Bar-tailed Godwit, Copperhouse Creek
The second of this autumn’s trips, this time a long overdue outing to the South West peninsula, everyone had an early start to ensure we could be on the road for 0600hrs, a good move as we got through the traffic only stopping the once for provisions and a comfort stop in Devon.
Our next stop was near Davidstow, as we arrived at the open, sheep grazed airfield we were stopped by a chap in high visibility clothing, he was operating a roadblock system due to a film crew taking over much of the area, he asked us not to go into the filming area, it didn’t look good for finding our target bird. A scan from one vantage point proved the airfield was very disturbed, no sign of any waders but Colin spotted a Black Redstart flitting about on the derelict buildings before flying off to the south.
I decided to try another spot, whilst driving along the road a brief stop revealed where ‘our’ Buff-breasted Sandpiper was feeding. We parked and walked back to the section of runway, (viewing from the grass) and got great views of this little wanderer from its North American Arctic breeding grounds. Preferring not be alone it’s chosen company happened to be two juvenile Ringed Plover. After enjoying this smart bird at one of the most reliable places to see this species in the UK we visited the nearby Crowdy Reservoir.
The weather was glorious so the passerines were out in force, Meadow Pipits, 3 Wheatear, Pied and Grey Wagtails as well as flyover Siskins. On the water Mallards, Teal and a lone Wigeon joined the 6 or so Great Crested Grebes.
It was time to head down to Hayle where we stopped at Copperhouse Creek, Philps Pasty shop and the Hayle Estuary. At Copperhouse creek we enjoyed Black and Bar-tailed Godwits, Greenshank, Redshank, Curlew and large numbers of Herring Gulls. At the pasty shop Ian added Kingfisher to the list and the pasties were delicous (sorry Colin). For the coeliacs out there do ring ahead and they will bake a special for you.
Bar-tailed Godwit (above) and Black-tailed Godwit (below) showing the difference in wing markings.
Birding at Copperhouse Creek
A short distance away we parked at Hayle RSPB we walked down to the Carsnew Basin and then followed the road to the main creek before returning to the car, the estuary was busy, at the basin we saw a Rock Pipit, a Dunlin, 2 Little Grebe, more godwits and Curlew and an adult Mediterranean Gull plunge-dived for food. From the causeway we looked carefully through the Teal and Wigeon flocks and checked the Redshank, Curlew and godwits. Ryan’s Field from the hide was rather quiet so we moved on.
Next stop was Cape Cornwall where we walked to Kendijack, the views were amazing, Gannets and Grey Seals were offshore and pairs and small parties of Chough cruising up and down the valley. A Peregrine was noted as was a Kestrel and a few Stonechats. Ice creams were consumed by some, cold drinks by others as we sat on the wall taking the fine weather in.
Cape Cornwall and Kendijack
We moved on stopping to check a large field at Sennen and then headed down to Porthgwarra, it was calm and still so we systematically checked the trees and bushes in the valley, over 30 Goldcrests, one Chiffchaff, 8 Stonechats, 2 Raven and a few Great and Blue Tits were seen. This site has hosted many rare visitors but we couldn’t conjur a scarcity in the fading light, the very next morning an American Cliff Swallow was seen briefly which proves the point.
It was time to get to our hotel for the night in Carbis Bay and a quick turnaround saw us ready for dinner with a drink to unwind and chat about the day. We discussed plans for the next day, we decided to go to the Scilly Isles as the overnight winds and poor forecast didn’t bode well for birding in Cornwall but offered potential for seabirds and the Scillies. Purchasing a day return ticket in Penzance we were soon on the 0830hrs Scillonian III sailing, destination St Mary’s, the ship offered us sea-birding and it sure didn’t disappoint.
Soon after leaving Penzance Harbour we were watching seabirds, Shags, Gannets and Kittiwakes were the most numerous species but 4 Arctic Skua, 2 Great Skua, 8+ Balearic, 1 Sooty and 4 Manx Shearwater were also noted.
I had booked a taxi on St Mary’s so we got off the boat and into the bus for a short journey to Porthellick. A walk out to the bay to look for the juvenile American Golden Plover rewarded us with great views as it was feeding on the bay at low tide. Turnstones and Ringed Plover also fed as well as a Greenshank. Two geese flew in calling, circled and flew off again, Pink-footed Geese!
American Golden Plover, Porthellick Bay
With a leisurely stroll along the boardwalk we checked the sallows and listened, a short stop at the hide overlooking Porthellick pool gave us a close flock of Snipe and Grey Wagtail. Swallows and a House Martin flew overhead. Resuming our search of the sallows gave up more Goldcrests until I heard a Yellow-browed Warbler call.
We spent over half an hour trying to get good views of this little warbler, it called and showed on and off but usually in deep cover but sometimes quite close. A Blackcap was also noted. Ian spotted a Scilly Shrew on the road, it wasn’t in the best of health so it was moved to a safer spot offering us the chance to study this tiny mammal.
A walk back to the quay took us to Carreg Dhu gardens, a rest at Longstones Cafe, to Old Town Bay, through Lower Moors, past Porthmellon Beach to Hugh Town. Plnety of birds were seen but the only new trip bird was Water Rail (calling and one seen swimming across a channel), we missed the Spotted Crake by a few minutes, we never had time to wait for the next appearance.
Back aboard the Scillonian III we settled in for another seawatch, sailing out on another route passing St Martin’s we picked up two Great Northern Divers off Watermill/Innisidgen before leaving the islands, in the open sea the following species were noted on the crossing 1 Puffin, 1 Manx Shearwater, 50+ Balearic Shearwater, 3 Sooty Shearwater, 1 Fulmar, 8 Great Skua, 7 Arctic Skua, Guillemots and Razorbills, a confused juvenile Shag that circled the boat repeatedly as well as lots of Kittiwakes and Gannets.
The shearwaters were amazing, seeing rafts of Balearic’s and a close comparison of Balearic and Sooty Shearwater taking off in unison were notable but the Common Dolphin pod stole the show, a group came storming in and gave us a great show. An unforgettable and brilliant couple of hours.
After docking we walked backed to the car (some with chips, me included) and prepared for the drive back to Gloucestershire, a bit of poor weather was left behind in Cornwall and one brief stop was made at Exeter services before we ended the journey and our birding trip.
Thanks to everyone who joined me, it was a fun trip.
Redshank on the Hayle Estuary