Saturday, 1 November 2014

Ring Ouzels in The Mist and a Lesser Yellowlegs in Cornwall

Thursday 30th October and we headed off to Shipley Bridge for a walk up to the Avon Dam where there have been recent reports of ring ouzels. It was half term but a grey and cloudy day so it wasn't as busy as I expected but walking up to the Avon Dam and it became very moist and misty and dull, not great for birding, but in the gloom I did see a goldcrest amongst a feeding flock of blue tits and long tailed tits, and a nice pair of bullfinches.

A distinct call heard in the mist had me quickly searching around and I managed to just about see a ring ouzel flying in to a hawthorn bush before 3 flew out of it and off in to the mist - not great views but a year tick none the less (number 199). Walking further up the valley and the distinct call was heard again and 6 ring ouzels were seen flying up over the bracken before landing in a tree on the hillside. Eventually 2 birds flew down towards the footpath, a male and a juvenile, giving some nice views as they fed on hawthorn haws before flying back up the hillside. The birds were very mobile and flighty and vocal and joined by a few redwings and blackbirds, the most I saw at any one time were 6 but there must have been more than this present with at least 2 juveniles. Lovely birds and the most I have seen together despite the poor visibility although annoyingly the weather cleared by the time we got back to the car. 

Ring Ouzel, Avon Dam - photo courtesy of Devon Birds Website ( I forgot my camera!)

Saturday 1st November and I headed off to Hayle in Cornwall on the train (half the price on a Saturday compared to a week day ticket). The viaduct at Hayle is being closed for maintenance work on the 8th to 23rd November and travelling arrangements will be a lot more complicated with trains stopping and starting at Truro and so it seemed a good day to go and have a look for the recently reported lesser yellowlegs. It arrived after my visit on the 16th October (when I saw the whooper swan), having arrived after the remnants of Hurricane Gonzales swept across the Atlantic on the 20th.

It has been showing on Copperhouse Creek in Hayle, somewhere I haven't visited for ages as I usually visit the Carnsew Pool, Ryans Field and the Hayle Estuary when I go birding here. I soon found it on the incoming tide feeding with a redshank but by the time I had got my telescope set up it had flown off! I soon refound it feeding with a group of around 20 redshanks when it was surprisingly easy to lose sight of despite its smaller size, more delicate and tapered build and obviously yellow legs - my third lesser yellowlegs and year tick number 200. I had some nice scope views but with the distance and light my photos weren't that great.

 Lesser Yellowlegs (centre), Copperhouse Creek
 Lesser Yellowlegs (left)
 Lesser Yellowlegs (upper right)
 Lesser Yellowlegs (upper middle)
Lesser Yellowlegs (right)

With the tide coming in and rain forecasted for later in the day I headed off to Penzance on the train for a look around. I walked out along the seawall path which has now reopened to have a look around the Sainsburys area for the rose coloured starling but drew a blank despite it being seen daily since my visit on the 16th. I had a scan offshore in the strengthening wind and there were large numbers of gannets diving for fish, mostly adults and with a few birds quite close to shore. A few kittiwakes were also seen with herring and great black backed gulls and a Sandwich tern. A nice surprise was a male eider, presumably the male that over wintered last year, and a female common scoter with both birds close to shore and enjoying the more sheltered waters provided by the harbour quay.

Heading home and the train was delayed due to a technical fault and it was also busy with lots of families heading home after spending half term in Cornwall but at least I arrived home before the rain did.

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