Monday 27 September 2021

Local Beach Wildlife

With the warm and settled weather continuing we managed to get to the beach twice in a week with a trip to Cawsands and a trip to Wonwell.

It has been over 2 years now since we last had a beach day at Cawsands and it was a lovely day out as always. A Grey Seal with a red tag in its tail was a surprise sighting as it swam around the ferry in the crystal clear waters at Cawsands Beach, a young looking animal and possibly a rescued and released individual as it appeared to have no real fear of the people nearby.

Grey Seal, Cawsands Beach

A Kingfisher on the rocks along the shoreline was also a surprise with a 1st winter and 2 adult winter Mediterranean Gulls more usual while from the ferry at least 2 noisy Sandwich Terns were seen. Red Admirals, Large whites, Meadow Browns and a Painted Lady were also seen feeding on the buddleia flowers at the back of the beach and a Chiffchaff was briefly heard singing.

Our trip to Wonwell was less wildlife filled but it was as gorgeous there as ever, it has been far too many years since we last visited here. Ravens noisily flying over were the only birds of note but the scenery was just stunning and the sunshine warm and relaxing.

With 2 night shifts looming again I headed out to Wembury on Tuesday 21st September for a walk on another warm and sunny day. It was very quiet bird wise with just a Curlew and a Bar-tailed Godwit with Oystercatchers seen out on the rocks along the beach as the tide headed out. There were plenty of gulls roosting on the rocks too but without my telescope I wasn't able to count the Mediterranean Gulls amongst them although there seemed to be many more present than on my previous visit.

At The Point a Great Spotted Woodpecker was calling from the pine trees where at least 6 Chiffchaff, 6 Chaffinch and a pair of Blackcaps were also seen. Cirl Buntings were being nervous and skulky in the bushes but Stonechats were showy and confiding as usual.

Stonechat, Wembury

A Kestrel was being noisily mobbed by Carrion Crows over the hillside behind the wheatfield with a male Sparrowhawk briefly appearing too. A Jay was even more of a surprise as it briefly flew out of the trees before disappearing back into cover while a second bird was heard only. Later a Jay was heard in the trees in the valley to the beach with another bird flying over, presumably the same pair.

Ichneumon Wasp, Wembury

The warm and sunny days have meant cool and clear nights and as a result back yard mothing hasn't been particularly exciting but I did have my first L-Album Wainscot of the year. Unfortunately I still haven't had a Large Ranunculus so far although I sadly found the remains of one in a spiders web. 

Double-striped Pug

L-Album Wainscot

Large Ranunculus - not how I wanted to see one! 

Saturday 25th September was grey and overcast but warm and muggy and so I headed out to Wembury again for a walk. Unfortunately on arriving it was a bit of a white out with The Mewstone totally obscured in mist and mizzle although the visibility came and went over the course of the morning and by the time I left all but the top of The Mewstone was visible. 

Mist-sparkled Spiders Web at Wembury - they were everywhere! 

Spiders Web, Wembury

It was quiet on the bird front with 2 Chiffchaff and a male Blackcap noted at The Point. Along the beach a Wheatear, a Common Sandpiper, a Curlew and 5 Little Egrets were seen along with the usual Oystercatchers. 

There was a noticeable increase in Mediterranean Gulls roosting on the rocks at high tide with good numbers of 1st winter birds noted although counting numbers was impossible in the mist and with birds being very mobile along the shore. I did refind the adult ringed bird Yellow 2L14 that I saw on 14th September (details still awaited) and an adult bird with a red leg ring that I couldn't read but I also found an adult bird Green RX2P that was ringed as a chick in 2017 in France. 

A juvenile/1st Winter Great Black-backed Gull was seen tucking in to a fish washed up onto the beach while other Gulls watched nearby.

Great Black-backed Gull, Wembury

A Long-winged Conehead was seen on a fence post and 3 Red Admirals were flitting about despite the gloomy conditions while  offshore 2 Gannets were picked up moving west and a Grey Seal surfaced briefly close to shore as it headed east. 

Sunday 19 September 2021

Isles of Scilly Day Trip, September 16th

After missing out on my annual day trip to the Isles of Scilly last year due to COVID restrictions, weather, work and life I was really looking forward to going this year and with all the planets aligned perfectly for September 16th I booked a last minute train and ferry ticket and headed off for the day. 

