Apparently North-westerlies are best and these were South-westerlies so apart from the usual Gannets there wasn't actually much going past at all when we first arrived. We found a comfy spot to sit and gazed out at sea Poldark style, but definitely not stripped to the waist, I didn't want to scare the birds away did I? Or die of hypothermia either. Visibility was poor but in the next hour we did manage to wheedle out an Arctic Skua and a Bonxie (Great Skua) out of the gloom as well as a few Guillemots and Razorbills that were streaming past. Shags were present as always on the sea but the only real excitement was provided by a gang of Great Black-backed Gulls that were hounding an unfortunate Kittiwake for its fish catch which it very sensibly relinquished to the bigger birds that then set about each other squabbling over the snack.
|Great Black-backed Gulls in pursuit of Kittiwake
The wind had appeared to drop a little and the day had brightened slightly so, despite my misgivings, we decided to head into Kenidjack. In any case the weather wasn't anywhere near as bad as it was last year when we'd had ex-hurricane Ophelia to deal with. Parking outside of The Old Milking Parlour, which had been our favoured place to stay but sadly no longer available, we walked into the valley passing "Neddy" in his paddock and arriving at the engine shed. Yesterday there had been lots of birders here and quite a few birds, today it was just us and practically nothing! There was very little along the sewage works hedge either save for a couple of Chiffchaffs and a few Dunnocks and the resident Goldfinch flock. The Kestrel that had allowed close approach the day before was still perched in the same stunted tree and obligingly posed for a couple more portraits before taking wing and disappearing across the field.
|male Black Redstart
|juvenile type Black Redstart
Out at sea there were Shags and Seals in the water and, of course, Gannets were passing back and forth further out. A pair of noisy Oystercatchers alighted on rocks at the shore resting only momentarily before departing noisily.
Incredibly we'd been in the company of the Black Redstarts for nearly two hours! Time does fly when you're having fun and it was after 3 o'clock when we headed back up the valley. It would be dark in just a few hours and as we walked we debated on what we could do until then. All of our plans were very firmly put to bed though when the mobile phone flashed up a message informing us that a Grey Catbird had been discovered near Lands End! If I had been asked to list a hundred birds that I had hoped to see on this trip I would never have listed a Grey Catbird, in fact if you'd have asked me to name five hundred I wouldn't have thought of that one. To be honest I had to wrack my brains to even think what a Grey Catbird was, other than being a bird of course. I vaguely knew that it was a North American species and I could very vaguely remember that one had been found in Anglesey some years ago but past that I knew nothing about that species. At the car I consulted my Collins bird guide and was surprised to see the Catbird only getting a small insert in the "accidentals" section at the back. Must be really rare then!
More birders were arriving as the light waned and then at 17:30 the Catbird popped up in the right hand willow! I had a two second view of the dark grey back of a thrush sized bird low down in the branches and then it was gone. You could sense the relief rippling through the crowd from those that had clocked it but also increased anxiety from those that didn't, including Mrs Caley who, being shorter, hadn't been able to see the bird owing to the bracken in the way. We stayed hoping for a better look and maybe half an hour later the Catbird flew out of the willows and up and over the bramble covered fence on the far side of the ditch. I saw it fly quickly but lost it when it disappeared over the other side. Mrs Caley sadly had missed it again so my glee at adding a "lifer" to my own list was dampened somewhat. Apparently the Grey Catbird had perched openly in a small sallow about ten yards or so further away but I hadn't seen it do that, so I was more than a bit "gripped off" myself when I saw some photos later that evening! As some folk celebrated with handshakes and fist pumps others became more frantic and some more than a little bit disconsolate. A good friend of mine who lives in Cornwall had sadly missed the bird so Mrs Caley was in good company. I hoped that the Catbird would stay the night and be seen the following day so that all those who hadn't seen it would have another chance and that I could get a much better view than the fleeting glimpses I'd had so far. There would also be plenty of other birders making the long trip down into Cornwall in the hope of seeing it.