Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Marazion - 18 to 25 August 2012

Marazion Marsh – 18 to 25 August

The week had been arranged in order to support the Aquatic Warbler project. Marazion Marsh, an established RSPB reserve, has been known as a site where these birds may be found during their migration period. However the number of sightings has dropped in number since the 90s when we last saw Aquatic Warbler at this site. This will be due in part to the way in which marsh plant varieties have spread and reduced viewing opportunities, but ringing efforts since 2006 have also shown that these birds are present in fewer numbers with none caught until 2011 when two were captured.

We arrived in Cornwall on the Friday evening via Wet Moor in Somerset to see the four White Storks, just a short diversion off the A30. We met up with MG to be shown around the site, receive information such as where the pool bed changes level suddenly (we already knew that waders were essential) and to be given other informative documentation and kit (including a magnetised logo for the car to seal our authenticity as bona fide volunteers).

On the first day (Saturday) it was misty, drizzling and blowy so we cautiously dropped only the main net run and had audio lures on by 6.10am. As the conditions improved, the other main nets were opened and the numbers of birds ringed steadily increased. We managed 30 by the end of the session but the Acros were supplemented by Long-tailed and Blue Tits. The conditions had been ‘right’ for the target species, but news of birds caught in Devon didn’t alter the fact that we had none.

After settling ourselves into the self-catering accommodation that we had booked, we returned to Marazion as the Spotted Crake (ringed by other volunteers in the previous week) had reportedly been seen again. We stood watching the favoured area for about two hours. In that time we had more great views of the Wood Sandpiper and were able to take a count of Little Egret as they departed when the canon was fired on St Michael’s mount. We were also witness to a Water Rail making an unsuccessful attempt at taking a Dunlin. The small wader was grasped by the tail and an attempt was made to drown it, but the Dunlin managed to escape leaving a flurry of white feathers and one confounded Water Rail behind. The closest to seeing  a Spotted Crake that we got was a family of Moorhen. There were at least three well grown youngsters and one adult. After sustained viewing for the Crake, an individual that had been seen, at dusk, by many observers and relatively easily, we began to wonder about the reported sighting by one individual at 4pm.   

The weather for Sunday indicated minimal wind and a bank of cloud drifting in from the west, bringing persistent rain with heavier intervals, so we took the decision not to start early and monitor the weather from the comfort of our accommodation.

Day two (Sunday) dawned with a damp, grey hue beneath a blanket of slow moving, rain dispensing clouds. There was no ringing in the morning but this allowed time to watch the tide roll in at the Hayle Estuary. In the evening we joined MG for an attempt at a Swallow roost but only 30 or so birds were caught after a Hobby put most of the birds off. After splitting the team, the Swallows were processed and roosted while three others set for Storm Petrels at the Lizard. The lures worked and 6 new birds and one French ringed bird before deteriorating conditions forced an early finish at 1.00am.

 Storm Petrel

Day 3 (Monday), considering that the alarm failed to go off, it was perhaps surprising that we were on site at Marazion before 6am. With the nets fully deployed, it became apparent that there had been an exodus of Reed Warblers during the previous day and most of the catch was made up of Sedge Warblers, with again no Aquatics being drawn to the tape lures. A Honey Buzzard and Black-tailed Godwit flew over during the morning. A brief sleep after the session then out again to visit the Hayle. This evening the regular gulls, ducks, Curlew and Little Egrets were joined by 5 Black-tailed and 1 Bar-tailed Godwits.

Day 4 (Tuesday) turned out to be our best day with 39 birds caught, but still no target species. The afternoon was spent at Nanquidno, producing a single Pied Flycatcher in the garden of the last house.

Juvenile Reed Warbler showing growth bars on wings and tail.

Day 5 (Wednesday) was our quietest day with only 12 birds. An afternoon visit to Nanjizal had several butterflies along the lanes on route to the sea including a number of Wall Browns. At Nanjizal a couple of Chough were seen heading towards Lands End.

 Wall Brown

Day 6 (Thursday) was again a moder day producing 23 birds and frustratingly MG managed to catch, around 10.15 the target species 15 miles away at Gunwellow on the Lizzard, much to our frustration. An afternoon visit to Cot Valley revealed at least 8 Basking Sharks at the bottom of the valley and we also had another Chough over.

Basking Shark

Day 7 (Friday) was started off with the weekend forecast rain. The morning was spent in the dry but by early pm the rain had stopped and we headed off to Porthgwarra. There was a steady southerly wind at about 15/20 mph. The seawatching was not especially heavy with about 20 odd Balearic Shearwatres going by, single Sooty Shearwater, and Arctic and Pomarine Skuas, along with 2 Great Skuas. a number of Manx Shearwaters were passing with a lot more Gannets. Late pm we were joined by Mark Thomas. The passage had got slower, so we decided to head off and look for the two Wrynecks at the farms on the way back to Polgigga. As we had just pack up and started to walk off Mark shouted and called us back - he had just picked up a Feas Petrel to the right of Runnelstone buoy, and then lost it. Some else mentioned they might have to the right of the buoy a few minutes later and I managed to get on the bird, which despite a departing view clearly was the 'bird'. Alas Denise never got onto to it. Having disappear out of sight, we continued off up the lane to the farm, where despite seeing one, found two Wrynecks frequenting an ants nest in the stone wall.

Day 7 (Saturday)we woke to find the forecast 40mph winds, well not there, but still head off to Pendeen. There were a few birds going by, but not the expect thrill of a good passage in storng winds. In between some heavy showers we managed a few Balearic, a couple of Sooty and many Manx Shearwaters. A single Pomarine, five Arctic and four Great Skuas, and two Common Scoter. With the onset of some heavy rain, lacking in a full set of water proofs and no umbrellas, taking the lower than expected winds we decided a good soaking was not called for so we departed. During about 3 -4 hours of non stop rain the winds got up, and despite being aware of a Cory's at Pendeen, we did not get to hear of the Greats also going by, so despite the rain stopping around 4pm, we did not return. We did manage to see one of the Spotted Crakes at Marazion though before heading back home.

Totals for the week:-













33 (5)