Yet another compilation of my Pendeen Birding adventures down in Cornwall. As it's still high summer there's not much bird action and it's all about insects and plants again in what's probably far too much detail. Read on if you wish.
Sunday 2nd and Monday 3rd August
We're back down in Cornwall for our official holiday this week. Having learnt from our difficult return journey last time we decided to come down on Sunday to avoid the traffic. As I was feeling a bit under the weather in the end we decided not to stop off anywhere but instead we left at a leisurely time late morning and arrived a bit more than four hours later in Penzance for our now-traditional Sainsbury café stop and shop. I was amazed at how busy it all was with holiday makers but soon we were back in the car and whizzing down to Pendeen where it was relatively peaceful. After unpacking we nipped down to the lighthouse to stare at the sea and to unwind. In the breezy conditions the only thing of note that I saw was a Painted Lady on the wall of the lighthouse. We had a quick and easy dinner and then settled down to watch some DVD's for the evening.
The next day after a less than ideal night (someone had left one of our windows partially undone so it rattled all night in the wind) we awoke to a rather windy Pendeen. I decided to head down to the Watch for a bijou sea-watch even though the wind was all wrong, being the usual south-westerly. There I met another visiting birder (no locals of course who wouldn't bother at Pendeen with a SW wind) and we passed a rather dull hour watching a steady stream of Manxies go by. The highlight was a single Common Tern but apart from that there were just the usual Gannets, Fulmars and Kittiwakes, the latter including one juvenile.
|Common Scurvygrass growing by the lighthouse|
As the weather actually wasn't too bad today despite the wind, for our main outing we decided to head over to Porthgwarra and from there walk along the coast path to Porthcurno, get a pasty there from the beach café and then come back again. This was the plan and was indeed what we did. Out of the wind it was actually rather hot along the coastal path and by the afternoon the sun was out and it was all very pleasant. There wasn't much in the way of bird life to report apart from a couple of skulking Whitethroats and several Ravens along the clifftops. On the sea the Gannets were very busy diving away very close in in spectacular style.
|Sharp-angled Peacock skulking in the Blackthorn|
|Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary|
We got to Porthcurno, managed to get our pasties from the scrum in the café and went down to a sheltered corner of the beach to eat them. Then whilst the others went for a paddle, I had a little nap on the beach to catch up on my sleep. Then it was time to head back the way we'd come.
Back at Porthgwarrra we had a welcome cup of tea in the re-vamped café (now run by the St Aubyn's Estate who seem to be taking over everything these days) before heading back to Pendeen. The evening was spent eating, playing Trivial Pursuit and dancing to music before a final trip to the lighthouse to watch the waves crashing over the rocks in the half light of dusk. Then it was back to the cottage for a well-earned rest.
Tuesday 4th August Pendeen, Hayle & Marazion
Today the forecast was for a strong wind though with the forecast direction actually north of south-westerly and verging on westerly I was wondering whether it might actually be a genuine Pendeen day though in the event it wasn't quite westerly enough. I did toy with the idea of heading over to PG to do a proper sea watch but the half hour travel time and the exposed setting in the end put me off (what a whimp I am!) and I elected to wander the few hundred yards down to the lighthouse instead.
Today I found that I wasn't the first there with a couple of visiting birders encamped just around the first corner rather than sitting tucked in by the raised concrete platform where most people go. They had already had a Great Shearwater go by as well as a couple of Balearics so it looked more promising than yesterday. I joined them in their strange spot though it wasn't very comfortable sitting there. Another visiting birder arrived (the same chap that was there yesterday with me) and he too sat down with us. When yet another visitor arrived he chose to sit in the usual spot so at that point I went over to join him and the others soon followed.
