Friday, 3 November 2017

Olive Backed Pipit at Trevose ! Great late migrants at Park Head

With a light south easterly forecast for the day ( probably the best wind for migrants at Trevose ) I was probably too keen as I arrived at the headland at least half an hour before sunrise! Still it gave me time to walk down to my favorite spot overlooking Trevose Golf Course and set my scope up in readiness for what I was hoping to be a good Vis Mig.  A few Thrushes were on the move at first light included a smart Fieldfare but apart from the odd Brambling , Siskin and Reed Bunting there wasn't really much going on. In the tamarisk hedge I enjoyed seeing two species which are common in most places but actually rather scarce on the headland, 8 Long-tailed Tits and 2 Bullfinch. By now movement overhead had fizzled out and with roadworks blocking my normal drive to the top of Trevose I was keen to start walking as I was planning to walk around the whole headland. I nipped back to the car to drop my scope off and set off down the golf course fairway towards some rough ground which can hold migrants. After a few footsteps a call made me stop dead in my tracks, a buzzy Pipit! It called a second time and I picked it up flying fairly low straight towards me , another call was heard as it flew straight over my head I reached for the camera for a record shot , it carried on up to the wires and landed , I couldn't believe my luck! But sadly it either dropped down into the tamarisk or carried on as I lost it to view. This all happened in less than a minute and I felt elated and frustrated at the same time as I am certain it was an Olive-backed Pipit!

  Call - Tree Pipit like but key differences : to my ear sounded 'softer' , less buzzy and clipped at the end , it didn't have that zzzZZZt of a Tree Pipit , more like zzzss .

In Flight - a strong flyer ( more purposeful than Meadow , and in turn Red-throated but no chance it was either of these species). Tail seemed short? No idea if this is a feature but it made the Pipit look rather stocky. Despite the poor light it looked bright and showed a contrast of colour between the underparts and upperparts which was quite interesting in the field, it also looked quite dark around the breast ( perhaps owing to heavy streaking).

Perched- Yes is looked bright , well streaked on the breast,  it had a good supercilium and looked uniform on the upperparts, but that is  is all I got , in my 10 second view I didn't see the black line under the supercilium or the pale spot on the ear coverts , I coudn't assess the flanks either. I was a good 100 yards away - probably too far to see these things. Views were better in flight.

So can I claim it? I think I can , it was a striking bird even in flight , the call was perefect! ( I would claim a calling bird again, I really think the call is different enough from Tree Pipit , I guess it helps that I've heard plenty of Tree Pipits  this year for comparison. I am also confident with my Pipit skills, they have always been my speciality.)

My record shot shows naff all really, but it does show the short tailed , stocky shape I noticed in the field, heavy streaking around the breast , plus you can see it literally flew over my head!

 Trevose didn't produce much else barring a few more finches overhead and a nice Black Redstart so I headed to Park Head for a change ( via lunch at Porthcothan were I heard a Cettis Warbler singing, a nice local record.) . What a great afternoon! Two stunning Black Redstarts showing well for photographs, a smart Snow Bunting on the headland and best of all and totally by surprise a Richards Pipit! A jogger flushed it out of tallish grass by the footpath and it landed in the long grass to the left of the path as you walk up from Porth Mear beach. I didn't chase it in case anyone else went looking for it as I think it's the only Richards that has been reported away from The Lizard/ West Cornwall ( I reckon it will be there tomorrow).

Black Redstart 

Black Redstart

Black Redstart

There were some big flocks of Woodpigeons passing through Park Head, I counted 750

I did have one last stop around the Trevarrian area hoping for a rare Bunting in the good habitat there, but I was happy enough to see a Redpoll and a Brambling feeding amongst finches and Buntings near to Bre Pen farm. Another great day out after I had a very quiet spell in September the end of this autumn has certainly been my purple patch this year.

Reed Bunting

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Nanjizal Ringing and Year listing mop up!

Yesterday Bob and I returned to West Cornwall for a spot of Ringing and Viz Migging at Nanjizal and then a jaunt around West Cornwall to see what else was on offer.

It was exciting arriving at Nanjizal shortly after dawn as it was apparent from the outset that there were birds about. Pigeon's and Thrushes could be seen and heard piling through overhead along with a good number of Siskin. We joined Kester, John, Robbie and Jake, the later two from Falmouth University. They were hoping to catch up with some Yellow-browed Warblers and Chiffchaff's as part of a study that they were conducting on the origin and movements of each species  After the first net round I was pleased to see that there were also a good number of grounded migrants to process and record and that Chiffchaff seemed to be numerous and a Yellow-browed was bagged ready for Robbie and Jake to carry out their study work. Everyone was happy! 

