Saturday, 23 January 2016
Friday 22nd January Strong W Very sunny and warm 13C
Out early after both a text and phone call tells me that this week's target bird, the Pacific Diver, has been seen. The wind is behind me as I pedal an unladen bike to the causeway over to St Michael's Mount. Two Mediterranean gulls, an adult and a first year bird are on a small island beside the causeway as I walk across to the island.
The last time I did this I was eight years old, just a few years ago then, with Mum and Dad, brother and sister on a family holiday to Cornwall. It looks as impressive close to this time as it did back in the sixties.
I clamber over rocks to get a closer view of the rough sea. Two ringed plover, the first of the year, fly near to me and land. A great northern diver is close by on the sea but other divers are too far out for me to see.
Returning to the mainland before the causeway is covered by the incoming tide, I head for Trenow Beach and settle down on a rock there. Two more great northerns are out on the water and a group of three apparently black-throated divers appear very briefly as troughs become peaks in the swell.
In an attempt at getting closer to the black-throated diver group I pedal into Marazion and find the way down to a harbour wall. Here I meet a local birder, Roger Butts and beg that he allows me the use of his Swarowski. This wonderful man says no problem and I find the three divers. One seems to be Pacific; no white patch, round head, slightly smaller and so I ask Roger to say what he thinks. He agrees that this is the Pacific diver and so after four days of searching the bird goes at last onto the year list.
He leaves to go off in search of black redstarts and I remain, sheltering behind the harbour wall from the strong westerly wind and watch as diver after diver come close, all great northerns.
One very noticeable thing over the lst few days has been the ever presence of pink plastic bottles. Hundreds must have been washed up ashore each day as i see more every day and see council workers and volunteers collecting them. A container or two of pink bottles fell off a ship last year and now the bottles are here, adding to the mass of plastic waste already on the beach. What a world!
The Green Year list now stands at 138, fourteen ahead of where I was at this time last year.
13.41 miles 684 feet elevation up 696 feet elevation down
Thursday 21st January strong S rain all day
A day of rest, reflection and conversation, this is after twenty days of cycling and birding. Happy with progress with the list a long way ahead of last year and having seen some birds of quality, I spend the day relaxing as the rain pours outside.
Physically the parts of my body that have been aching the most, knees and hands appreciate the respite and hopefully will show their appreciation by not hurting so much tomorrow.
A chance to look at some websites and blogs that I usually am too tired to look at, the American Birding Blog is a must.
Offshoots from that occupy some of my morning.
A look through Birdgirl's blog is as inspiring as ever and a new blog for me, Postive News, reflects upon positive developments in the Nature world. http://positivenews.org.uk/tag/nature/
Sleep is restorative and waking in the afternoon I spend the rest of the day with the other people at the hostel. My dormitory companion, Dan, is on his way to the Isles of Scilly and he is amazed at the competitive world of bird listing. I show him world listers, British carbon listers and Green listers. He tells me that his ten year old son is only interested in watching Attenborough programmes on TV and he has shown a keen interest in birds. Dan thinks that he will be very interested in all that I have shown him. I hope so too. It is always such a great thrill for me to hear of children interested in any sort of nature.
Thursday, 21 January 2016
Wednesday 20th January fresh SE Sunny AM & warm, Cloudy PM & cool
Early morning, out to look for the five aligned planets yet i can only see three. Venus is so bright, or is it Jupiter?
The plan is to head for Porthgwarra taking in the fields around Jericho farm where Iceland gull has been reported. A text message arrives whilst I talk with a fellow birder, Paul Smith who is staying at the Penzance Youth Hostel and comes from Doncaster. The text reports the Pacific diver is east of St Michael's Mount again. Paul give a donation as I hurriedly head for Marazion once again.
Reaching the pathway along which I saw the Hudsonian whimbrel two days ago, I hide the bike and walk to a far headland point, sit upon some rocks and scan the sea. There is a very close great northern diver and four distant black-throated swimming together and diving together.
