Adventures in an empty corner

Birding musings and ramblings around South-east Cornwall - the empty corner of the county.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

You're Irresistable

A day off! and the choice of ironing or birding is no choice at all so I headed off the see the Bufflehead with the lovely Jane.

On the way down I glimpsed some gulls taking flight over a field at Shortlanesend and a bird which was faintly gull-like or possibly harrier-like in the middle of the melee. It suddenly banked and the crescent markings and black wing tips gave it away as a Short-eared Owl. This was very nice but I couldn't stop and Jane hadn't seen it - Oh dear!!

Jane and I go back many years but we haven't been out birding together since I took her to see the Snowy Owl so it was great to get out again for the day. It was a bright and sunny day with just a slight wind, but once we walked down the hill and into the wood that overlooks Loe Pool everything was really rather pleasant


Gulls were the most conspicuous birds with Black-headed and Herring dominating. I picked up a first winter Med loafing about in the middle of the group - which was nice!

A female Goldeneye vied for attention as she flew about over the gulls, and a wigeon also put in a brief appearance, but none of these were really what we had come to look at. I had been told that the Bufflehead could be elusive so I was prepared for a long search, however after only about five minutes I picked her/him up diving about in the bay near Penrose. It was distant but I suppose that couldn't be helped. We got decent scope views in between the diving forays and I was surprised just how obvious the white ear coverts were even at distance. Bufflehead is a species I haven't seen in the States and my only experience in Britain is the Roadford male back in 1998 which may/may not have been ringed - depending on who you talk to. I'm sure the credentials on this are as good as we're ever likely to get when you take into account the age/sex, where and when it turned up and its behaviour. It exorcises the spectre of escapee for me of the Roadford bird, and the fact that this is a Cornish tick means that seeing it was a no-brainer!

There's a Bufflehead across the bay - but it's probably underwater!

The trip back to the car was pleasant with the chance to scan a large roving party of Long-tailed Tits which had acquired a few hangers-on such as Goldcrest, Bullfinch and the arse end of a Firecrest which disappeared quickly.

A trip to the Sewage works was surprisingly unproductive - probably because there was a lot of activity, a delivery or something. The boating lake is always good though the status of many of the birds is a little suspect. Gadwall, Shoveler and Pochard were nice and I did get the chance to photograph some of the commoner birds that we usually tend to forget about. It also gave us a chance to have some lunch, which is always welcome.

The flick of a coin decided our next move. Heads won and it was off to Lizard on another twitch, this time the six Common Crane wandering around a stubble field just outside the village. It has been a few years since I have seen Crane in Cornwall (Oct 1999 to be precise) so I was keen to catch up with these, even though I knew viewing would  be difficult from the main road.We decided to take a footpath from the village to see if we could skirt the farm where the birds were, but it soon became obvious that this was a waste of time because the footpath took us away from where we wanted to be. We met a birder on the way back who had the same idea as us. She said that it should be easy to see six four-foot high birds wandering around a field. I thought then that it was clear she'd never gone looking for Crane before! Back at the car I decided to scope the likeliest looking field and soon enough found what appeared to be a grey sack - only it was moving! A little patience and more and more birds appeared until all six could be seen. I was hoping for a slightly better view so walked up to the recycling centre where more satisfactory views were had. I settled on that as I didn't want to go upsetting the farmer by attempting to get closer - it's never a good idea. 

The day ended with a quick visit to Marazion, but it was getting late and the wind had got up so I wimped out  and we headed back to the empty corner. A great day with quality over quantity and not a scrap of ironing.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Stumbling in the dark... (with apologies to The Jayhawks)

It's been a while since I've been able to get out - work and all that, so it was a joy to set off yesterday to see if I could track down the Glossy Ibis that has been wandering about the estuary for the past week. I could always take the easy option and wait at Devil's Point in Plymouth for the bird to fly past on it's way to roost on Drake's Island but that would mean watching the bird from Devon, and the primary point of seeing this bird was to see it in Cornwall, or more specifically in Caradon to get that all important local tick.

I wasn't the first to get to St John's Ford - Tony had beaten me to it  and he was busy scanning every inch of the salt marsh and exposed mud looking for the bird. Those who know Tony will know I'm talking rubbish - he was doing what he normally does, sat in his car doing the Telegraph crossword and hoping a casual glance now and again would pay dividend.

Tony in full-on birding mode

There were actually quite a few birds there - Canada Geese mainly but also good numbers of Wigeon, Teal, Redshank and Curlew. There were a few Dunlin, Med gull and Little Egret, and singles of Green Sandpipier, Bar-tailed Godwit and Lapwing, but the Ibis was conspicuous by its absence.

Leon and Dave Allen turned up but the Ibis stayed away. I went for a walk along the foreshore whilst everyone else stayed at the ford. I think this was because I was the only one who had wellies and could negotiate the horrendous mud. When I got back everyone else had gone - perhaps they all had the right idea!!

Ray and Vic soon arrived. Both had seen the bird in Plymouth, and as Plymouth birders were able to gloat over their local tick !!

Still the bird stayed away and we were able to enjoy a bit of banter as birders do, casting aspersions on the sightings of others and discussing the endless lack of decent birds in the area, not realising the irony of such conversations with a Glossy Ibis in the area!

Ray - handsome devil

Vic- a legend

By 12.30 the tide was out and birds had dispersed along the mud so we all decided to check other sites in the area in the hope that the Ibis was feeding elsewhere. We had no luck and actually saw very little of note. There were only a couple of Med Gulls and small numbers of Black-tailed Godwit at Millbrook and no sign of any Greenshank or Whimbrel there. Similarly there were no Avocets or Spoonbill at Wacker though 300+ Wigeon there was rather nice.

Although I hadn't seen the Ibis I had enjoyed the day and arrived home mid afternoon satisfied that I'd done my best to find it- it was just one of those things.

I turned on the computer and checked Birdguides just to see what else was around:

Cornwall - Glossy Ibis - St John's Lake: 12:59. Still near the ford on the north-west side......bugger!!