Pacific Diver!

Last Thursday I met up with fellow young birders and photographers Lisle Gwynn, Max Thompson and Jack Barton to head down to Penzance and see what we could find/photograph. We headed off in the early afternoon, with grey clouds looming overhead and the threat of rain. Nevertheless, we continued on down to Penzance and headed to the rocky point where Purple Sandpipers can often be found at close range. It was high tide, which boded well for finding this smart little waders, but unfortunately a lone Turnstone was all that remained besides the harbour. Unfazed, we scanned the surrounding sea and horizon to see if any wildfowl or seabirds were present in the bay….

There wasn’t a great deal to see, aside a few distant Gannets, a flock of Common Scoters, and a lone diver. At a fair range, it looked Great Northern Diver-esque to me, but then we saw what were definitely Great Northerns a little beyond this bird, and realised that this was actually a Black-throated, with a more slender build and compact body. Lisle, knowing the area better than me, mentioned the fact that the Pacific should be returning soon, which spurred us on to try and ascertain a positive ID on this bird. Unfortunately, the diver had other ideas in mind, and proceeded to appear and re-appear in increasingly more distant locations, always seemingly with its back to us.

After a little while we lost the bird altogether, but scanning back towards the seafront in Penzance I picked it up again, this time much closer in. We scurried around and along the promenade, eventually moving close enough to get some reasonable views, where we could clearly see the absence of any white flank patch, and… a chinstrap! Just about visible on Max’s images with his monster 500mm f4. We walked even further along the seafront, until the bird wasn’t too far away at all, and we proceeded to watch it feeding. The features of Pacific Diver were now much more apparent, and we were all pleased to connect with this superb bird, which seems to have been returning to this area for perhaps seven years!

The Pacific Diver
After happily viewing the diver for a good hour or so, we headed over to the nearby Marazion marsh to witness the brilliant Starling roost that takes place in the reed beds most winter nights. The first undulating flocks arrived around 4pm, and gradually increased in number until around 8,000 birds were visible. We were treated to some cool murmurations, and the amazing sight of seeing 8,000 Starlings pile into an area of reed bed the size of a tennis court! It is always a pleasure and privilege to witness this awesome avian display of coordination and maneuverability.  
Here are a handful of images:

And finally, a few random shots to end this blog post…

Firecrests seem to be everywhere at the moment! There have been up to four individuals on campus, with this bird even landing on the roof of one building! I have been seeing up to three birds around the nearby College lake, and a minimum of three at Swanpool too!

Black-headed Gull at sunrise in Swanpool



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