A Summary of this week’s birding news in Cornwall.
The headline bird this week was certainly the first winter Bonaparte’s Gull found at Helston Boating Lake late on Sunday morning. With the last accepted bird in Cornwall being of an adult at Siblyback on the 15 & 16th of May 2013, this was always going to be a popular bird and it performed very well indeed to a steady stream of birders in the slightly incongruous setting of a popular toddler and dog walking park (the boats will come into use when the weather warms up a little perhaps). Only slightly incongruous – rare birds such as these seem to favour such sites at times – and plenty of gulls and waterfowl to draw a rarity in. And coming to bread not a problem either. If this bird stays it could prove popular … a cracking little bird.
Back to the rest of the weeks news and there were no reports of the Pacific Diver received this week, and none of the Hudsonian Whimbrel since Monday; could that really be it for this winter? Previous winters have seen the last reported date for the Pacific Diver being between 3rd and 25th March, with a few outliers, so hope is not totally lost.
Gulls did seem to be the main interest this week with a couple of records of first winter Little Gull proving popular with one at Coverack and one off Marazion and area from Monday onwards; the latter still lingering to the weeks end.
The 1st winter Ring-billed Gull was again reported from the Gannel, with Glaucous Gulls reported from Newtown St Martin and Falmouth Docks, and with Iceland Gulls at Polgigga, Porth Reservoir, Sennen, Nanjizal, Trevilley, Hayle, Coverack and 3 together at Lamorna. Although with some degree of overlap presumably; a fair few birds still involved. The odd Yellow-legged Gull was also reported.
A second year Kumlien’s Gull was also seen at Trevilley, with the rarest of all (and maybe the most interesting for larophiles) of course being the American Herring Gull (1stw) at Polgigga on the Sunday too.
Cattle Egret numbers have risen back again with maximum of 16 at Loe Pool (after the roost seemed to disperse after disturbance by helicopter last week), 7 on the Gannel Estuary and an impressive 18 at St Clements. One at Tehidy Country Park was at a new site during the week. 14 were at Loe Pool on the Sunday and 12 at Frenchman’s Creek on the other side of the Lizard the same day. Same or different … ? You’d like to think different …
The Spoonbill was still reported from the Hayle, with the 2 Walmsley birds still reported midweek. Spotted Redshank also reported from there, with 3 Greenshank at Gorrangorras
The Red-necked Grebe was seen intermittently in Falmouth Bay, with 2 Slavonian Grebe on one date also, 17+ Great Northern Diver off Penzance, with odd divers elsewhere.
2 Barnacle Geese of unknown origin were at Polbathic Creek and a female Mandarin was at Porth Reservoir (approaching anglers). Other wildfowl records included a drake Gadwall at Marazion, 2 female Pintail and 1 Goldeneye still at Stithians, and 11 Pintail and 15 Gadwall at Walmsley. Ten Goosander still on Loe Pool. The Lesser Scaup was still reported up to the weekend, with the Greater Scaup still at College Reservoir.
Offshore, 2 Velvet Scoter and 1 Common Scoter (all female) remained off Marazion, with 8 Common Scoter on the Saturday off Longrock, a female Eider off nearby Penzance, and a drake also on at least one date.
Seawatching reports were down, although a Balearic Shearwater was reported from Lamorna Cove, a Great Skua from Falmouth on the 3rd, with 1 Great Skua and 1 dark phase Arctic Skua from Pendeen on the 28th and 1 Pomarine Skua reported from Jubilee Pool and Mousehole area again.
And so to the passerines and another would-be bird of the week, a rather early House Martin.
This, the first spring migrant proper of the year, was recorded at Coverack on the 3rd and 4th. There have been a few other February records of House Martin in the UK; but still very unusual to have records this early, with the species usually being a later migrant than both Sand Martin and Swallow. Data from the BTO indicates spring migrants are arriving earlier, but the suspicion would have to be that these House Martins have wintered in Spain or North Africa as a few do, rather than being genuine sub-saharan migrants??
There were c.500 Chaffinch in a weedy field next to Bickland Trading Estate in Falmouth, with 2 Woodlark over Lanhydrock golf course on the afternoon of the 27th and a Water Pipit at Trevilley.
Yellow-browed Warblers were seen at Helston Sewage Works on the Sunday, with birds still on UoE campus in Penryn, Tehidy and 2 at Swanpool. The latter site also hosted 2 Firecrest, 1 Siberian Chiffchaff, 2 Nuthatch and a Treecreeper on one occasion. 150+ Redwing at Loe Pool were the only sizeable number reported recently, with singing Cetti’s Warblers there and at Marazion.
Black Redstart reports came in from a range of locations and possibly represent an increase as birds start to move.
Grey Herons on nests at Marazion and garden birds included Bullfinch, with the Crowlas Brambling now into its second month (we’ll stop mentioning it soon perhaps), 2 Siskin at Penwithick and a Firecrest in Truro.
Harbour Porpoises continued to show in Falmouth Bay, with 3 adults and 2 calves on one date, with a few other reports of cetaceans elsewhere. No other interesting mammal or invertebrate records. Completely unrelated to this report the first Crocodile Shark for the UK (a tropical water species from Brazil and the like) was discovered on a Devon beach this week. Things are out there …
More wet and wild weather to come … spring still seems a way off at times.
Some more gratuitous Bonaparte’s pics – we received a fair few on the day …
Bonaparte’s Gull – from top left, clockwise – Ilya Maclean (2), Dougy Wright, Mike Spicer (2), Phil Taylor, below – Dan Chaney