Wednesday, 8 September 2010

There is no point in going birding ...

The plan was to walk around the prime birding habitat that is Helston Loe Pool, with a bit of seawatching thrown in, as I had to go to Helston anyway. Arrived up at the field at about ten this morning to drop a few things off on the way, a bird flew out of the hedge as I drove through the second field. A glance of red - brain says Bullfinch? - but no, it had a red tail ... Redstart. Excellent. I managed to stop, as it flew out into the field, and then back in to the hedgerow, never to be seen again. Field tick, and possibly a tad embarassing, if I were concerned about such things, a year tick too. (Had to be a Common, even given the brief flight views). In short succession, 3 Whinchat, a Sedge Warbler next door in the Jerusalem Artichokes and a Common Whitethroat gave themselves up. Major excitement, best migrant passage/fall at the field in the year of my tenure. What was the Lizard going to be like ... if my random field(s) 5 miles from the coast were this good?

It was rubbish.

Best birds were a heard only probable flyover Yellow Wagtail, 3 Chiffchaff and a possible Whitethroat. Only a possible. I even walked around coastal stubble fields in the hope of rare larks and buntings ... I was amply rewarded with a single Skylark. Seawatching was equally spectacular, with 3 Black-headed Gulls the highlight. Great Stuff, not.

Overall I guess it was ok, if a quiet time was what you wanted, but I had visions of Wrynecks springing up from the path in front of me, Lapland Buntings (and the odd Ortolan) in the coastal fields, and every bush dripping with common migrants. It was not to be. A flock of 4 Goldcrest, 3 Coal Tit and 2 Chiffchaff in the pines was actually the real highlight, with multiple sightings of two Sparrowhawks. The sewage works only held a single Grey Wagtail. Mallard was the most exciting waterfowl. The whole perambulation was pretty knackering too - it was hot, I had my wellies on in the mistaken belief that the circular path would be a mudbath (based on Argal and especially College Reservoirs), it wasn't, and I had to contend with cheery octogenerians and assorted sprightly walking members of the public seemingly every 50 paces - the place was heaving. Only had to contend with the 'Have you taken some nice pictures?' line twice (I'm carrying a telescope btw, not a camera).  Three elderly walkers waiting for their dogs to finish paddling in the stream back by the car park really took the biscuit. (Whatever that phrase means). This is exactly how the exchange occurred as I walked past the threesome

Male octogenarian with dodgy smile - 'You can take our pictures if you like'

Me - (polite chuckle) ' It's not a camera. I'm just watching some of the wildlife'

Octogenarian (about 50 yards later, and probably pretty pleased with the speedy riposte) -  'We're wildlife too'

Me (thinks - 'Whaaaaat??!! ). I probably just grunted at this stage, or politely chuckled again or something. At any rate I would have been out of earshot anyway, whatever I said. (Think of that dodgy old toothless guy from South Park, and that's one reason why I didn't hang about to chat...)

Back at the field (and Corrrnwall Farmerrrrrs didn't have the 8' stakes I wanted in stock - so a wasted journey on that score (too)), and the 3 Whinchat were still in the same hedge I'd left them in. Performing brilliantly with their ariel sorties for flying buglife. I then took on another long walk of 5 miles plus, as I had to leave the car off road for various insurance reasons, but via the reservoirs. Birding-wise this was not that interesting either, although 3 Blackcap in an Elder bush within the first 100 yards had me getting my hopes up. 2 Green Sandpiper, 1 Greenshank, 1 Great Crested Grebe were probably the highlights on Argal, with 40 Curlew in the field below Mabe church. I don't think there were any highlights on College. I then set off through virgin territory, and the rolling fields of Cornwall, in the hope of reaching Falmouth. I think I was even more knackered by this stage, as I kept getting lost, even though I had the OS map with me. A field full of frisky cows and calves notwithstanding, I made it back eventually and only 3 and a half hours after starting off.

Moral of the story - don't go birding, cos you'll wear yourself out, and it's extremely doubtful that you'll find anything good. Especially if your birding plan for the day involves walking miles and miles. Much better to let the birds come to you  ...

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