Thursday, 11 August 2016

Dalmatian Pelican Cornwall August 2016

Having spent the night in a travelodge near to Ipswich, we set off at 4:45am and headed down onto the M25, M3 and the A303. By this time, we knew the Devon LEAST SANDPIPER wasn’t present, so we carried on driving into Cornwall. We checked a few sites around the Hayle Estuary for the DALMATIAN PELICAN but there was no sign. Two out of three of our target birds for the day were missing. We were tired and our spirits were low.  

We headed to a small coastal village just east of Marazion. The sun was out and everyone, apart from us, were heading down to the beach. We walked along the coastal path to the next cove, which was quieter with no one down on the rocks. CJW soon spotted the 1s Hudsonian Whimbrel feeding on the rocks. We eventually moved around until we were directly above it, and had some good views. There was a Curlew and Whimbrel also present. 


1st summer Hudsonian Whimbrel Perranuthnoe Cornwall

There was still no news on the DALMATIAN PELICAN, so we drove down to Porthgwarra. The wind was forecast to be slightly stronger during the afternoon than for tomorrow morning, but it was still only 13mph. Not ideal. However, as soon as we started watching, there was a steady trickle of Manx Shearwaters flying past. We sat there for about two hours, seeing six Storm Petrels and a single Balearic Shearwater

We had managed to turn the day around and now we only had one target bird left – the DALMATIAN PELICAN. We had another scan around the Hayle Estuary before we headed for a chip shop for tea. We decided to order a really complicated order and it took ages to serve us and for them to prepare our food. As we stood there, and I became involved in an active discussion as to what was difficult about serving a portion of chips and gravy, PLo tried to ring me. Twice I cut him off and then he rang CJW. The pelican had been reported on the Helford river. Armed with our chips, we walked back to the car, set the sat nav up and off we drove. It was decided that CJW ate his chips first, then we would swap over drivers. Possibly the only 40 min journey where we’ve had to swap drivers half way. The lanes down to Helford were incredibly narrow, but we suddenly found ourselves in a very picturesque riverside village, and a river full of yachts and boats. It soon became clear that this was quite an upmarket location. CJW, with gravy splattered all over his t-shirt and dripping off his chin was soon attracting funny looks. I, on the other hand, seemed to fit in perfectly with the posh people from Hampshire. 

It was clear that there was just too much activity in the area for a Pelican to remain. We headed back down to a quieter stretch, but again no sign. It was now 21:00hrs. We were knackered. The hotel was at Redruth and so we made our way there. 

Breakfast was served between 08:00hrs and 09:00hrs, but at 06:20hrs we decided to skip breakfast and continue the Pelican quest. During the night, more information had come to light. We knew the Pelican had been seen from a kayak, but now we knew it was at Tremayne Quay. We hurtled down the endless narrow lanes, found a parking spot, and walked down a deserted track through a heavily wooded area. There was not a soul in sight. The sky was blue. The river was flat calm. The place was silent. It was as idyllic a setting as you can imagine. And thats why a family of four had moored their yacht there for the evening. And along we came to disturb them!

The view from Tremayne Quay
There was no sign of the pelican here, nor further along, or in the next creek. It was now 09:30hrs, and we'd been searching for three hours now. We decided to head for some breakfast. 

Then PLo rang us again. We were just climbing up out of the valley, and fortunately we had a signal. The Pelican was back at Restronguet Creek, a site it had spend some time at recently before getting itchy feet again. It was 40 mins away, again on horrendous narrow country roads. The journey took ages, the sat nav seemed to add minutes on every minute, but finally, we arrived and parked up. One birder was just walking away, but we stood by a posh lady waiting for her husband and grumpy little Jonny to finish their kayaking session. She told us where the Dalmatian Pelican, and finally we had found it.  We spent the next hour or so trying to get better views and eventually we walked along the beach along the estuary, only for it to fly and land on the island. By now it was drizzling, and at 12:30hrs, we realised we still hadn't had any breakfast. 

We ate and headed for home, battling our way through the A30 traffic on a summer Saturday. By the time we reached home, we'd done 1056 miles and driven through 17 counties!

Dalmatian Pelican

The island in Restronguet Creek