Our first full day in Cornwall dawned dull and overcast but with no rain forecast we just had to get out along the coast. We were down this way last year and walked the coastal path between Praa Sands and Porthleven then, a repeat of which seemed just the ticket to stretch travel weary legs. Setting out we noted that the masses of Pied Wagtails seen the previous evening were mostly absent, presumably having moved on if my migration theory is correct, but our attention was soon taken by more human interests out at sea. Despite there being only a light breeze surf conditions were absolutely fantastic with some of the best rollers I have ever seen crashing ashore. Stretching almost the entire length of Praa Sands out to Rinsey Head they were so clean and crisp that the gathered surfers couldn’t fail to catch them with some truly epic distances being covered. I’m sure those of you around the world will be little impressed by our British offerings but these sure made for a nice change over the broken waves we normally experience. Needless to say my sense of balance, or lack thereof, would have precluded my producing anything quite so spectacular so hats off to those individuals shown below.
Pushing on we were soon above Lesceave Rocks where there was a single Fulmar, one of many seen throughout the day, plus several small parties of Linnet. The latter remained as camera shy as ever, a similar affliction from which several pairs of Stonechats seemed to be suffering. Never mind as both still added a splash of colour to the unending greyness which we feared was set in for the day. Even the imposing ruins of Wheal Prosper were not immune striking up instead a moody pose overlooking the horizon whose very definition was becoming less clear with each passing moment.
It was just before Trewavas Head however where we got to see one of Cornwall’s star birds, the Chough. Though not an uncommon species to us (we have regular sightings on nearby Gower for instance) there’s still something a little special about seeing a bird which for twenty eight years was feared extinct from these impressive cliffs. It was only as recently as 2001 that a few Irish wanderers found their way back and the rest, as the saying goes, is history. Since then their population has continued to grow and if you’re lucky it’s possible to get some truly excellent views. This pair for instance had just been displaced by a Sea King helicopter thundering overhead just a few meters off the ground though you’d have been hard pressed to tell given their relaxed nature.
Both of these birds are carrying some impressive looking jewellery as part of a ringing program to help learn more about how individuals interact and move about. All but a couple of the Cornish population have been marked in this way and I’ll be submitting our sighting to further aid in that research.
Having passed the remains of more tin and copper mines at Trewavas (above) we picked up a Great Northern Diver a fair distance out to sea. Down on the cliffs a colony of at least eight Shags were already bringing in nesting material to bolster their crude constructions whilst a few passing Kittiwakes, Gannets and even a pair of Greylag Geese were all welcome sightings. Most surprising find though was probably the flock of at least two hundred Common Gulls in a field near Tremearne. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a flock quite so large before and certainly not on grazing pasture amongst the sheep!
The small bay shown above is tucked away beneath these cliffs and last year was the final resting place of a whale carcase. I can’t be more precise on a species as the remains were too far gone but my god did they smell. We first picked up the whiff about half a mile away and it was undoubtedly this pungent odour which had attracted a mighty Glaucous Gull. I blogged about our encounter at the time here and was hoping that after another twelve months the flesh would have rotted away and I’d be able to add a couple of whale bones to my collection. As it turned out I may have been slightly optimistic with my vision of a perfectly preserved skeleton just ripe for the taking as an initial search of the foreshore revealed not a single bone. Hats off to Emma therefore for spotting a broken rib just above the high tide line. I’ll share a photo of it at a future date once I’ve confirmed that it is indeed what I think it is but initial impressions look promising. Still would have really liked a vertebra though.
With our new cargo safely stowed it was only another couple of miles before we reached our destination at Porthleven. Even better than finally being able to tuck into some lunch was that the sun had decided to put in an appearance lifting our spirits and the temperature considerably. I even took off my gloves.
Here again the waves were rolling in on an impressive scale with a suitably large group of surfers taking advantage of the almost perfect conditions. In fact there were almost as many photographers gathered up on the cliffs so I thought it would be rude of me not to join in.
Eventually we had to tear ourselves away and retrace our steps back to Praa Sands. One of the problems with walking coastal paths is that you often find yourself taking out and back routes but on this occasion we didn’t mind so much as at least we could enjoy some sunshine. I even managed to capture one of the surprisingly skittish Stonechats on camera at last.
Other odds and sods included a single Guillemot and hunting Kestrel before it was time to call time on an excellent days walking.