Thursday, 6 August 2020

Porthgwarra

I make no secret of my love for seawatching, a passion that started at Dungeness and Cley but over recent years my life has been enriched by the experience of Porthgwarra. I love the place, just to sit there for a few hours a year isn't a lot to ask and yesterday I managed just that. Having watched the weather patterns bringing in a reasonable chance of south westerlies for Wednesday morning and mindful that I had also predicted a decent day last Monday but didn't go this time I wasn't going to miss the chance and so made the long run down to Cornwall over night stopping for a break about half way and with Covid still a player I sadly had to make the trip alone.

What a view


I arrived at the car park at 6.30am and quickly loaded up with scope, camera, bins, flask, chair and rain protection and strutted up the rocks to take a place in the small gathering at a safe distance from the others guys. As the morning progressed we reached a total group size of around thirty or so.

I'd already missed both large Shearwaters but wasn't put off as the turn out of the locals gave me confidence I had picked a decent day. First up was a group of Chough calling behind me four of which then landed on the ground in front of us to give good views and my first year tick of the day. Next was a Sooty Shearwater speeding through and past the Runnel stone bouy.

The famous Runnel stone bouy


Fulmars glided past and large groups of Gannets moved along the coast containing a few juveniles. A Whimbrel called as it flew overhead and the gulls flew overhead calling loudly with Med Gull and Kittiwake both seen during the watch. A single Yellow-legged Gull was reported but I missed it as can be the case if you have your eye to the scope as they glide past. Next came a Bonxie followed by a Pom and then as I watched the Pom an Arctic Skua came up to mob it which I suppose must have been sat on the water so I literally had three species of Skua in one scope view which was quite thrilling.

I had only been on site a couple of hours before my first life tick when a local called "large Shear!" It was quite distant but with his directions shouted loudly through the group we all managed to get on it and it became apparent that I was watching my very first Great Shearwater more "large Shears" came and went without clarity on species due to distance then another appeared a bit closer almost at Runnel Stone range and it was clearly identified as my first tickable Cory's Shearwater. Over the morning more Great and Cory's were seen well enough to identify and I saw at least three of each that I was happy with along with a few that will remain either or. More Sooties came along later in the morning to add to the spectacle. A Balearic was called among the hundreds of Manx Shearwaters but I couldn't find it and think I might have been on the wrong group of Manx. I then thought I had a Storm Petrel but it was brief and nobody else could find it and I'm not 100% sure it was a Stormie to be honest but it looked good although I've talked myself out of it as time has past as I often do with these brief encounters. I then missed two Stormies called by the group later on to my disappointment. A Puffin was seen but having checked every Auk of the morning I was disappointed not to have seen that too. It's great to be joined by the local guys and gain from their experience of these sightings, their confidence to call at distance is impressive my only shouts of the day was the Bonxie (A sea bird I'm very familiar with) but it did provide the focus for the group to get on the Pom too so a decent shout and my Stormie shout was quieter, less confident and largely ignored. As for the large Shears I may well have picked up a couple before the group but they didn't need my help finding them for sure. The Runnel Stone Bouy is very useful as a marker if you are struggling to pick up a bird it's a good place to focus and wait for the bird to pass to help your chances of connecting, a trick I used on a couple of occasions if I couldn't pick up the bird earlier within the directions. One shout came of "large Shear passing the cargo ship" I couldn't even find the cargo ship in the distant mist so these guys must have some super upgraded equipment on me or just better eyes I guess.

This guy entertained me trying to get the brolly up in the fierce wind his mates were better prepared


Also of note during the morning a couple of Dolphin, a pair of Rock Pipit and a group of nine Common Scoter. The Scilly Isles helicopter was busy and the Scillonian sailed past mid morning in choppy waters. As mid-day approached the forecast rain starting coming in and I sat it out for an hour with the wind picking up now I thought it worth getting a little wet if the birds where to come in closer but what I hadn't allowed for was the sea mist and the lack of visibility so with that I packed up and left for the long journey home, happy that I had managed in this difficult year to still get a day at Porthgwarra but sad that it could be a whole year before I get back.

The Scillonian on its way out to the Scilly Islands


I already want to go back and do it all over again as it really is quite addictive. 
It's both challenging and rewarding.

Year list now 240
Life list now 414

What a view

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