Sunday 9th April
I'm back down in my beloved Cornwall for a family Easter holiday. We don't often get a chance to come down at this time of year because it's often booked up by holiday makers. However, this year as the cottage needs a fair bit of renovation we've decided not to let it out to the public but just to let friends and family have use of it instead. So this new regime meant that we were able to come down for the Easter period for the first time in years and with both girls back from University we were going to have the full complement of family members for this trip.
Our departure from Oxford was somewhat delayed by a last minute work crisis but finally at around midday we were on the road. Apart from heavy traffic at the start of the M5 the journey was uneventful and we arrived in Penzance mid afternoon for our customary tea and shop at Sainsbury's before heading over towards the cottage. Whilst we'd left Oxford in glorious sunshine and scorching temperatures (for spring at least) the forecast for the far South West was some ten degrees less than Oxford so we were pleasantly surprised to find that it was actually quite warm and sunny though with a bit of a breeze that was keeping the edge off the temperatures.
As we turned into the cottage drive a large moth flew across the road - I'm guessing that it was a Hummingbird Hawkmoth though I couldn't be certain. We unpacked the car and booted up the cottage before heading out for a walk down to the lighthouse to stretch our legs. A small Chat was sitting on the wall as we walked down towards the lighthouse gate which flicked over the wall as we approached revealing the striking red tail of a Black Redstart. Whilst the others soon headed back to the cottage I lingered a bit and managed some better views (and a photo) for my troubles.
|The Black Redstart eventually obliged me with a post-top photo|
|I also scored a bonus singing Stonechat|
We had a quiet evening in at the cottage with just a quick bonus excursion down to the lighthouse again at dusk though it had got rather cold by then so we didn't linger.
10th April - Tregeseal, Cot & Marazion
The weather forecast for today was for cooler breezier conditions and this was indeed what we awoke to with a rather stiff northerly wind making conditions distinctly chilly despite the lovely sunshine that prevailed for much of the day. It was a bit of a shame as yesterday there'd been a few new birds in the county with a second Penwith Woodchat Shrike turning up as well as a Nanjizal Wryneck. However, sadly a northerly wind was rather going to put the kaibosh on any further drift migrant action.
Today we were going to get cracking with some of our DIY tasks but before I kunckled down to it I decided to start the day by looking for Woodchat Shrikes nearby in the St Just area. One has been gracing the hedgerows south of the Cot valley for several days now but as I mentioned above, a second bird was discovered yesterday in Tregeseal and as that was slightly easier to get to I decided to start off with this one first. This location was actually one that I wasn't familiar with so I did a bit of asking around yesterday evening before eventually learning that the bird had been seen off the long track that leads to the vicarage that lies on New Road to the south of Tregeseal itself. I didn't bother starting too early so it wasn't until around 9:30 that I arrived and parked up in a convenient layby near the start of the drive. As I was getting ready a nearby dog walker told me where the Shrike had been located yesterday which reassured me that I was at least at the right spot. I spent some twenty minutes working my way back and forth along the drive though there weren't that many hiding places for a Shrike there and there was no sign of it at all. I therefore soon gave up on this bird and decided to try for the long-staying Cot bird instead. I nipped over to the Cot valley and parked by the power sub-station before yomping across the stream, up past the Youth Hostel and up the steps that lead up to the footpath across the bulb fields. The bird was supposedly located near the junction between the first and second fields and as I approached I could see another birder working his way across the field though he was at the far end of the field by the time I arrived and he did't seem to be watching anything so I decided to try and find it for myself. A quick scan and I spotted the bird briefly in the hedges bordering the fields to the seaward side of the field that I was on. I set up my scope and fortunately it soon posed nicely on some bare branches enabling me to take some digiscoped photos of it.
|The Woodchat Shrike|
This was just my third ever Woodchat Shrike, though with all three of them having been seen in Cornwall it wasn't any kind of tick other than a year one - still they're always nice birds to see. I didn't have the luxury of spending too long watching it though as I was all too aware that my VLW would already be cracking on with the DIY and it wasn't fair to have her shoulder all the burden of the work. Therefore with some photos in the can I hurried back to the car and back to the cottage where I spent the rest of the morning sanding down a wooden bench ready for painting.
