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

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