Sunday 24 September 2023

Plym Days

News of a Spoonbill and 2 Yellow Wagtails around The Plym on the morning of Thursday 21st September saw me heading out there for a look about that afternoon. As expected the Spoonbill was long gone but I did eventually find the 2 Yellow Wagtails feeding with 14 Pied Wagtails amongst the cattle in Saltram Park. The grass was very long and the birds were well and truly hidden amongst it but occassionally they would fly up into the branches of a nearby dead tree where they showed very nicely if not a little distantly.

Yellow and Pied Wagtail

The only other bird of note seen on my short low tide visit was a mucky feral Greylag Goose roosting out on the mudflats amongst the 100+ Canada Geese present.

I returned the next morning for the high tide roost, the Spoonbill was again a no show and the cattle field was Yellow Wagtail-less but the Pied Wagtails were still present along with at least 12 Meadow Pipit and all were much more visible on the ground as the cows had been doing an amazing job of grazing down the long grass overnight.

The high tide roost on Blaxton Meadow contained 4 Black-tailed Godwit, 11 Greenshank, 2 Dunlin, 27 Curlew, 16 Oystercatcher and a Common Sandpiper along with the usual Redshank. An adult Mediterranean Gull was in amongst the Black-headed Gulls and the mucky Goose was present amongst the Canada Geese, making lots of noise and clearly loved up as it regularly displayed to an obviously smitten Canada Goose.

A few Swallow, a House Martin and a pair of Stonechat were the best of the rest with Small Heath, Common Blue, Red Admiral, Speckled Wood and Large White also seen on what was a very autumnal feeling day.

Thursday 21 September 2023

Wembury Days

I met up with Mavis at Wembury for a walk on Monday 18th September, it was grey and overcast and breezy and it didn't look very promising but eventually the sun did appear and we ended up having an interesting time.


The highlight was a Turtle Dove, a Wembury first for me. It was flushed out of the sewage farm hedge by a hunting Sparrowhawk, it then flew around in a broad loop before settling briefly in the stubble field and then flew off inland where it was nearly taken out by the still present Sparrowhawk. A shame it didn't linger but very nice to see.

There were still a few waders present along the beach on the high tide - 4 Bar-tailed Godwits, 4 Dunlin, 2 Ringed Plover, 2 Whimbrel, 2 Curlew, around 20 Turnstones and Oystercatchers - and there were still around 60 Mediterranean Gulls roosting on the rocks.

A Common Lizard, a Speckled Wood, a Painted Lady and Red Admirals were seen when they sun did appear and a few Ivy Bees were seen feeding on the Ivy flowers.

Ivy Bee

I returned to Wembury early the next morning for a seawatch as the weather was foul with strong winds and rainy spells. After getting off the bus I headed out to The Point and set up my scope on the usual bench but it was too open and windy and so I moved up the slope and stood in the lee of a large fir tree below the radar station where it was a little less exposed. The light wasn't great, the birds were distant and it was misty and mizzley at times as the rain belts swept in but I managed to see a few sea birds all the same.

Wembury Mewstone from The Bench

Birds were passing west offshore, most were too far out to call except for the usual and obvious Gannets, but a few birds were closer in just out past The Mewstone and I managed to log 2 Cory's Shearwaters, 4 Balearic Shearwaters, 5 Manx Shearwaters, 11 Arctic Skuas and a Great Skua along with Kittiwakes and Gannets. 

At one point 4 Arctic Skua and the Great Skua were harrassing a small flock of Kittiwakes as they passed by, the Arctic Skuas being noticeably smaller than the chunky Great Skua. It was also interesting to note how Shearwater-like the Arctic Skuas flight was at times as they headed into the strong wind.

(And from Penlee just across Plymouth Sound from Wembury Point there were some very impressive counts of seabirds passing west (eg., 80+ Cory's, 2 Great, 400+Balearic, 4 Sooty, 2 Long-tailed Skua), they were seen over a longer period of time than I watched off The Point but it highlights just what was out there and how Wembury isn't really very well placed to view it!)

