Monday, 31 October 2016

Somerset Saunter and Bearded Bonanza!

I returned yesterday evening from a lovely weekend away with the family. We stayed near Wells in Somerset for a short break predominantly to go sightseeing and spend some quality time together. However I did still manage to fit a couple of short birding sessions in!

A short drive away was the Westhay Reserve, a 261 acre reedbed and wetland. It was such an easy reserve to navigate around and was signed well. More information and directions can be found here:

I went with my dad and young niece and we all enjoyed the facilities. I had gleaned some information from Adrian Langdon before my trip and he had pin-pointed a species that I was hoping to catch up with whilst in the area! But first we ambled to the nearest hide that impressed my young niece and me! I have never been in a hide so beautifully decorated and it was a real credit to Avalon Marshes. It was lovely that not only did it look good but she was able to interact with it making the impact even greater.
Is there a better decorated hide anywhere else in the UK?

Even the amazing hide wasn't enough to keep hunger at bay and my little nieces belly could take it no longer! Faint from her physical early morning stroll Grampy needed to carry her back to the car and we needed to get her home for sustenance fast! Oh to be that age again :-). After a bite to eat Dad and I decided to head back and try for our intended species. We made our way to the recommended spot and joined the small crowd that had assembled to cast their eyes on our intended quarry. After a whispered conversation with one of the party I was a little worried as our target species had been seen half an hour before but not since! I settled myself and concentrated and was rewarded a few minutes later with a distant ping-ping call that started to get closer and louder. The reeds started to jink and rustle in an unorthodox fashion! Then just a few meters away a pristine female Bearded Reedling bounced on to the boardwalk and started to fill up on the grit provided.

Little did I know that the morning was going to get even more glorious! Whilst enjoying the perfect female a stonking male came and joined her! I am not sure if there are words that can describe how amazing these birds look. I only wish I concentrated on getting some better photos rather than looking at them through the bins.

The most stunning of birds!

Sunday morning I decided to head up to Shapwick with my Dad and again have a wonder around. You can find more information here:

This is a vast reserve and you could easily spend a whole day here exploring and it has many facilities too. We spent a lot of time walking through the woods and then around the reed beds and water ways. There is a huge variety of bird life to wet the appetite and the short time spent here did it no justice at all. However we did manage to find a couple of good birds in the form of a Firecrest and a Marsh Harrier. It was lovely to see that the Wildfowl was represented in good numbers and we also enjoyed views of Kingfishers flying near the hide.  I would definitely recommend that anyone who is passing or staying near any of the Avalon Marshes reserves takes the time to go and experience them, they really are a delight and everyone of them has something to offer.

View from the Decoy Hide at Shapwick

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Migration this weekend

I had a few things on this weekend so even though I had plenty of time in the field I decided to stay local and try birding Trevose Head in the mornings and give Walmsley Sanctuary and the Camel Estuary a go on sunday afternoon.


I was at Trevose for sunrise on Saturday morning ( which isn't that early at the moment! Why can't it always be like this ! ) and instead of starting at the bottom of the headland I drove straight to the top car park , found some shelter from the biting easterly wind and began to count the migrants overhead. It was busy! Meadow Pipits and Chaffinch's were trickling through in small flocks and after only a few minutes I heard the characteristic call of a Short-toed Lark ! Surely not! But again it called and several more times until I locked on to this super bird as it seemingly went straight through heading North . This was only my second in Cornwall , my first at Trevose Head and my first Autumn record , boom! Still buzzing from the Lark I settled into counting again and enjoyed the spectacle of seeing 100's of migrants moving through , from Long-tailed Tits to Little Egrets and Golden Plover ,even a casual look at the sea produced a fab adult pale phased Pomarine Skua. Seeing all these different birds out of context is always a buzz for me and it shows just how many birds ( that aren't always known as migrants) travel through Cornwall at this time of year. After a couple of hours migration overhead slowed down and I had a good walk around the headland without seeing an awful lot so I headed home buzzing after a great morning out. Final totals included:

