The headline bird this week again was the Snowy Owl in the west of the county on the 18th at least and showing (rather) well from midday onwards off Carn Glose Road, Cape Cornwall. There was also an unconfirmed record the following day at first light. Unfortunately there has been no further sign since.
There were no Pacific Diver reports this week.
The adult male Lesser Scaup was reported from Dozmary Pool on the 19th and 21st, with the 2 Surf Scoter at Porthpean on the 20th, but only 1 reported on the 21st.
5 Cattle Egret were in fields at Newtown St Mary on the 22nd, with 3 on the 24th. 14 were seen flying in to roost on the evening of the 23rd at nearby Frenchman’s Creek on the Helford; a minimum amongst 40 egrets seen at dusk, so there could have been more. Single Spoonbills were seen at Hayle and on the Camel Estuary, with 3 again at St Johns Lake.
A Pink-footed Goose was seen at Marazion and Drift on the 19th and 21st.
After the late report of up to 7 Hawfinches having been present at Feock Churchyard near Truro for much of November and into December, singles were reported on most dates this week, with 2 on the 22nd. A single was also seen at St Austell sewage works on the 24th.
Juvenile Glaucous Gulls were seen at St Ives and in ploughed fields near the CWT headquarters inland at Allet on the 18th and 21st, with an Iceland Gull at Coverack still and a juv at Red River mouth, Marazion. Yellow-legged Gulls were at Hayle and St Ives on the 23rd and 24th.
A Lapland Bunting was recorded over Caerthillian on the18th. Siberian Chiffchaffs of varying degrees of certainty were recorded from 5 sites, with 3 at St Austell Sewage Works the only multiple count.
Some high counts of waders around the county include 100 Black-tailed Godwit at Walmsley, 140 Lapwing at Stithians, 2000 Golden Plover and 15 Grey Plover on the Camel Estuary and 198 Oystercatcher at Porthilly Point. A Jack Snipe was at Hayle Kimbro on the 22nd, with 9 Woodcock at St Merryn the same date.
Marsh Harrier was recorded at 3 sites on the Lizard, with a Red Kite also on the peninsula .
Great Skuas were seen at a handful of sites; up to 2 at sites in Mounts Bay on 3 dates and a single at Downderry, with a single juvenile Pomarine Skua also in Mounts Bay on the 18th. Two Sandwich Terns were recorded at St Johns Lake in the east of the county on the 22nd, with 1 a few days earlier. 2 Red-necked Grebes were at Porthpean on the 20th.
Firecrests were recorded at 16 sites, with a maximum of 5 in Penzance; Goldcrests were only recorded from 6 sites (probably reflecting on their less noteworthy status), however the sewage farms in the county are starting to come into their own as winter birding destinations with 30 and 40 at St Austell and St Columb sewage works respectively on the 24th.
Brambling were recorded in small numbers from 6 sites, and a single Water Pipit was at Downderry on the 1st. A roost of 400 Pied Wagtails was recorded in Penzance on the 22nd; a good count, although roosts in Cornwall tend to be under-reported. Up to 6 Black Redstarts were in Falmouth on the 19th/20th with a max of 3 birds at a single site in town. Fieldfare and Redwing maxima were 80 at Stithians on the 24th and 40 at Loe Pool on the 19th.
A potential ‘Nordic’ Jackdaw was seen in Newlyn on the 20th (with the caveat that a small percentage of nominate Jackdaws appear to show the same characteristic white collar and other features); an argentatus Herring Gull was on the Hayle Estuary on the 24th and a leucistic (nearly white in this case) Black-headed Gull on the Gannel. A probable Lesser Whitethroat was seen fleetingly at St Austell Sewage works on the 24th; odds good of an eastern race but not totally guaranteed, and a Mandarin drake was again seen at Stithians Reservoir in the week.
Noteworthy non-bird bits from the county this week included a Hummingbird Hawkmoth at RNAS Culdrose, with 10 Atlantic Blue-fin Tuna amongst good numbers of the smaller cetaceans seen on a kayak trip off Penzance on the 18th, 168 Grey Seal off Mutton Cove, Godrevy on the 20th and an Otter at Walmsley Sanctuary on the 24th.
We’re coming up to the end of the year; are there any new good birds still out there undiscovered to add to the county yearlist? A week to go and hopefully plenty of birding opportunities, if a little unlikely that any major cold-weather movements will take place.
Following on from mentioning the scarcities to be recorded in Cornwall on the Bird Sightings page, here is a list of the ‘blue-grey’ scarcities which may be encountered in the bird news pages:
Finally, if you can find the time this holiday period please have a look at the listings of rarer birds seen in the county in 2015 and 2016 (click to view) please read and contact us or the county recorder if you can help with a description or provide further details for publication in BiC and the county record. It would be a great shame to lose these records.
Dan Chaney, 25th Dec