Tresillian River Walk, 20th February 2020

Tresillian River Walk, St Clement

We were lucky this Thursday to find a dry weather gap for this walk. Seven attended complete with wellingtons as the path was quite muddy. We practised our gull identification skills finding some Mediterranean and Common Gulls amongst the commoner gulls sitting on the mud.

Highlights were the Common Sandpiper, a brief glimpse of a Kingfisher and a soaring Sparrowhawk.

Full list: Pheasant, Canada Goose, Shelduck, Mallard, Teal, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Moorhen, Little Grebe, Curlew, Common Sandpiper, Redshank, Greenshank, Black-headed Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Common Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Kingfisher, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Wren, Blackbird, Redwing, Robin, House Sparrow, Dunnock, Chaffinch, Bullfinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Siskin.

Kate Williams

CBWPS file photos – Mediterranean Gull – Bob Bosisto, Kingfisher – Bob Sharples

Stithians Reservoir Workparty 23rd November

Stithians Reservoir Workparty 23rd November 2019 – CBWPS Cornwall Birds and Ecosoc (Penryn University Student Ecology Society), with SWLT.

The morning of the 23rd November saw our first workparty of the season at Stithians dawn wet and damp. By 9:30am however it was dry, if grey, as we made our way from the Watersports Centre towards the area we were going to be working in.

Attacking the gorse en masse. One of our volunteers even came fully dressed to attract in any vagrant hummingbirds or bumblebees that happened to be passing on the lookout for an unexpected nectar source.

The task in hand was clearing an open area of Molinia (Purple Moor Grass), Heather and Devil’s-Bit-Scabious of invading Gorse and willows. This was a great task for a reasonably large volunteer group and using the various loppers, bow saws, scythes and rakes which Beth, the South West Lakes Trust warden had provided, we were able to make some great progress in the main clearing, hopefully to the benefit of the plantlife and adders which are to be found around the lake in this habitat.

With a few birders in the group, we were able to maintain an ongoing day list as we went and reached a respectable total of 45 for the day. The weather on the day turned out better than forecast – light drizzle at times, with a heavier spell or two which didn’t dampen our spirits too much as we attacked the vegetation and tidied up the site.

The best birds around the work area were 11 or so Curlew giving their distinctive and evocative cries as they moved between local feeding fields, flyover Grey Wagtail and Little Egret, Redwings and Fieldfares passing over and some Long-tailed Tits and a Chiffchaff, with a lucky few also disturbing a Kingfisher and seeing a flock of a dozen or so Dunlin fly over. The latter an unusual record this late in the year; presumably just passing by, given the high water levels at Stithians after the touch or two of rain we’ve enjoyed (almost continuously, or so it seems) over the last few months …

Another highlight of the day was a brief burst of sunshine – the wan winter sun even more warming than our wet gorse bonfire (apologies to any dog walkers hoping for a pleasant smoke-free Saturday afternoon stroll around the reservoir). The afore-mentioned fire did however come in useful in terms of toasting marsh mallows and destroying some of the evidence that the gorse had once existed (it will return …)

Habitat now minus small gorse. We also dealt with some willow scrub and scythed and raked some patches to help regenerate fresh growth.

After our hard work on the day most of us treated ourselves to some birding at the hides at the southern end of the Reservoir. First stop was the Stuart Hutchings Hide where we picked up the first winter female Lesser Scaup with a Tufted Duck. Probably the rarest bird at Stithians for a few years at least. Scrutinising the gulls didn’t result in anything out of the ordinary, but some roosting Cormorants on the low branches of the indundated willows were nice. We then moved on across the road to the Southern Cutoff Hide where we enjoyed great views of the Chaffinches and Coal Tits on the feeders, a fly in female Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Goldcrest and even a House Sparrow, with the final birds just as we were leaving a fairly distant flock of 70+ Lapwing in flight. A calling Firecrest unfortunately gave only the briefest of almost-untickable views as it flitted at speed through the treetops. Mammalian highlight (indeed, only mammal of the day) was a cute little Bank Vole briefly beneath the feeders.

Anyway, a great effort by all involved, we only got a little soggy (except for those without wellies perhaps), some nice birds, and an enjoyable day outside. Thanks to all who came along. We will be having more practical work parties in the New Year … do please join us. Hopefully an educational and fun experience, with the added benefit of working towards improving the local environment for wildlife.

We rewarded the volunteers with some marshmallows on bits of twig around a damp fire. Highlight of their university careers so far?

Ecosoc President having far too much fun. Best kept well away from most sources of ignition and pointy objects henceforth?

