Sunday 19 June 2022

Birding highlights in Cornwall November 2021

 November weather started with a light westerly airflow. Mid month was generally mild.  The month-end finished with Storm Arwen unleashing some strong northerly winds.

Early November saw some rare Nearctic ducks appear across the county.  An impressive flock of five Ring-necked Ducks were found at Dozmary Pool on the 2nd and a 6th bird the following day.  A male Green-winged Teal appeared at Nanpean on the 3rd, with another first year male at Devoran on the 8th. A probable American Wigeon was seen briefly off Marazion beach on the 4th.  

An American Golden Plover was found with the goldie flock in the Crows-an-Wra area though proved difficult to pin down (1st).  A Radde's Warbler was trapped in the nets at Nanjizal and was the second county record this autumn.  A juv. Pallid Harrier flew over Lizard village on the 4th.  This species is now annual in the county but notoriously difficult to pin down for the masses to twitch it.

The Buff-bellied Pipit found late October on the Lizard was re-found a few hundred yards from the original spot on 3rd Nov. This is the third record for Cornwall and not an easy bird to find.  The species certainly requires diligence searching through pipit flocks. This bird was confirmed as the American race and not the eastern form japonicus.

The first Little Bunting of the season was found at Nanjizal on the 5th.  The stubble fields in the area may just hold this species through the winter months, as seems to be the norm.  Little Bunting winters in very small numbers in the county now and it pays to check winter finch flocks. 

Considerable flocks of migrating Woodpigeon, Stock Dove, Fieldfare, Redwing were seen from "vis mig" watchpoints on the 5th. No doubt the Wryneck at Kenidjack, Rosy Starling at Pendeen, several Lapland Buntings and Brambling were caught up in this movement.   

Vis Mig or visible migration is a growing aspect of birding and involves static viewing of the skies early morning, from notable high points, eg St Agnes Head, Land's End, Trevose, Park Head etc.  Results can be very rewarding eg on the 5th at St Agnes,  7500 Fieldfare, 2000 Redwing, 1400 Woodpigeon, 14 Stock Dove, 600 Chaffinch, 7 Brambling, 26 Siskin and six Whooper Swan!

Seawatching at Pendeen on the 7th produced huge numbers of Kittiwake, 4000+ and mixed auks of 10,000+,  a Little Auk and an unusual record of Snow Bunting migrating at sea with the auks.

A late Barred Warbler was photographed on the 8th at Kenidjack and the Rosy Starling remained in private gardens at Pendeen.  An unseasonably late Hoopoe appeared in a garden at Trebetherick on the 10th.

The runner-up bird of the year was found dead at Helford on the 12th.  A White's Thrush sadly hit a house window.  The freshly dead corpse was passed to Tony Blunden for the simple ID process.  This is the 3rd record for Cornwall but first in modern times.  The earlier two were in 1874 and 1962.

White's Thrush, Helford Nov 2021, picture courtesy Mark Pascoe

The weekend of the 12th and 13th saw a change of wind to north westerly.  Two Little Auks, two Leach's Petrels, a Long-tailed Skua, a small movement of divers and a massive movement of thousands of auks and Kittiwakes were seen off Pendeen, St Agnes and St Ives. 

Two Dusky Warblers were found by the same birder at Trevean and Porthgwarra on the 14th. Yet another was found at Nanjizal.  A Richard's Pipit and several Siberian Chiffchaffs were noted at Trevilley also on 14th.

Continuing with the Siberian theme, a bright coloured Radde's Warbler was found at the top of Cot Valley on the 17th. Present for just the day, it was typically elusive as it foraged low down in the grasses and ground vegetation. Another or the same was trapped in the Nanjizal nets on the 19th,  Three Dusky Warblers were also available on the same day at Porthgwarra, Trevean and Nanjizal.

A stunning male Bluethroat was trapped in the Nanjizal nets on the 18th.  This is the second record this year from Nanjizal and was one of the red-spotted forms.  Bluethroat breeds as close as France and winters in west Portugal, yet this species is a major find in Cornwall.

The 20th saw no less than five Dusky Warblers in the county, with one on the Lizard, one at Nanjizal and three in the Porthgwarra area. An addition, a single Yellow-browed Warbler was also seen in the 60 ft. cover at Pothgwarra.  The latter species has been uncharacteristically scarce this year.  Who would have thought that Dusky Warbler was the "common Sibe rarity" this Autumn!

Dusky Warbler at Trevean, pic courtesy Steve Rowe.

The wide ranging American Golden Plover was eventually pinned down on Hayle Estuary with the Golden Plover flock (20th) and photographed well on the 22nd. 

American Golden Plover, Hayle Est. Nov 2021, pic by Mike Spicer.

The 26th saw Storm Arwen hit the UK with the Northern Isles taking the brunt with up to 98 mph winds. Cornish north coasts were affected with 60+mph winds.  The highlight was a Brunnich's Guillemot off St Agnes head, in close with 20 auks. This species is potentially the first record for Cornwall. Seven others were also claimed on the north east coast of England at the same time. A handful of Leach's Petrels and Little Auks were seen of St Ives.  A Blue Fulmar was also unusual. Arwen failed to really deliver any quantity of unusual seabirds though.  White wing gulls were strangely absent too. Finally, the six Whooper Swan originally found on the 7th were still in the Trewey area at the month end.

Birds of the month: White's Thrush corpse at Helford and Brunnich's Guillemot off St Agnes.

Runners-up: high numbers of Dusky Warblers, Radde's Warbler, Pallid Harrier and Bluethroat.

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