Sunday 19 June 2022

European Roller at Clowance Estate, 23rd May 2022

 On 23rd May, an adult male Roller was found on the disused golf course at Clowance Estate, Praze an Beeble. By chance, a visitor noticed it feeding on the lawn, took a few record shots and put the news out on Facebook. A couple local birders connected in the evening. Luckily it was still present next morning. 

European Roller, courtesy Mike McKee.

Roller, Clowance Estate, May 2022 (pic courtesy Nigel Rogers).
Image courtesy Alan James

Image courtesy Alan James

It remained faithful to a wide area of mixed woodland and open glades. It would go missing for a long periods while it fed in the large weedy field adjacent to the estate.  It would also show for long periods while it presumably digested its food.

The appearance was more than welcome in what has been a strange Spring, characterised by very few common migrants, a handful of scarce migrants and just one other major BB rarity (Egyptian Vulture at Devoran).  

The lead up to the Roller's appearance is relatively straightforward to pinpoint. The preceeding wind was from a North West direction. On Friday there was an easterly airflow through the Mediterranean, presumably pushing migrants westwards. The easterly airflow continued through France on Sunday 23rd but eventually hit the Atlantic north westerlies, effectively grounding any migrants.  There has also been extreme hot temperatures in The Iberian peninsula. Other rarities on Scilly and Cornwall at the same time included Short-toed Lark, Black-headed Bunting, Thunbergi race Wagtail, Red-rumped Swallow, Bee-eater, Woodchat Shrike and fresh hirundine numbers.

Roller is rare in Cornwall with the last record in 1994 at Penlee Point.  The 1992 Roller on the Lizard was present for nearly two weeks and famously suppressed. We then have to time travel back to 1976 when one was found feeding on freshly cut hay for two days at Lanlivery.  Thus the Clowance bird is a welcome Cornish tick for nearly everyone and the 5th record in recent times (12th in total).

The species breeds in Iberia, south France and north west Africa and eastwards to South west Siberia. Winters in tropical Africa.

Records for Cornwall are as follows:

1765. Helston Moor: Shot.

1822: nr Falmouth 4th October.

1844: St. Levan 15th October.

1853: St Just in Penwith 15th October.

1861: Land's End June.

1865: Logan Rock mid September.

1887: St Buryan October.


1967: Bodmin Moor, Manor Common 12-13th June.

1976: Lanlivery, 1st to 2nd June.

1992: Lizard Downs, first summer, 27th May to 8th June. (suppressed).

1994: Penlee Point, Rame, 29th May.

2022: Clowance Estate, Praze an Beeble, 23rd to 29th May.

There have also been a few claims rejected eg. Mount Edgcumbe July 2001, Tehidy and Chapel Amble.

A note of thanks also to the Clowance Estate manager who kindly allowed full access to birders to enjoy this special visitor and the finder Ali Wright for putting the news out.

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