Cornwall Birds (CBWPS) Field Meetings Reports Page

Reports on walks and events hosted or organized by Cornwall Birds Society or members. Please email to send your reports in and look at the Calendar on the website to see what is coming up in the near future. We welcome all reports, whether of a full written article or just a brief ‘trip list’ with full species list or even just some highlights. Photos of the event or birds seen are very welcome – please send them in, and reports from participants are as welcome as the ‘official’ reports from leaders of events. Hopefully this will make an interesting section for folk to see what goes on around our county, and look forward to seeing you on one of our outings!

Please contact Simon Marquis at if you are able to lead an event, would like us to publicise a bird-related event, or have any queries relating to the society’s walks and events programs.

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….


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


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)

Stithians Reservoir Walk 17th March 2019

SWLakes / CBWPS Cornwall Birds walk – Leaders Beth Cross and Dan Chaney

Firstly it should be stated that Stithians can be quite exposed and bleak in windy conditions. Secondly we are still in the aftermath of Storm Gareth… Thirdly apparently we are not – we’re now into Storm Hannah. So we were rather concerned that we would have to cancel or move to an alternative venue. However, the forecast the evening before was for sunshine in the morning, with rain in the afternoon, lighter winds in the morning but increasing in the afternoon. So it looked on! It had to be anyway, as there was apparently going to be one person possibly attending, as per a Facebook like on the SWLakes Facebook page …

The forecast on the day had changed however, as it usually does – with 80% chance of rain mid-morning. At around 9:30 at the Watersports Centre pretty heavy rain pelting down seemed ominous for the day. With 1, then 3 then 6 folk turning up it was decided that we would definitely go ahead, but concentrate on heading down the West side to the hides. To start with we headed back the other way to the Golden Lion Hide to see if the rain would ease off. Which it eventually did! We also recorded some birds – a Little Grebe, Coot and a pure white Aylesbury Duck. Coming out of the hide and we met another 4 participants and heard that another late couple had been looking to join us – we didn’t come across them but did gain one extra person later on, making a grand total of 11 (or 13 including ourselves). A distant bounding Great Spotted Woodpecker alighted in the trees at the back of the cutoff, which was nice as we regrouped.

And so to the walk proper – apart from a few showers and (mostly continuous) wind we managed to get away with it, and even enjoyed some bright sunshine for the second half. The Western side of the reservoir passes through some more sheltered wooded spots, and we connected with more birdlife. A stop for possible Adders under some corrugated iron (unsuccessful – wet mud the highlight) was good as we were able to hear and then see a distant Skylark hanging high above the clouds. We also saw a couple of jinkiing Snipe in flight and had some great views of a male Bullfinch alongside the path. Another highlight was a flock of 15 Fieldfare and 100 Starling rising up from behind a nearby farm, and another woodpecker species on a telegraph pole – a rather immobile Black Woodpecker and sadly just a lifesize model, put up presumably to dissuade their Great Spotted cousins from having a go at the wooden pole! After a short stretch on the road, and it wasn’t too long before we reached the hides. The wind was coming rather briskly into the Stuart Hutchings Hide but we were able to pick up a Great Crested Grebe and a subadult male Goldeneye not far out, with another 5 distant Goldeneye and a couple of Tufted Ducks amongst other commoner species. The Southern Hide proved productive on the passerine front, with up to 12 Chaffinch, a Greenfinch, 3 Goldfinch and 5 Reed Buntings, including 1 rather smart male. It’s not that easy to catch up with this species randomly in Cornwall – Stithians is a good regular site locally. Another unexpected highlight was the arrival of a pair of Bullfinch on the closest feeder just outside the hide window – staying for a good couple of minutes and giving great views. A pair of Ravens above the opposite skyline entertained us too and wrapped up the excitement for this stage of the walk.

Male Bullfinch and Reed Bunting, CBWPS file photos (K Bowers, J St Ledger)

Time was marching on, and the party now split into two, with half continuing on around the reservoir to complete the round walk, the other half returning to the Watersports Centre or home. Highlights were a couple more brief Reed Buntings, Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls on the water and a few windsurfers in trouble. Walking across the dam is always fun too. This side was windier, and certainly less birdy, but the sunshine was nice and it was a pleasant brisk walk back to the start point.

A very enjoyable morning around the Reservoir was had and it was great to get out there and see some familiar and new faces.

