Monday, 28 November 2022

Birding highlights in Cornwall November 2022

 November weather started with strong South to South-West winds and heavy rain. The month ended pretty much the same with heavy rain from the west.

The third Pallass' Warbler of the Autumn was found along Lloyds Lane, Lizard on the 1st, following one at Long Rock and another at Kennack Sands on 31st October.

Seawatching continued to dominate with two juv. Sabine's Gulls, two Grey Phalaropes and four Great Shearwaters off Pendeen. Presumably one of the same Sabine's Gulls was seen passing St. Ives.

Leach's Petrels were on the move on the 2nd. Seven were counted off Pendeen, three off Mousehole with one showing a dark rump. Two more Leach's at Downderry, two at Hannafore, one at St. Agnes, three at Cadgwith completed the best day of the year for this species.  Another Band-rumped Petrel was claimed off the Lizard and possibly the same dark rumped Leach's type also off the Lizard Point. The wind on the day was South to South-West.  With increased seawatcher awareness, its becoming clear that Pendeen is certainly productive on SSW winds. Porthgwarra doesn't have exclusive rights to this wind direction anymore!

The wind shifted to WNW on Friday 4th.  As expected, more Leach's Petrels were seen. An impressive 39 were counted off St Ives Island and 13 from Pendeen. Of interest, none were seen from Cape Cornwall indicating that the "geographical corner" of Pendeen lighthouse is the normal final seabird departure site in N Cornwall. An unusual Velvet Scoter was photo'd among 98 Common Scoters at Pendeen.

Treraven meadows hosted some geese. A White-fronted Goose, two Barnacle and a Pink-foot were among the Canada's on the 4th. A Whooper Swan was also at nearby Walmsley.

A Radde's Warbler was photo'd in a St. Just garden on the 4th. The finder must have had quite a shock while viewing the bird feeder!  Not to be outdone, a Dusky Warbler was found in the Nanjizal nets on the 5th.

Dusky Warbler, Nanjizal, pic courtesy John Overfield.

A presumed returning Ring-necked Duck appeared at Dozmary Pool.  This deep water pool is the favourite site for this species.  Last winter, at least ten birds were present here, a UK record.

Short-eared Owls started to appear at the normal wintering spots. An unusual record was a migrant flying along the coast with Kittiwakes off Pendeen. It attempted to move inland but was chased off by the local Choughs.

More significant numbers of Great Shearwater appeared on the 6th with two sizable counts. Porthgwarra recorded 363 and another 292 from the Lizard. The latter site also notched up two Leach's Petrels and a Little Auk. The seawatching season just keeps giving! More strong southerly winds on the 7th Nov pushed nine Leach's Petrels, one very late Storm Petrel, 71 Great Shearwater and 27 Sooty Shearwater towards Porthgwarra.  Meanwhile, the Lizard notched up 483 Great Shears and a duplicate 27 Sooty's. 144 Manx was a high late season count and a juv Kumliens Gull was a surprise.  An exhausted Long-tailed Skua was photo'd in care at Newquay Airport on the 8th.  A late juv Sabine's Gull and yet another juv Long-tailed Skua were seen from Pendeen on the 9th. What a great year this species has had.

Cornwall's seventh Hume's Warbler was found with a Yellow-browed Warbler at Swanvale on the 9th.  The last Hume's Warbler in the county was 2007 when one was video'd, sound recorded and eventually trapped in Cot Valley. It was first located on the 23rd December and last seen 23rd February 2008, presumably attempting to overwinter. There are nearly 200 UK records but most appear on the east coast. It remains a very rare bird in Cornwall.

The Pallass' Warbler at Lloyds Lane, Lizard was still present on the 12th. A late Wryneck showed well at Kynance gate on the 13th and a flighty Serin at nearby Old Lizard Head.  A Hawfinch was found at Treleaver and another at Penryn Uni.

A juv Pallid Harrier was found in the Trevilley and Nanjizal area on the 14th. On a couple occasions it was flushed from the nets area. This species has become more regular in the county though the last officially accepted record was 2009.  Clearly there are unsubmitted Cornish records.  Its status reflects the increase across western Europe and the UK. A Short-toed Lark was found nearby in the stubble fields around Trevilley.

Pallid Harrier, Nanjizal, Nov 2022. Pics courtesy John Miller.

Cornwall's first Black-faced Bunting was found in the Nanjizal nets on the 19th. The juv female was trapped, ringed and later released in nearby stubble fields. By pure chance, the Pallid Harrier appearance created a Saturday morning twitch and the assembled birders were treated to the bunting release. The irony is that the harrier failed to show... The 19th was indeed a special day as a female Desert Wheatear was found at Falmouth.  Sadly it didn't stay long. This is Cornwall's 11th record following a male at Penberth in November 2020. A late Red-backed Shrike was found at Chapel Porth.

Juv female Black-faced Bunting, Picture courtesy Mike McKee

Black-faced Bunting, Nanjizal, pic courtesy Bob Bosisto

The wind turned westerly on the 18th, strong at times. The following three days were particularly noteworthy for late skuas, petrels and Little Gull.  Pendeen was the place to be.  On the 18th, 22 Little Gull passed the famous watchpoint, one of the highest totals in years. In addition, one Little Auk and a rare Blue Phase Fulmar and five Grey Phalaropes were seen.  On the 20th, a juv Long-tailed Skua, four Pomarine Skua, two Great Skua and three Arctic Skua, Leach's Petrel, two Little Gull, 3 Grey Phalarope, three Great Shearwater, 11 Sooty Shearwater and good selection of mixed divers were seen in bitter conditions.  25 Great Shearwater were seen off the Lizard on the 26th, continuing the amazing season this species is having.

Juv Pomarine Skua, Pendeen, Nov 2022, pic courtesy M Elliott.

Juv Pomarine Skua, Pendeen, Nov 2022, pic courtesy M Elliott.

Ad fem Pomarine Skua, Pendeen, Nov 2022, pic courtesy M Elliott.

Blue Phase Fulmar, Pendeen, Nov 2022, pic courtesy M Elliott.

