The Portland Naturalist

The Portland Naturalist

Monday, 26 August 2013

The Dipping Tale of a Citrine


I was very excited to go on my first proper seawatch in Cornwall this weekend.  The weather had looked promising on the long-range forecast, so I took the gamble.

My sum experience of birding in Cornwall was a long weekend there in October 2008, principally looking a migrant passerines, so seawatching took a back foot. 

I met up with Garry Bagnell, George Kinnard, and Hugh Price at Dorchester in the evening of the 24th, and we drove all the way to Pendeen and camped the night at a nearby site.  Baggers' tent was luxurious, for a tent!

After the predictable poor nights sleep, we headed for the rugged headland.  The view from Pendeen lighthouse.

The wind was in the east initially, and we were hopeful that it would swing round, as the forecast stated.  It didn't.  Although there was a constant presence of Manx Shearwater offshore, none of the hoped for species turned up.  We did manage to see a few Sooty Shearwater, though many were distant.  We also saw 2 Great Skua, Arctic Skua, 2 Sandwich Tern, a Common Tern being chased briefly by a Peregrine, 4 Raven, and a small group of Whimbrel and Bar-tailed Godwit
Despite the wind direction, we decided Porthgwarra might be worth popping in to, at the very least for Balearic.  There were loads of Manxies there too, though I spotted just the one Balearic Shearwater amongst them.  A few others passed unseen by me in addition.  The highlight here though was a Basking Shark which only seemed to surface briefly.  Although the approaching ship Scillonian III didn't help, as it almost ran into it! 
Our last chance to save our Cornish adventure was Marazion Marsh near Penzance, so that's where we headed.
I had visited here briefly on my last Cornwall trip, though I didn't really explore it at all.  It's a fab looking place.

And it was all the better today, cause it had a 1st-winter Citrine Wagtail in it!  The area the bird was in was not difficult to get to (unlike the parking!), and we had great views of it, even though it was obscured by vegetation much of the time! 

I guess from the title you were thinking we dipped it.  Well no, but we dipped everything else, so it's appropriate!
We headed home on the news that the first Hippolais warbler of the autumn had been found on Portland.  Not a Melodious as all expected, but an Icterine.  After the long drive, we got to the Eight Kings Quarry, only to find the bird had not been seen for a little while, despite showing on and off all afternoon!  All we saw in there were Willow Warbler and Whitethroat, and our hopes were well and truly scuppered when the landowner came along and chucked us out of the field, even though it had nothing in it!  A couple of cursory glances from the local plod was the last straw, and we had to give up.  A shame, but predictable given the rest of the day we had.
Nonetheless, I greatly enjoyed the trip, and I hope I get another bite of the Cornish seawatching cherry before the season is out.  Thanks Garry for organising and driving.

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