Friday, 27 January 2017

West Cornwall Delights

Wednesday 25th January and it was off to West Cornwall for the day on the train. For a change I caught the 7am train - it cost the same as the 8:20am train I usually catch, I'm usually awake early in the morning anyway and it would give me an extra hours birding.

I arrived at Hayle at around 9am and headed off to the Carnsew Pool, walking all the way around the edge, but there was no sign of the now resident spoonbill although I had some nice views of a pair of goosanders feeding at a low tide on the river off Lelant.

Goosanders

I walked over to Copperhouse Creek where the spoonbill has sometimes been reported from and I quickly found it feeding in the river channel but as I walked around the creek to get a better view it flew off to towards the Carnsew Pool - typical! I walked back to the pool, seeing a kingfisher along the old quay along the way, and had some nice views of the spoonbill busily feeding around the pool although it was more distant than the views I had back in October.

 
Spoonbill with Cormorants and a Grey Heron

Spoonbill

Spoonbill

Spoonbill - getting closer

Spoonbill

Spoonbill

Spoonbill

After watching the spoonbill for a while along with 3 adult winter plumaged Mediterranean gulls I wandered off along the estuary towards the causeway bridge, noting bar tailed godwit, teal, wigeon, lapwing and dunlin along the way. From the bridge a large group of gulls were loafing about on the mudflats and I scanned through the herring, lesser black backed and greater black backed gulls but couldn't find any of the recently reported Caspian, yellow legged or Iceland gulls.

I eventually found the wintering green winged teal roosting amongst the teal flock out on the mudflats, a little distant and difficult views as it slept amongst a mobile flock but at times showing well. It eventually showed very well as it waddled off across the mudflats before disappearing into a tidal creek, its white breast stripe being very noticeable.


Teal

Lapwing

Just as I was about to leave the causeway for the walk to St.Erth railway station to catch the train to Penzance I caught sight of a very white headed large gull with dark grey upperparts preening alone on the mudflats - a third winter/sub adult yellow legged gull! Large, bright bill, grey upperparts darker than nearby herring gulls but paler than nearby lesser black backed gulls, larger and bulkier than nearby herring gulls and with olive green looking legs, it certainly stood out before flying to the waters edge to bathe. After a while it flew off and disappeared amongst the roosting gulls but it was quite a distinctive looking bird and nice to find - cue some crap photos (distant views, harsh light, buffeting winds).


Yellow Legged Gull

Yellow Legged Gull

Yellow Legged Gull

Yellow Legged Gull

Yellow Legged Gull (right)

Yellow Legged Gull (right) with Lesser Black Backed Gull (upper left) and Herring Gull (upper middle)

Yellow Legged Gull

Yellow Legged Gull

Unfortunately with the strong breeze it kept itself facing into it and therefore facing me and I didn't manage to get much of a view of its wingtips and both times it flew I missed getting a good view of it but I was pleased to have picked it out.

It was time to head off to Penzance on the train from St.Erth and as the train pulled in to Penzance I noted how rough the sea was looking and was undecided as to where to go, east to Marazion or west to Mousehole, but when I walked over to the bus station the bus to Mousehole was just about to leave so west it was.

I quickly found the male Eastern black redstart on arriving in Mousehole, it was busily feeding along the beach rather than amongst the boulders and was being watched by just one other birder. It was very active and at times came very close to me and I was struck again by how almost curious it seemed to be - cue some decent photos (close, good light, sheltered from the breeze).

Eastern Black Redstart, Mousehole

Eastern Black Redstart

Eastern Black Redstart

Eastern Black Redstart

Eastern Black Redstart

Eastern Black Redstart

Eastern Black Redstart

Eastern Black Redstart

Eastern Black Redstart

Rock Pipit, Mousehole

Offshore a few gannets and kittiwakes were flying around in the strong breeze while 2 adult winter plumaged Mediterranean gulls flew along the shoreline. A pale grey seal was sleeping on the rocks of the small island off the beach which was also covered in lots of roosting gulls.

I then caught the bus back towards Penzance and again got off at Newlyn for the walk along the beach promenade to the Jubilee Pool. 3 adult winter plumaged Mediterranean gulls were found amongst the black headed gulls resting on the sea but there was little else I could find on the choppy water.

Turnstone, Newlyn Harbour

At the pool there were 31 purple sandpipers roosting on the rocks at high tide which gave some very close views and a dark grey seal popped its head out of the water by the harbour wall a few times.

 Purple Sandpiper

 Purple Sandpiper

 Purple Sandpiper

I had a quick walk along the coastpath from the bus station towards Marazion before catching the train home but there was no sign of any black redstarts. I did find some roosting waders along the pebble beach though - ringed plover, turnstone, dunlin and sanderling - quite well camoflagued and easy to overlook.

