Sunday 19 June 2022

Birding highlights in Cornwall October 2021

 The month started with strong westerly winds.  Seawatching from north coast headlands was the order of the day.  Mid month was extremely un-autumnlike with calm and warm conditions. The month ended with strong westerly wind and heavy rain.

A high count of 420+ Balearic Shearwaters were seen from Pendeen on the 1st. The first returning Caspian Gull of the season was found at Red River, Marazion (1st).  A Long-tailed Skua was seen at Downderry on the 2nd.

A Red-breasted Flycatcher was found in the 60ft cover at Porthgwarra and another at Nanjizal.  A Rustic Bunting was also found at Nanjizal on the 4th.

The 5th saw a 33mph NW gale sweep through Cornwall.  Pendeen was the place to be.  A Barolo Shearwater was seen well just past the rocks at midday by three lucky observers from the lower slope.  A decent movement of skuas included one Pomarine, 34 Arctic and 30 Great Skua, whilst at Pentire a Long-tailed Skua was seen. Three juv. Sabine's Gulls and five Leach's Petrels were also seen at Pendeen. Two more Leach's were seen at St Ives and another from St Agnes head.  A Grey Phalarope was found on Cot Valley pond.  The juv Spoonbill continued to be reported from Marazion Marsh.  Events slowed down by next day, but a juv Pomarine Skua and 106 Common Scoter were seen from Pendeen.

At least two Glossy Ibis's were roaming the county with one still in West Penwith and another at Walmsley/Chapel Amble area.  Four Cattle Egrets at Carne Creek (7th) were the start of the now annual influx followed the next day by 19 at Trewornan, Wadebridge.  Numbers will surely build at this now regular site.

The first Richard's Pipit of the Autumn was found at St.Agnes Head (8th) and likewise the first Red-breasted Flycatcher of the season at Land's End (9th). A second RB 'Fly was found at St Levan (14th). At least one juv. Rosy Starling was commuting between Trevescan and Ardensawah Farm.

Sunday 10th October was a notable day. A Black-browed Albatross was reported sitting on the sea off Pendeen for ten minutes before drifting off west. Presumably this is the same bird which summered at Bempton.  Of all the hours spent here by keen local seawatchers, it was found by four visitors in a north-easterly light breeze!

The 10th was also notable for a pipit movement.  Richard's were seen or heard at Land's End, Porthgwarra, Sennen and St Levan.  A possible Olive-backed Pipit was heard over Nanjizal and another or same over Maen Cliff, Sennen.  A sound recording of the Nanjizal bird is being verified.

Two Nearctic waders appeared in the county on the 11th.  A juv Lesser Yellowlegs was found at Walmsley and a juv. Semipalmated Sandpiper at Carnsew Pool.  The latter bird was found in the exact same location as one in 2020.  Carnsew is fast becoming THE place to find rare waders in West Penwith.  The yellowlegs relocated to Clapper Marshes on the 16th.  One can only imagine the excitement at Walmsley hide on the 11th as no less than 17 Cattle Egret, a Great White Egret and a Glossy Ibis were also seen with the yellowlegs!

Another Semipalmated Sandpiper was present on the Camel on the 13th and presumably the same bird then reappearing at Walmsley on the 17th.  A Pectoral Sandpiper was found at Stithians Res.  Nanjizal hosted three star birds including Red-throated Pipit, Olive-backed Pipit and a Common Rosefinch.  Red-throat is a really difficult bird to catch up with in Cornwall, with the majority being found on call. 

Yet another Olive-backed Pipit was sound recorded on the 14th at Park Head.  2021 is by far the best year on record for this species. Indeed, my first was only back in May at Kenidjack.

Two Ring-necked Ducks were found at Dozmary on the 17th.  Porthgwarra has generally been quiet but a Woodlark and two Lapland Buntings appeared in the area (17th).

The wind turned westerly on the 20th.  Seawatching at Pendeen produced a late Great Shearwater, 37 Sooty Shearwaters and a Sabine's Gull.  The following day an estimated 60,000 auks, mainly Guillemot, passed Pendeen.  A Little Auk was found on the 23rd at Land's End.  Little Auk is quite a rarity in Cornwall; this one must have been associated with the Guillemot movement the previous day.  Late October and November is the peak period for auks as they migrate to winter further south.

The first major rarity of October was found at Calartha, Pendeen on the 22nd. A mobile and somewhat elusive first winter Brown Shrike was eventually pinned down and identified in the bracken and bramble area opposite Calartha wood.  This species is fast becoming a regular, annual visitor in the UK with at least 39 records to 2020. The Pendeen bird is the 6th record for Cornwall following the first at Kynance in 2009.  Brown Shrike has now occurred in three of the last four years in Cornwall.  A Radde's Warbler was also found on the Lizard.

Nanjizal finally came up trumps with a Blyth's Reed Warbler on the 25th.  This important ringing station is the only place that all ten county records have been found.  All have been ringed but as yet, no controls.  The following day an equally rare Marsh Warbler was found in the nets. Yellow-browed Warbler has been scarce this year so one at Porthgwarra and one at Porthcurno were notable (25th).

Cornwall's third Buff-bellied Pipit was found on the Lizard on 30th. Whilst this is a great Nearctic passerine find, local birders were really hoping for a long overdue dendroica!  Of interest, Nearctic passerines are extremely rare on the Lizard with one local birder saying the pipit was just his second.  Two Glossy Ibis remained at Walmsley to the month end and a mobile American Golden Plover was in the Porthgwarra and Chapel Carn Brae area (30th).

Bird of the Month: Brown Shrike at Pendeen.

Runners-up Semipalmated Sandpiper at Carnsew, Blyth's Reed Warbler at Nanjizal and Barolo Shearwater off Pendeen, Buff-bellied Pipit at Lizard.

1w Brown Shrike, Pendeen, pic by Steve Rogers

Blyth's Reed Warbler at Nanjizal, Oct 2021, Pic courtesy Kester Wilson

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