Saturday, 3 November 2018

Woodway Richard's Pipit

After a lunch at Browns restaurant with my VLW and an old Uni friend, I was winding down for the weekend on a Friday afternoon when at around 3 pm I got a Badger text "Richard's Pipit, Downs, Woodway, found by RW". "Bugger!" I thought. Richard's Pipit was so rare in the county that basically you had to go for it but it was also one of those species that could be really hard to twitch. Pipits can of course be rather mobile things and the Downs is such a vast area that it could be almost impossible to see. Still, as I said, basically you had to go for it so I got my gear together, told my VLW I was off on another county wild goose chase and set off. Of course Friday afternoon is absolutely the worst time to try and get out of Oxford. I normally budget on 10 minute from my house to the ring road but today it was chocker everywhere and it was a good 30 minutes today. Whilst in a jam on the Abingdon Road I called up RW to get the latest news. I was fully expecting to hear a "currently being looked for" reply but instead to my amazement he told me that he was still watching it in a field and that other county birders were now starting to arrive. In addition he helpfully told me exactly where to turn off the main road in Blewbury (opposite the garage) and where to park. Armed with the fact that the bird was still there I allowed myself a small glimmer of hope as I finally got to the ring road and fought my way onto the maelstrom that was the A34 on a Friday afternoon. To add an extra frisson to proceedings, my petrol warning light had just come on. However, I wasn't going to waste time filling up now and decided to chance it until the return journey. Finally I was at the Didcot turn-off and eventually, still in heavy traffic, heading east through the various downland villages of West Hagbourne, Upton and eventually Blewbury. There was the garage and I turned off and sped up Wooodway Road. Half way up I caught up with a guy on a moped with an L plate, cruising along at a steady 10 miles an hour in the middle of the road. Now had it been me, I'd have moved to one side to let me pass, but no he chugged along all the way until finally he turned off. Beyond the last house I saw the familiar face of PL walking up the track so I offered him a lift and we negotiated the last few hundred bumpy yards before dumping the car with several others and got our gear out. I was all ready to hurry on up the track when PL looked behind us and said "there they are". Thank goodness I'd not gone tearing off in the wrong direction! Whilst PL coolly sauntered over towards the rest of the group I broke into a trot, arriving breathless to plead "tell me it's still there!" and fortunately, it was. Someone kindly gave me a view through their scope and after an agonising 30 seconds up popped the distinctive head of a Richard's Pipit from the long grass and I could finally relax.

A welcome sight - county twitchers watching the Richard's Pipit

After that I could recover my composure, set up my scope and get directions for the bird for myself. It was looking very calm and settled, working its way through some long grass in a large field just after the last house on the road before the landscape changed into the wide gallops of the proper downs itself. Fortunately the field was fairly uniform and there weren't any hidden dips into which the bird cold disappear. However, It was often hidden from view by the tall grass and was moving constantly so it was easy enough to lose track of. Of course I tried digiscoping it but my battery died before I could take a shot. So instead I had to resort to using my macro moth camera held up to the lens to try and take some photos. Given the constant movement of the bird it was very hard to get a successful shot off but eventually I managed a couple of record shots. RW showed me a couple of absolutely stunning back of the camera photos of the bird that left me drooling.

The best I could manage with my crappy camera held to the scope
Whilst watching the bird I chatted away with the dozen or so other county birders there. RW was joking that this wasn't even a self-found county tick as he'd found the first one back in the autumn of 2002 - one of the perks of having the Downs as a patch I guess! Apart from that one (which stayed about a week), there has been a single-observer record at Otmoor (by PB) in September 2008 on the Pill Ground at Otmoor which I remember looking for the next day, dragging my then two year old son in his pushchair through the mist and bog in a vain search for it. There was also a single observer record from PC in April 2017 at Lollingdon Hill which stayed all of 15 minutes. So this bird was only the fourth county record and only the second twitchable one, with the last being 16 years ago. That's how rare this bird was in an Oxon context. Chatting with the others, it was a county tick for a most of them, some of them even county elders in the upper echelons of county listing.

The sun had already set from where we were all standing by the time I'd arrived at around 4pm and after a while I started to get cold. With a bit of work to finish off that I'd dropped in pursuit of this bird I decided to head back and offered PL, who was also leaving, a lift back to his car. We returned to the Gnome Mobile discover that he'd left the passenger side door open in his haste to go and see the bird! Proper hard core twitchers us! I dropped him off and headed at a much more leisurely pace back towards Oxford, first of course stopping off to get some fuel for the car. There was the inevitable fight with the traffic to get back into Oxford but I didn't mind. I'd manage to see a county Mega and all was well with the world.

Absolutely stunning photos of the bird courtesy of Roger Wyatt

Saturday, 27 October 2018

Half Term Holiday in Cornwall

Another compilation of posts from my Cornish Pendeen Birding blog of our annual October half-term holiday. This time a certain Catbird was an added incentive to go down there!

20th October, Back Down & Treeve Moor
This autumn, I've been very much keeping a keen eye on goings on down in my beloved Cornwall. From afar it looked like it was quite a reasonable autumn with lots of good second tier rarities, certainly a lot better than last year, but somehow lacking the Killer Rare that would tempt me down. My plan was that without something special to force me down, I would come for the Half Term  holiday with my VLW and our son L (with our two grown-up daughters now doing their own thing these days). Of course earlier this week we got the Mother of All Rares, in the form of the Grey Catbird, found at Treeve Moor and only the second for the country. What to do? It seemed a bit excessive to come down on Wednesday for it and return only to come down again at the weekend for the holiday so I decided to tough it out and hope that it stuck around until the weekend. Fortunately, it duly obliged, no doubt in no hurry after its epic Atlantic journey to venture forth over the sea again. So it was that this morning at around 9 a.m. myself and  L (with my VLW away for the weekend and due to come down separately on Monday) set off from Oxford on a gloriously sunny and calm day for the long slog down to the South West. Fortunately the reassuring "still present" message had already come out and so it was with some optimism that I navigated the miles with Radio Four for company to help while away the time. Finally at around 1 pm we arrived at Penzance and some twenty minutes later or so we were pulling up in the car park field next to Treeve Moor where I hurriedly tooled up.

