Friday, 7 November 2014

A week in Cornwall

We've been staying in St Ives since last Friday. On our way down, I managed to sneak in a short detour to Davidstow Airfield for the American Golden Plover, a UK tick. It was so easy... we pulled up next to a couple of cars parked on the old runway & asked if they had seen the Plover. It was about 20 yards away, posing!
Taken on the 'point & shoot' from the van window....wish they were all this easy!
American Golden Plover
We spent our first couple of days exploring the coastal path, walking West one day & East the next (along the Hayle estuary). It's a beautiful stretch of coastline, but quite hard going.

We were invited into the NCI Coastwatch lookout
Walking West from St Ives
This nice moth decided to have a rest on my mug handle
A Bar-headed Goose on the Hayle Estuary
Simon then started an art course, so I started birding! On Monday I went back to the Hayle Estuary RSPB reserve to have a more thorough look. I checked out the main estuary, Ryan's Field tidal lagoon & salt marsh, & Camsew Pool before heading to Copperhouse Creek for my main target: a Lesser Yellowlegs. The tide was quite high, so the waders were all congregating around the East end of the creek. Luckily, I came across a local who'd seen the bird just before I arrived - but it still took a while to locate in the bad light and the cover of a flock of Redshanks. However, eventually I had pretty good views, it even flew away from the Redshanks and briefly landed quite close to me. Unfortunately it didn't stay long enough for me to try and get a photo, especially as I'd forgotten the Canon.
The Hayle Estuary
Ryan's Field from the hide
The Lesser Yellowlegs site in Copperhouse was on the furthest tip of the grass
I saw 45 species, including the Lesser Yellowlegs, Med Gull, Grey Plover, Greenshank, Snipe, Knot, Pintail, Wigeon, Teal & the Bar-headed Goose, again.

On Tuesday I thought I'd try some seawtaching from the Island in St Ives. It's not actually an Island, but a small headland where the local seawtaching spot is directly below the Coastwatch lookout. The Coastwatch volunteers have the best seawtaching spot on the coast.....dry, warm, unobstructed view, tea...and apparently quite a few of the Coastwatchers are also birders! Luckily there was a Northwest wind, which is the best one to bring birds into the bay. I was on my own cowering below the lookout, and at first it was quite quiet. Then suddenly the bay was full of birds. I'm really out of practice... but still managed to see 8 Balearic Shearwater (a Lifer), 2 Great Skuas, 2 Arctic/Pom Skuas (I couldn't figure out which they were), a Great Northern Diver, and loads of Kittiwakes, Gannets & Med Gulls.

After a few hours I was frozen (what idiot goes birding in November without gloves?) so headed back to the flat to defrost, then set off to Drift Reservoir & Marazion Marsh where I found nothing of note. I went back to the Island for about 3.30pm, where there were now several birders who had seen lots. In hindsight, I should have just stayed there all day. I still picked up a few extra birds, 2 Red-throated Divers, 2 more Great Northern Divers, and another Balearic Shearwater. A Grey Phalarope & a Pom Skua went past as well, but I didn't get on them. Best of all though were the Bottlenosed Dolphins in the bay. There were about 8 of them putting on a fantastic display, surfing & repeatedly jumping out of the water, sometimes quite close by.

Perfect seawtaching weather!
View across the bay....
...with various weather!
As the wind was forecast to be from the North or Northwest again on Wednesday, and supposedly blowing quite hard at first, I got up early & went back for another dose. There was only one chap there from yesterday's group....and very few birds. All we got was an Arctic Skua, a Great Northern Diver, several med Gulls, a Common Scoter & quite a few Kittiwakes & Gannets.....although nowhere near as many as the previous day. The dolphins appeared for about 10 mins, once again jumping clear of the water. I tried later, in the afternoon, but the wind had dropped even further, so all I had was one Great Northern Diver & 4 Common Scoter.

Thursday was my last day of birding, so I headed down to The Lizard in search of Cornish Chough, which I last saw in 2004 after a trip to the Scillies. The weather couldn't have been worse - the wind was blowing so hard that I struggled to stand up at times; the rain soaked my bins. I made it along the cliffs to Kynance Cove, which is supposed to be the stretch with the best chance of seeing Chough, but I didn't see a single one. Not surprising really, they're probably far more sensible than me & tucked up in some nice sheltered dry warm spot somewhere. Still, it was good exercise with great views - well, what I could see through the rain anyway.
View West from The Lizard
Buildings at Lizard Point....through a wet lens!
Back home now after a very pleasant week & getting ready for my next adventure.....

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