Wednesday, 10 May 2023

Birding Highlights in Cornwall May 2023

 The Squacco Heron and star bird of April carried over in to May and performed well for the many visitors.  Philip Hambly, the owner of Lethytep reserve collected £400 for Cancer Research and was delighted with the response.  Other rarities continuing their stay from April included the Bonaparte's Gull at Hayle, female Montagu's Harrier at the Lizard, Great White Egret at Hayle and the Pink-footed Goose at Marazion.

Squacco Heron, 1st summer, Lethytep, picture courtesy Philip Hambly.

Squacco Heron, 1st summer, Lethytep, picture courtesy John St. Ledger

I was just lucky to be in the right place on the 2nd when a Golden Oriole flew up the A30 and landed in the pines behind Marazion Marsh. Clearly on the move, it remained on the top of the pines for 25 minutes before departing towards Tremenheere.  I put the news out immediately and amazingly, at least six other birders connected.  This is just the 4th record here following two in 1984 and one in 1989. Another Golden Oriole and the third of the Spring was found at Drift Res. on the 12th. The fourth record of the Spring was a female type at Windmill Farm on the 29th. All-in-all, a relatively good movement.

A male Montagu's Harrier was seen in the fields near the Gurnards Head pub on the 2nd.  This species is now extinct in Britain as a breeding bird.  The last couple years though has seen a steady trickle of  spring migrants passing through Cornwall. Staying with harriers, a female Marsh Harrier has been seen several times over the last few weeks at Marazion Marsh, though never regularly.  Presumably it feeds here then moves back inland.  A first summer Pallid Harrier with strong gingery orange underparts was seen on Goonhilly on the 6th and was re found on the 10th. Pallid Harrier has a different moult pattern to the similar Montagu's. Pallid moults in its First summer and as such retains its strong orangey underparts in to Spring.  Montagu's moults in its winter quarters and loses the strong warm underpart colouration.

Five Bee-eaters were flying over Kenidjack valley on the 3rd and picked up later just up the road at Botallack.  Possibly a different group of four were seen over Polgigga on the 6th and were on the move with around 350 Swallows.  Another two (splinter group?) were seen over Chapel Carn Brae on the 7th.

The first Pomarine Skuas were seen on the 4th and 5th May with just one and two respectively. Small numbers compared to yesteryear, but to see an adult in full breeding plumage is quite a sight.

A male Red-footed Falcon was reported from Goonhilly Downs on the 6th but couldn't be pinned down. Male red-foots are arguably one of the finest raptors. A female Montagu's was also claimed on the same day and could be the same bird seen earlier at Kynance/Lizard village.

A Purple Heron was found in front of the marsh at Marazion on the 7th, only to fly off east up the valley. It returned in the evening and roosted in the heronry by the road.  This is the first here for a couple years.  It was seen intermittently up to the 13th, where it showed well on top of the heronry.  Another Purple Heron was found at Bowithick, Launceston on the 16th.

Most likely a different Night Heron was also found here on the evening of the 12th, calling as it departed the marsh and headed west.  Duplication is difficult to rule out, especially with night feeders like Night Heron.  Given the two week gap, most likely this is a "new" bird in.  Another or roving individual was found in the evening of 17th at Nanjizal ponds. How many birds involved in this influx will be difficult to assess.

I was surprised to find a pair of Lesser Redpolls at Land's End on the 7th.  A quick check through my eBird shows no previous migrant records, only birds seen at the normal Bodmin moor sites.  This or the same bird was found a few days later at nearby Treeve moor.  Another 

Lesser Redpoll, male, Land's End, pic Steve Rogers.
The annual kite fest started properly on the 13th. As always, the vast majority of numbers were concentrated in the Land's End area, with the Polgigga/Skewjack Valley being the gathering point. This area attracts raptors presumably because of its geography and warm air thermals. Its also the end of the line and kites don't normally want to cross the water, hence the high numbers here.  Red Kite is normally a rarity on Scilly, but given the extreme high numbers in Cornwall, it was inevitable some would appear on Scilly. Well, 132 made it on Sunday 21st May!

Back in Cornwall, a count of 75 birds in one kettle was made on the 13th in the afternoon, with many more distant and higher birds present. A count of 160 birds was made from St Just by Nigel Wheatley. A conservative estimate could be as many as 200 birds in the wider Penwith area.  Next day they had nearly all departed.  The next significant movement occurred on 20th and 21st May with over a 100 in Tregeseal valley (20th) and the same group again around Land's End on the 21st.  Some can give stunning close views but others can be several thousand feet high, way above the cloud belt.  These birds can clearly cover huge distance with little effort.

Black Kite has been well represented across the county as well with at least six sightings. A summary is below but all could quite easily relate to the same wandering individual:
Perran-ar-worthal 18th, Lizard 18th, Goonhavern 18th, Stithians 21st, Lizard 21st, Pendeen also on the 21st, Rosewall Hill on the 27th.

A Black Kite with 12 Red's was found at Stithians Res on the 21st.

