5 Apr 2009

Dragon Birds in Cornwall

News of a Great-spotted Cuckoo being found near St Just, Cornwall two weeks ago today roused our interest but negative news the following day dampened any enthusiasm for the long drive from Cheshire to Cornwall. I've missed umpteen of these and it was beginning to become a bogey bird. The bird was relocated last week at nearby Bartinney Downs but was always elusive. However, last Thursday it finally seemed to have been pinned down and plans were hatched for an overnight dash in the early hours of Saturday morning if it was still there Friday. Friday came and went with negative news so I went to Hilbre to join the Obs team instead only for the Cuckoo to reappear and seemingly show well all day! Aghhh!

Phone calls were made, lifts arranged and at 3.00 am this morning I met up with Jase Atkinson & Malc Curtin for the long drive through the misty night to the end of the British Isles! We made good time and by 08.30we were in position ready for the Cuckoo to show......................................
2.5 hours later a message came through that it had been seen flying our way from the other side of the hill. Another hour went. Nothing. By now the vibes were getting seriously bad and singing Dartford Warblers were scant consoslation for the 20 or so people assembled - including Mark Payne, Paddy O'Pointon, Stokesy & Damo who'd driven overnight from Loch Garton!

Suddenly local birder Mushaq Ahmed got a call to say it was on the ground and showing well on the OTHER FLAMING SIDE OF THE HILL! Shit. Knackered through lack of sleep and dehydrated, as all the drinks were in the car, we crested the hill to see a small group waving frantically to us and beckoning us down. There it was hopping around munching caterpillars about 80 m away and showing its proverbials off in a photography killing heat haze. We watched it for about 40 minutes before it flew off north and headed back to the car for a well earned breakfast (by this time it was 13.30!) and the long drive back to Cheshire. A fantastic bird and my first UK Greater-spotted Cuckoo.

Hilbre provided a lot of seawatching interest even though migrants were very thin on the ground. Frank found the star bird - a juvenile Iceland Gull on the West Hoyle Bank. A few Sand Martins and a Swallow flew over the Island whilst out to sea my first Sandwich Tern & Kittiwake of the year put in an appearance along with a good passage of Little Gulls. Suprsingly, given the lack of any passerine migrants on Hilbre, that local hot spot commonly known as Gilroy Nature park attracted the first Redstart in the N W and nearby a Ring Ouzel was seen by a single luck observor on Hoylake Golf course. Gilroy has an amazing reputation locally for attracting early migrants and each year the dates seem to get earlier and earlier. A result of global warming?

Meanwhile down the south end of the Wirral the Ravens have still been hanging around the area although extremely wary whilst the local Buzzards continue to ham it up for the camera.

Even in Cornwall we noted a distinct lack of migrants today with no hirundines and the only Warblers being Chiffchaff. The rush is yet to come.

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