A Dusky Warbler was found at Nanjizal cove on the 27th Nov, a typical late Autumn date. The Short-toed Lark was still present in the stubble fields nearby at Trevilley.  The returning adult Ring-billed Gull reappeared a Lelant Saltings.

The meteoric rise of the Cattle Egret continued. On the 27th, an incredible 167 were counted at Amble Marsh. This number at a single site is a county record. In addition, a further 85 were at Carne Creek, Gillan and another 21 at Loe Pool, Helston!

A late Sabine's Gull was seen off Newquay on the 28th, along with a more expected Leach's Petrel. Correct me if I'm wrong, but there are no true winter records of Sabine's Gull in Cornwall?

Bird of the month: Black-faced Bunting at Nanjizal, first county record and 8th for UK.

Runner-up: Pallid Harrier, a stunning juv in the Trevilley area.

Thursday, 10 November 2022

Hume's Warbler in Cornwall

 A Hume's Warbler was found at Swanvale on 9th November 2022. It was seen and heard with a Yellow-browed Warbler.  A sound recording was also taken. Matt Broadbent first found it and will be submitting it to the relevant authorities

Nearly 200 have been recorded across the UK.  Hume's Warbler remains a rare bird in Cornwall with just six previous records.  

Previous records:

2007: Cot Valley, one trapped, from 23rd Dec to 23rd Feb 2008.

2004: Carnon Downs SW, 24-26th Feb.

2004: Helston SW, 13-15th Nov.

2003: Cot Valley, 25-26th Oct.

2001: Porthgwarra, 23rd Dec. 

1998: Church Cove, Lizard, 22-23rd Nov.

The species breeds in Asia, China and Mongolia. It migrates over the Himalayas to winter in India.

Thursday, 27 October 2022

Pallid Swift at Land's End - November 2018 - a reminder

Reports of Pallid Swift have been in the news this week.  The following write-up and original submission to BBRC serves as a timely reminder for anyone searching for Pallid Swifts over Cornwall, hopefully proving useful.

This record below was accepted by BBRC.

 It was only a matter of time before a Pallid Swift would turn up in Cornwall this Autumn. With so many others dotted around the east and south coasts, one would surely end up in Cornwall.  On Sunday 18th an early shout went out of a swift seen flying over Rose Valley near Pendeen.  Several birders searched the various nearby valleys and likely spots but without luck. 

At around midday, another report was sent in to Cornwall Birding of a swift around the Land's End complex.  Luckily John Chapple had just arrived on site and connected pretty soon.  With close views overhead, he was sure it was a Pallid Swift and put the news out. I called John, got some details and arrived ten minutes later. I also connected quickly as the bird hawked low over the moor to the north of the complex. In perfect light with the sun behind us, we could see the paleness of the bird and why its called a Pallid Swift.  The dark inner axillaries/secondaries compared to an otherwise pale underwing was immediately noticeable, even at distance through my bins.  Within an hour, some 20 more birders had seen it.

After a close look at the accepted records, this bird is the fourth record for the county and my first for Cornwall.  The first record was at St Levan in November 2004.  First noted as a swift sp, it was later accepted as a Pallid Swift in 2005 (CBWPS Report 2005).  The second was at Wadebridge in June 2007.  The third was found by Kester Wilson at Nanjizal in May 2009.  There was another interesting swift in Nov 2016 found at Kenidjack and then Botallack/Pendeen, but it was eventually considered to be a Common Swift, possibly of the subspecies pekinensis, though the latter has yet to be accepted in the UK.

The images below were taken by myself.  John Ryan has also taken a close interest in this bird and given me for comparison, three images of the 2016 Common Swift at Kenidjack.  I have linked the photo's together for exact comparion.  The differences are subtle:

Pallid is overall paler and browner with obvious dark inner secondaries
Pallid has a less defined throat patch
Pallid has no white supercilium/patch in front of the eye
Pallid has a slightly larger head with the impression of a large eye
Pallid has less clear white trailing edge to the secondaries.
Pallid has less white showing in the leading edge of the wing

Pallid Swift, Land's End, Nov 2018, Steve Rogers.

Upper image shows 2016 Kenidjack Common Swift by John Ryan, compared to the 2018 Pallid Swift at Land's End.

Upper image shows 2016 Kenidjack Common Swift by John Ryan, compared to the 2018 Pallid Swift at Land's End.
Upper image shows 2016 Kenidjack Common Swift by John Ryan, compared to the 2018 Pallid Swift at Land's End.

Sunday, 16 October 2022

Blackburnian Warbler on Bryher, Scilly, October 2022.

 Sensational news broke on Thursday 13th October when a first year male Blackburnian Warbler was found on Bryher, Scilly. Blackburnian Warbler is a dream Nearctic warbler and high on every British birder's want-list. The Bryher bird is the first for England and just the fourth UK record but the first truly twitchable bird. 

1w male Blackburnian Warbler, Bryher, picture by Steve Rogers.

Previous records have all occurred on islands and been short stayers.

The first for Britain was on Skomer Island, Dyfed on 5th October 1961 and fully documented in British Birds 85: 337-343.

The second record was a first winter male on Fair Isle, Shetland on 7th October 1988. (British Birds 83:489).

The third record was a probable first winter male on St. Kilda, Outer Hebrides. 12-14th September 2009. (British Birds: 102:427).

The species is widespread in north-east North America and south-east Canada. It migrates south through the Eastern seaboard, reaching its wintering quarters in Central America, Columbia, Peru and Ecuador.  A friend who visited Ecuador this winter said he saw hundreds in the highlands.  The species status is of Least Concern.

The species name derives from an English naturalist named Anna Blackburne (1726-1793) who lived in Warrington. She had a brother in the States who sent insect and Bird specimens to be identified. Descriptions were then sent to Linne for the Systema Naturae.

My own adventure to see the Bryher bird involved a small charter boat from Penzance called the Vanessa Jane. Ten of us departed Penzance at 7am and three hours later were picked up at Scilly, mid channel by the Meridian. We were hoping to land at Bryher but local by-laws and customs denied us this benefit. We saw the bird by 10:45 and were home again at 19:30. Total cost £93. We also had close views of five Great Shearwaters and a dozen adult Puffins on the way.

