We had the first class carriage of the train to ourselves from Plymouth to Hayle which was very nice and we enjoyed complimentary tea, coffee, biscuits and cake for breakfast. We alighted at Hayle and walked along the estuary to the railway station at St.Erth so I could do a bit of birding. The tide was heading in and I managed to see a nice selection of waders - 3 greenshank, 2 whimbrel, 2 black tailed godwit, curlews, redshanks, 2 dunlin and a curlew sandpiper (my 3rd in a week after a complete dip last year). Also seen were a greylag goose amongst the Canada goose flock, 5 eclipse plumaged wigeon amongst teal and mallard and a 2nd summer Mediterranean gull moulting into winter plumage.
We caught the packed out train from St.Erth to St.Ives and had an enjoyable few hours wandering around St.Ives. Despite the crowds and sunshine I managed to find a few gannets and fulmars offshore along with an adult kittiwake and a juvenile and 2 adult winter plumaged Mediterranean gulls. A grey seal was also seen swimming in the water off the beach near The Tate Modern with swimmers nearby totally oblivious to its prescence.
We then caught the train from St.Ives to Penzance for an overnight stay at The Union Hotel ready for an early start on Saturday morning (for me) to go on a seabird pelagic trip I had booked (yes, I had finally gotten around to doing it!). The trip was planned for a 7am start but was cancelled due to a lack of people but I was offered an afternoon trip from 5pm instead and so our plans for the Saturday were rearranged and it meant that I now had the opportunity in the morning to visit Marazion while David visited Newlyn.
The Egyptian House, Penzance - opposite our hotel
St.Michaels Mount, Marazion
The tide was heading in and the sun was shining and I found a group of curlews roosting on the rocks with oystercatchers and little egrets. No sign of the Hudsonian whimbrel amongst them but a neurotic sounding whimbrel was whistling away further along the footpath. I scanned around for it along the shore with no luck but as I peered over the clifftop I flushed a curlew then a whimbrel and then the Hudsonian whimbrel which had been making all the noise, noting its dark toned plumage and lack of white rump in flight which looked quite outstanding especially when compared to the curlew and whimbrel flying with it. It disappeared along the coast but I headed back to the curlew roost amongst the rocks and quickly refound it with 3 whimbrels, its uniformly dark plumage and much brighter and distinct head patterning being very noticeable. I often find whimbrels have variably patterned head markings with some more distinct than others but the Hudsonians was very outstanding. It flew off with the curlews and whimbrels a few times as the tide continued to rise and it was quite noticeable amongst them with its darker plumage tones, no white rump and small size - finally I had seen it, a British life tick for me at last.
Hudsonian Whimbrel with Curlews
Hudsonian Whimbrel (centre) with Whimbrel (right) and Curlews
Hudsonian Whimbrel and Curlews
Goose Barnacles on driftwood, Marazion Beach
We headed off on The Mermaid II along the stunning coast towards Lands End as the sun started to become more obscured by clouds rolling in from the south west. The weather conditions were not looking great for seabirds but I was just excited to be out on a boat with the glorious views and a sense of anticipation.
Turnstone, Penzance Harbour
Here Come The Gulls!
Some fins were seen breaking the sea surface, presumably common dolphins, but they were very unobtrusive and quickly disappeared. Compass jellyfish were also seen but it was decided to head back towards Penzance as there was little seabird action going on.
Heading back and a lone common dolphin came to the boat, circling a few times and leaping out of the water before disappearing behind the boat. A circling group of gannets gave away the prescence of a group of feeding harbour porpoise which gave their usual brief fin views before moving away. Another group of common dolphins came to the boat but also quickly disappeared from sight and with the light fading we continued on our way back to Penzance, watching Manx shearwaters and gannets and gulls along the way.
A fellow birder on the trip called a large shearwater off the back of the boat and I quickly got onto it in the dull and fading light as it flew low over the waves away from the boat, noting its long wings and pale brown looking upperwings. At first I thought it was a Corys but it banked to the left before appearing to land on the sea, showing a distinct dark cap and looking almost skua like before I lost sight of it - a great shearwater and another British life tick for me (my second of the day!). Despite going back and searching for it we couldn't refind it but it provided an exciting end to the trip.
We arrived back at Penzance harbour just before 9pm and it was quite dark by this time as I headed off to the railway station to catch the 21:30hrs train to Plymouth, the last train of the day. My shins were black and blue from knocking against the boats benches in the choppy swell and my core muscles ached too from trying to keep myself upright as we bounced across the waves but it was worth it - I had had a fantastic time despite the less than ideal conditions and I am looking forward to doing a pelagic trip again next year.