Sunday 11 February 2024

A Plym Guillemot, a Trip to Cornwall & a River Tamar/Lynher Cruise

The start of a new week on Monday 5th February but yet again more claggy weather with grey skies and mizzle. Despite this I headed out for a look about around The Plym, starting at Laira Bridge and walking upriver as the tide headed in. It was a Neap tide so there was no mud on show when I arrived despite the high tide being just over 3 hours away but there was quite a strong flow of water heading in with a Guillemot found out on the river above Laira Bridge and busily paddling away into the flow to keep itself in position. I've never seen a Guillemot on The Plym before so I was very pleased to find one, it may be a bird that isn't too well and is struggling to survive although it looked OK and was paddling quite strongly.

Guillemot in the gloom, River Plym

A Great Northern Diver and a Great Crested Grebe were also seen out on the water, continually diving away and moving downriver against the incoming tide. A Shag was also noted roosting out on one of the boats mid-channel along with some Cormorants and a Kestrel was flying around before heading down towards The Cattewater.

The Park held the usual birds with 10+Ring-necked Parakeets, 6+Redwing, 3 Goldcrest, 4 Nuthatch, a pair of Stonechat and a Jay of note. A look for Water Rail in the Wet Wood was fruitless but excellent views of a flitty Firecrest was some consolation.

Blaxton Meadow was pretty much waterless even at high tide but 24 Curlew, 4 Greenshank, 37 Wigeon (21 males) and at least 22 Snipe were noted here along with 3 adult Common Gull and 3 adult Lesser Black-backed Gull amongst the roosting Gull flock. A pair of Goosander flew in briefly to the small pool by the sluice gates before flying off and a Kingfisher was busily diving for fish in the pool too. A male and 3 female Goosander were then seen on a quick look at the nearby river and 2 Mute Swan, a Common Sandpiper and a Grey Wagtail were also present. 

Tuesday 6th February was grey, claggy and windy as we headed off on the train to West Cornwall. We arrived in Penzance at Midday and while David went off to look around the shops I walked over to Sandy Cove via Newlyn to do a bit of birding.

It was very windy along the seafront but I had some excellent views of at least 31 Purple Sandpipers roosting on the rocks at The Jubilee Pool along with Ringed Plover, Turnstone, Sanderling and Dunlin. A Common Seal was also fishing just offshore here and was attracting a lot of attention from Herring Gulls and a Common Gull as it brought its catch to the surface to eat.

Purple Sandpiper

Ringed Plover



Where's Wally Part I - Sanderling with a Ringed Plover

Where's Wally Part II - Sanderling with a Dunlin

Common Seal

It was calmer at Newlyn out of the wind but it was quiet birdwise too with the usual tame Turnstones around the fish quay and a Lesser Black-backed Gull roosting amongst the Herring Gulls of note. Sandy Cove was also sheltered from the wind but again quiet with a Razorbill on the sea and a Raven overhead the highlights.


I met up with David back in Penzance for a bit of lunch before we caught the train to Carbis Bay for an overnight stay at The Carbis Bay Hotel courtesy of my lovely work colleagues who gifted me a very generous voucher on my retirement to redeem towards a stay here. It was a very nice stay indeed, we had a great time, our room was upgraded to a Junior Suite with a sea view and our evening meal with cocktails and wine was very good.

The view from our room, Carbis Bay Hotel 

The next morning from our room balcony I saw at least 9 Grey Seals dotted around the bay, all poking their heads out of the water before diving out of sight. A group of 6 summer plumaged Great Crested Grebes were also seen fairly close in to the beach while further out a few Gannets were milling around.

Breakfast sadly wasn't the best and a little bit disappointing but after checking out of the hotel we walked along the coast path to St.Ives for a look around the town. It was grey and claggy but the mist did eventually clear and the light was beautiful despite the lack of sunshine, however by the time we were waiting to catch the train back to Plymouth it had started to rain.



With a Humpback Whale having been seen at times out in the Bay recently I kept an eye out for it but without any luck (but it was seen off nearby Newquay that lunchtime!). I did however manage to see a few Common Dolphins but they were mobile and unobtrusive at the surface so were difficult to track. A distant Great Northern Diver was also picked up offshore along with distant Auks and more diving Gannets while a flock of 7 noisy Oystercatchers flying past the Coastguard Lookout included 2 Purple Sandpipers. 

The usual tame Turnstones were scurrying around the Quayside and amongst the Herring Gulls also loitering about here were 2 ringed adult birds from a Cornish Gull ringing scheme. 




It was grey and windy with the odd sunny spell and heavy shower as I headed down to The Barbican on Saturday 10th February to board a boat for a birding cruise on the Rivers Tamar and Lynher. It's been quite a few years now since I last did this trip, while it is never as bird filled as The Exe boat trip and sightings are more distant it always throws up something interesting. Being local is also a bonus, from my house it is just a 10 minute walk down to the quayside to catch the boat and seeing my home city from the water adds an alternative and interesting perspective on the landscape.

Tamar and Brunel Bridges

King Billy, Mutton Cove

Bird numbers did seem to be down compared to previous trips, maybe due to the weather conditions on the day or maybe due to the very mild winter this year. The highlights were a Whimbrel at Wilcove, a Kingfisher at Jupiter Point, an adult Mediterranean Gull roosting amongst a flock of Black-headed Gulls, 50+ Avocet (c.15 on The Lynher, c.35 on The Tamar), at least 10 Great Northern Divers (3 at St.Johns Lake, 3 between Torpoint and Kingsmill Lake and 4 along The Lynher), 200+ Golden Plover wheeling around high in the sky and 11 Cattle Egret flying over at Kingsmill Lake.

Avocets, River Tamar

Only 6 Redshank were seen (1 on The Tamar) and no Dunlin at all, maybe the tides and weather meant they were elsewhere. However Curlew, Oystercatcher, c.20 Black-tailed Godwit and 4 Greenshank were all seen along with Shelduck, Mallard, Teal, Wigeon, Canada Goose, Grey Heron and Little Egret.

Fortunately the rain held off except for one very brief shower but there were regular rainbows in the sky as the rain fell elsewhere. The 3 hours on the boat just whizzed by and all too soon we were back at The Barbican but it had been a very enjoyable trip. 

Rainbow, River Lynher

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