Intrepid travellers included Martin Elliott, Linton Procter, Graham Lawlor, Mike Spicer, Pete Clement, Pete Aley, Tony Mills, John Overfield +1, and myself.  I don't travel a great deal these days, but this one was an exciting twitch.😊

Pictures by Steve Rogers

Video by John Chapple.

Birding highlights in Cornwall October 2022

October weather started with a westerly airflow, mainly influenced by hurricane Fiona hitting the Northern Isles. The month ended mild and wet with south to south-west wind dominating.

The month kicked off with the Lizard Point Red-necked Phalarope, remaining from September 30th to October 1st. This local "mega" rarity delighted many of the newer resident birders.  To put this species in perspective, the last "twitchable" record was 1993 when a juvenile settled on Perranporth boating lake.

Red-necked Phalarope, Lizard, pic courtesy Steve Rowe.

A reasonably strong westerly wind pushed some seabirds towards Pendeen on the 1st. Two Cory's, 30 Great, 270 Balearic and 43 Sooty Shearwaters, a Leach's Petrel and two Grey Phalaropes were the highlights.

Cornwall's 31st Long-billed Dowitcher was found at Hayle Estuary on the 2nd. 2011 was the last year when two were present in the county (at Stithians and Davidstow). Hayle estuary is the top site for Long-billed Dowitcher, hosting eight individuals. The last bird at Hayle was in July 2007 when a stunning adult was present for four days.

Long-billed Dowitcher, juv, Hayle Est. Pic courtesy Pete Walsh.

Picture courtesy PeteWalsh

Long-billed Dowitcher, juv, Hayle, pic courtesy Michael Spicer.

A Blackpoll Warbler was seen at Nanjizal on the 2nd and possibly heard on the 30th. Given that eight other Nearctic passerines were in Ireland and the Northern Isles, it was only time before one appeared in Cornwall. Regrettably it was found on a private site.

Yellow-browed Warblers were seen at several sites, including Truro, Levant, Church Cove, Kelynack, Penryn Uni campus and Kenidjack.  All the pointers are suggesting a very good season for this delightful little Sibe. Another Pectoral Sandpiper was seen at the Camel Estuary on the 3rd.

The second Woodchat of the season was found at Pendeen, in the valley opposite the coastguard houses. This is the first record for Pendeen and joins a celebrity shrike line-up here.  Pendeen easily matches Porthgwarra for rare shrikes. With the increased observer coverage, this trend looks promising.

Woodchat, juv Pendeen, picture courtesy John St.Ledger

Seawatchers were rewarded on the 5th with the highlights being a Sabine's Gull and three Leach's Petrels at Pendeen and two Long-tailed Skuas at the Lizard. The latter site has a growing reputation for Long-tailed Skua and is one of the more reliable sites in the county for this species.

Two juv Lesser Yellowlegs were found at Copperhouse Creek on the 7th. These are approximately the 51st and 52nd records for Cornwall and the first "flock". The species is almost an annual vagrant in Cornwall. 2020 was a blank year and the 2018 wintering Bird at Devoran remained until 25th April 2019.

Lesser Yellowlegs, Copperhouse, picture courtesy Alex McKechnie

Two Lesser Yellowlegs roosting with Teal, Redshank and Dunlin, pic courtesy Dave Flumm.

A Black Kite was seen in the Polgigga area on the 8th. A closer inspection of photographs showed a transmitter aerial on its back and leg rings indicating an escaped bird from Wild Zoological Park in Halfpenny Green. A flyover Serin was at nearby Porthgwarra. Yellow-browed Warblers continued to be found with one at Sennen quarry and three at Nanjizal.

The Woodchat Shrike at Pendeen moved from its original spot by the coastguard houses. From the 8th, it could be found a few hundred yards east towards Portherras beach. This additional feeding area is some way from the coastguard houses but a check of available photos shows the bird to be the same individual.

Woodchat video by John Chapple.

Egrets were on the move on the 11th. A record six Great White Egret were flying east over the Lizard and another was at Ryan's Field. The following day a flock of 42 Cattle Egrets flew east at Pendeen and another Great White Egret was found at St. Winnow.

The 13th was a busy day with no less than eight Yellow-browed Warblers across the county and a calling Pallass' Warbler at Long Rock pool. An American Golden Plover was found at Crowdy and a Richard's Pipit at Park Head. A juv. Rosy Starling was found at Mullion.

The first twitchable Nearctic passerine of the year appeared on the 15th. Cornwall's 34th Red-eyed Vireo was found at Tregeseal in the wooded area by the bridge. Not quite Blackburnian status but still a notable find.
Red-eyed Vireo, Tregeseal, picture courtesy Bob Bosisto.

Never say the seawatching season is over in October.  A Fea's / Desertas Petrel was photographed from the Scillonian on the "Cornish side" on the 17th. At least 12 Puffins were also seen on the crossing on the 14th.  All of them were adults showing some red in the bill.

Migrant thrushes were clearly on the move from Scandinavia on the 20th. High numbers of Fieldfare and significant counts of Ring Ouzel could be found cross the county.  Highest counts of Ring Ouzel included 11 at Treeve Moor, 5 at Pendeen, 6 at Logan Rock, 14 at Lloyd's Lane, 8 at St. Levan, 8 at Kenidjack and 24 at Kynance. Highest counts of Fieldfare included a massive count of 3759 over Penryn Uni, 350 at Pendeen, 200 at St Agnes, 1000 at Sharp Tor and 300 at Kenidjack. A probable flyover Black-throated Thrush was reported from Kynance but sadly couldn't be relocated.

The 22nd October set a new record for Great Shearwater numbers. A massive 10,235 were counted moving past The Lizard in the afternoon, 868 past Porthgwarra and a further 2500+ off Pennance Point, Falmouth. In addition, rare seabirds with a southerly origin including Cornwall's fourth Band-rumped Petrel of the season off Porthgwarra (15:50), and remarkably another bird off the Lizard (17:00), a Barolo Shearwater from Bass Point, Lizard and a juv Long-tailed Skua from Porthgwarra capped a stunning day. With the Fea's /Desertas already mentioned on the 17th, clearly with changes in sea temperature, we can only expect more rare seabirds. image showing warm sea extending to SW Approaches.

