Friday 24 February 2023

Birding Highlights in West Cornwall February 2023

 February 2023 weather was dominated by high pressure with an easterly airflow for most of the month. Temperature was generally warm for the time of year.

Over wintering long-stayers included the two Little Buntings at Boscregan accompanied by a healthy 200+ Skylarks and a Lapland Bunting, female Ring-necked Duck at Helston boating lake, two Serins at Sennen, Velvet Scoter off Marazion beach, four Whooper Swans at Skewjack and a juv. Rose-coloured Starling at Sennen, 

Various white winged gulls were dotted around the normal sites including at least three different Glaucous Gulls, three Iceland Gulls, adult Ring-billed Gull at Hayle Estuary, several adult and juv Caspian Gulls (5 on the 11th).  The original American Herring Gull from Newlyn was re found at Hayle Estaury on the 15th. An adult Kumlien's Gull was found at Mousehole on the 6th and later seen following a plough at St Buryan.

Off patch and away from West Cornwall, the wintering Isabelline Wheatear remained from January and was present on most days at Kelsey Head, Holywell until at least 28th Feb.  According to eBird data, this is the first February wintering record in Europe.  Also of note, the Devon bird in January and the Cornish bird are different and both represent the first January records for Europe as well. Wintering Isabelline Wheatears would normally be in NW India and east Africa.

A Bittern was found at Marazion along with two Jack Snipe on the 8th.  Both species were difficult to pin down though. Bittern has become curiously difficult to find recently, despite big breeding increases in Somerset.  Perhaps the weather is not cold enough.

A juv male Greater Scaup was found off Marazion beach on the 9th, occasionally joining the local Common Scoters and seen later on Long Rock Pool and on Marazion Marsh.  Scaup is another species which seems to be rarer these days.  There are no reports of Pochard in West Cornwall currently. (The only stronghold now is Helston Loe Pool). My own eBird data showed a max count of 70 at Drift Res. in December 1976!

Male Greater Scaup, Marazion Marsh, picture courtesy Alex Mckechnie.

A female Ring Ouzel was found at Plain-an-Gwarry on the 13th and reported again a couple days later.  This is the only (presumbed) wintering bird in the county. Surely this is too early for a returning Spring migrant?

Gull watching at Hayle and Newlyn towards the month end provided light entertainment in an otherwise quiet month. The juv American Herring Gull attracted some interest from national birders and year listers. The adult Ring-billed was joined by a second winter bird mid month.

Finally, a White-tailed Eagle from the Isle of Wight reintroduction scheme was seen over Falmouth on the 25th and again over Hayle Estuary and Stithians on the 26th.

White-tailed Eagle, Feb  2033. Picture by M Ahmad.

Bird of the month: American Herring Gull.