Red Kite, 2nd Cal in moult, Polgigga, May 2023

A "kettle" of Red Kites at Polgigga, May 2023, pic S. Rogers

Remaining with kites, a Yellow-billed Kite of unknown origin was found at Polgigga on the 15th. An analysis of available photos shows this bird to be the same as one seen earlier in Belgium and the Isle of Wight. Yellow-billed Kite is the African counterpart of Black Kite and is kept in captivity.  

The 18th was clearly a day for finding rare raptors. A Black Kite was found in the Carnon valley and a dark form Honey Buzzard flew over Polgigga.  The latter is arguably rarer while Black Kite becomes an annual passage visitor, no doubt caught up with the surge in Red Kite numbers. Ten Red Kite lingered around Windmill Farm.

Upland breeding birds attracted some attention and this stunning video below shows singing Tree Pipit and Common Redstart at Minions, Bodmin Moor.

Tree Pipit and Redstart video by John Chapple

An Osprey was moving east over Penzance on the 20th and as normal, found its way to Marazion. I happened to be there when it drifted over, giving close overhead views.  This is my first for the year.

but Just the second Little Tern of the year was found early on the 24th at Marazion beach, along with three Sandwich Terns for company. Tern movement has generally been poor in Cornwall this Spring.

The Hooded Crow continued to show well in the fields west of Higher Bosisto Lane to the month end.  This recently split species from Carrion Crow preferred to share the same fields as the 60+ Rooks.

Honey Buzzards have trickled through the county in May. A single bird was seen over Wheal Alfred on the 26th, the same site which recorded a Black Kite earlier this Spring.  Another Honey Buzzard flew over Falmouth on the 27th and one more for good measure over Coverack on the 28th.

A White Stork was  seen flying over Treluswell, Penryn on the 30th.

Bird of the month: No stand out species. The annual Red Kite influx continues to grow and provide great excitement across the county. Half a dozen or so sightings of Black Kite mean the Reds just can't be ignored.

Runners up: Plenty here, including several Golden Orioles, several Honey Buzzards, Night Heron, Red-footed Falcon, Montagu's Harriers, Bee-eaters and Purple Heron.

Tuesday, 11 April 2023

Birding highlights in Cornwall April 2023

 The Alpine Swift influx continued on the 1st of the month with a showy bird around Par docks, Par garden centre, Spit beach and Par beach pool. The St Ives bird showed well in the town on the 5th and was joined by another.  They were thought to go to roost in the church tower.  The following morning just one appeared from the tower.  The second bird failed to appear.  Another Alpine Swift moved east  through the Nanjizal area quickly on the 7th. At least five birds seem to have been involved in the influx. Duplication or under-estimation can't be ruled out though.

A significant count of divers on the south coast included 19 Black-throated at Porthbean on the 1st and 35 next day.  A further 72 more were counted at nearby Porthpean with 30 Great Northern Diver.  Many were in breeding plumage - an impressive sight. Nine Black-throated Diver in breeding plumage were seen in Gerrans Bay on the 10th.

A massive movement of Manx Shearwater occurred over the weekend of 1st and 2nd April at Pendeen. A minimum 75,000 flew west in four hours.  12,000 were counted off Newquay Head and another 40,000 counted off St Ives.  No doubt some overlap but nonetheless, a significant movement. In addition, three Sooty Shearwater were seen.  The latter species should be in the South Atlantic.  Of the dozen or so Sooty's seen recently off Pendeen and Porthgwarra, most showed signs of wing moult.

The first Woodchat Shrike of the year was found at Carn-les-Boel (near Nanjizal) on the 2nd and was still present on the 10th. Two more appeared at Cot and Polgigga on the 10th.  The first Garganey's (2m and 1f) appeared at Par pool on the 2nd.

Woodchat Shrike, Carn les Boel, April 2023 (courtesy M. Broadbent).

The highlight on the 4th April was a Scop's Owl at Nanjizal.  Sadly it could not be relocated after the initial sighting. [Another bird was also found in Ireland on the 4th].  More accessible for the masses were Black-winged Stilts. The 4th was the start date of an incredible influx.  No fewer than 13 birds arrived with a county record flock of six at Walmsley. Three were found at Gunwalloe, Lizard, singles at Ruan Lanihorne, Coverack, Penhale, Maer Lake (and Bude canal).

Continuing in a busy period, the 5th April demanded more attention.  Cornwall's 42nd Bonaparte's Gull was found on Hayle Estuary, remaining until the 30th. A Black Kite was seen at nearby Wheal Alfred.

The start of another Mediterranean species overshoot commenced on the 5th. The first Purple Heron of the year was found at Chapel Porth. Another was found at Rosemullion Head. A very popular and showy Purple Heron at Ruan Lanihorne found the rushy area to its liking and remained until at least the 11th. Two more were found together at Gwenter, Lizard on the 10th.

