Thursday 11 December 2014

First year male Scaups at Swanpool, Cornwall

These two Scaup have been showing well at Swanpool for the last couple weeks.  They prefer to stay at the Swanvale end of the pool near the reeds.

Sunday 30 November 2014

Female Desert Wheatear at Porthgwarra

This female Desert Wheatear was found by Mark Wallace on Wednesday on the cliff near the coastwatch.  It was confiding today as it fed on the grass turf and among the granite boulders.  This is the fourth record for Porthgwarra.  The first was a male way back in November 1984 on the Porthgwarra moor.  I remember that one clearly as I dragged my wife across the moor with me.  No problem with that, I hear you say? She was five months pregnant!  This is the 9th record for Cornwall.

Previous records:

1984. Male. Porthgwarra. 17th-24th Nov.
1988. Female. Sennen Cove. 5th Nov.
1994. First winter female. Torpoint.  28th Nov - 16th Dec. This bird was then relocated at St Gothian Sands, Gwithian from 21st Dec to 20th Mar 1995.
1997. Female.  Loe Bar.  28th Nov - 3rd Dec.
1997. One at Hannafore, Looe 3rd-12th Dec.
2007. Female.  Land's End. 17th Oct.
2011. Male. Porthgwarra. 6th Nov.  Found the next morning (7th) but it relocated to Nanjizal in the afternoon.
2011 Female. Porthgwarra 19th November, but only reported on 21st Nov.

Monday 17 November 2014

Isabelline Shrike of the Turkestan race

On Sunday 9th Nov Royston Wilkins and Brian Mellow found a shrike perched up on the brambles as they were leaving Pendeen.  Initial reaction was naturally a Red-backed Shrike but doubts pretty quickly set in.  Word soon spread and a whole raft of suggestions ensued, including hybrids, Over the next week, many photo's have been taken and circulated widely.  The general consensus among shrike experts is that this bird is indeed a first year bird of the Turkestan race of Isabelline Shrike.

Nationally this is a rare subspecies but in Cornwall, there are two previous records assigned to this form.  In 1989, a popular first winter bird was present at Zennor from Oct 27th - 31st.  In 2002, a first year male was found at Porthgwarra on June 26th.

The nominate race of Isabelline Shrike is also referred to as Daurian Shrike and there are two records for Cornwall: a first year bird opposite the airfield at Nanquidno Oct 25th.  A stunning adult male was well watched at Pendeen in early October 2013.

Turkestan Shrike, Pendeen, 16th November 2014.

American Golden Plover at Davidstow, Cornwall

A few more images of the confiding American Golden Plover at Davidstow back in October.  This was the second record of the species this Autumn and just one of five American waders reported during the Autumn in Cornwall.  This poor showing of American vagrants must be the worst Autumn for a generation?

Friday 24 October 2014

Yellow-billed Cuckoo at Porthgwarra, Cornwall

A Yellow-billed Cuckoo was found by visiting birder Andrew Tongue on Tuesday 23rd October in the elders near the toilet block at Porthgwarra.  By early afternoon it had moved up the valley to the doctor's garden area. By late afternoon it was re located near the dried-up pond near the wall.  It was certainly active and unlike any previous American cuckoos, was unwilling to perish too soon.
About 75 birders managed to connect and most had pretty good views, albeit fleeting.
I was extremely lucky to get a burst of shots off when it appeared in the elders in the 60 foot valley.

This is the 9th record for mainland Cornwall.  The previous records are detailed below:


Older records:

1830      'one obtained somewhere in Cornwall'
1887      Cury, Helston dead 14 Oct.

1938  Mawnan Smith found shot 7 Oct (report says "unfortunately shot, though it had little hope of making the return flight"). Published in BB.                                              
1971   St Mawes 4 - 7 Nov        
1980  Penzance 9 Oct – taken into care and died.                      
1985  Pendeen picked up dead 13 Oct.                                  
1999  Cot 10 Oct                        
2000 St Levan 12 – 13 Oct

Tuesday 21 October 2014

American Golden Plover at Davidstow, Cornwall

Brian Craven and Mark Worden found an American Golden Plover at Davidstow in the week.  Being just the third North American wader in Cornwall this Autumn, and with precious little else to see, I decided to take a look on Sunday morning.  It was showing well and typically very confiding.  It was not concerned with the stream of admirers viewing from their cars.

As always with Davidstow, the light was stunning and variable and always a challenge for the best exposure.  The images below were taken about twenty yards away from the bird.

Sunday 12 October 2014

Subalpine Warbler showing characteristics of Moltoni's Warbler?

Two distant images of the male subalpine warbler seen at Porthgwarra.  One surprising aspect of this bird is how pale and washed out it looks.  There's barely any dark red in the throat at all, just a uniform, pale pinkish wash covering the complete underparts.  Some observers though believe this is just a feature of an adult male Western Subalpine that has completed its moult and is in winter plumage. I would like to have got some images of the upper tail pattern but other photographers have now managed to.  One of the key ID features is the tail pattern.  A Moltoni's T5 tail feather (ie second one in from the outside) would show no white intrusion onto the inner web.  Photo's of this bird's T5 tail feather are spot on.  The one clincher for Moltoni's though is the call, which should be similar to a Wren-like rattle.  Tony McGowan clearly heard it call at close range and all he could hear was a single "tek"....

