A family holiday in August down in Cornwall isn't likely to produce much in the way of tasty rarities down in the famous valleys of Cornwall. Instead it's all about the sea watching and during our time down here I'm always on the look out for a decent wind. In the absence of such weather I still like to do a bit of watching, especially at Pendeen given it's so close and I've been putting in some hours down by the lighthouse this last couple of weeks. Of course, given the poor conditions I've generally been on my own though on one or two occasions I've seen people watching from the lower car park when I've been leaving.
There's not generally been much to report from my Pendeen sessions with a few Balearic Shearwaters, a surprising number of immature Med. Gulls, one flock of Common Scoter and a few Sandwich Terns the highlights of some otherwise very quiet watches. Not that I've minded, I've been enjoying just being down there in the sun, listening to the waves and watching the occasional Pipits, Choughs and Wheatears on the slopes below me. For someone from a landlocked county such as Oxon, just being there is very pleasant. On one occasion I met NH, the legendary "Gull Whisperer" from Oxon. I'd known that he'd been down here as I'd seen his reports and photos on the CBWPS web page and we enjoyed a good catch-up chat.
|Pendeen juvenile Wheatear|
|Pendeen juvenile Meadow Pipit|
|This wonderful boat has been working its way around the Penwith peninsular over the last week or so|
Apart from my numerous short sessions down at Pendeen I did get one decent session during this holiday at Porthgwarra. It was our last full day of the holiday and with a decent weather front coming in over the weekend the weather was forecast to start to deteriorate on this day. Accordingly the others decided to go to St Ives for some shopping and I headed off to PG for the day. As the wind wasn't going to be that strong I did wonder if anyone else was going to be there at all but in the event I arrived at Hella Point to find GW from Oxon and one other person there. I was most pleased about this as having a bit of company can make a huge difference to a sea-watch, especially someone as experienced as GW. I've realised that what I look for in a good sea-watch is a modest number of experienced and friendly fellow watchers where I can feel comfortable making a fool of myself by calling out stuff incorrectly and where they are good enough to pick things out for me. It also has to be easy for me to be able to hear what other people are calling. As well as my eyes, my hearing is also not what it used to be and I often find, especially on a windy headland, that I simply can't hear what's being called which can be very frustrating. But on this occasion it was ideal. The three of us chatted away about this and that: the other two had done a lot of international birding so there was plenty of talk about the various places they'd been to. It was all very pleasant!
In terms of the actual birds, the others had had a couple of Cory's go by before I'd arrived. During my time there my list was:
1 Great Shearwater
10+ Sooty Shearwaters
10+ Storm Petrels,
30+ Balearic Shearwaters
1 Great Skua
2 Arctic Skua
1 Common Scoter
All good stuff! One thing I noticed was how different it was watching from PG compared to Pendeen. I think that it's to do with the light: at Pendeen you've always got the light behind you so the birds are often lit up against a relatively dark background. There, the Balearics for example were very easy to pick out, just on jizz alone and you could easily make out the differences in the colour of the underside. At PG on the other hand, you're looking into the light so everything looks more silhouetted and you had to look really carefully to tell the Ballies from the Manx. During the middle of the day, everything is nothing more than a silhouette and you might as well not bother!
By the afternoon things got very slow with very little to show for our efforts so it was time to head off to St Ives to rendezvous with the others for an evening meal. Of course the next day was an epic sea watch with a Fea's going through late morning - once again I'd managed to miss this iconic species. Indeed looking back our holiday was bookended by a couple of amazing sea-watches that I wasn't at with the Trindade Petrel just before I arrived and the Fea's on the day we were leaving. As DP said to me "sea-watching can be brutal". Still, I can't wait to do some more.
Some video of the Fea's Petrel at PG the next day taken by Gary Taylor.
Be warned, the audio contains some strong language!