The wind shifted from South to WSW on Monday 23rd. Pendeen recorded a juv Sabine's Gull, seven Grey Phalarope, juv Long-tailed Skua and 117 Great Shearwater, (the highest count of Great Shearwater here this year).

The first Hawfinch of the season was found at Polwheveral, Constantine and a Siberian Stonechat at Bochym, Lizard on the 23rd.  One Lesser Yellowlegs continued to entertain the paperazzi-birders at Copperhouse.

Cornwall's 18th Siberian Stonechat was found at Bochym, Lizard on the 24th. A sample was collected and will be sent off for DNA analysis, hopefully designating either Maura or Stejneger's.

Siberian Stonechat, Bochum, Lizard, pics courtesy Michael Spicer.

The final throes of the seawatching season came on the 28th and 29th.  A second calendar year "blonde" Long-tailed Skua was video'd off Pendeen.  A stunning pale looking individual caused some initial  headaches, mainly surrounding the pale underwing.  However, the video showed several key features which point to Long-tailed Skua, including small size, narrow wings, long caudal area, grey-brown tones, pale rump, and a distinctive meandering flight path.

Meanwhile at Porhgwarra, the astonishing Great Shearwater influx continued with a 90 minute passage of 597 birds. In addition, a close adult male Pomarine Skua showed off its spectacular tail extensions.  Leach's Petrel's were seen off Sandy Cove and next day at Porthgwarra.

Bird of the Month: Band-rumped Petrel off Porthgwarra.

Runner's up: Several candidates including Red-eyed Vireo at Tregeseal, a pair of Lesser Yellowlegs at Copperhouse, Long-billed Dowitcher at Hayle, Siberian Stonechat at Bochym and finally, around 14,000 Great Shearwaters off the Cornish south coast.

Monday, 10 October 2022

Greenish Warbler records in Cornwall

 Greenish Warbler is a rare vagrant in Cornwall with just nine accepted records up to June 2019. The two  records in 2019 are the first in Spring in Cornwall.  The species breeds in north and eastern Europe and Russia and has expanded its breeding range westwards during the last century. Migrates south east to winter in S. Asia.

1984: Nanquidno, 30th Sep to 1st Oct. Found by Dave Flumm. Paul Semmens, Lawrie Williams, Stuart Hutchings and Graham Hearl were also named as co-finders. It was present for two days and preferred the high canopy of the sycamore tree by the farmhouse with blue windows. It was also seen in the copse by the ford. This individual was by no means an easy ID and several observers of the day considered this to be a Two-barred Greenish.

2000: Kenidjack, 24th Sep. Found by John Swann and T. Whiley. This bird again spent much of the time in the high canopy in the copse part way down the valley.

2008: Pendeen, 16th to 17th Sep. Found by John Foster. This individual was found in the copse around Calartha Farm on the road down to Pendeen Watch. It was highly active and elusive at times. It was occasionally seen in the gardens adjacent to the copse.

2009: Church Cove, Lizard. 28th Oct to 1st Nov. Found by visiting birder Duncan Poyser from Cambs. Initially found at the bottom of the valley near Mariner's Cottage. The bird was highly mobile and could be found in the sycamores and elms in the churchyard as well as the copse at the bottom of the valley. This individual will be long-remembered for its see-saw identification between Green and Greenish. Eventually confirmed by sonogram on the call by Magnus Robb, Ilya Maclean and Hugh Harrop.

2010: Treeve Common, Land's End. 25th-29th Sep. Found by John Chapple.

2016: Porthgwarra, 24th August, M Elliott, J F Ryan.

2017: Millbrook, St Andrew's Street. 23rd-25th Aug.

2019: Lizard Village. 4th June. One seen briefly by Tony Blunden.

2019: Porth Joke, Crantock. 9th June. Singing male in willows below Treago campsite, found by Steve Rowe.

2020: Porthgwarra, 23rd Sep, in elms south of the 60ft cover, Mark Wallace (awaiting ratification).

2021:St. Levan, 5th Sep, a male in sub song between the church and Roskestal Farm, Mark Wallace (awaiting ratification).

2022: Nanjizal, 3rd Sep, one seen only and evaded the nets (not trapped), Kester Wilson (awaiting ratification).

2022: St Levan, 14th Sep, in sallows between Roskestal and St Levan, Mark Wallace (awaiting ratification).

Male Greenish Warbler, Porth Joke 9th June 2019. (pic by S Rogers).

Tuesday, 27 September 2022

Birding highlights in Cornwall September 2022

 September weather started with strong southerly wind associated with monsoon-like conditions. Mid month was dominated by an easterly airflow.  The month ended with strong north-westerlies and heavy rain.

Waders took a leading role on the 1st with at least six Pectoral Sandpipers in the county including four at Siblyback Res. A brief Temminck's Stint at Drift was belatedly identified from photo's but could not be refound. Curlew Sandpipers were found at the normal wader hotspots indicating a good breeding season. All but one were first year birds.

Cornwall's 11th Blyth's Reed Warbler appeared in the famous Nanjizal nets on the 2nd. This site is the only location for all eleven records to date and now competes head on with Fair Isle and North Ronaldsay for this species.  Quite an astonishing feat in itself. A Melodious Warbler was also keeping company with the Blyth's.  (All previous Blyth's Reed records HERE ).

A Greenish Warbler was found next day at Nanjizal though it avoided the nets. Nevertheless, it was the first record for the patch and just the 10th for Cornwall. (Previous Cornwall records HERE).  Staying with rare passerines, a first year Citrine Wagtail was found at Walmsley sanctuary on the 3rd. This is Cornwall's 21st record.

First winter Blyth's Reed Warbler, Nanjizal, picture K Wilson.

First winter Citrine Wagtail, Walmsley, picture courtesy Adrian Langdon.

An incredible seawatch from the Lizard Point on the 3rd will remain in the memory bank for years to come. An astonishing 652 Great Shearwaters, 65 Balearic, 36 Sooty, 12 Cory's, an adult Sabine's Gull and two Wilson's Petrels were logged.  The cream on the cake though arrived two days later. A Band-rumped Petrel (previously Madeiran Petrel) was seen close inside the Manxie line, just beyond the reef at Lizard Point. If accepted by the authorities, this will be just the 4th for Cornwall. A Long-tailed Skua was also logged on the 5th.  A second Madeiran Petrel was seen off Killigerran Head at midday on the 5th. The timings cancel out any thought of duplication.

