the open like this was a nice change! There must have been several thousand Brent Geese out there to look through along with Wigeon, Shelduck, Pintail, Oystercatcher and Curlews. I'd like to say that against the odds I managed to pull it out of the bag but the truth was that I'd arrived a bit late as it was and the birds were getting more and more distant and some were starting to fly off somewhere else. One of the locals said that in a few weeks they would finish feeding on the Eel Grass and instead go and feed on the grass by Dart Farm so it might be easier at that point should it hang around.

The vast hoards of Brent Geese on the Exmouth estuary
After a while I went back to the car to have my packed lunch and then headed off home. The rest of the journey was uneventful though as I was so tired I had to be extra vigilant. I arrived home safely back into the bosom of my family at around 4 p.m. ready for a welcome cup of tea.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Thursday 15th October: Pendeen, Land's End, Treeve Moor & Cot

Today was a very full day's birding. It started in the same way as previous days with me waking up far too early and then rendezvousing with Ian Kendall in the lighthouse carpark. Today Jacquie had decided not to join us as apparently she finds Pendeen rather hard going (as do Ian and I actually!). It felt "rare" today: the wind had dropped and the visibility was good and Chaffinches were going over in reasonable numbers first thing. However as we progressed around the Patch we found that reality wasn't living up to expectation. There were 3 Ravens and 1 Chough today and a large flock of 50+ Goldfinches that were clearly new in. However, the valley and scrub area held virtually nothing at all to speak of and the bird of the morning was a Redwing! We decided to do the full Manor Farm loop today and had just got as far as the track to the farm itself when news broke of a Dusky Warbler at Land's End in the infamous Sallows south of the car park, found by bird-finding wizard Lewis Thompson. This was something that I still needed for Cornwall so I knew that several hours of probably fruitless staring at the really dense and impenetrable Sallows of Land's End were to follow. However, I decided not to rush off but instead completed the rounds with Ian though we didn't turn up anything else at all. Then it was back to the cottage to knock up a packed lunch and some snacks and then head off to Land's End.

This Chough has developed a liking for the horse paddock field at Pendeen

There had been no further reports of the Dusky Warbler since the initial one at 8:40, and when I arrived some two hours later people were starting to leave though there were still about a dozen or so birders (no locals, all visitors) standing around and staring glumly at the Sallows. I duly went and spent about and hour and a half of my life that I'm never get back doing the same before deciding that it wasn't really worth it and after a quick pop into the Complex to see the Rosy Starling once again, I headed back towards Trevescan where I'd parked the car.

You can't ask for better views of a Rose-coloured Starling

Whilst not seeing the Warbler I'd exchanged some texts with P&H about teaming up to go and search for five Woodlarks that had been found in the fields between Cot and Little Hendra yesterday. I had an hour and a half until our agreed meeting time and was just wondering what to do when I spotted Dave Chown and his partner wandering up the path from Treeve Moor. I went to chat to them to see what they'd seen and it turned out that they'd found a couple of Ring Ouzels, one of which had been in the Treeve Moor Gorse field right next to us. After getting some details I decided that this would be an excellent way to pass the time, namely grappling with my arch nemesis and Cornish Bogey Bird once again.

I entered the Gorse Field and started wandering about, fully expecting to see the Rouzel almost immediately and was somewhat disappointed when I got to the top of the field without any luck. I was just wondering what to do when I heard clearly and loudly a single call from a "rare pipit". Now my hearing as I've said previously isn't what it used to be but this was quite clear though I never saw it and it never called again. Very frustrating! Anyway, back to the Ouzel and I made another pass through the field with no luck and then tried the next field which had nice tussocky grass that looked very Pipity. I temporarily diverted from my Ouzel quest to wander the entire length of this field in case I could turn up my Pipit but a single Mipit was all I found. I tried both fields a couple more times but didn't see anything apart from a Robin, a Stonechat and a Blackbird. Time was marching on and I had to get to Cot for my rendezvous with P&H. I was heading dejectedly back towards the path when I heard a loud chacking and a Ring Ouzel flew out of the hedge towards the house, resplendent in it's silvery wings and scaley belly feathers. It landed in a bush next to the house and then a few moments later treated me to another fly-past as it went back to the hedge it had come from. At last my arch nemesis brought down! There was no time to savour it though as I was now running late. I hurried back to the car and headed off to Cot where I arrived just in time to meet up with the other two.

