Sunday, 8 March 2015

Geese, Gulls and Ducks

Friday 27th February and a sunny walk along the coast path from Hope Cove to Thurlestone and back was very pleasant except for the muddy footpath, especially the new piece of path that zig-zags around the fields. I have never visited South Huish Marsh at this time of year before and it was interesting to see it as 5 pools/scrapes without all the waterside vegetation obscuring the views (and birds!). I found my target birds, 2 Eurasian white fronted geese, feeding at the back of the Marsh with Canada geese - a little distant and I didn't have my telescope with me but I could make out the white bill blaze and black belly barring as the birds moved around feeding on the grass.

 Eurasian White Fronted Geese, South Huish Marsh
White Fronted Geese

Another interesting sight were 6 ravens high overhead, calling and tumbling together. 3 then flew off inland and 2 off along the coast towards Plymouth with 1 bird swooping down to mob an adult great black backed gull before being mobbed itself by an adult herring gull as it disappeared from view.

Friday 6th March and the plan had been to travel down to Penzance on the train to look for the Pacific diver and a little bunting being reported there but a leak found under the kitchen sink meant by the time it was fixed and sorted out we had missed the train. Instead we drove down to the Duchy of Cornwall nursery near Lostwithiel where I saw my first red admiral of the year feeding on the blooming plants along with a peregrine overhead which scared the poop out of 6 displaying buzzards before flying off out of sight. We then had a walk along the river at nearby Lerryn where I saw a common sandpiper, 2 greenshank, 3 little egrets, 3 redshank, a grey wagtail and a flyover raven.

Saturday 7th March and with a day free to myself to go birding I had a dilemma to decide on - Penzance or Falmouth? I had originally planned to go to Falmouth and so I decided to stick with it and headed off on the train to Truro and then the branch line to Falmouth, a new trip for me. Arriving in Falmouth and my usual poor map reading skills and awful sense of direction meant a rather circuitous walk to nearby Swanpool - despite having been a boy scout I am useless with maps but once I have been somewhere I can always find my way back.

Arriving at the small lake and I soon found my first target bird, a long staying long tailed duck. It was preening at the back of the pool and surprisingly easily to overlook, seeming to merge with the choppy water, and spending most of its time busily diving for food.

 Long Tailed Duck, Swanpool
Long Tailed Duck

My attention was soon diverted by sighting my second target bird, a first winter ring billed gull. It gave some great close views as it fed on bread being chucked to the swans and ducks by countless people passing by. I haven't seen a first winter bird before so it was nice to get such good views of an unfamiliar plumage stage - I used to see adult ring billed gulls at Copperhouse Creek in Hayle where they were again very tame and coming to bread but it has been a few years now since I last saw one.

 1st Winter Ring Billed Gull, Swanpool
 Ring Billed Gull
 Ring Billed Gull
 Ring Billed Gull
Ring Billed Gull

It was also nice to see quite a few very smart looking adult lesser black backed gulls bathing on the pool amongst the herring gulls, maybe birds returning from wintering in Africa. A confiding water rail feeding on bread and grain along the pool edge with 2 brown rats was a  surprise, it has certainly been a water rail year so far with 6 individual birds having been seen in the last 7 weeks.

 Water Rail
Brown Rat

I then headed off towards Maenporth, walking along the coastal path and enjoying some lovely views in the increasingly warm sunshine. A flyby small tortoiseshell was my first of the year and offshore shags and fulmars were seen. Plenty of violets were flowering along the path and a strange sight was a mute swan on the sea amongst the rocks.

Mute Swan on the sea at Maenporth

Arriving at Maenporth and after a bit of a search I found target bird number three, an immature male king eider. It was distant even with my telescope but I could make out its yellow bill in the bright sunshine. It dived a few times, bringing up what looked like crabs and also a starfish, but spent most of its time preening, wing flapping and sipping water. Maybe it will return next winter when it might be in more resplendent adult plumage?

Immature Male King Eider - honest!

King Eider - you can just about make out its yellow bill!

Heading back to Swanpool and I had better views of the long tailed duck, with the ring billed gull and water rail still showing well too. 2 green woodpeckers were heard yaffling in the nearby cemetery and a wander around the tombstones and grassy areas eventually yielded 1 of the birds which looked very handsome in the sunshine.

Arriving back in Truro and I found out that the train times had been changed due to engineering works and so I had over an hours wait for the next train back to Plymouth - most annoying as I could have spent longer in Falmouth or caught an earlier train to Truro. I arrived home later than expected and feeling a little bit sun kissed and knackered but I had had a great days birding.

No comments:

Post a Comment