We started Thursday (27th) with an optimistic trip to the RSPB reserve at Marazion but it was clear that the incessant rain that had been falling all night showed no signs of abating. Instead a short drive north brought us to St Ives where contrary to popular culture I did not meet a man with seven wives. Unperturbed we parked up and made our way into town to see if anything was sheltering in the harbour and of course to sample yet more Cornish delicacies. We quickly found success on both fronts with jumbo sausage rolls from a local bakery and at least one, possibly two, Great Northern Divers feeding a couple of hundred meters off shore. Keeping them company was a quartet of Guillemots (nice to see some alive after the recent wreck) and plenty of Shags. The real action though turned out to be literally underfoot where Turnstones were running every which way in their search for food. Normally these birds are seen on rocky coasts so to see them walking along the promenade, crossing roads and walking right up to people was certainly novel. With the rain still falling heavily however it looked as though photos were out of the question until a handy shelter on the harbour wall did exactly as advertised.
Of the shots I got these are probably the best with both low light levels and the fact that the Turnstones never stopped moving making things difficult. Still at least I provided entertainment to those around me with Emma capturing just how ludicrous the situation was.
A couple of hours later the weather started to improve, comparatively at least, allowing us another attempt on Marazion marshes. It turned out to be worth the wait as our arrival was greeted by six Sand Martins and a Swallow over the main pool with at least three Chiffchaffs and a couple of Cetti’s Warblers calling from nearby. Waterfowl came in the shape of a couple of Mute Swans and a trio of Canada Geese with singles of Little Egret and Grey Heron not far away. It wasn’t until we reached the further pool however that things really picked up when I spotted a Bittern stood right out in the open! I could scarcely believe it but there it was and there it sat unmoving for the next quarter of an hour at least. By no means our closest Bittern it was certainly one of the showiest and posed well for a photo. The only problem now though is trying to decide exactly which pixel it is.
Stranger was to come as a largish raptor was spotted heading towards a line of distant Conifers. Initial thoughts were that it was too large for a Sparrowhawk with a general jizz hinting towards Goshawk. Everything looked good including flight with the only fly in the ointment being that I can find no record of one ever being seen at Marazion previously. Now given that we are pretty confident with the identification this means that we have either found a new species for the area or that this was a bird on passage. Answers on a postcode.
Next day and another morning visit failed to find either the Bittern or Goshawk though Sand Martin numbers had increased to well over thirty and at lest five Cetti’s Warblers were now now calling. Next stop was Porthleven where another couple of Great Northern Divers bolstered the years sightings for this species to record levels. From there it was another couple of miles to The Loe, a huge freshwater lake formed behind a large sand and shingle bar and supposed one time resting place of King Arthur’s sword Excalibur. Mythology aside it was the Geography student inside me which made this place a must visit as it’s not often that you get to explore a natural feature such as this. There were even fields of Daffodils in bloom to lend a little foreground interest.
Out on the Loe Pool four Great Crested Grebes and several small flocks of Tufted Ducks was about as good as it got though there was the interesting sight of four Grey Herons and five Cormorants roosting in one group. Not something I’ve seen before. There were also another three Wheaters about the place again being frustratingly flighty so it was left to this female Stonechat to do the necessary honours.
And that would have been the end of our Cornish holiday had it not been for Emma spotting the name Cadgwith on our map. British readers may have seen a TV documentary called The Fisherman’s Apprentice back in 2012, a fascinating insight into the lives of our small-boat fisherman based almost entirely on the hard working men of Cadgwith. In practices barely changed for hundreds of years they continue to fish from a shore launched fleet using sustainable methods which protect the vibrant ecosystems along this coast. That alone makes the village worthy of a visit and with its thatched cottages and winding streets a worthy place on which to bid our farewells.
Well not quite. This trip also saw me ticking off one of my bucket list items but more on that in the next post.