The southerly wind continued to push uncommon seabirds towards the south coast on the 4th. Porthgwarra did reasonably well with 132 Great Shearwater, six Cory's, three Grey Phalarope and eight Arctic Terns.  A Black Tern appeared at Drift Res., an unusual site for this species.

Cornwall's second Blyth's Reed Warbler of the year was found at a private site at the Lizard (7th). This is potentially the 12th county record and first away from Nanjizal.

The wind turned westerly on the 7th. As expected, two Leach's Petrels were seen off East Pentire. A Long-tailed Skua and 120 Great Shearwaters were logged off Porthgwarra. Low numbers of Cory's continued to be seen from the normal westerly headlands. 

The wind continued in a WNW direction on 8th and 9th September, delighting Pendeen seawatchers. The 8th started slowly in the morning. So slow that several birders left the site by midday. The wind changed subtly back to West in the afternoon resulting in a stunning passage of 20 Sabine's Gulls, five Leach's Petrels, a Roseate Tern, three Pomarine and three Long-tailed Skuas, 150 Storm Petrel, 37 Arctic Skua, 10 Cory's and 29 Great Shearwaters. Not to be outdone, Trevose, Fistral and St Agnes all recorded a Sabine's Gull and Leach's Petrels.

The following day (9th) continued with light WNW winds resulting in similar species variety but lower numbers. Nevertheless, a respectable ten Sabine's Gulls, ad Pomarine Skua, juv Long-tailed Skua, three Grey Phalaropes, three close Leach's Petrels, 38 Arctic Skua, 47 Arctic Tern, Black Tern and a couple handfuls of large shears completed a superb seawatching phase.

The first Yellow-browed Warbler of the Autumn made its way to Nanjizal on the 11th along with a Wryneck and a whopping 254 Blackcap and 57 Sedge Warbler. The latter species has seen a record 3000 individuals ringed this Autumn.  The Citrine Wagtail continued to be seen daily at Walmsley and a new Pectoral Sandpiper was found at Calstock wetlands.

The second Ortolan of the year was found near Three Chimneys on the 12th, a juv Bluethroat at Nanjizal and a juv Red-backed Shrike at Pendeen. All stayed for one day only. A Dotterel flew high over Park Head. This north coast site has had some dedicated watching recently. Patch work clearly pays as each visit turns up migrants. A first year Common Rosefinch was found at Chapel Porth on the 13th. Despite the name, this species is far from common. Just one or two Cornwall records annually is the norm.

The third Blyth's Reed Warbler of the year was claimed on the 14th at Windmill Farm. A Red-necked Phalarope was found feeding on the mud at low tide on Carnsew Pool. Sadly a misidentification delayed locals enough time to connect with this Cornwall mega. Unfortunately, it was flushed by a Peregrine and never seen again. To put this species in perspective, I've seen just two birds in 50 years. The second Greenish Warbler of the year was found at St. Levan. No fewer than five Ospreys were dotted around the county with two at Tresemple Pool giving a masterclass in fishing on the 17th.

A juv Night Heron appeared at Nanjizal, Cornwall's most reliable site for this species (18th). A Melodious Warbler was found in the willows just north of Kynance Cove. This patch is fast becoming the Lizard hippolais capital, following an adult Icterine there earlier. The second Yellow-browed Warbler was found at the Lizard and was in line with a notable fall on the English East coast. An early Lapland Bunting was also found on the Lizard.  Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day on the 19th was a Jack Snipe feeding at the edge of the mud at Drift Res.  The species is normally secretive so one feeding in the open was quite a sight.

Treraven Meadows hosted a Pectoral Sandpiper on the 23rd. Curiously, all of the Pectoral Sandpipers to date have occurred in East Cornwall. Two Glossy Ibis were at nearby Chapel Amble.  A Melodious Warbler was found at Soapy Cove, Lizard and a Sabine's Gull was seen off Pendeen. A male Surf Scoter with 109 Common Scoter was found here next day.

Some brief excitement came from Bray's Cott area on the 24th when a Pallid Harrier was reported. Analysis of photos showed some anomolies though. The general opinion was a 2nd cal year male Montagu's / Pallid Harrier hybrid.

Two Yellow-browed Warblers were found at Porthgwarra and Nanjizal on the 25th and two more the following day at Pendeen and Porthallow.  A stunning Ring Ouzel showing characteristics of the alpestris race was found at Kenidjack. A Red-breasted Flycatcher was found at the Penryn Uni campus, most likely arriving on the same weather system as the ouzel and yellow-broweds.

Ring Ouzel, Kenidjack, Sep 2022, picture courtesy Nigel Rogers.

The wind turned north westerly to north on the 26th resulting in a good seawatch at Pendeen. 47 Cory's Shearwater, juv Sabine's Gull, Long-tailed Skua and a sprinkling of Grey Phalaropes were logged.

A significant movement of 458 Balearic Shearwaters on the 30th was logged at Porthgwarra along with a Sabine's Gull. A further 66 Balearics were seen off Pendeen with two Pomarines Skuas. A solid claim for the third Band-rumped Petrel of the month came from St Ives Island on the 30th.

Finally, the second Red-necked Phalarope of the year was found at Lizard point, spending two days there, delighting Cornish listers needing this rare phalarope.

Bird of the month: Band-rumped Petrels at the Lizard, Killigerran and St Ives.

Runners-up: several candidates including three Blyth's Reed Warblers, Citrine Wagtail, two Red-necked Phalaropes and two Greenish Warblers.

Sunday, 4 September 2022

Blyth's Reed Warbler in Cornwall

 Blyth's Reed Warbler is a species of Least Concern according to Birdlife International. The species breeds in temperate Asia and Eastern Europe and winters in Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka where it is one of the most common wintering warblers. Its range is expanding westwards and this accounts for the increase in records in the UK and in Cornwall.

