Friday, 23 December 2016

Eastern Black Redstart, Mousehole

It was off to Penzance on the train on December 22nd for a days birding on what was a cold but mostly bright day (although I did get soaked during a brief but heavy rain shower). I had planned to get an earlier train but surprisingly overslept, something I rarely do.

A nice surprise while waiting for the train on the platform at Plymouth station was a noisy flock of 7 ring necked parakeets flying over towards Central Park with a second flock of 4 noisy birds later flying over too.

On arriving in Penzance at 10:15 I had a quick look off the sea wall by the bus station but the only bird of note was a female type black redstart flitting about amongst the boulders. I caught the bus to nearby Mousehole and following the directions posted on various birding websites I soon found my way to where a first winter male eastern black redstart has made its home, made easier to find by a line of birders with massive cameras and telescopes standing a few feet away from the boulders the bird was frequenting.

Where's the bird?

I soon found the bird flitting about amongst the boulders, appearing quite undisturbed by the nearby crowd, and I managed to get some nice views of a handsome and charismatic bird. It reminded me of the desert wheatear I recently saw at Thurlestone, almost seeming to be curious of the strange creatures staring at it.

A few birds have appeared in the UK this autumn but currently it is deemed a sub species of black redstart although it may be elevated to full species status at some point. There is a lot of debate on birding websites regarding this issue, and so it may become an arm chair life tick for me in the future.

Eastern Black Redstart - 1st Winter male

Eastern Black Redstart, Mousehole

Eastern Black Redstart

Eastern Black Redstart

Eastern Black Redstart

I had a quick look offshore and picked out a few gannets and 2 Mediterranean gulls amongst the gulls (an adult and a second winter) but after 30 minutes I decided to head back to Penzance on the bus to continue my birding day. I got off the bus at Newlyn and walked towards the Jubilee Pool along Tolcarne beach, seeing a few turnstones amongst the pebbles and the head of a grey seal occassionally popping out of the water.

Summer Plumaged Cormorant, Jubilee Pool

The tide was high and a small flock of waders were roosting on the rocks by the pool - mostly sanderling with dunlin, ringed plover, turnstone and at least 4 purple sandpipers.

Sanderling, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Purple Sandpiper and Turnstone, Jubilee Pool

Ringed Plover and Sanderling

Purple Sandpiper

One of the sanderlings was sporting some fancy plastic on its legs, I have done some research and have found out it was ringed on the north coast of The Netherlands in August 2016 and has been reported around the Penzance area a few times this winter.

Sanderling with Leg Bling

I scanned across the sea with my telescope and managed to find at least 3 great northern divers and a flyby guillemot along with more gannets but there was no sign of the recently reported Pacific diver which has returned again for the winter. I did find a small flock of around 30 common scoters on the sea with around 10 birds flying off and then dispersing seperately around the Bay. The remaing flock of 20 odd birds were regularly diving and attracting the attentions of passing gulls and seemed to consist of just one male bird with females /juveniles.

I headed off to buy some candied orange slices from a shop in Penzance before heading back to the sea wall by the bus station for another scan around. There was no sign of the black redstart seen earlier but offshore I managed to eventually find the reported 4 velvet scoters, distant views in harsh light and choppy seas and with the birds constantly diving but showing their distinct white wing line at times.

I caught the bus to St.Erth and walked down to the Hayle Estuary to view the mudflats from the causeway bridge. There were good numbers of lapwing, golden plover and dunlin present, many more than on my visit back in October but there was no sign of the still present spoonbill. A few redshank and curlew were seen and there were 6 black tailed godwits feeding on Ryans Field.

A large flock of distant teal were roosting on the mud and I scanned through them looking for the male green winged teal still present since October but it was like looking for a needle in a haystack. However I eventually found it sleeping amongst the flock much to my surprise and delight, my second sighting of one ever, but the estuary birds were then spooked by something and all took off (except the gulls) and I lost sight of it. A short time later I refound it nearer to me and awake but again the birds were spooked and all flew off and I never saw it again.

1st Winter Green Winged Teal amongst Teal, Hayle Estuary

Green Winged Teal - Zoomed in 

I had a good scan of the roosting and preening gulls out on the saltmarsh and found a few mobile and restless Mediterranean gulls amongst the black headed, herring, great black back and lesser black back gulls but there was no sign of any Caspian gulls recently seen here.

Gulls with a Wigeon



There were 2 interesting gulls I picked up amongst the gull flock, unfortunately distant, with the first an adult bird that looked like a yellow legged gull, being paler than the nearby adult lesser black backed gulls but a little too dark for a yellow legged gull, and with a very clean and white looking head. 

 Adult Yellow Legged Gull (Centre)?

The second bird also looked like an adult yellow legged gull, being darker than nearby herring gulls but paler than nearby lesser black backed gulls but paler backed and smudgier headed than the above bird and with a yellow tinge to pink looking legs - maybe a hybrid bird or an argentatus herring gull rather than the usual argenteus?

Adult Yellow Legged Gull (Upper Right)?

A little egret showed very well just below the causeway bridge before flying off but it was soon time to head back to St.Erth to catch the train back to Plymouth but it had been a very enjoyable and successful days birding.

Little Egret, Hayle

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