4 Balearic Shearwater
2 Little Egret
3 Golden Pover
1 Common Snipe
1 Pomarine Skua ( adult pale phase)
1 ad Mediterranean Gull
1 Peregrine Falcon
2 Jay
1 Short-toed Lark ( flew north calling overhead at 8:04am )
82 Skylark
6 Long-tailed Tit 
7 Goldcrest
3 Chiff-chaff
7 Blackbird
1 Fieldfare
9 Redwing
2 Song Thrush
1 Mistle Thrush
134 Starling
1 Grey Wagtail
3 Pied Wagtail
57 Meadow Pipit
1 Reed Bunting
381 Chaffinch
6 Siskin
7 Goldfinch

Goldfinches on the move

I didn't get up quite so early this morning ( after a few beers last night! ) but I was still in place at Trevose before 8am...  It was much windier today which made birding quite uncomfortable, the headland was pretty well blown out and to be honest I made a mistake  as I should have started at the bottom of the headland were it was more sheltered, birding would be boring if it was easy and you got it right every time and I learned what not to do in a howling easterly wind!
Counts today included:

8 Goldcrest
1 Chiff chaff
7 Blackbird
6 Fieldfare
21 Redwing
4 Song Thrush
1 Grey Wagtail
15 Meadow Pipit
1 Yellowhammer
1 Corn Bunting
9 Chaffinch
2 Bullfinch
68 Goldfinch

As you can see , what a difference a day makes!

In the afternoon I went to Walmsley Sanctuary and although the water level is quite low at the moment there was still plenty to be seen , a Barnacle Goose amongst the flock of Canada's was easily the bird of the day but I was also happy to see 6 Shoveler, 9 Pintail, 164 Teal, 1 Water Rail, 6 Black-tailed Godwit, 5 Mediterranean Gull, 1 Common Gull and 2 Mistle Thrush.

Barnacle Goose 

The Estuary itself was teeming with winter waders including 400 Golden Plover. 36 Med Gulls ( 2x 1st Winter, 9 x 2nd Winter and 25 Adult ) looked stunning in the autumn light and I also saw a nice flock of 24 Red-legged Partridges, but after an hour or so I had enough of the wind and was happy to head home for tea... 

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Silent Sea watching and Perfect Pink Feet

Strong south westerly winds were forecast and Bob and I hoped for a decent sea watch at Porthgwarra to boost our weeks species count. We both managed to scrape ourselves out of bed bright and early, despite feeling a little tired and tender from a full on week in the field. We arrived in the car park at first light and were a little surprised to see some other birders already in-situ. I suspected that they also were hoping for some late sea birds on the move. After exchanging pleasant chit chat we found out that a Red-eyed Vireo had been found in the toilet block the previous day and had showed well! We decided to stick with our plan and carry on up to the headland and have a sea watch and try for the Vireo on our return later.

From the get go we knew something was wrong! The birds were heading in the wrong direction and all that could be seen was a steady trickle of Gannets and Great Black-backed Gulls. We persevered for two hours and by-jove was that enough! All we had to show for our effort was 1 Balearic Shearwater, 3 Manx Shearwater, 4 Common Scoter and 6 Wigeon. If anyone can let me know why it was so bad this morning I would be grateful for the knowledge?

Dawn at Porthgwarra
It was a stunning morning and we were comfortable, warm and sat down so our spirits were high and we had other plans to fulfil during the day. Plus a Red-eyed Vireo could still be in the vicinity and we would both like a peek at that! Before we left a flock of 9 Choughs passed us over head, a record flock number for Bob and I and a sight that always makes me feel rather patriotic and proud of my Cornish heritage! We made our way to the car park and caught up with several familiar faces and was a lovely way to spend an hour sharing lots of laughter and catching up on latest exploits and ventures. It was apparent that the Vireo was not showing so Bob hatched a plan and we flogged the wooded area of the valley but sadly to no avail! We did however have amazing views of a Firecrest and Chiffchaff, and also heard a distant Yellow-browed Warbler.  

We had done all we can to find the Vireo and decided that we would cut our losses and head on. We opted for a quick look at Sennen where we noted 15 Mediterranean Gulls and 1 Common Gull. It was also apparent that some sea birds were passing the cove and amongst these Bob picked out a Balearic and 2 Manx Shearwater. We then headed back to Mounts Bay and had a little tour around but were struggling in the strong winds to pick anything up noteworthy.