A Night Heron was found at Tregajorran, near Redruth on the 8th.  Two Common Terns flew down the St Erth valley, over Marazion Marsh and straight out to sea on the 9th. This species is far from Common. I haven't personally recorded a Spring Common Tern in five years! A Hoopoe was found in a private garden at Carnon Downs on the 9th. Considering all the Mediterranean overshoots, this species has been decidedly scarce.

The third Night Heron of the year was found in a garden at Lamorna on the 13th. Another was flushed from Portherras valley (Pendeen) and flew towards Morvah.  The second (or same) breeding plumage adult Black Guillemot of the Spring was seen off Pendeen on the 13th.  A third calendar year female Montagu's Harrier was found at Cross Common, Lizard and remained until at least 20th. Initially considered a second calendar bird, good photos have shown a pale eye and extensive breast streaking, pointing towards an older bird.  A migrant Short-eared Owl was also seen in the same area on the 18th.

Short-eared Owl, Lizard, April 2023

In what has been a very poor season for migrant terns (no terns breed in Cornwall), one consolation on the 13th was a Little Tern at Carnsew.  This species is rare enough in Autumn but Spring records are like gold dust.

Two Hooded Crows were found at Nanquidno and Dodman Point on the 15th and a third bird at Trewellard on the 18th.  The following day saw an arrival of Grasshopper Warblers, Redstarts, Sedge Warblers, Whitethroats and a Cuckoo at Stithians. Two Woodchats remained at Porthgwarra and Raftra. A total of three have been found in West Cornwall so far this Spring. 

An interesting record of Little Bunting near Boscreggan was found on the 17th.  Two birds overwintered near here but hadn't been seen for several weeks, possibly indicating a new migrant.

The annual influx of Red Kites commenced properly on the 18th with small groups of up to three birds pretty much county-wide. The geographical funnel finishes at Polgigga and a maximum 27 were seen here next day (19th).  This species remains a major rarity on Scilly. The Cornish influx is a big spectacle when hundreds (recently) start kettling in the air over Polgigga.  A Dotterel was photographed in a ploughed field near Zennor (18th) and still present on the 21st.

The 19th was clearly a significant day for raptors as another ten Red Kite were seen moving east over Kenidjack. A Marsh Harrier was found at Land's End and an Osprey was tracking the coast over Botallack and Pendeen. A breeding pluamge Great White Egret was found at Stithians, no doubt on its way to Somerset.  Highlight of the day though was a stunning adult male Golden Oriole, stumbled on by Pete Walsh.  It favoured the south west slope of Chapel Carn Brae and delighted a good number of visitors.  This shy species is normally quite tricky to connect with, despite its dayglow colours, as they normally favour heavily wooded areas.  This bird though was content to feed on top of gorse and bracken.

Ad male Golden Oriole, Chapel Carn Brae, pic courtesy John Miller.

Considering all the Mediterranean overshoots this Spring, one obvious species hasn't caught the eye. Hoopoe's have been decidedly scarce. Two were found on the 20th at Golitha and Goonhilly.

A surprise find by Tony McGowan the 21st was the sec cal Bonaparte's Gull at Red River, Marazion. It was originally found at Hayle Estuary on the 5th.  A fortnight's holiday in Cornwall is clearly on its agenda.

Bonaparte's Gull, second calendar, picture courtesy Mike McKee.

Two Night Herons were found in quick succession; one at dusk at Marazion Marsh on the 22nd and another the following morning at Boscathno Res.  Both were found by Paul St. Pierre. The Marazion bird was seen again at dusk the following evening. 

A Wood Sandpiper was found at Rissick Flash, a small area of flood water which has a knack of turning up the unusual.  A Garganey was found here earlier in the month but the site is also "famous" for a Bee-eater and Red-footed Falcon. Back to the Wood Sandpiper.  Its rare in Spring.  I have only seen three previously in Spring, two sightings at Walmsley in May 2010 and 2017 and another at Marazion in May 1980!

Ad. Wood Sandpiper, Rissick, April 2023

Surprise bird of the day on the 22nd April was an adult White-billed Diver past Pendeen. And just for company, four Great Northerns and two Red-throats must have been a fantastic sight. Not quite as rare, but still a top find was a Gull-billed Tern at Dinham on the 23rd. The last Gull-billed Tern in the county was June 2021 at Hayle.

The first Subalpine Warbler of the year was found in a private garden in St. Just on the 24th.  Photos showed it to be the western form.  The Night Heron influx continued with a new bird near St Buryan. The extreme heatwave in Spain and North Africa is clearly affecting herons as they search wider for suitable feeding habitat.  Presumably the Pink-footed Goose from St. Martins appeared at Marazion Marsh and remained here until the month end.  Whatever its provenance, this goose is still an attractive looking bird.

The first Squacco Heron of the year was found in a garden in Dobwalls on the 26th.  Most likely the same individual moved south a short distance to the stunning Lethytep Farm at Lanreath. This private reserve is no stranger to hosting Squacco Herons. One was found here ten years ago.  It was thought to be a first summer bird.  A non breeding Great White Egret was found at Marazion Marsh and spent the next few days commuting between the marsh and Hayle.