I watched from 08:15hrs to 10:30hrs before I'd had enough of the wind and with the bird numbers appearing to trail off closer to shore I headed back to the bus stop for the journey home. Along the way I had a look at the waders along the beach on the high tide and found a Whimbrel, a Knot, a Ringed Plover, a Dunlin, 16 Turnstone, 4 Bar-tailed Godwit, a Curlew and Oystercatchers. There were also still around 60 Mediterranean Gulls roosting on the rocks or sheltering in the stubble field, at least 10 1st winters and 6 2nd winters were present amongst the adult birds. I also found the adult bird with the green leg ring again but it flew off before I could get a read of it with my scope.

Mediterranean Gulls

Wembury Bull - not fazed one bit by the awful weather

Monday 18 September 2023

Autumnal Wildlife

We have been making the most of the good weather at the moment, the humidity levels have dropped but it remains warm and sunny and we have been getting out and about.

A walk around Stoke Point on Tuesday 12th September was hot and sweaty when out of the refreshing breeze but it was as enjoyable as always. It was quiet bird wise with Kestrel and Sparrowhawk overhead and a noisy family group of 2 adult and 2 juvenile Peregrines bathing in a puddle amongst the rocks down near the shoreline of note. Good numbers of Small Copper and Wall Brown were on the wing with a flyby Clouded Yellow also seen. The highlight were 7 Yellow Wagtails feeding amongst the cattle, sadly distant views and only noticed when a Buzzard flew over and spooked them out of the long grass and up onto an overhead wire.

Wednesday 13th September was a fresher day as we headed down to Perranporth for a walk. It was a beautiful day with blue sea and skies and it was a lot quieter compared to recent years and we enjoyed the usual cooked breakfast at The Watering Hole while admiring the stunning scenery. Not much was seen on the wildlife front with a Wheatear and a Stonechat noted in the dunes, House Martins feeding overhead and the usual Trout and a male Beautiful Demoiselle along the stream the highlights.



Thursday 14th September and I had a very quick afternoon look around The Plym. The Great White Egrets were nowhere to be seen so have presumably moved on but I did see a Kingfisher, a Black-tailed Godwit, a Stonechat, a Green Woodpecker and 2 Mistle Thrush along with a Roe Deer. I had a look for Whinchat again but with no luck, I'm finding them very hard to connect with this year.

I had the moth box out in the back yard overnight on Thursday 14th September, it was a fresher night and in the morning there was only a small number of moths but I did have 2 Box Tree Moths, the first for the back yard and probably not good news for the Box growing in nearby Beaumont Park.

Box Tree Moth

Friday 15th September was a beautiful day again and with the weather forecasted to deteriorate over the next few days we decided to make the most of it and headed out for a walk from Thurlestone to Hope Cove and back. The highlight were at least 9 Yellow Wagtails feeding in amongst the cattle at South Huish Marsh with at least 3 White Wagtails and Pied Wagtails, they were as neurotic as always and flitty and mobile but lovely to watch.

Yellow Wagtail

Yellow Wagtail

A Hummingbird Hawkmoth actually landed briefly before dashing off, a Clouded Yellow whizzed by amongst numerous Large Whites, Swallows and House Martins hawked overhead and a Wheatear flitted about on the clifftop on what was a very enjoyable early autumn walk.

Hummingbird Hawkmoth 

Saturday 16th September and the weather had turned, it was grey and overcast, showery and mizzley but it was still warm and humid. I was awake early anyway and despite the weather I needed to get out for a walk and decided to head out to Wembury for a look at the wader roost on the high tide which was around 7:30am.

