Monday 23 September 2019

Little and Lesser Waders

Thursday 19th September was warm and sunny but with a strong easterly wind and so we decided to head off to the beach at Cawsands for the day. The Cawsand ferry was running from The Barbican but the service stopped after we arrived at Cawsands due to the increasing wind and low tide. An adult winter plumaged Mediterranean gull was seen flying overhead from the ferry to Cawsands but I had much better views of one resting along the shoreline by the Edgecumbe Arms pub at Cremyl while we waited for the ferry back to Plymouth.

Mediterranean Gull, Cremyl

Mediterranean Gull

I had the moth box out in the back yard that night and the following morning had a few nice moths to sort through, the highlights being a silver y, square spot rustics, a shuttle shaped dart, a light emerald and a large ranunculus.

Silver Y, Back-yard

Square Spot Rustic

Shuttle Shaped Dart

Light Emerald

Large Ranunculus

Large Ranunculus 

Friday September 20th was another warm and sunny day but with an even stronger easterly wind and so we headed off out for the day with Mother-in-law, firstly to Aveton Gifford where I was dropped off for a wander around South Efford Marsh while David and Beryl carried on to Kingsbridge.

A lesser yellowlegs had been seen on the marsh the previous day and had also been seen that morning but the birders on site when I arrived hadn't located the bird. I wandered down to the hide, seeing teal, 4 dunlin, redshank and curlews along the way along with a smart comma butterfly. From the hide I could see some waders roosting at the back of the marsh but they were distant and obscured and the harsh light and strong wind hampered viewing. As the tide receded the waders flew out to the estuary, a mix of greenshank and redshank, and 2 birds were left behind, a black-tailed godwit and the lesser yellowlegs. It began to feed along the waters edge but never came any closer with the viewing conditions remaining difficult but I was glad to see it, my 4th UK sighting of one.

Comma, South Efford Marsh

It was soon time for me to be picked up and we all carried on to nearby Bigbury for a walk over to Burgh Island for refreshments in The Pilchard Inn. It was great fun walking across to the Island as we were sand blasted in the strong winds blowing right across the beach and needless to say I didn't get my binoculars or camera out due to the danger of sand scratching my lenses.

Saturday 21st September and my planned pelagic trip out to The Eddytsone from Plymouth with the DBWPS Group was cancelled for a second time due to the weather conditions and so I caught the train down to Hayle for a look around. I almost decided against going as the weather forecast was for rain but I'm glad I made the effort as I had a great time and the rain held off until I headed home.

On arriving at Hayle at around 10:45hrs I walked over to the Carnsew Pool but with the tide still high there was no exposed mud and therefore no birds other than a pair of little grebes. I had a quick look up the estuary from the embankment wall of the Pool and found an osprey sat on a post out in the river but by the time I had walked along the road to get a closer view it had flown off! However it soon returned and gave some great views as it flew around the estuary spooking all the birds and hovering over the water and diving unsuccessfully for fish before disappearing from view.

Osprey, Hayle Estuary

A group of small waders were feeding in the saltmarsh where views were difficult in the vegetation but scanning through them I noted dunlin, ringed plover, turnstone and a ruff but no sign of the recently reported little stints. On Ryan's Field 2 more ruff were found amongst the roosting curlew and bar-tailed godwits along with a single black-tailed godwit and a lapwing while over on the estuary on the dropping tide I found 2 knot and a very nice spotted redshank with oystercatchers, greenshanks and redshanks plus a variety of Mediterranean gulls amongst the roosting and preening gull flock.


Amongst the wigeon, teal and Canada geese out on the estuary were 6 pale-bellied brent geese, only my 2nd Hayle sighting, but despite scanning around I still couldn't find any little stints and so I headed back down to the Carnsew Poool for another look. The mud was beginning to be exposed and I found a few bar-tailed godwits busily feeding when a small wader flew over my head and landed out on the mud - a little stint! It gave some great views before it flew off after a few minutes but I was very pleased to see it after a blank year last year.

 Pale-bellied Brent Goose

 Pale-bellied Brent Geese

 Little Stint

 Little Stint

Little Stint

I walked back up the estuary to St.Erth to catch the train home and as I reached the causeway bridge for a last quick scan around the osprey returned, flying over the estuary and spooking everything before landing on the post again, a nice end to a great day in what has been a great wildlife watching week.