We were both tired from our week and were starting to flag. We needed a plan to rejuvenate energy levels and I knew just the thing, a Pasty and Jam doughnut should do the trick! Hayle was our next destination and Phillips was open. After some satisfying sustenance our energy levels were refreshed enough to do some more birding. We checked the Estuary and Carnsew Pool as best we could and species of note included 1 Spoonbill, 26 Mediterranean Gulls, 9 Grey Plover, 3 Greenshank, 33 Bar-tailed Godwits and 4 Dunlin. 

Pink-footed Goose at Gwithian Pool
Our final destination for the day was Gwithian Pool. We have wanted to check this spot all week and only really found the time today to fit it in. Lots of Geese and Gulls could be seen as we broke the brow of the hill and peered from a distance. As we got closer we both had a long hard scan for colour ringed Gulls to no avail! 9 Tufted Ducks were feeding and added some interest. During my third sweeping scan I picked up one of my birds of the week! Not the rarest of birds but one I always appreciate seeing an adult Pink-footed Goose amongst the Canadas. We headed home after this deciding to end this cracking bird filled week on a high. It is sad that is another year done and dusted and I have enjoyed every minute. The only bit of happy news is that my alarm will not be going off at stupid o'clock tomorrow morning and I get a lie in! What will I miss?

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Day 8 - North Coast Birding

With Light southerly winds and rain overnight and a nice clear morning me and Pete were up at silly O'clock and on the road to Trevose for dawn. We were both hoping for a bit of passage overhead but for whatever reason it was very quiet so after an hour we decided to have a walk around some of the gardens and tamarisk hedges in the hope for some warblers as we had already heard a couple of Chiff-chaffs and Goldcrests....

On the first hedge we checked there was a typically elusive ( and always stunning) Firecrest and a couple of Chiff-chaffs... it felt like there could well be something better in with them. Our next stop  near to some private gardens offered yet more passerine gems in the shape of a Yellow-browed Warbler ,yet another Firecrest and strangest of all a Water Rail in the tamarisk! This is only the second I have seen at Trevose in 12 years! There was certainly birds around but as always Trevose Head is very hard work and you have to be grateful with what you find and accept you probably miss just as much in the process! The main issue at the moment is the very dense Tamarisk which is still in full bloom , so unless a bird is calling you are struggling....Still we carried on picking up odds and ends as we walked around and I was particularly happy to find 12 Corn Buntings in one of the set aside fields, I hadn't seen any Corn Bunts on my last two visits so it is always a relief to know that a few are hanging on , I hope very much that the National Trust can develop a strategy for helping these character birds in the future as I worry it won't be many years until they are gone ( 10 years ago there would be 40 + birds ).More excitement came in the form of 2 Great Northern Divers which Pete picked up flying across the neck of the headland and I spotted a high flying Short-eared Owl which in typical Trevose fashion seemed to be moving through quickly. Our final counts included 2 Great Northern Diver, 1 Little Egret, 1 Water Rail, 3 Curlew, 1 2nd winter Med Gull, 1 Short-eared Owl, 6 Goldcrest, 3 Firecrest,17 Chiff-chaff, 2 Yellow-browed Warbler, 26 Blackbird, 1 Redwing, 7 Songthrush, 2 Grey Wagtail, 12 Pied Wagtail, 3 Reed Bunting, 12 Corn Bunting, 1 Bullfinch ( scarce here , only 1-2 records a year) and 1 Siskin so with time ticking on and the rain arriving we got back to the car before we got too soaked and headed up the North Coast to Maer Lake and Davidstow.
Heavily cropped photo of the Short-eared Owl, note the distinctive kinked wing shape.
Also in the field they have a very relaxed, buoyant flight style which reminds me of a Harrier.
We managed to get a fair bit of birding done at Maer Lake and enjoyed seeing a variety of waders including a Ruff, 4 Dunlin , 27 Snipe and 7 Black-tailed Godwits, Apart from good numbers of Teal and a few Wigeon , a single Shoveler was the only different duck. The weather at Davidstow was mental ! We chanced upon a colour ringed Lesser-black backed Gull and 14 Lapwing and although it was quiet it still looks likely to produce another good wader as long as it doesn't get too cold in the next few days...

