Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Tuesday 10th April, Penzance

It was time to pack up and go. As usual it took far longer with the family of five than one might expect but finally, late morning after much faffing about we were ready to depart. 

I'd inadvertently left the outside porch light on all night and there were a few moths there the next morning including this Hebrew Character and this Red Chestnut
Whilst packing, news came through of a Hoopoe in someone's garden in Penzance. I thought nothing more of it until it was reported mid morning as still present on some playing fields. As it was only a few minutes detour from our route home I sent out a tentative text to DP to see if he knew more. He didn't but apparently TM had seen it so after I texted him, he kindly called back with directions. The rest of the family didn't seem too bothered about the detour and indeed were actually quite keen to see a Hoopoe for themselves so we headed off towards Newlyn and up one of the residential side roads there. I knew that I was at the right place when I spotted MA heading down the street though he reported that he'd not seen it himself. I thought that I'd have a quick look all the same so while the rest of the family stayed in the car to start their packed lunch I headed a few yards up a footpath where I could look out over the playing field where it had been seen. There I met ME who reported that it had been seen a few minutes ago but kept disappearing into the neighbouring gardens. He wandered off and I and another birder remained to look out for it. Sure enough within about five minutes it flew out of a garden and across the field into a tree on the opposite side. I managed a brief photo and then rang my family to tell them to come and take a look. However by the time they'd arrived it had flown off again.

Hoopoe record shot
They weren't that disappointed and I was pleased to have seen the bird. Indeed, after a very quiet week it had been the only decent thing that I'd seen at all so it was a relief to get a last gasp good bird in the bag. So it was back to the car and then off on the long slog back home. Still with Radio 4 for company the journey passed reasonably enough and late afternoon we arrived back home to say hello to our two cats again and to settle back into our home.

Monday 9th April: Pendeen & Mousehole

Yet another gorgeous day with sun and little wind to speak of. It turned out to be a rather strange morning: we were due to meet a prospective new cleaner for the cottage but in the end a whole hoard of different tradesmen descended on us. Our husband and wife builder team turned up to work on our wall, our plumber also turned up to do some work on the boiler (though he left as we decided that it would be too disruptive with the family there), the new cleaner turned up and in the middle of all this a client of mine decided to ring me to pick my brains. It was so noisy in the house that I had to seek the sanctuary of the garden to talk to him. It was all rather chaotic and in the end, what with an increasing amount of client work piling up, I never got a chance to head out on the Pendeen rounds at all. Of course, when I was outside I kept an ear out on the bird front but it was so quiet that I hardly heard a thing. Indeed the whole of the Penwith peninsular seemed particularly quiet with no news on RBA of anything in the area at all. 

Pendeen Raven on it's usual post
After lunch and a bit more work we decided to head out to Mousehole for tea at the Rock Pool Café. There, by chance, we met a couple of relatives of my VLW who, it turned out, were down here on holiday. We passed a happy hour catching up with their news and just enjoying sitting in the sunshine eating our cakes and sipping our tea. Then whilst the others went to look around the shops, our son L and I headed down to the shore to look in the rock pools and just stare at the sea.

A loafing Mousehole Great Black-backed Gull
There was almost nothing on the bird front to be seen though I did spot a Shelduck flying low over the water towards PZ - rather an incongruous sight which took me a moment to identify. Then it was back to the cottage for dinner and to start the packing process as we were leaving the next day.

Moth du jour: an Early Thorn that came to the porch light after dark

Sunday 8th April: Pendeen & Trengwainton Gardens

Another gorgeous day today with hardly any wind and some lovely sunshine. However, despite (or perhaps because of) the conditions, on my morning Pendeen rounds there was precious little on the bird front. A few Chiffies and the usual Raven was about it. I did bump into PC, who's moved to the area and is now regularly doing Pendeen. He'd not seen much but pointed out a light but steady passage of Manxies heading west just past the reef but he too had seen precious little. Back at the cottage, news came in once again of an Alpine Swift at the Lizard but once again it would be too disruptive to the rest of the family for me to head off there so instead we all got on with our respective tasks for the morning.

After lunch we headed into PZ for a quick DIY shop before heading back to Trengwainton Gardens as the children wanted to do the Easter egg hunt as they had done the previous year. In the sunny weather it was all pleasant enough and on the bird front I saw (or at least heard) a couple of Nuthatches, several singing Chiffies and a couple of Blackcaps. The café was sadly somewhat  disappointing compared to last time but you can't have everything. 

Back at the cottage, I spent some time just sitting in the garden enjoying the weather. A very confiding Willow Warbler appeared and came very close to me as I sat as still as possible. I surreptitiously managed to take a few snaps with the superzoom which came out OK in the good light and close distance. 

The confiding Willow Warbler
A text came in from DP of a 2nd winter Audouin's Gull seen (presumably by ME) on the Mermaid pelagic off Mousehole. I did toy with the idea of heading over there after dinner for the gull roost but in the end inertia won out and I didn't go. Fortunately, it wasn't seen in the roost or I'd have really been kicking myself. So instead we all settled down for the evening to watch a movie.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Saturday 7th April, St Just to Pendeen

At last the inclement weather was gone! We awoke to a blissfully calm day and by mid morning full-on sunshine had broken out everywhere. The birds were clearly liking the better weather as well as for once the grapevine was active with news from DP of an early morning Hoopoe seen in flight at Cot and an Alpine Swift at the Lizard. On my Pendeen rounds there were four Chiffchaff, including a singing male, the usual Raven, Buzzard and Kestrel and a total of fourteen Swallows and two Sand Martins "in-off" during the course of the morning. Best of all was my first Wheatear of the year which posed beautifully on top of the shed roof behind the cottage for quite some time until my son had to get something out of the car close by whereupon it flitted off northwards.

