I was considering a trip down to Cornwall over last weekend with two targets in mind. Firstly, to twitch a mega rare brown booby that had been reported fairly regularly from the Lizard over the course of last week. Secondly, to try and get some good photos of an American vagrant, a buff-breasted sandpiper, that was on an old airfield at Davidstow. I’ve only ever had rather distant scope views of this wader and photos appearing online seemed to indicate that this bird was fairly confiding.
I had pretty much given up on the idea on Saturday as there had been no reports on line of the booby that day but a report late afternoon soon had me booking a pub b&b for the night and heading down to Cornwall.
When I got to the lizard on Sunday morning there were 30 or so birders spread out along the cliffs and no reported sightings. In fact, the validity of the previous days reports was being question by those present. With no sightings by late morning and other sea bird watching pretty much a wash out due to no wind, I decided to cut my losses and head off to Davidstow. This turned out to be a good decision as the bobby has not been reported again!
The buff-breasted sandpiper was initially quite distant but by adopting the proven technique of using the car as a hide and with a lot of patience, I was rewarded with good views of this bird which is usually found of the American prairies. Even as a vagrant, it was rather unusual as it is a really stunning adult, while most records in Europe are youngsters. I returned on Sunday night with a stack full of photos to process.
On Monday evening I once again headed off in the direction of Cornwall to stay with my good friend Jeremy for a planned day of seabird watching at Pendeen the following day.
Sea bird watching is a somewhat different experience to land bird watching. It basically entails sitting in a fold up chair and staring for long hours out to sea through a scope. It’s more fun that it sounds honest! Photo opportunities tend to be very limited. The aim in the autumn is to catch, hopefully rare, migrant seabirds returning to their winter lodgings. Unfortunately we had a fairly quite morning with no sightings of the scarcer petals or shearwaters we hoped for and a much slower passage of manx shearwaters than my last visit two years ago. There were a couple of great and artic skuas and we were treated to some overhead Choughs.
In the afternoon we dropped into Davidstow again where an American golden plover had been reported in the morning but it was flushed some 30 minutes before we arrived and, as far as I know, was not seen again that day. I'm starting to think that Cornwall is my bogie county! Surprisingly there were now two buff-breasted sandpipers present as a juvenile had joined the adult I had seen on Sunday. The place seems to be some kind of wader mecca as there was a juvenile curlew sandpiper, a few dunlin and many ringed plovers also present. The reason for the sites attraction is not really clear as most of these waders are more normal found near water - perhaps it’s on a wader ley line!