Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Even more Cattle Egrets and the Wrong Gull on a trip to Cornwall

Sunday 2nd April and it was a gorgeous sunny Spring day and I had 2 choices - head east to the River Exe (for the 3rd week in a row) or west to Hayle and Penzance. I didn't relish the thought of a long train journey but in the end I decided on west anyway due to the lure of a near adult ring billed gull being reported at Hayle.

I arrived first at Penzance at around 11:15 and on a brief look offshore from the bus station I found the resident male eider close inshore along with a diving Sandwich tern, while further offshore a few gannets were flapping around.

Male Eider, Penzance - record shot into the sun

Another cetacean was washed up on the beach, this time a common dolphin and again tagged by the Cornwall Wildlife Trust. Apparently it has been a bad winter this year for dead porpoises and dolphins being washed up on Cornish beaches but I fortunately haven't come across any at Wembury this year.

Common Dolphin

The walk to Marazion was very warm in the sunshine, not helped by my wearing my winter coat, but I eventually arrived at Long Rock Pool where 2 male tufted duck were seen along with moorhen, a pair of mallard and bathing herring, lesser black backed and great black backed gulls.

Marazion Marsh had more going on with a willow warbler heard singing along with chiffchaffs and Cettis warblers, 2 little egrets, a little grebe, 2 male reed buntings, teal, mallard, moorhen, 2 Canada geese, a greylag goose and a nice singing male stonechat.

Male Stonechat, Marazion

Grey herons were sitting on nests or fishing around the marsh with birds regularly chasing each other around. One nest in the top of the reeds held some small fledglings, I counted 3 small heads but a photographer with a massive camera lens said there were in fact 4 but 1 was being picked on by the other 3 and was looking in a bad way.

Grey Heron with Teal, Marazion

I caught the bus from Long Rock to St.Erth and walked down to the causeway bridge overlooking the Hayle estuary and the tide was right out. Unfortunately the gulls were bathing and resting on the mudflats further downriver than usual and viewing was difficult in the harsh light and heat haze and despite searching I couldn't find the ring billed gull nor the 2 reported Iceland gulls. However I did find a bonus gull, a very smart adult little gull, which flew in over the bridge and headed downriver before flying back over to Ryans Field where it fed over the water for a few minutes and then headed off inland. Its red legs, black underwing and light grey upperwings fringed with white were very noticeable although it had not developed the black hood of summer plumage ( a 1st winter bird has also been reported on the bird sightings pages).

 Little Gull, Ryans Field

 Little Gull

 Little Gull

 Little Gull

 Little Gull

Little Gull - Crop Shot

While scanning through the gulls I picked up a sleeping spoonbill, it awoke briefly and showed a pale yellowish bill so was not the usual resident bird. A short time later I picked up a spoonbill high overhead which soared around for a while before landing in the river channel to feed, being the resident bird with a yellow tipped black bill and a few black feathers in the wing tips.


Other birds of note were 1 greenshank, 5 winter plumaged bar tailed godwit, 2 summer plumaged black tailed godwit, good numbers still of wigeon, a few teal, oystercatcher, redshank and curlew.


A nice surprise were 6 cattle egret on Ryans field, starting to show the buffy crowns of breeding plumage. They appeared quite nervous and unsettled, moving around the field to feed and mostly staying close together and represent my first UK cattle egret sighting outside of Devon!

 Cattle Egret - 5 of the 6

Cattle Egret - 5 of the 6

So not a bad day out although I missed a few birds reported on the day - great skua, hobby, swallow, black throated diver and sand martin at Marazion and the ring billed gull at Hayle - but I had enjoyed my sightings with a bonus view of a faded but intact painted lady butterfly on the grass verge by the causeway bridge at Hayle.

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