Over the last few days RBA messages for the bird all but dried up in the afternoon so I was expecting that it might well become more skulking at that time and was prepared for a bit of a wait but when I asked some departing birders they reassured me that they'd seen it about half a dozen times in an hour and a half - most  encouraging! They also explained that there were two options for viewing: from the car park field side where you had the strong sunlight in your favour behind you, or the Moor side where you were looking into the sun. They said that it had moved about a bit and often perched up quite nicely so I shouldn't have any trouble. Armed with this information in view of the light I decided to try the car park field side where the majority of other birders were. I went over to join them with L reluctantly in tow and settled down to wait. This waiting went on for some time and after  about an  hour I started to get rather restless. There were a couple of Stonechat flitting about, a soaring Buzzard, a fly-over calling Chough and a few Mipits but that was about it. Finally there seemed to be some movement to one end of the hedge over which we were viewing. It turned out that someone had heard it call and shortly after that I got a brief glimpse of its tail as it ducked back down into a ditch. A technical tick but not very satisfactory. Back to waiting. 

Birders on the car park field side
After a while the half a dozen birders on the far side (compared to about four times that number on our side) starting staring intently at something close by them - they were clearly on the bird which seemed to be deep in cover though. This went on for some time until eventually myself and one or two other (but still surprisingly few) birders decided to make the few minutes walk back to the road and down to the other side. Here I got the tail end of what they were watching as the bird flew out of a nearby bush and back down into the ditch. At least on this side it was much closer, being only 20 yards or so away compared to much further on the far side. So now that was two brief glimpses but still nothing better. L was starting to get restless so I had to appease him with the promise of take-away for dinner that evening. A red Darter species flew by with seemingly a lot of red on its wings though in flight it was impossible to be sure that it was a Red-veined rather than a Common. The birder next to me, who turned out to be a fellow insect enthusiast and I then got talking about odonata, butterflies and all sorts of other diversions from birding during the lean summer months. He told me that he was now into bees and wasps though I told him that I'd taken a look but when it gets to the stage where you need a microscope or a dissecting knife to ID something, then that was a step too far for me.

After another fifteen minutes or so I heard the Catbird "meow" again and suddenly there it was, out in the open on top of the scrub and calling away. At last! I whipped out the trusty super zoom and rattled off some shots - into the light of course but nice and close. After about a minute or so it dropped back down into the ditch again. 

Catbird porn
That was good enough for me and much to L's relief we finally headed back to the car. Then it was time to set off for the cottage, stopping off at St. Just first for some provisions. Then it was time to open up the cottage and for me to catch up on some well-earned tea drinking whilst admiring the scenery which was looking absolutely stunning in the amazing light. Three Wheatears were in the horse paddock field, always a pleasure to watch. There were also a dozen or so butterflies all nectaring away on some Michaelmas Daisies in the same field. As well as lots of Red Admirals there were several Peacocks, a Small Tortoiseshell and a Small Copper that came to sun itself on the wall.

Small Copper
After a while of chilling out in this way it was time to go and get the take-away. We headed back up the road to St. Just where in the end we just got some chips before driving down to Cape Cornwall to eat them whilst watching the sun set. All very nice! Then it was back to the cottage to settle in for the evening. I put on the moth light but in the clear conditions it had got rather cold now and I didn't hold out much hope. After a long day it was soon time to turn in for the evening.

21st October: Pendeen, Land's End, Carn Gloose & Marazion
I woke up far too early this morning, no doubt excited at the prospect of doing my Pendeen rounds once more. I was out shortly after first light where despite the lack of wind there was mercifully not too much of the dreaded Pendeen fog. Indeed it had been a very clear night last night and I did wonder about whether this might lead to a bit of a clear-out. As I started my rounds it did certainly seem to be very quiet. One of the Wheatears was still about first thing though it too soon departed. There was quite a bit of movement overhead with a steady passage of Chaffinch all morning interspersed with the odd Skylark. Apart from that it was pretty much just the usual stuff. There was no sign of the Black Redstart down by the lighthouse nor of the Yellow-browed Warbler up at Calartha. The only point of note was an interesting pale warbler half way up the valley by the S-bend Sallows that I never managed to get a proper look at. Perhaps one that got away. Up at Calartha I met up with a couple of birders, DH and SH who turned out to be friends of TM. We got chatting as you do and walked down the road again together. They went off to look for cetaceans for a while and later reported a couple of Blue-finned Tuna from the cliff top by the cottages.
Early morning Wheatear
Back at the cottage I had breakfast and waited to see what news came in. A Dusky Warbler found by MW at PG at the Coastguard lookout was too far and given the all the Cat Birders who'd be out and about, would probably be too crowded. Instead I opted for a report of a Rosefinch at Land's End car park though it was probably going to be a hiding to nothing. I have a rule of thumb that at least half of all initial Cornish reports turn out never to be seen again and the Land's End Sallows are very hard to bird. Still, L was happy to be left alone for a couple of hours and it wasn't too far away so off I set. There I found, as predicted. that there had been no news so I had a little wander around though apart from quite a few Siskins flyin over there was little of note. I bumped into P&H who reported a Black Redstart at the complex so I went for a look but couldn't find it. Soon it was time to head back to the cottage, stopping off at St Just to pick up provisions for lunch.

After lunch I'd promised L that we could do something that he wanted and he'd opted for the classic tea at Jordans café at Marazion. As this would involve very little exercise on his part at all I suggested that we first went for a little explore along the Carn Gloose road to look for Vagrant Emperors though when we got there it was rather overcast and breezy. Another birder who'd been there over an hour had reported no Emperors so we just did a quick zip round (3 Stonechats and a Kestrel) and headed off to Marazion.

After the usual tea in the car looking out at the sea (you can get more British than that!) we went for a walk along the beach towards the Red River mouth and back along the road. I had a quick scan over the Marsh as we went though there was little to report apart from a singing Cetti's Warbler. Then it was back to the car and off home to the cottage.

Marazion Buzzard

22nd October, Hayle
It was forecast to be windy today and indeed I woke up to a strong north easterly blow. In fact outside it felt stronger than forecast and I hurried around the lower part of my rounds to no avail at all with just a few Mipits being blow hither and thither for my troubles. 

Actually I was feeling a bit under the weather myself so decided to take it easy today. Also, in this  wind  there was little point in bashing the bushes - it would be impossible to see anything anyway. So whilst L stayed at the cottage and amused himself I decided to head over to Hayle where I could sit in the hide out of the wind, hopefully watching the Great White Egret and Spoonbill that had been frequenting Ryan's Field the last few days. I arrived to find that this pair were obligingly indeed doing just that and in fact they posed together quite nicely on one of the islands.

Great White Egret and Spoonbill posing together
Having so easily seen my target birds I decided to pop over to the causeway to see what was about. I always like the Hayle estuary as there are so many birds to sift through: it's the perfect antidote to staring at birdless Sallows for hours at a time, as is so often the case with Cornish birding. There were reasonable numbers of Teal and Wigeon, a few dozen Redshank, good numbers of Lapwing, the usual Curlew and a few Golden Plover. I looked through the smaller gulls for Meds but they were all Black-headed. I was starting to think about heading back when I spotted a familiar face a few yards away. It was a fellow Oxon birder who, like me, comes down to Cornwall regularly. We chatted away as we scanned the flocks. Suddenly I spotted a relatively small white Egret fly in and land. However, rather than it being the Little I was expecting it turned out to be a Cattle Egret instead. Very nice! 

