Friday, 20 September 2013

An excellent survey with MarineLife, and making the best of a bad job in storm blown Cornwall

A week off from work in the middle of September, and I was in the mood to visit Islands in search of Migrants! First up was a Marinelife Survey to Lundy. Great trip in good company, the sightings can be seen at the following web page: http://www.marine-life.org.uk/ilfracombe-or-bideford-lundy/2013/09/14(1)

The Island itself really impressed me. Very remote, but with camping facilities, and a smattering of migrants including Whinchat, Willow Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, and White Wagtail. didn't explore the whole island, and some distant areas of trees looked to have potential. Certainly enough to keep me busy on an overnight stay in the future.

I left the Marinelife survey and Ilfracombe, heading West. I originally planned to take my tent to the Scillies, but the heavy gales forecast for Sunday and Monday put paid to these plans, and looking back at bird sightings from the Scillies, I had a close escape. It looks to have been a struggle! 
Instead, I decided on some heavy seawatching sessions. I've never been a big fan of land based sea-watching, and the most noticeable gaps on my self found list reflect this. However, I have never been in such an obvious right place at the right time, and spent a few hours on Sunday morning at Porthgwarra scrutinising the many presumably wind blown seabirds heading out of the Channel. Mostly Manx Shearwaters, but a few Balearics and Sooty's. Also Choughs were very vocal in the area, a nice addition to Cornwall's birdlife.

Rest of Sunday was spent dodging rain. Did I stumble upon the Black Necked Grebe at Drift Reservoir. The conditions and distance made it quite a tricky bird to identify, but I got it right which is all we can ask for sometimes! About two hours before dusk the sun made an appearance and the Wind had a Northerly element so I nipped over to Pendeen. Spent an enjoyable hour or two here with more Shearwaters: Manxies really heading through in huge numbers, plus the odd Sooty and Balearic. Just a couple of other birders here too. Decided for more of the same on Monday morning.

Monday morning came and I was quite surprised how many birders were at Pendeen! All struggling to get a view over the cliff at the very close Gannets for some reason I couldn't fathom. Even so, all but one missed a Peregrine about 20 metres away! It is very easy to get focussed on the offshore action, particularly with so Many Manxies streaming past, again with the odd Sooty and Balearic. Also seen on this morning were a nice Pom Skua, together with a few Bonxies and Arctic Skuas, and a handful of Arctic Terns. Probably the bird of the morning went past just as I was setting up my scope.. a Leach's Petrel which I was fortunate to get onto thanks to some pretty detailed commentary from the finder (although the directions weren't appreciated by another birder who took nearly as long as me to get onto it, and complained about what he perceived to be a lack of accuracy!) And here was the problem for me.. I like to find birds and identify them myself. With 40 pairs of eyes, and a huddle reminiscent of my morning commute on the Central Line I was not going to find much here amongst so many sharp eyed observers. So I stayed at Pendeen until my stool collapsed, then headed off for lunch and some inspiration. I found my answer on a deserted headland just west of St.Ives and spend 3 hours in the late afternoon seawatching after an unsuccessful search for migrants around the coastal path. It soon became clear, that the exact same birds to Pendeen were streaming through here. As I was fairly close to sea level here, very good coverage was possible. Not many Skuas here, but a Storm Petrel was nice, albeit brief, and then my highlight of the Autumn.. Two Sabine's Gulls flapped purposefully straight through the middle of my scope view. A bird I have always wanted to see in these conditions, and a minute of sheer bliss was spent watching them fight their way back towards the Atlantic. Then followed a period of wondering if I had actually seen them or imagined it all. Fortunately the birds were also seen round the corner in St.Ives and were in the birdlines by the time I got back to Internet connectivity! Great Skua, Arctic Skua, Med Gull, Sandwich Terns, plus Manx, Balearic and Sooty Shearwaters all put in an appearance on this watch, not that any of them mattered on this occasion!


Early Autumn Migrants

At the end of August, I had a week's leave from work coinciding with a pretty noticeable fall of migrants locally.
I didn't have much hope for the last week of August being a mecca for migrants, but so far, it has been the highlight of my Autumn, and all were seen within walking distance from the house!

A 50 acre horse paddock and fallow-land which is private, but which I've managed to arrange access to, held the bulk of the sightings with 3 Redstarts, Lesser Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Whinchat and Wheatear all putting in an appearance together with Tree Pipit overhead, and a decent number of Whitethroats (which breed in the more overgrown areas of the field).

Further afield, near Ashfield, another paddock and small dell always seems to have a migrant or two lurking, and this week I managed 2 Redstarts and 4 Spotted Flycatchers, plus Blackcaps and a Hobby.

More recent visits in the midst of some serious Westerly winds have drawn a complete blank in both areas.


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