We try to get a UK birding holiday in during October, this year due to circumstances the only time available was the last week in October, a bit late usually for migration. We were going to head over to the Isles of Scilly but on looking at the predicted weather we really did not like the idea of the Scillonian! So as we were booking last minute we managed to get a flat in Porthcurno at a good rate. We haven’t been down to the Cornish mainland in October for a few years so it would be nice to get reacquainted with the valleys.
Of course as we set off the news was panicking about the weather as the “great storm” was approaching the south west. We did admit ourselves to a small amount of apprehension as we arrived on Saturday night in Penzance. Tescos was full of people (presumably holiday makers) stocking up and we spent as little time as possible getting our supplies for the week! We arived in Porthcurno to find our digs were a very nice ground floor flat in one of the old Telegraph Station buildings. Importantly this had wifi, as there was no pager service or mobile signals here!
I spent the evening setting up my new tablet and we were soon connected to the outside world, however I could not get into the birdnet web page! A email to Dag for help resulted in him leaving messages on my mobile during the week, got to say a big thanks for that, excellent service!
Next morning however I did finally log in and got the bird news! Sunday dawned overcast and fairly breezy. A walk around the beautiful valley of Porthcurno didn’t produce many birds but we did go down to the beach and spent some time etching the waves crashing in. Whilst we were down there we watcher an RAF Seaking fly in along the coastline. This it turned out was a daily occurrence whilst we were there!
The large seas made for some spectacular viewing!
The valley was very quiet, with only a few common birds likening up our walk round. We did find that the place was very hard to watch, with plenty of cover!
We had wanted to visit the telegraph museum but as on the times we have tried before it was closed… this time for refurbishment.
As the day wore on the weather went down hill with the wind rising. We couldn’t be bothered to drive or to Pendeen which in the west wind would have been the best seawatching spot so we went down Porthgwarra and walked up to the usual spot. Loads of Gannet were passing and we also picked up 2 Med Shears. I have to say, we didn’t give it long before we retreated to the digs!
The storm was due to hit in the early hours so we fully expected to have no power the next day… and be trapped in the valley by fallen trees!
The morning bought nothing but a few fallen leaves and huge waves on the beach! These were quite spectacular!
These waves must have been between 10 and 15 feet high at least.
After some time on the beach and working the scrub we set off for Nanquidno. Here between the showers we picked up a few species, including a few Chiffys but it was very hard work. Walking baked up we met Trevor Charlton who had seen a Yellow-browed Warbler a bit further up…. but had not seen any Chiffys, so we exchanged locations…. an hour later we hasn’t seen the Yb Warbler and he had not seen our Chiffys!
We worked here and Kenidjack hard to little reward. This was all made worse when we rose out of the valleys to get some screen wash and the pager mega’d off with news of a Ruby crowned Kinglet on Cape Clear. The storm had brought birds in!
Last gasp of summer in Nanquidno.
Going back to Nature.
This news was compounded later with news of a Mourning Dove on Rhum…..
Our part of the world seemed really quiet! Surely this influx of Yanks had not missed us? We set off home and elected to miss out Porthgwarra and its “difficult” approach road!
A final bash round our valley of Porthcurno failed again to produce anything much. Plans were laid to work St Leven the next day. We would walk in past the Minnack Theater from our digs in the morning.
Morning came and we were, to be honest, not in any rush to leave! We were using the tablet to check the internet and Birdinformation live news page whilst we were breakfast but nothing bar the usual Yellow-browed Warblers was coming on for the valleys… plus a certain Rosy Starling at Morrison’s in Penzance.
I made one last check of the ‘net as were were about leave for St Leven and read the news…. Hermit Thrush in Porthgwarra 10 minutes before! Cue rushing about and running to the car! Now I wasn’t on Scilly when the my mates got the bird on there in ’93? So we both needed this!
About ten minutes later we were parking the car in the car park having driven part the 4 birders who were watching the bird in the small wood off the road in front of the cottages (60foot cover I think). As we were grabbing our bin’s the lucky chap who found it walked up and told us it was still showing and showed us his pic’s! We hurried round and joined the 3 or so birders… oh no… it had disappeared! A tense few minutes followed till the bird reappeared in the clearing in front of us. We were then treated to brilliant views as the bird fed on elderberries on a small spindly Bush just in front of us. At first I thought it was fly catching as it wold sit quietly watching, before flying up and back in that manner, but we realised it was actually picking off berries in flight!
We got crippling views as the bird came very close at times as long as you stood still and quietly! I managed both stills and video with the SX50 albeit in dull light and high ISO.
Hermit Thrush habitat in Porthgwarra.
Got to say a big thanks to Trevor for putting me onto the bird when I got my best shots!
We eventually left the valley before things got mad!
Really anything after this during the week was going to be a bonus!
The rest of the day was spent enjoying the sunshine and walking into St Leven. Here there were more Chiffys etc but nothing spectacular. Apart from the views!
On getting home we heard that a White-rumped Sand was at Marazion, Long rock.
After a walk down the valley early on in brighter weather, next morning saw us dipping that in strong winds.
Boy were we glad we were not on this!
Snails in Porthcurno!
The beach at Long Rock was swarming with kite surfers etc enjoying the wind and waves. A trip to the Hayle Estuary saw us add a few good tings to the trip list, including large numbers of Med Gulls…. up here where one is good, double figures was fantastic here!
Aren’t Teal smart?
Also on the Hayle were 7 newly arrived Barnacle Geese. Plus the usual waders. A water Rail showed well on Ryan’s Field.
Leaving here we had a drive round the end of Cornwall and as the weather deteriorated we stopped at Cape Cornwall and did a bit of sea watching from the car! Tons of Gannets and Kittiwakes were pouring south, with groups of Auks interspersed. The highlights were skuas, with both Arctic and a pale phase Pom passing.
Next morning saw us again on the beach at Penzance… and again no waders! However they were all roosting on the rocks off Long Rock. As they flew we grabbed a glimpse of the White-rumped Sandpiper but it disappeared… the main group flew behind St Michaels Mount and out of view.
A waderless Long Rock beach!
Rock Pipit – Marazion.
We went back into the valleys and enjoyed the sight and sound of Yellow-browed Warbler in Kenidjack but the news that the WRSand was back took us again to the beach, to again not see it! There were waders this time though! A group of busy Turnstones were rooting around in the wrack at the top of the beach, along with 3 Dunlins….
Rock Pipit again.
Our final full day down the valleys saw us connect with Red-breasted Flycatcher and Yellow-browed Warbler in St Leven (we probably heard a Red-throated Pipit fly over us there to but it only called once…) saw us actually go up to Men an Tol, somewhere I have always wanted to see… it was raining but it made for atmospheric views over the misty moor around the monument.
The weather eased some what and we went back down Kenidjack, here we failed to catch up with the Dusky Warbler but a nice Firecrest rounded off the trip!
Annoyingly Saturday dawned beautiful and sunny! We had a last walk on the beach at Porthcurno and it was stunning!