Squacco Heron, 1st summer, Lethytep, picture courtesy Philip Hambly

Squacco Heron, Lethytep Farm, April 2023.

Continuing with the heron theme, yet another Night Heron was found at Porth Joke near Crantock. At least five have now been found this Spring.  The month end saw the Squacco Heron perform well in front of a small gathering and the Bonaparte's Gull continued to show well at Hayle.

Bird of the month: Squacco Heron
Runner's Up, Scops Owl, male Golden Oriole, influx of Night Herons, Gull-billed Tern, Bonaparte's Gull.

Wednesday, 5 April 2023

Bonaparte's Gull at Hayle Estuary, Cornwall April 2023

 On the 5th April, the wind direction changed overnight from North East to South West and conditions were typically mild and wet. Reuben Veal visited Hayle Estuary early in the morning and found a first winter (second calendar year) Bonaparte's Gull on the estuary, easily viewable from the causeway bridge.

Being of American origin, this species seemed out of place among the many Mediterranean rarities that turned up in Cornwall on the 4th and 5th. The most notable were six Black-winged Stilts at Walmsley, three more at Gunwalloe, Alpine Swift at St. Ives, Hoopoe at Perranporth, Black Kite nr Hayle, Woodchat at Nanjizal, two Purple Herons at Chapel Porth and Rosemullion and a Serin at Pendeen. Quite a tally.

Back to the Bonaparte's.  There are at least 40 previous records in Cornwall and 283 acceptable records in the UK. The last accepted record in Cornwall was 2020 when a first winter roosted at Padstow (9-12th Feb) though there was one off Roskilly in January 2021 (which I saw). Presumably this one hasn't been submitted by the finder.

The species breeds in the boreal forests of Southern Alaska and Arctic Canada and south towards North America. It winters on both coasts of North America as well as inland.

In Cornwall, the most popular sites are Hayle Estuary, Mounts Bay and Drift Res. March is the most frequent month though nationally, April is the most likely time to find one.

Well done Reuben. A great find while on Easter holiday!

Pictures below by Mike McKee.

First winter Bonaparte's Gull, Hayle Estuary, April 2023 (pics courtesy Mike McKee).

Friday, 31 March 2023

Birding highlights in West Cornwall March 2023

 March weather started with high pressure, generally dry and mild.  From the 10th a westerly airflow took hold resulting in heavy rain and stormy conditions more akin to Autumn.

Gull watching took centre place with an adult and second winter Ring-billed Gull at Hayle, a handful of Caspian Gulls and Yellow-legged Gulls, and a probable second winter American Herring Gull on the 1st. Also notable and a recent phenomenon was a very high count of at least 800 Common Gulls at Hayle.  Around half of them were juvenile birds indicating successful breeding somewhere further north of Cornwall.  Up to three different Glaucous Gulls and a couple Iceland were present around the Newlyn/Drift/St Buryan areas. Some lucky observers also connected with an adult Kumlien's Gull at Drift or St Buryan or St Clements Isle.

The re introduced White-tailed Eagle G386 from the Isle of Wight appeared over Falmouth on the 3rd and travelled as far as Goon Wumpus, Pendeen. It showed well on Sunday 5th over Hayle Estuary causing maximum disturbance. My personal view on this introduction scheme is what is the point?  Surely funds could be better directed towards other more needy species.

Wintering duck were poorly represented in West Cornwall (and across the county) with the wintering female Ring-necked Duck remaining at Coronation Park, Helston and a juv male Greater Scaup at Marazion beach and Long Rock Pool the only long-stayers. A stunning drake Goldeneye appeared at Long Rock Pool on the 5th.  It was quickly flushed by the resident, unhappy Mute Swans and forced to feed on the sea by Hogus Rocks. It didn't stay long.  All Penwith birders will know this species has become decidedly rare recently. Stithians Res is my normal reliable site for annual single records but the last for me in Penwith was Drift in 1986!  A drake Gadwall appeared at Marazion on the 8th. There were just three Tufted Duck at Drift and a token few Tufted's at St Gothians.  All very poor but it could be the mild conditions further north and in Scandinavia. Why migrate hundreds of miles when you can find food locally?

Sea watching started properly on the 10th at Pendeen with a strong NW wind.  A respectable ten Black-throated Diver, two Red-throats and a Great Northern flew past, close enough to see their adult plumage.  On the 12th the wind shifted to SW. 183 Puffin were counted along with 307 Manx Shearwaters.  Mid March is a good time to see Puffin migrating past The Lizard and Porthgwarra.  Four figure counts are easily possible in the correct conditions.   I have previously detailed the Puffin movement HERE under the Lizard seawatching hotspot.

Away from West Penwith, the wintering Isabelline Wheatear was still present on the 19th March. This record is the third for Cornwall and the first to successfully over-winter in the UK.