As far as the birding was concerned, the stronger wind did mean that there was more of a chop to the sea today though of course given the direction it wasn't quite right. Through the haze there seemed to be a veritable maelstrom of Manxies out quite some distance in a feeding flock. I tried to look out for Balearics but the light was too hazy and they were too far away to do this with any accuracy. I did manage to spot a marauding Bonxie, following the flock around and trying it's luck though I soon lost it again and the others couldn't get on it. Apart from that there was a rather moderate passage of Manxies going by with the occasional Kittiwake but nothing else of note apart from the brief sighting of a Harbour Porpoise's fin. I left at around 9:30 a.m. as our eldest daughter's university friend (whose family were holidaying in the area) was coming over soon and I felt that I ought to be there to greet her. In the end I met them by the lighthouse car park and I took the friend back to the cottage to meet up with our daughter.
|I found this Ruby Tiger outside the cottage, grounded by the wind and rather exposed so I tucked it away somewhere safe to roost|
The plan for the day was that some of the party were going to do a brief spot of shopping in Penzance whilst our daughter and friend wanted to have a wander around Marazion so I duly dropped each party off at their respective location and then went on to Hayle to see if I could finally catch up with the long-staying Ring-billed Gull there. Worryingly, it had not been reported for the last couple of days despite some quite detailed reports from the site so I was fully prepared for it not to be there. In the event I needed have worried because I soon found the bird working its way along the near bank quite close to the bridge. Apart from this there wasn't much of note with just the usual gulls and a few Curlew and Oystercatchers dotted about the place.
|The long-staying Hayle Ring-billed Gull|
I had just enough time to pay Ryan's Field a quick visit and here I found a flock of 19 roosting Redshanks, 1 Whimbrel and 5 Med Gulls (2 of which were juveniles) in amongst the Black-headed Gulls. Then it was back to Penzance to pick up the shopping party and head over the Marazion to rendezvous with the other two. We did our usual wandering about on the beach and discovered a nice new tea shop within Marazion itself. As usual I had a rummage amongst the plants on the beach to see what I could find.
|The Sea Rocket was in full flower now|
After that we headed off home, stopping off en route for some shopping. Back at the cottage it was time for a second cup of tea and then some of us went for a local wander along the coastal path. There wasn't much of particular note but it was amazing to see just how much had gone over since my last visit a mere two weeks ago. Many of the butterflies were also gone though I did find one very worn Grayling still about. Then it was back to the cottage for our meal and to veg out for the evening.
|Wild Thyme is actually very intricate when viewed close up|
Wednesday 5th August: Pendeen
Today the wind was strong and directly from the south - an unequivocal Porthgwarra day. However, a disturbed night's sleep had meant that a cold that I'd been fighting off all week started to gain the upper hand and also the fact that PG is too far away easily to slip in a cheeky visit as part of a family holiday meant that in the end I decided not to brave the rainy and windy conditions and instead to stay in bed. Mid morning I did nip down to the Watch just to take a quick look at the sea. There was a large feeding flock of Manxies zipping around all over the place and I scoured it carefully for anything more interesting but to no avail.
The incessant rain meant that we didn't contemplate leaving the house until the afternoon by which time my cold had firmly taken control so I stayed in bed whilst the others had a local walk. I did leave the cottage late afternoon just to get out of the house and had a wander down to Boat Cove but there was nothing of particular note to be seen and the highlight was on the way back when a flock of three Chough flew over my head and landed on the cliffs. I spent much of the evening tucked up in bed reading. I hope that I feel better tomorrow as it's supposed to be the best weather of the week.
|Two of the three Chough on the cliffs|
|Due to the wind I've not been running my trap but this female Ghost moth came to the "moth light" last night|
|A rather worn Palpita vitrealis turned up inside our house last night. |
This is a rather rare immigrant moth
Thursday 6th August, Pendeen & Tredinney Common
Today was forecast to be the best weather of the week and so indeed it turned out with just a gentle breeze and good solid sunshine. Once again I had a good lie in in order to try and speed up my recovery from this annoying cold.
Mid morning I went down to the Watch for a quick look around. The large Manx feeding flock was still there but there was no movement through at all. Whilst there I met my usual sea-watching companion who had apparently actually been at PG yesterday but had somehow managed to miss all six of the Great Shearwaters that reportedly went through there. Whilst there he did apparently meet up with a visiting Gloucester birder who said that he'd seen a Fea's Petrel go past at 6:15 a.m. Apparently this same birder had been here at Pendeen at first light today as well and had seen a few good things like some Sooties and Bonxies. Perhaps it was possible to see some stuff go by early doors even on windless days then.
|I found this Painted Lady in the lighthouse enclosed "garden" area|
|The Pendeen Choughs were still about - today there were four|
Back at the cottage we discussed our plans for the day. I had originally been hoping for a return trip to the Cheesering Quarry at Minions to have another crack at the Common Hawkers there but sadly I wasn't well enough to do this. The others decided to do a coastal walk so we put together a plan whereby I would drop them off at St. Just and they would walk back to Pendeen. In the mean time I thought that I would go on a gentle stroll on the moors there just to explore a bit before heading back to the cottage for a rest. So this is what we did.