It was an early start with an 04:45hrs alarm call to catch the 05:40hrs train from Plymouth and I arrived in Penzance with no delays at 07:40hrs. After a bacon butty, a coffee and a poo I was all set as we sailed out of the harbour at 09:15hrs on the Scillonian III in clear skies and with a flat calm and oily looking sea. As we headed out into the English Channel the swell took hold but the sea state remained relatively flat and calm and the light was perfect for sea watching.

Shearwaters were seen flying around and rafting on the sea but most were fairly distant and the few that came close to the ferry were all Manx. A group of 4 Balearic Shearwater did fly right past the ferry though, showing very well and with a noticeably more languid flight style as they headed west.

The usual Gannets were seen in various plumage states along with a few Kittiwakes (adult and juveniles), a Fulmar, an adult winter plumaged Mediterranean Gull, 2 Sandwich Terns, Commic Terns, Guillemots, Great Black-backed Gulls and Herring Gulls. Even better were sightings of 2 Storm Petrels flying low over the sea and 2 Great Skuas, 1 flying across the front of the ferry and one resting on the sea. 6 Grey Seals were also seen, 2 off Penzance, 2 off the Scillies and 2 as we headed into Hugh Town. 

Pods of Common Dolphins were very noticeable in the ideal conditions but most were distant and not overly showy although a few did come to the front of the ferry to briefly bow ride. A Rissos Dolphin was the highlight though, distant but with a very large dorsal fin looking like a massive shark fin and with a very distinctive rolling action as it logged at the surface.

The Isles Of Scilly from St.Marys

Arriving in St.Marys and the clouds unfortunately rolled in but it remained dry and warm and with a Western Bonelli's Warbler being seen on The Garrison I decided to concentrate my efforts here. I had a sense of de ja vu about this decision though as I failed to see the Warbler, just as happened on my trip in 2014 when I spent a fruitless time on The Garrison looking for a Greenish Warbler but I had an enjoyable time anyway.

The sun did eventually reappear and on my wandering around The Garrison I managed to find at least 2 Pied Flycatchers, surprisingly my first of the year, along with at least 2 Spotted Flycatchers.

Pied Flycatcher

Spotted Flycatcher

A Whitethroat, a Chiffchaff, a pair of Blackcap, a Wheatear, a Whinchat and Swallows were seen along with Stonechat, Collared Dove, Song Thrush, House Sparrow, Blackbird and Starling while Robins were heard singing their mournful autumn tunes.


Butterflies were flitting about with Painted Lady, Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell, Holly Blue, Large White, Small White and the Scilly form of Speckled Wood all seen.

Speckled Wood - Scilly form (insula)

All too soon it was time to head back to Hugh Town to catch the ferry back to Penzance and while waiting to set sail a look around the harbour revealed 6 Turnstone, a Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlews, Oystercatchers and Sandwich Terns.

The sea was still relatively calm on the sailing back to Penzance with little swell but a rippley surface although the light was not so good for sea watching as it was in the morning.

Common Dolphins were again seen but in smaller numbers and mostly distant. Gannets were again very noticeable and Manx Shearwaters were much more showy. No Kittiwakes or Sandwich Terns were seen but Fulmars were more numerous and Commic Terns were again noted along with Guillemots.

The highlight was a Sooty Shearwater, first seen resting on the sea amongst a small raft of Manx Shearwater and close to the ferry before they all took flight as we approached them. It showed very well, larger and longer winged than the Manxies and with a lovely silvery white flashing on its underwings contrasting with its overall dark brown plumage.

We arrived back in Penzance as the sun was beginning to set and with St.Michaels Mount looking stunning in the fading light. The train ride back to Plymouth was uneventful and on time and I arrived home at 22:30 hrs, absolutely knackered but having had a wonderful day out, probably the best Scilly day trip I've ever had so far.

St.Michaels Mount

Friday 17 September 2021


Sunday 12th September was overcast and muggy and with the high tide being around 10am I headed out to Warleigh Point at the mouth of the River Tavy to look for Ospreys.

On arriving I had a quick scan around and immediately found an Osprey flying up the Tavy but it was quite distant and by the time I had set my scope up I lost track of it amongst the melee of Corvids it had spooked.

A short time later some paddle boarders along the Tavy flushed an Osprey which had been roosting unseen in trees by the waters edge and as it soared higher and higher over the water it was briefly joined by a second bird before they flew off in separate directions and out of sight.

Time was marching on and a hoped for final view looked less and less likely but just as I was about to pack up and leave an Osprey appeared at the mouth of the Tavy where it had a few attempts at catching fish before resting on the railway bridge. The Carrion Crows were not happy with its presence though and regularly hassled it before it flew off upriver and out of sight.