The first notable seawatch of the year was seen off Pendeen on the 14th.  Manx Shearwaters had truly arrived in numbers with at least 500 past in four hours.  The highlight was an adult Black Guillemot in breeding plumage fly past the rocks, close enough to see its red legs.  Three unseasonal Sooty Shearwaters were also a surprise though singles had been spotted off Devon, St Agnes and St Loy earlier in the week. A decent movement of divers was also noted with Red-throated and Black-throated giving reasonably close fly-by views.

In line with a national influx, two Alpine Swifts appeared on the 15th. One was video'd flying around the Tate Gallery at St. Ives and another was seen at Pennance Point and again the following day over Falmouth docks (last seen 24th).  A Red-rumped Swallow was also found at Walmsley Sanctuary along with a small arrival of House Martins and Sand Martins.  A slow trickle of Northern Wheatears appeared mid month.

Alpine Swift, library image (S. Rogers)

Away from West Penwith, a female Lesser Scaup was found at Porth Reservoir, near Newquay and remained until at least the 20th March.

The first Hoopoe of the year was found at Godolphin Cross on the 20th with another on the coast path near Lamorna on the 25th.  A Woodlark was found at Skewjack and a Ring Ouzel at Botallack on the 20th. Hirundines were generally reported in low numbers though 100+ at Long Rock pool and another 100 at College on 21st was notable.

The 24th saw a wrong SW to W gale pass Cornwall.  The highlights from two seawatches at Porthgwarra and Pendeen included a notable movement of 93 and 161 Puffin respectively, four Sooty Shearwaters, a minimum of 4000 Manx Shearwater and 10,000 Guillemot.

The third (?) Alpine Swift of the year was seen early morning on the 27th at The Knavocks, Godrevy.  Sadly it moved on quickly.  Nationally there has been an unprecedented influx never before seen on this scale.  According to Birdguides, reports came from 129 different UK sites involving 561 reports, with perhaps as many as 120 birds. There were reports from eight Scottish sites and even a flock five together in Ireland.   From the best photo's, it seems the majority are second calendar year birds.

The first singing Willow Warblers were noted at Porthgwarra and Nanjizal on the 27th.

Probably the same Alpine Swift earlier at seen at Godrevy appeared over Penzance harbour on the 30th. It was found just after 7:15am, then Newlyn ten minutes later.  It reappeared again over Sandy Cove just after 2pm for 15mins before relocating to St Ives in the afternoon. It preferred the Tate Gallery, Porthmeor area, ironically where the first sighting came from.

Bird of the Month: Alpine Swift sightings at St Ives, Falmouth, Newlyn and Godrevy.

Runners up:  Notable numbers of migrant Puffin, Black Guillemot in breeding plumage off Pendeen, wintering Isabelline Wheatear.

Friday, 24 February 2023

Birding Highlights in West Cornwall February 2023

 February 2023 weather was dominated by high pressure with an easterly airflow for most of the month. Temperature was generally warm for the time of year.

Over wintering long-stayers included the two Little Buntings at Boscregan accompanied by a healthy 200+ Skylarks and a Lapland Bunting, female Ring-necked Duck at Helston boating lake, two Serins at Sennen, Velvet Scoter off Marazion beach, four Whooper Swans at Skewjack and a juv. Rose-coloured Starling at Sennen, 

Various white winged gulls were dotted around the normal sites including at least three different Glaucous Gulls, three Iceland Gulls, adult Ring-billed Gull at Hayle Estuary, several adult and juv Caspian Gulls (5 on the 11th).  The original American Herring Gull from Newlyn was re found at Hayle Estaury on the 15th. An adult Kumlien's Gull was found at Mousehole on the 6th and later seen following a plough at St Buryan.

Off patch and away from West Cornwall, the wintering Isabelline Wheatear remained from January and was present on most days at Kelsey Head, Holywell until at least 28th Feb.  According to eBird data, this is the first February wintering record in Europe.  Also of note, the Devon bird in January and the Cornish bird are different and both represent the first January records for Europe as well. Wintering Isabelline Wheatears would normally be in NW India and east Africa.

A Bittern was found at Marazion along with two Jack Snipe on the 8th.  Both species were difficult to pin down though. Bittern has become curiously difficult to find recently, despite big breeding increases in Somerset.  Perhaps the weather is not cold enough.

A juv male Greater Scaup was found off Marazion beach on the 9th, occasionally joining the local Common Scoters and seen later on Long Rock Pool and on Marazion Marsh.  Scaup is another species which seems to be rarer these days.  There are no reports of Pochard in West Cornwall currently. (The only stronghold now is Helston Loe Pool). My own eBird data showed a max count of 70 at Drift Res. in December 1976!

Male Greater Scaup, Marazion Marsh, picture courtesy Alex Mckechnie.

A female Ring Ouzel was found at Plain-an-Gwarry on the 13th and reported again a couple days later.  This is the only (presumbed) wintering bird in the county. Surely this is too early for a returning Spring migrant?

Gull watching at Hayle and Newlyn towards the month end provided light entertainment in an otherwise quiet month. The juv American Herring Gull attracted some interest from national birders and year listers. The adult Ring-billed was joined by a second winter bird mid month.