I was greeted by a calling Yellow-browed as I got out of the car, always a pleasure to hear! P&H were in a relaxed mood as we headed up the hill past the hostel and out onto the road towards Little Hendra. The Woodlarks had been described as being in a bulb field though it turned out that all the fields along the road were bulb fields. We wandered about and manage to unearth several Wheatears and Mipits, a Green Woodpecker and I spotted a large Thrush that was almost certainly the Mistle Thrush that had been reported there previously. We got to Little Hendra without any success and were just contemplating whether to have a stomp around there when Phil got a Tweet on his phone about a Blyth's Reed Warbler at Cape Cornwall "in the hostel garden tho elusive". Weird! The only hostel around here was at Cot, did they mean that? Anyway, we hurried back towards Cot, picking up another birder along the way. There was no sign of any birders at the hostel. We piled into P&H's car and sped off to Cape Cornwall but there was no hostel-type place there at all nor any other birders. We all started making phone calls to see if anyone else knew anything about this but no one was any the wiser so we went back to Cot again to have another look around. Still no luck there though there were now a few more people hanging around the hostel wondering what was going on. Eventually someone worked out that it was actually Cape Clear not Cornwall that had been meant as there was indeed a Blyth's Reed Warbler there. How we howled! Actually we smiled wryly and remarked that it had at least passed some time on a slow afternoon.We parted company at this point, with P&H going to head back home via Land's End to see if they could re-find the Dusky Warbler now that it was getting late and I decided to head back to Pendeen.

Viper's Bugloss up by Little Hendra

At Pendeen I decided to stop in at Calartha copse to see what was about. I soon re-found the Yellow-browed Warbler, the Willow Warbler and the Chiffchaff as well as several Goldcrests and a large number of Goldfinches (perhaps the flock from down the valley this morning). I was starting to feel tired and was just wondering about heading back to the cottage when I got a text from P&H saying that the Dusky Warbler had been re-located much further down the path at Land's End. Now I've been in this situation before when you're shattered and just about to hang up the bins for the day when news breaks and you have to pump yourself up again for another sortie. This was such an occasion and I didn't waste any time but got back into the car and sped back off towards Land's End.

Fortunately the car park attendent had gone home for the evening so I parked in the complex car park and hurried back down the path towards the bushes that back on to Swingates. There I found P&H and a few other birders all staring very intently at some bushes a few yards away. The bird had apparently been calling regularly and showing occasionally. Indeed soon after I got there I heard it "chack"' several times and had a brief view of something move in the undergrowth really low down though frustratingly not an actual sighting. I must admit it was most exciting: time was clearly running out as it was starting to get dark and here was the bird no more than a few yards away but skulking away so deeply in the undergrowth that all one got was the occasional glimpse of some vegetation moving. Thankfully there wasn't a breath of wind now so you could see every movement and hear every "chack". P&H had had reasonable views and as things started to quietened down they and a few others birders decided to leave so in the end there were just three of us left. Whilst I'd now heard the bird clearly I hadn't yet seen it and was starting to fret that I might have to come back first thing tomorrow to get a decent view as it had now gone really quiet. Then we heard it further up the path and it appeared to be on the move again. For a moment we were distracted when a Blackcap started to chack animatedly back in the other direction but one of the birders still left could tell the difference and identified it for what it was. In fact even I could tell the difference when I listened carefully: the Dusky Chack was a richer and more complex sound than the simple rather plain call of the Blackcap. Anyway, now that the Dusky was on the move suddenly it started to give some decent views, generally keeping low down but occasionally making a flycatching spurt up into the air. At one stage it came out and actually sat motionless for several seconds so I could really take it all in - it was a cracking looking bird, with really dusky underparts and a certain amount of apricot wash to the under tail covert's though it's plain facial markings clearly marked it out as a Dusky and not a Radde's. Well satisfied with my views but now very tired I made my way back to the car and drove back to Pendeen reflecting on what had turned out to be a most successful day. Despite the lack of action on the Patch I'd been led on a wild Blyth's Reed chase, had seen a couple of Yellow-browed Warblers, had had a last gasp dash back to Land's End and an exciting wait before getting some cripplingly close views of a Dusky Warbler.  What's more I had managed to garner two Cornish ticks to add to my (rather modest) county tally. It had been a good day!

I took this Stonechat at Land's End in the morning when there was no sign of the Dusky Warbler

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Wednesday 14th October: Pendeen, Cot & Nanquidno

As usual I awoke far too early but I've decided just to go to bed earlier whilst I'm here so I'm not suffering too much from the lack of sleep. The weather seemed to be a repeat of yesterday: it started out cold, grey with a stiff north easterly wind before suddenly brightening up and becoming really sunny, calm and warm from late morning onwards. As before I rendezvoused with Ian, Jacquie and Flint in the lighthouse car park and we did some hardcore thrashing of the Pendeen Patch once again. There were noticeably more birds about this morning with lots of Chaffinches flying over first thing - Ian's main marker for whether there's going to be much movement on any given day. 