There are twelve records to September 2022 with the first being as recent as 2015.  Nanjizal holds the trump card as all of the first eleven records have been recorded here. 

Cornwall records:

2022: Lizard Village, seen in private garden, 7th Sep.

2022: Nanjizal, first year, trapped, 2nd Sep.

2021: Nanjizal, first year, trapped, 25th Oct.

2020: Nanjizal, trapped, 21st July.

2019: Nanjizal, first year, trapped, 27th Aug.

2019: Nanjizal, first year, trapped, 30th Sep.

2019: Nanjizal, first year, trapped, 2nd Oct.

2019: Nanjizal, first year, trapped, 27th Oct.

2017: Nanjizal, adult male, trapped, 8th Jul.

2017: Nanjizal, first year, trapped, 26th Aug.

2017: Nanjizal, first year, trapped, 17th Oct.

2015: Nanjizal, first year, trapped, 2nd Sep.

Blyth's Reed Warbler (L) compared to Reed Warbler. Pics by S Rogers and K Wilson.

Monday, 29 August 2022

Paddyfield Warbler in Cornwall

 A first winter Paddyfiled Warbler was trapped at Nanjizal on 29th August 2022. There are seven previous records of this rare acrocephalus warbler, the last being in 2016, when two were trapped at Nanjizal. Nationally, there are 119 accepted records in the UK with another five in Ireland. Birdlife International designate the species as of "Least Concern".

Nanjizal, Aug 2022, Image courtesy Reuben Veal and K Wilson

Cornwall records:

2022: Nanjizal, juv, 29th Aug, trapped.

2020: *

2016: Nanjizal, juv, 7th Sep. trapped.

2016: Nanjizal, juv. 20th Oct. trapped.

2014: Nanjizal, juv. 31st Aug. trapped.

2012: Church Cove, Lizard, adult, 8th-13th Oct.

2004: Brew Pool, Sennen, 14th Oct.

2001: Cot Valley, 15th Nov.

1996: Long Rock Pool: 16th Nov-27th Dec, trapped.

The 1996 bird eventually succumbed to cold weather, along with the Sedge Warbler it associated with (the then latest Cornwall date for Sedge Warbler). The Paddyfield Warbler record was the latest UK record at the time.  It was trapped and ringed on the 16th Nov. A full detailed report of this first record for Cornwall appears in Birds in Cornwall 1996 by D S Flumm.

The species breeds from the Black Sea, Ukraine, Southern Russia and eastwards towards Kazakhstan and the Indian sub-Continent.  It winters in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan.

* 2020: A Paddyfield Warbler seen at Porthgwarra 22nd Sep 2020 is still to be submitted.

Thursday, 18 August 2022

Recent Aquatic Warbler records in Cornwall

 Aquatic Warbler is a Red Data species and is one of the rarest and only internationally threatened passerine bird found in Europe. Its population is falling because of habitat loss and drainage of key wetlands.  70% of the world population breeds in the Polesie region of South Belarus. The species breeds in Eastern Europe and winters in West Africa.  In theory this means a westerly passage route via south west England but in recent years, the species has become a major rarity, presumably due to further decline.

Aquatic Warbler, Nanjizal, picture courtesy Reuben Veal.

In Cornwall there are just shy of 250 records since 1951. This seems a lot, but a quick analysis reveals that records have been slim this century. There was a total blank period in Cornwall from 2003 to 2011 and thereafter just seven birds up to 2022, just one being found in the field.

Marazion Marsh is by far the best site with 176 records.  These records accumulated when constant ringing took place here.  Stithians Reservoir has 17 records, 12 of which were found in 1976 (when eight birds were ringed).  Nanjizal had just two records by 2003.  The common theme here is that the species is shy on passage and doesn't give itself up easily. Trapping seems to be the only method where Aquatics are regularly found.

Cornwall records since 2003:

2003: Nanjizal, one trapped 27th Sep.

2011: Marazion Marsh, two juvs trapped 22nd and 23rd Aug.

2012: Gunwalloe, juv trapped 23rd Aug and subsequently re-trapped in Autumn 2013, on migration in France. 

2012: Marazion Marsh, juv trapped 12th Aug.

2015: Lizard, first cal. bird found and photo'd in the field by Tony Blunden, 3rd Oct.

2018: Nanjizal, first cal. trapped, 29th Aug .

2019: Nanjizal, trapped, 7th Sep.

2022: Nanjizal, first cal. trapped, 15th Aug. (6th record for Nanjizal). Retrapped 25th Aug.

Records courtesy CBWPS reports, Derek Julian's and Dave Parker's personal totals and my own records.

Tuesday, 16 August 2022

Birding highlights in Cornwall August 2022

 August weather started typically warm and humid with a westerly airflow.  Mid month was exceptionally hot, leading to more humidity and an almost tropical feel. End of the month saw the wind shift to easterly with high pressure.

The Least Sandpiper was present on the 1st for its sixth day at Drift. A Wood Sandpiper and up to seven Green Sandpipers were keeping good company. A juv Garganey and two Shoveler were also seen together at Drift on the 2nd.

Seawatching took precedence on the 2nd when the wind switched to south westerly.  A Fea's type Petrel was seen off Pendeen at 8.35am and a decent haul of 176 Cory's Shearwaters off Porthgwarra. A further 40 Cory's and 11 Balearic were counted off the Lizard. A possible Fea's Petrel was also seen at 13:55 off Porthgwarra.

Rare seabirds continued to be found on the 3rd.  A long overdue Caspian Tern was seen flying past the Lizard point and a Wilson's Petrel was found in relatively calm conditions off Pendeen. So calm that no locals thought it worthwhile visiting this famous headland. Rame Head also scored well with two Long-tailed Skuas, a first summer and second summer.  The Least Sandpiper remained until 3rd August, lasting eight days, despite disturbance from idiots birding from the front of the hide and walking the shingle margins.  A healthy 11 Green Sandpipers and three Wood Sandpipers visited Drift on the 7th.

An unusual record at Nanjizal during the first week of August involved a male Black-headed Wagtail (Feldegg) seen on several occasions. Even more odd was female of the same race and another female, possible a Blue-headed type associating together.  The first wandering Rosy Starling appeared at St Buryan on the 5th.