Finally, a White-tailed Eagle from the Isle of Wight reintroduction scheme was seen over Falmouth on the 25th and again over Hayle Estuary and Stithians on the 26th.

White-tailed Eagle, Feb  2033. Picture by M Ahmad.

Bird of the month: American Herring Gull.

Sunday, 29 January 2023

Isabelline Wheatear at Kelsey Head, Holywell, Cornwall January 2023

 Graham May was walking the coast path on the Kelseys on Sunday 22nd January when he found a wheatear species. In poor weather, a few record shots were taken and then posted to the Society. To be fair, the dull and damp weather played its part and typically rendered the images very dark.  This affect made the bird look very much like a Northern. Two days later, national bird information services were posting Isabelline Wheatear, presumably using artificial ID techniques. Graham Lawlor visited the area on Tuesday 24th and managed to confirm the identity. It was still present on 11th March.

This is Cornwall's third record. The previous two occurrences were one-day sightings.

The first record was on the 29th October 1996 at Church Cove, Lizard (at the same time as the Little Bustard) and found by John Martin. Despite searching, it could not be refound.

The second record was found by Paul Freestone on Godrevy Head. Many locals connected in the early evening sunshine but it moved on overnight.

Nationally there are 52 records but Autumn 2022 saw several Isabelline Wheatears appear including the second for Ireland. Another was found in Wales.  Another Isabelline Wheatear appeared in East Devon (2nd Devon record) in December and remained until 8th January. It looked weak during its last days and most likely succumbed. Photo analysis shows the Devon and Cornwall birds are different. The Cornwall bird shows one retained juvenile tertial feather, enough evidence to differentiate the two. (See image below).  These two January records are the first for Europe (eBird analysis mentioned on Birdforum). The Cornish bird remained on site until at least 21st March.

The species breeds in the Eastern Mediterranean, eastwards towards southern Russia and Asia and Northern Pakistan.  The species winters in East Africa  and North West India. (see the eBird distribution map below).

Isabelline Wheatear, Kelsey Head, Cornwall, Jan 2023, picture courtesy M J McKee.

Photo analysis of the Cornwall and Devon birds, by Mashuq Ahmad.

Isabelline Wheatear range map, pic courtesy eBird.

Birding highlights in West Cornwall January 2023

 New Year's Day weather was dull and grey with heavy rain by mid afternoon. Mid month was stormy with heavy rain and localised flooding. Month end continued overcast with a light north easterly airflow.

Seawatching started well with three Sooty Shearwater and 28 Manx past Porthgwarra. An unseasonal Euro Storm Petrel was also seen. Not to be outdone, a Great Shearwater was seen from Pendeen. This bird presumably being the single seen in St Ives Bay just before Christmas.  The normal scarce gulls were recorded including the adult Ring-billed, three Caspians and Yellow-legged Gulls at Hayle plus Iceland and Glaucous at Newlyn. A juv American Herring Gull was found at Drift and later relocated at Tolcarne on the 5th and 6th.  A third year Azorean Gull was found by Richard Augarde and Brian Mellow in Newlyn Harbour on 15th Jan. Whilst "only" a subspecies of Yellow-legged Gull, Azorean is a great rarity and created quite a bit of interest.

A significant number of divers were off Wherrytown on the 1st including 16 Great Northern and single Red-throated and black-throated Divers. The month end saw a high count of 62 Great Northern Diver, nine Red-throated and five Black-throated Diver in the Perranuthnoe area.

The wintering Little Bunting near Cot Valley was also recorded on the 1st. And just for company, it was joined by a second bird on the 6th and both remained together with 15 Reed Buntings until the month end.  As mentioned in previous posts, West Penwith is clearly a regular wintering area for this species. Two together have been recorded previously in Cornwall, but a third would be unprecedented.

Slightly outside of the West Penwith area, a female Ring-necked Duck was found at Helston boating lake on the 3rd Jan.  It went missing mid month but returned on the 18th.  This unassuming municipal site has an uncanny knack of producing quality rarities. Nearby at Stithians Res., a drake Green-winged Teal was found on the 5th.  Perhaps both arrived from the States together?

Fem Ring-necked Duck, Helston, courtesy Alex McKechnie.

The first major rarity of the year appeared in St Ives Bay on the 5th. An immature Black-browed Albatross was seen close in from the island (100m) but it headed NW, only to be spotted later from Clodgy Point. What a find.  The species clearly enjoys Cornish waters in winter. The last was seen on 8th Feb 2019 from the Lizard.  The St. Ives bird was also seen a week previously at Quiberon, France. With an adult seen regularly at Bempton and another adult in the Northern Isles last year, this sub adult bird effectively means there's at least three Black-browed Albatross' roaming the NE Atlantic.

Same 4th Yr  Black-browed Albatross, left Quiberron, France, and right, St Ives. Images from Twitter and Dave Oats.
Sooty Shearwater, west past Pendeen Jan 13th, S Rogers.

