January 2022

By the end of January there were 114 Bewick's swans at Slimbridge. It was great to see this family of 5. Also present were an avocet, 2 ruff, great white egret, 7 ringed common cranes ca. 160 white-fronted geese, a pink-footed goose, a dark-bellied brent goose, and presumed escaped Ross's goose and 3 snow geese.

Bewick's swans

Bewick's swan

Bewick's swan

Bewick's swan

Bewick's swan

Mute swan and Bewick's swan

Feeding time

Brown rats.

Brown rat

30th. 2 penduline tits still at Weston Airfield. This stonechat too. A quiet garden birdwatch - highlights were male blackcap and 2 long-tailed tits.

Stonechat

29th. Heard the ring-necked parakeets at Hermitage Wood, Stoke Park, during a dog walk.

23rd. Drake long-tailed duck Barrow Tanks, 4 scaup at Chew, male ring ouzel at Brean Down and a starling murmuration at Weston Airfield. Record phonescope shot of the ouzel below.

Ring ouzel

In mid January I spent some time in Cornwall to lock myself away and mark exam scripts. The weather was beautiful - sunny, mild and calm. There was a bonxie in St Ives Bay, and dolphins in their hundreds. There are few divers around compared with last year, though I managed to catch up with all three commoner species in the bay.

21st. Still lots of common dolphins in the bay.

Common dolphins

Short-eared owl

Short-eared owl

Short-eared owls in West Cornwall. After watching Winterwatch I noticed that one pupil was sometimes larger than the other. these flight photos show the pupil in shade is larger.

Short-eared owl

Short-eared owl

Short-eared owl

Short-eared owl

Short-eared owl

Short-eared owl

Short-eared owl

20th. Three bottlenose dolphins in the bay.

St Ives Harbour

Towards Lelant

Bottlenose dolphins

Bottlenose dolphins

18th. Another glorious sunrise, and over 100 common dolphin in the bay. There have been up to 3 harbour porpoises too.

Sunrise, St ives Harbour

Common dolphins

17th. The sunrise dog walks are spectacular.

Sunrise from the Island

There were at least 220 grey seals in Mutton Cove.

Grey seals

Grey seals

Birds included peregrine, stonechats and the St Gothian Sands snow bunting.

Peregrine

Stonechat

Snow bunting

Snow bunting

16th. I saw the ring-billed gull for the first time this year from Lelant Station.

Ring-billed gull

An almost full moon over Godrevy Lighthouse.

Godrevy Lighthouse

St Ives Island

15th. Newlyn Harbour to see the juvenile glaucous gull.

Newlyn Harbour

Glaucous gull

Glaucous gull

Glaucous gull

At one point it was feeding on a discarded piece of cut up common dolphin carcass, presumably a result of by-catch.

At one point it was feeding on a cut up common dolphin carcass, presumably a result of bycatch.

Two choughs at Land's End.

14th. Greenshank on Ryan's Field.

Greenshank

10th. Male blackcap in the garden - they seem to be less obvious this winter compared with this time last year.

9th. Birding on the Levels. My first-ever BAIKAL TEAL - a distant drake at Greylake RSPB reserve. Whereas last year's new birds were great subjects for photography, the teal was probably about a kilometer distant. Two peregrines here also. A drake ring-necked duck and a water pipit at Ham Wall, and scores of cattle egrets around Westhay. A phonescoped record shot of the ring-necked duck below.

Ring-necked duck

6th. Singing male black redstart heard from the bedroom. Barnoon Cemetery is a fascinating place. The artist Alfred Wallis is buried here in a grave adorned with tiles made by Bernard Leach, along with two people lost on the Titanic, and the 7 crew who lost their lives in the St Ives lifeboat disaster of 1939.The wheelchair-bound poet James Lynn Pitt, a relative of the two British prime ministers rests here also, and had links with Bristol. The deaf and blind Cornish poet Jack Clemo wrote 'Porthmeor Cemetery, St Ives: Alfred Wallis's Tombstone' about this magnificent place.

'I never stood at graves of famous men
Without a breathing beauty by my side:
I scarcely felt death’s presence for the pride
Of quickening a woman’s heart-beats. Where and when, Near noble dust, have my veins been dusty? No,
The shrouded fighter, cramped in his clay den, Sense-spurning, drawn to the tragic line – I swear
That man is not myself. I sit in the glow
Of June sun and my wife’s smile, feel her hair
Loose in the bay breeze. My audacious luck
Shines crisp and golden as the beach below,
Sings in the surf and shells, belies the pluck
Of time at the stunted workhouse-ferried bones
Under this cool carved tombstone – Wallis’s'.

Barnoon Cemetery

Wallis's grave

Pitt plaque

We made a project photographing the black redstarts in the graveyard.

black redstart

Black redstart

Black redstart

Black redstart

Black redstart

Black redstart

Meadow pipits here too.

Meadow pipit

House sparrows too.

House sparrow

House sparrow

The 'Aviary' exhibition at St Ives looks great - laser projections of birds onto the atrium roof.

Tate St Ives

Tate St Ives

Tate St Ives

Tate St Ives

St Nicholas's Chapel, The Island at dusk.

St Nicholas's Chapel

5th. Male black redstart Barnoon Cemetery, female-type on our wall and then flew to the roof of the Hepworth storage space. We walked from Hell's Mouth to Tehidy, and saw about 30 fulmars in Hell's Mouth, and 2 peregrines flew past. We then caught up with the elusive snow bunting at St Gothian Sands.

4th. Bonxie from the Island. We walked from Prussia Cove to Cudden Point. A dead grey seal is washed up on Porthmeor Beach.

dead seal

2nd. Black redstart male at Barnoon Cemetery. Great northern diver, Manx shearwater, purple sandpiper from the Island. Six goosander, 3 black-tailed godwit, grey plover, hundreds of golden plover, great white egret, yellow-legged gull and a peregrine on the Hayle Estuary (Lelant saltings and Ryan's Field).

1st. We drove to Cornwall and saw a peregrine over the M5.

2021 was another year affected in a big way by COVID-19. I stuck to the rules and my birding was very limited in range during the first few months of the year. This had a silver lining - I spent a lot of time getting to know the birds around Bristol - regular and confiding firecrests on the Downs, dippers at Snuff Mills, and I watched the peregrines from mating through to the young fledging in the Avon Gorge. I became interested in plants and got to see several of the local specialties. The Canon R5 took some time to get used to, and was great for photographing flying birds. I worked from home a lot, managed to teach the only residential field course at the University and didn't leave the country. Four new bird species were American herring gull, river warbler, Pacific diver, and, at last, little auk. All of these gave great views. I saw a probable immature long-tailed skua from St Ives. The year total was a modest 187. My highlights however were not birds - the Tenby walrus, the St Ives Atlantic bluefin tuna, and the remarkable plants of the Lizard stood out. I spent a decent amount of time in Cornwall once restrictions eased. It was great to see choughs over St Ives town and also feeding on the Island. Other highlights included great grey shrike in the Forest of Dean, black-winged stilt at Marazion, the confiding wryneck at Pendeen, Caspian and ring-billed gulls at Lelant, and jack snipe at Chew. The kestrel fledglings in the Gorge and the wall lizards there were spectacular. I had great views of ocean sunfish off St Ives, and enjoyed Knepp, seeing turtle dove, hearing nightingales and watching purple emperors. The flower meadows on Pentire were beautiful too. The year ended seeing the penduline tits at Weston.

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