Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Friday 13th - lucky moving day. Again.

As luck/chance/fate, or none of the above would have it, it is exactly a month since the feeders were last moved - hence the title. It has a slight oriental ring to it, to my mind, and would have course been amply completed with a nice Chinese Pond Heron or something similar on site, but alas it was not to be. After a hard mornings graft (cleaning holiday lodges as the latest exciting task visited upon me by the agency), and it was over to Stithians with some more poles in order to refill the feeders and move to them a new spot within the area.

A couple of Blue Tits and some near empty feeders - if only they'd stop eating all the food!

As mentioned previously, the feeders need moving on a regular basis - this time it was back the way they came, but a little closer (hopefully to still give half-decent views for the pesky humans), hence the poles (ex-willow branches, not ex-agency staff from foreign lands of course). I didn't quite have enough, so a minor bit of cannibalism of the contraption t'other side was required, and the end result even more Heath Robinsy than before (or 'Rustic' to be more precise) but as long as the birds like it and it doesn't fall over too soon it's all ok as far as I'm concerned.

Mr Heath Robinson would've been proud ...

The Southern Hide and closest feeders

A nice red fungus (not it's real scientific name) from below the feeders

The feeders, despite being nigh-on emptied by the voracious hordes of winged guzzlers, were still as popular as ever.

Birds present -

1 Moorhen (showing well for once)
6+ Blue Tit
3 Great Tit
4 Dunnock
17+ Chaffinch
2 House Sparrow
6 Goldfinch (actually they were just flyovers - probably as a protest the nyger seed had all been consumed)
1 Magpie
1 Blackbird 
and 3+ Reed Bunting

Out on the water, 9 Wigeon still were nice, 2 Mallard proportionately less so, with 50+ Starling over being interesting, and one Muscovy Duck being of almost unmentionable and unparalleled beauty ... perhaps. 

A duck of superlative beauty? Hmmm ....

The waters on the main reservoir were pretty bleak and underwhelming, but there were still birds out there -

2 Great Crested Grebe
1 Grey Heron
1 Little Egret
1 Coot (it's crossed over!)
2 Cormorant
8 Little Grebe
4 Mallard
12 Canada Geese in the distant green field

with 1 Buzzard and 3 Carrion Crows over.

So no spring migrants yet ... and no sign of the Slavonian Grebe either. Perhaps it (and hopefully some more Great Cresteds were hiding in a sheltered bay, or perhaps my brief sweep of the waters failed to reveal them amongst all the wavelets.

Bit choppy and a nearly full reservoir

Other recent sightings -

Sometimes almost an afterthought, or tagged on the end but bird of the week at any rate in this portion (if you exclude the Muscovy Duck of course), and almost breaking news - a Bittern at Stithians for one lucky observer (Julie Martin) from the Southern Cutoff Hide on Sunday the 15th - only report this winter as far as I'm aware. Also -

Kingfisher, Water Rail and GSW on the 8th (J and F Rice)

Slavonian Grebe, 3 f type Goldeneye, 2 Snipe and 6 Reed Bunting on the 14th (J St Ledger)

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Grebe City - 6th March 2015

Big news on the bird front from the weekend was the sudden arrival of a bunch of Great Crested Grebes - seven to be precise.

Myself and Samuel had turned up on the Friday 6th March on the way back from carrying out the WeBS count at a few sites on the Lizard to finally meet one of the regulars (Farleigh Rice - nice to meet you), and news that there were a pair showing outside the Stuart Hutchings hide. Being the non-twitcher that I am though, went to the Southern Hide first to check and fill the feeders, of course ...

The usual suspects were on show here of course, although a Raven in flight and the large white Muscovy Duck (readily confusable for a Mute Swan or even a Snow Gooses, with enough imagination?) were more unusual perhaps.

Raven in flight

Coot, Snipe, a bunch of Wigeon, and two Little Grebes - one of the latter appearing to be in full breeding dress were on show outside. I also managed to see my second newt of the year (presumably the commoner Palmate Newt) - as the one of the grebes swimming across the water was carrying one - a little sadly perhaps (for me; the grebe was quite a bit happier, and the newt probably really rather upset with the whole situation.)

