A Summary of this week’s birding news in Cornwall.
Turning a touch colder but less windy than of late. Some clear skies and frosty nights.
Both headline nationally rare birds, the Hudsonian Whimbrel at Perranuthnoe and the Pacific Diver only a handful of miles away in Penzance Bay remained, although the former reported only a couple of times and the latter just once, on Saturday 11th
The Cattle Egret influx continued to engage and mystify as birds seemingly moved around at random – just how many birds are involved? All Little Egret flocks, random cattle fields and even isolated trees should seemingly be checked! It would seem that at least a couple of dozen birds are involved (it could conceivably be twice that many, although perhaps unlikely) but with birds not remaining settled we shall have to see. Numbers down a little this week, with birds reported this week including 10 or 11 (with cattle!) at Ruan Lanihorne and 5 at St Clements, presumably accounting for most of the 12+ seen at the Devoran roost, with up to 2 at St Erth, and up to 2 at Millbrook.
A Great White Egret was reported at Bude Marshes on the 8th the only other heron of note, with up to 4 Spoonbill at Kingsmill and the immature bird still on the Hayle Estuary
The American Wigeon on Kingsmill Lake was reported on the 6th and 8th, with a first winter drake Green-winged Teal on the Hayle on the 11th – presumably the same bird as a few weeks earlier but having gone missing somewhere betweentimes.
The long-staying (and returning) Lesser Scaup at Dozmary Pool was again reported. Much rarer in local terms was the immature Mute Swan on the WeBS count there on the 12th – the first since November 1985 apparently!
Gulls are always a big pull in Cornwall, and Ring-billed Gull continued to tick the boxes in the national scarcity stakes, with a 1st winter on the Gannel and an adult at Hayle on the 7th. Almost rarer in Cornwall (probably increasing, whilst also having been overlooked in the past), both Yellow-legged Gull and Caspian Gull were found at the gull metropolis of the Hayle Estuary, a second winter Yellow-legged on the 7th and the immature Caspian on the 9th/10th. Another (or same) Caspian Gull was at Mousehole on the 12th, along with a Kumlien’s Gull (a proper rare bird anywhere) the same date.
Iceland Gulls in general put in a good showing this week, with 8 or so birds seen, including 2 birds together at Helston Boating Lake, although only one Glaucous Gull was seen, at Mevagissey.
The Hayle also hosted an Avocet from the 5th onwards, a major rarity away from the far south east of the county. Having said that, 3 near Tresemple Pool in the Truro area on the 5th themselves were noteworthy. 3 Ruff were at Walmsley sanctuary on the 12th, along with a Barnacle Goose (of unknown origin?).
On the sea, Gerrans Bay held 39 Great Northern Diver,1 Black-throated Diver, 1 Red-necked Grebe, 7 Common Scoter, and 1 Long-tailed Duck on the 5th. In more sheltered waters a Red-necked Grebe was also on the Helford, with Black-necked Grebes still at Drift Reservoir (2) and the Carrick Roads (11). A 2 hour seawatch off Rosemullion Head returned 310 Gannet, 23 Mediterranean Gull and 1 1st winter Iceland Gull flying south on the 6th. There were few other reports of interesting seabirds this week.
In terms of non-rarities, the winter has remained a good one for certain species, most notably Woodcock reports; 8 at Gluvian on the 12th this weeks offering. Owls and raptors were represented with both Hen Harrier and Marsh Harrier on the Lizard, with the former at both Sancreed and Can Orchard Station, and a couple of Merlin and a Short-eared Owl at Roseannon Downs, with a Peregrine seen flying over the A30 near Bodmin proving that you should always be on the lookout for interesting birds.
In terms of Cornwall rarities, the other big news was that this years Waxwing influx may just now be creeping into Cornwall, with a handful of birds reported, each only seen by the initial observer unfortunately. Following on from the Penzance bird seen by a non-birder a couple of weeks ago, single birds were at Devoran on the 9th and at Cooksland, Bodmin on the 11th on red crab apples, with a third bird at Belowda near Goss Moor discovered by a birder taking part in the CBWPS Willow Tit survey. The birds could be well be relocated nearby … and in any case all birders should be keeping their eyes peeled for odd birds turning up anywhere a potential food source can be found! (berries or red fruit especially).
Another Cornwall rarity, a Great Grey Shrike, presumably the bird seen a couple of months earlier only 400m away at Windmill Farm in November popped up again down on the Lizard on the 5th – plenty of cover and poor weather and presumably it has remained hunkered down away from view betweentimes, although they can range widely.
At the tail end of the week a Little Bunting was at Nanjizal, with 4 Lapland Buntings also nearby. Other interesting passerine sightings include the 12 Lapland Bunting with 60 Linnet and 200 Skylark at North Cliffs, up slightly on earlier weeks, with 4 Water Pipits at Walmesly Sanctuary on the 12th.
Sewage works are good for warblers and crests, with multiple Yellow-browed Warblers seen and ringed, whilst Carnon Downs Sewage Works produced a Chiffchaff that was originally ringed at Portland Bird Observatory, Dorset on 19th October. 5 Siberian Chiffchaff at Gwennap Works is a high count for anywhere. Firecrests were also scattered about. Two Yellow-browed’s at Swanpool were noteworthy;with 3 on the Univeristy of Exeter (UoE) campus at Penryn being much more so; perhaps down to birder density? and although tree/shrub diversity is good, makes you wonder how many more could be out there in the county at large … another being seen in a Porthleven garden on the 12th increases the tally by one.
Surveyors taking part in the CBWPS Willow Tit survey came across 2 Willow Tit and 1 Marsh Tit and managed to ring one of each.
Garden birds included Blackcaps and Long-tailed Tits photographed on members garden feeders, with a Brambling in a private Crowlas garden being a rather good bird this year.
There were no interesting mammal or lepidoptera sightings, aside a handful of Porpoise and Bottlenose or unidentified dolphins, but a spate of dead dolphins (cause unknown) washed up over the last week or so is obviously worrying (per Twitter).
Looks like we are still in the grip of winter, with more stormy weather on the way, although temperatures look to rise. We wait to see what the coming week will bring … next week is National Nest Box Week, spring is apparently on its way …