No sign of the Pacific diver though, I keep scanning. I am joined by a local birder, Tim who has Swarowski telescope. Finding divers becomes easier; two red-throated, five black-throated and three great northern. The frustration at not finding the special is alleviated by finding the Hudsonian whimbrel again but this time it is with one of it's European cousins and a few curlew. Whimbrel goes onto the Year list.
An adult Mediterranean gull flies by, as do three little egrets.
The weather changes as cloud rolls in from the south. What had been a pleasantly warm, sunny Spring-like day was now cold and dull.
I walk back to where I had hidden the bike and ride downhill into Marazion. Finding a way down to the shore overlooking the amazing St Michael's Mount, I find a superb male black redstart, one of the best looking birds of that species I have ever seen. Searching further along a section of beach that has been covered with thick seaweed debris, there are around fifty sanderling with smaller numbers of turnstone and a few redshank.
The Green Year list now stands at 136, fifteen ahead of where I was at this time last year.
12.47 miles 632 feet elevation up 632 feet elevation down
Wednesday, 20 January 2016
Tuesday 19th January fresh SE Cloudy, cool wind
Left The Mad hatter bed & breakfast with a packed lunch from pauline and her good wishes.
Heading for Penzance I stop on the causeway alongside the Hayle estuary, see the spoonbill again and find a common sandpiper.
Onward to Long Rock car park where two knot flew past me heading east along the beach and a raven joined some crows nearby.
No divers to see I cycle to Jubilee Pool, Penzance to look at the large flock of purple sandpipers, twenty eight of them and turnstones there. I just love the way the latter walk right past you if you stand still enough.
There's a close black-throated diver on the sea and I get soaked whilst filming it as a large wave crashes over me.
To Newlyn Harbour next, seeing a razorbill not looking too fit in the surf on the way. Three great northern divers are actually in the harbour enjoying the relative calm compared to the surge outside the walls.
I decide to go along a pathway beside the Penzance Boating Pool and see a small bird go into a privet hedge. Pishing, a very smart firecrest comes out six feet from my head! Brilliant, one of my favourite birds and it is now on the Year list.
The Green Year list now stands at 132, fourteen ahead of where I was at this time last year.
12.76 miles 628 feet elevation up 476 feet elevation down
Monday, 18 January 2016
Monday 18th January light to fresh E Cloudy, showers Noon, cool wind
A massive breakfast to last the day and I am off knowing that there are birds available for the Year list in the vicinity. The possibility of over twenty five in the next few days is a sure fire motivation.
As usual I have been primed as to the locations of the better birds by Phil Andrews and for that I am very grateful.
Hayle Estuary RSPB reserve, an adult kittiwake and a spoonbill ensure a good start.
Just after the roundabout where Marazion is straight over and Penzance is to the west, I spot a fox crouching in a grassy field and stop to photograph it.
Over to Marazion when on searching for a way to the shore via a back street, I look up to view a very close gull. I shout out “glaucous!” I immediately phone Phil excitedly. I missed out on this bird last year.
A message comes as I am searching the shoreline for the possibly present Hudsonian whimbrel; Pacific diver east of Marazion....now.
I am east of Marazion and I search frantically for the sender of the message. After a few dead end lanes and alleys I find the very man, James Packer, a friend of Chris Craig and he shows me a photograph of what he thinks is the Pacific. I am not sure as the forehead doesn't look right to me though I must admit the neck and bill do point towards Pacific. Anyway we find the diver again bit it is very distant and no way could we tell what it is.
On rocks below where we are is a single turnstone with a couple of grey plover and some redshanks. Meanwhile a diver that does come close is a great northern.
Nothing much out at sea, a raft of forty or so shags and a few passing gulls, James and I walk around the coastal path towards Perranuthnoe. We meet a group of four birders who report little. Two of them walk with us, Phil Taylor and Hilary Mitchell; affectionately know as P & H. I dawdle a bit, searching all rocks along the shore and P & H disappear around a hedgerow.
