Saturday, 10 August 2019

Thursday 8th to Saturday 10th, Mousehole, Porthgwarra & Pendeen

This one post is actually covering several days as there's not so much to report. Thursday was spent with my VLW's niece who lives up county a little way. She and her two daughters came down for a visit and we spent the day catching up and chatting.

As I mentioned in the introduction, a storm was forecast for Friday and Saturday so on Friday I negotiated with the rest of the family that they would go to St Ives whilst I went to PG. The wind direction was straight south and I'd been told by DP that perhaps Saturday where it was more SW might be better, especially after it had been blowing for a longer time but I thought that I'd chance my arm on the Friday. I arrived at PG car park at around 8 am on Friday morning to find it completely full. I met up with P&H there and also Oxon birder AL who'd driven down overnight to try his luck. However, I also met a number of birders coming back from the sea-watch already, saying that it was terrible up there with very little going through. Various locals there all had theories about why the sea-watching has been so poor so far this year, including why the fish were further south this year than they normally are and how the birds are following the fish. After having weighed all this up in the end I thought that I'd postpone my session until tomorrow instead so turned around and headed back towards Pendeen. The others had only just got up anyway so we arranged to do some DIY tasks in the cottage first of all and then to head over to Mousehole to visit the Rock Pool Café. Whilst the others then went on to look around the town I stayed at the café and did some sea watching but apart from a few Kitiwakes and a single Ocean Sun Fish there was nothing of note.

So on Saturday morning I tried again. Once again the PG car park was completely full by the time I arrived but once again there were people coming back off already saying it was no good. Still, this time I had no choice as this was the last stormy day so I headed up to the cliff top. There were loads of people up there, so many that a second camp had been established further east of the main one at Hella Point in the lee of some smaller rocks. I headed to Hella Point itself where I endeavoured to find a spot where I could hear the calls but wasn't too exposed. On enquiring it turned out that things had been dreadfully slow but shortly after I arrived the first Sooty of the morning went through. As things dragged on people started leaving and I got a better spot. A couple more Sooties passed through as well as a few Balearics and one Stormy but that was it. As numbers continued to dwindle people started chatting amongst themselves and I too took the opportunity to catch up with GW an Oxon birder who is almost always guaranteed to be at PG in any kind of stormy weather at this time of year. Eventually at around 1:45 pm I threw in the towel and headed back to the car. In a text exchange with the rest of the family it turned out that they'd finished at St Ives so we agreed to rendezvous at Zennor to check out the Arts and Crafts fair there. There we had our obligatory tea and a chance to check around the exhibits before heading back to the cottage. 


The truth is that all week Pendeen had actually been performing as well if not better than PG. I'd occasionally done a spot of sea-watching from the downstairs cottage window and had been pleasantly surprised at how effective it was. It seemed that despite the increased range, the fact that your scope wasn't shaking in the wind meant that you could get a clearer view all the same and it was still possible to ID things. So having arrived back and with a quick glance out the window showing that plenty of birds were passing the Pendeen headland I decided to have a go at viewing from the upstairs window instead where I could sit on a comfortable chair and have a more panoramic view. This turned out to work very well and I soon had Arctic Skua and Storm Petrel on my house list. I was occasionally called away to do things by the others but I put in about a couple of hours all told during which I added Bonxie and couple more Stormies to the list as well as seeing a number of Whimbrel and Arctic Terns go past. To be honest I don't know why I'd not thought of doing this before but I shall certainly try this again - it makes the whole experience much more enjoyable.

Sea-watching from the upstairs window

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