Despite the weather and early start there was still plenty of disturbance along the beach but I did manage to see 5 Curlew, 5 Dunlin, a Knot, 3 Bar-tailed Godwit, 4 Ringed Plover and 24 Turnstone along with the usual Oystercatchers. A juvenile Common Gull and a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull flew east along the beach without stopping but out on the rocks and also feeding in the stubble field were around 60 Mediterranean Gulls which included 6 juveniles and at least 1 2nd winter bird. They were mobile and flighty and therefore difficult to count, one was sporting a green ring with white characters on its left leg but it was too distant to read without a scope.

A flock of around 120 House Martins flying east was an unusual sight, they were low over the water just off the main beach. A flock of 36 Mallard resting on the sea was also unusual.

Eventually I'd had enough of the weather and headed home but it had been an interesting walk to finish off an interesting and birdy week.

Thursday 14 September 2023

Moths, Egrets and Scilly Delights

I had the moth box out in the backyard overnight on Saturday 9th September, there were some showers forecasted but I decided to carry on anyway and indeed it did rain, not showers but rain, and in the morning I was greeted by a very soggy moth box.

I really didn't expect much but I surprisingly had a good haul of moths, the highlight being 2 Vestals, only my 3rd and 4th for the backyard.



Flounced Rustic

Dusky Thorn

Mullein Wave

Light Emerald

After sorting out the moths I headed off to Marsh Mills on the bus for a Plym walk, however as I travelled along The Embankment I noticed Sandwich Terns diving for fish along The Plym and so I jumped off the bus near the rowing club for a better look.

There were 6, possibly 7 birds present, 1 bird resting on a buoy was ringed but it was too distant to read without a scope. A Great Crested Grebe preening out on the river was a nice find too.

I then walked across Laira Bridge and headed up along The Ride for a look around Chelson Meadow. It seemed very quiet but eventually I found 2 Stonechat and a Whinchat, the Stonechats showed beautifully but the Whinchat was a nightmare with brief views only and seemingly just disappearing into thin air.

A Clouded Yellow actually posed long enough for a photo and a very brave or very dumb Kestrel hassled a juvenile Peregrine overhead.

Clouded Yellow

The 3 Great White Egrets were still out on the river and busily catching fish as the tide headed in along with Little Egrets, Grey Herons and Black-headed Gulls and they were a joy to watch as always. The only other bird of note on my walk was a Snipe near the gas pipe, busily preening away and then going to sleep on a pile of seaweed.

Great White Egrets

It was an early start on Monday 11th September as I caught the 5:30am train to Penzance to begin my Scilly Day Out, my first trip since September 2021 and what a fantastic trip it turned out to be.

Things started well with a Turtle Dove seen perched on wires over Ryans Field at Hayle as the train passed by, its small size very noticeable and a lucky sighting of a bird which has been present here for a few days now. The train was eventually 14 minutes late into Penzance and The Scillonian left 15 minutes early but I had plenty of  spare time built into my schedule and I enjoyed a cup of tea and a bacon bap in a cafe in Penzance before boarding the ferry. It was overcast with little breeze, the sea was very flat and it was warm and very humid and the ferry was relatively quiet for a change.

A Quiet Sea

As we left the harbour a few Gannets were seen along with a single Kittiwake and a few Gulls and it looked like it was going to be a quiet trip - how wrong was I. A very distant Cory's Shearwater was called followed closely by a second one but they were too far away for me to confirm. A few Manx Shearwaters began to appear and Common Dolphins, Blue Finned Tuna and Harbour Porpoise started to show, also a distant Arctic Skua was seen landing on the sea along with a distant Storm Petrel and then things really got going.

Cory's Shearwaters began to show in good numbers with some passing very close to the ferry, a Sooty Shearwater passed by too and then Great Shearwaters began to appear, it was quite magical to watch all the birds shearing over the water everywhere you looked. The best sighting though were 4 Sabines Gulls, 2 adults and 2 juveniles, which showed nicely as they headed west together although they were a little distant. A Risso's Dolphin and a Bottle-Nosed Dolphin were also seen before we eventually arrived at St.Marys in the Scillies and it was time to disembark.

