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.

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.

Thursday, 28 July 2022

Least Sandpiper at Drift Reservoir 27th July 2022

 A quiet July eventually sprang in to action when a Temminck's Stint was reported at Drift Reservoir. As is normal these days, photo's soon appeared on the internet and chat groups. Questions were asked when the tail pattern, especially the lack of white outer tail feathers, didn't quite fit with Temminck's, itself a rare wader in Cornwall. Long-toed Stint was also mooted as a potential confusion species. Eventually the ID was confirmed with more photographs as an adult Least Sandpiper based on the white supercilium meeting across the forehead, the call, jizz and the lack of white sides in the tail.

Thanks to Nigel Rogers and Dave Flumm as the original finders.

Least Sandpiper, Drift Res, (picture by Joe Jones).

This record is the 9th Least Sandpiper to occur in Cornwall, the last being 16 years ago at Copperhouse and Hayle from Sep 17th - Oct 15th 2006.

All records:

2022: Drift Res, adult, July 27th - Aug 3rd.

2006: Hayle and Copperhouse, juv, Sep 17th-Oct 15th.

1993: Hayle Est., first winter, Sep 22nd-Oct 4th.

1991: Landulph, adult, Aug 25th.

1986: Portscatho, 1st winter moulting to first summer, Feb 9th-Apr 20th.

1983: College Res, 1st winter, 3rd-9th Sep.

1966: Camel Est, Sep 13th-22nd

1890: Mousehole, caught by a fisherman, September.

1853: Marazion Marsh, 10th Oct, shot. Apparently this record is the first for Britain and Europe.

Least Sandpiper breeds in sub-Arctic and boreal habitats from Canada to Alaska and winters in northern South America, Mexico, Central America, Caribbean and southern North America states. Many migrate in the Autumn direct from south east Canada over the west Atlantic towards South America.

Monday, 4 July 2022

Madeira WindBirds seabirding trip report 25th-28th June 2022

The following is a trip report from a visit to Madeira in June 2022. 

A group of six birders from West Cornwall booked three days with the well known Madeira Windbirds tours and an additional day-tripper sailing to Desertas Island. Windbirds always depart Machico harbour at 3pm and the Bonita da Madeira departs Funchal at 9am. 

We spent seven days in Madeira but this amount of time is unnecessary if its just seabirds you're after. Away from the coast, there's limited birdlife and all of it can be mopped up in a single morning. Any future trips would be for five days maximum.

Windbirds is a professional company specialising in watching seabirds and cetaceans. Hugo and Catarina set up the company18 years ago with a ten-seater, 11 metre rib. Two powerful outboard motors get you 25 miles offshore in approx. 90 mins. The team have exact coordinates of the best places to bird.  

You need full waterproof kit including leggings.  Essentially, you are going to get soaking wet, especially on the South side return leg or when you bird the North of the island on the outward leg. There's no formulae on which side to sit. If its windy, you'll get wet.  I wore deck shoes but a pair of crocks or old sandels is fine. (Your feet will also get wet). A wet bag is also essential for your kit.

Windbirds use a tried and tested method of chumming from a floating bucket of diced fish, laced with fish oil. The bucket is re filled several times during the five hour session.  The rib remains alongside the bucket throughout and never leaves the chum slick. The chum slick is created and pretty soon, the petrels and shearwaters arrive.

Bonita da Madeira is a large day tripper boat specialising in trips to Desertas Grande. The captain will pursue cetaceans or seabirds of interest but keep a respectful distance. The ship lands passengers on Desertas Grande island with a useful and knowledgeable guide to the island's wildlife. We were shown Bulwer's and Cory's breeding burrows. We also saw 12 Desertas Petrels and hundreds of Cory's on the voyage over to the island.  For 80 euros, its well worth it. A free cooked meal and wine is also offered. Well recommended.

The following species accounts give some idea of what can be seen:

Desertas Petrel. Over the four days at sea ie. 25th, 26th, 27th and 28th June, we saw 12, 4, 4, 6 birds respectively. Some views were distant and others reasonably close to the boat.  The name Pterodroma is Greek for Wind Bird, and as the name suggests, these birds thrive in high winds and power through the chum slick at impressive speeds. Some circle round the chum bucket but generally move on quickly. You have to be quick off the mark with id. and any photography.  The species breeds on Bugio Island, which is one of the three Desertas islands (adjacent to Desertas Grande).