There wasn't much in the fields by the lighthouse and cottages so we went down the coastpath to take a look. Someone had reported the Pallas's again yesterday evening down in the little valley so we searched there thoroughly though today the only bird in the Sallows was a Chaffinch. Ian did manage to winkle out a Datrford Warbler in the bracken on the opposite slope though it was typically elusive and we eventually lost it. We had a total of three Snow Buntings go over north, 1 Snipe, 1 Mistle Thrush and a single heard-only Crossbill in amongst the light but steady movement overhead. Back near the cottages in the one other bit of cover (a clump of Elder in amongst the Gorse) we found a rather dull looking Yellow-browed Warbler though it called correctly and wasn't dull enough to be a Hume's. It soon slipped off so Ian and I wandered up the road to see if we could re-find it though we found almost nothing else up as far as White Gate Cottage. 

Pendeen Goldfinch

Back at the cottages after almost three hours of serious Patch thrashing we parted company and I went to chat to Jean Lawman who was watching the sea nearby. She'd seen a couple of Black Redstarts down on the cliffs beneath the lighthouse earlier though they weren't around now. She also reported seeing a Ring Ouzel fly past yesterday - I was suitably gripped! There was just a single Chough about today and two Peregrines sitting down on the Enys. I went inside to have some long overdue breakfast almost immediately followed by elevenses as it was so late. Our handyman came to fix the drains which were blocked and I spent some time helping him out, turning the water on and off as required. Fortunately he was able to unblock them and get everything working again which was a great relief. I also unpacked the moth trap though there wasn't much in it with a couple of Feathered Brindle the highlights.

Feathered Brindle
As I said earlier, it had now got wonderfully sunny and warm by this time so I needed to work out what to do for the rest of the day. The pager messages for Cornwall had got even more quiet than yesterday with our Yellow-browed about the only thing of note apart from a pair of Ring Ouzels (my Cornish bogey bird as you will no doubt recall) in Cot on the slopes beneath Ian and Jacquie's rented cottage. I decided to head over there to watch the slopes whilst I ate my packed lunch. On the way up the road I bumped into Royston Wilkins and a couple of other birders who were checking out Calartha Farm copse. As there was little wind I decided to join them to see what could be found. It soon became clear that there were lots of birds in there though as always it's a very hard place to bird. I soon spotted an interesting Phyllosc which was very white underneat and seemingly had quite a long super though I couldn't get a good view of the wings. Royston had permission to enter the copse from the owner and I went in with him though as we were looking into the strong sunshine it didn't help much. I spotted a Yellow-browed Warbler though it slipped away before Royston could get onto it and neither of us could see the mystery Phyllosc. In the end we came out again as we decided that it was actually easier outside looking in. Eventually Royston saw the Yellow-browed as well and also enough of the mystery warbler to see that there were no wing bars - a shame as I was hoping it would turn out to be something like an Arctic. There was a lovely lemony-yellowWillow Warbler in there (looking for all the world like a miniature Melodius or Icky), one Chiffy, a Blackcap and loads of Goldcrests. I don't think that I've ever seen so many birds in there before - usually I'm lucky to find anything at all. Incidentally, whilst I was there a calling mixed flock of Crossbills and Siskins flew over though frustratingly I was on the wrong side of the copse and so never saw them.

With the copse well and truly checked out I headed on my way, stopping very briefly at Pendeen churchyard though there was nothing of note at all. At Cot it was lovely and calm and hot and I whiled away three quarters of an hour looking down over the slopes of the valley seeing nothing more than a pair of Blackbirds and munching on my lunch. Then, with nothing on the pager to chase down I decided to have a wander down Nanquidno, not that I expected to see anything but it would just be a nice walk in the sunshine. There was predictably nothing at all though at the top in the fields I did spot a hybrid Crow which clearly had some Hoody blood in there somewhere.

Hybrid Crow

Finally I nipped into PZ to pick up some dinner then it was back to the cottage to unwind. I found a nice trio of Wheatear in the fields next to the cottage so I passed some time photographing them. Then it was back indoors to eat and kick back. Given how quiet it's become down here, it had been a surprisingly good day with two Yellow-broweds, a Dartford, three Snow Bunts and several Crossbills all on the Patch. In fact I must confess that the latter is a county tick for me, one of the many common birds that I've yet to see in the county. Sadly they were heard-only though I'm happy to count them for now, and no doubt I'll eventually actually get to see one fly over. Let's hope for a bit more action in the county tomorrow.

