As we were driving back home from Somerset, we were receiving news that the YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO was still present in Cornwall. The last message came through at 15:00hrs. The question was then asked as to whether I would travel down to Cornwall when the last sighting was at 15:00hrs. It was a tough question to answer. If we travelled on positive news, then we wouldn't arrive until 14:00hrs. We decided that as we were dealing with a YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO it was worth taking the risk. We decided on a late start, aiming to leave Stoke at 04:00hrs, the plan being if there was early negative news, then we wouldn't have to drive all the way to Porthgwarra. There were three or four other bits in Cornwall, so there was at least something to see.
The situation eased a little when we received news that there had been a further sighting at 17:30hrs. The trip was finalised. Despite having a full day in Somerset, it was such a pleasure to hear my alarm go off at 03:45hrs. We picked CJW and we had a smooth run down the motorway to Cornwall for a change (most recent visits we've had to divert off the motorway in the middle of the night when they are closed).
There was still no news as we raced through Penzance, and as we got closer to Porthgwarra, we knew our internet connection would suddenly go (Porthgwarra is in a internet and phone signal free zone). We were just in the narrow lanes ten minutes from Portgwarra when CJW started leaping for joy. The YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO was well made, and had survived the night.
As we descended into the valley, we could see the crowd gathered on the hillside opposite. We played it cool though and parked in the proper car park and took the walk up on the moor to the dried up pool. We parked up at 09:30hrs and by 09:50hrs we were watching the elusive Yellow-billed Cuckoo flitting between the bushes. As we stood there and finally celebrated my first lifer this autumn, I asked CJW if it was a tick for him too. Of course he smiled and replied "No". He seen the 1965 St Agnes bird whilst birding with Hilda Quick, DIM Wallace and a young William Oddie.
Not a bad crowd for a Friday morning
It was a good job we had these early views because there was no sign for the next hour. The drizzle slowly came down and the crowd spread out. Eventually it was relocated and we enjoyed more prolonged views. It was quite amusing to watch one of the top birders in the country struggle to get on the bird every single time. We would be watching it, snapping away with our cameras, and we'd hear a "So which bush is it in again?". How he's managed to get up to nearly 500 I don't know.
By 11:30hrs, the drizzle was constant and the visibility was quite poor. We retreated back to the car.
Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Porthgwarra, Cornwall.
We stopped off at Hayle and saw the Lesser Yellowlegs, but as soon as we got out of the car, it started drizzling again. We drove around looking for the ROSE-COLOURED STARLING but it was playing hard to get. Finally we drove up to Davidstow Airfield, and enjoyed some rather splendid views of the juvenile American Golden Plover.
It wasn't a bad week to have as a holiday after all.
American Golden Plover on Davidstow Airfield