Monday, 30 August 2010

Monday 30th August 2010

A Rather Good day at College...

Slipping into quite a good routine now, although maybe I was over-excited by the prospect of a dozen common moth species in the trap and multiple common waders at Argal (common anywhere else, that is), because I couldn't get to sleep at all the night before. Instead, I watched some randomly unproductive tv and tried, mostly unsuccessfully, to do some useful and not-so-useful websurfing. Our internet (and the phone itself) seem to be mysteriously uncooperative after about 9:30 of an evening - I suspect one of our neighbours is tapping into our phone line and stealing some of our line connection ... (Or maybe it's just a virus or something, or even a faulty router, but conspiracy theories always sound better...) Of course it could just be that our phone company are rubbish.


The sky was a huge and deep royal blue, tinged already with a yellower suffusion around the eastern edges, a Greenshank calling somewhere high overhead, as I stepped out of the door, scope, bins, and sarnies at the ready. I was at the field by 5:45, to be met by a heavy dew and no moths outside of the trap... hmmm, what would it hold inside? Multiple distant Tawny Owls serenading/arguing with each other added to the atmosphere in the half light, and the idea of actually doing the birding appealed a lot more than waiting the half hour for it get light enough to really check the contents properly, so putting a cover on the trap and placing the whole thing in the shade for later, I left for the reservoirs.

Visibilty was still occurring as I arrived at Argal, but with frequent scanning, and by the time I had walked half way around one side I had notched up 45 or so Black-headed Gulls feeding on the banks or swimming out on the waters, plus most of the other common residents. Two Greenshank, one sleeping, with a watchful and distrustful eye on me as I watched, another preening on the far bank. A third was feeding at the hide end. Three Common Sandpiper were noted, two travelling and feeding together in close proximity on the opposite bank showing an amazing size disparity - one must have been at least twice the bulk of the other. Bizarre, but then maybe I've never looked for such things before. A couple of Curlew were heard to call ... somewhere, and a roving Chiffchaff flock, a couple of dozen strong, with admixed Willow Warblers and a few Blue and Long-tailed Tits kept me entertained for a while. Jays screeched and Blackbirds alarmed, but no Red-backed Shrikes or Wrynecks were to be seen anywhere... Actually there was one rarity of note - my first Teal for the site. It flew in not long after I started, and I caught up with it again at the hide end, warily sifting mud.

Starting the path that leads to College Reservoir I was pleased, much as I shouldn't admit it, to see a Grey Squirrel, first for ages, to add to the Rabbits, and a possible fox/badger/something from the car for the mammal day list. Got me thinking of other mammals that I could add, such as small insectivores that might come bounding down the path, or large water mustelids that could be hiding in the tangled jungle of vegetation at the swampy end of the lake. However, such thoughts were not really worth dwelling on - they seldom are. Reaching the lake, there was not an awful lot to see - the close knit grouping of Coot and such of the past few days seemed to be down in numbers, or more spread out at least. Carrying on, and scanning the floating vegetation for further Moorhens in the more open gaps between the branches, I noticed something else moving in the water - a large fish? The water swirled out in the middle as something large and strong sinuously moved below the surface .... could it be? Crumbs, it couldn't be... or could it? A large mammalian head broke the surface, greyish brown, craggy and ... and with a huge carp clamped in its bewhiskered jaws. It was an Otter. AN OTTER!!!!!

I've never seen an Otter before. Admittedly I've never really tried to. But here one was... on a random early morning walk, not on some stake-out on a secluded scottish loch. That is, it was me on the walk, the otter was engaged in a rather mighty struggle with its prey as it tried to swim with it towards the far bank and the safety of the tangled growth of the island. I caught two further glimpses of the pair (mostly of the back of the Otters head as it surfaced briefly. Excellent! I looked at my phone (which somehow had appeared in my hand, in a futile attempt to try and capture the scene) - 8.01am. I carried on around the boardwalk, elated despite my brief views. By 8.03 I was stunned again, as through the next major gap in the trees, a large and rather distinctive wingspan obliterated a small portion of the sky - just what was going on?! I watched as a magnificent beast of a raptor, another death-bringer to the scaly denizens of the deep, tilted on long wings as it calmly powered up the reservoir and away from me. Osprey!!