Early passerines on the 7th and 8th included a Pied Flycatcher at Porthgwarra, Garden Warbler at Kenidjack, Lesser Whitethroat at Pendeen, three Tree Pipit at Nanjizal and a juv Cuckoo at Bartinney.

A Spotted Crake was seen at Nanjizal pond on the 10th. This species is decidedly difficult to come by these days, averaging about one a year. Marazion marsh was once the place to find them but sadly this site is just a shadow of its former self. There are previous records of Spotted Crake at Nanjizal, so its not an unprecedented record here.  Staying with Nanjizal, a sizable 113 Sedge Warblers were also ringed on the 10th.  The start of a respectable passage of Green Sandpipers also began on the 10th with 17 at Drift and 23 on 13th.

An adult Icterine Warbler was found on the 11th by Lizard stalwart Dave Collins. This county rarity was just reward for the hours of patch work by Dave. It was still present on the 13th. An influx of Pied Flycatchers arrived on the 11th with a maximum of five at Nanjizal.

Ad. Icterine Warbler, Kynance, picture by finder Dave Collins.

Two Common Nightingales were trapped in the Nanjizal nets on the 13th. This site is the number one spot for Nightingales. More migrants appear here than any other location in Cornwall (possibly the uk?). Another Nightingale was trapped at Nanjizal on the 14th, this time a control from Rutland Water. A fourth bird was found at Pendeen.

Common Nightingale, Nanjizal, Picture by Reuben Veal

An impressive haul of Green Sandpipers were counted at Drift Res. on the 13th. At least 23 were seen with four Wood Sandpipers for good measure. Another Wood Sandpiper was seen at Marazion marsh, an unusual site for this species.  The extreme heat has dried up the small isolated ponds and as such is the likely explanation for so many waders finding their way to Drift and Stithians.  Returning Ospreys were seen at Tresillian and Drift.

A Stunning Black Kite was photographed well at Drift Res. on the 14th.  Sadly it was misidentified and submitted as a Marsh Harrier, meaning no locals would see it.

 Pied Flycatchers and Whinchats continued to be found in low numbers in the normal coastal valleys on the 14th.

Bird of the month candidate for the lucky few was a stunning Aquatic Warbler trapped in the nets at Nanjizal on the 15th. In line with several national records this month, it was only time before one was found in Cornwall. 

Aquatic is indeed a prize find. The last record was also at Nanjizal: 1CY trapped 7th Sept 2019; then another 1CY trapped by E. Inzani, processed by Pete Rosevear 29th Aug 2018.  Before that, a 1CY photographed in the field on the Lizard 3rd October 2015 (T Blunden).  The last record from Marazion was way back on August 12th 2012 (also trapped).   Marazion Marsh was once THE place to find Aquatics but has since been knocked off the perch.  No less than six recent records have come from the nets at Nanjizal.

1CY Aquatic Warbler, 6th for Nanjizal, all pictures courtesy Reuben Veal.

Seawatching started a new phase on the 14th with a Wilson's Petrel and adult Sabine's Gull off Pendeen. 42 Storm Petrels were seen here in the evening. Another adult Sabine's Gull was seen on the 15th along with a flurry of Arctic and Common Terns. 120 Storm Petrels were also counted. A Black Tern, one Cory's and one Great Shearwater were seen off Porthgwarra on the 16th.

The wind shifted to North and up to 30mph on the 17th. Two Wilson's Petrels was seen with 89 Euro Stormies off Pendeen, plus another Sabine's Gull.

Events changed for the better on the 18th.  The south coast was the place to be. Sea temperature graphics for the period showed a warmer belt of water stretching from West Africa to the south west approaches. Predictably a Desertas/Fea's type Petrel was seen off Porthgwarra, and it or another was seen later in the afternoon here.  If that wasn't enough, two Wilson's Petrels were seen.  The start of a decent passage of large shear's included 26 Cory's and 50 Greats.  Lizard Point scored with four Great Shearwaters.

Adult Wilson's Petrel, Falmouth Bay, Picture by Jon Irvine.

A Wilson's Petrel lingered off Porthgwarra on the 19th and 20th, whilst four more Wilson's were seen well and photographed from the AK pelagic out of Falmouth. The Desertas/Fea's Petrel was seen again on the 20th late afternoon, prompting a large twitch the following day.  Those assembled early enough were treated to close views of the Pterodroma. More memorable was the tussle with an Arctic Skua for a couple minutes.  Six Wilson's Petrels, 389 Great Shearwaters, 156 Balearics and 46 Sooty Shearwater completed a stunning day.  At least ten Wilson's Petrel were counted off Southerly Point, Lizard, but interestingly, less than a handful of large Shears were seen. Finally, a single Wilson's was seen off Pendeen, completing a record haul of at least 17 birds from mainland Cornwall.

Desertas /Fea's type Petrel, Pothgwarra, Aug 2022, picture by Nigel Rogers.

A juv Long-tailed Skua was seen off Rame Head and possibly the same bird seen later off the Lizard (21st).

Almost unnoticed among the seawatching hysteria was a Red-backed Shrike at Caerthillian, Wryneck at Nanjizal and a secretive Melodious Warbler at Kenidjack.

Rare seabirds continued to be seen on Monday 22nd.  The Desertas/Fea's Petrel was seen off the Scillonian near Land's End and a high count of 151 Cory's Shearwater passed Porthgwarra.  Three Wilson's Petrel were seen from the ever-productive AK Wildlife pelagic in Falmouth Bay. 

94 Balearics were counted off Downderry on the 23rd. South East Cornwall is a productive area for this species, indicating that Balearic Shearwater enters the Channel further east than the large shears.  Finally, a single Wilson's was seen off St Agnes Head on the 23rd, rounding off an incredible period for rare seabirds.

The start of a notable passage of Black Terns began on the 24th with a single off Pendeen.  Three were seen off Newquay on the 26th and an impressive 20 in four flocks off Pendeen.  This species has become scarce in recent years, prompting the Society rarities committee to consider requesting descriptions.

A Sabine's Gull, four Grey Phalaropes, 22 Cory's Shearwaters and a Little Tern were seen off Pendeen on the 25th. The little Tern Spent some time feeding near the Three Stone Oare.

