Sunday 10 December 2017

A Trip to Germany and a Cornish Hawfinch

Despite having just returned from the Far East it was time to head off again to Heathrow Airport on December 2nd for a short break to Cologne in Germany courtesy of free flights with British Airways using our Avios points. I really just felt like spending a few quiet days at home but once we were on our way I soon got into the spirit of things and had a good time away. The drive up to Heathrow was uneventful with golden plover, lapwing, fieldfare and redwing seen in the fields by the A303 along the way in the continuing cold weather but there was no sign of any red kites (although I did see 2 birds on the drive back home to Plymouth on our return on December 6th).

Cologne was as lovely as always, the Christmas Markets were great and we ate and drank too much and spent a fortune but it was worth it. There were patches of snow on the ground and on rooftops when we arrived at Dusseldorf Airport but it soon disappeared in the light mizzle which was a shame. Not much in the way of wildlife was seen as expected on a short and city based break but I did see some birds including buzzard, pheasant, grey heron, starling and kestrel on our train journeys to and from Dusseldorf Airport and to and from Aachen, while in Cologne I saw sparrowhawk, Canada goose, common gull and cormorant amongst others. The highlight were the ring necked parakeets which noisily roosted in trees by the Christmas Market near Heumarkt every night, there must have been around 50 birds present with a lot of bird poop underneath the trees on the pavement. Each morning they noisily congregated in trees near our hotel, making flying sorties overhead in small noisy groups before dispersing which was great to watch (and hear) - love them or loathe them, they certainly caught the attention of people passing by.

 Aachen Cathedral Mosaic

 Aachen Cathedral Mosaic

 Aachen Cathedral Mosaic

Aachen Cathedral Mosaic

With 2 very busy days at work on our return I really needed a proper wildlife fix on Sunday 10th December and so I headed off to Plymouth railway station to catch the train to Dawlish on a sunny but cold and blustery morning. I had been awake and out of bed early but dillied and dallied and missed the first train of the day at 08:40 which I soon regretted as on arrival at the station it was packed with travellers, trains were delayed and (stinky) Crosscountry trains weren't running due to a strike. With my 10:09 train being increasingly delayed on the notice board I realised I would miss the connection at Newton Abbot to Dawlish and decided to abandon the trip -  I wasn't expecting to get my money back for the ticket but it was refunded without question which I was very pleased about. I wasn't sure what to do instead but with a hawfinch being reported the previous day at the China Fleet Club near Saltash I decided to head out there on the bus for a look around.

On arrival at the Club some birders were peering into the trees but there had been no sighting of the hawfinch. I was at least able to get a bit more information from them about where it had been seen the previous day and I left them to their search and walked over to the nearby putting green area for a look around where I did manage to get the briefest view of a hawfinch flying off between the trees - not the views I was hoping for but at least I had seen it, and only my second UK sighting of one.

I decided to walk on to the bird hide for a quick look as the tide was beginning to ebb with a plan to return to the putting green later for another look around. From the hide there was a nice selection of birds roosting on the saltmarsh - redshank, dunlin, curlew, black tailed godwit, lapwing and 7 avocets representing the waders, wigeon, shelduck and teal representing the ducks, lesser black backed and a great black backed gull amongst the herring and black headed gulls and a distant view of a nice glossy ibis roosting with little egrets on the river bank opposite the hide.

Glossy Ibis from the hide with Little Egrets (Honest!)

China Fleet Club Rainbow

Back to the putting green and there was no sign of the hawfinch and just as I was about to give up and go home I had a good flight view of one whizzing over the tree tops. It briefly landed in a tree before disappearing from sight but I was very pleased to get a better view. I decided to stay for a bit longer and I had a few more flight views as I walked around the area which were good but frustrating but eventually I found it feeding in trees with greenfinches, chaffinches and goldfinches where I managed to get some very good views despite the fading light - a very nice bird to see in what has been a bit of a hawfinch influx this autumn - and there may well have been more than one bird present.

 Hawfinch - record shot

Hawfinch - record shot

Hawfinch at China Fleet Club - courtesy of @ChrisBuckland6 Twitter

Other birds seen were goldcrest, 2 jays, a buzzard, long tailed tits, a little grebe with a female tufted duck on the lake with mallard and moorhen, a chiffchaff, a male bullfinch, redwings, song thrushes, blackbirds, robins and 3 mistle thrush.

And so not a bad day out despite the bumpy start.

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