Generally a quiet month, July 2017 will go down in Cornish Ornithological history as one of the best ever! Paul Freestone reports on some amazing seabird records and an equally incredible rare Vagrant!
The 1st of the month saw a Woodchat Shrike at Boscastle and a Cattle Egret was at Walmsley. A Roseate Tern gave birders the runaround in Mounts Bay with sightings at Marazion and Penzance during the morning. Elsewhere a Red Kite flew over St Just. A seawatch from Porthgwarra on the 2nd produced fourteen Sooty Shearwaters and two Storm Petrels. The following day there were six Cattle Egrets at Walmsley and seawatching improved at Porthgwarra with adult Long-tailed Skua, five Great, twenty-nine Sooty and a couple of Balearic Shearwaters. There were very few reports of note on the 5th but all hell let loose on the 6th when Mark Wallace found the UK’s 2nd ever AMUR FALCON at Polgigga. The mega find created mass panic across the UK and birders descended on Polgigga in their hundreds. The bird, a first summer female, looked a bit tired and bedraggled to some, but survived the night, much to the delight of those who travelled through the night to see it. It was last seen flying north late morning on the 7th. Elsewhere on the 6th, a juvenile Dipper was an unusual sight on the Red River at Gwithian and two Crossbills were at Truro.
On the 8th a Blyth’s Reed Warbler was trapped and ringed at Nanjizal Valley. On the 9th there was a sighting of what was highly likely to have been the Amur Falcon again, not far from it’s original location, at St Levan. Three Cattle Egrets remained at Walmsley on the 12th, looking resplendent in breeding plumage and a Bee-eater was seen on wires above woods at Crean. A Great White Egret was at Lower Tamar Lake on the 13th and a Grey Phalarope was seen from a boat off The Lizard. The first Wilson’s Petrels of the year were seen on the 15th with one off Porthgwarra and another from a Pelagic off Mousehole. There was also an unconfirmed report of a Gyr Falcon at St Merryn. Another Wilson’s was seen well from Lizard Point on the 16th. On the 17th the Amur Falcon was relocated at St Buryan, much to the delight of those who missed it eleven days earlier! The bird performed well on hedgerows and roadside wires up to dusk when it appeared to go to roost in a private garden. There was no sign the next day despite extensive searching. A Wilson’s Petrel flew past Chapel Point on the 20th and Cory’s Shearwaters increased with birds at Chapel Point, Porthgwarra (15) and Pendeen (4).
A Pectoral Sandpiper joined the Cattle Egrets at Walmsley on the 21st and seawatching improved again with Wilson’s Petrels at Porthgwarra and The Lizard, an unidentified ‘white-bellied’ Storm Petrel at Porthgwarra, a huge count of 296 Cory’s and 66 Great Shearwaters off The Lizard and a host of other seabirds including Sooty, Balearic and Manx Shearwaters, Long-tailed, Arctic, Great and Pomarine Skuas, Sabines Gull, Storm Petrel and Black Tern! The rare seabird theme continued the following day with a possible Bulwer’s Petrel, a probable Scopoli’s Shearwater and two Wilson’s Petrels past Porthgwarra and totals of 257 Cory’s and 82 Great Shearwaters from Cornish Headlands. Another Wilson’s Petrel was off Cape Cornwall on the 23rd. A change in conditions saw seawatching ‘drop off’ for a few days with little to report except for a trickle of large shearwaters, for the following three days. A Pelagic from Penzance on the 27th produced two close Wilson’s Petrels and more were seen the next day with two or more past The Lizard and one at Porthgwarra. Shearwaters numbers increased again with 130+ Cory’s and 60+ Greats past south coast headlands. A probable Little Shearwater was reported at Porthgwarra on the 29th along with yet more Wilson’s Petrels (2). Another Pelagic on the Mermaid II out of Penzance produced two more Wilson’s and another two were seen from The Lizard. Watchers at Rame Head also scored with a single bird. The following day four birds were recorded off Porthgwarra. The last day of the month saw an unprecedented influx of Glossy Ibis to Walmsley, with thirteen birds present. With four Cattle Egrets still present there too, the scene was reminiscent of the Camargue!
Paul Freestone (c) Cornwall Birding 2017