The morning was just stunning with clear blue sky's and little wind. The birds overhead were passing through in phenomenal numbers and it seemed like the Wood Pigeon's were replacing the clouds as large flocks filled the sky over the valley. It was hard to take it all in as I had to concentrate at the birds in hand, thankfully Bob got in touch with his feminine side and managed to multi task by scribing for the four of us and keep an eye on the passing birds!   

The morning ended with 185 birds ringed! An incredible 51 Chiffchaff, 25 Goldcrest, 6 Firecrest (this will bring the Nanjizal autumn total near to 200!), 2 Yellow-browed Warbler. 11 Blackcap, 3 Cetti's Warbler, 20 Siskin, 1 Lesser Redpoll, 1 Reed Bunting, 2 Redwing and a single Brambling (this happened to be a long overdue ringing tick for me). Viz Mig records consisted of 4 Fieldfare, 4 Songthrush, 13 Redwing, 2619 Woodpigeon!, 56 Stock Dove, 1 Green Sandpiper, 84 Siskin, 1 Lesser Redpoll, 2 Common Snipe, 253 Golden Plover, 25 Lapwing, 2 Brambling, 1 Little Egret, 1 Kingfisher and 5 Swallows.

An incredible autumn for Firecrest's with many ringing stations processing unprecedented numbers!
It's not often that you get to appreciate the delicate structure of a Cetti's Warbler in Cornwall.


Siskin's could also seen in good numbers and 84 were recorded during the morning.

It was pleasing to see a Reed Bunting also moving through the valley.

Only a single Lesser Redpoll graced the nets, which was most welcome!

My bird of the morning came in the guise of this first year male Brambling! 
After the successful morning we plotted our route and were hopeful of picking up some lingering birds for the year list and we had also received some news that a Red-breasted Flycatcher had turned up at Kenidjack! 

Our first stop was Sennen were we were hopeful of encountering the Richard's Pipits that had been found a few days before. We set off and trudged our way around the grassy fields. I must admit I was finding this a slog after stomping around Nanjizal for the morning! I knew that the only way to get this bird secured on the year list was to knuckle down and drag my fat ass onward. This is always made even more difficult as I am always trying to keep up with lanky git (Bob) who musters one stride to two of mine! Thank god it paid off and 10 minutes in we heard the familiar "sneezey" call coming from the adjacent field as it took up from some rough ground very near to us. Whilst in the area we also recorded singles of Dunlin, Snipe and 2 Siskin. Thankful for the reward of our effort we headed for Kenidjack to try for the Red-breasted Flycatcher!

After a brief pit stop at St Just were I stocked up on energy drink and my all time stamina boosting secret, a Cornish Pasty, we made our way to Kenidjack and spotted a group of binocular clad chaps peering into a group of trees by the engine sheds. We parked the car and made our way to them. I was slightly disappointed to learn that they had not seen the Flycatcher but the finder was reliable and was told it was worth sticking it out. To be honest with you I would have anyway as the habitat is fantastic and right up my street! After a few minutes adjusting my eyes under the canopy of the mature trees Chiffchaff's and Crests were soon starting to materialise. A call went out that the Flycatcher was showing and I managed a clear but brief view as it flitted around in the distant vegetation. After awhile of waiting for it to show again my attention waned and went back to my new favourite stone wall bum perch. From here I had a good view and a flock of Long-tailed Tits added to the excitement bringing with them a Yellow-browed Warbler and a couple of Firecrest. Bob was muttering under his breath and when asked "what was up" he replied "I may have just had a couple of Hawfinch fly past but couldn't really nail them through the canopy foliage" or certainly words to that effect minus a few expletives! A Brambling settled on the tree canopy above us and started screaming in true Brambling style! The Flycatcher materialised again seemingly out of thin air and shortly after disintegrated into the foliage once again. We were both delighted to see the bird as it was one that we had hoped for all autumn and although views were not great it still left a satisfying memory in my mind! 