A mini arrival of Grey Phalaropes occurred in the second week of January.  A single was seen off Pendeen followed by two together at St. Gothians and another single at Stithians. I can't recall one ever being recorded at this inland site.

A strong westerly wind on the 13th produced a Black Guillemot and Sooty Shearwater off Pendeen. The Grey Phalarope continued to entertain birders at St Gothians.  The continuing strong westerly on the 15th pushed a single Leach's Petrel in to St Ives Bay. A Little Auk and a Puffin passed Pendeen.

An Azorean Yellow-legged Gull was found in Newlyn Harbour on the 15th. News of a juv Sabine's Gull at Carnsew Pool was received a day late on the 18th. Apparently there was confusion on the id, despite a good photo being taken. True winter records of this species in Cornwall are exceptional.

A mini pelagic trip around Mousehole on the 22nd produced a very close Little Auk and great views of Glaucous Gull.  An adult Kumlien's Gull was found on St Clements Isle on the 24th and again on the 29th at Drift.

Little Auk, Roskilly, Jan 2023, pic courtesy M Spicer.

An Isabelline Wheatear was found at Holywell on the 21st though not identified until 23rd.  This is the third record of Isabelline Wheatear in Cornwall.  The last record was in Oct 2016 when one was present for one day on Godrevy Head.  The first record was another one day appearance at Church Cove on 29th October 1996.

Isabelline Wheatear, Kelsey Head, pic by Mike McKee.

Bird of the month: Isabelline Wheatear at Kelsey

Runner up: Black-browed Albatross at St Ives.

Saturday, 31 December 2022

Birding highlights in Cornwall 2022 by month

The following is an overview of the best and most significant finds in Cornwall in 2022. Those wishing to read more detail can drill down in this blog and find the monthly update. Many thanks to the photographers (detailed at the end), WhattsApp groups and CBWPS recent reports pages for the information.

 January 2022 started mild with fairly settled weather with a north-east to easterly airflow.  End of the month was clear and colder, though temperatures never dropped below zero.

The mini influx of Tundra Bean Geese continued over from December.  The three birds at the Lizard were present on the 1st but a New Year's Day shooting party spooked them.  Presumably the same three relocated to Upper Tamar Lake and were on show to the month-end.  Two more left Walmsley Sanctuary at first light mid month. An impressive flock of 16 Russian White-fronted Geese spent a few days in the field opposite Croft Pascoe.

The White-tailed Eagle from the Isle of Wight introduction scheme continued to be seen in the Colliford area, eventually hitting the local BBC news. The new breed of photo-birder was soon accused of photo-baiting the bird for a closer pic and news since was suppressed.

A first winter male Surf Scoter and Velvet Scoter were found at Pentewan on the 24thJan.

 February weather started with a steady west to north airflow, occasional strong wind and heavy rain.  Mid month saw Storm Dudley hit the northern Isles but had little effect on Cornwall.  The 18th and 20th saw two exceptionally strong westerly storms hit Cornwall, Eunice and Frederick.

The first rarity of the month was found at Porthgwarra on the 9th Feb.  An American Golden Plover was photo'd on the moor adjacent to the NCI station. Sadly it didn't stay long.

The undoubted highlight was a stunning adult Kumlien's Gull in Newlyn habour, no doubt a by product of Storm Dudley.  It remained faithful to Newlyn until the month-end.

Ad Kumlien's Gull, Newlyn harbour, Feb 2022 (pic by S Rogers).

 March weather started mild and wet with a light south west airflow. Mid month changed to a constant easterly air flow with long periods of warm sunshine.

Sensational news broke on the 2nd March when an adult Brown Booby was found by a non-birder at the Droskyn car park, Perranporth.  It was actually found during storm Eunice with a suggested date of the 22nd Feb.  News that it died in care at Mousehole bird hospital was released on 2nd March. This bird is just the third record for Cornwall after two were seen in August and September 2019.

A decent movement of Barnacle Geese was found on the 6th with two at Ryan's Field and 26 at St Gothian's.  Barnacle Goose is classed as a "rare vagrant" in Cornwall so 26 together is a significant record.

 April started cold with an easterly airflow and overnight minus temperatures. A fresh south easterly front from the 10th opened the gates and pushed the common passage migrants in to the county. The wind direction for the entire end of month was easterly based.

Spring migration finally took off on the 11th.  The first Woodchat Shrike of the year was found at Windmill Farm, Lizard. Passage migrants were seen in low numbers across the county with Yellow Wagtail and Little Ringed Plover at Chapel Amble, Common Redstart, Ring Ouzel at Botallack, Osprey, Hoopoe and Little Ringed Plover there next morning.  

The first decent set of rarities turned up on easterly winds on the 21st.  Boscregan and St Just were the hotspots.  A Short-toed Lark was found at Boscregan in ploughed fields with a Hoopoe at nearby Hendra.  A Red-rumped Swallow was found at Porthgwarra, and two together were seen next day on the Lizard.  Among the many Red Kites dotted around, a Black Kite was found at Portreath.  Yet another Hoopoe was found at Pendeen.

