Paul Freestone reports on rare seabirds, early migrants and successful breeding firsts.
The Glossy Ibis flock increased by one at Walmsley on the first, bringing the total to fourteen birds. Seawatching conditions remained favourable and despite poor visibility on the 2nd, a Fea’s Petrel was seen briefly from Gwennap Head. Wilson’s Petrels were reported at Gwennap Head (4), Mousehole and Mevagissey. The following day three Wilson’s were seen from the returning Scillonian III and a possible Fea’s Petrel was reported early morning off Mousehole. Seven of the fourteen Glossy Ibis were seen to depart from Walmsley and were later reported in Devon. On the 5th a Purple Heron was seen to fly out to sea at Porthgwarra and a Wood Sandpiper was at Stithians.
A pelagic from Penzance resulted in the sighting of a possible Bermuda Petrel on the 7th. The bird was photographed and images apparently show characteristics of this species. Another Wilson’s Petrel was seen off Porthgwarra and four Cattle Egrets were still in the Walmsley area. The following day there were six Cattle Egrets including a new juvenile, which led to speculation that the birds had bred. This is the first breeding record for the county. On the 8th, three Glossy Ibis at Walmsley were thought to be new birds as one was wearing a Spanish ring. In the evening there were eight birds present. Elsewhere, a Wilson’s Petrel flew past Pendeen late morning. A Melodious Warbler was trapped and ringed at Nanjizal on the 10th and a Marsh Harrier was nearby at Arden-sawah, Polgigga on the 11th. The run of Wilson’s Petrel records continued on the 12th with five seen from a Pelagic off Lamorna. The following day two flew past Porthgwarra and another was seen from the Scillonian III. A Baralo Shearwater was reported flying west past the runnelstone at Porthgwarra and there were now two juvenile Cattle Egrets with the four adults at Walmsley.
A juvenile Garganey was at Marazion Marsh RSPB on the 14th and two Cattle Egrets were at Colliford Lake on the 15th. Elsewhere a Dotterel flew SE over Bosistow towards St Levan. There were no land birds of note for the next few days but the sea continued to produce the goods with yet another Wilson’s was seen from a pelagic off Penzance on the 19th and a superb Fea’s Petrel the following day from Falmouth. The latter came close enough for decent photographs to be obtained! The trip also produced a Wilson’s Petrel and one also flew past Porthgwarra. The first Wryneck of the autumn was at Kynance on the 21st and Ospreys were seen at Ruan Lanihorne and Walmsley. A Melodious Warbler was seen briefly at Nanjizal on the 22nd and a Hen Harrier was at Gillhouse near Colliford Lake briefly. Two Little Terns remained at Porth Kidney Sands, Lelant having been seen the previous day. An elusive Greenish Warbler was at Millbrook on the 23rd and an Ortolan Bunting was on the Lizard. That or another flew over Caethillian the next day and a Melodious Warbler was at Pistil Meadows. A Wryneck was trapped and ringed at Nanjizal and there were seven each of Glossy Ibis and Cattle Egret at Walmsley.
A smart adult male Ortolan Bunting was sunning itself on rocks at Porthgwarra on the 25th and a first-winter male Bluethroat was trapped and ringed at Nanjizal. The valley continued to produce autumn rares with a Blyth’s Reed Warbler trapped the following day and also a Melodious Warbler. An Ortolan Bunting was elsewhere in the valley and a record 26 Tree Pipits flew form a field there. A Honey Buzzard flew over The Lizard and a Pied Flycatcher was at Church Cove. Another Pied Fly was at Land’s End and a Red Kite flew NW over Mount Hawke. Another Melodious and a Barred Warbler were located at Land’s End on 27th and a Dotterel appeared to land in field above St Levan late afternoon. Migrants at Porthgwarra included Pied Flycatcher, fifteen Yellow Wagtails, two Whinchats and thirty-two Tree Pipits. An adult Roseate Tern was in Mounts Bay. Three Sabine’s Gulls were reported off Land’s End on the 28th and a Wilson’s Petrel was at sea from the Scillonian III. Two Ospreys were seen at St Genny’s and Kennack Sands and another flew NE over St Just. An adult Roseate Tern was at Sennen and two Pied Flycatchers were in the Porthgwarra/St Levan area. On the 30th a Yelkouan Shearwater was reported lingering off Porthgwarra Cove early morning and a possible Greenish Warbler was at Stratton Terrace, Truro. Firecrests were seen at Towan Head, Newquay and Cot Valley. The last day of the month saw one of two Ospreys take up residence at Tallack’s Creek Devoran and there were seven Little and two Arctic Terns at Kingsmill Lake, Saltash. The Garganey remained at Marazion Marsh.
August 2017 will be written in ornithological history as one of the best for sea watching in Cornwall. Rare seabirds and record numbers of Wilson’s Petrels brought birders from across Europe to our headlands. Totals numbers of Petrels and Shearwaters reported to Cornwall birding from headlands and pelagics are shown below and give some indication of the incredible year to date:
Fea’s Petrel – 3
Bermuda Petrel – 1
Wilson’s Petrel -24
European Storm Petrel – 1277
Baralo’s Shearwater – 1
Cory’s Shearwater – 335
Great Shearwater – 628
Sooty Shearwater –1043
Balearic Shearwater – 391
Yelkouan Shearwater 1
Other species seen include: Manx Shearwater, Pomarine, Great and Arctic Skua, Little Roseate, Common, Arctic and Black Tern, Sabines Gull and a host of cetaceans including Fin and Minke Whale.
September promises more migrants and vagrants and with hurricanes and storms across the Atlantic, American vagrants will be high on the agenda. Davidstow Airfield and Marazion Beach are previous hotspots for American waders like Bairds, Buff-breasted and Pectoral Sandpipers and American Golden Plover. The valleys of the far west should provide migrants like Pied and Spotted Flycatchers along with an occasional scarcity such as Greenish Warbler, Red-backed Shrike and Wryneck. With the aforementioned hurricanes, anything is possible and Red-eyed Vireo, Blackpoll warbler or something even rarer should be on the radar!
Paul Freestone (c) Cornwall Birding 2017