An outstanding Red Kite influx and obliging Bee-eaters, Red-rumps Purple Herons and Temmincks Stint allow for a great end to the Spring in Cornwall, Paul Freestone reports.
The month began quietly with just the Hayle Spoonbill and Pomarine Skuas reported at Rame on the 1st. Things got slightly better on the 2nd with a Richard’s Pipit and a Serin on The Lizard and a Purple Heron at Marazion Marsh. The drake Lesser Scaup was still at Siblyback Lake. The following day, The Lizard added two Hoopoes and Nightingale at Caethillian to the monthly list and a good count of forty-four Wheatears came from Porthgwarra on the 4th. An Iceland Gull was over fields at Crows-an-wra, also on that date. The 5th saw more vagrants arriving with a Black Kite at Polgigga and Alpine Swift and Red-throated Pipit at Pendeen. Unfortunately none of them hung around for the masses! Garganeys were seen at Walmsley and Par (2) on the 6th and a Little Stint was on the high tide at Hayle. On the 7th an Osprey flew over Porth Reservoir early morning and may have been the same bird located at Walmsley the same afternoon. The area also held Ruff and Curlew Sandpiper and Cuckoos were reported from Sancreed (3), Tregonetha (2) and Bartinney Downs.
A Purple Heron flew high north from Marazion on the 8th and a later one was reported in a garden at Probus. A Bee-eater was seen briefly at Grumbla and a Spoonbill flew past Trevose Head during the afternoon. Red Kites were seen over Newquay and St Austell and an Iceland Gull was at St Levan. The male Serin continued to give birders the run around on The Lizard with sightings at Pistil Meadow and later in Lizard village. The following day three Red Kites were noted at Zennor and Walmsley held a Little Ringed Plover. Another Bee-eater was reported flying over St Breward on the 10th and the Purple Heron remained in the garden at Probus. Ospreys were seen on The Lizard and on the camel Estuary and Red Kite numbers increased with seven seen from five different locations, although these could all refer to the same wandering individuals. A Sooty Shearwater was noted from the Scillonian III on the outward crossing and a male Hen Harrier was at Porth Joke. A Red-throated Pipit and a Serin were at Nanjizal valley on the 11th and a Serin was also at Land’s End. Three Kites flew over Castle Beach, Falmouth and an Osprey was over the Gannel estuary.
On the 12th, a Red-rumped Swallow was over the marsh at Marazion (and 13th) and two Turtle Doves were at Brew farm. A Kentish Plover was on the beach at Sennen before flying towards Land’s End on the 14th and two Bee-eaters flew over Polgigga. Conditions on the 15th favoured sea-watching with watchers at Rame and The Lizard produced Long-tailed Skua, Great Skua, Pomarine Skuas, Storm Petrels and Puffins. On the 16th, one lucky observer found a Nightjar resting in their private garden at Mousehole! After the last few months’ outstanding numbers, Cattle Egret sightings had been thin on the ground despite rumours of small numbers still on The Lizard being unreported in case of breeding attempts. However, two birds roosted at Marazion Marsh on the evening of the 17th. Elsewhere, a Ring-billed Gull was on the Camel Estuary and ‘many’ Storm Petrels were seen around The Manacles from an AK Wildlife Cruise. N.Bayly found a singing Iberian Chiffchaff at Prussia Cove on the morning of the 18th and managed to get some great sound recordings of the bird. A Pectoral Sandpiper was found at Walmsley on the 20th and Hobbies were at Poldhu and Porth Joke.
The Bee-eaters reported up to now had all been fly overs and inaccessible to the crowds so an obliging bird at Connor Downs on the 21st was most welcome. The bird showed superbly for over an hour and a half, allowing many locals to see it, catching insects before flying off high to the north. The following day a Quail was flushed near Zennor and a Serin flew over Nanjizal early morning. An Iceland Gull lingered in fields at Sennen and a Little Ringed Plover was on the Hayle Estuary. A Firecrest was singing at Falmouth and a Red Kite flew over the A39 at Helston. A report of Red Kites moving over Devon on the 24th signalled the start the annual Kite influx into the county. Reports came in thick and fast on the 25th with larger counts at Polgigga (57), Sancreed (50), Connor Downs (42), Camborne (25) and Hayle (23). In all there were reports of over 363 birds from 47 locations. There were of course duplicate observations of the same birds, but still fantastic numbers and always a pleasure to see. The following day sightings were received from 57 locations and appeared to be more evenly spread across the county with over 375 individuals reported. Away from the kites, other birds reported were a Melodious Warbler, trapped and ringed at Nanjizal, a Quail calling north of Sennen School and a Black Kite over Camelford.
Red Kite numbers reduced significantly on the 27th with 41 birds reported from 18 locations. There was a Cattle Egret at Clapper Marshes and an obliging Great White Egret at Loe Pool, Helston and a Turtle Dove was in trees behind the Old Quay House at Hayle. On the 28th a wholly unconfirmed report was received of a Snowy Owl in fields near St Just. There were no subsequent reports, however, stranger things have happened! A Temminck’s Stint was found at Ryan’s Field in the evening but news didn’t get out until after dark. Fortunately it remained the next day and showed superbly down to a few feet. The Loe Pool Great White Egret relocated to Stithians reservoir and showed well at the Southern cut-off and a Black Kite flew over Malpas. Red Kites were still notable with singles reported from four sites, three at Grumbla and sixteen over Predennack. A stunning male Red-footed Falcon was seen over Windmill Farm on The Lizard late afternoon and again at 2100hrs and a Little Gull joined the Temmink’s Stint at Hayle. The last day of the month saw a Quail at Land’s End, two Red Kites over Mylor Bridge and a Hobby again at Marazion Marsh RSPB.
— South West Optics (@swoptics) 30 May 2017
June is historically the County’s quietest month for birds. The odd rarity may linger but scarcities are, well, scarce! Quail, Black Kite, Great-white Egret, Red-rumped Swallow and Honey Buzzard have all been recorded in June and an early sea-watch, depending on the winds, may produce birds but in general June is your month off and many birders turn to Mothing or Dragonflies for entertainment!
Paul Freestone (c) Cornwall Birding 2017