Short-toed Lark, Boscregan, April 2022, pic courtesy Nigel Rogers.

The 23rd continued with notable rares in the county. The First European Bee-Eater of the season was seen over Nanjizal. The wandering Black Kite was seen at nearby Hendra and a stunning male Channel Wagtail was photographed at Roskestal.

The 25th was a day noted for some serious plastic. A Great Horned Owl was found roosting in a pine tree in Kenidjack valley.  Whilst no individual or organisation has claimed ownership, the likelihood of it being a genuine vagrant is stretching the imagination. The literature states that the species is generally resident with limited dispersal post breeding in its native Canada and N America. There has been some expansion in its range though.  It was gone next morning.  The White-tailed Eagle from the Isle of Wight reintroduction scheme was seen over Dobwalls, presumably heading back east to its cage. 

In summary, there were worryingly low numbers of common migrants, even after the strong easterly winds which traditionally bring migrants to Cornwall. Conversely, there were high numbers of (approx 20) Hoopoe, Ring Ouzel, four Woodchats, five Red-rumped Swallows, an unusual Spring record of Short-toed Lark.

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 dull and surprisingly cold. The month end finally saw long periods of sunshine and an easterly airflow.

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. 

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

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.

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, 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.

Image courtesy Alan James

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".

June weather started warm and settled with an easterly 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.

A male Red-footed Falcon was seen over Trevellas, St Agnes on the 8th, perhaps the same bird reported on the 5th? 

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 

July: 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.

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

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 with another 370 on the 24th July, heralding the start of an unprecedented seawatching season.

August weather started typically warm and humid with a westerly airflow.  Mid month was exceptionally hot.

A long overdue Caspian Tern was seen flying past the Lizard point on the 3rd and a Wilson's Petrel was found in relatively calm conditions off Pendeen.

Bird of the month candidate for the lucky few was a stunning Aquatic Warbler trapped in the nets at Nanjizal on the 15th.  A First year Paddyfield Warbler was also trapped at Nanjizal.
1CY Aquatic Warbler, 6th for Nanjizal, picture courtesy Reuben Veal.

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.

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 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.

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 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.

The second Greenish Warbler of the year was found at St. Levan.

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.

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

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

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.

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.

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. 

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

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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 claimed 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.

The Pallass' Warbler at Lloyds Lane, Lizard was still present on the 12th. 

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!

Yet another Dusky Warbler (3rd for November) was found in the Nanjizal nets on the 29th. This was in addition to the Nanjizal Cove bird as it was seen independently the same day.  A Little Bunting was also found between Little Hendra and Cot.

December 2022 weather started with high pressure, clear skies and an easterly airflow.  Mid month was bitterly cold, with negative readings across the county. From the 20th, a more westerly airflow brought mild and wet conditions.

The Little Bunting at Little Hendra/Cot was still present on the 1st and seen intermittently to at least the 15th. Winter records for this species are now annual and the stubble fields of far west Cornwall are the place to find them.  A Red-throated Pipit was at Trevilley on the 1st, first found on the 11th Nov.

The unprecedented number of Cattle Egrets in the county continues to grow with another 50 in the heron roost at Malpas, Truro. This number is additional to the 167 at Amble, 85 at Gillan and c.30 at Helston and Loe Pool. With various singletons and smaller parties dotted around the county, its quite possible up to 400 (?) are wintering in the county.

A Dusky Warbler was found in a back garden at Tol Pedn, Polgigga. Thought to be a new arrival, meaning this is the fifth record for Nov and Dec alone.

Just two wintering Spotted Redshanks in the county included singles at Devoran and Saltash. A Common Crane was photographed on the 15th in the Nanjizal area.

A Pacific Diver was found at Gerrans Bay, from Pendower on 17th. Presumably this is the returning adult.  Of note, the Mounts Bay Pacific Diver has presumably succumbed as it hasn't been seen for the last two winters.

An early Christmas present came to one deserving observer on the 24th. A Dusky Warbler was found at Tregilliowe Ponds, St Erth. The site is the same as one found the previous year. Perhaps a returning bird?

A juv. American Herring Gull was found at Drift Res. on the 29th. 


2022 will be remembered for the stunning adult male Roller at Praze-an-Beeble, the Pallid Harrier at Trevilley, the first Cornwall record of Black-faced Bunting at Nanjizal, the incredible record breaking numbers of Great Shearwaters, three Blyth's Reed Warblers, Paddyfield Warbler and at least two (possibly up to seven) Band-rumped Petrels. THE BIRD OF THE YEAR will probably go to the Roller as it delighted so many birders.

Thanks to the photographers who have agreed to feature their work, including Kester Wilson, Reuben Veal, Joe Jones, John Miller, Alan James, Mike Spicer, Pete Walsh, Martin Elliott, Bob Bosisto, Mike McKee, John Overfield, Alex McKechnie, John St Ledger, Mush Ahmad, Steve Rowe, John Chapple, Adrian Langdon, Jon Irvine, Peter Clement, and myself.