Our next plan was to check the Camel Estuary but we misjudged the tide and it was already in quite a way... still there was plenty of common waders and still 2 Curlew Sandpipers and 2 Pintail amongst the Wigeon. Sometimes birding doesn't always have to be about rarities and showing a keen young birder on holiday all the different waders on the estuary and seeing his eyes light up as he saw his first Grey Plovers and Curlew Sandpipers was a nice way to finish a days birding. ( hopefully he will keep on birding! ).

Friday, 14 October 2016

Gorgeous Gifts from the Goss

After a full on week birding with Bob that has excelled our expectations, it was time for a change of scenery. The wind was calming and my ringing hat started to itch, the Goss Moor was calling! We arrived on the ringing grounds yesterday evening and set some nets ready for first light. There were some interesting birds in the area including Willow and Marsh Tit and several Phylosc's and Crests. I wont lie I struggled to sleep last night in anticipation of the mornings outcome.

We were back bright an early and all nets were unfurled at dawn. It was bitterly cold and there was a heavy covering of frost that we had to contend with. A couple of Redwing called from nearby so I started to play a Latvian recording on my MP3 speaker but sadly to no avail. I could also hear Crests calling nearby and decided to hedge my bets and started to play this too. This seem to work and the first of 16 entered the net ready for extraction and processing. Also in the early net rounds I managed to pick up a couple of Chiffchaffs and the first of 2 Blackcaps, one of which was carrying a huge amount of fat ready for the next step of her migration.

Juvenile Male Blackcap
Juvenile Female Blackcap weighing in at a whopping 23.9 grams
Then we hit jackpot! A pristine Yellow-browed Warbler made itself apparent and ready for extraction. I was delighted to get this little gem and enjoyed seeing it at close quarters. Obviously this single bird record doesn't impress as much as the 30+ ringed at Nanjizal in West Cornwall, so far this autumn. However for me it was exciting to get a specimen on my local inland site and on my own ring series. I really hope I get to catch more of them in the future. It was also carrying an incredible amount of fat so I suspect it still wants to travel further afield.

Yellow-browed Warbler ringed on the Goss Moor
Large amount of fat visible
The morning continued to throw up new birds at a nice steady pace. This was lovely but I have sore fingers now as the most abundant species present was Blue Tit, finishing the day on a total of 33. The occasional Robin was also processed including several re-traps that have not been recorded since they were ringed in the same location in September of 2015. This begs the question as to where they spend the summer? And indeed are they coming back from foreign shores? Hopefully a control will help obtain this information in the future.

Retrap Robin that has been absent since September, 2015.
Finger killer in all its glory 
I was beaming after the Yellow-browed capture but another beautiful surprise was waiting for me. A perfect little Firecrest got in on the act, a first for me at this site. A nice crisp juvenile male strutting its stuff and brightening the already beautiful morning.

Male Firecrest ringed at the Goss Moor
As the morning ticked on and lunch time was nearing a Great-Spotted Woodpecker added interest, even if my ear drums disagree! An adult female that I suspect bred nearby this summer as I heard them often but never had the fortune of meeting at close quarters.

Female Great Spot doing its best to deafen me!
The final surprise came in the form of a splendidly cryptic Treecreeper that graced us with its presence. A delightful example and one that Bob was particularly interested in as he had never seen this species in the hand.
A great days ringing resulting in the following totals: 1 Yellow-browed Warbler, 1 Firecrest, 16 Goldcrest, 1 Treecreeper, 4 Chiffchaff, 4 Wren, 2 Long-tailed Tits, 33 Blue Tits, 4 Coal Tits, 8 Great Tits, 3 Robin, 2 Bullfinch, 2 Blackcap, 1 Chaffinch, 1 Dunnock and 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker. Retraps included: 3 Goldcrest, 3 Robins, and 2 Long-tailed Tits.

A selection of other ringing participants from today

Today will always be memorable for me, providing my first ringed Yellow-browed and my first Firecrest on the Goss. I enjoyed the variety and has once again reinforced my passion for this interesting Cornish site.

