Friday 3 December 2021

Holiday at Harvey in Hayle

Monday 29th November and a week off work again but with a holiday to actually look forward too!

This time last year we had booked to travel to Munich and Prague but with COVID lockdowns looming Prague was out of bounds and the trip was rearranged for Munich only. Further locking down meant Munich was cancelled too and so we booked Harvey at Hayle, a renovated 1950's railway carriage located at Hayle Station. Ultimately this fell foul of COVID as well and had to be cancelled also but such is life.

We had considered rebooking Munich and Prague for this year but with all the continuing uncertainty over foreign travel we rebooked Harvey instead and kept our fingers crossed. As it turns out it was a wise decision with the Munich Christmas Markets now being cancelled and the need to self isolate for 2 days on returning to the UK until a negative PCR test is confirmed now required.

I decided I would make the most of my time at Hayle by starting off with a bit of birding on Monday 29th November and so caught the train to St.Erth in the morning while David, Julie and Matt travelled down by car later that afternoon for a check in rendezvous at Harvey at 4pm.

The train to St.Erth was late in due to a points failure at Liskeard but I arrived at The Old Quay Inn at around 1pm as the tide slowly began to drop and out on the saltmarsh and emerging mudflats were lots of birds. 

A flock of around 150 Golden Plover were roosting together and looking and sounding fabulous but they were twitchy and flighty due to the unwanted attentions of Carrion Crows and surprisingly also Lapwings. With an American Golden Plover having been found amongst them I had a good scan through them but with no luck. 

I began the walk to Hayle and noticed another flock of around 150 Golden Plover out on the Estuary but another search through them didn't reveal their American cousin. 

I had noticed the reported Great White Egret roosting on Ryan's Field from the train as it passed by on the way to St.Erth but there was no sign of it when I walked past the Field towards Hayle. 

Other birds noted were 4 Greenshank, a Knot, 2 Ringed Plover, 2 Black-tailed Godwit, 4 Grey Plover, Dunlin, Redshank and Curlew, a male Goosander, Wigeon, Teal and Shelduck, Black-headed, Common. Mediterranean, Lesser Black-backed, Great Black-backed and Herring Gulls (including an adult Argentatus bird), 2 Raven, a Buzzard, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Canada Goose and Rock Pipit. 

Grey Plover, Hayle

Goosander with Gulls

Argentatus Herring Gull with argenteus - streaky head and pink legs eventually seen! 

I met up with the others at Harvey as the light began to fade and we settled in for the night. Harvey was great to stay in, very homely, cosy, quirky and comfortable indeed and we had an enjoyable time. 

Harvey at Hayle

Our Christmas Tree at Harvey

Tuesday 30th November saw us heading off to St.Ives for the day on the train. Unfortunately the trains were still being disrupted by the points failure at Liskeard but we eventually arrived at St.Ives where it was very windy with waves of mizzley rain sweeping through between brief sunny spells. 

A few Grey Seals were seen close in to the beach but it really was a case of blink and they were gone. Sadly the floating corpse of what seemed to be a Grey Seal was seen floating offshore being scavenged by a few Gulls. A nicer sighting was a distant pod of around 10 Common Dolphins moving around offshore before heading out to sea. 

Gannets and Shags were flying around and sat on the sea with a Fulmar and a Kittiwake picked up flying west along with 5 Guillemot. The highlight though was a Black-throated Diver on the sea just offshore from the Coast Guard Lookout. It was showing a very distinct white flank patch and its dark brown back contrasted nicely with a paler brown neck before it dived and was never seen again. 

Wednesday 1st December was a wildlife free Christmas shopping day in Truro by train which actually was quite enjoyable but Thursday 2nd December saw us catching the train to Penzance for the day and walking to Marazion and back. It was cold but with sunny spells and the sea was flat calm and we had a very invigorating and much needed walk along the coast path after all the excessive eating and drinking of the previous few days.

A Grey Seal was seen very briefly poking is head out of the water before disappearing, never to be seen again, while offshore Gannets, Kittiwakes, Shag and Cormorants were noted and along the beach a small flock of Sanderling were being moved back and forth along the shoreline by dogs and walkers.

At Marazion a very showy Snipe was found by Matt right by the footpath but there were only 2 Little Grebe and a Moorhen on Long Rock Pool and no sign of the reported Black- necked Grebe.

Snipe, Marazion Marsh

It was strange to see a Swallow flying back and forth along the coastpath between Penzance and Marazion, up to 11 have been reported in the area recently as often happens here in December, only a single bird was seen at any one time but presumably more than 1 bird was present.

I had a quick look at the rocks by the Lido before we headed back on the train to Hayle but there was no sign of any Purple Sandpipers on the incoming tide although around 30 Turnstone were seen.

Friday 3rd December and it was time to pack up and return to Plymouth and while the others drove off in the car I stayed behind in Hayle to do some more birding despite the mizzle and poor visibility.

I headed down first to the Carnsew Pool  on the low tide where the Great White Egret was busily fishing along the shoreline and at last giving some great views.

Great White Egret, Hayle

Great White Egret

Great White Egret

Onwards to the Causeway Bridge and the flock of around 300 Golden Plover were roosting in one group out on the salt marsh but despite scanning through them with my scope I could not find the American Golden Plover amongst them, not helped in the poor light by the birds being mostly tucked up asleep or flying around when spooked.

A male and 2 female Goosander were seen flying downriver and a few Bar-tailed Godwit were noted out on the mudflats along with a Snipe, 6 Turnstone, a small flock of around 20 Ringed Plover and 2 Oystercatcher amongst the usual Gulls, Ducks and Waders.


Bar-tailed Godwit, Lapwing, Wigeon and Black-headed Gull


With the American Golden Plover proving elusive I decided to carry on to St.Erth to look for Cattle Egrets being reported in the fields amongst the cows. I thought I had seen them the previous day as our train neared St.Erth railway station on our return journey from Penzance and so I negotiated the country lanes and muddy footpaths to the area where I had seen them.

Up to 5 have been reported on the area and I managed to find 4 of them in a field as viewed from the footpath but they were distant and flighty and eventually moved out of sight down the hillside.

Cattle Egret, St.Erth

I walked back to St.Erth Station to catch the train back to Plymouth, noting Redwings being chased out of a Holly tree covered in berries by an indignant Mistle Thrush along the way, and the train journey home was uneventful despite a rucksack, coat and jeans covered in dog poo which I had inadvertently picked up when I put my rucksack on the ground to get my scope out. 

And so a nice break away was had by all - Christmassy, lots of food and drink, a bit of wildlife watching and great company - perfect! 

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