By the end of the morning the bench had been sanded but I had a bit of a headache from using the power sander for such a long time so I wandered down to the lighthouse to clear my head and to see if I could find the Black Redstart from yesterday. In the stiff breeze there wasn't much to be seen apart from a female Stonechat and a couple of Dunnocks and there was no sign of the Redstart. The two Ravens were about as usual but there were no Chough about at all - I presume that they're off breeding somewhere else at this time of year.
Back at base, we had lunch and then planned what to do for the afternoon. As we needed to do some shopping we decided in the end to head over to Marazion and to do our usual wander along the beach for tea somewhere. There was remarkably little bird life on the beach as we walked - I'm more used to the winter months where there are good numbers of waders and gulls but the shoreline was nearly deserted. We had some tea in the Godolphin Arms overlooking the Mount and I managed to spot a passing Sandwich Tern out of the window as we sat there. Then it was back to the car and a short hop to Sainsbury's for some shopping before we headed back to the cottage for the evening.
Fortunately the forecast is for much calmer conditions tomorrow though it will still not be that warm. Let's hope that the drop in wind will be enough to encourage more drift migrant action.
11th April: Pendeen, Kenidjack to Pendeen
Today we awoke to glorious weather. Yesterday's insidious northerly wind had subsided and there was just a gentle breeze and wonderful hazy sunshine. Indeed so inspired was I by the weather that I decided to have a wander around the Patch to see what I could find. Down by The Old Count House I found a Willow Warbler in the garden, looking rather dazed from it's recent migration efforts. Despite careful looking I could find no sign of the Black Redstart by the lighthouse though there was the usual Stonechat and lots of Linnets. Indeed Linnets were everywhere this morning and their twittering song could be heard nearly constantly. I found another Willow Warbler back in the cottage garden and down the coastal path there were more Stonechats and Linnets but nothing else of note.
|Linnet - very much the bird of the moment down by the Watch|
I returned to find that in my absence my VLW had been getting on with sorting out the damp in a window whilst I'd been out and about. Therefore, I dutifully got on with various tasks about the cottage and we got the garden furniture out for the summer and checked that it was OK. Whilst working I noticed that there was a steady movement of Swallows and Sand Martins overhead. They were either coming in off the sea directly or working their way up the coast but the passage was nearly constant all morning. I scanned the flocks carefully, looking out for a Red-rumped interloper in amongst them but sadly couldn't find one. Still it was heart-warming to think that these little birds had been the other side of the channel only this morning and had taken advantage of the abatement of yesterday's north wind to cross the sea to be with us once more.
The weather was so nice that we had lunch out in the garden before decided to take advantage of what was probably going to be the best day of the week to enjoy a coastal walk in the afternoon. So after lunch we headed up the hill and caught the bus to St Just. There, we nipped into the Co-op to buy some ice creams and snacks before heading off towards Kenidjack along the Boscean road. The lne was lined with Alexanders with Greater Stitchwort and Common Dog Violets hidden away like jewels in amongst the prevailing green. The sun was warm and there were Rabbits in the fields - it was all very spring-like.
Down in Kenidjack there were loads of Chiffchaff all singing away. There was also a soaring Buzzard overhead but little else of note. With the Gorse in full flower at the moment it all looked gorgeous. We went to say hello to the two donkeys there who were both looking very healthy, Then it was up the hill to the old rifle range where we stopped for a snack. We ambled along the coastal path back towards Pendeen, chatting and admiring the scenery and flowers. There was't the same passage of Hirundines here as there had been at Pendeen though I did see a couple of House Martins come in with a pair of Swallows. There were loads of Stonechats to be seen as we walked: I must have counted at least 6 males along the route.
|One of many Stonechats|
|I found this Spring Squill by the path between Geevor and Pendeen|
Whilst the others put their feet up I went for a final ramble down to the lighthouse. On the way I spotted a couple of Jackdaws sitting on the back of one of the cows, plucking hair off it back and then flying over towards the cliffs, presumably to line their nests; the cow didn't seem to mind. Down at the lighthouse it was all quiet and there was once again no sign of the Black Redstart so I'm assuming that it's now gone. Back at the cottage after a meal, we were all rather tired after our walk so we settled in for a quiet evening and then an early night.
|This Pheasant has been around all week though usually I only hear it rather than see it|
12th April: Drift Reservoir
After yesterday's glorious weather it was back to chilly northerly winds again. There were periods of sunshine which meant that in the sheltered spots it actually felt quite warm but, when exposed, the wind really took the edge off things. There was no real plan for today so we pottered about doing more DIY tasks at the cottage. I carried on sanding and painting the bench that I was working on and my VLW worked on her windows whilst our two daughters did their Uni work inside. On a break I did have a wander around Pendeen but there was nothing of note.