As the weather was so sublime we decided to take full advantage of it and to do our favoured walk from St Just back to Pendeen along the coastal path. So after an early lunch we walked up the hill to Pendeen to catch the bus over to St Just. There we bought the traditional ice cream treats to send us on our way before walking down the lane towards Boscean and Kenidjack. In the calm conditions there were birds to be seen everywhere though they were all Chiffies apart from a single skulking Blackcap. A Buzzard was soaring overhead, taking advantage of the good weather though there were sadly no donkeys to be seen today. At the top of the path we met JS & E and passed the time catching up on news for a while.

Along the walk we saw just the usual species in the usual places but as the weather was so perfect it didn't really matter. When we got to Geevor I paid special attention and sure enough soon found a smart male Wheatear which was even singing. There was also a single Chiffchaff looking most incongurous in amongst the mining ruins. Half way between Geevor and Pendeen I came across a very smart pair of Rock Pipits, looking very colourful  in their summer plumage, in fact almost Water Pipit-like and they had such strong supers that I did wonder about litoralis. Finally we were back at the cottage for a well-earned cup of tea and a snack before settling in for the rest of the day.

Friday 6th April, Pendeen & Marazion

Today was forecast to be rather showery so we decided to spend the morning doing our respective work or DIY before heading out somewhere more indoorsy for the afternoon. I did do a brief tour of Pendeen but had little reward for my effort apart from a Chiffchaff and three Swallows and I was soon back at the laptop. 

This male Chaffinch has set up territory in the valley

After lunch we decided to head along the coast road to Zennor where there was a local art fair. My VLW likes browsing at such things and managed to find an old chair that took her fancy and our eldest daughter found a mirror that she wanted as well. After the fair we decided to head over to the other side of the peninsular to mooch about on Marazion beach. We took the scenic route through Trewey Common where we saw four Ravens all sitting together on a wall as well as a couple of Canada Geese in one of the fields. 

Over by  Marazion the southerly wind was whipping up some nice waves so we indulged in that very British past-time of sitting in our car sipping a cup of tea (bought from the temporary kiosk as Jordans seems to be undergoing refurbishment at present) and watching the waves. A scan of the sea with my bins sadly couldn't find anything of note at all. I did nip over the road to the Marsh where I had nothing more that a Little Egret and a Heron for my troubles. Similarly Longrock Pool had a few loafing gulls, a couple of sleeping Little Grebes and a bunch of Moorhen. It was all very unproductive. Soon it was time to head back over the hill to the cottages for our evening meal.

Thursday 5th April: Pendeen & Geevor

We awoke to a dry but windy morning at Pendeen. My VLW and I put the world to rights over our cups of tea in bed first thing, gradually being joined by our various children. Then it was time to crack on with our repsective chores. Whilst my VLW got on with the DIY I fired up her laptop and got on with the business of sorting out various client issues. I did go out on a check around Pendeen mid morning. Down by the lighthouse I managed to spot a Merlin, making a sortie out over the water a bit before returning (empty taloned from what I could tell). Down in the valley a couple of Chiffchaff, fresh in from their sea crossing I imagined, were calling away as they worked their way up the valley. News came up on RBA of an Alpine Swift first thing over the Lizard but as it was a good hour away and I was en famille and as I'd already seen an Alpine Swift in Cornwall, I decided not to upset the family equilibirum by going to see it. So it was back to work at the laptop instead.

Common Dog Violets in the the valley by the stream

After lunch we decided to head out for a walk of some kind. We did discuss going up the hill behind Pendeen, something that amazingly we've never yet done, but in the strong wind we decided to hug the north coastline in the hope of it beind more sheltered from the prevailing southerly. So in the end it was our usual walk over to Geevor for tea. I had hoped for a Wheatear there (it's rare that I don't see one at this site) but in the windy conditions I didn't see anything at all. After tea, we headed back to the cottage via the centre of Pendeen, stopping in at the stores for a few bits and bobs. On the way back down the hill I spotted my first Swallow of the year hawking over the Manor Farm roadside pond. Then it was back to the cottage to settle in for the evening.

In the evening this migrant Dark Sword Grass was tapping at the window to be let in. No doubt that it was assisted in it's crossing by the strong southerly winds

4th April: Back Down

I'm back down in Cornwall, with my family in tow, for an Easter break.We usually come down at this time of year to assess the damage that the winter storms have caused to the cottage. So once again it was going to be a case of patching up damp, painting over rust spots and generally sorting things out. The only thing that was different was that I had quite a lot of work on at the moment so would have to spend a fair bit of time on that. Thus the DIY burden was going to fall largely on the shoulders of my VLW.

Partially because of my work load and the fact that our two daughters both had lots of Uni work to do as well as the fact that the weather forecast for the far South West was frankly pants, we didn't come down until Wednesday. It lashed down with rain almost the entire journey and though it wasn't actually raining at Pendeen, there was a very strong wind, which was surprisingly chilling despite its southerly direction. We hurriedly unpacked the car and sought the shelter of the cottage.

This Twenty-plumed moth had been looking after the cottage for us in our absence