A bonus Cattle Egret
However, after a quick wash and rush up, it stayed no more than a couple of minutes before flying up again and heading off low towards St Erth. I expect that it's in the same cattle fields over there where they over-wintered last year. Very pleased with my bonus find, I put the word out on RBA (not that anyone would be able to twitch it), said goodbye to my companion and then headed back to the car and then to Pendeen. A very successful trip with all three of the rarer "big white birds" in one go!

After that we had a rather quiet day pootling around at Pendeen before  heading over the hill to PZ late afternoon to rendezvous with my VLW who was coming down today on the train having been away for the weekend with friends. After her arrival we headed over to Sainsbury's for a cup of tea and then some shopping before heading back to the cottage for the evening.

23rd October, Pendeen & Kenidjack
Toward we were back to relatively calm conditions again though what wind there was was still from the north, thereby knocking a few degrees off the temperature. Still it was full of optimism that I went out on my rounds today. However, that turned out to be unjustified as Pendeen was remarkably birdless. I searched quite hard in the usual places but to no avail. I even tried the Manor Farm loop where in the Sallows I had an exciting encounter with a Sparrowhawk that crashed into the the Sallow I was standing in front of, knocking out a few of  the birds, before chasing one of them hell for leather around the back and out of sight - I never got to see the outcome of this chase. Up at Calartha I met with local birder PC. I'd know for a while that he'd moved to Pendeen but had not actually had a chance to meet with him until now. He'd seen nothing either so we went our separate ways, me back to the cottage to get on with the day. We spent the rest of the morning in the cottage, taking an inventory of what DIY tasks needed doing (fighting the relentless onslaught of damp, as always). Then we had an early lunch before setting out for the afternoon. Our plan was to head over to Kenidjack, walk around to Cape Cornwall then back to St Just for tea and then back to the car. 

As we walked down the valley I couldn't help but marvel at the contrast between all the fantastic cover here compared to the sparse habitat down at Pendeen. Whilst the other two yomped on ahead I lingered, grilling all the likely spots for sprites. Sadly, it seemed as empty here as at Pendeen. 

We ended up walking right down to the end of the valley, thinking that we could walk across the beach to the Cape but the tide was in so we had to retrace our steps. Back at the last house we met JS & E and stopped for a chat. As we talked a mixed flock was moving through the Sallows and I spotted a Yellow-browed in amongst them - my first of the trip down here. We watched it flitting through the Sallows for a while but then as we were running late we bade the others farewell and hurried across the stream and up the hill. I could hear the Yellow-browed calling from across the valley as I climbed the far side. 

Pink Sorrel
As time was marching on we decided to turn left at the top and head back towards Boscean and then down to the car where we then drove the short distance to St Just for our tea. We tried out a new café today which we all rather liked. Then  it was back to the cottage for the evening.

Rusty-dot Pearl - a migrant moth

24th & 25th October, Pendeen
A very quiet day today. I did my rounds as usual with virtually nothing to show for my efforts apart from a few fly-over Skylarks. There was nothing else of note at all - my Pendeen rounds are proving depressingly unproductive. After that it was time to start some DIY activities which occupied the rest of the morning. 

In the afternoon we went out to buy a few things that we decided we needed on the back of our morning efforts and then we went off to the Tremenheere sculpture park for tea. On the way back we stopped off at Gulval church yard for a look around. It was a lovely piece of habitat with all sorts of interesting plants and trees there. I wonder if anyone checks it out regularly. Then it was shopping at Sainsbury's and back home. Whilst out, news had come out on the pager of a Black Redstart at Pendeen lighthouse so I went for a stroll down there to see if I could find it. It turned out to be right on the cliffs on the north west corner where it was feeding away on what was a nice sun trap in the company of a Wheatear.

The Black Redstart on the cliff

The Wheatear at the top of the cliff
Pleased finally to have seen something of note at Pendeen I headed back to the cottage for the evening.

The next day in view of the poor local birding I treated myself to a bit of a lie in before venturing out at around 9 a.m. Down at the lighthouse I found the Black Redstart was this time in the complex itself and that it had picked up a companion, also  a female/first-winter bird. The Wheatear was also still about within the complex but that was about it. I met PC on my rounds again who'd also seen very little.

One of two Black Redstarts this morning

..and a pair of Stonechats offered some photographic interest
After that  it was more DIY in the cottage. In the afternoon a sudden work emergency had me stuck to the computer whilst the others went to Geevor for tea. Apart from a brief birdless walk down to Boat Cove that was it.

26th October, Pendeen Sea-watch & a Troubled Journey Home
With the weather forecast to deteriorate over the weekend, we decided to head back on the Friday. However, with a strong north westerly wind forecast it seemed rude not to pop down to the Watch first thing to try out the sea for a bit. I wasn't in a particular hurry and didn't arrive until 8:40 a.m. where to my surprise I found that I had the place to myself. Too late in the season I guess for the hardcore locals but as a visitor, I had to take my chances when I could get them. The wind turned out to be a bit more northerly than expected and it was hard to find somewhere sheltered and in the end, instead of the usual spot in the corner where everyone sits I opted for a corner further east where a small "step" in the wall offered a bit of a corner to hide behind. 

White horses on a stormy Pendeen sea

Having got myself set up, I was no more than five minutes in, noting a constant passage of Auks and Kittiwakes, when the big lumbering shape of a Bonxie hove into view. It's always nice to get the first notable bird of the session under ones belt and I watched with satisfaction as it passed by fairly close in. Some fifteen minutes later I spotted something else: it seemed to be shearing away and in the first instance I was therefore thinking Shearwater but on closer inspection turned out to be an adult pale-phase Skua. It's jizz was clearly too light for a Pom and I just managed to make out a breast band and the extended tail and concluded that it was an Arctic.

DB and her family arrived and went to settle in the more traditional viewing spot. I went over to say hello and to check out the wind there but decided that it was still winder than where I was so I returned to my spot. A little while later I picked up a dark-phase Sku. With it's wide "arm" and powerful purposeful flight it could only be a Pom. I watched it as it flew west only to discover that it was with a couple of pale-phased birds as well. Very nice! After they passed I went over to the other party who'd also seen them and we all agreed on Pom as the ID. After that it went rather quiet and I left some time after 10:15 a.m. All in all, not a bad way to end the holiday's birding.

