A short break in Cornwall saw me heading to Boat Cove at the first opportunity yesterday morning for the long-staying Hudsonian Whimbrel. The Pagham Harbour bird last year was the first I had seen of this species but my pictures of it were a bit distant and hazy so I was keen to have another crack at the smart looking Cornish specimen. I arrived soon after the first dog walkers and just as the sun was rising, but the only birds visible on the beach were Curlews. Then the piping call of a Whimbrel gave away its presence, and a dark rump as it flew away confirmed it was of the Hudosnian variety. My hopes of getting close views fell, however, as it flew out of view around the Cove. Fortunately it hadn't gone far and I relocated it on a rocky promontory.
As the sun rose, I was getting decent photos with the aid of a teleconverter, although the bird was distant from my position on the path. Eventually it flew back east and when I approached my original vantage point at the end of the Cove I found it playing peek-a-boo with me from the top of a high, spray-soaked rock. The views were excellent from here, but when flushed by a wave, it flew east again and was lost to view. This time I thought it had gone for good, but approaching the cliff edge slowly, I looked back west to find it well above the tide-line, almost at eye-level on a high cliff feeding among the lichen, less than 30 yards away. It wandered out of view and I changed my vantage point to refind it, hailing another birder along the coast who appeared to be looking for the bird but who would not have been able to see it from where he stood.
I headed for the car but a phone call to the family suggested that I wouldn't be missed for another half-hour so I went back to the cliff edge, and the same birder returned the favour a few minutes later, rejoining me to point out that the Whimbrel had moved, unseen by me, to just below where I had been standing. From here we enjoyed even closer views as the bird fed unperturbed, other than by the crashing surf which caused it to flap its wings and reveal the cinnamon barring on the underwing. It posed superbly against the rocks, showing off the diversity of Cornish coastal geology in the process. A selection of photos from an exhilarating couple of hours spent with this major rarity below. As the final photo shows, it was using its long bill to access the deepest crevices on the rock face.
9 months ago