Monday 16th February
An amazingly wonderful day started with a large breakfast at The Mad Hatters B and B in Hayle, with lovely Pauline, the proprietress sitting on an opposite table chatting away. With her two boisterous dogs under control, I enjoyed the breakfast which included a bowl of strawberries as well as the full English and cereal.Leaving by the back door as the bike had been stored in a building behind the house, I took a couple of photographs of the creek. Here a few years ago now, an adult ring-billed gull had been an almost permanent resident there. Being an American gull, the ring-billed is still a very rare bird in Britain.
After sorting out a few financial matters at a bank, I cycled around to the Hayle Estuary RSPB reserve and was delighted to see a poster advertising my journey on the wall of the breeze bloc hide there. Inside I met Peter Walsh, another birder who I had last met on Fair Isle when I was cycling another Biking Birder trip 5 years ago.
Into the hide came a wonderful older lady, Mary with her Staffy terrier and we had fun trying to get photos of me with both.
After these had left, a couple came in with the gentleman, Paul Hopkinson showing me some of his bird art works. Using water colours Paul had some beautiful pieces. www.devonartist.co.uk
Whilst chatting away, as I am prone to do, a little egret came very close to the hide and did the soft shoe shuffle to dislodge tasty morsels.
On leaving the reserve and getting back to the main road, I saw a group of three birders scanning over the low tide estuary. Asking what they'd found, I was told that they were on a 1st winter ring-billed gull and they offered me a view through their Swarowski telescope to have a look. I took a couple of photographs and then scanned the area myself to see a good number of gulls, including more lesser blacks than I had seen in the past two or three weeks.
Onward to Long Rock car park to look for divers in the bay. 3 great northerns were easy to see with binoculars but a smaller diver was more of a problem and a scope was required. That arrived with a fabulous birder, Steve Rowe from Newquay.
Before his arrival I had been scanning the sea hoping that the reported Pacific diver, one of the rarest birds in Britain at the moment, would swim my way. I had also been photographing herring gulls coming down for the crusts from off my Paddington Bear sandwiches.
Standing with Steve and another local-ish birder, Luke Harman, we saw at least 8 great northern divers, distant eider and purple sandpipers and a diver that was too distant to assign to specie.
Moving around to the sea wall adjacent to the railway station at Penzance, a male eider was reasonably close and we had more views of the great northern divers.
It was after moving around to the area by the monument, west of the Scillonian harbour that the birding excitement got to fever pitch. Two divers were quite close in; to the left a black-throated diver and to the right, the Pacific! Steve was brilliant by repeatedly handing over his telescope for me to get great views of both birds. Now with s strong breeze and a rough sea I couldn't get any sort of photograph of the latter bird and only managed a back of the head shot of the former. The sunlight coming from just to the west of the direction of the birds didn't help and focussing was a problem. Anyway I had superb views of both birds and was over the moon, as they say.
Indeed, out of all the rare birds that I have seen on this leg of the Biking Birder trip, I have only failed to get a photo of two of them; this Pacific diver and the ferruginous duck at Ringwood. I will be doing a summary posting of the rarest birds seen so far later on.
I took a photo of both birders together with a newcomer to the group, Kevin and left to get to Gulval.
A quick cycle to the kale field and a chat with two birders from Lichfield and there was the reported little bunting to add to the year list. At first it was deep in the bush, where I took a short video of it as evidence. Then it came further out and allowed some better photographs.
Four year ticks during the day and two '54's, birds I didn't see in 2010 have put the year list on 148. Brilliant.
On getting to Penzance youth hostel, a message from Maria in Peru later in the evening saying that she had found some land, 30 hectares of it, that I could buy in Peru was a thrilling prospect to end the day on. A truly fabulous day.
Year list still stands at 148. Next it's a rest for three days. Having reached the end of the south coast part of the trip, it seems appropriate to have the rest I need. I'll be back in the saddle on Saturday morning, starting with an interview on BBC Cornwall at 7:20am. Then it's to Marazion RSPB Reserve to meet RSPB staff and volunteers. There are still birds available in Cornwall to see and I will be chasing these on the way north.
Now please have a look at the photographs of today on my facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/bikingbirder2015