Dan Chaney, 17th March 2019

Full Species List –

1 Canada Goose
2 Mallard
3 Tufted Duck
4 Goldeneye
5 Pheasant
6 Little Grebe
7 Great Crested Grebe
8 Grey Heron
9 Little Egret
10 Cormorant
11 Buzzard
12 Moorhen
13 Coot
14 Snipe
15 Black-headed Gull
16 Herring Gull
17 Lesser Black-backed Gull
18 Rock Dove
19 Woodpigeon
20 Collared Dove
21 Great Spotted Woodpecker
22 Magpie
23 Jackdaw
24 Rook
25 Carrion Crow
26 Raven
27 Blue Tit
28 Great Tit
29 Skylark
30 Wren
31 Starling
32 Blackbird
33 Fieldfare
34 Song Thrush
35 Robin
36 House Sparrow (heard only)
37 Dunnock
38 Meadow Pipit
39 Chaffinch
40 Bullfinch
41 Greenfinch
42 Goldfinch
43 Reed Bunting

College Reservoir Walk 17th February 2019

A mixed group of 19 keen souls braved the Falmouth area to join us on our regular CBWPS Cornwall Birds/SW Lakes birding walk at College and Argal Reservoirs, led by Dan Chaney and Beth Cross.

The forecast on the previous evening was for sunshine from around 9am after drizzle overnight which sounded good; however at 9:30 as we assembled in the car park at Argal it was still pretty grey and damp.

With most of the birdlife to be found around College Reservoir we decided to do this first for woodland birds and the regular ducks, Coot and waterbirds, and save a quicker march for Argal after as time permitted. As it was, we had no time at all for Argal Reservoir. Crossing the dam at the north end of Argal and taking our lives in our hands crossing the road bisecting the two, we hadn’t been going for long before we were rewarded with some of our first birds of the day; a smart Buzzard preening and re-arranging itself on the edge of the woods and a vocal group of Chiffchaff showing reasonably well in the treetops ; 4 in total, with 2 also singing. Great Tits calling ‘Teacher’ ‘Tea-cher’, with Robins and Blue Tits in song contributed to the ambience amongst the massive moss and lichen covered oaks.

We continued alongside the reservoir and headed up to the North end to look at the waterfowl. Unfortunately the birds were distant and we were mostly looking into the sun. Matters weren’t helped by the brisk cold wind funnelling across the reservoir. What had happened to the forecast sunshine?! However, a Goldcrest singing as it flitted next to the path and distant Great Crested Grebes were nice to see.

A spot of confusion reigned as the group spread out into two parties with some trying to see a Goldeneye which had been seen against the far shore, whilst the others pressed on. All was resolved however, as the majority of the group carried on around and under the Penryn bypass to check out the two ponds and leat below the Reservoir – unfortunately not many more species to add (Dipper and Yellow-browed Warbler have been seen here on previous walks), but it’s always good to explore new spots and give it a go. Returning back along the other side of the Reservoir gave a better opportunity to catch up with the Goldeneye – there were now two female-type together (one showing more white, so presumably a first winter male), with their distinctive triangular head and squat body form, diving almost continuously but hopefully all enjoyed good enough views in the end! The ‘golden eye’ was also nice to see.

An opportunity to see Lesser Black-backed and Great Black-backed Gulls on the water alongside each other could also be had, with Cormorants on the platforms and good numbers of washing Herring and Black-headed Gulls rafting out on the water. We could also now see more of the dabbling ducks at closer range – Wigeon, half a dozen Shoveler and Teal the more unusual. The sun was now out, and it felt positively springlike!

Highlights on the return for the select few were a Treecreeper engaging in a bit of song and a silent Nuthatch – unfortunately most of the group had already passed the former when it was picked up, and the latter was very difficult to spot in the tangled morass of twisted oak limbs.

Returning back to the car park at around the designated finish time of 1pm, and a satisfactory mornings birding completed. Thanks to all who came along, and hope to see you on another walk soon. We will be at Stithians in a months’ time, but do keep an eye on the calendar on the website for other walks in the program.

Dan Chaney, 17th Feb

Species List –
1 Canada Goose (4)
2 Mute Swan (3)
3 Shoveler (6+)
4 Wigeon
5 Mallard
6 Teal (4)
7 Pochard (1m)
8 Tufted Duck
9 Goldeneye (2)
10 Great Crested Grebe (4)
11 Cormorant
12 Buzzard
13 Moorhen
14 Coot
15 Black-headed Gull
16 Great Black-backed Gull
17 Herring Gull
18 Lesser Black-backed Gull
19 Woodpigeon
20 Magpie
21 Rook
22 Carrion Crow
23 Blue Tit
24 Great Tit
25 Long-tailed Tit
26 Chiffchaff (4)
27 Goldcrest (1)
28 Wren
29 Nuthatch (1)
30 Treecreeper (1)
31 Blackbird
32 Robin
33 Meadow Pipit (10+)
34 Chaffinch
35 Goldfinch

Field Meeting at Helston, Sunday February 10th 2019

If there is anything in life to make the heart sink, it is seeing pouring rain out of the window on the morning of a field meeting you are leading. It was, however, very much a case of showers, so with fingers crossed I made my way to Helston. As luck would have it the weather improved all the way and I was delighted to see around ten members keen enough to turn out on a blustery morning when many would have stayed home. Quite a few familiar faces were among the attendees and we soon got down to making the most of a pretty uninspiring dose of weather. Unlike this meeting last year, where Firecrests outnumbered Goldcrests, neither species put in an appearance. The ever reliable wintering Chiffchaffs were abundant though, especially in the lane running up the side of the sewage works. No Siberians this year though, at least not picked up by us, despite determined looking.

