Some gull watching is easier than others, and it doesn’t come easier than the only gull on the pond. A smart 1st winter Ring-billed Gull was enjoyed here before moving on in pouring rain.
12:00: Pendower Beach, Veryan Bay, Cornwall (50.203065, -4.947607)
Brutal winds put paid to any study of divers and grebes offshore, or any chance of finding a recent wintering Pacific Diver (1-2 of which are now annual off the Cornish coast), but I did locate one Great Northern Diver and several Fulmar and a single Rock Pipit.
13:00-13:20: Porthpean Bay, St Austell, Cornwall (50.322085, -4.764826)
The wind had seemingly died completely by the time I arrived here, and in the sheltered bay I quickly found 3 Surf Scoters, a smart juvenile drake, adult and juvenile female, in the company of a long-tailed duck, one black-necked grebe, three common scoter and an increasingly rare bird off the UK coast in winter, a smart male velvet scoter. An excellent stop.
14:30: Wilcove, Tamar Estuary, Cornwall (50.385748, -4.208805)
Green-winged Teals are a rare wintering species with an annual presence in Cornwall, and the bird in question has in recent weeks spent its time between two sites along the Tamar Estuary. Having checked Wacker Quay, I arrived at Wilcove to find the drake, with its characteristic horizontal white flank stripe, on the estuary bank. Also here were at least four smart Mediterranean Gulls, adults in winter plumage, a greenshank and a whimbrel, being chased by a curlew. I then took the car ferry across into Devon.
15:45: Broadsands Bay, Paignton, Devon
A brief stop a chiffchaff, and a feeding frenzy of gannets and kittiwakes offshore, but no cirl buntings. This area has become well-known in recent years for a winter flock, which often comes to seeds around the car park area here and breeds in the adjacent farmland. Today there was no sign so I quickly moved onwards.
17:15: Matford Marsh, Exeter, Devon (50.694007, -3.507561)
Fortunately I had mapped a lay-by for this attractive but well-hidden RSPB nature reserve, and so was able to arrive with the remaining light on side. Around one hundred wigeon were grazing the marsh, and a sneaky red fox passing through eventually moved them back out onto the open water. An extremely dapper study in pink, green and cream, a male American Wigeon then appeared and gave excellent views.
For any novice birders reading this, most wild American ducks in the UK each have an associated ‘carrier’ species that they move around with. Each year, a small number of American Wigeon join large flocks of their European cousins around Britain’s coasts, usually turning up at grazing marshes or estuaries. This very successful day brought the year to 150 species.