Tuesday 23 October 2018

Grey Catbird at Treeve Moor, Land's End

A Grey Catbird was found at Treeve Moor, Land's End on Monday 15th October by visiting birder Graham Mitchell.  Graham was 100% sure he knew what he had found.  News soon spread and the first images appeared early evening.  By the following morning I estimate around 500 birders had already seen it.  It took a long two hour wait that morning before it appeared in poor light.  The release of tension was palpable as it eventually showed well in the willow clump 25 m in front of the assembled crowd.  As most locals did, I went back for a second visit in better light and got some crippling views.

This is the first record for Cornwall and just the second for Britain. The first was in 2001 on Anglesey though this bird proved incredibly illusive.  This is a pointer and indicates that many birders would have dipped the Wales bird, and hence why so many have visited Cornwall.

The Cornwall bird was obviously caught up in the Hurricane Michael which hit Cornwall on the Friday and Saturday (12th and 13th Oct). To put the arrival in perspective, a massive and unprecedented fall of vagrants landed at Flores and Corvo islands in the Azores at the same time.  Highlights there included Wood Thrush, Wilson's Warbler, Black-throated GReen Warbler, Yellow-throated Vireo, Ovenbird, Bobolink, Baltimore Oriole, Rose-breasted Grosbeak and nine Red-eyed Vireos!  One can only speculate what other unfound vagrants hit Cornwall!

Video by Pete Walsh

Grey Catbird is native to most of  North America east of the Rocky Mountains. The species migrate to the southeastern United States, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean in winter; except for the occasional vagrant they always stay east of the American Cordillera. They are extremely rare vagrants to western Europe. Normally present on the breeding grounds by May, most leave for winter quarters in September/October; as it seems, this species is increasingly extending its stay in the summer range, with some nowadays remaining until mid-winter as far north as Ohio.  The gray catbird is a migratory species. Spring migration ranges from March to May, and in the fall ranges from late August to November. (from Wikipedia).

On a personal note, everyone is obviously grateful to Graham for finding it (and releasing the news) but also thanks to Liz of Treeve Farm House for opening the field to allow the hundreds of cars to park safely.

Grey Catbird on Sunday 21st October 2018, by Steve Rogers.

(It was present for 15 days, last being seen on Monday 29th October).