Our next stop was Drift where we knew a pair of Whopper Swan's had shown up the day before. Whilst talking to the locals at the Flycatcher twitch we were also informed that a Greenland White-fronted Goose was also present! Boom double whammy, we needed to get there before anything sinister happened and we dipped out. Thankfully we made it despite following Bob's gut instinct and taking a back road route. (Bob's sense of direction is sketchy and I often go the opposite way to his suggestion and find it was the right call to do so)! Both species were very obliging and we scoped them from the lay by gateway that overlooks the northern arm. We also observed a Kingfisher and 23 Stock Dove at the Reservoir.

If you are anywhere near Marazion at dusk I cannot recommend enough taking some time out and enjoying this natural spectacle!
We finished the day at Marazion Marsh as the sun set over Mounts Bay. Secretly I was hoping that a Great White Egret would show up as I need it for the year and it would be one that I would catch Bob up on as I was too busy ringing earlier in the year when an individual settled at Helston and Stithian's.  Alas no such luck, but you cannot go away disappointed with Marazion at this time of year as thousand's of Starlings gather in a flock and contort into beautiful murmurations just meters above the car park! What a spectacle to end a magnificent and successful day on and one that will stay in my memory for sometime to come.             

Monday, 30 October 2017

West Cornwall with Reuben

Yesterday I was keen to get down west to see the White Rumped Sandpiper at Gwithian for my year list . I got up extra early and arrived on site at dawn in case the dog walkers flushed the bird, happily for me this little stunner was very showy and very tame so I left it feeding away on the little puddle keen to go back in the afternoon and get some photographs in better light. Next stop was Porthgwarra and on the way I picked up Reuben who was keenly waiting by the roadside. We had a nice walk around Porthgwarra without turning up anything rare. Several Bramblings overhead were also new to my year list whilst on the ground some Firecrest's and 3 Black Redstarts added a bit of quality. The Vis Mig never really got going but we enjoyed seeing some Stock Doves, Reed Buntings, Siskins and Golden Plover.

An obliging Kestrel at Porthgwarra

Stock Doves migrating at Porthgwarra

Firecrest Porthgwarra

White Rumped Sandpiper

What a stunning bird this White Rumped Sandpiper is

Next stop was Sennen and we took our time checking the fields for Richards Pipit but we only flushed a few Snipe, ( Reuben beat me 8 Snipe - 4 Snipe!) . A Merlin put in a brief appearance and on a recently ploughed field we saw several Med Gulls, a single Common Gull and some Lapwings.

Time was ticking and we made our way up to Reubens local patch , the Hayle Estuary. Plenty of common waders were on show as well as 2 Spoonbills feeding at close quarters in the main channel. Finally it was back to Gwithian and we enjoyed crippling views and great photographs of the White Rumped, Pete also came down after work to enjoy this cracking yankee ( and to make sure I didn't get too far ahead in the yearlisting!). Despite missing the Richards Pipits it was a great day out in not so great birding conditions. Monday is going to be the big day!

Sunday, 29 October 2017

A lovely walk at Siblyback and duck city @ Dozmary Pool

As it was such a lovely afternoon me and Rachel decided to head up to Bodmin Moor for a walk around Siblyback Lake , it was almost like a summers day as we headed along the shoreline and even the Butterflies were out in force as a late Clouded Yellow butterfly zoomed across us and over the lake. The lake itself was quiet for birds but we enjoyed seeing a dash of blue as a Kingfisher sped past us never to be seen again whilst a couple of Firecrest's showed briefly in the dense cover of the conifer trees. Near to the hide we spotted an interesting diving duck which looked good for a female Scaup , Rachel spotted the all white wing bar whilst I noted the rounded head, obvious white blaze around the bill , slightly larger size than the Tufted Duck next to it, smaller 'nail' on the end of the bill and the subtle grey vermiculations on the flanks. This is always a nice find in Cornwall so we were very pleased! Also I believe it was a new bird for Rachel ! ( although she is not so sure about watching ducks , she is warming to them!). A few more woodland birds were seen plus the aftermath of storm Brian had uprooted a very large tree which showed the power of the storm we had the other day. Apart from this it was just nice to be outside and to spend time with Rach as she is such nice company...

Common Darter- still out in this unseasonably warm weather

Female Scaup - subtly stunning ( note the neat nail on the tip of the bill , would be smaller if Lesser Scaup, head shape would also be more peaked)

Note the white wingbar , rounded head and prominent white blaze around the bill

I don't usually bother with Magpies! But they are always characters

This Pied Wagtail looked stunning in the good light

Red Admiral enjoying the sun

With time ticking we sped across to Dozmary Pool to see the Ring-necked Duck and I was amazed to spot a female Long-tailed Duck! A rare bird on Bodmin Moor ( my 3rd record on the moor, following a drake at Dozmary many years ago and a female type at Crowdy ten years ago.) as they tend to be seen in small numbers each year nearer on the coast rather than inland. Sadly it was time to head home as time was getting on but as usual a great afternoons birding!