Crossing over to the other side and it soon became apparent an influx of Great Crested Grebes had occurred - 3 pairs, two of which were showing varying degrees of amorous display and a further single. Along with at least another ten Little Grebes and the Slavonian also showing well at times it was a veritable grebe-fest! Interesting to wonder were they had all come from - the WeBS count on the Lizard had revealed there were still 11 on Loe Pool. Not checked Argal Reservoir yet where 7 or so have been hanging out all winter, but will get back on that one. Certainly they seem to be on the slight increase in the county of late.

Great Crested Grebes engaging in varying degrees of their iconic pair bonding ritual

 And a relatively dowdy Little Grebe 'scurrying' past

Ten distant Tufted Ducks, a quartet of closer Goldeneye (including the first smart male in quite a while), plus one other distant bird, and a handful of Wigeon, Mallard and Teal helped complete the lineup.

Goldeneye - smart birds those drakes

Enjoying the grebes and their displaying in the shifting waters we were also treated to a brief flight and sortie into the scrape (now wholly integrated into the waters of the reservoir, but you can still just about make out the outline of the bank from the ripples/wavelets/vegetation) from the long-staying Slavonian Grebe - nice. Still pretty much in winter plumage though, unfortunately.

Slavonian Grebe showing a nice bit of underwing

At least one Little Egret was still present (perhaps one day we'll suddenly notice they've gone for the season, and then be a little sad?), and our grebe-induced reverie was interrupted by a distant raptor over the far side - a Peregrine which landed on one of the distant fence posts bordering the lakeside footway. Excitingly, it then took off and headed our way, before repositioning into one of the scrubby windswept trees on our side.

Peregrine Falcon in flight. Rubbish shots of course, but just too exciting not to.
They always get the pulse racing a little ...

I returned the following day as a meeting had been arranged to discuss the proposed scrape from the Southern Hide. Tony B plus two offspring, and Greg were also present - it was good to get more of a handle on the score and meet on site. Unfortunately the morning's sun had disappeared long since.

The feeders were of course still dripping - 3 Blackbirds a new maximum, but 3 each of Long-tailed Tit, Reed Bunting, and wholesome numbers of the other regulars too of course. Three House Sparrow too! A Kingfisher on the far side was good (hadn't been reported for a while now). The Boring Old Water Rail present of course.

GSW - still playing hard to get

Checking out possible digger access, I inadvertently flushed two Woodcock from the woodland near the waters edge, exploding up from the ground near my feet, heavy chunky birds, rusty rump and tail and a side glimpse of the stout wooden bill ... they are always great birds to see. And if only I'd seen them before they'd seen me ...

As with any wooded site in Cornwall, it may be possible to catch up with these beasties around or after dusk as they move between daytime roosts in the more sheltered woods and feeding areas in damp fields for the night - a stakeout another time may well be in order.

Checking out the hide with Greg after, we picked up slightly lower numbers of  Great Cresteds and Goldeneye - down to 5 and 3 (no male) respectively. What we did spot distantly in the fields beyond, however, was a group of feeding Canada Geese (ultimately c.40) with what appeared to be 2 Greylag in amongst them. Hot-footing it over there before the light completely failed I was able to confirm they were indeed Greylag Geese and not obviously escaped farmyard geese - although one did have some odd paler feathers where it perhaps shouldn't have - bah! (Admittedly the whiteness of the feathers may be accentuated in post-processing, in the gloomy light this was not readily apparent at the time).

Greylags - the odd white feathers perhaps indicating some untoward influences at least ...

I also encountered my first Stithians Common Toad of the season along the way on the pathway itself ...

Bufo bufo, probably a male

Highlights from previous visits - still 7 Long-tailed Tits together back on the 27th Feb, 3 Fieldfare also over on the workparty monday (as I was carrying the tea tray back up t' track), and a few other bits and bobs.

No Weasels yet (see here if you have managed to as yet remain immune from this nationally breaking and very important story, are now a little intrigued and wish to be just a little amazed (with more on the internet at large of course, including various slightly funny/unfunny/hilarious memes (spoofs) on the subject)).

Looking forward to the first spring migrants of the year - the first Wheatears, Sand Martins and others have now been hitting the UK for a while now. Of course it will take a while before the main arrivals and the floodgates open, but eyes to the skies (and the bushes, waterways and other random scrubby habitats wherever a stray migrant may possibly be lurking ... )

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Changes ...

