Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Monday October 27th 2008

A Trip to West Cornwall

We were down in Cornwall visiting our daughter at the University of Exeter's Cornwall Campus at Falmouth for a couple of days. I thought I'd take the opportunity to drive over to the Sennen area and try to see the presumed Azorean Yellow-legged Gull that has been frequenting the Sennen Cove area. The weather was sunny but a cold north-westerly was blowing, so hat and gloves were required. Still it was a bright morning and the Isles of Scilly were visible in the distance, bringing back memories of when I used to visit the islands regularly over 20 years ago.
I hadn't managed to get any news on the gull for a couple of days, so thought I would give the Sunny Corner Lane area a grilling, that being the last location of any reported sightings. I noticed that there were lots of gulls down on the Cowloe on arrival mid morning, a rocky islet down in the cove, about a mile distant. I thought I'd give the immediate area a good look over, before popping down the road to the cove to try my luck there. I managed to park in a newish tiny cul-de-sac along the lane, kitted up and started scanning. A handful of immature gulls were flying around low overhead. I scanned the first -a first-winter argenteus Herring Gull, however my eyes nearly popped out when I got my bins on the second bird - a dark individual a bit reminiscent of an American Herring Gull! It was the Azorean Gull! I watched it wheeling around on and off for a good 45 minutes, sometimes dropping down below the clifftop houses, and reappearing some few hundred yards further on. Raven and Buzzard gave superb views as well, but small passerines were keeping low in the cold wind! A phone-call to my wife to confirm that I'd luckily jammed in on the bird, then it was off to the car. I drove back to the main road, then turned towards Lands End. I quickly stopped again when I realised the bird was in a roadside field just to the south of Sunny Corner Lane!
I had further good views of the bird, then with time fast running out, I decided that I would try for the Yellow-browed Warbler at Porthcurno on the way back to Falmouth. I listened to Birdline on my mobile, and picked up on the news that it was to be found in scrub to the south of the toilet block! Hoping that the wind was blowing away from the block, I parked up the car and started scanning and trying to listen for the bird. I did a slow circuit of the bushy area, and after several false alarms with 'crests and Chiffchaffs, I eventually got brief views of the bird as it moved quickly through with a tit flock. Time had run out, and I was keen to meet up with my daughter again, so I zipped back to Falmouth as fast as the traffic would allow. This turned out to be like the trip over - pretty slow. It now seems like the roads in West Cornwall are as slow as everywhere else in Britain. You get in a line of moving vehicles and crawl along behind someone who delights in pottering along at about 20mph! Of course, being half-term week probably added to the misery. Heavy prolonged showers now broke out, so I was pleased to have got my birding done in the sunshine! Despite keeping my eyes peeled I saw nothing else of interest during the afternoon, spent pottering around Falmouth.
I was just pleased that I had located the Azorean Gull, a world lifer for me, and who knows, one day it may get officially split as a separate species before I die!!

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