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

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