Monday, 8 January 2018

Cornwall Weekend 5th - 8th January

Sarah, Tobias and I were down in our cottage at Trowan, Cornwall for the weekend. We need some work done to the bathroom and so much of the weekend was taken with organising this but we did find time to spend by the sea and some general relaxation in the cottage. On 6th I picked up Nigel Wheatley from his home in St Just at 07:30 and we headed out on a mornings birding before meeting with the girls and children for the afternoon. Nigel suggested we spent some time looking for 'white-winged gulls' on the south coast as there had recently been an influx onto the Isles of Scilly. So we headed, in the dark, to Penzance and to Jubilee Pool. As the light was increasing, and even before we got out of the car Nigel picked up an immature Iceland Gull flying west but we had fairly poor views. Scanning from Jubilee Pool across the bay it was evident that there were very large numbers of gull present. These were attending the half dozen or so Pilchard boats that were busy catching large numbers of fish in the bay. Scanning through the flocks I eventually picked up a distant 1st winter Glaucous Gull around one of the fishing boats but it soon settled on the water amongst the throngs of gulls present and I lost the bird. Also at sea were good numbers of Guillemot, Kittiwake, a single male Eider and around eight Great-northern Diver. Roosting on the seawall were around 75 Turnstone and a total of 22 Purple Sandpiper. Having exhausted this area we headed to Newlyn Harbour which was also alive with gulls but scanning the flocks the only bird of note we recorded was an adult winter Yellow-legged Gull. After grabbing a pastie and some coffee we headed to the main car park at Marazion. Scanning to sea here produced a close flock of 13 female Common Scoter and a close Red-throated Diver but most of the gulls had dispersed as the Pilchard boats were no longer fishing. I picked up a distant juvenile Pomarine Skua which flew east and eventually disappeared into the sun and then behind St. Michael's Mount. A pod of around 10 Bottle-nosed Dolphin were busy feeding close to shore in the bay to the north-east of St. Michael's Mount and around six Harbour Porpoise were present off shore. We moved around to the other car park closer to Marazion but scanning here produced nothing new of note. Our morning was drawing to a close so we decided to spend the remaining hour at the Hayle Estuary. Scanning from the The Old Key House we recorded a juvenile Spoonbill, a single adult Mediterranean Gull, three male and a female Goosander, 250 Golden Plover, 12 Bar-tailed Godwit, six Black-tailed Godwit plus good numbers of Teal, Wigeon, Lapwing, Grey Plover, Dunlin, Curlew and Oystercatcher. There were numerous gulls including around 75 Lesser Black-backed Gull but disappointingly no white-winged gull. So, our mornings white-winged gull hunt had produced two rather ropey views of an Iceland Gull and a Glaucous Gull, still, it had been a very enjoyable morning spent birding with Nigel. We headed back to the cottage to meet the families and spent the afternoon eating and drinking.

On the 7th Sarah, Tobias and I went for a walk along the beach at Marazion. An Iceland Gull had been reported in the overflow carpark over the last couple of days and as we drove to the car park I noticed a gull which was clearly a white-winged gull. Stopping the vehicle we had excellent views of this first-winter bird. The bird was feeding on bits of dead Herring Gull and also on worms drawn to the surface of the grassland of the car park.

First-winter Iceland Gull - Marazion

First-winter Iceland Gull with remains of Herring Gull - Marazion

First-winter Iceland Gull hunting for worms - Marazion

First-winter Iceland Gull - Marazion