A Melodious Warbler was trapped at Nanjizal on the 26th. It had a fat score of 6 indicating that it had been feeding well locally. This bird could conceivably be the recent Kenidjack bird relocating. The First Little Stint of the year appeared at Drift.  A Little Tern found at Hayle Estuary later relocated to Porthkidney.

Two Dotterels were observed near Windmill Farm on the 28th and two juv Pectoral Sandpipers were found at Siblyback Lake.  A third Dotterel was flying around the Land's End area. A healthy seven Curlew Sandpipers at Hayle and a Temminck's Stint at Maer Lake rounded off a notable arrival of waders.

An Ortolan Bunting was found on private land near Skewjack on the 28th and a mini arrival of Wrynecks were also found in West Penwith. The top prize came on the 29th when a stunning first winter Paddyfield Warbler was pulled out of the Nanjizal net. What a fantastic time Nanjizal is having!  Continuing with the run of rare passerines, a juv Woodchat was found at Carn Owles and considered to be the badius (Balearic) form.

A Little Tern appeared at Drift Res, an unusual location for this species on the 30th.  Two Spoonbills appeared at Hayle Estuary and the Gannel Estuary.

First winter Paddyfield Warbler, Nanjizal, Aug 2022, picture courtesy Reuben Veal and Kester Wilson.

In summary, August was an exciting month with some fantastic seawatching, rare waders and a sprinkling of rare passerines.

Bird of the Month: Fea's / Desertas type Petrel seen several times at Porthgwarra delighting scores of birders.

Runners up: Paddyfield Warbler and Aquatic Warbler at Nanjizal, Caspian Tern off the Lizard.

Sunday, 31 July 2022

Birding highlights in Cornwall July 2022

 July weather started with a westerly airflow but changed to a north easterly airflow in the second week, often with blisteringly hot conditions. The 18th July turned out to be the second hottest ever day in the UK's history of weather records.  From the 24th to 31st, the weather changed to a westerly direction.

THE FIRST notable seabird of the month was a Long-tailed Skua off the Lizard on the 2nd, presumably a non breeding Bird. Out of season ducks included a Greater Scaup at Stithians and Red-breasted Merganser at Carnsew Pool on the 3rd. 

Returning waders started to trickle through from the 5th July. Stithians is always a good place to search as the water level drops quickly here in the summer. Two Little Ringed Plover, Ruff, two Common Sandpiper and Green Sandpiper were found here on the 5th.  Tresemple Pool hosted 35 Redshank and three Greenshank on the 6th. The non breeding female Marsh Harrier continued its summer at Walmsley.

A Quail was heard singing at Pentire on the 9th and a dark morph female Honey Buzzard was seen flying over Nanjizal. An adult Purple Heron was also seen here on the 11th (5th record this year). Two more returning Little Ringed Plovers were seen in the Foxhole area on the 13th. The species doesn't breed in the county but certainly passes through in respectable numbers.

A small Cory's / putative Scopoli's Shearwater was photographed at distance off the Scillonian, near Wolf Rock on the 13th.  Three photo's suggested a Scopoli's based on the small size, smallish bill and a relatively large amount of white in the primaries. Its unlikely to progress further though as the photo's weren't conclusive.

An adult Honey Buzzard flew over Devoran on the 16th and Purple Heron at Nanjizal the same day were the scant highlights of pretty barren week. 21 Gadwall fledged at Nanjizal pools.  Wader passage continued in small numbers at Drift with Little Ringed Plover, two Green Sandpiper and three Common Sandpiper.

Presumably the same non breeding Purple Heron seen at Nanjizal on the 11th and 16th was seen flying eastwards over Sennen on the 18th at 08:50 and later at Porth Reservoir at 10:50. At least five Purple Herons have been seen this year in the county. The numbers reflect a general increase across the UK. Somerset now has breeding birds on the Levels.

Northern Wheatears appear to have done well locally with fledged young birds reported at The Lizard, Kenidjack, Pendeen and Porthgwarra.

The wind shifted briefly to south west on the 19th and a Cory's Shearwater was promptly seen off Mousehole. Four Balaeric Shearwater and a Sooty Shearwater were seen off Porthgwarra on the 23rd.

The wind strengthened from the south west on the 24th. Porthgwarra was again the place to be. The highest single day count for the last ten years of around 370 Cory's Shearwater was logged. In addition, 26 Sooty Shearwater, 12 Balearic and six Great made for a memorable day. Just one skua though surely reflects the unfolding bird-flu disaster happening at the top of the food chain.

Cory's Shearwater, pic by Steve Rogers.

The wind changed direction again on the 25th. Pendeen scored with 15 each of Cory's, Great and Sooty.  122 Euro Stormy's were also counted here but Pentire, Newquay fared better with a Wilson's Petrel. This is the first Wilson's for the year. Skuas were again low on numbers with just one Arctic and four Great.

The last big year for Cory's was 2011 when a total of 1437 were logged for the year.  This included a massive 800 at Porthgwarra on 6th July 2011. In contrast, less than 50 were recorded in 2010. Thus, this species is prone to irruptions based on food availability and sea temperature.

The month end saw the normal passage of returning Willow Warblers. 64 were counted at Porthgwarra on the 26th and a decent haul of 95 were trapped at Nanjizal.  The following day the nets were put out around the pond and a surprise male Black-headed Wagtail was trapped.

The star bird of the month was found on the 27th. An adult Least Sandpiper was eventually identified at Drift Reservoir.  Initially considered to be a Temminck's Stint, photos soon appeared online and its true identity confirmed. This is a superb find and represents just the 9th Cornwall record.  The last record was in 2006 when a long stayer juv. commuted between Hayle and Copperhouse.

The month ended with a Wilson's Petrel at Pendeen on the 30th, two Cory's Shearwaters and a single Great Shearwater here on the 31st.  At Porthgwarra, 105 Cory's were logged.  The Glossy Ibis remained at Maer Lake.

Least Sandpiper, Drift, July 2022, picture by Joe Jones.

Bird of the Month: Least Sandpiper
Runner up: Cory's Shearwaters in higher than normal numbers.