Back at the cottage there was much to do in preparation for our departure which, as always, took far longer than you'd think so it wasn't until after midday that we were on our way. We'd just stopped off at Hayle for our sandwiches and were settling down for the long slog up the A30 when there was a loud bang under the bonnet and a warning message came on the display. After that, the car had little power and no acceleration - it had clearly gone into "lock-down" power limiter mode which it "helpfully" does when something goes wrong. We limped on in this way so that I might assess how easy it would be to get home in this state but it clearly was going to be too much so we pulled in at the services by the St. Agnes turn-off and I called our roadside rescue service. After an hour we were picked up and relayed to a Volvo dealership in Truro. After having described the problem, they reckoned that it might be the turbo charge pipe. Given that the workshop had nothing else to do that afternoon they said that they could take a look to see if they could patch it up. After a lot of waiting around (thank heavens I had my book with me) we were told that they'd manage to sort it out enough to get home. So it was that some time after 5 pm were were finally back on the road and working our way through the Truro rush hour. Fortunately once finally back on the A30 the traffic was fairly light and eventually at around 9:30 in the evening we were back home again. Not exactly the end to our holiday that we were hoping for but at least we were back safely in one piece.

As a memento of the wonderful Catbird, here is an exquisite photo of it taken by Dennis Morrison (c)
Taken from his RBA Gallery here

Friday, 19 October 2018

Getting Rustic in Wanstead

After a year and particularly an autumn that everyone has been complaining about as unusually poor on the twitching and rarities front, suddenly in the last couple of weeks thinks have kicked off big time. With rares (and indeed firsts for Britain in the form of a White-rumped Swift up in Yorkshire) landing everywhere I had definitely been woken from my twitchless torpor and was keeping a keen eye on my RBA app for something appropriate to go for. The Grey Catbird down in Cornwall very nearly tempted me but it was just a bit too far, especially since I was going to be down there at the weekend anyway for a family half term holiday, so instead I decided to hang on and hope that it stayed long enough for me to see it. However, when on Tuesday evening a Rustic Bunting was found at Wanstead Flats in London this certainly piqued my interest being well within my preferred (though these days not very strict) two hour travel limit. Accordingly I decided to wait on news the next morning.

The next day it was reported just after 8 a.m. and then again at around 10. That was good enough for me but unfortunately a bit of unfinished work kept me at my desk for longer than I would have wanted so it wasn't until around 11 that I finally left. There was no further news until I hit the M25 where the dreaded "no further sign by 11:30" was reported. What to do? Recalling that I was faced with the same dilemma last time when I successfully twitched the Hampshire Ortolan, I declined the option to turn back immediately. My thinking was that by heading on to the site at the very least it would offer those already there a chance to refind it and if there was still no sign then I could fairly quickly give up and head back home. Mentally I downgraded my expectations on this twitch and soldiered on through the heavy traffic.

By the time I got to the M11 there was a "still seen at 11:32 though elusive" message. Perhaps there was hope yet! I negotiated the rather heavy traffic and shortly after 12:30 pulled up in the main car park on Wansted Flats. This was not a location that I'd been to before though I knew of it from the bloggings and photos of Mr. Jonathan Lethbridge, the Wanstead Birder. It turned out to be a large flat scrubby area plonked in the middle of a sea of Victorian housing. I could see how this might attract birds: in the ocean of concrete that is London this would be an attractive island of green. I tooled up and spotting some some milling birders in the general direction I was expecting, I hurried off to join them.

Wanstead Flats - offering welcome relief from the concrete for vagrant buntings
After a brisk five minute walk I asked the first birder I met what the situation was. He explained how the bird had been feeding in the area of burnt gorse for a while before suddenly flying all the way over to the car park, then back to here and then off towards some trees a good distance away. "No one really knows where it is at all" he concluded gloomily, thereby confirming my fears for this twitch. I soon met up with PL (I would have been surprised had he not been here, frankly) and also SJ who had twitched by train. They had arrived a good half hour before me and sadly had not seen the bird at all. We all milled around for a bit and then I decided to have a wander around to see if I could find it. To the raucous accompaniment of the resident Ring-necked Parakeets I wandered around scouring the scorched earth for Buntings. I'd been no more than a few minutes on my circuit when I noticed a change in the demeanour of some of the birders who were no longer milling but instead were actively scouring a burnt clump of gorse. I started to hurry over as a call from PL confirmed that it had been seen. It turned out that it had flown in calling and had landed in the aforementioned clump where it was presently lost to view. The assembled birders gradually worked their way around the clump, looking for that angle which would reveal the bird when it flew up into a branch and someone called it. I hurried over and got my first glimpse of it, with it's back to me, for a few seconds before it flew off a short distance. We all followed it as it made a couple of hops like this before settling in a patch by a couple of trees. There it flitted down to feed (it may have been seeded here) and back up into the tree several times before having a good preen and generally offering great views. Naturally I had a go at some digiscoping but the results were largely of record shot quality.

The bright light made things rather contrasty (hence the poor photos) though it was easy enough to see the diagnostic rusty flanks that made it a Rustic as well as the other more subtle features that marked it out from your common or garden Reed. After perhaps ten minutes of this it then flew a relatively short distance and landed in another clump out of sight. "Good enough for me" I thought and the Oxon crew took the liberty of some high fiving and indulged in some relaxed post-tick banter.

A few seconds of video of the Rustic Bunting

Having seen the bird relatively quickly I decided not to hang around but to head back as I had more work to finish off. Accordingly I had a quick half-hearted and fruitless wander around the clump where it had appeared to go down in before heading back to the car and de-tooling. I then headed off via a little detour to a petrol station that I'd noticed on Google maps from the night before when doing my pre trip research. Then it was back into the maelstrom of London traffic and the M25 and M40 where I arrived back just before 4 pm for my post twitch celebratory cup of tea.

By far the best photo that I've seen of this bird, taken by Anthony Williams (c).
Taken from the photographer's RBA Gallery here

On my way to the Bunting I did just nip in to Wolvercote where Steve Goddard had kindly
kept a Clifden Nonpareil for me. A much prized species amongst moth'ers I was very
pleased to see this rather battered specimen

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Rainy Wales

In recent years at this time of years my birding pulses would be quickening at the prospect of the next great Uni Run up to Durham to take Daughter 1 back up to the North East for the start of her next term. Sadly now that she has finished there, those trips to places like Spurn are no longer going to be an annual event. Daughter 2 is still at Uni in her final year but sadly Swansea doesn't offer quite the same birding opportunities that Durham does and each trip I rather struggle to find much of interest to stop off at on the way back. This year I had been intending to pay another visit to the Common Hawkers on the Gower Peninsular but with the forecast for torrential rain all day I had to shelve that idea. Instead, given the recent wreck of Grey Phalaropes that have been blown ashore all around the area I thought that this would probably be the most interesting opportunity for this part of the country. There were no shortage of them to pick from in Glamorgan with at least four different locations sporting this diminutive wader but in the end I chose a pair at Pilning Wetlands, by New Passage in Gloucestershire, partly because it was the shortest detour off the way back but also partly that I'd always wanted to visit this area and have always enjoyed the landscape along the River Severn whenever I'd seen it: somehow there's a rather eery and bleak feel to this sort of place which I really like. So that was the plan.

