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Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Morwenstow Cliffs

Between the wet and windy squalls, we finally made it to Stanbury cliffs to see what, if anything, the severe weather had left in its wake.

The path to the cliffs was, as expected, extremely wet and muddy in places requiring a detour to prevent mud coming over the tops of our boots, but we were undeterred.

Wave after wave of them ...
Our first sight at the end of the footpath above the beach was a Kestrel hovering in the teeth of the wind. It was high tide and huge waves were crashing into the foot of the cliffs, line after line of them. We determined to go towards Higher Sharpnose passing the worst of the eroding cliffs on the way.

There were lots of Mole hills on the South West Coastal Path and Badger evidence – well worn tracks under the Blackthorn and obvious latrines beyond the little stream on the way to Sharpnose.

The new detour
There was the appearance of rock slides once we were able to look back at the cliffs, but the most obvious was the new track into the gorse (where there is usually Dodder in season) to keep people away from the sheer eroded cliff. This has been slipping for a long time and was very attractive to people and dogs to inch to the edge and look over. As we inspected from a safe distance we could see the small stream that follows the path before falling over the cliff actually running uphill. On the detour we thought a squall was coming in as the spots of rain hit us – it was not, it was the small waterfall coming back over the path and wetting us!

The uphill waterfall
We headed nearer to Sharpnose and spotted a Peregrine high over the cliffs. The views of the waves
breaking against the cliffs were spectacular.

On the return we identified sprinklings of shale over the path and field where the storms has stripped loose pieces from the cliff and flung them back inland. I would not have liked to have been there in the teeth of it.

Back at the footpath half a dozen Meadow Pipits were piping and feeding in the field as a Magpie cruised over. The only other birds about was a group of very noisy Herring Gulls obviously in their element.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

February 2014

I hardly expected to see any wildlife sightings with the wild weather we have been having, but the odd windless and dry days have been really springlike.

Bank Vole - Woodford
Animals are beginning to move about - I have seen the odd badger carcase – and there are squirrels and a couple of Roe deer in Morwenstow.  We only noticed them because of the pure white rumps like beacons in the woods.  Our Wood Vole has made regular appearances in our garden.  The trail camera produced another sighting of a fox in a garden in Stratton.

Some of us did some maintenance work by Hobbacott incline in January where we flushed a Sparrowhawk.  I also had a trip to Fremington Quay recently – there are some nice waders – Greenshank and Redshank as well as Little Egret and Shelduck to be seen. 
There are still a lot of Goosanders at Upper and Lower Tamar Lakes.  A group of 8 Cormorants and a flock of Lapwing and Golden Plover at the upper lake too.
Lesser Celandine - Crosswater Morwenstow
At the Lower Lake, also known s the old Lake as it was first built to provide water to the Bude canal in the early 19th Centrury, on the bird feeders near the bird hide were Great Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch and Marsh Tit.
On two separate sunny days we came across 7-spot ladybirds but not much else.
In the water at the bottom of Hobbacott incline I saw around 200 Gyrinus sp. – Whirligig beetles.

Honeysuckle is beginning to show new green leaves and Herb Robert has flowered.  Yesterday (Sunday) the first Lesser Celandine we have seen in flower was at Crosswater.

[transcript of a report given to Cornwall Wildlife Trust Tamar Group on 17 February 2014]

Sunday, 16 February 2014

WeBS at Tamar Lakes

Golden Plover - Upper Tamar Lake
My day to do the Tamar Lakes Wetland Birds Survey.  I swore I would never do it on a Sunday again due to joggers, dog-walkers, model sailing boats etc.  But, it has forecast more weather again tomorrow so I bit the bullet but went a little earlier.

I saw all my usual birds, but a total of 14 Cormorant on Upper Tamar Lake is a big number.

Nuthatch - Lower Tamar Lake
The mixed flock of Lapwing and Golden Plover were as welcome and spectacular as ever and still 17 Goosander of both sexes still there too.  Dare we hope for breeding?

At the Lower Lake there were even more Goosander – 41 in total.

The stars of the show were the birds taking advantage of the feeders placed near the Bird Hide thoug – with a female Great Spotted Woodpecker, Marsh Tit and Nuthatch all photographed.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Fremington Quay

Greenshank - Femington Quay
I ventured into Devon yesterday (11th February) for lunch at Fremington Quay. I remember there being a small tidal river which empties into the Taw there and hoped for sight of some waders.

I was not disappointed, the tide was out and the mud flats exposed.

I was fortunate to find a dry and sunny window in the extreme weather to observe ducks and waders busily feeding and socialising.

A twenty minute walk along the access road gave excellent sightings of Mallard, Shelduck, Little Egret, Curlew, Redshank and even two Greenshank. The plaintive calls of Curlew were counterpoint to the gentle piping calls of the Redshank.