Wheatears in the evening sunshine

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Tuesday 13th October: Pendeen & Land's End

Despite a long and tiring day yesterday for some reason I still woke up far too early this morning. Frustratingly I find that sometimes this pattern is only really broken when I get so tired from the lack of sleep that I go back to sleep after my ridiculously early awakening. Anyway, this morning I eventually got up at around 6:30 a.m. to make a cup of tea and to take a look at the CBWPS web-site to see if there was any additional news. Sadly there wasn't and it rather confirmed my impression of things going somewhat off the boil yesterday with a lot of the birds moving on and not much new in (apart from the Pallas's of course!). Still, onwards and upwards: I was dressed and out loitering by the Old Count House by the time Ian Kendall turned up, this time with Jacquie and their dog Flint as well.. It was very blowy first thing with a stiff north easterly wind making birding very difficult down by the lighthouse. We worked our way back up to the cottage with a flock of 9 Chough in the horse paddock field the highlight before turning off down the coastal path where we'd had our triumph yesterday. The Pallas's Sallow (as it shall now ever afterwards be known) held a single Chiffchaff and Ian winkled out a skulking Blackcap that was "chakking" away in the undergrowth. Usually Ian has to go fairly promptly back to Jacquie each morning but as she was out here with him this meant that there was much more time to bird the patch and we worked it long and hard this morning though with little to show for our efforts. A Water Rail seen in flight up towards White Gate Cottage was a nice sighting and probably the highlight of the morning (apart from the Chough perhaps). Also noted were 2 Raven, 1 Sparrowhawk and 2 Kestrel.

over-exposed Chiffy in the Pallas's Sallows

Pendeen Chough

We decided to go up to Calartha Farm Copse today as someone had claimed a possible heard-only of the Pallas's yesterday later on in the day. It's possible of course but with a Yellow-browed also in the copse you'd have to hear it pretty well to be sure I would have thought. Anyway, we gave it a good grilling in difficult windy conditions and once we all thought we heard a Yellow-browed call though it only did so once and given the tricky conditions we decided not to put it out. Apart from that there were just 4 Goldcrests to show for our efforts there. On the way back down whilst scanning over towards Manor Farm, Ian thought that he saw a very distant bird in flight that just might have been a Richard's Pipit. Far too far to even claim as a possible though but it was intriguing.

One of the two Ravens seen today
Back at the cottage we parted company and I went inside to have a well-earned mid morning cup of coffee and a toasted tea cake. After all we'd been out scouring the area for about two and a half hours there. I'd not run the moth trap last night as it had been too windy so there was no trap to check. Instead I decided to head back out to scour the fields up by Manor Farm to see if I could find this possible Richard Pipit of Ian's. I checked all the fields there but all I could turn up was a Wheatear.

By the time I'd got back to the cottage the wind had started to drop quite significantly and with the sun fully out suddenly it had got really nice. "What to do with the rest of the day?" I pondered. RBA had been depressingly quiet all morning, sadly confirming my "off the boil" theory - in fact it seemed really dead. The highlight had been a message that had come through about a Corncrake at Land's End. This turned out to be P&H who had flushed it from the cycle track but despite seeing exactly where it landed couldn't find it again. Still, a fantastic Cornish tick for them - Ian and I were suitably gripped! Apart from that there'd been almost nothing of note. After some consideration, in the end I decided to go and check out the Land's End Rose-coloured Starling as I'd not yet seen it and by all accounts it showed very well. Also, now that the wind had dropped I wanted to try Calartha Farm copse again to see if I could firm up the Yellow-browed. With a plan now in place, I knocked up a quick packed lunch and headed out the door. Up by the copse I met up with Tony Mills and another birder who were already checking it out. I told him what we'd heard and as he was already there I left him to it, instead opting to try the Pendeen stores copse and the Pendeen churchyard. In the now calm conditions the birding was so much easier but even so the best I could manage was a few Goldcrests in each location.

After that it was on to Land's End. I parked up opposite the Treeve Moor entrance and ambled down in sunny and calm weather that was now bordering on hot . The Complex there is a rather unpleasant and frankly tacky place in my opinion but the Rose-colour Starling seems to have made itself very comfortable there. It was outside the bakery with a hoard of his commoner cousins all feasting off dropped pasty crumbs. There was even a dog water bowl to wash it all down afterwards and to have a wash and brush-up. With all it's needs catered for I could well imagine it hanging around for some time to come.

