Sunday 25 December 2022

Birding highlights in Cornwall December 2022

 December 2022 weather started with high pressure, clear skies and an easterly airflow.  Mid month was bitterly cold, with negative readings across the county. From the 20th, a more westerly airflow brought mild and wet conditions.

The Little Bunting at Little Hendra/Cot was still present on the 1st and seen intermittently to at least the 15th. Winter records for this species are now annual and the stubble fields of far west Cornwall are the place to find them.  A Red-throated Pipit was at Trevilley on the 1st, first found on the 11th Nov.

The unprecedented number of Cattle Egrets in the county continues to grow with another 50 in the heron roost at Malpas, Truro. This number is additional to the 167 at Amble, 85 at Gillan and c.30 at Helston and Loe Pool. With various singletons and smaller parties dotted around the county, its quite possible up to 400 (?) are wintering in the county.

A Black Guillemot was photographed from a kayak in Carrick Roads. This bird could be one of the returning Falmouth Bay birds. Presumably the same bird later moved to Swanpool.  Two wintered in the 21/22 winter period off Swanpool, this area being a firm favourite for this species.

A Dusky Warbler was found in a back garden at Tol Pedn, Polgigga. Thought to be a new arrival, meaning this is the fifth record for Nov and Dec alone.

The returning Ring-billed Gull remains loyal to the Lelant station section of Hayle Estuary, following its return at the end of November. A Russian White-fronted Goose spent a few days at the north end of Stithians res. from the 11th.

An immature Velvet Scoter was found in Mounts Bay on the 14th with 50+ Common Scoters. Mounts Bay was once a reliable and regular site for scoters but recently, numbers are very low or non existent.  The same goes for divers and grebes here. Another Velvet Scoter was found at Carrick Roads and a male Velvet was seen off Pendeen mid month.

Wintering divers and grebes in Gerrans Bay started with a Red-necked Grebe from early December. Numbers of divers remain low but should build as the weather becomes colder. 23 Goosander had assembled by mid month at Lower Tamar Lake (technically in Devon but viewable from the Cornish side pathway).

Just two wintering Spotted Redshanks in the county included singles at Devoran and Saltash. An Avocet appeared at Hayle Estuary on the16th. A Common Crane was photographed on the 15th in the Nanjizal area.

A Pacific Diver was found at Gerrans Bay, from Pendower on 17th. Presumably this is the returning adult.  Of note, the Mounts Bay Pacific Diver has presumably succumbed as it hasn't been seen for the last two winters. Two Red-necked Grebes on the Helford confirm this site as one of the most reliable in Cornwall (from 22nd). I can remember visiting the Helford in the 70's to see Red-necked Grebe.

In the east of the county, a Great White Egret was at Polbathic and Avocet numbers increased to 53 at Kingsmill. A Spoonbill was also present here. Four Slavonian Grebes were photographed at Hannafore.

An early Christmas present came to one deserving observer on the 24th. A Dusky Warbler was found at Tregilliowe Ponds, St Erth. The site is the same as one found the previous year. Perhaps a returning bird?  More definitely was a returning adult Caspian Gull found on Hayle Estuary.  This bird is P:T22 and ringed in Poland in 2018, originally seen in the first winter period of 2022.

An Avocet appeared on Truro River on the 23rd, presumably a returning adult and quite possibly the same bird seen at Hayle a few days earlier.  A decent count of 92 Black-tailed Godwit confirms this river as an important wintering site for this species.

Unusual shearwaters post-Christmas were the order of the day. Two Sooty's and a Balearic passed Pendeen on the 26th whilst a Great Shearwater was among the Gannets off Gwithian on the 27th. This is one of the latest ever records for Great Shearwater off Cornwall. The species should be in the South Atlantic at this time of year. An unsubstantiated report of an adult Sabine's Gull at Praa Sands came from Birdguides on the 27th. (There are no previous winter records of Sabine's in Cornwall).

A juv. American Herring Gull was found at Drift Res. on the 29th along with a Caspian Gull. A Goldeneye passed Pendeen on the 28th followed by another Velvet Scoter on the 29th. The latter species seems to have had a productive breeding season with higher than average numbers seen in the county.

Bird of the Month candidates: Common Crane at Nanjizal, influx of Dusky Warblers...

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