Tomorrow we are heading to Trevose Head in the morning for some Viz Migging and then around North Cornwall to look for Waders and anything else we can lay our eyes on. Watch this space for an update soon.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Day 6 - Wrong choices , weird Wigeon and Waders

Things can't always go to plan when you go birding and it's fair to say me and Pete made the wrong choice in going to the Lizard today, it was very windy and hard going and I think we got carried away by Tuesdays excellent day here. Pete Maker always used to say to me how difficult a place it is to predict and I get what he is saying now... Still we had a good laugh ( I'm pretty sure I saw an Ewok in somebodies car ! Nearly ended up in a hedge as Pete drove like a ( bad ) rally driver and heard all about the eerie dead miners in Soapy Cove from an ' interesting' local :p ) and we had some reasonable counts of migrant birds including: 1 Common Snipe, 2 Stock Dove, 18 Woodpigeon, 3 Chough, 35 Skylark, 37 Swallow, 2 Goldcrest, 2 Firecrest, 1 Chiffchaff, 3 Blackcap, 3 Redwing, 6 Song Thrush, 23 Starling, 2 Grey Wagtail, 41 Pied Wagtail, 159 Meadow Pipit, 4 Reed Bunting, 73 Chaffinch, 3 Bullfinch, 13 Greenfinch, 3 Siskin, 18 Goldfinch and 55 Linnet.

A pick me up was needed and it came in the shape of a full English breakfast from Sainsburys in Helston , it was by far the highlight of the morning! We then wanted to have a better look at Devoran this afternoon and also check out Tresillian but as the tide was still out we had an hour to spare so we nipped into the hide at Stithians....

I started scanning through the ducks ( as I always do everywhere!) when I came across this interesting drake Wigeon:  ( you can click on all three pics and they will enlarge) .

It was a long way off , on the opposite shoreline but my first feeling was that it could be a drake American Wigeon, as you can see ( right hand bird ) in the terrible photo's I took it shows a much greyer head than the Eurasian drakes near to it , it also shows a prominent green blaze through the eye stretching to the back of its neck and a very obvious cream coloured forehead ( hence the American nickname of 'bald pate'). However as it came out into the open and I got clearer views:

It had grey coloured flanks ( 2nd bird from the right) which is a Eurasian Wigeon feature ( they would be browny/ pink in American). It flapped it's wings on one occasion and the axiliaries looked white,  but the distance and bright light made it hard to be sure of this , all in all I'm guessing it's a hybrid between the two - definately with some American Wigeon genes in it, so close but no cigar! Still a good learning bird and I'm feeling pretty sharp with Wigeon so hopefully I will find another yankee in the Winter). We also saw 1 Pintail , 1 Shoveler, 68 Wigeon, 1 Tufted Duck and 1 Dunlin with an added bonus of two colour ringed birds , a Herring Gull W:001 ( ringed in Falmouth ) and a Cormorant ( TBY - ringed on Mullion Island ) , thanks to Mark Grantham for replying to Pete so quickly...

From here we spent a few hours at Devoran and Tresillian searching for waders and getting a nice list and a good variety for the time of year , counts included:


118 Curlew ( including a colour ringed bird - will post when we hear back )
1 Spotted Redshank
1 Knot
1 Juv Curlew Sandpiper
23 Dunlin


2 Curlew Sandpiper
1 Whimbrel
1 Spotted Redshank
1 Water Rail
1 Kingfisher

Our last mission for the day was to set the nets up for a ringing session on the Goss Moor early tomorrow morning, I have to say we could be in for a bag full as when we were setting up we heard 2 Willow Tit, 1 Marsh Tit, 1 Treecreeper , 1 Redpoll and plenty of Crests and Phylloscs.... Fingers crossed we catch something special....

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Day 5 - Rame Rouzels and Lake Larid's

After making some cracking decisions this week on location choice and weather theory resulting in 2 mega Pipits, Bob and I were keen to carry on in the same vane. It was Bob's turn to drive and he opted to head to Rame Head and then bird nearby areas during the late morning and afternoon and eventually pop back to Bodmin Moor for a gull fix.

