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Monday, 23 February 2015


Sunday 22nd February
Go West! That was the demand from finding out that Porthgwarra was a RSPB reserve. So despite the weather forecast and despite the already falling rain, I set off in that direction along the A30. Cycling to within a mile of Land's End, I turned left towards Porthcurno and reached Porthgwarra at around 10.am.There was the toilet block that had helped me remove material on my first visit here back in 1982.
Not a pleasant story, with no happy ending but here goes.
I was birding on the Isles of Scilly and an amazingly rare bird, a chimney swift, had been seen at Porthgwarra. I took the helicopter to Penzance and the bis to Porthcurno. Thinking that I would walk the coastal path to Porthgwarra I hid my rucksack and camping gear behind a holiday house there and started the trek. Another birder started a conversation as we found and looked at 2 firecrests together and he offered a lift in his car to 'Gwarra. On retrieving the rucksack, I placed it on my lap as I sat in the passenger seat. The smell that emminated from somewhere had us thinking that the muck spreading going on must be ongoing even in October! It turned out that someone had had a private toilet moment behind that holiday home and my jeans were covered in ****!
Four hours of scraping, washing and cursing in this same toilet block that I dried myself in now left me reasonably free of the vile stuff.
The chimney swift never showed!

After making a repair to the front brakes, the cable had slipped lose as I was coming down the hill (!) I went down through the tunnel onto the beach with a strong southerly wind in my face and tremendous waves and a large swell to enjoy. Gannets, fulmars, kittiwakes and guillemots were all passing close by, with fulmar being a new bird for the year.
With 11 O'clock approaching, I went up the private road towards the coastguard and came to a gate with the usual format RSPB notice on it. So it was a reserve. Here was the proof. Not on the official spreadsheet but here it was in front of me.
As I birded the adjacent bushes, Jen, the RSPB assistant warden I'd met the day before at Marazion, who had told me about Porthgwarra being a reserve, arrived. She came with coffee and her smile. Now I did feel a little guilty that she had come all the way out here to bring me a coffee. The weather for normal people was appalling. She said she didn't mind.
The coastguard arrived and Jen drove up to the Gwennap Head Coastguard building as I pushed the bike up the steep road to it.
Jen left and I started to try to seawatch with stinging rain and strong wind blowing in my face.

The coastguard man invited me in, John and the next hour was spent with him telling me and showing me every little detail of the coastguard operation. Instruments, monitors and charts showed shipping in the area, weather statistics and the like.
Outside into the gale, gusting to over 50 miles an hour so a speedometer-like gauge had shown me, and horizontal rain, to initially take the bike back down to the small cottages down near to the car park. It was now very foggy yet down in the valley the strength of the wind made the area quite sheltered. The wind had turned to south westerly and this now gave the beach area a little shelter also. Leaving the bike in a secret hideaway, I once again went through the tunnel and onto the beach. This time though \i went and clambered over the rocks, photographing the violent sea and some passing gannets and fulmars. No more auks were seen which was a pity as razorbill would be new for the year list.
 
The granite rocks gave great friction and clambering over them was easy. I wouldn't like to have a fall on them though so I was extremely careful. Then it was up onto the coastal path to search for the lonely female chough that Jen had told me could be seen in the area. For the next hour I searched around all of Gwennap Head, marvelling at the blowhole, before descending once again to retrieve the bike.
Well, Donna of BBC Cornwall, I tried to see the iconic Cornish Chough but the weather had defeated me. Next time.
As I went up the hill with the wind now coming from my left side, I came across a deformed toad on the side of the road. It had a red jelly-like area around the mouth and its leg was out at an angle. It made no attempt to move as I approached it and allowed me to pick it up. Not being sure how the poor thing had got into such a sorry state, I carefully placed it in a field.

A cycle ride to Land's End, sometimes with the wind behind me, other times in my face. I reached the almost empty famous landmark and spent some time in the Shaun The Sheep Experience!
Now I love Aardmaan Animations but haven't seen their last two films so all the Shaun artefacts, especially the characters other than Shaun, were new to me.
I had it all to myself but I wonder what it would be like in the summer. Anyway I enjoyed it all, especially the actual sets from various films and the original Morph from the 70s (?) TV show. The photographs I took will show you what you can expect if ever you visit.
Now speaking of photographs, they have a green screen camera machine and a set with a Land's End signpost. I sat in front after pressing the relevant buttons and had my photo taken with Shaun The Sheep by my side. Interestingly the yellow cycling helmet that I was still wearing and the hi-vis jacket all became see through and you can see the scenery behind me.
To the Land's End signpost for photographs and then to the last house in England headland. I could just make out the lighthouse in the mist and spray some miles to the west.
The cycle back to Penzance Youth Hostel was brief. The gale blew mw back. No problem with hills for a change.

One last thought, I love this sort of weather even if I arrived back at the hostel soaked to the skin (I must get better waterproofs!) yet I wonder if that was the case with the 40-odd migrants workers picking daffodils that I had seen on the way to Porthgwarra? They were bent double working hard in this appalling weather and on a sunday too. I wonder how much they earn for their efforts?

Now please have a look at the photographs of the 22nd's photos on my facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/bikingbirder2015

Also if you could please make a small donation to any of the charities that I am supporting then please click on the links to the right. I know I put this onto the end of every blog posting but I really get a boost from every donation. The RSPB, The WWT, Asthma UK and Chaskawasi-Manu. I would be so grateful if you could make a donation however small. Thanks.

All the very best everyone. Love to you all xx


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