Crumbs. I watched it for a good few minutes as it covered the water at the asda end of the reservoir, before it turned its attentions to the trees in the north west corner, presumably to try and roost or something, as it then just seemed to disappear. There was little else of note (20 Roosting Cormorants with 3 Grey Heron in the island trees aside), so I carried on a little further to try and relocate it, without luck (added a definite Fox to the list near Adsa), until I had a second bite of the cherry as I returned back the way I had come. A smart juvenile, it made at least half a dozen unsuccessful hunting attempts, smashing down into the water maybe 50 yards away and flying right overhead as it completed several circuits, before eventually circling higher and disappearing behind the trees and to the south. Very nice INDEED!
Last stop on the boardwalk, and a Kingfisher instantly whizzed in, obligingly posing in a waterside tree and catching a small fish on its very first dive. Maybe more adept at catching fish, but definitely playing second fiddle to its larger cousin. Not a bad mornings haul ...

And the moth trap? - 11 moths of 3 species. 7 Flounced Rustic, 3 Large Yellow Underwing and a Small Square Spot Rustic. Worse trapping result for months - back to reality!!!
(Although I did manage to see a couple of Sand Martins high up after one of my rather frequent naps this afternoon whilst up at the field - don't see them too often up there.)

Now all that remains is to try and think up the obligatory attempt at a clever/witty title for this blog entry ...

Friday, 27 August 2010

Friday 27th August 2010

More Exciting Moth Trapping and continuing Wader-fest ...

There was a real Buzz about the place today ...

A couple of pints of fairly strong ale (6% so they told me) at the weekly Oddies pub quiz, a resultant late night after staying for a couple more games of free pool (and I was on fire, all that practise on facebook flash games such as 'Pool Master' really having paid off ...), and I managed to drag myself out of bed in time to get to the moth trap by 6am. Too early for me, but not quite early enough for the trap - it was getting light. Medium results, nothing too exciting, although 2 Frosted Oranges (should be a kind of confectionary really) in close proximity were new for year, and another sign of impending autumn. A Brimstone was the sole moth outside the trap. The exciting totals;

Large Yellow Underwing 14
Flounced Rustic 8
Straw Dot 3
Frosted Orange 2
Purple Bar 2
Setaceous Hebrew Character 2
Brimstone 1
Common Rustic agg. 1
Small Square Spot 1
Early Thorn 1
Small Fan-footed Wave 1
Common Carpet 1

Burying Beetle 1

Incidentally, the pub is called 'The Oddies', nothing to do with birding celebs whatsoever. Don't know if Bill has ever popped in, but I doubt it somehow. Inevitably any bird questions which do come up in the quiz I invariably get completely wrong.

Left the field and was at Argal by 7am - no rain this time. Half the Swallows upped and left again by 7:30 or so, and my walk around the perimeter was again actually fairly interesting. First waders were 2 Common Sandpiper, with another seen further around. Some distant calls alerted me to at least 2 Curlew, flying over the water and then up and past Mabe Church on the skyline. A Greenshank performed well, also working the shoreline, with another shortly after, flying past, and the first then taking flight too. There was a noticeable difference in size - not something I've really noticed before, and leading to obligatory self-doubt and worries over reverse stringing - what if the larger one was a Bar-tailed Godwit, say, or the smaller one a Marsh Sandpiper?? ... Probably not, as the second would be a first for cornwall, and the second first a pretty good bird given the location, but still ... A Kingfisher was glimpsed flying up and into the trees and presumably to the pond in a neighboring garden, and the Mallard numbers noted were marginally up on Wednesdays, with 23. Four Grey Heron graced the shores with, wait for it, a stunning white heron sp. - my first Little Egret at the site. Not unexpected, but still very nice. A Tuftie, 27+ Black-headed Gulls, 3 Moorhen and 3 Cormorant completed the line up, with further views of a single Ringed Plover again. All nice, considering the reservoir is my new (ish) local patch, hence it should not actually have any birds, and the 8 or so fishermen camped out in tents on the shoreline at regular intervals.
Other more traditionally terrestrially-based avian lifeforms included a brace each of Rook, Bullfinch, numerous calling young Willows/Chiffs (really lazy, should pay more attention, although both seemed present in good numbers), 3 Grey Wagtail by the dam, the splendid sight of a male Sparrowhawk in full flight being harried by c.100 Swallows, as it fled the airspace over the waters and dived into the trees, and a woebegone and constantly calling young Buzzard sat in a large bush.

