After last weeks’ crake excitement it was mostly back to normal, with a scattering of early migrants continuing to enter the county, with some of the regular rarities and wintering birds hanging on.
An attempt to survey the county’s Cattle Egrets was arranged for Sunday the 19th; suspicions that a larger number of birds were in Cornwall than were being reported on any one day were confirmed with, despite incomplete coverage of the county, an impressive 77+ birds counted. The majority of these were on the Lizard, roosting at Helston Loe Pool and Frenchman’s Creek the other side of the peninsula on the Helford, with a good count also at St Clements near Truro. That not all sites elsewhere in the county were counted means the true number could well be higher yet.
The Spoonbill remained on the Hayle, with a Bittern at Long Rock pool. An adult Shag on Carnsew Pool was slightly unusual away from the coast proper, whilst a flock of 30 presumably continental migrant Cormorants were seen flying north inland near Maenporth.
There was a Little Ringed Plover at St Gothian NR on the 16th. Rarity is of course relative; a Red-legged Partridge at Sancreed Beacon perhaps only the 2nd record there in 23 years.
The Bonaparte’s Gull remained at Helston Loe Pool throughout; enjoy it whilst you can.
Iceland Gulls sightings continued at a number of sites around the county, including at Marazion on the 13th, an adult at College Reservoir on the 14th, and presumably the same seen a few days after on farmland nearby, a first winter at Hayle and a juv off Marazion, a juv at Porth Res on the 15th, an adult and juv at Drift and so on throughout the week. Maybe an Iceland Gull survey needs to be organized next?! No Glaucous Gulls reported however.
Gulls continue to move through (waves of Lesser Black- backs noted, and Black-headed Gulls likely to become increasingly scarce over the next few weeks), Mediterranean Gulls also passing through and the Long Rock Little Gull now gone. Marazion hosted a 1st w Caspian Gull and an adult Yellow-legged Gull on one date, with a 3rd winter YLGull on the Gannel on the 17th.
The odd Sandwich Tern began to be reported towards the end of the week, with 15 at Newlyn on the 19th the only sizeable number.
A pair of rare geese (most geese are rare in Cornwall) featured with 1 albifrons White-fronted Goose in a field with Canada Geese at Par Beach on the 17th with a late report of a Pink-footed Goose at Marazion on the 17th which flew in from the NE with 5 Greylag Geese, circled the reserve and flew back NE towards Hayle that morning.
A report of a Barnacle Goose in the county perhaps relates to one of the dodgy hybrids about, or if genuinely of the species, doubts would still have to remain over its true, wild provenance. The tame Mandarin remained at Porth Reservoir.
A drake Scaup at Helston Boating Lake would appear to be a new bird with the College Res bird still being present in the first half of the week at least. Three Garganey were at Walmesley on the 16th, with a pair on the sea off Marazion that evening With a sprinkling of Long-tailed Ducks about offshore. The Lesser Scaup on Bodmin remained.
A Barn Owl was rescued from a house chimney in Millbrook and released. Bit sooty but otherwise seemingly ok. Maybe it thought it wanted to be a guttata (Dark-breasted Barn Owl), but never a good move. A Short-eared Owl was at St Agnes Head on the 15th. Sparrowhawks and Merlins were reported more widely than of late. Peregrines too, but breeding will certainly have started for some pairs by now; as noted elsewhere we won’t necessarily be reporting specific reports of bird such as these from now on.
Seawatching results included, from Lizard Point: 67 Manx Shearwater, 2 Red-throated Diver and 1 Puffin on the 13th with 35 Puffin, 1 Great Skua and 200+ Common Dolphin on the 15th , with 2 Balearic Shearwater, 31 Manx Shearwater, 52 Fulmar, 505 Gannet, 310 Kittiwake and auks, including 10 Puffin, seen at Porthgwarra on the 18th.
A hybrid Hooded x Carrion Crow was seen at Sennen, with 15 Chough reported from Carn Gloose.
Gerrans Bay finally came into its own after very few records this winter so far, with 40 Black-throated Divers reported on the 14th , along with 16 Great Northern Diver and 2 Slavonian Grebe, with c.60 BTDivers on the 19th and a massive 112 diver sp (presumed to be three quarters Black-throated) midweek.
The Black-necked Grebe was again seen at Stithians Reservoir, now onto its 3rd official WeBS count, but apparently not reported otherwise. The Drift birds were unreported this week.
What would make many a birders day, week or year even? For many it coud well be a Hoopoe, with one seen on the 16th at Seaview International Holiday Park, Boswinger near Gorran Haven and again still to the 19th. Not especially rare, but that’s not what it’s all about. More the funky hairdo and touch of Mediterranean exotica.
Swallows may make a summer (swallows have been seen, although presumably not at traditional breeding sites yet), but Sand Martins make a spring if you happen to be birding at one of Cornwall’s lakes or reservoirs. Drift saw the highest numbers, with 95 on the 14th and 130 on the 17th, other counts included 40 at College Reservoir on the 18th. The odd Swallow and House Martin were reported too. Regular watchers of any lakes or waterbodies will be keeping their eyes peeled in the hope of an overshooting Red-rumped Swallow perhaps over the next few weeks …
2 Yellow-browed Warbler remained in Swanpool, with the Tehidy bird still present Chiffchaff were on the move in small numbers. Wheatears continued to be reported in small numbers; 6 Wheatear on Looe Island the only sizeable number reported.
Chiffchaffs singing more, Blackcaps too (presumably our winter birds still), and Rooks amongst others seen nest-building,
Of winter birds, 9 Fieldfare were at Sancreed on the 15th; still a few weeks to go before the changeover is in full swing.
Late news from last week (Sun 12th) was of 2 Little Bunting still at Nanjizal, although presumably not visible from public areas
In other groups, the cetaceans from the Lizard aside, the only notable sighting was of a Female Vagrant Emperor dragonfly in a private garden at Newlyn on the 15th. With another seen on the Scillies and a large movement of this migratory species noted from Africa (where they occur normally), something to keep an eye out for perhaps.
Looks like we may be in for some sunnier weather than of late; although a bit of a drop in temperature with winds from the north east.