Shelduck - Fremington Quay

Redshank were in flocks of 20 or 30 walking along the mud flats in characteristic hunched over groups probing the mud for invertebrates. The two lone Greenshank in contrast were probing for invertebrates and mollusc in the shallow edge of the water. Shelduck were dabbling in the river then flying up in groups of 8 or 10 to find another, better place to filter waterborne food.
Redshank - Fremington Quay

The field edges were not empty either with Crows and Magpies chasing three very vocal Buzzards. I think they had sensed that spring was in the air and nest sites were being claimed.

On the Taw itself were many Herring Gull, Black-headed Gulls, Oystercatchers and Wigeon.

I hope the owners of those very large and obviously expensive houses appreciate the birds on their doorsteps.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

January 2014

I don’t expect to see  much at all this time of year, certainly not any but road killed animals.  But on the same day, the 9th of January, I saw a Stoat and a Squirrel, separately.  My walk on the Aqueduct in late December produced another two Squirrels.

Pintailed Duck - The Weir
The Goosander is still at the Weir and has been joined by a Pintailed Duck.
However, there is also a large number of Goosander of both sexes on Lower Tamar Lake.

I have been out an about seeing lots of birds whilst doing my regular surveys.  Highlights are - Peregrines on the Aqueduct and at Upper Tamar Lake, and large flocks yesterday, 19th January of Lapwing and Golden Plover there.
I walked the Canal last week and saw two separate sightings of Kingfishers at the locks east of Rodd’s Bridge and another near the Bird Hide.

Early in January I found an old nest in the hedge near Stanbury Cross which contained 2 old eggs, one broken but the other whole which appear to be Yellowhammer.  I have photographed them, but can’t keep them as I would be breaking the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
There seem to be lots of Bullfinches about – has anyone else noticed?

The only invertebrates seen are 7-spot ladybirds -  one on the Yellowhammer nest, and another today. I had to take down an Ash tree a couple of years ago which left me with half a metre diameter trunk sections which I could not easily chop up.  I have them strategically placed in the garden to provide under log habitats.  One has become the home of the invasive Australian flatworm Australoplana sanguinea.  I had four of them under their log in my garden yesterday.  The sighting of the month must go to a Brimstone Butterfly seen near Burdon Nature Reserve on the Bude Aqueduct in December.

Winter Heliotrope - Morwenstow
There are lots of Winter Heliotrope in flower smelling of vanilla and marzipan.  Snowdrops are out and the occasional Primrose

[transcript of a report given to Cornwall Wildlife Trust Tamar Group on 20 January 2014]

Saturday, 1 February 2014

December 2013

I didn’t expect to repeat last month’s report with sighting on the way home, but again, starting where I left off – when I left the meeting last month, we saw a rabbit in Poughill - And when we did the point transect at Maer Lake, we saw two more.

A dead badger near Cleave recently was being cleared up by a Magpie


Main sighting  of the month was the female Goosander on the Canal and at the Weir.  We saw it fly 
Female Goosander - The Weir Bude
in near Peter Truscott bridge and walked after it.  However, we stopped a 100 metres south to count Canada Geese and Lapwing when an excited woman asked if we were interested in birds as she had just seen a Goosander.  She just wanted to tell someone.  Another woman and dog passed us and put the bird up so we did not get a close look then.  However, it had flown only as far as the lake at The Weir where we were able to have many views of it.

Another good sighting was of  two male Bullfinches together in my garden and lots of Buzzards sitting on posts around about.  I don’t know if it is time of year or because there is less vegetation about that we are able to see so much

Male Bullfinches - Morwenstow
At Maer Lake there was a huge flock of about 400 Golden Plover and a good sized flock of Curlew seen both here and on the Canal.

At the recent Marsh transect we saw 30 species of birds, this is a similar number to last December (34) but there were 5 species we had not seen in that area before – Curlew, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Long-tailed Tit, Stonechat and Wigeon.  We now have a list of 52 species seen on the marshes and additional 5 seen on Maer Lake and one on the Whalesborough circuit – totalling 58 species of birds

Just today Emma Buck reports seeing the Goosander, a Pintail near Peter Truscott Bridge and a female Redstart on the streets behind the Carriers Inn in Bude.

Nothing seen of invertebrates although locally people have been surprised to see a Peacock Butterfly in December.  Look out for spawn though there is often early spawn in Cornwall.


As usual, Red Campion are to be seen, they are usually seen every month of the year. 

Yarrow was the only plant we have seen in bloom when we did the Canal Transect last week.

I was going to report that I had not seen an early Primrose yet, but yesterday, on Sunday I saw two in Morwenstow Churchyard and today a wild strawberry in flower and Three-cornered Leek at Woodford.
[transcript of a report given to Cornwall Wildlife Trust Tamar Group on 16 December 2013]