There's the whimbrel, not far away sitting on top of a rocky outcrop facing away from me. James is only a bit in front of me and I quietly whistle to him and point out the bird. He immediately gets his telescope on it and photographs away like mad. I run to catch P & H, shouting until I gain their attention and so all four of us get to see a whimbrel species which looks good for Hudsonian. It takes off and the all dark rump confirms that this is our bird. Brilliant, Hudsonian whimbrel, a mega rare bird on the year list and the third I have seen in Britain.
James and I start to walk back towards Marazion as rain falls and we stop to look over the sea towards the ever beautiful St Michael's Mount. I almost tread on a small vole as I sit on a rock.
James finds a red-throated diver.
James goes off to see more birds, offering me a carbon lift to join him, refused.
I return to the Hayle estuary and spend an hour looking for the reported yellow-browed warbler. No luck with that but watching a kingfisher hunting from a high electric wire is interesting.
To Carnsew Basin to find a red-necked grebe and a juvenile great northern diver.
Back at the Bed & Breakfast I start to update my Bubo 2016 year list and find I have omitted to put red-breasted merganser seen on the Exe River. That means my spreadsheet list must be wrong and I find that I have omitted great-crested grebe from the first day!
The Green Year list now stands at 126, fifteen ahead of where I was at this time last year.
20.31 miles 963 feet elevation up 952 feet elevation down
Sunday 17th January light S cloudy, a few light showers 8C
Siblyback is still and quiet as I leave my night's accommodation and head back to the country lanes that will lead me to Hayle.
The Dorset King stones stop me for a while, 875AD, they've been there a long time.
The A38 is as scary as ever as the road goes through a narrow river valley. The A30 is less so as all can see me on this large busy dual carriageway.
The day is a fifty mile slog which goes quickly enough and I reach Hayle. I find the bed and breakfast from last year, The Mad Hatter, and leaving my stuff there, after being greeted as a long lost friend by Pauline and Mark, I go birding for an hour along Copperhouse Creek. Singles of greenshank, little egret and grey plover I see. The rain, always threatening to fall all day, finally does with some persistence.
The Green Year list now stands at 117, fifteen ahead of where I was at this time last year.
57.73 miles 3262 feet elevation up 3972 feet elevation down
Saturday 16th January Light NW Sunny intervals 8C
Dipper from the bedroom window, now is that a way to get a year tick? A kingfisher lands in a nearby bush and a grey wagtail lands on the rock vacated by the dipper.
All this is before a substantial army-style breakfast from an ex-Army soldier.
Thanking Paul for a great Bed and Breakfast (Kingfisher cottage, Tavistock), I head into the town to find a cycle repair shop. I need new brake blocks as the downhill screeching heard over Dartmoor wasn't from me.
Martin at Tavistock Cycles has such items and a long chat with another Martin, a customer in the shop with his wife, is about a mutual passion, Aston Villa. Along the lines of “I was there when . . . “, the customer Martin recalls the 1971 Villa versus Bournemouth match. “What a classic diving header!” I had a claxon at that match, an old plunger type that can be heard on youtube. I dropped it, lost forever when Andy Lochhead got the second to win the game for the Villa in front of 48,000 fans.
A phone call to the shop tells me that I have left my binoculars at the bed and breakfast. Senior moment.
Standing on the bridge with binoculars got, I watch and video a pair of dippers downstream.
The road towards my next destination is tough, especially at the spot where I cross the Tamar river and enter Cornwall. The hill is interminable and the push is exhausting.
Reaching Siblyback Lake at around 3:00pm I cycle around to the north end where the bird I am after is a long way from the shore, a red-headed smew.
My evening and night is spent in the bird hide here accompanied by a tawny owl. The owl was outside!
The Green Year list now stands at 117, fifteen ahead of where I was at this time last year.
23.16 miles 2356 feet elevation up 1926 feet elevation down