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Cornwall WeBS Needs You!

The Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) is the monitoring scheme for non-breeding water birds in the UK, which aims to provide the principal data for the conservation of their populations and wetland habitats.

The UK is of outstanding international importance for water birds. Lying on some of the major flyways for Arctic-nesting species, large numbers of water birds are attracted, especially during winter, by the relatively mild climate and extensive areas of wetland, notably estuaries. The UK thus has both moral and legal obligations to conserve both these water birds and the wetlands upon which they depend.

Cornwall has a number of locations that require counters and it is hoped that we can recruit willing volunteers to fill some of these important voids. The areas that currently need filling are as follows:

Hayle Estuary: Perhaps one of the most interesting Estuary habitats in the South West as you never know what is going to turn up! Not only is it one of Cornwall’s premier birding spots but also social spots, as there is always people coming and going at this legendary location.

Helford Complex: This area is a particular priority due to its international importance in the winter months when several species winter here in significant numbers. Currently we are in need of counters at Gweek, Helford Passage, Mawgan Creek, Men-aver Beach, Treath and Tremayne Quay.

Par Area: Whilst not as critical as the above locations this is still an important site for wintering species.

There are also a number of smaller locations that would be ideal for anybody local who could give up a small amount of time once a month to go birding! These areas are listed below:

Bussow Reservoir
Cargenwen Reservoirs and Clowance Pool
Crafthole Reservoir
Gunwalloe Marsh
Harlyn Pools
Mawgan Porth
Merther Pond
Rejarrah Pools
Relubbus Pools
Retallick Lakes
St Erth Pools

For more information on the survey please take a look on the BTO website here:

If you are interested in counting at any of the sites listed please contact me via e-mail at or phone me on 07955216836. 

Monday, 16 October 2017

Corn Buntings continued, a reply at least from The National Trust

I have had a reply from the National Trust, which was decent of them but it was largely generic. There was some positive parts of the email which showed that more locals had complained about the Beetle bank and had successfully stopped even more habitat loss ! To be fair at least the National Trust listened to them. My major worry at Trevose and the North Coast of Cornwall is a lack of common sense from management. Nature doesn't always read textbooks, if something works and benefits nature use common sense and keep it there! Speak to locals or at least liase with other departments such as the RSPB before you carry out major work. Don't use contractors or least oversee the work they do. My worry in the future would be these people have jobs and they will never admit to a mistake because they are probably worried about their careers. The National Trust have a big responsibility to care for the wildlife on all of North Cornwalls headlands, including the almost extinct Corn Bunting, step up please!

My reply to them ( due to the Trusts copyright and data protection I don't think I can post their reply on the blog, I wonder if they would publicly reply on Twitter or on here, that would be interesting):

Hello ##### ,

I appreciate you replying to me, I was aware of grass buffer strips needing to be cut as part of the HLS agreement, after all grass and vegetation can become rank and too thick for the breeding birds so a cut is worthwhile. I'm also not unrealistic in knowing that this is a working farm and compromise is the big word, after all the farmers need to make a living off of the land. The Trust's management plan sounds excellent but words are easy and forgive me for being cynical but there is no way a working farm could be so perfect world. However if these words are true it is a nice thing to aim for.

As regarding the ' margin'  in question ( beetle bank as it was commonly known) I would argue that it was a hedgerow? Perhaps on a map it is a margin but it is well over a decade since  this habitat was any different. Did you ever visit the site? It worked really well for all nature! It separated two entirely different fields, one which was left as a set aside field for winter stubble and one which was a corn field, surely not a field margin? I would be interested to know if any of the aforementioned groups where consulted before the bank got removed, as perhaps they would never have realized this would happen when the plan of managing field margins was discussed as I don't believe it was one!

Sadly I am not an ecologist so I cannot back up my feelings that this was a big error with any data ( and I don't just have Corn Buntings at heart, I do care for all the nature on the headland and can see the bigger picture if that was what you where insinuating). I doubt you will ever accept that removing this was a big error, my hope is this , speak to people before you act! It is great news that you spoke to the local birders and agreed to leave some habitat but this is reactionary and after the event, believe me they would have thought you were bonkers to remove that bank. Claire Mucklow at the RSPB knows the headland well and I would hope her input would help on a professional scale . Stan Christophers is the local birder up there, my personal feelings aside he is the man to talk to , he knows the Headland and its birds better than anybody and from when I used to talk to him up there he is realistic in striking a balance.  

