Sunday 19 June 2022

Birding highlights in Cornwall May 2022

 May weather started with a light westerly breeze, generally cool. A light south easterly wind on the 8th changed course to south or south-west mid month and was generally quite dull and surprisingly cold. The month end finally saw long periods of sunshine and an easterly airflow.

May opened its account on the 1st with a Red-rumped Swallow at Marazion Marsh.  Its the seventh for the Spring in Cornwall.  The second Common Nightingale was found at Mawgan Porth following an earlier very showy bird on the Lizard in April. A Hoopoe was heard singing at Nanjizal on the 2nd. An analysis of all the Spring Hoopoe sightings suggests at least 20 different birds have been seen. The only other highlight on Bank Holiday Monday was a Richard's Pipit at Windmill Farm, Lizard. 

Returning wader numbers have been very low. One notable absence is Whimbrel. Just three birds were seen on Marazion beach on the 3rd May.  This traditional stop-off site normally hosts hundreds in early May. 24 were seen at Cape Cornwall on the 4th.

The fifth Woodchat Shrike of the season was found at Kynance, Lizard on the 4th. The "wintering" Black Guillemot was still lingering off Swanpool/Maenporth and the 2CY Iceland Gull was still in the Sennen area. A Little Ringed Plover flew in off the sea calling at Land's End whilst two more were seen at Devoran. A drake Garganey was also at Devoran on the 4th. The only bird of note on the 5th was a "new" Hoopoe at Polzeath. 

The first arrival of Swifts began on the 7th though hardly in large numbers. There were no double figure reports. Bird of the day on the 7th was a singing male Lesser Whitethroat at Long Rock pool. The first week of May must go down as one of the quietest birding periods on record.  Every bird family seemed to be woefully short in numbers.

The wind direction changed to easterly on the 8th and favoured a raptor movement.  A fresh sprinkling of 2CY, ie non breeding, Red Kites trickled in to the county along with Marazion's second Marsh Harrier, and a handful of Ospreys.  The undoubted highlight though was a male Montagu's Harrier,  a 3CY bird found at Trewey Common. It most likely relates to a report from Pendeen of a"grey male" on the 2nd. This rare bird of prey is now extinct as a British breeder.  It last bred in Cornwall in the '70s. To put it in context, this is just my third Cornwall record.

Montagu's Harrier 3CY / Adult, Trewey Common, May 2022, picture courtesy Alan James.

The popular Montagu's Harrier at Trewey continued to show well on the 9th and 10th. A Red Kite and Black Kite flew east directly above the harrier on the 10th.  Black Kite is on the increase with annual county sightings the norm.  This could be due to Black Kites associating with the adult red's arriving from the continent in late March and early April. There have been several reports of Black Kite across the county.  I have now seen a Black Kite in each of the last four years and found two of them.

picture courtesy Peter Clement.

The female Marsh Harrier was still present at Marazion Marsh on the 10th, for its third day. Another female Marsh Harrier flew through Woon Gumpus on the 10th and a Night Heron was flushed from the same site, also 10th. The Night Heron is the second record this Spring following one at Nanjizal.

Black Kite, Trewey, May 2022, pic courtesy Sam Williams.

The First Pomarine Skua of the month was seen at Downderry on the 11th.  The numbers of Spring Poms has declined drastically in recent years. One bird by mid May is an all time low though. An Arctic Skua was seen the same day off Porthgwarra.  A Hoopoe was seen from a "new" location at Coverack.

The 14th was a notable raptor day with the popular Montagu's Harrier performing to all its admirers at Trewey. The roaming Black Kite was seen at Bartinney, a female Marsh Harrier at Marazion marsh and another female at Walmsley. A migrant Short-eared Owl was resting up at Land's End.  

Arguably one of the most important finds of the season was a singing male Wood Warbler on territory on Bodmin Moor. The last proven breeding in Cornwall was in 2000.

Sunday 15th saw a small fall of Spotted Flycatchers across the county. Notably four at Nanquidno, three at Kenidjack, Bosisto Lane, Otterham Station and a resident pair at Croft Pascoe. The First Turtle Dove of the season was found at St Buryan and the "resident" Hoopoe was still calling in the Nanjizal area.  The first Garganey of the year at Marazion marsh was found on the 16th and still present on the 31st. It was seen displaying and calling to a female Mallard.  Surprisingly, this is the first record of Garganey for two years here.

A first summer male singing Golden Oriole was found near Lamorna on the 17th and another was found at Carn Eames, Pendeen on the 19th.  A second bird on the 19th was also found at Drift.  I also had the briefest of views of another at Lands End but it flew straight in to Swingates, never to be seen again.(14th).

Golden Oriole (library pic by S. Rogers)

The 18th and 19th delivered a respectable fall of scarce migrants and one mega around the Lizard.  In addition to the Golden Orioles above, a Nightingale was found at Lizard village, the third Purple Heron at nearby Bray's Cott, Serin at the point, Hooded Crow and Rosy Starling at Man of War View and finally two Quails at Penberth and Treen. A Collared Pratincole was reported from an unknown source in the evening at Predannack, Lizard but sadly it flew on northwards. There were no photos or further reports. The last twitchable county record was way back in 1986 at the Camel Estuary so this species remains a highly prized find.

Undoubtedly the best weekend of the Spring came on 20th/21st/22nd. The wind shifted to south east and with extreme heat in Spain, some decent rarities were found.  Another Golden Oriole was singing and sound recorded at Lamorna. A Bee-eater and Red-rumped Swallow (8th this Spring) were in the Land's End and Polgigga area on Saturday 21st, though neither lingered. The following day, the 6th Woodchat was found near Ardensawah. A Quail was photographed well, unusually out in the open at Porthgwarra. A sub adult Egyptian Vulture was seen over Devoran on the 22nd.

On the 23rd, sensational news was announced when an adult male European Roller was found in the unlikely location of Clowance Estate. FULL DETAILS here.

Roller, Clowance Estate, pic by Mike McKee.

The month end saw the now annual influx of Red Kites. This exciting spectacle has been occurring since 2003 when non breeding birds venture away from their natal breeding grounds and funnel down to the south west.  The event is also likely to be driven by warm, high pressure systems. Land's End area on the 29th was the place to be with as many as 300 birds in the air. The same day saw an Osprey, Hobby and Red-footed Falcon, probable Pallid Harrier in the same area and also a Honey Buzzard near Bodmin. The Black Kite popped up again at Marazion. Two more Golden Orioles were seen at Nanjizal bringing the total to approx six.  A male Common Rosefinch was seen briefly and heard singing at Pendeen Carn.

Four Bee-eaters were found in the Sennen area on the 30th in the morning. They were clearly on the move as an hour later, were found on Scilly. A single bird was in the Sennen area on the 31st.

Finally, a belated April Fool's joke on the 31st came from the Lizard when a Long-legged Buzzard was claimed. "No plumage details were noted as it was very flighty".

In summary, May finally ended up an exciting month with several scarce migrants and one stand out rarity. On the negative side, common passage migrants were again woefully short in number.

Bird of the month: European Roller at Clowance.

Runner up: Montagu's Harrier at Bosporthennis, Trewey.

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