Back to birding


Saturday (9th Sept): I arrived back in Cornwall for the first term of my second year at university. With a few weeks spare before the course begins, it was time to come out of my summer birding aestivation (where invertebrates and plants take up all my time) and get some more lifers!

Sunday: my first trip out, looking for the Baird’s Sandpiper at Marazion. We found all the waders on the beach, but unfortunately the Baird’s wasn’t present. First dip of the autumn! In the process of dipping we were repeatedly soaked by heavy, horizontal rain showers, in a classically Cornish fashion.

Monday: the weather was looking epic! 50mph W/NW winds with showers saw us (Myself, Toby Phelps and Liam Langley) making the pilgrimage to Pendeen for an early starting seawatch.

We starting seawatching at about 6:35, when we could scarcely sea the Manxies through the darkness, and finished 11 hours and 10 mins later at 17:45! It was an incredible day, with totals looking something like this: Great Shearwater (2), Sabine’s Gull (14- 7ad, 7juv), Leach’s Petrel (7), European Storm Petrel (10+), Long-tailed Skua (1), Pomarine Skua (1), Arctic Skua (c.40), Great Skua (c.50), Sooty Shearwater (c.45), Balearic Shearwater (4), Grey Phalarope (c.25), Manx Shearwater (10,000+), Arctic Tern (70+), Sandwich Tern (5).

Four lifers for me: Great Shearwater, Sabine’s Gull, Leach’s Petrel and Long-tailed Skua! Birds were nearly all too distant or fast moving for me to phonescope, but here’s a few pics from the day.

Pendeen in all its glory. Each squally shower brought with it a rush of activity, in particular Sooty Shearwaters, which we saw almost none of during the drier afternoon.

Great Skua, record shot. Given that one Bonxie actually flew over our heads, you’d thought I could’ve managed better.

The majestic seawatching Pigeon of Pendeen! Brightening up any dull patch. Left: Pendeen Pigeon having a distant Leach’s Petrel. Right: Pendeen Pigeon just before climbing Toby’s leg in search of food.

On the way back from Pendeen, we dipped the Baird’s Sandpiper at Marazion again.

Tuesday: After a tiring seawatch the day before, I’d decided not to go birding. That is until a Lesser Yellowlegs showed up just 15 mins outside Falmouth. Myself, Liam and Kali raced to the scene- only to discover that the Lesserlegs had been flushed by a man wading through the estuary (at high tide) with a dog…! Spotted Redshank and Osprey made the trip worthwhile.

Later in the day, a Pectoral Sandpiper was reported from the Hayle Estuary. Toby said he was going, so I decided to tag along- I’d only seen one once before. It was lashing it down with rain when we arrived, but Toby found the bird easy enough. The views were excellent, allowing for some good (albeit grey with rain) phonescoped shots.

Juv. Pectoral Sandpiper on Ryan’s field at Hayle Estuary

Wednesday: Toby, Liam, Kali and I decided to check the Devoran wader roost for the yesterdays Lesser Yellowlegs, in the hope that it hadn’t been deterred by yesterdays ‘events’. Unfortunately it wasn’t present, but the Osprey, Spotted Redshank and long-staying Garganey (which we couldn’t find on Tuesday) were nice to see. Phonescoped pics below:

Juv./eclipse male Garganey at Devoran.
Osprey with a Grey Mullet sp. in its talons at Devoran.

Thursday: The big day! Me, Toby, Liam and Kali had left for Dorset by 4:30am, aiming for RSPB Lodmoor, where an incredible yank wader duo had been present for a few days- Least and Stilt Sandpipers. Potential bonus birds for the day were Buff-breasted Sandpiper and Wryneck on Portland, just down the road.

It’s fair to say that our twitch went rather well, connecting with all four birds almost as soon as we’d arrived at each site. By 10:00am, we were heading back towards Cornwall! All birds showed very well, but the Buff-breasted Sandpiper was exceptionally close, allowing for some cracking phonescoping opportunities.

Left: Least Sandpiper. Right: Stilt Sandpiper. The amazing RSPB Lodmoor duo.

Buff-breasted Sandpiper, showing incredibly well on Portland.
Spot the Wryneck! Had been showing brilliantly on top of a bramble, but my phone was playing up. In the quarry near the observatory on Portland.

On the way back, we stopped at Davidstow airfield for year tick Ruff and Little Stint, before driving straight past Falmouth and onwards to Pendeen! A quick evening seawatch produced a few Grey Phalaropes and three Leach’s Petrels. I also found what I think is a Garden Tiger caterpillar on the cliffs.

In the past couple of weeks, the good birding (and twitching) has continued, with Grey Phalarope on the boating lake at Helston, American Golden Plover on St. Marys, two Buff-breasted Sandpipers at Davidstow airfield, and Spotted Sandpiper at Crowdy Reservoir. AGP and Spotsand taking me to ten lifers since returning to uni! (Edit- today 26/09, I lifered one of my worst bogey birds: Pied Flycatcher on the Lizard… make that 11 lifers!) (Edit no.2- I forgot to mention yesterdays epic 3 Egret evening at Hayle Estuary on the way back from dipping the Red-eyed Vireo: 3 Great White Egret, 1 Cattle Egret and several Little Egret!).

The Helston boating lake Grey Phalarope showing down to 2m at times!

American Golden Plover on St. Mary’s, phonescope by Toby Phelps.

The very obliging Buff-breasted Sandpiper duo on Davidstow airfield. Photo credit Toby Phelps.

Spotted Sandpiper at Crowdy Reservoir, phonescoped record shot.



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