We arrived at 7 20 am and made our way to a proven spot that allowed us to listen out for passing migrants but also overlooks a wooded hedge that we hoped might produce an interesting Passerine as the suns heat intensified during the morning. A light trickle of birds passed overhead and included Pied Wagtails, Meadow Pipits, Skylarks and the occasional Redwing. Goldfinch and Linnet were also apparent and continued to move through until we packed up. The wooded hedge theory paid off and offered brief views of a Firecrest. Near the end of our Viz Mig session we encountered the star bird of the morning as a Ring Ouzel flew low, tacking as it went and alighting on a nearby tree so that we could enjoy some distant views. We then moved to the car park area and realised that we were going to struggle as the wind was incredibly strong. However, whilst spending a penny a Cirl Bunting started calling from the adjacent field and was obviously hunkered down in the stubble sheltering. Our total counts for Rame were: 4 Yellow Hammer, 1 Cirl Bunting, 28 Skylark, 67 Meadow Pipit, 21 Pied Wagtail, 3 Grey Wagtail, 36 Chaffinch, 42 Goldfinch, 55 Linnet, 9 Redwing, 3 Song Thrush, 1 Fieldfare, 1 Ring Ouzel, 18 Swallow, 2 Jay, 85 Wood pigeon, 1 Goldcrest, 1 Firecrest and 4 Chiffchaff.

Distant Ring Ouzel at Rame Head

We then headed to Millbrook to take a look at the pool and catch up with an old friend. It was wonderful to see Edna the Egyptian Goose and even better she wasn't alone! We decided to call her new friend Edward and hope he makes our old friend very happy ;-)! Our totals for Millbrook were: 2 Egyptian Geese, 3 Mediterranean Gulls, 1 Redshank, 1 Greenshank and a Little Egret.


St Johns Lake was our next location to scour. Bob quickly picked up on a Sandwich Tern and I later found another roosting with the original bird. A huge gathering of Duck was present and Bob relished the opportunity to get stuck into them. There was a lovely selection and we ended up with the following totals: 17 Mediterranean Gull, 23 Turnstone, 1 Ringed Plover, 5 Dunlin, 104 Redshank, 16 Grey Plover, 2 Sandwich Tern, 1444 Wigeon, 5 Pintail, 1 Shoveler and 1 Teal.

Sandwich Tern
On our journey to Saltash we observed 20 Swallows at Crafthole,   

At Saltash we watched the incoming tide gull and wader roost opposite the Chine Fleet Club bird hide. Sadly we didn't pick up any new birds for our week but did have a nice selection consisting of 39 Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Bar-tailed Godwit, 86 Dunlin, 2 Grey Plover, 51 Wigeon, 3 Mediterranean Gull, 1 Great Crested Grebe, 2 Lapwing, 1 Common Snipe and 1 Knot.  

After a late lunch it was time to head to the moor and we were soon at Siblyback Reservoir. Water levels are incredibly low and really highlight that we are not having that much rain at the moment! After a check of the Gulls we were happy to find a lovely adult Yellow-legged Gull amongst the Lesser Black-backs. I then needed the loo so left Bob to it. On my rather late return (the facility had plumbing problems and I struggled to read the simple map showing an alternative), Bob was nowhere to be seen! I decided to have a quick count up of birds present and picked up a small group of waders miles away! One pricked my interest and needed a closer inspection, so having found Bob we drove nearer and took a walk. I was ecstatic to discover a beautiful juvenile Little Stint amongst some Dunlin and Ringed Plovers and it was the highlight of my day! Totals at Siblyback were: 1 Juv Little Stint, 5 Dunlin, 13 Ringed Plover, 1 Adult Yellow-legged Gull, 23 Little Grebe, 2 Tufted Duck, 4 Coot, 1 Barheaded Goose, 1 Nuthatch, 1 Wheatear and a Siskin. 

