Monday, 19 January 2009

Snowy old Cornwall

Well, it had to be done, the first twitchable Snowy Owl on mainland UK for a few years just HAD to be seen, with this in mind holiday time was book and Jenny and I set off with Ade in tow too, for sunny Cornwall, a mere 420 miles to our south with the added bonus of some potential good year-listing birds to be seen too…

We set off at 5.30am and made good time, getting to Hayle for lunchtime, a brief refuelling and toilet stop and we were off looking for the track to find the owl. We thought we were in the right place but turns out we were on a sheep track! After finding some helpful birders we were quickly pointed in the right direction and continued our march to our target bird, up a very muddy path/swamp. A male Merlin shot across the path in front of us and a couple of Ravens flew along a valley below us, we saw a guy low in the vegetation so cautiously walked up to him and sat on the ground where we enjoyed really satisfactory views of this breathtaking bird. We watched it for about 30 minutes before the weather turned and a deluge ensued. Before the bad weather we were able to observed the bird looking around (presumably for photographers???) it’s piercing eyes stood out at range. This was a UK first for me, and a lifer for Ade and Jenny so we were all happy with the start to our weekend! The only bad point was the weather turning and us not being able to really stay up there for any longer. We left the hill happy, wet and dirty, (some more than others……).

We’d headed to our B&B in Penzance – Elmsdale Guest House (highly recommended), very clean B&B, good breakfasts, very nice rooms and very nice people – can’t wait to return. After a good shower and getting warmed up we headed to town for some good food and a celebratory drink!

Next day we thought we would try and get some interesting year birds around the end of Cornwall, a cracking start allowed me (and Ade) to finally crack what can only be described as our embarrassing bogey birds – Grey Phalarope. Not one, or two even but 7!!!!! We had a group of 4, followed by a group of 2 and then a single bird, all seen from the same spot and all seen in one sweep so not double counted! In typical fashion they showed really well - a great start! Moving along the coast the birds were coming thick and fast, Black-necked and Slavonian Grebe, Great Northern Diver (c10+) and Black-throated Diver (c5/6), and a whole host of common seabirds/auks that were all year ticks, followed by 4 Cattle Egrets and a Juv Iceland Gull all before lunch. We went to Lands End but most of it was closed and by now the wind was picking up. We headed to a really nice bistro place for lunch in Helston where we caught up with a nice 1st Winter Ring-billed Gull. A trip down to the Lizard provided good looks at 4/5 Chough but by now the wind was at Gale Force 7/8 so we headed back to the B&B satisfied with our haul.

Another nice meal in Penzance, including some fish eyes for the more adventurous!! After a tremendous thunderstorm non of us had much sleep but we were ready and raring to go on after breakfast with our final destination of the day being Torquay.

We went back down to Marazion but there was no sign of the Phals but a single Water Pipit was a nice bird. We quickly made our way to Newquay where we got excellent looks at a very interestingly plumaged Rosy Starling, somewhere in between plumages. We then headed to Devon where we found a delightful road to a Cider place, and some scones with jam and cream just for Jenny.

We then decided to try our luck with the Penduline Tit that had been present in the area for a few days, we didn’t have to wait long for it to pop out and start showing off in the reeds at fairly close range, a cracking little bird. A look through the gulls on the sports fields here gave us a smart adult Med Gull but little else. We then went on to a secret location where we got fantastic views of at least 10 Cirl Buntings, a UK tick for me having never birded down there before.

We had a really nice stay in Torquay/Torbay at Fairways, again a very delightful place with great rooms, food and people. I wouldn’t hesitate to stay there again and we had a nice meal in town.

All in all a very good few days birding with a decent trip list (TBA). Big thanks must go to Jenny for being very understanding of two losers standing around looking for birds! Xxxxx Thanks too must go to Ade for finding a couple of the birds and sharing the driving – I can’t believe my little Peugeot made another long haul twitch, 1000 mile round trip!!! Big up the French (or whoever makes them!).

Cheers – ANDY.

1 comment:

  1. That's an awesome trip. Very Gripped!