Desertas Petrel, June 2022 (picture courtesy P Clement)

Desertas Petrel, June 2022, picture by Steve Rogers

Zino's Petrel: Over the four days at sea ie. 25th, 26th, 27th and 28th June, we saw 0, 2, 3, 2 birds respectively and had some really good close views. This species is the number one target for visiting birders. Up to date information from birders at the breeding site on the Madeiran mountain estimate around 80 breeding pairs and a total of just 300 birds. Thus, this species is super rare and extremely vulnerable, especially to feral cats and rodents on the mountain where it breeds.

We visited the mountain breeding site at midnight to listen to them calling. Whilst the conditions of rain, mist and strong wind weren't ideal, we did hear the mournful sounds coming from the burrows. The visit is organised by Hugo and Catarina. (50 Euros.)

Zino's Petrel, June 2022, picture by S Rogers

Zino's Petrel, June 2022, picture by P Clement

Bulwer's Petrel: Over the four days at sea ie. 25th, 26th, 27th and 28th June, we saw hundreds daily. The species breeds locally on Desertas Island and becomes easier further out in deeper water. Bulwer's visits the chum bucket  and affords close views. That said, its a very tricky bird to photo. Its crazed flight at super speed means only the best modern cameras keep up with it. I took about 500 shots of Bulwer's and just a dozen were acceptable. We were shown a nest site on Desertas in a stone wall with a bird sitting on the nest.

Bulwer's Petrel, the only photo showing a wedge shaped tail, image by M Ahmad.

Bulwer's Petrel, June 2022, pic by Steve Rogers.

Bulwer's Petrel, June 2022, pic by Steve Rogers.

Madeiran Storm Petrel: This species is a prime target and despite local breeding, is surprisingly difficult to connect with. We saw just two birds on the last day. Both visited the chum slick, one staying for 20 minutes giving stunning views. Bob Flood from Scilly Pelagics also saw one the following week. This species was a key target for us as there are a couple Cornwall records. We wanted to familiarise ourselves just in case one flies past Pendeen! 

Windbirds' skill and experience in approaching this species at the chum bucket was perfect, manoeuvring the rib perfectly to obtain the best views.

MADEIRAN Petrel(Image by Marcus Nash).

Madeiran Petrel (image by Steve Rogers).
Madeiran Storm Petrels, lower left by Marcus Nash, rest by Steve Rogers, June 2022.

European Storm Petrel: Just one was seen on day 2.

Wilson's Storm Petrel: One adult in moult was seen on day 3. It visited the chum bucket and regularly worked the chum slick for a 30 minutes affording excellent views, sometimes close.

Wilson's Petrel, June 2022, pictures by Steve Rogers.

Cory's Shearwater: The second commonest seabird behind Bulwer's Petrel. Large rafts of scores and occasionally hundreds of birds seen. There were more on the northern pelagic return leg. Perhaps a couple thousand near the narrow channel linking north and south of the island. This was the largest concentration we saw.  Visits to the chum bucket gave stunning close views.

Cory's Shearwater pictures, June 2022, Madeira, by Steve Rogers.

Manx Shearwater: No more than ten birds seen over the four days. The species is suspected of breeding on Madeira but as yet unproven. Regular summer records suggest otherwise.

Little Shearwater: None seen on our trips but Niall Keogh found one on a ferry trip from Madeira to Porto Santo. One was also seen well from the Windbirds pelagic the following week. Little Shearwater is a prize find and is not guaranteed.

White-faced Storm Petrel: None seen.

Rock Sparrow: One pair seen on the walk to the east end of the island, about 1k from the turning circle car parking area. Berthelot's Pipit and Canary also seen here.

Rock Sparrow, nr Calical, Madeira June 2022, picture by Steve Rogers.

Trocaz Pigeon: We saw a few at Palheiro Gardens north of Funchal and singles dotted around the vast mountain forests.  Madeiran Firecrest was also seen and heard here.

Peregrine Falcon: We saw two on the coast at Machico. Apparently this species is rare here. Hugo and Catarina stopped the rib to photo it. We also saw the occasional Sparrowhawk, Common Buzzard and Kestrels. A moribund House Martin found on the Desertas Grande shoreline was unusual.

In summary, this is a relatively easy place to fly to, fairly cheap living and easily accessible with a hire car. Depending on your culinary and drinking habits, the total trip cost from door to door shouldn't cost more than about £1200. Well worth it.

