Posts Tagged ‘cornwall


A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush

When we were down on the Hayle Estuary last month it felt like I should have given my bins a tap. I was seeing double. Not one Lesser Yellowlegs but two. They were within one another’s pockets. Tied together, perhaps by common parentage, this pair of transatlantic travellers never parted company by more than a few metres.



On a ‘bespoke’ Cornish Tour last month we came across this little gem. A ferruginous duck. It’s origins were questionable as it was a little bit more approachable than I would have liked, but that didn’t take away anything from the excitement of coming across it.


Not so easy does it

The Cornish valleys hold secrets. They are enclaves for migrating birds as they travel through the Cornwall peninsula south to Iberia and ultimately Africa. A bespoke tour last week sought to disclose a few of those secrets.

We started out the day on Saturday in light rain. Our quest, a Rustic Bunting, lurking in the midst of Nanjizal. You have to love some of the names of the valleys; Nanquidno, Nanjulian, Porthgwarra Nanjizal to name just a few. Places where avian legends have been made. We were hoping the Rustic was still present from the previous day.

The logistics of parking around the Cornish coast are challenging to say the least. However, having squeezed our cars off the road we made the trek across field after muddy field. Signage at these places is lacking. Following footpaths became a brain teasing puzzle. It’s almost as if these Cornish fellows don’t want ‘outsiders’ to find these damn places. The rain increased. The wind got up. Cloaks of opaque air blew through the valley in wave after wave of relentless rain. We got wet … and when I say we got wet … I mean … we got WET. It was if someone had subjected us each to at least a dozen ice bucket challenges. We were cold and we were soddened through to the skin. Gortex coats and boots alike were no match against the Atlantic storm riding in from the sea. No self-respecting Rustic Bunting, or should it be Rusty Bunting, would be out in this lot. We gave it up as a bad job and sought solace in Cot valley.

Here we were in a different world. The clouds drifted away the blueness of the sky reflected itself in azure waters and the sun came out. It was now hot. Our bodies were being steam dried.

Our compensation came in the form of a Dusky Warbler. Dusky Warblers never give a feast of a showing but this one at least gave us a taster from time to time. It sat atop bushes and bracken when least expected before flitting away like some sort of spectre. Getting a photo in the time we had was never going to amount to anything special… and it didn’t. Eventually though, we all had good views. We were satisfied with that and we considered the day a success, if not a little challenging.


Cat of many tales

My thoughts were transported back to a windswept headland in Cornwall. Two years ago in October as our ‘crew’ came off Scillies we stood together with others watching a small boggy patch of briars. Up popped a Grey Catbird. Another one of those common birds in Florida that manages occasionally to cross the Atlantic.

Almost symptomatic of every car stop in the ‘Sunshine State’ we heard the diagnostic meowing of Catbirds.


The cat’s out of the bag

When you are amid a gathering of (mostly) silent birders you just cant help but let your mind wander. As a five year old I’d sit with my mum identifying birds visiting the threaded peanut shells hung in the garden. On Thursday morning, a couple of score years and more later, I found myself with my guests and a group of twitchers on a windswept Cornish headland. In the intervening period I’ve seen a lot of birds in the UK; 499 species to be exact.

The first warming rays of the sun were stretching my shadow towards sallows surrounded by brambles: this small patch of vegetation was the focus of everyone’s attention. We had spent the lat week on the Isles of Scilly and had returned to the mainland on the previous afternoons ferry. This was the last day of ‘The Isles of Scilly Birders tour’. We were calling at a few places in Cornwall before heading back to Norfolk. Hence our ‘bush-staring’ close to the village of Sennen.

Hidden within the bush was a Grey Catbird. A North American crepuscular bird …way …way out of its normal range. This was the second occurence of this species in Britain.

As the sun lit up the lime bark of the willows a dark thrush sized grey bird with a black cap and a rusty vent hopped up to become the landmark of my 500th British species.

Do you think we could use the ‘cat carrier’ we saw hung on the wall at the pub during our last night of the tour to take it back to the states? No? … well no need to get into a flap about it. Better nip this in the bud right now!





Flying Boat

Making our way home from Scillies last month we called in to see a flying boat! This Dalmatian Pelican has been touring the south West Counties since it’s arrival in Cornwall on 7th May. Studying the birds moult it has been possible to identify the bird has been in Germany as well as Eastern France but was first seen in Poland. So is it a wild bird from the north east Mediterranean or did it escape from a collection somewhere on the continent? Either way it was an awe inspiring creature.




As I was going to St Ives …

We more or less cleaned up on our tour to Scillies over the last week. Anything that it was possible to see, we saw; with the exception of a Rose Coloured Starling that employed an almost endearing absence each time we went to look for it.
I was therefore delighted to hear that when we disembarked the Scillonian III in Penzance on Wednesday evening one had been seen that evening in nearby St Ives. The following morning we made this our main target.
We wound through the narrow lanes of the ancient fishing village, parked at the appointed car park and trudged up the hill towards the chapel where it had last been seen. Sure, we found a few Starlings but not the particular one we wished to see. I even purchased a nice white loaf of bread …’starling attractant’ … but all I pulled in were the local Herring Gulls. A couple of hours later after seemingly checking every rooftop in the village we decided this particular Starling was using the same Harry Potter cloak of invisibility as the one on St Marys and decided to move on. I hate loosing out!
It was only as we pulled up the narrow roads out of the cove we noticed a large flock of Starlings perched on wires. Surely it was worth a stop and search. It didn’t take long to find the little blighter sitting innocently on a power line; wondering what all the fuss was about no doubt. Success.

2014 10 09 Rose Coloured Starling St Ives Cornwall_Z5A7118

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Jun 2023


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