While waiting for the Ospreys to show I regularly scanned across the river and estuary and a feeding frenzy of Black-headed Gulls out in the River Tamar caught my attention along with the sound of 2 Sandwich Terns calling amongst them. I soon picked them up amongst the swirling mass of birds before they headed downriver towards Saltash but I also picked out a Little Tern amongst the Gulls, tiny looking and regularly hovering above the water, my first for Plymouth. A Peregrine, a Greenshank, 3 Stock Doves and 6 Great Crested Grebe were also noted.

Tuesday 14th September and I took a walk at Wembury for a look about. It was very quiet with Whitethroat, 4 Chiffchaff, 4 Wheatear and 2 Swallow noted along with Kestrel, 3 Cirl Bunting, the usual Stonechats and 3 Meadow Pipit flying over calling.

The high tide roost at The Point held 3 Curlew, 6 Little Egret, 78 Oystercatcher and 30 Mediterranean Gulls (13 1st winter, 15 adult winter and 2 2nd winter). A 1st winter bird was leg ringed (Green R6ET) and subsequent enquiries have revealed it was ringed in France in July. An adult bird was also ringed (Yellow 2L14), apparently a UK ringed bird but details are still awaited. 

A big surprise was a Convolvulus Hawkmoth resting on a fence post in almost the exact same place I saw one 4 weeks ago. It was a little worn and possibly the same one I saw before. 

Convolvulus Hawkmoth 

Convolvulus Hawkmoth 

Convolvulus Hawkmoth 

Also seen were a Painted Lady, a Wall and a Comma along with many Red Admiral, Large White and Small White, an Angle Shades and Silver Y's. Long-winged Coneheads and Common Lizards were basking on the fences too in the weak and occasional sunny spells and a Common Darter was also seen basking on the footpath. 

Long-winged Coneheads 

Common Darter

The Ivy flowers were in bloom and the bushes were covered in assorted Bees and Hover flies including my first Ivy Bees of the year. 

Ivy Bee

On checking my phone while on the bus ride back to Plymouth a Little Stint had been reported from the River Plym and so I stepped off the bus at Laira Bridge for the walk along the Plym to Blaxton Meadow and back.  The tide was heading out and there was no sign of the Stint but I did see a Common Sandpiper, 9 Greenshank, 6 Dunlin, 8 Oystercatcher and 10 juvenile Shelduck with Curlews and Redshanks. 


Sunday 12 September 2021

Marsh Harriers

Tuesday 7th September was sunny and hot (25°c+) but very breezy and it felt like being under a hot hair dryer in the strong wind as we headed down to Perranporth in Cornwall for our annual September trip. 

We expected it to be busy again as it was on last years trip but it was ridiculously so in the good weather, and the strong breeze meant a gritty and hazy walk along the beach as it blew fine sand out of the dunes. The Watering Hole kitchen was closed so no cooked breakfast on the beach again and The Dolphin Cafe where we had a cooked breakfast last year was closed too and by the time we had wandered around looking for somewhere to get a breakfast we had missed the cut off times. We did however eventually get a cooked breakfast at The Cove, a cafe on the main street in Perranporth, and very good it was too. 

It was an enjoyable but strange day out again though, just as it had been last year, and again we had to drink our cider on the beach in plastic cups and we didnt have an ice cream but such is life in these COVID times. 

The usual Gannets were flying around offshore and the usual Trout were dashing about in the stream while in the dunes Wheatears were flitting about and Autumn Ladies Tresses were looking wilted in the dry soil while Sand Martins and Swallows were hawking about overhead. 


Along the beach a small flock of waders were being moved around by walkers but I managed some nice views of Sanderlings feeding in the surf with distant flight views of Dunlin and Ringed Plover. 


The highlight though was a juvenile Marsh Harrier picked up flying in off the sea towards the dunes, battling against the very strong wind and being mobbed by the occasional Gull. 

In total contrast the morning of Wednesday 8th September was wet with thunder and lightning and so we headed to IKEA in Exeter for some retail therapy (a rare event these days). By the time we had completed our respects to the God's of shopping it was dry and sunny and so we headed off for a quick walk at the nearby Exminster Marshes. 

I only had a short time but things started off well with 2 Spoonbill found roosting out on the marsh while a Marsh Harrier quartered overhead. 

Marsh Harrier

A Hobby briefly flew over, hawking for dragonflies as it went, and 2 Cattle Egret were chasing insects amongst the cattle. 

