Sunday 31 July 2022

Birding highlights in Cornwall July 2022

 July weather started with a westerly airflow but changed to a north easterly airflow in the second week, often with blisteringly hot conditions. The 18th July turned out to be the second hottest ever day in the UK's history of weather records.  From the 24th to 31st, the weather changed to a westerly direction.

THE FIRST notable seabird of the month was a Long-tailed Skua off the Lizard on the 2nd, presumably a non breeding Bird. Out of season ducks included a Greater Scaup at Stithians and Red-breasted Merganser at Carnsew Pool on the 3rd. 

Returning waders started to trickle through from the 5th July. Stithians is always a good place to search as the water level drops quickly here in the summer. Two Little Ringed Plover, Ruff, two Common Sandpiper and Green Sandpiper were found here on the 5th.  Tresemple Pool hosted 35 Redshank and three Greenshank on the 6th. The non breeding female Marsh Harrier continued its summer at Walmsley.

A Quail was heard singing at Pentire on the 9th and a dark morph female Honey Buzzard was seen flying over Nanjizal. An adult Purple Heron was also seen here on the 11th (5th record this year). Two more returning Little Ringed Plovers were seen in the Foxhole area on the 13th. The species doesn't breed in the county but certainly passes through in respectable numbers.

A small Cory's / putative Scopoli's Shearwater was photographed at distance off the Scillonian, near Wolf Rock on the 13th.  Three photo's suggested a Scopoli's based on the small size, smallish bill and a relatively large amount of white in the primaries. Its unlikely to progress further though as the photo's weren't conclusive.

An adult Honey Buzzard flew over Devoran on the 16th and Purple Heron at Nanjizal the same day were the scant highlights of pretty barren week. 21 Gadwall fledged at Nanjizal pools.  Wader passage continued in small numbers at Drift with Little Ringed Plover, two Green Sandpiper and three Common Sandpiper.

Presumably the same non breeding Purple Heron seen at Nanjizal on the 11th and 16th was seen flying eastwards over Sennen on the 18th at 08:50 and later at Porth Reservoir at 10:50. At least five Purple Herons have been seen this year in the county. The numbers reflect a general increase across the UK. Somerset now has breeding birds on the Levels.

Northern Wheatears appear to have done well locally with fledged young birds reported at The Lizard, Kenidjack, Pendeen and Porthgwarra.

The wind shifted briefly to south west on the 19th and a Cory's Shearwater was promptly seen off Mousehole. Four Balaeric Shearwater and a Sooty Shearwater were seen off Porthgwarra on the 23rd.

The wind strengthened from the south west on the 24th. Porthgwarra was again the place to be. The highest single day count for the last ten years of around 370 Cory's Shearwater was logged. In addition, 26 Sooty Shearwater, 12 Balearic and six Great made for a memorable day. Just one skua though surely reflects the unfolding bird-flu disaster happening at the top of the food chain.

Cory's Shearwater, pic by Steve Rogers.

The wind changed direction again on the 25th. Pendeen scored with 15 each of Cory's, Great and Sooty.  122 Euro Stormy's were also counted here but Pentire, Newquay fared better with a Wilson's Petrel. This is the first Wilson's for the year. Skuas were again low on numbers with just one Arctic and four Great.

The last big year for Cory's was 2011 when a total of 1437 were logged for the year.  This included a massive 800 at Porthgwarra on 6th July 2011. In contrast, less than 50 were recorded in 2010. Thus, this species is prone to irruptions based on food availability and sea temperature.

The month end saw the normal passage of returning Willow Warblers. 64 were counted at Porthgwarra on the 26th and a decent haul of 95 were trapped at Nanjizal.  The following day the nets were put out around the pond and a surprise male Black-headed Wagtail was trapped.

The star bird of the month was found on the 27th. An adult Least Sandpiper was eventually identified at Drift Reservoir.  Initially considered to be a Temminck's Stint, photos soon appeared online and its true identity confirmed. This is a superb find and represents just the 9th Cornwall record.  The last record was in 2006 when a long stayer juv. commuted between Hayle and Copperhouse.

The month ended with a Wilson's Petrel at Pendeen on the 30th, two Cory's Shearwaters and a single Great Shearwater here on the 31st.  At Porthgwarra, 105 Cory's were logged.  The Glossy Ibis remained at Maer Lake.

Least Sandpiper, Drift, July 2022, picture by Joe Jones.

Bird of the Month: Least Sandpiper
Runner up: Cory's Shearwaters in higher than normal numbers.

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