We headed off from Oxford just after 9 am and soon hit the wall of rain. In horrible driving conditions, and fighting hard to concentrate after a poor night's sleep we headed west until we reached Swansea itself where a horrendous traffic jam due to some road works and some really poor traffic light coordination (I was stuck waiting to move for twelve consecutive traffic light cycles as there was just no way to get across a busy junction) after an hour and a quarter in the jam we finally made it to D2's new student digs. They were suitably horrible and run down though she had a lovely large room at the top of the house which was well-appointed with a fabulous view overlooking the city and the sea beyond. Having unloaded her stuff we said our goodbyes and I headed back, choosing this time to keep well away from the city centre and to head out of the city by another route.

Back on the motorway, it was continuous rain all the way as I headed back east. I had half a mind to abandon my plan to stop off but I was curious at least to see New Passage and the river so I made my way over the river via the old Severn bridge on the M48 and then turned southwards towards New Passage that lies underneath where the new bridge crosses the river. There I parked up, donned all my waterproof clothing (realising at this point that I'd forgotten my waterproof trousers - Doh!) and headed off towards the Severn Way, the path that runs along the bank of the river. I was soon crossing The Pill (a small tidal stream that flows out into the river here) and then walking the short distance along the Severn Way towards the Pilning Wetlands area. To the river side of the path was flooded grassland that was full of Canada Geese, Mallards and Teal as well as a few Lapwings and Meadow Pipits. It very much reminded me of Port Meadow in winter time back home.

Looking back towards the new bridge in the gloom

Looking north from New Passage towards the old bridge and Old Passage

After no more than a couple of hundred yards I arrived at the Wetlands which consisted of a series of scrapes and shallow lakes on the inland side of the path. The first one hosted a few dozen Black-headed Gulls, some Black-tailed Godwits, a few Redshank and a single Green Sandpiper.The second scrape held half a dozen Moorhens and the two Phalaropes, an adult and a first winter, both feeding away frantically with their clockwork toy action as they do. In the on-going rain I didn't really fancy doing much digiscoping but did take a quick bit of footage for the record.

The adult Grey Phalarope, the younger bird being out of view at the time

Beyond this was another deeper lake with a flock of several dozen Hirundines, mostly Swallows with a few House Martins, all hawking away madly in the rain. I searched through them carefully for something rarer but there was nothing of note. I spent some time taking in all the gloomy but very atmospheric landscape. What a great patch this would make I mused though realised that I couldn't live so close to the motorway: the constant roar of traffic would drive you mad after a while. After a while the lack of waterproof trousers started to get to me and I headed back to the Gnome mobile, got out of my waterproofs and cranked the heating up to 11 to dry off. I then headed back onto the rainy motorway and made my way back home to Casa Gnome where I collapsed on the sofa with a hot cup of tea and one of our two cats sitting on my lap. It had been a long and extremely wet day out.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Hang up the Bunting for the Ortolan

I've been playing a bit of a game with myself over this autumn passage season: if something comes up on the pager that I "need" and I were hypothetically to drop everything and go for it then would I have got it? The rules are simple, I allow myself 15 minutes or so from actually seeing the news to "get ready", I then allow the usual length of time to get to the location and if there is subsequently some positive news on the bird then I assume that I would have got it. This armchair twitching is a way of playing along (a bit like Fantasy League Football) when in practice I'm too busy or it's too far for me to contemplate going for a bird in real life. One of the reasons for playing this is that there are certain relatively common species which somehow still elude me and I was wanting to know if I really dedicated my autumn exclusively to birding then how many of them could I finally get? One such species on my list is Ortolan Bunting. Whilst this species is reported every autumn in reasonable numbers it's actually remarkably hard to twitch. A good proportion of the reports are fly-overs which are of course no good at all and in fact some are recorded during the night and identified by sonogram the next day. What's more, occasional birds that are actually seen on the ground seem often not to stick around and in my twitching game, despite this being a really good autumn for them, there have been a whole series of misses. In fact, there's only been one occasion where I would have connected: had I dropped everything to head off to Spurn one morning then I would have got a pair which stayed around in the stubble field north of Clubleys Field near the Warren a while ago. Since then there was a promising report of three birds in a stubble field in Sussex that I hypothetically dipped on so it was proving really hard to get this bird. 

Finally on Friday something more promising turned up: a bird north of Cosham in Hampshire actually proved to be a "game tick" as it was found mid afternoon and then stuck around for the rest of the day, even "showing well". Could this actually be one of those rare Ortonlans that stick around? The next morning it was report again at first light and then again forty five minutes later. Now whilst normally I wouldn't be able to contemplate a weekend twitch, it so happened that my VLW was presently away looking after her ageing mother and would not be arriving back until later on in the day. This meant that I was left looking after our twelve year old son L with help from one of our grown-up daughters who'd not yet gone back to Uni for the autumn term. Fortunately she wasn't due in work until mid morning so it would mean that L would only on his own for a couple of hours were I to have a crack at this bird. He seemed happy about it so it was that shortly after 8 am I was in the Gnome mobile and heading off down the A34 towards the south coast.

There was no news either way on the journey until I hit the M3/M27 junction where negative news came out (present till 8 a.m. when it flew off and no further sign by 8:45 a.m.). What to do? I did seriously contemplate turning around at this point and heading back for home. However it was only another twenty minutes or so to the actual site and I felt that at the very least I'd like to see the field in which an Ortolan Bunting had been. A bit strange I know but it would be a chance to see a part of the country that I wasn't so familiar with and to stretch my legs before the slog back home. I accordingly headed on towards Portsmouth and was rewarded for this choice when no more than ten minutes later a "still present" message came up! "Wow, I might actually get to see this bird!" I thought as I quickened my pace. My turn-off came soon enough and I navigated my way through the suburbs of Cosham before the Sat Nav took me on a steep road up to the hills that tower over this area that make up the Ports Down area. Turning down a narrow road I was greeted with the familiar sights of cars parked everywhere that a car could reasonably be squeezed in. This was clearly the spot! I added my car to the collection, got tooled up and hurried down the hill to a bend in the road where there was a gathering of about thirty or so birders all standing in the corner of a field. A quick enquiry revealed that the bird had last been seen about fifteen minutes ago before flying down into the stubble in the field in which we stood though in the long grass and stubble it was completely hidden from view. At the very least we ought to see it fly out I thought though I have seen birds do disappearing acts in situations like this before so nothing was certain. I found a position in the twitch line and waited.

