Sunday 19 June 2022

Birding highlights in Cornwall December 2021

  December started with strong northerly gale force winds with Storm Arwen and Storm Barra delivering 60mph winds.  Mid month turned mild with overcast conditions.  The month end was much the same with mild wet weather. 

The "resident" Glossy ibis at Newquay zoo was still present on the 1st along with the wintering Great White Egret at Hayle. The returning Black-necked Grebe at Long Rock pool eventually relocated to Drift Res.  Two Black-necked Grebes were found on the 17th at Drift.  Siberian Chiffchaffs were seen in the most suitable spots but four along Bosisto Lane on the 2nd was noteworthy.  Wintering Swallows were in the Penzance area with six at Sainsbury's and around a dozen at Long Rock pool.  Presumably the northerly winds have pushed the hardiest out of more northerly sites and funnelled them down to West Penwith.  Three House Martins joined them on the 17th.  The rotting seaweed clearly has a use with the resident flies providing food.

A late Richard's Pipit was found at tip of the Lizard on the 3rd whilst inland the breeding-stock reintroduction G405 White-tailed Eagle was roaming around Bodmin Moor, in particular at Colliford Res from the east end.  Remaining on Bodmin Moor, an astonishing ten Ring-necked Duck were counted on Dozmary Pool.  This record surpasses the six at Stithians in the 80's and is presumably a national record as well?

The wintering Rosy Starling was seen in the Boscaswell council estate, Pendeen, most days in through the month.  Cornwall's second December record of Wryneck was found at Botallack on the 5th and was the latest on record.  This follows the best Wryneck year on record when at least 60 birds were recorded during the autumn.  A surprising rarity this year has been Yellow-browed Warbler.  Many birders have not seen one in 2021.  One was found at Loe Valley, Helston on the 5th.

The 6th saw the first Ring-billed Gull of the season appear at Hayle Est. This one is presumably the site-faithful returning bird of previous years.

A decent winter seawatch at Pendeen on the 8th produced a Leach's Petrel, two late Sooty Shearwaters and two Little Auk as well as 18 Manx Shearwaters.  Manxies have been counted in double numbers on every suitable winter seawatch off Pendeen.  Given the regularity of counts, there must be a small wintering flock around the Cornish seas. The same goes for Bonxies which are seen on every seawatch (last winter saw a max count of 22 in one day off Pendeen).

The first Caspian Gull appeared at Hayle on the 9th increasing to four on the 24th. This species has previously been a major rarity but ID skills and observer perseverance has changed the status of this tricky bird to pick out.  Last winter, Mark Halliday found at least 22 individuals on Hayle alone.

3w Caspian Gull, Hayle, pic by Mark Halliday.

A Black Guillemot flew past St Ives Island o the 10th.  12 Red-breasted Mergansers at Carrick Roads is  a relatively high count these days.  Up to 80 here were regular in the 70's and 80's. This was an old hunting ground of mine but sadly diving duck and diver numbers seem very low here these days.    A Red-necked Grebe was found at the Helford.  This site has always been a regular favourite for red-necks.

The only Glaucous Gull to date was in the Mousehole/Newlyn area on the 11th and 12th, whilst the Ring-billed, 4 Caspian and 11 Yellow-legged Gulls were at Hayle.  A ringed Yellow-legged Gull was just the second record of a ringed bird in Cornwall. This one was a 2w bird ringed in Switzerland.

A late Dusky Warbler was found at Tregilliowe Pools, St Erth on the 16th.  Bean Geese have popped up along the south coast.  It was only time before one would be found in Cornwall.  As with all grey geese, they are scarce in Cornwall, but Bean is the rarest.  So three at Padstow was a decent find on the 18th. Two more were identified to species level as Tundra Bean at the Lizard on the 22nd.  A Greenland White-fronted Goose was also with them.

Bean Goose and White-fronted Goose (right), Lizard, pic by Dave Parker.

A late Richard's Pipit was found on the 20th at Housel Bay, most likely a re-find of the earlier Lizard bird (from 3rd Dec).  A Hawfinch was also seen at Chacewater on the 20th.   A high count of 21+ Cattle Egrets were seen at Manaccan, the Helford.  The Red-necked Grebe continued to be reported at Helford while another was at Torpoint on the 22nd. The Glossy Ibis count reached a high of 13 at Walmsley.

 An unseasonal Hoopoe was photographed at St Stephen on the 26th.  A substantial count of 25 Chiffchaff and three Swallow as well as a Water Pipit were counted at Marazion Marsh. A drake Pochard briefly put in a visit.  This species is unusual here and fast becoming quite a scarce bird in Cornwall.  A visit to Stithians on the 24th drew a complete blank. The Lizard Bean Geese flock grew to five birds on the 26th, presumably joined by the three from Padstow reported earlier on the 18th.  The Dusky Warbler was still present at Tregilliowe for its 11th day.

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