Thursday, 19 March 2015

Back in Cornwall - part 2

Last Tuesday I went birding with Jayne, and we visited a few places along the way to Falmouth. First stop was the boating lake at Helston, where we were led to believe we'd find an Iceland Gull, as well as a long-staying Whooper Swan.

The Whooper was easily findable, sitting on the bank surrounded by Mute Swans, and yodelling away to show us that it was very much not a mute swan in any sense of the word.

Although a wild bird, it has learned not to be bothered by people in the least, especially when they have just bought a bag of duck food from the boating lake cafe.

Also on the lake were fair numbers of Tufties and Shovelers, plus Mallards, including these four (one a barnyard special) that were showing signs of springtime friskiness. Also many Black-headed and Herring Gulls and one Lesser Black-back, but no Iceland Gull.

We decided to go over the road to the local sewage works, where Jayne had found a probable Siberian Chiffchaff the week before. There were a few Chiffchaffs in the scrub around the aromatic main workings of the place but no obviously Sibe-esque ones. Then I got onto a smaller bird which I saw was a 'crest - and to our joy it proved to be a Firecrest.

We took countless shots as it moved up the slope via trees and bushes, and while most of my pics show just a vaguely bird-shaped blur vanishing out of the edge of the frame I did get a couple of good 'uns. Very happy with our success, we went back to the lake for another look for the Iceland, but while a few extra gulls had arrived, our target bird wasn't among them.

On to Swanpool, a small nature reserve set around a walk-round-able lake, just on the edge of Falmouth. Here there was a Long-tailed Duck, and a first-winter Ring-billed Gull, both long-stayers. We located the former straight away from a scan across the water - it was out in the middle. I took a couple of record shots but felt confident that we'd have better views from further around.

Halfway round, a Grey Heron sitting glumly in an inlet.

At the bottom end of the lake, we found the Ring-billed Gull, exactly where Jayne said it would be. It was close to the shore, and rushed over for point-blank views when the bag of duck food appeared. It was a delightful bird, a stereotypically brash American that shouted loudly for attention and jumped on all other gulls that went anywhere near it.

A few of young Ring-bill's more striking poses. Compared to British species, it most resembles a young Common Gull but is really quite distinctive, in both appearance and manner. I loved it :)

Oddly, the Long-tailed Duck now had gone AWOL, lengthy scans from all points of the lake on the rest of our walk failed to produce it. So the better pics I'd hoped for didn't happen. We did add Little Grebe to the day list on the walk back.

At the top of the lake, a trio of Mute Swans came swishing impressively overhead.

There then followed an interval of looking unsuccessfully for a Black Redstart on a random residential street in Falmouth, and a look at the very beautiful but birdless beach. I didn't bring the landscape lens on this occasion so you'll just have to take my word that it was a beautiful beach.

Then we went to Gulval, near Penzance, to see if we could find yet another long-staying 'rare', a Little Bunting. We did see it, distantly (and a little less distantly through another birder's scope) but the photos were not up to much. There is more to come on the bunting though... Meanwhile, with time getting on, we decided to head back west and stop off for refreshments at Marazion.

The very cheery and amusing lady in the tiny beachside cafe served us tea and cake, and as we enjoyed these we watched Pied Wagtails and Rock Pipits in the car park, and this stern-looking Herring Gull pointing out that this is not a free car park (most of the ones we stopped at today were free, though only because it's not yet 'the season').

Then we crossed the road for a look at Marazion Marsh. A lone Little Egret wandered the shore, while further out a few Teal and a couple of Canada x Greylag hybrids swam in the shallows.

Then overhead flicked the unmistakeable shape of a hirundine - a Sand Martin, my first proper 2015 summer migrant. It was one of two, zipping over the water and hopefully finding something to eat after its long journey.

Last birds of the day were a pair of Stonechats, the male singing lustily as befits a bird on its breeding grounds.

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