Sometimes in nature if something works then it is best left as it is and I worry there is no common sense left in managing Trevose Head and other sites on the North Coast, just ideas and strategies dream't up in an office.  I would love to be proven wrong in this instance and hope the Corn Buntings will thrive regardless of the loss of their home, but please remember that they have had a really tough time in the breeding months for many years as nests have been lost, just a tiny change in their habitat could wipe them out and they are a sedentary species, more Corn Buntings will not migrate here and re-colonise, once they are gone they are gone. When I heard the National Trust had obtained Trevose Head I was genuinely pleased! I am a member and moving on from this I hope my trust in the charity can be regained...



Sunday, 15 October 2017

Ringing Rewards!

Yesterday I had to meet with some local representatives from the BTO at a location not too far away from home. I was looking forward to this as it was long over due and I was excited about the new proposals that the new regional ambassador, Simon Taylor was suggesting. The only snag was that it buggered up my birding day somewhat. This played into my hands as I had been neglecting my local ringing site and had been very focused on bird watching of late. I arrived on site at dawn and opted to just put up three nets and try my luck during the morning. 

The Goss site tails off during mid September with just a scattering of migrants passing through and my enthusiasm generally wains as I start seeing reports of good birds found around Cornwall's headlands and valleys. I have always traditionally had a days ringing or two in October on the Goss, when Bob and I have our week off work together. You would think I would have learn't that it can still produce after an inland Yellow-browed Warbler record this time last year! 

Anyway to cut a long story short it seems as if West Cornwall is not the only place harbouring large numbers of Crests at the moment! I ended my session on 55 new birds with the bulk of the catch being 22 Goldcrest, 10 Long-tailed Tit, 11 Blue Tit and a most welcome 3 Firecrest! I also had a Greylag Goose fly over the Moor which was a first for me. There were also several Siskin's about which I hope will stay for the winter so that I can target them and try and determine where they originate from. I shall certainly be readjusting my focus moving forward to see what else may turn up! 

It seems that I missed a family party of Long-tailed Tits on my previous visits and was splendid to catch up with 10 new faces to say hello too! 

      I was overjoyed to ring three Firecrest on the Goss as they are never very numerous! 

Today, Bob and I headed to Nanjizal to help a newly arrived ringing group find thier feet and take the pressure off their first morning. It started well with a Yellow-browed Warbler (a species that has become synonymous with Nanjizal), a couple of Firecrest, Goldcrest and Chiffchaff's. Being aware of the Hawfinch numbers that occurred on the Scilly Isles yesterday I thought it prudent to play the call near some berry trees that I spied on the first net round. 

I split from the group during the second round, a) we could cover more ground quicker b) I wanted to get to the Hawfinch net and see if my call had worked! 

We returned to the ringing table and started processing our catch and were blessed with another Yellow-browed Warbler, even more Firecrest and a good catch of common migrants. I saved one bag till last and patiently waited for the birds to be processed and released. Just as the group started to relax I hoisted the last bag and exclaimed "There is one more bird to process"! 

I could see the suspense on the groups face as I extracted the last bird from the holding bag. The look changed to shear shock and awe as I pulled out a beautiful and pristine male Hawfinch! What an absolute stonker and I struggled to contain my excitement during the ringing process. 

The bird was processed and once all the relevant data had been collected had a few photos taken and was released on its merry way. Wouldn't it be amazing if it was controlled in the future to see where it ended up! 

Normally species always appear smaller in the hand when first encountered, this wasn't true of the Hawfinch! 

It was apparent that the individual had been gorging himself on a berry crop recently as the beak was caked! 

The tail was stunning and so clean, no wonder the contrast is so apparent when in flight.

The sides of the secondaries had a gloss black edge allowing me to sex it as a male.

The morning finished with a fantastic haul of 3 Yellow-browed Warbler and 2 retraps, 8 Firecrest and a retrap, 31 Goldcrest, 19 Chiffchaff, 9 Blackcap, 5 Chaffinch, a Sparrowhawk and the incredible Hawfinch! What a cracking morning and what will Nanjizal turn up next?