Saturday 21 September 2019

Isles of Scilly Day Trip, Tuesday September 17th

With the weather forecast set fair for September 17th I booked my ferry and train tickets on the 16th for my day trip to The Scillies and indeed the weather was good - warm and mostly sunny with a gentle breeze.

After an 04:45 hrs alarm call and a train journey down to Penzance the ferry sailed out of Penzance Harbour at 09:15 hrs where 4 male and a female eider duck were bobbing about on the waves, the males either immatures or eclipse plumaged adults.

The crossing was as enjoyable as always although there were far fewer seabirds seen than on my last 2 trips. There were plenty of gannets with a few fulmar, guillemots, Manx shearwaters, distant auks and 2 ringed plovers along with a few pods of common dolphins, one of which came towards the ferry to bow ride.

Common Dolphins from The Scillonian

On arriving at St. Mary's at Midday I decided to stay on the island and look for a juvenile red-backed shrike being seen near Porth Hellick. Unfortunately the shrike had been seen around 30 minutes before I got there but had been flushed by walkers and had flown off - despite searching I didn't refind it and indeed it wasn't reported again. I did manage to see a spotted flycatcher, a whinchat and a whitethroat but the highlight was a wryneck pointed out to me by a couple of local birders which showed very well at times. Also seen were stonechats, swallows, chiffchaffs, blackcaps, house martins and song thrush.

 Spotted Flycatcher, St.Mary's

 Wryneck, Whitethroat and Stonechats

Wryneck and Whitethroat

Juvenile Swallow

A few butterflies were seen flitting about - large whites including a mating pair and some caterpillars feeding on nasturtiums, small whites, a peacock and quite a few speckled woods of the Scilly form.

 Large White

 Large White Caterpillars

Speckled Wood - Scilly form

A green sandpiper was a nice find from the hide at Porth Hellick Pool along with a snipe and 2 grey wagtails but time was marching on and it was soon time to head back to Hugh Town to catch the 16:30hrs ferry back to Penzance.

The ferry crossing back to Penzance was enjoyable too with gannets, fulmar, Manx shearwaters and guillemots seen along with 3 juvenile kittiwakes, a great skua and a razorbill plus the usual common dolphins.

Arriving back in Penzance and St. Michael's Mount was looking gorgeous in the setting sun and I eventually arrived back home at 22:45hrs having had a very long and tiring but very enjoyable day out.

 St. Michael's Mount

 St.Michael's Mount

Juvenile Herring Gull, Penzance Harbour

Friday 20 September 2019

Yellow Wagtails and Clouded Yellows

Thursday 12th September was grey and breezy but warm and humid and so we drove to Thurlestone on the South Devon coast for a walk to Hope Cove and back.

Very little of note was seen along the walk except at South Huish Marsh where there were 7 dunlin and 3 ringed plover roosting along the shoreline before they all took off and flew over the car park towards the sea. Swallows were hawking overhead and I could hear yellow wagtails calling before getting a good view of a juvenile feeding on the short grass by the car park although it soon flew off with 2 other birds.

After lunch at The Cove cafe in Hope Cove (mackerel ciabatta and a pint of Devon red cider) we walked back to Thurlestone, noting a cronking and tumbling raven as we walked over the cliffs and on arriving back at South Huish Marsh there were 21 dunlin feeding together with 16 black-tailed godwits and a very smart ruff.

 Ruff with Black-tailed Godwits, South Huish Marsh

 Ruff with Dunlin, South Huish Marsh

 Ruff with Dunlin

Ruff with Dunlin

A man was walking along the hedgerow by the side of South Huish Marsh to photograph the grazing highland cattle and in doing so flushed at least 8 yellow wagtails feeding amongst them. They flew up from the long grass and headed towards me, landing on the short grass by the car park where they showed very well for a short time before flying back to feed amongst the cattle.

 Yellow Wagtail, South Huish Marsh

Yellow Wagtail

Saturday 14th September was warm and sunny but with a night shift looming again we headed up to Plymouth Hoe and The Barbican for a walk and to visit the Seafood Festival. I didn't have my camera with me which was a shame as I had a great view of a large white feeding on ivy flowers and a very mobile clouded yellow flitting about over the grass.

Monday 16th September and a cloudy but warm morning saw me heading off to Wembury for a walk. Still no yellow wagtails were found but I did see at least 3 clouded yellows dashing around the short grass of the horse field and feeding on dandelion flowers.

