After having walked for over seven hours the previous day a more relaxed approach on Monday seemed like just the ticket. To that end we headed over to the RSPB reserve at Marazion where hopes were high of picking off some early spring migrants. Almost immediately we could hear singing Chiffchaffs with at least five individuals dotted around the main ponds though there were likely many more spread throughout the surrounding vegetation. Also in fine voice were a couple of Cetti’s Warblers before overhead the real stars of the day arrived. A small flock of hirundines coming in off the sea consisted of at least fifteen Sand Martins and five Swallows, our first of the year and another major milestone passed in my personal wildlife calendar. The same birds seemed to remain over the reserve for our entire stay but I have my suspicions that there were actually several small flocks moving through with similar proportions to the first. Other sightings included a couple of Little Grebes, two Grey Heron, Little Egret, Teal, Common Snipe, Canada Geese, Cormorant and a superb Kingfisher which flew right overhead as it passed upstream. More evidence of Spring came in the shape of several paired birds including Oystercatchers next to the road and these Shelduck which flew in just before we left.

P1110367 - Shelduck, Penzance

Up on the sea wall we were eager to relocate a Pacific Diver which had been reported feeding between St Michael’s Mount and Longrock for the past couple of weeks. Alas we failed on that score but did get great views of another Great Northern Diver successfully fishing. Having gone all winter without seeing any at home I can now see why. They were all down here in Cornwall.

P1110365 - Great Northern Diver, Penzance

Still hoping to catch up with the Pacific we decided to walk the coast down to Longrock itself. Not only would this be a new stretch of the South West Coast Path for us but it also meant great views into the HST maintenance depot (yeah I know but we all have our inner geek to satisfy). Despite sea conditions being relatively calm we failed to find the diver or indeed any other species until a lone Turnstone feeding amongst the rocks. I hopped down and was suitably surprised to find the bird actually approach me before continuing to feed less than two metres away. I guess this is probably one of the Penzance birds whose tameness is such that they behave more like small dogs now than birds, always on the lookout for handouts and frequently coming within touching distance.

P1110387 - Turnstone, Penzance
P1110383 - Turnstone, Penzance

With that in mind we popped over to see them next and found our first few on the rocks next to Jubilee Pool. Even better though were the eight Purple Sandpipers also present, as they were last year, and who seemed to have just as much disregard for humans as the Turnstones.

P1110411 - Purple Sandpiper, Penzance
P1110404 - Purple Sandpiper, Penzance
P1110398 - Purple Sandpiper, Penzance

I’d probably have managed even more photos had conditions been brighter and if an ill timed phone call had not resulted in my falling quite badly. With the choice of dropping either my camera or phone, having slipped on the slimy rocks, I decided to break my fall with just a single elbow. Needless to say this resulted in not insignificant pain but I still made it aound the corner to see this male Eider in full breeding plumage. A real star bird and reason enough for the call which initiated my injury.

P1110410 - Eider, Penzance

Over at the harbour another fifteen or so Turnstones were marauding their way across the car park and if anything proved to be even tamer than the others. Head shot anyone?

P1110414 - Turnstone, Penzance

Back at the car I was certainly glad that we’d paid our parking fee as the security on patrol looked a little on the mean side.

P1110393 - Herring Gull, Penzance

A distant pair of Common Scoter off Longrock brought our birding and walking to an end meaning it was time to get our first authentic pasties in of the trip. There is simply no comparison to the mass produced shop bought varieties and needless to say we’d be eating many more before our holiday was over.


ADRIAN · March 26, 2015 at 4:49 am

Another good look round. I never knew you had Eider ducks that far south. There are lots up here but they always seem to swim two waves from the shore which is not very cooperative of them.

    Adam Tilt · April 2, 2015 at 10:59 pm

    Neither did I until a few years ago though they are rarely as cooperative as this one.

Sondra · March 27, 2015 at 1:28 pm

Gorgeous…love the colors on the Shelduck, and what a treat to see an Eider in breeding plumage!

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