After that I checked out the Sallows below the car park to no avail and then decided to do a bit of the cycle loop. I wandered as far as Trinity Pool munching on my packed lunch as I went with 6 Stonechat, 1 Raven and a flock of 8 Curlew to show for my efforts. I did heard a Bunting call once as it flew over my head but never saw it and the best I can say is that it may well have been a Lapland though on a single hearing I'm not even putting it down as "possible".

Land's End Mipit

I was starting to feel rather tired now. I'd been birding more or less non-stop since first light and by now I was starting to flag. I decided on a quick check of Treeve Moor since I was there and then to go and find some refreshment. The Moor was virtually birdless so it was back to the car and then off to PZ where I had a nice pot of tea and some cake in Sainsbury café, sitting outside in the sun. I checked through RBA as I sat there - North Norfolk seemed to be where it was all happening at present and Cornwall had gone really quiet.

After my refreshment I was in two minds after that whether to visit one more spot or to head back to the cottage. In the end tiredness won out and I headed homewards to relax. At last light a text came through on RBA of two Spoonbills heading north past Sennen Cove so I popped outside on the off chance that they might continue up as far as Pendeen though it was getting rather dark by now and there was no sign of them in the good twenty minutes that I gave them.

So a long and tiring day with little reward for some hard birding out and about but some crippling Rose-coloured Starling views to compensate. Let's hope that some of those Norfolk migrants start trickling down here in the next day or two!

Spotted Medick at Land's End

Monday, 12 October 2015

Monday 12th October: Pendeen & Cot

Flushed with success from my Alpine Swift twitch, I'd like to say that I slept long and deeply. Sadly however, I suffered once again from my usual issue of excessive eagerness that often aflicts me when I'm down here and I woke up at around 5 a.m. I dozed fitfully until about 6:45 when I got up and had a cup of tea whilst I checked the bird news from yesterday on the CBWPS web-site. There's was nothing new on there to concern me so I had a shower and sent a text out to Ian Kendall (who always does Pendeen first thing when he's down here) suggesting that he text me when he arrives. I was just taking a first bite out of a slice of toast when his text arrived and I hurried out the door to meet him coming up from the lighthouse car park. We checked all the fields around the coastguard cottages but in a stiff north easterly wind, apart from a flock of ten or so Mipits. 3 Pied Wagtails and a few Linnets and Goldfinches there wasn't much about. 

Next we decided to head along the coast path a little way to see what we could find. With the prevailing wind direction this section of the path was nice and sheltered and as the sun started to light up the scrub the birds started to show. It was just the usual stuff: a few Tits, Dunnocks, Wrens, one Stonechat and a Blackbird. A Peregrine and a Buzzard flew low past us and a single Raven cronked distantly. As the path started to descend past the pool we noticed something flicking around in the Sallows on the right-hand side. I say Sallows but it was actually a single Sallow bush. "Is that a Yellow-browed?" mused Ian. Then it showed itself more clearly and we were able to clock the strong crown stripe and long two-toned supercilium. "Blimey, that's a Pallas's" we said (or words to that affect). The bird showed well at about 5 yards range for a minute or two before it headed back up the path behind us along the tops of the Gorse. Elated, we got the news out and then tried to keep track of it though sadly we soon lost it.

Whilst walking along the coast path I came across this Rusty Dot Pearl immigrant moth

P&H arrived shortly after that on the back of my texting and I showed them where we'd last seen it before heading back to the road to join Ian with the intention of checking out the rest of the patch. We were just standing by the coastguard cottages when we heard the distinctive call of the Pallas's - like a truncated Yellow-browed. It seemed to be coming from the gardens behind us. I ran back down the path to get P&H whilst Ian and another birder who'd joined us at this point tried to locate the bird. By this time more birders were starting to arrive and we all staked out the cottage gardens though it was really blowy back up here out of the shelter of the wind and I didn't rate anyone's chances. Ian went to get Jacquie and I decided that I needed to nip over to PZ to get some petrol and some food so I left the birders to it. Whilst I was there news came over of a Yellow-browed at the Calartha Farm copse so I guessed that people were starting to disperse back up the road and had found this as they went. When I arrived back everyone had gone except Ian and Jackie who'd had no further luck. Sadly, it looked like just Ian and myself were going to see this bird though it might re-locate to Calartha which would be much better habitat for it.