Juvenile Little Stint at Siblyback Reservoir
Adult Yellow-legged Gull at Siblyback Reservoir
Very Low water level at Siblyback Reservoir
Our final destination was Colliford Lake for a look at the Gulls coming into roost. This certainly didn't disappoint and we were soon onto another pristine Adult Yellow-legged Gull. They just seemed to keep coming this evening and we had a total of 8 adults and a 1st winter amongst the flock. We also picked up an adult Scandinavian Herring Gull adding to the excitement. I then picked up a Juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gull that seemed tiny compared to the graellsii birds that were near. It looked very long winged and cold in comparison to other juvenile birds nearby. When the under wing was observed it was apparent that it was very pale almost like that of a Caspian Gull. It also showed a nice clear rump, lightly barred under tail coverts and a clear thick black tail band. I am aware that you cannot confidently claim a Baltic Gull without finding a ringed individual, however in my mind this is a pretty strong candidate and the closest I have ever come to a pure Fuscus. A cracking learning bird and one I enjoyed every minute of seeing. Our totals at the roost were 8 Yellow-legged Gulls (7 Adults and a 1st winter), 1 Scandinavian Herring Gull and a Baltic Gull candidate. 

Adult Yellow-legged Gull at Colliford Reservoir

Baltic Gull Candidate at Colliford Reservoir
Tomorrow we are heading back to the Lizard for (we hope) some more Viz Migging.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Day 4 - Fantastic Lizard Vis Mig !

Today was Pete's turn to drive and he had suggested doing the Lizard , I must admit I wasn't too sure if it would be any good because the wind was forecasted to be quite strong ( even though it was easterly) and I was worried it would be blown out down there. So in darkness we headed off in Pedro's rocket powered Peugeot and got to the Lizard for first light!

It was breezy and cold as we got out the car but I could already hear passerines overhead so we set off to our favourite spot for vis migging, it is a bench situated in the National Trust car park above the lighthouse gardens and because of the wall sheltering us from the wind it was like sitting in your lounge at home it was so comfy! Even better was the fact that the strong easterly was keeping the birds low as they passed and pushing them up from Lizard Village over our head. We soon started counting large numbers of Pipits and Wagtails with a nice variety in amongst them, but after the first hour or so we hadn't really had any goodies... Pete decided to take a break and go for a pee... fatal mistake! Not long after he had gone I heard the characteristic ' Shrreep' of a Richards Pipit and as it drifted over my head poor Pete missed it by 10 seconds! I think he was a little annoyed but he didn't show it too bad as we still had hopes of more...

We carried on counting and watching when at 9:41 Pete said ' what was that?' and in the same moment I called out ' Red-throated Pipit !' this gem of a bird flew overhead calling incessantly , circled and then moved off slowly battling the wind as it made it's way  towards Housel Bay... The call couldn't have been clearer and it was nice to nail another rare Pipit for the county ( my 4th in Cornwall ,  plus many hundreds abroad-a lifer for Pete ). In fact as I said to Pete at the time how lucky he was to get close views and to hear it so clearly.... As it got later in the morning the passage started to slow down and it was soon Pasty o' clock so after 3 .5 hours we walked back to the car. It was a brilliant vis mig and is something I will do again in these difficult conditions. We then picked up a delicious Anne's Pasty and headed back towards home via Helston Boating Lake, Stithians, Argal, College and Devoran! Pretty tired tonight but still keen to get out all day tomorrow! Going back to work is going to be a nice rest!

Highlights of the day and full Vis Mig count:


16 Wigeon
2 Common Scoter
1 Dunlin
1 Stock Dove
50 Wood Pigeon
2 Merlin
1 Peregrine
2 Jay
107 Skylark
203 Swallow
9 House Martin
2 Goldcrest
1 Northern Wheatear
1 Fieldfare
2 Redwing
4 Song Thrush
1 Yellow Wagtail ( late but looked like a nominate)
5 Grey Wagtail
121 Pied Wagtail
1 Richards Pipit
578 Meadow Pipit
1 Red-throated Pipit
2 Reed Bunting
29 Chaffinch
1 Greenfinch
6 Siskin
17 Goldcrest
433 Linnet

Windmill Farm

5 Swallow

Helston Boating Lake

18 Tufted Duck
20 Coot
3 Shoveler


48 Wigeon
1 Little Egret
1 lapwing
3 Dunlin
1 Wheatear


4 Great Crested Grebe
1 Juv Common Tern


41 Coot 
46 Wigeon
1 Tufted Duck
1 Great Crested Grebe
1 Little Egret
1 Juv Pectoral Sandpiper ( a nice surprise! Cheers to Steve (?) a ringing mate of Pete's who got us on it)
1 Firecrest

Monday, 10 October 2016

Day 3 - Autumnal Arrivals, Departures and a Filthy Twitch!

