Sunday 19 June 2022

Birding highlights in Cornwall April 2022

 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 migrants trickled in to the county during the first week of April with little to get excited about. The highlight on the 1st was a group of eight Ring Ouzels at Rosewall Hill, St Ives.  Sand Martin was thin on the ground with a maximum count of just 40 at Boscathnoe, along with 15 House Martin and 10 Swallow.

Highlights on 3rd April included a female Goshawk over Skewjack.  This unusual record presumably relates to a continental migrant moving north-eastwards? (note: this bird has now been claimed by a falconer who lost this bird in the immediate area).  A Little Bunting and male Common Redstart were found at Faraway Cottage (Porthgwarra).  The latter species seems to be appearing earlier in the season as two other males were recorded in March at Pendeen and Portland (Dorset, for comparison). A stunning adult Water Pipit was showing well at Marazion Marsh.

The wintering Great White Egret at Hayle disappeared at the end of March.  Perhaps this bird reappeared at Par beach pool early April.  An adult female Marsh Harrier passed through Walmsley on the 4th.  With the increase in breeding UK Marsh Harriers, especially in Somerset, this species can now be found regularly on migration in Cornwall.

Long-stayers and unusual wintering birds lingering in to April included the Rosy Starling at Pendeen, Black-necked Grebe at Drift, (both sporting adult plumage), pair of Ring-necked Duck at Siblyback, White-fronted Goose and Whooper Swan at Walmsley.

Two Little Ringed Plover were found at Devoran on the 5th and the first Whinchat of the year was found at St Gothians. Four White Storks flew over Wheal Alfred, Hayle on the 7th.

A pair of Garganey appeared at Tamar Lake on the 9th and the adult Whooper Swan remained at Walmsley. A mini influx of Sandwich Terns passed the county with 11 at Falmouth and nine off Pendower.  Terns have been woefully short in numbers this Spring.

The 11th Hoopoe of the Spring was found at Botallack on the 11th.  A great find but provided small cheer from what has been a dismal Spring to date. Apart from Black Redstart and a few Ring Ouzels, numbers of every bird family are worryingly low.

Northern Wheatear, numbers have been relatively low this Spring. (library pic.)

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 12th saw two new Hoopoe's at Twelveheads, Chacewater and St Martins as well as the Botallack bird moving widely around the area. The St Martin bird was the 13th county Hoopoe this Spring. A Common Swift was the first for the year at Marshgate. Swift numbers remained low for April. Notably, I failed to year tick Swift in April.

Hoopoe, one of approx 28 sightings during April 2022. (library pic by S. Rogers).

The 13th saw the arrival of Whitethroat, Grasshopper, Reed and Sedge Warblers.  A pair of Little Buntings with the male in song were found at Trevean.  This species has been wintering in west Cornwall in small numbers in recent years but a singing male is of interest. Little Bunting has also been found wintering in Spain recently.  With the northerly movement of Brambling earlier in the month, the two Little Buntings could have been caught up with them. The habo at Trevean is remarkably similar to what I saw in Norway, where Little Bunts breed.  The 2nd cal. year Rosy Starling was still present in the Pendeen area on the 13th.

The now annual Subalpine Warbler was found at the Waterings, Lizard on the 14th and identified as a Western. The Lizard is THE place to find subalps. In previous years, males have been heard singing on territory though none have stayed to breed. Whilst April Subalpine Warbler finds are to be expected, perhaps the strangest report of the day was a Puffin on the Penryn River! 

The 16th saw yet another Hoopoe at Penberth valley. Whether these are new arrivals or reorientating birds, we won't know. The species certainly seems to be on the increase though.

Spring migration gathered pace on the 17th with more Grasshopper Warblers, Whitethroats, Yellow Wagtails, a sprinkling of Cuckoos and another small movement of Ring Ouzel.  Another Great White Egret was found at Marazion Marsh.

The second Woodchat of the year was found again on the Lizard, near Windmill Farm on the 18th.

twitter link for Woodchat pics:

The male Little Bunting was still singing at Trevean.   Easter Monday was generally a disappointment though with little else to report.

The Lizard struck lucky again on the 19th with a singing Common Nightingale, in full view at Windmill Farm.  This CBWPS reserve, wardened by Doug Wright is certainly putting the Lizard on the birding map.

The first reported Purple Heron of the season flew NW over Marazion Marsh on the 20th but sadly didn't stop and couldn't be refound at other suitable sites.  The pet White-tailed Eagle from the Isle of Wight fantasy island was seen over the Camel Estuary.

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 22nd saw the third Woodchat Shrike turn up at Kenidjack.  Unlike the previous two short stayers on the Lizard, this 2CY male remained for several days though it gave one or two locals quite a runaround. Two more Hoopoe sightings came from Skewjack and Nanquidno, though these probably relate to some duplication.

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.  Whimbrel started to arrive with a high count of 48 at Marazion. Whilst 48 seems high, in years gone by, several hundreds were the norm at this ancient and favoured stop off site. As with all curlews, the family is in serious decline.

Continuing with a relatively busy period, the Short-toed Lark was refound in the ploughed fields at Boscregan, the Woodchat was still giving birders the runaround at Kenidjack and the First Wryneck of the year was found nearby in the gorse scrub, all on the 24th. Further east, a Golden Oriole was heard at St Blazey.

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.  Finally, the only other highlight was a Hawfinch at Geevor.

A Serin was found at Porthgwarra on the 26th and yet more Hoopoes were seen at Nanjizal and Polgigga. A stunning adult Glossy Ibis put in a brief appearance at Hayle along with 11 Cattle Egret on the 27th. An adult female Marsh Harrier spent three days hunting baby Mallards and Moorhens at Marazion Marsh. An Osprey and a Red Kite at the same site rounded off a decent raptor day. A Red-rumped Swallow flew east past Woon Gumpus, Pendeen and a Hoopoe spent a few days at Rame Barton.

The 29th saw the fourth Woodchat Shrike appear at Boscregan. This was a different male to the one at Kenidjack, perhaps a full adult male. It was also singing. As with most of the Mediterranean overshoots though, they tend to be non-breeder second calendar year birds. This bird was also seen in the same field as the Short-toed Lark! The second Purple Heron of the season flew north east over Kenidjack. 

The last day of the month was quieter. The only highlight was a stunning male Wood Warbler in song at Land's End. Its my highlight PFL of the month. A handful of birders came to see it but sadly it had moved on. I managed to record the song on my iPhone. Wood Warbler is in serious decline nationally. The last confirmed breeding in Cornwall was 2000. I'm told that the same decline is mirrored in Devon as well.

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.

Info Source: Cornwall Bird Tours, CBWPS sightings page, personal finds.

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