A million David Bowies can't be wrong ... or maybe they can?

Afraid that the past few weeks have been a bit busy for myself, apologies that the blog is only just now being updated ...

Change can only be a good thing, so they say. Not necessarily true ... but some is good. A few things have changed ...

Spring is moving onward apace ... buds swelling, bumblebees and butterflies emerging ... but not at Stithians yet much (to my knowledge), and a touch of wind and cloud cover and it would seem we are still in the icy grip of winter. But the first frogspawn can now be seen, and the sun does come out occasionally.

Frogspawn (the sun is yellower and a bit bigger, no photo, sorry).


So what else has been going on? - Well, firstly we didn't have a visit from the infamous BikingBirder (he did call by in 2010, before my time) - weather and running late in the Penzance area (boo hiss shame!) and the nearest he came to visiting the reserve was a brief sojourn in Falmouth (a bed for the night and the King Eider at Maenporth for second breakfast). Nice to meet, and good luck for the rest of the year.

(BikingBirder aka Gary Prescott, aiming to break the UK record which he jointly holds at 251 from his 2010 effort, and visit every single RSPB and WWT reserve in the UK in 2015 for charity. Both aims slightly, but not quite totally mutually exclusive.)

More here - https://www.facebook.com/bikingbirder2015


Possibly more relevant to most visitors (we also didn't have a visit from Elton John, JLS OR Chris Packham) was the first inaugural 2015 CBWPS volunteer work party on the Monday 2nd March. This was an official event featuring the hardcore team of myself, Dave Bray, John St Ledger and Greg Adams (the change gang?). Various tools, machines and misc. other items were wielded, a welcome flask of tea and biscuit selection was miraculously provided by some friendly neighbours (friends for life when cookies are the currency?!), weather was endured (I even experienced my first snow of the winter!) with several interesting wintry showers, and Fluorescent yellow jackets were even involved. (Most unfortunately, our official volunteer badges didn't make it in time).

Stuart Hutchings hide (with some evidence of Work Carried Out).

Overall it was a rather productive session (not sure if it was actually 'fun', admittedly) - more graffiti was wiped out (it would have been more if the battery had been more alive), the feeders were taken down and given a proper clean, a general tidy-up occurred, and work carried on in a rather serious fashion on the car parking front with involvement of multiple wheelbarrows and shovels - with the later addition of some surfacing there is now sufficient parking for a good quartet of visiting motor vehicles - indeed, a whole cavalcade, if one were to turn up.

One car - and room for more!!!

(I must be a rubbish Event Organiser - apart from failing to provide any Ginger Nuts or Chocolate Hobnobs for the Willing Participants I completely failed to get any axe-wielding volunteer shots or similar. Probably a good thing though in many respects ...)


There has been some discussion in the hide logbook concerning the position of the feeding station having been changed. The long and the short of it is that recommended advice from 'the authorities' (BTO/RSPB) is that feeders are moved on a regular basis (eg monthly) to minimise the buildup of infectious diseases on the ground and general area - some species (eg Chaffinch and Greenfinch) are particularly susceptible to some pretty nasty fungal and virus infections which can rapidly spread between birds in sites where birds congregate. More here -


(From the Hallowed pages of BF, sorry couldn't find the actual correct and original official links this time around)

At the end of the day the welfare of the birds comes first (and human visitors second, sorry!)

And just to confuse and possibly upset a different set of everyone (!), and taking on board the recommendations, the feeders will shortly be moving back in the direction they came from to give the ground below their current location a bit of respite ... however they should be able to be positioned a little closer and we'll see what we can do about a slight positional change ...

(In previous years I believe feeding has ceased as winter ends and the breeding season starts - I see no reason why we can't continue with the peanut feeders at least throughout the year (dependant on stock remaining) to maintain interest on site ... we'll see how it goes anyway.)


Not much on the birds this time I'm afraid - will hopefully remedy that soon (early this coming week) with exciting bird news and photos from the last week or two.

Some recent sightings from the logbook (Feb) -

27th Feb - Sparrowhawk from Southern Hide (Chris and Lindy)
28th Feb - Goldcrest, 6 Lapwing, 29 Wigeon, 4 Goldeneye (f) (D Eva)

These Wigeon wanted to be on the cover of Abbey Road, but their agent said No.