Bird Species List –

Canada Goose, Mallard, Wigeon, Teal, Tufted Duck, Lesser Scaup, Little Grebe, Lapwing, Snipe, Dunlin, Curlew, Herring Gull, Black-headed Gull, Woodpigeon, Feral Pigeon, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Kingfisher, Magpie, Rook, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Raven, Starling, House Sparrow, Meadow Pipit, Grey Wagtail, Song Thrush, Redwing, Fieldfare, Blackbird, Stonechat, Robin, Wren, Dunnock, Goldcrest, Firecrest, Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Blue Tit Long-tailed Tit, Coal Tit, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Bullfinch, Reed Bunting.

Robin

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Bank Vole aka cutie pie

Great Tit

D Chaney, Nov 2019

Photo credits – Kate Fox (people and scenes), Leela Channer (birds, vole & twitter image)

 

 

(Actually the fire did get a bit more exciting occasionally … )

Toasting marshmallows etc – L Channer

Helston Treatment Works & Boating Lake, 10th Nov 2019

A bright but breezy day greeted the 16 members who attended this field meeting at the rather un-glamorous Helston Water Treatment Works.

Glamorous locations mean nothing to wild birds but food does and the abundance of insect life that water treatment works attract means there is always something about. This particular site is well known in birding circles for being reliable for Chiffchaffs and Firecrests in autumn and winter and it was certainly the latter species that stole the show with great views of them moving through the ivy that grows up the boundary fence. Tantalising glimpses of a very fast Yellow-browed Warbler were also noted but it was not seen by all.

We started the meeting by moving over to the boating lake so as not to miss the Lesser Scaup and everybody got great views of this North American visitor. After our first session at the water works we went as far as we could down to Loe Pool only to be thwarted before the pool itself because the banks were flooded. We did add Redwing, Song Thrush, Chiffchaff, Long-tailed Tit, Jay and Goldcrest to the list as well as the usual other Tits, Dunnocks and Robins.

Altogether a lovely morning enjoying birds on a bright early winter day, helped by an American rarity and the gorgeous little Firecrests!

Roger Hooper, Leader

Lesser Scaup 05/11 – Linton Proctor

Firecrest 09/11 – Stevan Windle

A couple of the key players at Helston taken recently (file photos from the CBWPS media library).

Swanpool Walk, 3rd Nov 2019

It was a select group of discerning birders who met up for the 3rd November Swanpool walk … maybe an early Sunday morning start and the poor weather forecast over the weekend meant that we were relatively few in number, however this didn’t daunt us.

We started off with a quick scan of the main pool whilst we waited to see if anyone else would arrive and then started to make our way around the western side of Swanpool – it was relatively quiet however and it wasn’t until we reached the northern end that we encountered the first slightly more interesting birds – a couple of Chiffchaff in the sallows in the sunshine. Not long after a nice female Great Spotted Woodpecker flew in and showed well in a dead tree.

It was decided to head up through the cemetery, as this might give us another chance of birds such as Firecrest. Almost immediately upon entering, some of us did indeed briefly see a Firecrest in the conifers. Once through the cemetery and along the top path we had good views looking down on Swanpool, and added a Grey Heron and 2 Pochard, a male and female, to our day list. Whilst watching them we picked up the distinctive overhead call of Skylarks moving, and indeed, managed to espy 9 flying high and westwards.

Hitting the coast path we encountered a good sized House Sparrow flock and picked up the small flock of 4 Common Scoter which had been present a couple of days in our bins. The tide was up and Swanpool Point was still mostly under water. Back at Swanpool Beach and another squally shower was coming in, so instead of heading around to the rocks and scoping the sea we got straight back into our cars and headed for Pendennis Point at the other end of the Falmouth coast.

Here another shower forced us into ‘Little Pendennis’, a small fortified outpost guarding the Carrick Roads from the time of the Napoleonic Wars. This was somewhat fortuitous, because just outside one of the open stone windows a tidy flock of 9 Turnstone were busily grazing the seaweedy rocks for invertebrates. Out again when it had passed, and we managed to pick up a distant Great Northern Diver below St Anthony’s Lighthouse; aside a few Gannets passing the sea was pretty quiet. A Common Gull and a fly through Little Egret graced the Carrick Roads. A pair of Stonechat was nice in the bramble scrub just behind us, and we enjoyed good views of both Rock and Meadow pipits working the rocks.

Final stop was Castle Beach, nestled in at the base of Pendennis. 2 Mediterranean Gulls were on the sea with a few Black-headed Gulls, and a Little Egret entertained ‘paddling’ the shallows; disturbing small invertebrates and sea life in a rockpool ready to be snatched up. Otherwise it was quiet (no Black Redstarts unfortunately), but very seaweedy and slippery on the rocks.