Noon Fly on the cottage wall

After all that excitement it was time to think about what to do today. Ian had been saying that if a place like Pendeen could get a Pallas's then what might PG or Land's End be getting? Sadly however reality didn't bear out this theory and the pager was rather quiet. Indeed there was nothing new of note at all apart from a Wryneck at PG. In the absence of anything else the Common Rosefinch at Cot Valley came to mind, not least because it would be a Cornish tick for me. So I set off the short distance up the road to Cot - not a valley that I bird very much normally: there's so much cover that I find it a little overwhelming. I parked up near the Pumping Station and headed over to the other side of the valley to the white cottage which the Rosefinch had been frequenting. Apparently it had been coming to some hidden feeders in the garden there though was most easily viewed when it popped up into an Ivy-covered Hawthorn tree at the side of the garden. In the company of one other birder I watched and waited though we didn't see much at all apart from a few Chaffinches with which the Rosefinch was supposed to be associating. After a while we got bored and both headed back to join a small group of birders who were grilling the copse on the corner by the Pumping Station. Here it was completely out of the wind and consequently alive with birds. There were at least three Yellow-broweds and a couple of Firecrests as well as Coal Tits, Chiffies and Goldcrests. I passed an enjoyable three quarters of an hour watching all the birds coming and going before deciding that lunch beckoned. One of the other birders there recommended a pasty from MacFaddens butchers back in St. Just so I decided to give one a try. I took my pasty back home to Pendeen with me and I must say that it was one of the best pasties that I've ever had.

Back at the cottage, having finished my pasty I emptied the moth trap though the catch was small and there was nothing out of the ordinary in it. I was just enjoying a cup of tea and doing a spot of blogging when "Ring Ouzel at Cot Valley below Furzeburrow" came through on RBA. Now regular readers will know that Rouzel is one of my (many) Cornish bogey birds so I quickly gave Ian Kendall a ring to check where this was as he was staying in Cot. It turned out that he'd found the bird though it had flushed down the hillside so might well not be there. Still with nothing better to do I decided to give it a go before having another crack at the Rosefinch. I reasoned that later in the day the birds would be coming back to the feeders to fuel up before nightfall so I'd have a better chance at it. With my plan formulated I headed back down to Cot where I first passed a pleastant enough three quarters of an hour looking down the hillside from the top of the north side of the valley before heading back down to the valley floor and checking the slopes around there. All to no avail as expected though I did come across a Painted Lady and a Golden Ringed Dragonfly and had some point-blank views of a couple of Goldcrests as well as noting two Buzzards, a Sparrowhawk and two Chough.

This young Kestrel allowed close approach

A Cot Painted Lady

Next it was time to head back to the Rosefinch location where I teamed up with another birder there. He showed me how by standing further back you could just get a sight line directly to the feeders themselves so we passed three quarters of an hour watching intently as birds came and went constantly. Sadly it was just the usual common species and given that one didn't need to wait for the birds to pop up into the tree before seeing them I was pretty confident that the Rosefinch wasn't there. Oh well, the clear night last night had clearly done the damage. I headed back to the car and with time now marching on I headed back to the cottage for a much-needed cup of tea and to do a few minor chores. With nothing further coming through on RBA I spent the rest of the afternoon pootling at the cottage until it got dark and it was time to stand down from twitching readiness.

Moth du Jour: Delicate, an immigrant moth
Despite the lack of success with the Rosefinch I couldn't really complain about today. After all it's not every day that you get to find a Pallas's Warbler!

Sunday 11th October, St. Levan

It's that time of year again for me to come down for my now-annual October birding trip. After the relatively quiet start to October down here last year I decided that rather than blindly come down, instead I would play it a bit by ear, effectively being on stand-by ready to depart. I'd block-booked the whole month for the cottage so there were no issues there and I watched from the distance in Oxford to see how things progressed. To start with it seemed very slow: late September was very quiet and the first few days of October weren't much better. Suddenly, however, the winds swung round to easterly and birds started to appear in the South West. It was mostly the usual fare: lots of Yellow-browed, one or two Red-breasted Flys and a Barred Warbler so I held fire but then on Saturday an Alpine Swift was found in the morning at Land's End. What's more it seemed to hang around for the whole day, being seen at Carn Gloose in the afternoon before returning presumably to roost at Land's End again. When it was reported as still present at Land's End first thing the next morning this was enough to galvanise me into action and so it was that at around 10:30 a.m. I fired up the Quattro and set off on the familiar route down to the South West.

As I sped south westwards unfortunately there were no further Swift reports so when I got to Exeter I decided to take a small detour to pay my respects to the Cackling Canada Goose down at Exemouth which had been reported regularly over the last few days. I was no more than five minutes off the motorway when the news came of the Alpine Swift still present in the Porthgwarra area. "Never mind the Goose" I thought! I turned around, re-joined the motorway and  resumed my journey southwards.