Thursday, 23 June 2022

Birding highlights in Cornwall June 2022

 June weather started warm and settled with an easterly airflow. The 18th saw an abrupt change with an unseasonal northerly airflow, often cold and wet. The 21st saw a return to hot and sunny conditions but changed again on the 24th to a westerly airflow.

THE FIRST rarity of the month was a female Rustic Bunting at Nanjizal on the 3rd. Two Rosy Starlings together at the Lizard and a Common Nightingale at nearby Kynance were also seen on the 3rd. The Red Kite influx disappeared as quickly as the arrival.  Maximum count was just seven over Sancreed.

The European Roller was last reported on the 29th May at Praze-an-Beeble completing a seven day stay.  An unsubstantiated report of another Roller came on the 2nd between Port Navas and Lamanva.

The drake Garganey seems settled at Marazion Marsh in its third week. Its been calling\singing\displaying to female Mallards during its long stay. An unseasonal Pochard appeared at Par Beach pool and a Goosander at Newquay boating lake (6th).

An unsubstantiated, late report of a Red-footed Falcon appeared on the 5th of an apparent 2cy male at Carn-les-Boel.  Hopefully some supporting description and photos appear later on this exciting falcon.

The singing male Nightingale was still performing at Kynance on the 6th. A Turtle Dove was showing at nearby Lizard village and the first Sooty Shearwater of the summer season appeared at Lizard point.

A male Red-footed Falcon was seen over Trevellas, St Agnes on the 8th, perhaps the same bird reported on the 5th?  A European Bee-eater was hunting over fields at Troon, Camborne and at nearby Redruth, a stunning adult Rosy Starling visited a private garden.  An unseasonal Tundra Bean Goose spent the day at Hayle Estuary on the 12th.

Cornwall's seventh Pacific Golden Plover was found at Stithians Reservoir on the 15th. It was present next day and delighted a good number of visitors.  It looked settled late in the evening of the 16th but departed overnight and wasn't seen again. FULL REPORT here A Quail was also heard singing in the fields to the east of the reservoir (15th).

Red Kites continued to be recorded throughout June in single digit numbers.  A non breeding Great White Egret was seen on the 20th and 21st at Lower/Upper Tamar Lake and a Glossy Ibis was reported from Carharrack on the 19th.

An Icterine Warbler was heard singing at the seaward end of Nanjizal on the 22nd. This species has become quite a rarity in recent years. The county will be lucky to record even one annual sighting.

The 25th saw a change in weather. A strong westerly airflow resulted in numbers of Cory's Shearwaters appearing at South facing seawatch sites. Predictably, Porthgwarra scored well with seven Cory's, 1 Pomarine Skua and one Sooty Shearwater.  Two more Cory's were seen at Downderry early morning.

The 26th was easily the best seawatching day so far this year. A probable Fea's Petrel, 46 Cory's Shearwater and an adult Sabines's Gull passed Porthgwarra.  An unseasonal Snow Bunting was also seen and heard calling. A further 36 Cory's were counted in the afternoon along with a Sooty Shearwater and two Arctic Skuas. Further Cory's included three at the Lizard, eight from Tater Du and two from Pendeen.  88 Cory's were logged at Porthgwarra on the 27th.  Just single numbers were recorded the next day.

Bird of the month: Pacific Golden Plover.   

Runner up: Early and unseasonally high numbers of Cory's Shearwater.

Sunday, 19 June 2022

Birding highlights in Cornwall May 2022

 May weather started with a light westerly breeze, generally cool. A light south easterly wind on the 8th changed course to south or south-west mid month and was generally quite dull and surprisingly cold. The month end finally saw long periods of sunshine and an easterly airflow.

May opened its account on the 1st with a Red-rumped Swallow at Marazion Marsh.  Its the seventh for the Spring in Cornwall.  The second Common Nightingale was found at Mawgan Porth following an earlier very showy bird on the Lizard in April. A Hoopoe was heard singing at Nanjizal on the 2nd. An analysis of all the Spring Hoopoe sightings suggests at least 20 different birds have been seen. The only other highlight on Bank Holiday Monday was a Richard's Pipit at Windmill Farm, Lizard. 

Returning wader numbers have been very low. One notable absence is Whimbrel. Just three birds were seen on Marazion beach on the 3rd May.  This traditional stop-off site normally hosts hundreds in early May. 24 were seen at Cape Cornwall on the 4th.

