Paul Freestone reviews December’s Birding highlights including two familiar returning visitors and a stunning Eastern rarity.
The Hudsonian Whimbrel remained faithful to its Boat Cove location throughout the month and the drake Green-winged Teal remained at Hayle. Both birds were present into the New Year. The Carrick Roads were busy on the 1st with four Velvet Scoter, Black-throated and Great Northern Divers, twelve Red-breasted Mergansers and eighteen Black-necked Grebes. Two Yellow-browed Warblers were at Nanjizal and another couple were at Swanvale NR, Falmouth. A juvenile Glaucous Gull at St Eval airfield was the first ‘white-winger’ of the month and a Spoonbill was at St Johns Lake, Torpoint. Nearby Fifty-two Avocets were on the river Lynher, viewed from Wacker Quay. The Black-necked Grebe and Mandarin remained at Drift and a Bittern was seen at Marazion Marsh RSPB. Two Water Pipits were at Treraven meadows on the 3rd and a Yellow-browed Warbler was at Bude the following day. Elsewhere, a ring-tailed Hen Harrier was at Windmill Farm reserve and the Spoonbill was still on the Hayle Estuary. Five Slavonian Grebes were on the Camel River at Wadebridge on the 5th and a Yellow-browed Warbler was in Morrab Gardens, Penzance. A sub-adult Caspian Gull was found by Brad Dallas on the Hayle Estuary late in the afternoon.
On the 6th a Pomarine Skua flew past Land’s End and two Cattle Egrets were on the Gannel Estaury on the 7th. A second-winter Yellow Legged Gull was on the Hyale Estuary on the 8th and two or more Yellow-browed Warblers and a Firecrest were at Swanvale NR. Another Cattle Egret joined the two at roost in Penpol Creek on the Gannel estuary. A juvenile Iceland Gull was at Sancreed on the 10th and a Yellow-browed Warbler and two Lapland Buntings were at Polgigga the next day. Six Woodlark were still over-wintering at Boscregan Farm, Nanquidno on the 12th and four Spoonbill flew towards St John’s Creek, Torpoint on the 13th.
By the 14th the Cattle Egret roost at Penpol Creek had risen to ten individual birds. A Yellow-browed Warbler was at Bude Marshes on the 15th. The following day two drake Ring-necked Ducks were on Drift Reservoir and two Cattle Egrets were in the surrounding fields there. Yellow-browed Warblers were reported from Nanjizal (3) and one at St Just. The drake American Wigeon was reported again from the Gannel Estuary and three Cattle Egrets were at Sellan Farm, Sancreed. Another Cattle Egret was seen distantly from Upper Tamar Lake. Quite possibly the ‘Bird of the Month’ for many was found at Mousehole on the 18th. A superb male Eastern Black Redstart graced the rocks below the Rock Pool Café and gave superb views, allowing for equally superb images to the delight of photographers. Elsewhere, a Eurasian White-fronted Goose was at Siblyback Reservoir, a Great White Egret was at Marazion Marsh and a Little Bunting was at Nanjizal. There were thirteen Cattle Egrets flew in to roost at Penpol Creek and another five birds were reported from Sancreed. A Glaucous Gull joined the Spoonbill and Green-winged Teal on the Hayle estuary.
The Pacific Diver appeared for its tenth consecutive year in Mounts Bay on the 19th and remained into the New Year. A juvenile Glaucous Gull was on St Clements Isle on the 22nd and a Ring-billed Gull was on Long Rock Pool with thirty-seven Med Gulls on the 23rd. What may have been the same Ring-billed Gull was on the Hayle estuary the following day and a probable first-winter American Herring Gull was found by Mushtaq Ahmed at Long Rock Pool. A drake American Wigeon was at Kingsmill Lake on Christmas Day. On Boxing day a Siberian Chiffchaff was at St Andrews Road Pool, Par and three Cattle Egrets were at Bude Marshes. A Great White Egret was again at Marazion and a Yellow-browed Warbler was at Land’s End. Gerran’s Bay held Long-tailed Duck, Red-necked Grebe (2), Slavonian Grebe (5) and Black-throated Diver (2). A Caspian Gull was at Long Rock Pool briefly on the 27th before flying west and three Short-eared Owls were at Bartinney Downs on the 28th. Fifteen Cattle Egrets roosted at Penpol Creek on the 30th and may have been made up from small flocks at Helston (9) and Drift (6). An impressive flock of eighteen Lapland buntings were at Trevose Head during the afternoon. The last day of the year saw the re-appearance of the drake Lesser Scaup at Dozmary Pool. Elsewhere an adult Iceland Gull was at long Rock Pool and a Lapland Bunting was in field at Trevilley.