Views over College are a little more restricted at the moment, but 42 Coot, the swans , 19 Mallard (presumably most the result of on-site anatid procreationals), 3 Grey Heron, 10 roosting Cormorant, 20+ Herring Gull of various ages and a copper underwing sp.moth (year tick) which tumbled out of the canopy and onto the boardwalk in front of me were the highlights. One day soon I'll try and bring the moth trap down into the woods around the lake ...

Argal Reservoir

Little Egret
Ringed Blob

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Wednesday 26th August

Exciting Moth Trapping results.

Checked the trap at 5.45am on Weds 25th. So to be strictly accurate, these results should be for Tues 24th Aug. Clear and full moon overnight :-

Large Yellow Underwing 16
Flounced Rustic 10
Set Heb Character 3
Orange Swift 2 (f)
Mullein Wave 1
Common White Wave 1
Garden Carpet 1 (possibly NFY!)
DB Tw Spot Carpet 1
Rosy Rustic 1
The Lychnis 1
Flame Shoulder 1
Common Rustic agg. 1
Obligatory Pug sp. 1

First multiple occurence of LYU this year. Not a bad catch considering how others up and down the country have been faring of late, but to be honest not a lot to get up at 5am and drive off into the countryside for.

Massive Frenzied Wader-fest at Argal Reservoir.

After waiting for it get light enough to check the trap and dodging the intermittent light rain showers which delayed the checking of aforementioned, I upped and drove the couple of miles to the local birding hotspots of  College and Argal Reservoirs.

It's been far too long since my last visit, and in the meantime water levels have dropped at Argal Reservoir by an astoundingly good metre or two, so lots of exposed shoreline (some mud, mostly granite 'gravel', with the odd 'cornish hedge' exposed), with the result that some waders were on display. I was hoping for some hot wader action, given the time of year and the fact that Stithians, about 3 miles distant as the rarity flies, has had up to 7 species (not sure how unusual that is?), but multiple Wood Sands, LRP and Ruff never too bad ... A walk around the perimeter this morning 7:20 am onwards, and the following were recorded:-

Greenshank 2+ (mobile)
Common Sandpiper 1
Ringed Plover 1

Not quite as good as Stiths, admittedly, but fairly outstanding nonetheless (only seen a flock of Curlew once in the fields with a single flyover, and fairly regular winter Snipe up until this point), oops ... maybe I should have been checking the reservoirs a leetle more frequently over the last month ... The Ringed Plover caught me a little by surprise. Now just need to get down there a little more regularly and put up my ... 'Yank Shorebirds Welcome Here!!' sign ... Non-Shorebird (Reservoirbird?) stuff included:-

Grey Heron 3 (1 ad, 2 imms)
Mallard 15 (1 of which was a youngster with mum)
Tuftie 1
BH Gull 23+
Cormorant 1
Swallow c.500 (stupid numbers - c. 300 flew up from the dam wall flushed by a BH Gull, whilst c. 200 where still hunting over the waters)
Sand Martin 1 (that I noticed!)
Chiffs and Willows - a fair few, didn't pay that much attention to them tbh.

It started to rain as I was nearing the end, but undaunted (stupid) I carried on to College where I was greeted by the improbable sight of lush vegetation, a family party of 6 Mute Swan, and 27 Coot, 3 Moorhen  and half a dozen Mallard at the bottom end. Summer and Autumn all rolled into one. Total:-

Mute Swan family of 6
Canada Goose 2
Coot 27
Moorhen 4
Mallard 11
Little Grebe 1
Big Gulls lots in the foggy rainy haze

Just need to work out how to get some pics of things up on here now ...

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Friday 20th August 2010

St Ives and areas ...

The girlfriend's mum was down for the week, and they wanted to see the delightful seaside town of St Ives before she went back to the slightly lesser delights of The General London Area in the Vicinity of the Dartford Crossing. Unfortunately, a damp and rainy day, a late start, and lots of other people wanting to go to St Ives too meant that we didn't. Well, we did, kind of, but we just didn't leave the car - all the various car parks were full and so eventually we gave up after I suggested we go to Penzance instead (and anyway, the winds were South Westerly, so St Ives was going to be rubbish for my planned seawatch whilst they went shopping ... ).