Come the afternoon we were ready to head out somewhere. With some of the others wanting to head over to Penzance to look at the shops I offered to drive them over and then do something myself before picking them up again. With little on offer anywhere on the Penwith peninsula in the end I opted for a walk down to the hide at Drift reservoir to see if I could find the long-staying Pink-footed Goose that was there. I arrived to find the wind barrelling down the length of the reservoir though in the sheltered spots it was rather pleasant. There were a few Willow Warblers, Chiffchaff and a single Blackcap all singing away along the shoreline and I did a bit of botanising as I wandered along.
In the sanctuary of the hide it was rather pleasant though looking out through the slots there was precious little to see with just four Gadwall, a smattering of Mallard and a few loafing gulls in the middle. A few Sand Martins started to come in and numbers gradually increased until there were about 30 hawking over the water. I'd read reports of 10 times that number having been seen the previous day so they're obvious stopping off to feed before working their way up the county.
|Opposite-leaved (Golden) Saxifrage|
I could have stayed in the hide for some time though with time marching on it wasn't a practical option and I started to head back to the car, disturbing a Common Sandpiper as I walked back along the shore. Then it was back over to PZ to pick up the others and then to head back over the hill to Pendeen.
|Even the resident Muskovy Duck wasn't impressed with things today|
13th April: Pendeen
We had a very quiet day in Pendeen today. The weather was still dry with sunny intervals but with the chilly northerly wind that meant that I sought out the sheltered side of the cottage for painting my bench outside. I did have a quick wander around the Patch in the morning and met up with JL who was scanning the area from the top of the the cliffs as is her wont. She reported a few Manxies going through and a couple of Stock Doves but little else of note. For my own part I couldn't find anything of particular interest.
|There's always a Stonechat to photograph down in Cornwall|
After lunch we couldn't agree on what to do. I'd received a text from P&H that morning saying that there were several Ring Ouzels at Buttermilk Hill so I tried to persuade the rest of the family that they wanted to head over towards St Ives but I couldn't get anyone else interested. So in the end we decided to walk over to Geevor to have tea at the café there (now that Heathers has gone). By way of some variety we walked across country along the footpath towards Lower Boscaswell rather than along the coastal path. The tea and cake there was reasonably good. I even had some carrot cake, which used to be a weakness of mine before I went gluten free. I paid the price afterwards with about half an hour of indigestion but it was good cake so on balance it was worth it. We walked back via the village and popped up to the church where the churchyard was looking lovely with a sea of primroses surrounding the church. Then it was back down the road and back to the cottage where we settled in for the evening.
14th April: Trengwainton
|I found this Slender Speedwell in the playground at Pendeen. It's not a species that I've come across back in Oxon but I subsequently found it in a few other places in Cornwall|
The next day was similarly low key. As it was our last full day here we pottered around the cottage, finishing off our respective DIY tasks. In a quick wander about the Patch I did manage to spot a Peregrine flying away down the valley briefly but that was about it. In the afternoon we headed over to Trengwainton gardens for their Easter Egg Hunt day which the children were keen to do. We'd not visited there before but the gardens were lovely with a wonderful overgrown and unkempt feel. I managed to hear a couple of Nuthatches piping away in the woods - quite a rare bird for the Penwith area and which I've only seen before in the county at Golitha Falls. The Trengwainton café turned out to be superb with a great range of gluten free cakes and scones so we spent quite some time there before eventually heading back to the cottage to start packing up.
15th April: Back Home
|I didn't bring my moth trap down with me but this Early Thorn came to the porch light this evening|
15th April: Back Home
On Saturday it was time the usual laborious packing up process. As usual it took far longer than we expected and things were further delayed when we were just about to leave Penzance only to realise that we'd left something behind so it was back to Pendeen once more. Finally at around midday we were properly on the way. Our journey back was uneventful and the roads were mercifully free from traffic so we made good time, arriving back in time for afternoon tea.