More people arrived and joined the throng, all intently watching the field and the favoured Hawthorn bush in the corner where it liked to perch. PL from Oxon arrived shortly after me - to be honest I'd been half expecting him as he and I have similar twitch distance limits and are not a million miles apart in terms of what we still need to see. We chatted away quietly as we waited. 

Some of the twitchers, watching the favoured Hawthorn bush (under the pylon) expectantly

Gradually I started to get impatient and not a little bit worried. It had been getting on for three quarters of an hour now with no luck. A very distant Bunting had appears on some telegraph wires in the next field which had got some members of the crowd rather excited and in the haze and because of the distance it wasn't so easy to see what it was. I could tell that it wasn't an Ortolan as it had a noticeable supercilium and eventually the consensus was reached that it was a female Reed Bunting. A few Chiffies were flicking around in the hedgerows, Wood Pigeons and the occasional Stock Dove were flying over and a Sparrowhawk quartered over the fields before disappearing. Eventually a young man made his way down the twitch line asking if people might mind if a bijou flushette were organised as it had been getting on for an hour now. Of course no one minded as we all wanted to see the bird. So a party of a few birders headed off around to the far hedge and slowly and gradually worked their way down towards the area where the bird was seen. "This was where we discover that the bird has done a disappearing act" I worried, but I needn't have done as soon after a shout went up as the bird flew back up into its favourite bush. Here it sat contentedly enough having a good preen and giving really great views to the assembled crowd. I clicked away with my digiscoping gear though conditions were rather hazy and very contrasty so it wasn't that easy.

It was a great opportunity to view this species at close quarters and the almost comically large yellow moustachial stripes were clearly visible as was the pale yellow eye ring. It had quite a long jizz to it (as many Bunting species often do) and from behind the plain grey rump was clearly visible. I couldn't really hope for much better views of this species and I greedily drank it all in.

 The bird sat happily enough for quite some time and with my son in mind, I decided that I'd had my fill and chose to head off back home. According to PL a little while later it flew back down into the field so was none the worse for being nudged up into the tree. Meanwhile I headed back though the traffic, which had been light on the way down, had got a lot worse with a jam where the two M27's merged with the M3 and another one near Newbury thanks to a county show. What's more getting into Oxford was the usual nightmare that it is on a Saturday so the whole return journey took forty five minutes more than it should have done. Still I was back in time for lunch and L, who'd done his homework and then spent the entire rest of the morning gaming was happy enough. It had been a successful twitch and this hard to get species was finally in the bag.

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Ducking Marblous

Proper out of county twitches to see something of interest have been distinctly thin on the ground this year. It's partly down to an increase in work commitments on my part but also partly as there's not been much to see within striking distance. So when news broke of a Marbled Duck at Grimley in Worcestershire it certainly piqued my interest. The only trouble with this is that Marbled Duck is a species which has yet formally to be accepted onto the British List. In the wild, whilst formerly breeding in good numbers in the Mediterranean, now it is confined to southern Spain, north west Africa and parts of the Middle East so a vagrant visitor is certainly possible. However, because of it being a popular bird to keep in captivity there have been no records that have yet been deemed good enough to be accepted by the BOU. Still, I tend to sit in the "making my own mind up" camp and as a card-carrying Gnome Rarities Committee (GRC) lister I thought that at the very least it would be interesting to see and in the current BOU climate of being more accepting of wild duck records (e.g. Baikal Teal and Hooded Merganser recently) it would be worth a punt even for the strictest of BOU listers. So it was that on Monday of last week I headed up the M40, then down the M5 before turning off into deepest, darkest Worcestershire. I passed a location I recognised and remembered that I'd seen my first ever Glossy Ibis here at Holt Fleet back in December 2009. The journey took a bit longer than the Sat Nav had been predicting and it was getting on for two hours by the time that I finally neared my destination. I had been wondering where exactly to park but a line of cars along an otherwise quiet stretch of country road could only be twitchers and I had soon parked up and got directions from a departing birder. I headed off down a footpath towards the distant gaggle of duck watchers that I could see standing in some stubble in the next field along. 

On arrival I immediately spotted fellow Oxon birder PL and went over to get the latest info. It turned out that the duck was on view sitting rather incongruously on top of a low bush that was adorned with Traveller's Joy. Viewing conditions were rather hazy but I managed to make out the salient features well enough before after five minutes it dropped down out of sight.

A rather poor digiscoped record shot in the heat haze
Not knowing when (or even if) it might appear again I thanked my stars that I'd arrived when I did and set about waiting for its reappearance whilst chatting away with PL. After getting on for half an hour it reappeared back in the same place as before where it stayed for a while before having a fly around to the north end of the pit, briefly landing on the water, before taking off again and heading back to its favoured perch. A little while later it once again took flight but this time headed south where it landed out of sight behind some flooded trees. In flight it was clear to see that the bird was fully winged and it had also been reported as unringed and wary. All good so far!

Some rather hazy video footage of the bird

Having had reasonable views but not ready to head back home just yet, I joined PL and a couple of locals in a wander down to the south end to see if we could see it. Viewing was rather restricted at this end and try as we might, we could not relocate it. Still we got to enjoy a rather nice walk around the far side of the lake and I passed the time in botanising with one of the two locals who seemed to know his stuff and was happy to talk. Back at the head of the lake with no further sign of the duck PL & and I both decided that it was time to head back. I chose to go back along the A40 this time though the Sat Nav insisted on taking me through the centre of Worcester which would not have been my preferred option. Still, the journey was fine and I arrived back in time for a cup of tea and a catch-up with my VLW.

As a footnote to this, a day or two later news broke of a second Marbled Duck also in Worcestershire which has been present at the same time as the first one but which was by all account rather approachable. This rather seemed to tarnish the credentials of both birds though the BOU has net to pronounce and the GRC is generally much more tolerant of this kind of thing anyway so it may still be accepted by the latter listing authority. Either way it was nice to go out on an actual twitch again after a very quiet year so far.

A much better photo of the bird courtesy of Andy Warr (c) on Twitter  (@AndyWarr3)

Sunday, 2 September 2018

Kernow in August

Once again here is a amalgamation post of my family holiday down to deepest darkest Cornwall a few weeks again. This time I decided that instead of posting something every day I would do fewer posts by category instead.