An enjoyable morning walk and bird, with some interesting winter birds seen, even if not all of the hoped-for species were to be seen on the day. We hope to do another Swanpool/Falmouth Coast walk later in the winter.

Leaders Dan Chaney and Lucy Mooney.

2019 AGM Report and Illustrated Talk

From the Falklands to the Arctic …

Another well attended Cornwall Birds AGM took place on Saturday 13th July at Stithians Lake Watersports Centre. Chair Mark Grantham took members through the formal business, including welcoming Membership Secretary, Carol Hughes, updates on Middle Amble Marsh and presentation of the CBWPS accounts for 2018. Of special interest were the recent cuts in conservation work by the RSPB, as a result of which Cornwall Birds has taken on maintenance of the Chough sightings database. There is concern about the work done so far with Corn Buntings and members asked that we try to work with landowners help protect the remaining population in North Cornwall. The formal business concluded with the election of David Collins from Constantine as a new Board member. David is a professional ecologist and long-time birdwatcher. Welcome David!

Following the formal business, we were treated to Keith Cowiesons’ excellent semi-autobiographical talk ‘From the Falklands to the Arctic’. Highlights included Penguins everywhere in the Falklands, being dive bombed by Great Skuas, hand feeding a Swallow chick in Afghanistan and a Snow Bunting nesting under a toilet seat in Svalbard. Keith clearly showed the threat to seabirds from plastic and demonstrated how numbers of species such as Arctic Skua and Kittiwake are declining. Keith closed his informative and entertaining talk by reminding us of the fantastic birds we have on our doorstep in Cornwall, where Peregrine Falcons, Choughs and Corn Buntings can all be seen.

Refreshments were enjoyed, and it was a good opportunity for society members to meet from all parts of the county.Over £110 was also raised for the Society from the sale of books from the estate of Steven Pilbeam.

Q and A with Keith Cowieson (click on the images for slideshow):

Cornwall Birds asks: What camera makes (and setup) did you use?

Keith replies: I have always used a Pentax camera going way back to their ‘Spotmatic’, one of the early single-lens-reflex models, coupled with various Tamron telephoto lens up to 500mm, although most of my recent stuff has been taken with a 300mm which is a nice compromise between magnification and weight/portability – important when on the hills. However, I am thinking of moving up to a full-frame DSLR and that may rule out Pentax/Tamron combos in future, so who knows….

Whimbrel

Bonxies (Great Skuas)

King Penguins squabbling

Dotterel female

Cornwall Birds asks:What would you say was your favourite bird and why?

Keith replies: I have always had a special liking for seabirds – hence all the skuas and terns, but I do like upland birds too, particularly waders, whose nests can be quite a challenge to find, let alone photograph.

Bonxie attack (defence)

Cornwall Birds asks: Do you have any regrets you didn’t get posted to any sub-tropical regions with eg lots of Rainforest birds??!!

Keith replies: As you probably gather, I am very much a man of the temperate/colder regions, so was not at all sad to have never served in the tropics etc I am not a great fan of 100% humidity and in any case the UK was withdrawing from east of Suez when I joined the military, so there was no option of serving in Singapore, Malaya, Hong Kong, Borneo or Belize etc for someone with my specialisation. I enjoy being on the moors and mountains, so the Cold War NATO focus of the Northern Flank suited me perfectly.

Keith Cowieson
RAFOS Field Activities Liaison Officer

King Penguin incubating

djc

Red Moor Spring Walk 11th May 2019

Red Moor Spring Walk 11th May 2019

A fine spring morning, albeit with a keen NW wind, brought a record 18 Cornwall Birds and CWT members out for the annual stroll around the northern end of Red Moor, led by Phil McVey. The walk takes in a variety of habitats – from wet willow carr, broadleaved woodland and encroaching birch through to remnant heath and ponds. We were lucky to have expert geologists and botanists amongst the group, which added to the overall experience!

Sand Martin – B Sharples (File photo)

Meeting at the grass triangle at Tredinnick Pits, Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Song Thrush were in song before we began the walk proper and as we entered the CWT reserve a very quiet Goldcrest could just be heard in the treetops. A glorious carpet of Bluebells covered the verges and made up for a quiet section before we reached the (very deep) ‘lake’, which is a remnant of the extensive tin streaming in the area. A couple of Sand Martins were skimming the surface, but the resident Moorhens were neither seen nor heard. Plenty of toadpoles were feeding in the shallows and a couple of Red Damselfly caught our eye. Walking out into the more open areas, we could hear a distant Skylark – the only one of the morning – and Linnet flew over.