Penzance has a Poundland, as we discovered, which I doubt St Ives has, so all was not lost. It was still raining and foggy and I forgot that I should have been trying to find a fog and rain bound headland near Mousehole (pronounced Mao-zl ,or something like that) and peering out to sea for all the Great Shears which were undoubtably waltzing by just beyond the breakers...

After partaking of the delights of the Penzance shopping scene, we started on the homeward leg, stopping momentarily at the McDonalds near Marazion, a dreadful admission to make in public, going against all my environmental and personal health principles, and it being at least 6 months since I was last in one (they're doing different glasses now). Burgered up, we moved on to the free parking esplanade on the seafront opposite Marazion RSPB, seriously annoying a whole coachload of presumed german tourists in the process. I even managed to get the scope out, and carefully placing the chocolate milkshake on the ground out of the wind and harms way did a bit of seawatching. For about half a minute. St Michael's Mount was barely visible in the fog, so I gave up, but did enjoy a small group of waders flying past - disturbed by the random damp holidaymakers in the vicinity. Seemed to be 1 Dunlin and 3 Pale Dunlin. Interesting, as needed pale dunlin for the self-found year list (... incidentally, which is seriously flagging, as of the last 4 months or more). They then flew the other way, after a brief and happy confirmation that they really were Sanderling. Scoping the blurs that landed I suspected they had joined more, so off I toddled along the seafront, to find a roost of 53 Ringed Plover, 7 Dunlin, rather more actively feeding (no Baird's or others that I could make out), and a bit further on, a total of 12 Sanderling. Excellent! Marazion held the usual numerous windswept Bunnies, no water birds of note in the cursory glance I gave the grassy and marshy edges from the roadside viewing spot.

And on we went, myself complaining more than once at the poor driving skills of the general driving public as it seemed hardly any of them had put on their fog lights despite the obviously quite bad visibilty, and um, general fogginess present. Of course, I then realised that I hadn't even got my own headlights on at all, which was obviously far worse ... lol

So a really quite average days random birding, with typically very few birds, except I have gotten this far in recounting it and completely missed out a huge chunk and the undoubted highlight of the day!! Doh! We actually managed to stop off at the Hayle Estuary en route to St Ives. It was here that we encountered an almost unprecedented sight; an amazing birding spectacle the like of which I have never witnessed before.

We pulled up near the hide (I told the others it was a really great spot for seeing birds and as we were passing right by, we really should stop by and look ...) We got out the packed lunch and flask of hot tea (it was now about 10.30, and we were all pretty hungry after driving all the way down from Falmouth), and retired to the immensely spacious (cavernous, even) hide overlooking the premier birding spot that is Ryan's Field RSPB. We were not to be disappointed;  there was an adult Black-headed Gull on the grass, and an immature Seagull on one of the islands. Wow ...  Score!! More than one waterbird on Ryan's Field!!!!!! Absolutely unbelievable, except I really was there and not dreaming. The BH Gull was eventually joined by, not one, but two more! Oh rapture! Munching my sarnies, and we were rewarded with views of a Grey Heron and then, wonder of wonders, a distant Little Egret appeared in the far corner. At this point the GF returned from reading the sightings board for the previous day, which, after listing countless Balearics etc at Porthgwarra, ended with a jaw-dropping - 'HERE - Common Sandpiper' Nooooo ... I hadn't even seen a proper wading bird at the site. Happily, Mummy Herring Gull arrived to feed Junior, and as the cries percolated into my subconsciousness, I turned to see a small fluttering wader fly by to land on the muddy shores. Great - Common Sandpiper, and great again, as a Kingfisher flew past. Probably 8 times more birds than I have ever seen HERE before!

All previous sightings soon paled into significance, however, with stunning views of a partially visible Robin hunched down in the vegetation by the waters edge... words fail me to express my joy!!

random picture to try out the placing of random pictures option function.
With Hayle holding lots of Big gulls, and other stuff like that, and 4 nice Black-tailed Godwits, a 'good' days birding was squeezed into a day out with 'family'. Two random Sparrowhawks seen earlier in the day (how can people not see them?), and a dead badger by the roadside on the way home finished off the day, not bad at all mostly.