I'm back down with the family (well, most of them - we're missing a daughter who'll be arriving at the end of the week) for our summer holiday. We were originally supposed to come down on Saturday but I had a number of work commitments which spilled over into the weekend so it wasn't until today that we finally made it down. I can't help but ponder on what might have been had we come on the Saturday in which case I may well have been at PG on Sunday when the first Trindade Petrel for the UK went passed. Oh well (or words to that effect!). Apart from the weekend stormy weather the forecast for the next couple of weeks is for sunny pleasant weather - great for holidays and a blessed relief from the sweltering heat of Oxfordshire but no exactly promising on the birding front so I'm not expecting much and will generally be relaxing and doing very little.

I'm thinking of changing the format of this blog slightly: rather than giving a daily blow by blow account of what we got up to and what I saw I might post less often, especially given that there's not a great deal to report and I'm sure that readers don't really care which café we went to on which particular day. So instead I'll give a few round-up posts along with special posts should there be something of particular note. To this end, this post is going to be about moths. Now, I've more or less "phased" (or whatever the moth equivalent is) as far as mothing is concerned and I haven't brought my trap down but on calm evenings I do still like to put the exterior "moth light" on to see what we can attract and our son is quite keen on seeing and handling the larger ones. There have been a couple of good nights so far with some Drinkers blundering around and a large female Oak Eggar. I've taken snaps of some of the more photogenic ones but do please let me know if I've mis-identified any of them.


Flounced Rustic

Light Knot Grass

Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing

Oak Eggar

Ruby Tiger
I've been doing the local Pendeen rounds most days, checking out the bird life and taking the occasional photo should such an opportunity present itself. One thing I've noticed this time down here is the large number of juvenile birds around. Because of the sunny weather and the lack of rain birds are having a really good year across the country and this certainly seems to include the Pendeen patch. I can't ever remember it being this "birdy" with blundering youngsters crashing about everywhere. This makes a very pleasant change from the rewardless birding that is so often a feature of the area. 

Young Whitethoat


I came across this delightful pair of young Stonechats on the walk over to Geevor
The highlight of the week on the bird front was a juvenile Yellowhammer which flew in calling as I was walking down by the Old Count House next to the lighthouse car park. It perched on the wires just long enough for a photo or two before heading off again. I've certainly never seen or heard a Yellowhammer here before and in general on the Penwith peninsular they are a very localised species. I remember having to go to some particular farm to get my county tick for them so this is a real patch Mega!

The juvenile Yellowhammer
There have also been some good insects around with Hummingbird Hawkmoths being seen most days and on a walk to Geevor I came across five Painted Ladies all on a small patch of Hemp Agrimony.

One of five Painted Ladies

A rather battered Wall Brown
Talking of Geevor I found at least three Wheatears there in amongst the old mine ruins including some youngsters so it may well be that they've been breeding there. Indeed, so delightful were they that I went back the next morning for seconds though the rather misty conditions (typical Pendeen!) meant that there weren't any photographic opportunities.

Geevor Wheatears

Drift Reservoir
I've had a couple of trips to Drift reservoir so far during my time down here. The reason for this is that it's been the one location down here where there's been anything half decent reported. The first bird of note was a Pectoral Sandpiper which has been lingering at the reservoir for quite a while in the company of a Wood Sandpiper. With nothing much else around presently and with no decent sea watching winds to speak of either, I'd made a mental note to try there when an opportunity presented itself and on Saturday when the rest of the family wanted to visit the Pendeen Farmer's Market I dropped the others off there and then headed over the hill to Drift instead. There in the NW arm of the reservoir I soon found the Pec Sand along with several Green and Common cousins and a juvenile Dunlin but there was no sign of the Wood Sand. The heat haze was something else so my digiscoped efforts were truly appalling but here's a record shot of the Pec.

A hazy Pectoral Sandpiper (honest!)
A couple of days later PSP found a drake Lesser Scaup at the same location though when the news broke we'd already made plans to go on our customary walk from St. Just along the coastal path back to Pendeen so I wasn't able to go and take a look. The next day however, with nothing else on the family wish list, I suggested that the others may wish to pootle around Penzance whilst I made a return visit to the reservoir and they seemed to like this plan so this is what we did.

At the hide a quick scan seemed to show no sign of the Scaup, nor was the Pec Sand anywhere to be seen. However the Wood Sandpiper was about and the haze wasn't too bad so I spent some time taking some photos. 

The Wood Sandpiper
Whilst there I bumped into PM who told me that he'd seen the Lesser Scaup, in the "same location as yesterday". He showed me where this was (opposite the hide on the far bank) and sure enough there it was - somehow I'd managed to miss it in amongst the Mallards during my scan through the birds. I thanked PM for pointing it out to me and set about taking some digiscoped shots of it.

The drake Lesser Scaup, lookin rather dowdy so presumably in eclipse
I looked away for a brief while and when I looked back the Scaup was nowhere to be seen. I don't know if it slunk off into the other arm of the reservoir or simply flew off but I couldn't see it anywhere. Other birds of note were a couple of Common Sandpipers, one Green Sand and a juvenile Dunlin. Two noisy Greenshank soon flew in calling loudly so after a quiet start it was starting to get quite birdy! Suddenly PM yelled out "what's that?" and I looked where he was pointing to see a Marsh Harrier flying low over the bank, almost over our heads. We rushed out of the hide to see if we could see it and PM tried to follow it down the path to try to get a photo but to no avail. So just a brief sighting but as it happens it was actually a personal Cornish tick, so a very nice bonus to end the day. I headed back to the car and rendezvous'd with the rest of the family before we headed over to Marazion beach for our customary tea in the car overlooking the sea with a few juv Med Gulls being the only birds of note. Then it was off for our usual food shopping trip before heading back to the cottage for the evening.

Coastal Walks

We've done a couple of coastal walks during our visit down here. The first was our classic one from St. Just back along the coast to Pendeen. After an early lunch we walked up the hill to Pendeen village centre and then took the open-top bus to St Just. There we got our traditional ice creams from the Coop and then walked down to the school where we had a good wander around the arts and craft fair (with several purchases being made). Then we headed off towards Kenidjack via Boscean. We said hello to the two resident donkeys and had our usual snack stop up at the top of Kenidjack by the castle. The weather was perfect for walking though there wasn't much to report along the way: a few Chough, some Stonechats, a few Ravens and today just one Wheatear (a juvenile) at Geevor. We arrived back at the cottage at around 6 pm, gasping for a cup of tea.