 Sanderling with a Dunlin

 Sanderling and a Dunlin

 Sanderling with a Dunlin

Heading home on the train and I felt pleasently knackered after a busy but very productive days birding.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Plymouth Birding Day

Sunday 22nd January and I had planned to visit Dawlish Warren on the train but a lack of sleep after my night shift and a thick head from a night out with friends from work on the Saturday evening meant I ended up having a lie in and a days birding around Plymouth instead.

I headed off to the River Plym and Saltram on a bright and cold day but the tide was high and so the highlights along the river were 6 turnstone roosting on the water ski pontoon by the recycling centre and around 100 dunlin roosting on the foreshore below Blagdons boatyard.

I managed to find 4 snipe and a Jack snipe, the views of the Jack snipe were not as good as those before Christmas though - it flushed at the last minute and flew off silently and low over the ground before disappearing behind some small trees but its small size was instantly noticeable after having already seen the snipe to compare with it.

I had a look for treecreepers in the woodland but with no luck, my eyes were just too tired, but I did find a nuthatch and 2 goldcrest amongst the usual woodland birds, while out in the grassy fields I found 2 mistle thrush, redwings and Canada geese but there was no sign of the cattle egrets.

Best bird though was a woodcock which flew amongst the trees while I was searching for treecreepers, I think it had been flushed from the woodland floor by dogs - it flew over my head and through the trees before flying off along the woodland edge by the grassy field and out of sight. Very nice to see, my first sighting of one in Plymouth.

I headed off back home on the bus before walking over to Ford Park Cemetery for a look around. Two female blackcaps feeding on ivy berries with blackbirds were a nice find and I easily found 2 ring necked parakeets feeding on the bird feeders while a third bird called nearby, they were quite tame as they munched away on peanuts.

Ring Necked Parakeet

Ring Necked Parakeet

Ring Necked (or Rose Ringed) Parakeet

Ring Necked Parakeet

I wandered around amongst the tombstones and I eventually found a male black redstart which gave some great views, a very smart looking bird, and a nice end to a Plymouth birding day.

Black Redstart

Black Redstart

Black Redstart

Black Redstart

Black Redstart

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Waxwings by the A38, January 20th 2017

January 18th was a gorgeous and sunny day but we were committed to family issues including mother in law getting her biopsy and CT scan results and the subsequent bad medical news - this year is really starting to shape up as being worse than last year. At least my mate Mavis got out birding at Bowling Green Marsh today in the lovely light, she is waiting for a hip replacement but got out on a mobility scooter and has sent me a gorgeous photo of a lapwing.

Lapwing, Bowling Green Marsh, courtesy of Mavis

There have been quite a few reports of waxwings in Devon and Cornwall in the past week since my Plymstock dip on January 7th with birds reported in Saltash, Holsworthy, Exeter, Topsham and Dawlish Warren but the report of a small flock at Heathfield was the most interesting to me. Back in 2013 I saw 8 waxwings at Heathfield, my last waxwing sightings, but the surroundings were not ideal as they were feeding on haws, hips and apples on the central reservation of the A38 opposite a tile factory - noisy, smelly, constant disturbance and a little scary - but this was where the waxwings had decided to make their temporary home again.

David very kindly offered to drive me to Heathfield to have a look for them on January 20th and after parking up at nearby Stover we quickly found the birds in the roadside trees being watched by assorted birders. They gave their position away by the lovely trilling calls they were regularly giving and quite audible over the noisy rumblings of the busy traffic along the dual carriageway but were surprisingly easy to overlook perched amongst the tree top branches.

Waxwing!

Waxwing

Waxwing

They regularly flew from the trees to the central reservation to feed before returning back to the trees and gave some very nice views in less than ideal conditions although they were always on the move and were quite skittish at times, especially when a large and noisy juggernaut sped by. I managed to count a total of 11 birds as they were often spread out along the verge and it was very lovely to watch them although with all the berries around in Devon at the moment I don't know why they have picked such a noisy and disturbed spot to feed.

 Waxwings

 Waxwing

 Waxwing - lovely!

Waxwing

We had a walk around Stover Park which was much more peaceful on a sunny and crisp winters day with the lake being mostly frozen over and white frost remaining in patches on the vegetation where the sun hadn't yet reached. On the small patch of open water left on the lake and the canal there were 3 male and 4 female tufted duck and the same of pochard, plenty of mallards, 3 mute swan, a cormorant, moorhens, coot and a pair of mandarin duck.

Mandarin Duck

The lakeside path was closed in part for tree clearance but the tree top walkway was open and there were a pair of marsh tits ( one with a silver ring on its left leg) and a female bullfinch around the feeders with blue, great and coal tits and 6 very chunky looking grey squirrels feeding on the ground underneath them.

 Marsh Tit

Blue Tit

We then headed off to nearby Bovey Tracey for lunch at The Brookside CafĂ© which was as good as ever before driving home, I would have liked to have stayed out for longer but had to get back to get ready for a dreaded night shift. It had been a very nice trip out though, any day with waxwings in it is a good day, they are such strange looking birds that don't quite sit in the British winter landscape but always a joy to see (and hear).