Bryologising, Birding and Blowouts

To celebrate the week of exams coming to an end, I’ve been out Friday, Saturday and today: Birding, Bryologising, and birding again for good measure.

Bryologising- A possibly made up word denoting time spent looking for, or at Bryophytes.

On Friday, Toby and I birded Gerrans Bay, and the Gannel Estuary. Gerrans produced good birds, with 14 Great Northern Divers, 3 Black-throated Divers, 2 Red-throated Divers, 2 Red-necked Grebes, 1 Slavonian Grebe and a calling Firecrest. We visited the Gannel to target the 1st winter Ring-billed Gull, and roosting Cattle Egrets. We hit both targets, with 9 Cattle Egrets in to roost at 17:10!

1st winter Ring-billed Gull, phonescoped record shot

On Saturday, Ben Porter and myself met up with Cornwall’s Bryophyte recorder Matt Stribley, and several other amateur bryologists to record from a tetrad with no bryophyte records. We focussed our search in the woodland of Herodsfoot deerpark.

I’m fairly new to bryophytes, having only started learning them in November 2016, so I surprised myself in being able to name (or at least key out) a good proportion of the 70 or so species we found through the day. It was an excellent day out, and I learnt so much from being around several experienced bryologists for a day. By the end of the day, my head was full (and spilling over) with new names, features and information! The day is best summed up in photographs, which show the amazing diversity of forms that bryophytes can take. All of these stunning photos were taken by Ben Porter, check out his awesome photography here:

Loeskeobryum brevirostre with Polytrichastrum formosum
Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus (A.K.A: Big Shaggy-moss)
Dicranum majus with the Liverwort Diplophyllum albicans (bottom right)


Frullania dilatata  (a liverwort)



Spagnum capillifolium with at least 4 other bryophytes!


Now on to today (Sunday), which has been a very eventful days birding with Toby and Liam! The plan was to head East to Devon, attempt to see the elusive Bonaparte’s Gull at Dawlish Warren, and then stop via Cirl Buntings, Desert Wheatear, American Wigeon and Lesser Scaup on the way back!

Toby’s car was due to visit the garage on Monday, to find out what was causing the slightly bumpy ride. We had checked the car over several times before, without finding any issues. However, out on Bodmin Moor (on the A30) disaster struck. There was a loud thud from the back of the car, followed by a rather unnerving juddering! Luckily there was a layby 100 yards or so ahead, where Toby pulled over. We quickly found the problem, the tyre had exploded! Liam remained asleep in the back.


The wreckage of a once great tyre


We were fairly certain that this would be game over for today, until Toby realised he had a spare in the boot. As we attempted to change the tyre, we encountered many unfamiliar tools, and a previously unused ‘instruction manual’. A surprisingly short time later, Toby and I had managed to fit the spare (Liam with one arm out of action from a sports injury, held the torch). We had grazed and oily hands, which made us feel very manly. We were back on the road!


Toby and his mended Yaris


We collectively decided that Devon was a bad idea, but as we were within a few miles, we dropped in to see the Lesser Scaup on Dozmary Pool. Lifer!


Scaup scoping at drizzly Dozmary


We then headed back towards campus, deciding that a short round trip to Hayle estuary and Marazion wouldn’t hurt. Hayle was quiet, with an adult argentatus race Herring Gull the best bird we could find. We went on to Marazion, where the resident mega-rare Pacific Diver had been seen the previous day, associating with four Great Northern Divers. This Pacific Diver has been returning to winter in Cornwall for the past 10 years, but is one of only around eight of its kind to have ever been seen in the UK.

As we scoped the sea from the cliffs, I picked up a diver which looked interesting. It appeared too round headed and fine-billed for Great Northern Diver, and lacked the white flank patch of Black-throated Diver. In turn we looked at the bird, yearning for it to drift a little closer to the shore. What it did drift closer to (and swim with for some time) was a group of four Great Northern Divers, which gave an excellent structural comparison. Our diver was certainly the right build for the Pacific. We followed the bird for almost half an hour, until we could say definitively that it showed no white flank patch in any swimming position or behaviour. It was the PACIFIC DIVER! Pipit magnet Toby also picked up a Water Pipit and a Black Redstart on the beach.

On the way home, we dropped by Hayle for a pasty, and one last check of the estuary. Toby picked up the wintering  Green-winged Teal (North America’s version of our Teal), and of course, another Water Pipit. What a day!


A sleepy Green-winged Teal, phonescoped









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