The fifth Woodchat Shrike of the season was found at Kynance, Lizard on the 4th. The "wintering" Black Guillemot was still lingering off Swanpool/Maenporth and the 2CY Iceland Gull was still in the Sennen area. A Little Ringed Plover flew in off the sea calling at Land's End whilst two more were seen at Devoran. A drake Garganey was also at Devoran on the 4th. The only bird of note on the 5th was a "new" Hoopoe at Polzeath. 

The first arrival of Swifts began on the 7th though hardly in large numbers. There were no double figure reports. Bird of the day on the 7th was a singing male Lesser Whitethroat at Long Rock pool. The first week of May must go down as one of the quietest birding periods on record.  Every bird family seemed to be woefully short in numbers.

The wind direction changed to easterly on the 8th and favoured a raptor movement.  A fresh sprinkling of 2CY, ie non breeding, Red Kites trickled in to the county along with Marazion's second Marsh Harrier, and a handful of Ospreys.  The undoubted highlight though was a male Montagu's Harrier,  a 3CY bird found at Trewey Common. It most likely relates to a report from Pendeen of a"grey male" on the 2nd. This rare bird of prey is now extinct as a British breeder.  It last bred in Cornwall in the '70s. To put it in context, this is just my third Cornwall record.

Montagu's Harrier 3CY / Adult, Trewey Common, May 2022, picture courtesy Alan James.

The popular Montagu's Harrier at Trewey continued to show well on the 9th and 10th. A Red Kite and Black Kite flew east directly above the harrier on the 10th.  Black Kite is on the increase with annual county sightings the norm.  This could be due to Black Kites associating with the adult red's arriving from the continent in late March and early April. There have been several reports of Black Kite across the county.  I have now seen a Black Kite in each of the last four years and found two of them.

picture courtesy Peter Clement.

The female Marsh Harrier was still present at Marazion Marsh on the 10th, for its third day. Another female Marsh Harrier flew through Woon Gumpus on the 10th and a Night Heron was flushed from the same site, also 10th. The Night Heron is the second record this Spring following one at Nanjizal.

Black Kite, Trewey, May 2022, pic courtesy Sam Williams.

The First Pomarine Skua of the month was seen at Downderry on the 11th.  The numbers of Spring Poms has declined drastically in recent years. One bird by mid May is an all time low though. An Arctic Skua was seen the same day off Porthgwarra.  A Hoopoe was seen from a "new" location at Coverack.

The 14th was a notable raptor day with the popular Montagu's Harrier performing to all its admirers at Trewey. The roaming Black Kite was seen at Bartinney, a female Marsh Harrier at Marazion marsh and another female at Walmsley. A migrant Short-eared Owl was resting up at Land's End.  

Arguably one of the most important finds of the season was a singing male Wood Warbler on territory on Bodmin Moor. The last proven breeding in Cornwall was in 2000.

Sunday 15th saw a small fall of Spotted Flycatchers across the county. Notably four at Nanquidno, three at Kenidjack, Bosisto Lane, Otterham Station and a resident pair at Croft Pascoe. The First Turtle Dove of the season was found at St Buryan and the "resident" Hoopoe was still calling in the Nanjizal area.  The first Garganey of the year at Marazion marsh was found on the 16th and still present on the 31st. It was seen displaying and calling to a female Mallard.  Surprisingly, this is the first record of Garganey for two years here.

A first summer male singing Golden Oriole was found near Lamorna on the 17th and another was found at Carn Eames, Pendeen on the 19th.  A second bird on the 19th was also found at Drift.  I also had the briefest of views of another at Lands End but it flew straight in to Swingates, never to be seen again.(14th).

Golden Oriole (library pic by S. Rogers)

The 18th and 19th delivered a respectable fall of scarce migrants and one mega around the Lizard.  In addition to the Golden Orioles above, a Nightingale was found at Lizard village, the third Purple Heron at nearby Bray's Cott, Serin at the point, Hooded Crow and Rosy Starling at Man of War View and finally two Quails at Penberth and Treen. A Collared Pratincole was reported from an unknown source in the evening at Predannack, Lizard but sadly it flew on northwards. There were no photos or further reports. The last twitchable county record was way back in 1986 at the Camel Estuary so this species remains a highly prized find.

Undoubtedly the best weekend of the Spring came on 20th/21st/22nd. The wind shifted to south east and with extreme heat in Spain, some decent rarities were found.  Another Golden Oriole was singing and sound recorded at Lamorna. A Bee-eater and Red-rumped Swallow (8th this Spring) were in the Land's End and Polgigga area on Saturday 21st, though neither lingered. The following day, the 6th Woodchat was found near Ardensawah. A Quail was photographed well, unusually out in the open at Porthgwarra. A sub adult Egyptian Vulture was seen over Devoran on the 22nd.