Cory's and Great Shearwaters

Great Shearwater

I wasn't sure what my plans were for the 4 hours I had ashore, the Red Footed Booby continues to show intermittently on the Bishop Rock Lighthouse but usually it's seen in the evenings and there didn't seem to be any trips running during the day and so I targeted a Western Bonelli's Warbler on St.Marys instead, hoping that it wouldn't be another dip like on my visit 2 years ago when I failed to see one on The Garrison.

Gorgeous Scilly

I arrived at the belt of pine trees where the bird had been seen but a birder on site had failed to find it after an hour of looking and so after a quick scan about I headed down to Porth Hellick Pool. A Coot, a Grey Heron and 2 Mallard were out on the water which was very high with little mud on show and a Cetti's Warbler was heard calling while Swallows flitted about overhead. 2 Chiffchaffs were having a spat in the Willows and a Pied Flycatcher gave itself away in the trees as it jinked away.

The Scilly form of Speckled Wood were seen along with Large White, Red Admiral, Holly Blue, a very worn Painted Lady and Small White and a few Common Darter were living up to their name and darting about too.

Speckled Wood - Scilly form

Common Darter

Bromeliad - Fascicularia bicolor

Oystercatchers were roosting out on the rocks off the beach with 3 Ringed Plover and 2 Turnstone and offshore 3 distant Cory's Shearwaters flew by before settling on the sea with a more distant raft of birds, presumably Cory's, also noted.

I decided to revisit the Bonelli's site for my final hour before I had to return to the ferry, on arriving a birder from the ferry that morning was present and had seen the bird, and shortly after he left I found it but unfortunately it was always feeding high up in the pine tree tops and was very mobile and flitty. My hour passed by incredibly quickly but I managed some good views of the bird although it was mostly of its white and unmarked underside with occasional views of its wings which were a beautiful and vibrant green.

It was a much busier ferry for the sailing back to Penzance but I was very much looking forward to the journey and again it was a Shearwater fest with good sightings of Cory's, Great, Manx and Sooty Shearwaters along with Common Dolphins and Harbour Porpoises. Unfortunately we were back in Penzance in the fading light all too soon and it was time to catch the train back to Plymouth but what s great trip it had been.

I nearly didn't go to the Scillies due to my ongoing health problem but I'm very glad I did and I was very pleased to put my previous Western Bonelli's Warbler dip to rest!

Sunday 10 September 2023

Great White Egrets

There is quite the heat wave going on at the moment with sunny skies, temperatures in the high 20's, high humidity and an easterly breeze, the best weather we have had in weeks and a little unusual in September.

It is dry and warm overnight so I have been getting the moth box out in the back yard although it is now getting late in the season. I was pleased to finally see an Old Lady along with Mullein Wave and Four Spotted Footman, all back yard favourites, and other highlights have included Treble Bar, Mother of Pearl, Horse Chestnut Leaf Miner and Rusty Dot Pearl.

Old Lady
Treble Bar

Tuesday 5th September was hot and sunny as I headed out to Wembury for a walk. High tide was around 10am and so I caught the 7am bus to try and beat the dog walkers but with the weather being so nice at the moment I failed and the waders along the beach were being regularly disturbed on the incoming tide. Despite this I still managed good views of 2 Redshank, 2 Sanderling, 2 Common Sandpiper, 4 Bar-tailed Godwit,  8 Ringed Plover, 25 Dunlin, 40 Turnstone, 5 Curlew and the usual mobile Oystercatchers. There were only 2 adult winter plumaged Mediterranean Gulls amongst the Black-headed Gulls feeding in the surf line along with Herring Gulls and a few Great Black-backed Gulls and neither of them were ringed.


Bar-tailed Godwits

Swallows were passing over in small groups and all heading east and hidden amongst them were at least 2 Sand Martins. A Grey Heron also flew east offshore and a few Gannets were milling about offshore too. A Grey Seal popped its head out of the water very briefly just off the sewage pipe.

