Sunday 19 June 2022

Birding highlights in Cornwall March 2022

  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.

March carried on from February pretty much unchanged, with all the long staying winter visitors remaining, eg, two Black Guillemots off Swanpool, six White-fronted Geese, Ring-necked Duck, Bittern, Ruff, nine Glossy Ibis all at Walmsley, Glaucous and Iceland Gulls dotted around in small numbers, Rosy Starling at Pendeen, male Surf Scoter at Pentewan, and Kumlien's Gull at Newlyn.

A female Ring Ouzel at Gwennap Head, Porthgwarra on 5th March could have been an early migrant, but most likely relates to the female seen twice in the area in February. This female was also seen several times during March, mainly in the Porth Loe cove vicinty. Wintering Ring Ouzels are rare in the UK, but the Porthgwarra bird joined at least three others in England this winter.  The normal wintering area is the Atlas mountains in Morocco.  The 29th saw an increase of Ring Ouzels with a maximum of 12 together at Rosewall Hill.  Other singles were found at typical north coast watchpoints.  Ring Ouzel is rare in Spring on the south coast.

The first Black Redstart migrant at Porthgwarra was seen on the 1st March.  The annual Black Redstart movement in March seems to be accelerating.  This March has seen unusually high numbers dotted around the county, but especially at coastal sites. There were several double figure counts at the month end, eg 12 around Porthgwarra on the 29th, nine at Trevose 23rd.

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.

Barnacle Geese flock of 26, St Gothians, March 2022 (picture courtesy M. Ahmad).

The first Sand Martins appeared at Walmsley on the 6th. This important site is a regular staging area for passing Sand Martins. The north coast is also by far the best area to see early Spring migrants.  An early singing Willow Warbler was found at Tregoss on the 6th while Northern Wheatears continued to be found in small numbers along the north coast.

A Pomarine Skua was seen in Falmouth Bay on the 7th.  The bay is a regular wintering site for this species in recent years. Pomarine is also the only Stercorarius species wintering north of the equator; any seen off UK shores in winter is likely to be Pomarine. 

A group of Serins were found at the Lizard on the 22nd increasing to four birds on the 27th.  Another male was found at Land's End on the 27th.  Serin is a common passerine in Europe but a rare migrant in Cornwall.  These birds were presumably moving north taking advantage of the strong easterly airflow.

Hoopoe's turned up in numbers on the 22nd; singles were recorded at Polbathic, St Austell, St Buryan,  Nancledra.  Further reports later in the month came from Bartinney, Porthgwarra, Predannack, Pendeen, Woon Gumpas, Penrose and Treleaver.

A female Hawfinch was seen well and photographed at Crackington Haven on the 23rd.

Red Kites were on the move in March with a maximum flock of four at Porthgwarra on 20th.  Reports of numerous single and doubles occurred across the entire county.  All were adult types with full secondary and primary feathers with no signs of moult.  The immature birds associated with the now annual movement in May and June always show signs of heavy wing moult.  The March birds are presumably continental birds moving north?  

A Hooded Crow was found at Marazion Marsh on the 20th and present next morning only. Comparison of photos proved that this bird was seen in south east England just three days previously.

Little Ringed Plovers were found at Mawgan and Chapel Amble on the 25th.  This species doesn't breed in the county but the nearest is as close as Exeter.  Given the right habitat and no disturbance, there's no reason why Little Ringed Plover shouldn't breed in Cornwall.

Garganey numbers were sadly low compared to other national sites. Par beach pool and Walmsley recorded a handful but Marazion failed to attract any (at time of writing).  2021 was also a zero count here.

An adult Night Heron was found at Nanjizal on the 31st.

Bird of the Month: Moribund Brown Booby.

Runners-up and unusual records: Serin influx, 26 Barnacle Goose at Gwithian, Black Redstart movement, Night Heron at Nanjizal.

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