Wednesday, 22 February 2012

A wild (?) duck hunt in deepest Cornwall - 21st February 2012

Today I decided to head down to Helston in Cornwall to have a look for the female bufflehead that has been seen at the nearby Loe Pool for the last couple of months. It was first seen in October at a time when a load of North American birds were seen in the UK following Autumn storms so presumably it is a wild bird.

It was a cloudy day but it soon brightened up and I arrived in Helston at around 10:30 after a 2 and a half hour train and bus trip (£24.80 return!). I headed off to the Boating Lake in Helston where amongst the ducks I found a nice male pochard and 2 pairs of shovelers, the pochard being very tame as it bummed bread scraps with tufted ducks, mallards, coots, moorhens and mute swans.

Tufted Ducks looking for bread scraps

A very tame male pochard

Tufted Duck

The shovelers were seen displaying towards each other and the tufted ducks were displaying and giving a strange little whistling noise to each other, a sign of the coming Spring.

Gulls were also bumming bread scraps amongst the ducks and roosting and bathing on the lake. Cormorants in summer plumage were also roosting on a small island in the lake.

Juvenile Herring Gull

Black headed Gull

I headed off towards Loe Pool to the small bird hide by the water side and there it was, the bufflehead diving away on the opposite side of the Pool. It was with a pair of goldeneye and its small size was very noticeable compared to them. The male goldeneye was seen displaying to the bufflehead when the female goldeneye was underwater - naughty! I had my binocular doubler with me and I managed some good views of the bird but it spent very little time at the water surface and would often move to an area of water out of view from the hide.

While sat watching the bufflehead from the hide another birdwatcher joined me and after a few minutes chatting together he called a bittern and I managed a brief one second view of the bird disappearing behind the reedbed to the left of the hide.

The bird "hide" at Loe Pool

The view from the bird "hide"

Also seen on the Pool were around 40 pochard roosting and feeding in a loose flock, a coot, a male and 2 female tufted duck and 3 very smart male goosanders with 5 redheads. Lesser black backed gulls were bathing amongst a flock of herring, black headed and great black backed gulls.

In the woodlands I had a good hunt for treecreepers with no luck but I did see a few goldcrests with long tailed- and coal tits, a male great spotted woodpecker, a sparrowhawk and 2 chiffchaffs, one with a silver ring on its right leg. Redwings were nervously flitting about in the trees and on the woodland floor and a raven honked noisely as it flew overhead.

A Cettis warbler was heard calling and a female teal was disturbed from a marshy area, doing its Harrier jump-jet impression with a near vertical take-off amongst the overhanging branches. Celandines were seen in flower in the marshy areas by the path.

Flowering Celandine sp.

Heading back towards Helston I stopped off in the bird hide again and the bufflehead was still busily diving away on the opposite side of the Pool. I was just about to head back to Helston to catch the bus back to Redruth train station and home when it flew over the water before landing in front of the hide. It gave great views quite close to the hide although it still spent very little time on the waters surface. I watched it for around 10 minutes before I had to leave to go and catch the bus, having enjoyed some really good views - hopefully it will be considered a wild bird and will be a British life tick for me.

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