Pausing only for a brief skirmish with a dog-walker whose Jack Russells were running wild, we searched for Yellowhammer in an area where we had found them last year and were instead rewarded by a pair of Bullfinch. Continually returning to the same spot, we assume they were feeding young but couldn’t verify this. By this time, we were into Willow Warbler country and we heard 12 singing males (16 last year); a sharp-eyed member of the group also picked up a pair of Treecreeper collecting food. Rounding a corner in the track a male Yellowhammer was in song, for some this was their first sighting in 2019 of this declining species.

Marsh Tit – K Bowers (File photo)

In the lee of Helman Tor, the highlight was watching a pair of Marsh Tit carrying food to their nest in a coppiced Ash, a site they also used last year. As we turned to leave, a Reed Bunting began its monotonous song. Sadly absent were Cuckoo, once a stalwart of this part of the reserve, and Tree Pipit, another regular. Butterflies were showing well, including Orange Tip, Speckled Wood and a Painted Lady.

Returning along the path we heard Great Spotted Woodpecker young calling and an adult voiced its alarm at our presence.

So, a pleasant morning’s walk in the sunshine. It was a pleasure to see faces old and new and introduce several of the group to this under-visited site.

Full species list (entered on Birdtrack):
1. Canada Goose
2. Pheasant
3. Buzzard
4. Great Spotted Woodpecker
5. Jay
6. Carrion Crow
7. Coal Tit
8. Marsh Tit
9. Blue Tit
10. Great Tit
11. Skylark
12. Sand Martin
13. Long-tailed Tit
14. Willow Warbler
15. Chiffchaff
16. Blackcap
17. Goldcrest
18. Wren
19. Treecreeper
20. Blackbird
21. Song Thrush
22. Chaffinch
23. Bullfinch
24. Linnet
25. Goldfinch
26. Yellowhammer
27. Reed Bunting

CBWPS/RSPB Local Group Walks – Lizard & Respryn with Roger Hooper

Vastly different weather conditions for two April field meetings …

The Lizard, April 13th

A mid- April walk around the Southerly Point area of the Lizard should have been something to savour but unfortunately a strong easterly wind made it both cold and hard work.
As a dozen or so hardy souls set off from Lizard Green it seemed only chirpy House Sparrows and the odd Starling were brave enough to be active in the chilly wind. Any Swallows were sensibly staying in shelter somewhere.
Things cheered up though when we dropped down into Caerthillian Valley where it was warm and the east wind was passing overhead. The air was filled with songs and calls of Blackcap, Wren and lots of immaculate male finches. Greenfinch, Linnet, Goldfinch, Chaffinch and the odd Bullfinch were all on show and certainly lifted the spirits on a windy, though sunny, day.
We headed down toward the sea and found a small group of Turnstones and a pair of Rock Pipits on the boulder-strewn shore. When we climbed up out of the cove again the wind really hit us and only Meadow and more Rock pipits were seen on the way to Southerly Point. That stretch is usually a nailed on certainty for Wheatear but they must have been sheltering as we didn’t see any.
With the sea so rough even the Gannets and Fulmars were getting battered and around at Housel we had little chance of picking out the Iceland Gull in the gale.
It was a wind-battered group that returned to Lizard Green. Sometimes the conditions are just too much for birding but it was an exhilarating morning in bright sunshine.

Respryn, Lanhydrock, April 20th

What a difference a week makes! Conditions were perfect for a riverside walk when we assembled in the Respryn car park. The air was full of the calls of Nuthatches and singing Blackcaps and the whole area was alive with birds.
Any walk along the wonderful Fowey here is likely to reward you with a Dipper and we saw the first of half a dozen sightings just a couple of hundred metres towards the station from the car park. A little further on we had a gorgeous male Siskin and after crossing the drive to Parkway station we saw Chiffchaff and a Garden Warbler by the pond. Just as on last year’s walk here we started seeing Marsh Tit around the area of the bridge though sadly no repeat of the redpoll some saw last year. All the usual woodland species were seen on the way back to the car park before we crossed over Respryn Bridge and walked the river bank as far as we could go. More Dippers and some beautiful Grey Wagtails carrying food for youngsters were seen and those members who had never been here before were in raptures over the beauty of this walk, which was very nice to hear.
We left about midday, which is when the dog walkers start to become a complete pain so we had the best of the day and lots of birds!

Roger Hooper, RSPB Cornwall Local Group

CBWPS File photos of Grey Wagtail and Dipper in Cornwall (Grey Wag – T Mills)