Sunday, 22 January 2012

A smelly house, a spotted spotted sandpiper, a windy trip to Cornwall and a walk around Burrator - 15th - 22nd January 2012

The smell in the house worsened and after seeing sewage draining across the courtyard I checked the drain and it was blocked again - the smell wasn't all down to a dead mouse! We managed to get the drain unblocked at the front of the house but it was also blocked at the back of the house which had been caused by the neighbours, we didn't realise their drain emptied into our drain and it had been blocked by feminine hygiene products - nice! Still, it's now unblocked again and the smell has gone.

I was on an eight day stretch at work with Tuesday 17th off in the middle of the eight days and after doing chores I had a quick walk along the River Plym at Marsh Mills to see if I could see the spotted sandpiper wich had been reported as now having some spots showing. I soon found the bird and had excellent views as it fed along the shoreline as the tide headed out, it caught some large worms which it gobbled down quickly before carrying on feeding. It was feeding on the bank opposite where the Plympton sewage works discharges into the river and a common sandpiper fed nearby allowing comparisons. It did indeed have some spotting on its left vent although it was subtle and only obvious at certain angles but its legs were a bright yellow compared to the olive green of the common sandpiper. It was also smaller, daintier and lighter brown than the common and I watched it for a good half hour before heading off to Sainsburys to do some shopping.

Also seen were 3 greenshanks, 3 little egrets, at least 5 little grebes, a jay which flew across the river and a cormorant. While walking back to Sainsburys I stopped off to watch a small group of long tailed tits feeding in the bushes near the underpass and was surprised to find a skulking male reed bunting developing its summer plumage, a new bird for the me for the Plymouth area.

Saturday 21st and I headed off to Penzance on the 08:18 train, unfortunately a Sprinter train and not a proper First train but at least it wasn't a Crosscountry train!  There was a strong North Westerly wind and it turned out to be quite showery but I ended up having a good days birding despite the weather and my general grumpiness and tiredness after completing my eight day stretch.

First stop was the Jubilee Pool where I had good views of at least 22 flighty purple sandpipers feeding and roosting amongst the rocks. Also seen was a very smart winter plumaged Mediterranean gull, 5 mute swans, turnstone, curlew, oystercatcher and rock pipts. A grey seals head was seen bobbing up and down offshore before it dived out of sight.

Heading out to Marazion by bus and then by foot I flushed a snipe by the side of the road at Long Rock Pool where 2 mute swans, a lone male wigeon and some teal were seen and a Cettis warbler was heard singing. A caterpillar was seen heading across the road so I rescued it and took some snaps, not sure what species it is.

Unknown caterpillar species

At Marazion the marsh was quiet with a redwing, a grey heron, a little egret, a little grebe, a pair of stonechats and a pair of shoveler seen, and another Cettis warbler heard singing. Checking out the beach by the Red River for the reported water pipit was a bust due to the constant disturbance from dog walkers and the strong wind. A nice rainbow was seen though.

Red River mouth rainbow

Checking out the marsh for the last time before the walk back to Penzance provided a lucky view of a bittern in flight, seen for just a few seconds before it disappeared down into the reedbed, its feet very yellow.

Walking back to Penzance along the sea front was wet and windy but I did see a grey wagtail feeding amongst the rocks with pied wagtails and rock and meadow pipits. Ringed plover, dunlin and sanderling were attempting to roost along the beach but were constantly disturbed by dog walkers. Offshore I saw 4 eider, 3 female and an immature male - initially they were some way out but were eventually seen quite close to shore, busily diving with attendant gulls waiting to steal any food brought to the surface. There was no sign of the reported long tailed duck or little gull but I did manage a brief and distant view of a diver, probably a great northern, as it surfaced between the choppy waves before diving again. Best bird was a beautiful male black redstart feeding amongst the rocks and chasing off the pipits and wagtails that strayed too close to it - I rarely see males and it looked stunning in the strong sunlight.

St Michaels Mount with windsurfer

Due to the weather and my general tiredness and grumpiness I cut my day short and headed home on the 14:01 train, a proper First train and I enjoyed a nice cup of coffee and some Christmas cake.

Sunday 22nd and we headed off to Burrator Reservoir for a walk. It was very busy with runners and walkers but we had a good walk despite the gloomy skies. The water level was very high this time, almost to the point where it would overflow the dam, and as a result there was little of interest in the way of wildfowl other than 7 Canada Geese, 2 white feral geese, some mallards and a little grebe. 3 ravens flew overhead and I heard a mistle thrush, a great spotted woodpecker, siskins and a green woodpecker but I failed to see them. A lone adult great black backed gull was resting on a small island at the top end of the reservoir and goldcrests and coal tits were seen feeding in the bushes by the road side.

A dipper was seen feeding in a stream entering the reservoir, the first I have seen here but in an area I haven't visited before, having jumped over a locked gate and following a gravel path down to a weir and pumping house tucked away out of sight.

I had been asked by 2 birders if I had seen any crossbills at the start of the walk which I hadn't but as we approached the end of our walk I heard a bird singing which I recognised from a recording played on an I-phone while on a birdwatching holiday in Scotland. It was the song of a crossbill and it was singing away out of sight in a stand of conifer trees by the roadside. I searched the tree tops and eventually managed partial views of at least 2 bright red males and 3 green female/juveniles devouring cones, a great end to a pleasent walk and with my year list now on 102.

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