A light-hearted look at a potential mega day in Cornwall!
So you’re planning a trip to Cornwall in May. You have 24hrs to see as many species in the county as you can. Planning is essential and you never know what might turn up that will have you driving to the other end of the county. Traditionally Cornwall is best known for its Autumn scarce and rare species and the Spring can often be poor in comparison. However, it can and has experienced some great passage and rare visitors and it is those that we will concentrate on here. So, hypothetically speaking, if you take all of the birds recorded in Cornwall in the month of May from every year in the past and condense them into one mouth-watering day list, what could you get with an unlimited amount of petrol, no speed limits or traffic hold ups, 24 hours of daylight and a bit of imagination?
We start the day early, in the North of the county, at Tamar lakes, just inside the border with Devon, where the Spotted Sandpiper and White-winged Black Tern show really well. Next we head east to Boscastle where the county’s first White Crowned Sparrow is in a private garden. We then head south across Bodmin Moor catching up with another county first and arguably the rarity of the day in the shape of a Northern Oriole. A Bonaparte’s Gull is a somewhat unexpected bonus at Siblyback Lake and a Pectoral Sandpiper makes the list at nearby Colliford. An Iberian Chiffchaff is added at Dunmere Wood where we also pick up plenty of moorland specialities like Redstart, Wood Warbler and Pied Flycatcher. Saltash is our next destination where we encounter a fly-over Alpine Swift, an Ortolan Bunting and a superb Orphean Warbler. A quick detour to Rame, the most south-easterly headland in Cornwall gets us a nice Black-headed Bunting and a Roller. An unseasonal Laughing Gull is another unexpected American vagrant further down the coast at Polperro and a group of four Black-winged Stilts at Par Beach is too good to miss! A Great Reed Warbler in the reeds there is also a real bonus. A Squacco Heron at Portmellon takes us further south than we had wanted to be at this point in the day and we are a long way off when news breaks of an American Bittern at Walmsley Sanctuary on the other side of the county!
This amazing sequence of images, taken by Rupert Kirkwood aboard his kayak off Mousehole yesterday shows the incredible lengths some birds will go to to avoid certain death! Rupert explains:
“Extraordinary peregrine attack witnessed from my kayak two miles off the coast near mousehole. Peregrine stooped at Common Sandpiper that took evasive action and crash-dived into the sea . The peregrine then tried to retrieve its prey from the surface, which dived as it approached! The peregrine dipped its feet under the water to try to catch the submerged sandpiper.
After a couple more circuits and attempts to catch its prey it flew off. I paddled up to the swimming sandpiper assuming it was injured but when my kayak was a few feet away it flew off apparently unharmed! Photos show peregrine dipping feet into water, and the sandpiper’s head is just visible as a tiny dot below peregrine in photo 4″
With sea-watching season in full swingÂ we’veÂ already hadÂ some superb birds past our headlands. ForÂ those of you who haven’t yet made the trip to Porthgwarra, Pendeen or St Ives Island and want to update your sea-watching skills, then you wont go far wrong with a copy of Flight Identification of European Seabirds. Hover over image (left) to view. This is a very easy to use, practical field guide with photos of each species taken from distance, so pretty much how you would see them in the field (or sea!)
It’s the 34th year this weekend of theRSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch!! This is simply an hour out of your day to record the birds in your garden, so why not join in. We will also be happy to publish your results on this page, just to give others an insight into the birds we get in our Cornish gardens. ClickÂ on the link belowÂ to see the preliminary results from the reports we recieved from your gardens.
We have had few enquiries about the song and location of the Iberian Chiffchaff at Kenidjack, so hopefully this will help. The bird is frequenting the copse to the left of the engine shed (as you face it). It appears to be doing a small circuit and can also be seen on the opposite side of the road to the engine shed on occasion. It mainly frquents the oaks in the copse though. The engine shed is pretty much the first large structure on your right as you go down the valley. SEE MAP.
The MP3 links below were taken of the Kenidjack bird on Sunday morning.
An adult GREATER YELLOWLEGS was discovered this afternoon just south of River Camel at Treraven Meadows from Hide. Still present at 2000hrs viewed from car park at start of Camel Trail. If accepted this will constitute the first authenticated record for Cornwall.
Others have been claimed in the county and are as follows:
1950 – a bird ‘said to have been’ a Greater Yellowlegs was at St Anthony-in-Menage on Aug 26.
1955 – One was reported at Tamar Lake on Oct 11 (pre BBRC)
1960 – One at Camel Estuary on Aug 22-24th was rejected by BBRC
1962 – a possible was at Trewornan Bridge on Sept 13th, but Lesser Yellowlegs could not be ruled out.