A Clouded Yellow whizzed past too quickly and a Comma and a Hummingbird Hawkmoth were equally flitty but 3 Small Coppers showed well. Chiffchaffs and Whitethroats were flitting about in the bushes and I heard a Cettis Warbler singing briefly in the valley to the beach, presumably the same bird as earlier in the year but which I haven't heard since May.

At least 7 Wheatears were moving along the shoreline and showed very well, all heading west as they prepare to depart to warmer winter climes.



I headed back to Plymouth and stopped off at Laira Bridge for a look around The Plym and Saltram. It was very hot by this time and with news of 3 Great White Egrets present on Blaxton Meadow it was a very sweaty walk from Laira Bridge to the Meadow to try and catch up with them. Fortunately they were still present when I arrived but had decamped to the nearby river where they were fishing for small fry with Grey Herons, Little Egrets, Cormorants and Gulls.

Great White Egret

Great White Egret 

Large and elegant and showing very well, my first on The Plym and a joy to watch.

Great White Egret

Great White Egret

Great White Egret 

It was otherwise quiet in the building heat of the day with the 2 Black-tailed Godwits still present on Blaxton Meadow, 3 Clouded Yellows dashing around Chelson Meadow and a Shag resting on a bouy at Laira Bridge the other highlights.

Wednesday 6th September was hot, sunny and still as we headed off to Lopwell Dam to pick sloes to make Christmas sloe gin. We picked some very good sloes, large and ripe and perfect for sloe gin, and then had a walk down the River Tavy through the woodland where it was delightfully cool out of the sun.

A Kingfisher, a Common Sandpiper, Swallows and House Martins were seen but the highlight was an Osprey perched on a pylon near the railway bridge before it flew down towards the water and disappeared into a riverside tree, unfortunately distant and heat hazy views only.

Saturday 9th September was hot and sultry again as I headed out to Wembury on the 7am bus. There was a lot of disturbance from dog walkers even at this early hour but it was a Saturday and the weather was perfect so I had  expected it to be busy. 

Wall Brown, Wembury

Speckled Wood

Alydus calcaratus

I walked east along the clifftop path again past the church towards The Yealm in the hope of finding a Whinchat but I was out of luck. Whitethroats, Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps were flitting about in the bushes and a Sand Martin flew east amongst a small flock of Swallows. An adult and juvenile Peregrine dashed overhead chasing a Woodpigeon and at least 3 juvenile Bullfinch were feeding together in the Hawthorns.

I walked back to the church and then on to The Point, watching the waders along the beach being moved back and forth by walkers and I counted 5 Bar-tailed Godwits, 3 Sanderling, 21 Turnstone, 8 Ringed Plover and 3 Dunlin with the usual Oystercatchers and singles of Redshank, Common Sandpiper and Curlew but actual counts were probably higher.

A Stock Dove was again seen flying around The Point and a Reed Warbler gave itself away in the undergrowth as it quietly sang and with a bit of phishing it revealed itself briefly before scuttling back into cover. 

Reed Warbler

A Wheatear was seen in the cow field with a second bird found at The Point and there were also 2 Yellow Wagtails in with cows and they showed very well until deciding they had had enough and flew off west.


Yellow Wagtail

I stopped off at Laira Bridge on the way home and had a very hot and sticky walk up to Marsh Mills before catching a bus home. Again no Whinchats were found but the 3 Great White Egrets were still present on Blaxton Meadow as were 3 Clouded Yellows on Chelson Meadow.

Saturday 2 September 2023

A Wembury Wryneck

Monday 28th August was the Bank Holiday and my first non-working one. I'm not really sure what you're supposed to do on Bank Holidays as I'm usually at work but it just felt like another boring Sunday after a usual boring Sunday.

Anyway I did head out for a quick walk along The Plym for something to do, it was very quiet but I did finally see my first Plym Black-tailed Godwit of the year on Blaxton Meadow as the tide came in along with a Kingfisher, 8 Greenshank and 25 Curlew while Blackcap, Swallow, Ring-necked Parakeet and a Common Darter were seen in the park.