Cattle Egret

5 Ruff, a Lapwing and 4 Black-tailed Godwit were feeding around a muddy pool close to the road with viewing difficult into the light but a Comma showed very well as it basked in the sunshine. 



With the hot weather I had the moth box out in the back yard, adding a few species to my year list in the process and bringing the back yard list to 115 for 2021.

Marbled Green, Mullein Wave and Four-spotted Footman all put in an appearance along with Treble Bar, Small Square Spot, Common Marbled Carpet, Snout and Mecyna acinalis. 

Treble Bar

Small Square Spot - hidden in plain sight amongst the square Spot Rustics

Common Marbled Carpet

Mecyna acinalis

Thursday 9th September was grey and claggy and wet again but I headed off on the early train to Hayle anyway for the high tide wader roost. By the time I arrived at Hayle the rain had stopped but it remained overcast and the tide was just beginning to drop. 

Small flocks of little waders were flitting about around the Estuary and on scanning the saltmarsh by the road opposite the car wash I found 4 Little Stints feeding together amongst Dunlin and Ringed Plover before they all took off and headed over to the exposed mud on the opposite side of the river. 

I then spent an enjoyable couple of hours scanning through the constantly flighty and mobile waders out on the estuary, finding a grand total of 12 Little Stints amongst the Dunlin and Ringed Plover along with 3 Curlew Sandpipers, 2 Knot, 4 Bar-tailed Godwit, 2 Greenshank, 4 Black-tailed Godwit and 2 Common Sandpiper and the usual Curlews, Oystercatchers and Redshanks. 

Black-tailed Godwits

Black-tailed Godwit

Bar-tailed Godwit


Teal, Wigeon, Mallard, Shelduck, Canada Geese, Little Egrets and a Grey Heron were also seen along with a noisey Sandwich Tern and around 50 variously aged and plumaged Mediterranean Gulls amongst the Herring, Black-headed, Lesser Black-backed and Great Black-backed Gulls. 

A Wheatear was found amongst the rocks of the Carnsew Pool and a juvenile Peregrine dashing low over the estuary in hunting mode was presumably the cause of the continuous movement of the small waders. 


While waiting for the train back to Plymouth I watched a Painted Lady sunning itself on the concrete sleepers at the station along with a Red Admiral, both looking very pristine and presumably getting ready to migrate southwards for the winter.

Painted Lady

Monday 6 September 2021

Yet more Yellow Wagtails and Balearic Shearwaters

Friday 3rd September was forecasted to be cloudy with sunny spells and so we decided to take a walk along the coast from Thurlestone to Hope Cove and back despite it being the last day of summer holiday hell time. As it turned out it wasn't too busy and it was mostly sunny with cloudy spells and we had a very enjoyable and restorative walk. 

A large (300+) flock of Balearic Shearwater had been reported as present offshore in Thurlestone Bay the previous day but I wasn't expecting them to still be present for our walk. However as we walked along the cliffs towards South Huish Marsh there was a large feeding frenzy of birds out in the Bay, mostly Gulls and a few Gannets but amongst them were around 40 Balearic Shearwater with a large raft of Shearwaters also sat on the sea much further out.

The Balearics, although distant, gave some nice views, wheeling low across the waves and splashing into the water to feed. I had foolishly left my scope at home but I met 2 birders from Plymouth at South Huish Marsh and I was able to have a look through their telescope for some better views.

On South Huish Marsh I found at least 20 Yellow Wagtails, fidgety and flighty and neurotic as they always are and including some beautiful bright yellow males.

Yellow Wagtails

Yellow Wagtails

Yellow Wagtails

A Bar-tailed Godwit, a Ringed Plover, 2 Black-tailed Godwit and 6 Dunlin were also seen while Swallows, House Martins and Sand Martins hawked overhead. A Peregrine, a Kestrel and a Sparrowhawk were also noted flying over and at least 2 Wheatear were feeding amongst the cattle.

Black-tailed Godwit

A Bloxworth Snout was the only moth present in the toilet block by Thurlestone Golf Course.

Bloxworth Snout

I had also had the moth box out in the back yard before our walk along the coast at Thurlestone and was very pleased to have caught a Jersey Mocha, a new moth for me and ID'd with help from @UKMothID on Twitter (it's not pictured in my edition of the Waring et al. moth field guide).

Jersey Mocha

Other highlights in the trap included a female Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing, my first back yard Silver Y of the year and a yellow (lutescens) form of Jersey Tiger Moth.  

Silver Y

Jersey Tiger Moth