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Black-tailed Godwit at St Clement

Another side shot of a first year Black-tailed Godwit.  I quite like this one with the water drip on the bill as well as the drip shown in the reflection.  This individual seems to be spending some time near the Tresemple Pool area and be very confiding on a rising tide. 

Monday 29 September 2014

Spotted Crake at Marazion Marsh

One of the two Spotted Crakes seen at Marazion Marsh yesterday morning.  This one has to be one of the most obliging Spotted Crakes I've seen for a while.  It ventured out in the open just ten yards from us! 

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Passage migrant waders through Cornwall in the last couple weeks

Below is a selection of waders taken recently, all in the Truro, Hayle, Lizard and Marazion areas.

Dunlin at Marazion Beach

Lesser Yellowlegs at Croft Pascoe pool

Little Stint at Carnsew Pool

Little Stint at Marazion Beach

Little Stint at Marazion Beach

Pectoral Sandpiper at Marazion Marsh

Juv Ringed Plover at Hayle Estuary

Sanderling at Marazion

Black-tailed Godwit at St Clement, Truro

Monday 15 September 2014

First year Pectoral Sandpiper at Marazion Marsh

Pectoral Sandpiper has been fairly poorly represented in Cornwall this Autumn (so far). The one that has been present for over a week has been decidedly shy.  Only yesterday did I get anything like a decent view.  The species is not normally shy but this bird has been quite nervy and retiring, frequently adopting alert postures.

Saturday 13 September 2014

Curlew Sandpiper image from the past

With all the new software available these days, it paid to take all my old images in RAW format.  I was trawling through some files and came across this one.  I gave it some minor treatment in Capture NX2's latest update and this was the result!

Thursday 11 September 2014

Recent Dunlin images with Nikon D4s

Below are some juv Dunlin images taken in the last couple weeks at Carnsew Pool and Tresemple Pool.  They are taken with the Nikon D4s and 500mm F4, coupled up to the new 1.4x mk3 teleconverter.  The D4s is the most advanced camera Nikon have made to date.  I'm well used to using Nikon kit but this camera is a like an untamed stallion.  I'm taking a while to master it.  In particular the exposure is incredibly sensitive to perfect.  The 11 shot per second burst is nice though, as is the new spot focus system.

The spot focus on the eye is uber-accurate.

A flock of Dunlin at last light with nice reflections.  The spot focus locked on and didn't let go.

Monday 8 September 2014

Black-tailed Godwit at St Clement, Truro

This single juv Black-tailed Godwit was showing well at St Clement yesterday evening.  The sun was quite low so gave a nice warm glow to the bird.  In addition, I saw 141 Redshank, 11 Greenshank and about twenty Dunlin, all roosting at the back of Tresemple Pool.

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Peregrine code HV

I photographed this first year Peregrine over Lelant last week.  On closer inspection it has a yellow ring with the code HV.

Monday 1 September 2014

Little Stint and Dunlin at Hayle

I went to Hayle Estuary on Sunday to check out some waders.  There were very few to look at though among the dozen or so Dunlins was a juv Little Stint.

Lesser Yellowlegs at Croft Pascoe, Lizard

The pond at Croft Pascoe is looking particularly attractive at the moment with low water levels exposing a decent amount of mud and shallow water.  Additionally, a new scrape has been created which clearly has an attraction to waders.  A Wood Sandpiper plus a few Common Snipe were also present.  I photographed the Lesser Yellowlegs from the road as it fed fairly close.  This is the first reported vagrant from the States for the season and I'm assuming Croft Pascoe will attract a few more soon.

Taken with Nikon D4s and 500mm F4.

Saturday 30 August 2014

Unprecedented numbers of terns at Hayle Estuary

Yesterday at Hayle there were in excess of 2000 terns, the majority being Common Tern.  We also saw 16 Black Tern, 3 Roseate Tern, a few Arctics and Sandwich plus a handful of Little Tern.  These numbers are unprecedented.  In 40 years of birding in Cornwall, I have never seen such numbers.  To see all six British terns in one evening is also an event.  The weather played a part but also St Ives Bay is good for sand eel at the moment so I'm guessing that the feeding environment is good.

Below are some of the images I took last night:

Sunday 20 July 2014

Silver-washed Fritillary at Breney Reserve

Last Sunday I found two Silver-washed Fritillary's at Breney Reserve near Helman Tor.  They were both in mint fresh condition.  I have never seen them here before.

Monday 7 July 2014

Dragonflies in Cyprus in June

I took these images of some dragonflies whilst birding in the Akamas area of Cyprus.

They were all taken with 70-200 F/2,8 plus 2x Teleconverter.  The closest focus on this set up is about three feet, which is perfect for insects.

Female Keeled Skimmer

Male Keeled Skimmer

Female Red-veined Dropwing

Scarlet Darter