Common Darter, Saltram Park

Waking up on Thursday 31st August and it was as grotty as forecasted, grey and wet but mild and with just a light breeze and as I really needed to get out and about I donned my waterproofs and caught the bus to Wembury for a walk. However within 20 minutes of arriving off the bus at Wembury the rain stopped and the sun occassionally appeared from behind the clouds and fortunately for me it didn't start raining again until I was heading back to Plymouth.

The tide was heading out but there were still waders feeding along the beach including 2 Redshanks, my first at Wembury this year. A surprise was a flock of 13 Knot which dropped in onto the rocks for a quick rest and a preen before continuing on west. Also present were 2 Whimbrel, a Curlew, 4 Sanderling, 4+Dunlin, 4+Ringed Plover, Turnstones and Oystercatchers and amongst the roosting Gulls were 4 Mediterranean Gulls (3 juveniles).



A big surprise was a cracking Wryneck which I found in the radar station compound at The Point, unfortunately there is no access here so views were from the perimeter fence only but I managed some brief and distant views and I was very pleased to have self found my third one here at Wembury. It has been a while since I last saw a Wryneck and I had forgotten how small they are, how exquisitely marked they are and also how mobile and elusive they can be!

Wryneck - honest!

Also present here were 2 juvenile Green Woodpeckers and a Wheatear and I was struck by how interesting the habitat is here, I never visit this area and only did so today because I thought I saw 2 Stock Doves fly over and land here and went to check it out - no Stock Doves were found but a Wryneck was more than adequate compensation!

Wryneck Habitat, Wembury Point

Also of note were a juvenile Peregrine which was buzzing back and forth along the beach as it practised its hunting skills, Willow Warblers and Whitethroats flitting about in the brambles and a few Red Admirals feeding on Ivy flowers in the sunny periods.

Red Admiral

It was warm, humid and cloudy on Friday 1st September as I headed out to Wembury again although the cloud did eventually clear and it became a hot and sunny day, the warmest day we've had for some time. It was high tide when I arrived at The Point and a very high, high tide which left very little beach uncovered but assorted waders were still present - 2 Whimbrel, 2 Sanderling, 2 Curlew, 3 Ringed Plover, a Redshank, Turnstones, 10 Dunlin. Oystercatchers and a Common Sandpiper. Also present were a juvenile Mediterranean Gull, 38 Mallard and 3 Little Egret.


I had a look again for the Wryneck but there was, as expected, no sign of it but I did find a very smart Tree Pipit, only my second sighting of one this year and a delight to watch as it regularly pumped its tail as it perched in a tree. I also found 2 Stock Doves, presumably the pair from yesterday!

Tree Pipit

A Wheatear, a Green and a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Sparrowhawk, a Hummingbird Hawkmoth, a Hornet Robberfly and a Common Lizard were also of note.

Hornet Robberfly with prey

Saturday 2nd September was warm and sunny too and with a high tide at 08:20hrs I headed out to The Plym for a look about. It was a very high tide again and Blaxton Meadow was totally flooded but 25 Curlew, 2 Common Sandpiper and 8 Greenshank were trying to roost with 2 Black-tailed Godwit and Redshanks.

Black-tailed Godwits

Black-tailed Godwit 

Black-tailed Godwit 

Black-tailed Godwit 

It was also quiet around the Park with a Sedge Warbler, 2 Willow Warbler, 4 Great Spotted Woodpeckers feeding together in a presumed family group, a Kestrel and a Collared Dove of note. A Teal was on the duck pond but there was no sign of the Red-crested Pochard.


Giant Polypore

The Plym is very slow at the moment, it was very bird packed this time last year but not so this year. However Wembury is on fire at the moment with a good run of birds being seen and as a result my Wembury year list has passed my 100 species target for the first time ever (currently it's on 101) but The Plym is only on 96. How times change but the year is not over yet!