Bob and I arrived at Lands End at dawn and were both keen to get out the car and make a start. Conditions were good with a light easterly breeze greeting us with a cold nip that helped us speed along to our chosen spot.
Our chosen vantage point at Lands End
A steady passage of Chaffinch, Meadow Pipit and Skylark was apparent and continued in dribs and drabs throughout the morning. Accompanying these were Redwings, Song Thrush, Linnets , Pied Wagtails and an assortment of migrants and resident birds alike. We picked up a couple of Chough looking radiant in the morning sun but perhaps the star corvids of the morning came in the form of 3 Jays, a bird that is seen rarely in the area during the autumn months. The stars of the show came in the form of a Yellow-browed Warbler, a year tick for us both and we also had a late Common Redstart which is a fantastic record so late in the year and another new bird for our week of birding. It was lovely to be out in such beautiful weather and our totals for the morning were:173 Chaffinch, 66 Linnet, 9 Goldfinch, 9 Siskin, 98 Meadow Pipit, 47 Skylark, 15 Pied Wagtail, 1 Grey Wagtail, 2 Reed Bunting, 14 Song Thrush, 18 Redwing, 9 Goldcrest, 6 Chiffchaff, 2 Blackcap, 1 Swallow, 67 Starling, 22 Woodpigeon, 3 Jay, 2 Chough, 1 Redstart, 2 Common Gull, 1 Balearic Shearwater, 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 2 Water Rail and a Yellow-browed Warbler.

Late Common Redstart at Lands End
From Lands End we headed to Nanquidno and after an hour we had seen 1 Green Woodpecker (another new bird for the week), 1 Yellow-browed Warbler, 1 Fire Crest, 6 Goldcrest, 1 Blackcap and 2 Chough. We stopped and had an hour at Cot Valley but very little was recorded here of interest!

Yellow-browed Warbler at Nanquidno 
We then headed back to Drift to catch up with another bird we wanted on our week list and indeed our Chough Junior list! I decided that I needed a kip in the car so Bob set off to check the Reservoir on his own. It wasn't long before my walkie talkie was alarming and news came that he had found the long staying Mandarin Drake and that it was showing well below the car park. Superb, our target was on the list! After a walk around and thorough check Bob was heading back to the car and noted that the Mandarin had flown out of the Western Arm of the Reservoir. He thought this seemed strange having seen it at the other end just a little while before but carried on and giving it very little thought on his return journey. Once back below the car park he was shocked that the Mandarins plumage seemed so much more advanced than half an hour before. It was at this point he realised that a 2nd bird was present! Drift totals consisted of: 2 Mandarin, 2 Pintail, 31 Wigeon, 2 Common Sandpipers and colour ringed Cormorant TBT as reported a few weeks ago.     

2 Drake Mandarins at Drift Reservoir
I needed to pick up a few bits from the Supermarket so stopped at Sainsburys in Penzance. Whilst doing my shopping Bob had a little internet troll to see if there was any news on the Dalmatian Pelican? We had really hoped and prayed this bird would stay in Cornwall for our ever growing annual list and were both devastated when we had learned it had departed for pastures new in Devon. Bob excited exclaimed when I got back to the car that "it was back on the Camel". Before he could say anymore I said " we need to go now"! After a perfectly safe and speed limit respectful car journey (if you believe that you will believe anything), we arrived at Padstow were it seemed to spend most of its time before departing. Absolutely no luck whatsoever! My stomach was starting to churn, "is this going to be a disaster and are we going to end up morbid and disheartened after making such a snap decision? Bob suggested we head to Dinham Flats further up the Estuary where we could see more of the Estuary. I got optics ready and was off to the best spot I could think of before the engine of the car was off. A quick scan with the bins and bingo! There it was in all its massive glory. A huge relief and a bird we both feel we will never see again during our birding week in October. Although we did not have time to do full counts due to time constraints we also noted 1 Ruff, 1 Curlew Sandpiper, around 150 Dunlin and 40 Ringed Plover.

Distant Dalmatian Pelican
Tomorrow we hope for much of the same and more and are heading to the Lizard and nearby areas. Watch this space for more news.........................................