Clouded Yellow, Wembury

Other butterflies seen were speckled wood, small copper, common blue, small white, large white and many red admirals and painted ladies feeding on the ivy flowers with the bees. A few silver y were disturbed from the grass at The Point too.

 Painted Lady, Wembury

Sloe Blossom (in September!)

Birds highlights included 3 wheatears, chiffchaffs, blackcaps, swallows, 37 Canada geese and 33 Mediterranean (adult winters with 3 1st winters and 5 2nd winters). Stonechats and cirl buntings were also seen in the hedgerows with 2 curlews along the shore with the oystercatchers and there were gannets and fulmars offshore.

Before heading home I enjoyed a Chunk pasty and a coffee for lunch, potentially my last of the year here at Wembury, but it had been a very pleasant Autumnal mornings walk.

Monday 9 September 2019

Local Dips and Hits

With a hoopoe being reported daily from Monday 2nd September at Millbrook in Cornwall just across the River Tamar from Plymouth I decided to go and have a look for it in Friday 6th, my first free day. However it was a grey and cool day with a strong breeze and spots of rain and with the hoopoe being seen in gardens and fields in the bottom of a valley I wasn't too hopeful of seeing it and so it was to be. Viewing was difficult due to the topography of the land with viewing points difficult to find amongst the hedges, walls, buildings, trees and hills and after 90 minutes of wandering around I gave up and headed home, seeing just a fox, swallows and house martins for my troubles.

Fox, Millbrook


Saturday 7th September and I was supposed to be working a long day but had to phone in sick due to a disturbed nights sleep and some "gastric distress". I started to feel much better quite quickly and with the sun shining I caught the bus to Wembury for a quick walk.

An orange swift was found on the floor of the men's toilet which was a bit stunned from having been stepped on but I moved it to a safe spot outside although a snout resting on the ceiling was too out of reach to rescue.

Orange Swift, Wembury

Butterflies were flitting about in the sunshine but despite searching I couldn't find any clouded yellows. I did however see a small copper, 2 red admirals 2 painted ladies, a few male common blues, 2 speckled wood and lots of small whites.

Speckled Wood, Wembury

Speckled Wood

Whitethroats, blackcaps and chiffchaffs were seen along the coast path with swallows overhead and the usual stonechats on the tops of the bushes and cirl buntings skulking in the hedgerows.

Along the beach 8 turnstones were feeding on the seaweed mass with a dunlin while at The Point 63 oystercatcher were roosting with 5 curlew and 7 little egret.

A few gannet were picked up offshore while on the rocks 10 Mediterranean gulls were hiding amongst the roosting black headed gulls.

Mediterranean Gulls with Black-headed Gulls, Wembury

Mediterranean- and Black-headed Gulls

Mediterranean Gulls

I had hoped to see some yellow wagtails but was out of luck although a grey wagtail was a nice find along the beach with the usual alba wagtails along with a few meadow pipits amongst the rock pipits.

And so a nice walk despite not feeling great but I was very glad to get back home to lounge about on the sofa.

Sunday 8th September and I decided to continue the local theme and took a walk along the River Plym and around Saltram Park on another sunny day. It wasn't too busy with people either and I had a very productive walk.

The tide was heading in and on Blaxton Meadow there were 31 curlew, 5 oystercatcher and an adult lesser black-backed gull roosting with Canada geese, little egret, grey heron and black-headed gulls.

Walking around Saltram and I could hear ring-necked parakeets squawking in the trees. Stock doves were regularly seen flying over along with a single house martin and a flock of around 30 feeding swallows with the adults feeding the youngsters mid-air.

A juvenile whinchat was a nice find feeding from the top of a large bramble bush with 3 stonechats which were surprisingly quite tolerant of it.

Whinchat, Saltram

A juvenile wheatear, blackcaps and chiffchaffs were also seen and a firecrest in the usual spot above the folly was a good find, giving itself away with its call and showing very briefly amongst the ivy.

I had a look amongst the cattle for yellow wagtails with no joy but I did find 2 clouded yellows which showed very well along with a comma, painted ladies, meadow browns, a red admiral, 2 speckled wood and small whites.

Clouded Yellow, Saltram

Clouded Yellow

Painted Lady


A male and female roe deer showed well before running off into the trees and a few darters were dashing about which I think were common but could have included ruddy. The toad seen last week was still hunkered down under the same plastic sheet too.

Common Darter, Saltram

Common Darter

And so a nice weekend of local wildlife watching despite the dips and not feeling well but it shows what wildlife can be found not far from my front door.