Reports continued to come in as I progressed wth the last one being at St .Levan at 2:50 p.m.. I finally arrived there at 3:30 p.m. to find that I had the car park to myself and that there were no birders nor any Swifts to be seen. Dejected I scanned the skies in vain. Another birder arrived, also looking for the Swift though he soon left to try Roskestal instead where it had been reported several times that morning. Another couple of birders arrived and headed over towards the coast path. I was just scanning around when I noticed a gathering of four birders on the other side of the valley intently viewing something out of sight over the brow of the hill. Surely they must be on it? One of them turned and waved and I realised that it was my good birding chums Ian Kendall & Jacquie. I was just fretting as to the quickest way to cross the valley and get over to them when the Swift itself flew above the hilltop just long enough for me to see it, before it dipped back down out of sight again. Get in! Whilst I'd now at least seen it I still wanted to get over to where they were for some better views. I started to run along the footpath that leads down in front of the houses to the coast path. I was just about to join the coastal path when I looked over to the birders who were now looking towards me. I scanned to see what they were doing and realised that the Swift was now flying over to my side of the valley. I moved back to where I'd been standing originally and the bird flew right over my head. For the next hour I enjoyed some cripplingly good views as the Alpine Swift flew back and forth around the houses and up and down the valley, often flying right over my head. Despite my crappy bridge camera I tried to take some shots, adopting the "if I take enough shots some of them might come out" attitude and sure enough I came away with some record shots.

Alpine Swift

Gradually more and more people arrived to enjoy the show. DC and RM were there and my good friends P&H turned up so we had a good natter whilst we watched the Swift do its thing.

Eventually it started to get rather dark and my thoughts turned to heading back to the cottage and finding something to eat. As the Swift had taken priority I'd not stopped off to do any shopping and as it was Sunday the supermarkets would now be closed. Oh well, beans on toast it was then! P&H took pity on me at this point and kindly invited me over to enjoy a wonderful roast pork dinner at their place. Most delicious! We ate and talked birds until eventually the tiredness started to take it's toll and I headed back to the cottage, picking out in the headlights a Barn Owl by Land's End airfield and a Badger just past St. Just. Back at the cottage I set the moth trap up, unpacked the car and sorted out the cottage. Tired, shortly after 11 pm I tumbled into bed to dream of Alpine Swifts. It had been a great first day back!

Moth du Jour: it was rather clear so not many moths had appeared by the time I went to bed but this Black Rustic settled on the wall by the trap

By way of homage to the great Scilly Spider blog I thought I'd share a bit of music from one of my favourite artists Gemma Hayes. Her first album "Night on my Side" is one of my favourite albums and I was listening to it as I whiled away the hours driving down to Cornwall today. Not only is she a very original song writer and great singer but she's also very easy on the eyes as well. What more could you want?


Monday, 10 August 2015

Friday 7th Back Home

As I mentioned yesterday, I'd put out the moth trap last night. This morning there were rather modest numbers within the trap with nothing of particularly note apart from a couple of migrants (a Dark Sword Grass and a Rusty Dot Pearl) and a Poplar Hawk Moth that our younger daughter wanted to have on her hand as usual.

The Poplar Hawk Moth
I noticed that there had been a noticeable influx of Swallows overnight with our usual family party that had bred in the barn joined by up to 50 others all zipping around the cottages with great speed. I presume that this is the start of the general autumnal movement southwards.

Our original intention was to leave today to avoid the Saturday traffic jams but in a (rather heated) family debate yesterday evening it had been decided to stay another day. However mid morning collectively it was decided that it would be better to leave today instead so we had a rather hectic couple of hours to pack up and make ready and then we were off. 

Grass Eggar
First stop was to visit my VLW's niece and partner who now live near St. Agnes. Her baby daughter had now turned one so we thought that we'd stop off to say hello. It wasn't until 4pm that we left her place and headed on up the A30. Acting on advice from a neighbour we decided to detour around the road works on the A30 which had caused such a huge delay on our previous journey home and so took the scenic route on the A39 "Atlantic Highway" up through Wadebridge, re-joining the A30 at Launceston. Certainly there were no traffic jams going this way but it added a good time to the journey and so it wasn't until quite late that we were back in Oxfordshire. Daughter 2 wanted to go to a party in Abingdon so we dropped her off there and finally arrived back at around 10 p.m. all feeling very tired and exhausted from a long journey home.

Pebble Prominent

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Thursday 6th August, Pendeen & Tredinney Common

Today was forecast to be the best weather of the week and so indeed it turned out with just a gentle breeze and good solid sunshine. Once again I had a good lie in in order to try and speed up my recovery from this annoying cold. 

