A Summary of this week’s birding news in Cornwall.
Milder than recent weeks, with some pleasant sunny days and blustery at times..
A quieter week again, birdwise. No surprise in that the Hudsonian Whimbrel and Pacific Diver were both still reported, the diver only reported once midweek though. Sea conditions may well have partially contributed to that (or it decided to hang out further offshore) – as the nearby Hudsonian was reported almost daily for a change.
There were fewer Cattle Egrets reported this week, with one completely egret-free day midweek. However numbers on Sunday were back up, with reports of 7, 12 and 15+ being reported at weeks’ end on the 26th, on the Gannel Estuary, Truro, and the Helford. Fairly widely spaced …
The Spoonbill remained on the Hayle, with the two birds still at Walmesley on the 23rd.
The Lesser Scaup at Dozmary Pool was still present throughout (although no news on the Mute Swan there), but no reports of the other rare wildfowl. The drake Scaup was still at College Reservoir, with 15 Red-breasted Merganser in the Carrick Roads and 11 Pintail at Walmesly comprising the most interesting non-seawatching records. There were also 135 Wigeon at the latter site.
The Avocet was still at Hayle for the first part of the week at least, with Spotted Redshanks at Kingsmill and Tresillian. A singe Purple Sandpiper at Pendennis Point the first there this year, with the 2 Ruff at Walmesley still; 160 Golden Plover there included a full summer plumaged male.
The only gull of any real note was the Ring-billed Gull on the Gannel Estuary midweek. However, Glaucous Gulls increased from 1 to 3 at least, with juveniles seen at Mousehole, Coverack and St Austell, with a slightly higher number of Iceland Gulls seen at various locations. Common Gull numbers were up, with 19 at Padstow, and Mediterranean Gulls also starting to be increasingly reported; 18 on the Tresilian River on the 23rd a site record, along with good numbers of Black-headed Gull counts (a fair few now acquiring their dark chocolate brown hoods);
1 Slavonian Grebe and 7 Black-necked Grebe were in the Carrick Roads, with the Red-necked Grebe off Falmouth still and 2 Black-necked Grebes reported at Drift on the 24th only.
Seawatching was productive for some, with 7 Common Eider past Falmouth on the 23rd and 2 Velvet Scoter, 2 Common Scoter, 5 Red-throated Diver, 10 Black-throated Diver and 2 Manx Shearwater past Lizard Point on the 24th.The 23rd was the best day for reports from traditional sites on the north-facing coast, with 1 Great Skua and 622 Fulmar in a 2 hour seawatch from Cape Cornwall, 4 Great Skua, 4 Red-throated Diver, 1 Manx Shearwater and a significant passage of c7500 Fulmar in a 4 hour seawatch from Pendeen, with 4 Balearic Shearwater from Godrevy Point completing the picture.
Pomarine Skuas were seen from Lands End and Penzance, with 2 at the latter off Jubilee Pool on the 26th.
Merlin, Short-eared Owl and Hen Harrier were all reported once, as was Sparrowhawk. It has been reported that this has been a very poor winter for Sparrowhawk records; the situation in Cornwall reflecting a genuine problem, or birds just being under-reported?
A Water Pipit was at Hayle, with 3 Lapland Bunting at Polgigga. Six Willow Tits at Lower Tamar Lake a heartening count, but few other notable passerine species reported this week. c70 Pied Wagtails reported pre-roost from St Ives the only sizeable gathering reported recently.
Yellow-browed Warblers were still reported from Tehidy Country Park, College Reservoir and Swanpool, with Siberian Chiffchaffs at the latter site and at Helston Sewage Works.
14 Chough over Cape Cornwall is a good count for Cornwall by any standards.
Signs of spring were apparent with displaying Great Crested Grebes (including a pair at Argal Reservoir making Birdguides pic of the week), singing Blackcaps (including 5 in Truro), drumming Great Spotted Woodpeckers and a flock of c50 Redwing singing/in sub-song pre-roost at College Reservoir.
The mammal highlight was of a Minke Whale not far offshore from Pendennis Point, Falmouth on the 23rd, an interesting winter record. No other cetacean reports received, although interestingly a Humpbacked Whale was off the south coast of Devon the same day. Early butterflies included Red Admiral and Small Tortoiseshell in Malpas and Truro, presumably brought out of hibernation by the warm sunshine on the day.
Highlight for some this week will have been the joint CBWPS/BTO/Univeristy of Exeter seabirds conference in Penryn this Saturday, ‘Above and Beyond the Cornish Coast’. Thanks to all who worked towards organising this, the speakers, and attendees. An excellent event by all accounts, photos and some interesting snippets highlighted on the cbwps twitter feed (direct link from the cbwps pages twitter feed; you don’t have to be on twitter itself to view) or using the #cornishbirds17 hashtag.
Back outside, and with the first spring migrants proper (Wheatear, Sand and House Martins) being reported elsewhere in the country, it feels like the first summer migrant could turn up any day now, although spring proper should still be a way off …
A bit of a return to winter on the cards for the following week, with wintry showers and blowy conditions forecast.