Sunday, 2 June 2013

Well Chough-ed!

A busy week at work, a study day - and some birding!

I only had Saturday 25th May off work over the Whitsun Bank Holiday weekend and as it was warm and sunny in Plymouth we headed off to Dartmoor for some lunch and a walk. It was cool and cloudy with only occassional sunny spells on the Moors but we enjoyed the walk anyway and on arriving back in Plymouth it was still sunny and warm - typical!

Despite the differing weather conditions I managed to see 2 cuckoos with a third bird heard, a male wheatear, a male whinchat and a songflighting tree pipit with a second bird heard. No butterflies were seen but I did see a very handsome, special bird.

Tuesday 28th May and it was my annual nightjar night walk at Plymbridge Woods organised by The National Trust. I had just finished 3 early shifts in a row so was a little tired but I headed off anyway and I was glad I made the effort as I had some of my best ever views of nightjars. Within a minute of arriving at the selected watch point a male churred briefly and a few minutes later began to churr in earnest. It showed very well flying low over the vegetation, its white wing and tail patches looking quite dazzling in the descending gloom as it churred, guic-ed and wing clapped, and at one point it flew right in front of us, landing briefly on a fence post only 10 metres away before flying off - amazing! It was then joined by a second bird and the 2 of them displayed together, gaining height as they tried to outdo each other with much wing clapping and churring, before things settled down and only brief churring was heard every now and then.

Walking back to the car park 2 or 3 tawny owls were heard calling and small bats were seen flying overhead. The cloud cover was beginning to build as it became dark and as I walked the scary path through the woods from the car park at Plymbridge Woods to Coypool it began to drizzle. With the increasing cloud cover the orange glow from streelights helped to illuminate the way and it was actually not too dark and scary, I didn't need to use my torch very much, and I managed to catch the last bus home from Marsh Mills just as it began to rain.

Friday 31st May and I made an early start to catch a smelly Crosscountry train to Redruth and then 2 buses to The Lizard to look for the choughs that are again nesting at The Point. It was a beautiful day, just as it was on my first and only ever visit to The Lizard in 2009, and I was struck again at how beautiful the landscape is in this part of Cornwall.

 The view from the watchpoint at The Lizard with a flyby chough
Within 1 minute of arriving at The Point I heard the distinctive call of a chough and there it was, flying  a few feet above my head before it gained height and headed off inland and out of sight -amazing! I spent the next couple of hours watching 1 or sometimes 2 birds as they returned to their nest in the cliff face from feeding inland before heading towards the watchpoint to gain height on their way back to the clifftop fields to feed again. Fantastic views of one of my favourite birds in the sunshine and in a stunning location - magic!

 2 Choughs!

Gannets, fulmars, shags, a singing sedge warbler, a guillemot, a lesser black backed gull, a house martin, swallows and rock pipits made up the supporting cast to while away the 20 or so minutes between the choughs visits to and from the nest, and 2 seals occassionally popped their heads out of the water below the cliffs. I also saw a holly blue and my first wall of the year.

 Singing Rock Pipit

 Wall Brown
Wall Brown

Heading back to Plymouth I had some time between buses at Helston so I thought I would have a quick look at the boating lake. A juvenile whooper swan had spent the winter in the area and had been reported as still present a few weeks ago but as I walked around the boating lake the only swans I found were mute. There is a small island in the lake connected to the shore by a bridge so I walked across to find access to the island blocked by a metal fence, no doubt to protect the 2 pairs of mute swans nesting on the island. However a sleeping swan tucked in amongst the vegetation decided to lift up its head and there it was, the whooper swan, just a few feet away and showing its yellow and black bill -  a very nice end to a great day out.

 1st Summer Whooper Swan
1st Summer Whooper Swan

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