October weather started with a westerly airflow, mainly influenced by hurricane Fiona hitting the Northern Isles. The month ended mild and wet with south to south-west wind dominating.
The month kicked off with the Lizard Point Red-necked Phalarope, remaining from September 30th to October 1st. This local "mega" rarity delighted many of the newer resident birders. To put this species in perspective, the last "twitchable" record was 1993 when a juvenile settled on Perranporth boating lake.
Red-necked Phalarope, Lizard, pic courtesy Steve Rowe.
A reasonably strong westerly wind pushed some seabirds towards Pendeen on the 1st. Two Cory's, 30 Great, 270 Balearic and 43 Sooty Shearwaters, a Leach's Petrel and two Grey Phalaropes were the highlights.
Cornwall's 31st Long-billed Dowitcher was found at Hayle Estuary on the 2nd. 2011 was the last year when two were present in the county (at Stithians and Davidstow). Hayle estuary is the top site for Long-billed Dowitcher, hosting eight individuals. The last bird at Hayle was in July 2007 when a stunning adult was present for four days.
Long-billed Dowitcher, juv, Hayle Est. Pic courtesy Pete Walsh.
Picture courtesy PeteWalsh
Long-billed Dowitcher, juv, Hayle, pic courtesy Michael Spicer.
A Blackpoll Warbler was seen at Nanjizal on the 2nd and possibly heard on the 30th. Given that eight other Nearctic passerines were in Ireland and the Northern Isles, it was only time before one appeared in Cornwall. Regrettably it was found on a private site.
Yellow-browed Warblers were seen at several sites, including Truro, Levant, Church Cove, Kelynack, Penryn Uni campus and Kenidjack. All the pointers are suggesting a very good season for this delightful little Sibe. Another Pectoral Sandpiper was seen at the Camel Estuary on the 3rd.
The second Woodchat of the season was found at Pendeen, in the valley opposite the coastguard houses. This is the first record for Pendeen and joins a celebrity shrike line-up here. Pendeen easily matches Porthgwarra for rare shrikes. With the increased observer coverage, this trend looks promising.
Woodchat, juv Pendeen, picture courtesy John St.Ledger
Seawatchers were rewarded on the 5th with the highlights being a Sabine's Gull and three Leach's Petrels at Pendeen and two Long-tailed Skuas at the Lizard. The latter site has a growing reputation for Long-tailed Skua and is one of the more reliable sites in the county for this species.
Two juv Lesser Yellowlegs were found at Copperhouse Creek on the 7th. These are approximately the 51st and 52nd records for Cornwall and the first "flock". The species is almost an annual vagrant in Cornwall. 2020 was a blank year and the 2018 wintering Bird at Devoran remained until 25th April 2019.
Lesser Yellowlegs, Copperhouse, picture courtesy Alex McKechnie
Two Lesser Yellowlegs roosting with Teal, Redshank and Dunlin, pic courtesy Dave Flumm.
A Black Kite was seen in the Polgigga area on the 8th. A closer inspection of photographs showed a transmitter aerial on its back and leg rings indicating an escaped bird from Wild Zoological Park in Halfpenny Green. A flyover Serin was at nearby Porthgwarra. Yellow-browed Warblers continued to be found with one at Sennen quarry and three at Nanjizal.
The Woodchat Shrike at Pendeen moved from its original spot by the coastguard houses. From the 8th, it could be found a few hundred yards east towards Portherras beach. This additional feeding area is some way from the coastguard houses but a check of available photos shows the bird to be the same individual.
Woodchat video by John Chapple.
Egrets were on the move on the 11th. A record six Great White Egret were flying east over the Lizard and another was at Ryan's Field. The following day a flock of 42 Cattle Egrets flew east at Pendeen and another Great White Egret was found at St. Winnow.
The 13th was a busy day with no less than eight Yellow-browed Warblers across the county and a calling Pallass' Warbler at Long Rock pool. An American Golden Plover was found at Crowdy and a Richard's Pipit at Park Head. A juv. Rosy Starling was found at Mullion.
The first twitchable Nearctic passerine of the year appeared on the 15th. Cornwall's 34th Red-eyed Vireo was found at Tregeseal in the wooded area by the bridge. Not quite Blackburnian status but still a notable find.
Red-eyed Vireo, Tregeseal, picture courtesy Bob Bosisto.
Never say the seawatching season is over in October. A Fea's / Desertas Petrel was photographed from the Scillonian on the "Cornish side" on the 17th. At least 12 Puffins were also seen on the crossing on the 14th. All of them were adults showing some red in the bill.
Migrant thrushes were clearly on the move from Scandinavia on the 20th. High numbers of Fieldfare and significant counts of Ring Ouzel could be found cross the county. Highest counts of Ring Ouzel included 11 at Treeve Moor, 5 at Pendeen, 6 at Logan Rock, 14 at Lloyd's Lane, 8 at St. Levan, 8 at Kenidjack and 24 at Kynance. Highest counts of Fieldfare included a massive count of 3759 over Penryn Uni, 350 at Pendeen, 200 at St Agnes, 1000 at Sharp Tor and 300 at Kenidjack. A probable flyover Black-throated Thrush was reported from Kynance but sadly couldn't be relocated.
The 22nd October set a new record for Great Shearwater numbers. A massive 10,235 were counted moving past The Lizard in the afternoon, 868 past Porthgwarra and a further 2500+ off Pennance Point, Falmouth. In addition, rare seabirds with a southerly origin including Cornwall's fourth Band-rumped Petrel of the season off Porthgwarra (15:50), and remarkably another bird off the Lizard (17:00), a Barolo Shearwater from Bass Point, Lizard and a juv Long-tailed Skua from Porthgwarra capped a stunning day. With the Fea's /Desertas already mentioned on the 17th, clearly with changes in sea temperature, we can only expect more rare seabirds.
www.worldseatemperature.com image showing warm sea extending to SW Approaches.
The wind shifted from South to WSW on Monday 23rd. Pendeen recorded a juv Sabine's Gull, seven Grey Phalarope, juv Long-tailed Skua and 117 Great Shearwater, (the highest count of Great Shearwater here this year).
The first Hawfinch of the season was found at Polwheveral, Constantine and a Siberian Stonechat at Bochym, Lizard on the 23rd. One Lesser Yellowlegs continued to entertain the paperazzi-birders at Copperhouse.
Cornwall's 18th Siberian Stonechat was found at Bochym, Lizard on the 24th. A sample was collected and will be sent off for DNA analysis, hopefully designating either Maura or Stejneger's.
Siberian Stonechat, Bochum, Lizard, pics courtesy Michael Spicer.
The final throes of the seawatching season came on the 28th and 29th. A second calendar year "blonde" Long-tailed Skua was video'd off Pendeen. A stunning pale looking individual caused some initial headaches, mainly surrounding the pale underwing. However, the video showed several key features which point to Long-tailed Skua, including small size, narrow wings, long caudal area, grey-brown tones, pale rump, and a distinctive meandering flight path.
Meanwhile at Porhgwarra, the astonishing Great Shearwater influx continued with a 90 minute passage of 597 birds. In addition, a close adult male Pomarine Skua showed off its spectacular tail extensions. Leach's Petrel's were seen off Sandy Cove and next day at Porthgwarra.
Bird of the Month: Band-rumped Petrel off Porthgwarra.
Runner's up: Several candidates including Red-eyed Vireo at Tregeseal, a pair of Lesser Yellowlegs at Copperhouse, Long-billed Dowitcher at Hayle, Siberian Stonechat at Bochym and finally, around 14,000 Great Shearwaters off the Cornish south coast.
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