Mid morning I went down to the Watch for a quick look around. The large Manx feeding flock was still there but there was no movement through at all. Whilst there I met my usual sea-watching companion who had apparently actually been at PG yesterday but had somehow managed to miss all six of the Great Shearwaters that reportedly went through there. Whilst there he did apparently meet up with a visiting Gloucester birder who said that he'd seen a Fea's Petrel go past at 6:15 a.m. Apparently this same birder had been here at Pendeen at first light today as well and had seen a few good things like some Sooties and  Bonxies. Perhaps it was possible to see some stuff go by early doors even on windless days then.

I found this Painted Lady in the lighthouse enclosed "garden" area
The Pendeen Choughs were still about - today there were four
Back at the cottage we discussed our plans for the day. I had originally been hoping for a return trip to the Cheesering Quarry at Minions to have another crack at the Common Hawkers there but sadly I wasn't well enough to do this. The others decided to do a coastal walk so we put together a plan whereby I would drop them off at St. Just and they would walk back to Pendeen. In the mean time I thought that I would go on a gentle stroll on the moors there just to explore a bit before heading back to the cottage for a rest. So this is what we did.

Having dropped off the walkers and with Common Hawkers still on my mind I'd been told that Bartinney Downs occasionally had sightings of them so I looked on the map for some suitable water nearby. The best that I could come up with was the old china clay quarry at Tredinney Common which was only a short stroll from the Chapel Carn Brea car park so I decided to explore. The moorland is looking lovely at this time of year with the Heather and Bell Heather both looking very colourful and making a lovely contrast with the brilliant yellow of the Gorse. I ambled along looking at the Meadow Browns and Gatekeepers busy doing their thing along the path. I eventually found and made my way (the hard way) down into the quarry which turned out to be a lovely oasis within the moor. Clearly the pond was quite large during the winter months but by now had dried up to the point that it was just a small pool.

Tredinney Common quarry
I settled down there and ate my packed lunch whilst I looked out for Odonata. There were several Common Darters and one male Emperor who was patrolling the area. Whilst I was there a female Emperor turned up and started ovipositing at the pond and another male also arrived though he was quickly seen off by the resident male.

Common Darters

Male Emperor Dragonfly
There was not much to report on the bird front with just a couple of Ravens, a Buzzard and a Willow Warbler seen whilst I was there. It was all very peaceful though - I could have stayed for hours. After a while I headed back to the car, noting a Wall Brown along the way.

Wall Brown
On the way home I stopped off at the small pond at Pendeen to see if there were any dragonflies but all I could find was a single Common Darter. A year or two ago I'd seen a couple of Hawkers there which at the time I'd struggled to ID though with my greater knowledge now I'm pretty sure had been Common Hawkers. Back at the cottage I settled down for a nap whilst I waited for the walkers to turn up.

Later that afternoon after a cup of tea and with the rest of the party safely returned and now resting, I headed out to explore my favourite valley once again. Given the great weather I was hoping to be able to take some photos of the Golden-ringed Dragonfly there. I did manage to see it but it was predictably too elusive for photos. I did get a brief glimpse of a Dark Green Fritillary by way of compensation though. I passed a pleasant hour there rummaging around the plants and insects before heading back to the cottage for dinner.

Pendeen Whitethroat
Cross-leaved Heath - a Heather that likes damper areas
Yellow Shell moth
With there being no wind I decided for the first time this trip to put the moth trap out. It was rather a clear night but I was hoping at least to catch something. We'll see what's in the trap tomorrow.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Wednesday 5th August: Pendeen

Today the wind was strong and directly from the south - an unequivocal Porthgwarra day. However, a disturbed night's sleep had meant that a cold that I'd been fighting off all week started to gain the upper hand and also the fact that PG is too far away easily to slip in a cheeky visit as part of a family holiday meant that in the end I decided not to brave the rainy and windy conditions and instead to stay in bed. Mid morning I did nip down to the Watch just to take a quick look at the sea. There was a large feeding flock of Manxies zipping around all over the place and I scoured it carefully for anything more interesting but to no avail.

The incessant rain meant that we didn't contemplate leaving the house until the afternoon by which time my cold had firmly taken control so I stayed in bed whilst the others had a local walk. I did leave the cottage late afternoon just to get out of the house and had a wander down to Boat Cove but there was nothing of particular note to be seen and the highlight was on the way back when a flock of three Chough flew over my head and landed on the cliffs. I spent much of the evening tucked up in bed reading. I hope that I feel better tomorrow as it's supposed to be the best weather of the week.

Two of the three Chough on the cliffs
Due to the wind I've not been running my trap but this female Ghost moth came to the "moth light" last night

A rather worn Palpita vitrealis turned up inside our house last night.
This is a rather rare immigrant moth