Botallack Ravens

Kenidjack Brown Trout
The second walk was from Marazion over to Perranuthnoe to the café and back. We parked as usual in the centre of Marazion and worked our way doggedly through the crowds until we got to the relative peace and quite of Little London. The tide was right in as we worked our way along the shore and at one point we had to clamber over some slippery seaweed-covered rocks. There were quite a few birds taking shelter from the heaving masses though apart from a few Med Gulls there was nothing of particular note.

At Perranuthnoe we put the world to rights over a cup of tea and some cake before heading back again along the now exposed shorline, looking for sea glass along the shore as we went. This time there were a lot more birds including a splendid summer plumage Knot that PSP had first found a few days ago, as well as a couple of Whimbrel. 

Summer plumaged Knot

A gorgeous Med Gull

Wader trio

We were all quite tired by the time that we got back to the car so after quickly stopping off at Longrock Industrial Estate to pick up some DIY provisions, it was back to the cottage for the evening.

Sea Watching
A family holiday in August down in Cornwall isn't likely to produce much in the way of tasty rarities down in the famous valleys of Cornwall. Instead it's all about the sea watching and during our time down here I'm always on the look out for a decent wind. In the absence of such weather I still like to do a bit of watching, especially at Pendeen given it's so close and I've been putting in some hours down by the lighthouse this last couple of weeks. Of course, given the poor conditions I've generally been on my own though on one or two occasions I've seen people watching from the lower car park when I've been leaving.

There's not generally been much to report from my Pendeen sessions with a few Balearic Shearwaters, a surprising number of immature Med. Gulls, one flock of Common Scoter and a few Sandwich Terns the highlights of some otherwise very quiet watches. Not that I've minded, I've been enjoying just being down there in the sun, listening to the waves and watching the occasional Pipits, Choughs and Wheatears on the slopes below me. For someone from a landlocked county such as Oxon, just being there is very pleasant. On one occasion I met NH, the legendary "Gull Whisperer" from Oxon. I'd known that he'd been down here as I'd seen his reports and photos on the CBWPS web page and we enjoyed a good catch-up chat.

Pendeen juvenile Wheatear

Pendeen juvenile Meadow Pipit
I'm starting to find that sea-watching is "getting under my skin". I'm not quite sure what it is about it but somehow it's become a bit addictive. It's certainly not because I'm particularly good at it, in fact I'm a bit rubbish, certainly compared to many of the expert locals and seasoned visitors that I watch with. It's partially down to my eyesight: over the last few years I've got anterior vitreous deterioration, a common complaint of ageing where the jelly in my eye starts to break down leading to lots of "floaters" in my field of view. Normally this isn't too much of an issue and one's brain tends mentally to filter them out but with sea watching where you're looking at tiny specks in often tricky light conditions, it makes it all the harder to make out those difficult diagnostic details. It's also down to experience and the number of hours put in. I like to feel that I'm no longer a complete noob on the sea-watching front yet I'm only realistically getting a dozen or two hours a year in of actual watching which is very little and there's so much time in between to forget what you've learnt from the previous year. No wonder it's slow progress on my part!

This wonderful boat has been working its way around the Penwith peninsular over the last week or so

Apart from my numerous short sessions down at Pendeen I did get one decent session during this holiday at Porthgwarra. It was our last full day of the holiday and with a decent weather front coming in over the weekend the weather was forecast to start to deteriorate on this day. Accordingly the others decided to go to St Ives for some shopping and I headed off to PG for the day. As the wind wasn't going to be that strong I did wonder if anyone else was going to be there at all but in the event I arrived at Hella Point to find GW from Oxon and one other person there. I was most pleased about this as having a bit of company can make a huge difference to a sea-watch, especially someone as experienced as GW. I've realised that what I look for in a good sea-watch is a modest number of experienced and friendly fellow watchers where I can feel comfortable making a fool of myself by calling out stuff incorrectly and where they are good enough to pick things out for me. It also has to be easy for me to be able to hear what other people are calling. As well as my eyes, my hearing is also not what it used to be and I often find, especially on a windy headland, that I simply can't hear what's being called which can be very frustrating. But on this occasion it was ideal. The three of us chatted away about this and that: the other two had done a lot of international birding so there was plenty of talk about the various places they'd been to. It was all very pleasant!

In terms of the actual birds, the others had had a couple of Cory's go by before I'd arrived. During my time there my list was:

1 Great Shearwater
10+ Sooty Shearwaters
10+ Storm Petrels,
30+ Balearic Shearwaters
1 Great Skua
2 Arctic Skua
1 Puffin
1 Common Scoter

All good stuff! One thing I noticed was how different it was watching from PG compared to Pendeen. I think that it's to do with the light: at Pendeen you've always got the light behind you so the birds are often lit up against a relatively dark background. There, the Balearics for example were very easy to pick out, just on jizz alone and you could easily make out the differences in the colour of the underside. At PG on the other hand, you're looking into the light so everything looks more silhouetted and you had to look really carefully to tell the Ballies from the Manx. During the middle of the day, everything is nothing more than a silhouette and you might as well not bother! 

By the afternoon things got very slow with very little to show for our efforts so it was time to head off to St Ives to rendezvous with the others for an evening meal. Of course the next day was an epic sea watch with a Fea's going through late morning - once again I'd managed to miss this iconic species. Indeed looking back our holiday was bookended by a couple of amazing sea-watches that I wasn't at with the Trindade Petrel just before I arrived and the Fea's on the day we were leaving. As DP said to me "sea-watching can be brutal". Still, I can't wait to do some more.

Some video of the Fea's Petrel at PG the next day taken by Gary Taylor. 
Be warned, the audio contains some strong language!

Rounding Up
I've been going through my photos and found a few that I'd not posted which I wanted to share so I thought that I would do a round-up post on my stay. As is typical for August, it's a quiet time of year on the birding front apart from sea watching and sadly I managed to miss the two classic watches of the season so far which occurred either side of my visit. So Trindade and Fea's Petrel are both firmly not on my list! Still I enjoyed the sea watching that I did do and I like to feel that I'm crawling my way towards being a bit better at what is a difficult and dark art as far as I'm concerned.

Pendeen Buzzard

Red Admiral

The only other bird action was at Drift Reservoir which hosted a Pec Sand, a Wood Sand and a Lesser Scaup and it was pleasing enough to catch up with these species. Apart from that it was pootling around the cottage and going to numerous cafés as usual. The only fly in the otherwise clean holiday ointment was the fact that I managed to miss a stonkingly rare Roseate Tern back in Oxon during my stay down in Kernow. That one is going to take many years to get back and will sting for some time to come. Still I enjoyed my trip and am already looking forward to the next time that I'm down.

Mousehole Rock Pipit

Mousehole House Sparrow