Friday, 1 January 2016

Cornwall 25th December to New Year's Day 2015-2016

I've been having a great time down here in West Penwith, Cornwall. Although my resilience was put to the test (yep birding can be movie like) by the extreme 50mph gusts I held strong and found a few nice birds here and there. These are few of my highlights of my trip...

First of all Stonechats. These birds - for me - symbolise Penwith as they are found on any patch of Bracken, which of course is common here. Unusually there was a pair flitting between rocks on the seashore, the male was particularly showy before it dispersed into seemingly thin air!

Choughs in the last decade have quickly become a major part of the south-west Cornish landscape, with their call resonating around the rugged landscape. I seem to have become the buff of Choughs (this play on words took a while to think of so acknowledge them), for I have seen them on countless occasions. I was very sneaky this time round and managed to get very close without disrupting their avid feeding session. you won't be able to tell this however, because my hands were shaking like a Wagtail's tail in the strong winds! Contacting Nic who leads the Cornish Chough conservation project enabled me to know who these birds were: 2 yearlings who may have been in pursuit of there parents or have just reached independency. I did warn you on how bad these shots are, so grin and bear it.

The next on the list is a bit of a mouthful. A Devil's Coach Horse Beetle, no it's not a typo!
A couple of hundred metres further on than the Choughs I noticed an elongated Oil Beetle looking creature trundling across the path a foot in front of me. I knew instantly what it was and quickly directed it onto my hand. A kilometre walk on my hands were starting to hurt from its powerful jaws. But just around the corner my parents had "set up camp" for coffee and I could release it while they were drinking affording them good views. Thankfully from my perspective it gave its diagnostic and rather menacing, earwig-like, unworldly, alien etc. etc. pose. Didn't catch the moment but some nice shots nonetheless.

even though my photos are equivalent to modern art (abstract and horrible don't take offence just my opinion) it does in fact show a Merlin hawking round the cliff edge at Nanquidno. At first I thought it was a Swift and I was getting that incessant adrenaline rush with Pallid Swift in mind. Only to have a nice disappointment of it being a male Merlin! The wind was so strong it managed to keep the bird stationary for a minute until it effortlessly departed at pace round the cliff edge.

Although I didn't attain a good enough photo to post on my blog I think it's worth mentioning regular encounters with the Regulus kind, AKA Crests. Throughout my walks down into Cot Valley I was chaperoned by them, 10s of Goldcrests called from either side while Firecrests allowed fleeting glances as they light-footedly escalated Ivy bushes in pursuit of diminutive insects.

Common Scoters have always eluded me, distant unless ill and practically always at sea. Many people find large flocks migrating round prominent headlands. But I was one of the fortunate ones to see a less fortunate bird. This 1st winter female was just off Cot valley, bear in mind this is no cove just a stretch of coastline! Always getting further away, the bird didn't allow especially good photographic opportunities. I realise that I'm like a broken record but again the wind made me shake like a rattlesnake's tail!

Now to one of my most jaw-dropping episodes of the holiday gladly presented by the Great Northern Divers. These steeply browed loons travel from the northernmost reaches of Europe to winter grounds in places such as Penzance/Newlyn in search of a good spot of Common Shore Crab. While at Newlyn harbour realising the wind may force them in for cover I decided to walk on the wooden rafts in search of some. It was the correct decision, I came within 10 foot of a bird who kindly posed to counteract the horrendous light situation that has been going on since I had arrived. There were 4 in total. For me these are some of my best shots, I hope you agree:

I will post a separate piece on a beloved somewhat drab bird soon...