Having dropped off the walkers and with Common Hawkers still on my mind I'd been told that Bartinney Downs occasionally had sightings of them so I looked on the map for some suitable water nearby. The best that I could come up with was the old china clay quarry at Tredinney Common which was only a short stroll from the Chapel Carn Brea car park so I decided to explore. The moorland is looking lovely at this time of year with the Heather and Bell Heather both looking very colourful and making a lovely contrast with the brilliant yellow of the Gorse. I ambled along looking at the Meadow Browns and Gatekeepers busy doing their thing along the path. I eventually found and made my way (the hard way) down into the quarry which turned out to be a lovely oasis within the moor. Clearly the pond was quite large during the winter months but by now had dried up to the point that it was just a small pool.
|Tredinney Common quarry|
I settled down there and ate my packed lunch whilst I looked out for Odonata. There were several Common Darters and one male Emperor who was patrolling the area. Whilst I was there a female Emperor turned up and started ovipositing at the pond and another male also arrived though he was quickly seen off by the resident male.
|Male Emperor Dragonfly|
There was not much to report on the bird front with just a couple of Ravens, a Buzzard and a Willow Warbler seen whilst I was there. It was all very peaceful though - I could have stayed for hours. After a while I headed back to the car, noting a Wall Brown along the way.
On the way home I stopped off at the small pond at Pendeen to see if there were any dragonflies but all I could find was a single Common Darter. A year or two ago I'd seen a couple of Hawkers there which at the time I'd struggled to ID though with my greater knowledge now I'm pretty sure had been Common Hawkers. Back at the cottage I settled down for a nap whilst I waited for the walkers to turn up.
Later that afternoon after a cup of tea and with the rest of the party safely returned and now resting, I headed out to explore my favourite valley once again. Given the great weather I was hoping to be able to take some photos of the Golden-ringed Dragonfly there. I did manage to see it but it was predictably too elusive for photos. I did get a brief glimpse of a Dark Green Fritillary by way of compensation though. I passed a pleasant hour there rummaging around the plants and insects before heading back to the cottage for dinner.
|Cross-leaved Heath - a Heather that likes damper areas|
|Yellow Shell moth|
Friday 7th Back Home
As I mentioned yesterday, I'd put out the moth trap last night. This morning there were rather modest numbers within the trap with nothing of particularly note apart from a couple of migrants (a Dark Sword Grass and a Rusty Dot Pearl) and a Poplar Hawk Moth that our younger daughter wanted to have on her hand as usual.
|The Poplar Hawk Moth|
I noticed that there had been a noticeable influx of Swallows overnight with our usual family party that had bred in the barn joined by up to 50 others all zipping around the cottages with great speed. I presume that this is the start of the general autumnal movement southwards.
Our original intention was to leave today to avoid the Saturday traffic jams but in a (rather heated) family debate yesterday evening it had been decided to stay another day. However mid morning collectively it was decided that it would be better to leave today instead so we had a rather hectic couple of hours to pack up and make ready and then we were off.
First stop was to visit my VLW's niece and partner who now live near St. Agnes. Her baby daughter had now turned one so we thought that we'd stop off to say hello. It wasn't until 4pm that we left her place and headed on up the A30. Acting on advice from a neighbour we decided to detour around the road works on the A30 which had caused such a huge delay on our previous journey home and so took the scenic route on the A39 "Atlantic Highway" up through Wadebridge, re-joining the A30 at Launceston. Certainly there were no traffic jams going this way but it added a good time to the journey and so it wasn't until quite late that we were back in Oxfordshire. Daughter 2 wanted to go to a party in Abingdon so we dropped her off there and finally arrived back at around 10 p.m. all feeling very tired and exhausted from a long journey home.