We couldn’t ignore the Glossy Ibis of course and it was very showy, feeding away with male Blackbirds and showing just how big they are when next to a familiar species. This was a new tick for some, which is always a treat for a leader. Apart from the common woodland species we had a beautiful Grey Wagtail (never anything but!), a few Song Thrushes and a singing Greenfinch hanging on in the wind at the top of a tall tree. Nothing remarkable in that, save for the comments on how long since people had seen one in their gardens, after the awful canker disease that has sent numbers crashing.

Given that Helston Boating Lake has such a reputation for turning up rarities we couldn’t miss a walk around. There were lots of pristine Tufted Ducks of both sexes and we had a nice look at a very sleepy drake Ferruginous Duck that has been on the lake for months now. What a fantastic, dark chestnut colour he is too. Presumably an escape, but still a very nice bird to see.

With raindrops trying to turn into a shower and the breeze picking up we agreed to call it a day a little early but we left cheered by the sight of one or two Black-headed Gulls in breeding plumage. Spring is on its way!

Roger Hooper, 12th Feb

Glossy Ibis, Ian Boreham Glossy Ibis - Steve Rowe

CBWPS File Photos – Glossy Ibis in Cornwall 2019 – Marlene Rouncefield, Steve Rowe

Windmill Farm Work Party Saturday 9th February 2019

Windmill Farm Work Party

CBWPS Cornwall Birds headed out to Windmill Farm on Saturday 9th February to carry out some habitat management for birds and other local wildlife. We were joined by students from UoE Penryn Ornithology Club.

It was a pretty dull day, with mizzle in the air, meaning we were all wearing many layers and waterproofs! But spirits were high, and we set about with loppers, saws and scythes; managing to strip bare a large section of vegetation (mainly gorse, bramble and willow) surrounding the dragonfly ponds. Leaving the banks lining the ponds bare in this manner is beneficial to invertebrate species, particularly Green Tiger Beetles. Many Toads were spotted, with a large section of the pond laced with toad spawn. The entrance area and car park were cleared of bramble and the visitor centre tidied and windows lovingly cleaned.

Before … After … And Toad Spawn

The sites nest boxes were checked for last years nests; finding both a Blue Tit and a House Sparrow nest! Fingers crossed that the boxes will be occupied this season!

We rewarded ourselves with hot drinks, biscuits, ginger cake and an afternoon of birding. Not many birds were seen onsite at Windmill Farm, so we headed over to Coverack.

Industrious volunteers … Checking the nest boxes

Windmill Farm species list:
– Herring Gull
– Magpie
– Carrion Crow
– Blue tit
– Great tit
– Skylark
– Chaffinch
– Goldfinch
– Marsh Harrier flyover (enjoyed by the select few just after the Coverack posse had left!)

It was blustery along the coastline, but we managed to spot a variety of species on and off land. It didn’t take us long to spot the Pallas’s warbler at the sewage works amongst a group of Long-tailed Tits! (Others had been there all morning and not seen it, so we were perhaps a little fortunate).

Coverack species list:
– Eider 3
– Fulmar
– Slavonian Grebe
– Grey Heron
– Gannet
– Shag
– Cormorant
– Buzzard
– Black-headed Gull
– Mediterranean Gull
– Great Black-backed Gull
– Lesser Black-backed Gull
– Kittiwake
– Guillemot
– Woodpigeon
– Raven
– Long-tailed Tit
– Chiffchaff
– Pallas’s Warbler
– Goldcrest
– Wren
– Song Thrush
– Robin
– House Sparrow
– Dunnock
– Grey Wagtail
– Pied Wagtail
– Rock Pipit

A final stop off at Goonhilly Earth Station resulted in no birds (although a dead mouse was seen), and rain starting to come in, and heavily just after we had left. You never know what you will see – a feral escaped Wallaby was seen less than a mile away the following day, and a male Hen Harrier from the viewing platform the following week.

Thank you to all that came and helped out. An enjoyable time was had by all. A very special thank you to Windmill Farm’s warden Dougy Wright and to Greg Adams for organising the workparty.

Paige Petts, 14th Feb