On the 23rd, sensational news was announced when an adult male European Roller was found in the unlikely location of Clowance Estate. FULL DETAILS here.

Roller, Clowance Estate, pic by Mike McKee.

The month end saw the now annual influx of Red Kites. This exciting spectacle has been occurring since 2003 when non breeding birds venture away from their natal breeding grounds and funnel down to the south west.  The event is also likely to be driven by warm, high pressure systems. Land's End area on the 29th was the place to be with as many as 300 birds in the air. The same day saw an Osprey, Hobby and Red-footed Falcon, probable Pallid Harrier in the same area and also a Honey Buzzard near Bodmin. The Black Kite popped up again at Marazion. Two more Golden Orioles were seen at Nanjizal bringing the total to approx six.  A male Common Rosefinch was seen briefly and heard singing at Pendeen Carn.

Four Bee-eaters were found in the Sennen area on the 30th in the morning. They were clearly on the move as an hour later, were found on Scilly. A single bird was in the Sennen area on the 31st.

Finally, a belated April Fool's joke on the 31st came from the Lizard when a Long-legged Buzzard was claimed. "No plumage details were noted as it was very flighty".

In summary, May finally ended up an exciting month with several scarce migrants and one stand out rarity. On the negative side, common passage migrants were again woefully short in number.

Bird of the month: European Roller at Clowance.

Runner up: Montagu's Harrier at Bosporthennis, Trewey.

European Roller at Clowance Estate, 23rd May 2022

 On 23rd May, an adult male Roller was found on the disused golf course at Clowance Estate, Praze an Beeble. By chance, a visitor noticed it feeding on the lawn, took a few record shots and put the news out on Facebook. A couple local birders connected in the evening. Luckily it was still present next morning. 

European Roller, courtesy Mike McKee.

Roller, Clowance Estate, May 2022 (pic courtesy Nigel Rogers).
Image courtesy Alan James

Image courtesy Alan James

It remained faithful to a wide area of mixed woodland and open glades. It would go missing for a long periods while it fed in the large weedy field adjacent to the estate.  It would also show for long periods while it presumably digested its food.

The appearance was more than welcome in what has been a strange Spring, characterised by very few common migrants, a handful of scarce migrants and just one other major BB rarity (Egyptian Vulture at Devoran).  

The lead up to the Roller's appearance is relatively straightforward to pinpoint. The preceeding wind was from a North West direction. On Friday there was an easterly airflow through the Mediterranean, presumably pushing migrants westwards. The easterly airflow continued through France on Sunday 23rd but eventually hit the Atlantic north westerlies, effectively grounding any migrants.  There has also been extreme hot temperatures in The Iberian peninsula. Other rarities on Scilly and Cornwall at the same time included Short-toed Lark, Black-headed Bunting, Thunbergi race Wagtail, Red-rumped Swallow, Bee-eater, Woodchat Shrike and fresh hirundine numbers.

Roller is rare in Cornwall with the last record in 1994 at Penlee Point.  The 1992 Roller on the Lizard was present for nearly two weeks and famously suppressed. We then have to time travel back to 1976 when one was found feeding on freshly cut hay for two days at Lanlivery.  Thus the Clowance bird is a welcome Cornish tick for nearly everyone and the 5th record in recent times (12th in total).

The species breeds in Iberia, south France and north west Africa and eastwards to South west Siberia. Winters in tropical Africa.

Records for Cornwall are as follows:

1765. Helston Moor: Shot.

1822: nr Falmouth 4th October.

1844: St. Levan 15th October.

1853: St Just in Penwith 15th October.

1861: Land's End June.

1865: Logan Rock mid September.

1887: St Buryan October.


1967: Bodmin Moor, Manor Common 12-13th June.

1976: Lanlivery, 1st to 2nd June.

1992: Lizard Downs, first summer, 27th May to 8th June. (suppressed).

1994: Penlee Point, Rame, 29th May.

2022: Clowance Estate, Praze an Beeble, 23rd to 29th May.

There have also been a few claims rejected eg. Mount Edgcumbe July 2001, Tehidy and Chapel Amble.

A note of thanks also to the Clowance Estate manager who kindly allowed full access to birders to enjoy this special visitor and the finder Ali Wright for putting the news out.