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.