RSPB Arne, Devon & Cornwall – August 2023

I set off at about 9pm on Friday 4th August in the hope of seeing Forster’s Tern at first light. I knew the weather was going to deteriate as the night progressed and after a 2-3 hours sleep I made the short walk to Shipstal Point from the car park in heavy rain. Viewing was difficult, but I did get good views of Forster's Tern at 7:50am for a minute or two before losing it when trying to get my camera out of the bag. No photo's, but decent views of another new bird for me. The rest of the morning was as good as a total washout with strong winds and heavy rain, so I explored the reserve for a few hours in the hope of seeing Small Red Damselfly. No joy with the damsel, but I did see Sika Deer (10+) and Raft Spider (3).

After lunch I set off for Teignmouth, which was very windy where I headed for sheltered areas in the hedgerows and rewarded with brief views of at least three Cirl Buntings. After spending a couple of hours here I headed towards Cornwall and the hope of seeing Chough before nightfall. Unfortunately the weather was still very poor, so I decided to get a bit of sleep without adding any more new birds to the trip list.

Sunday looked to be more promising weather wise with Chough (2) and Raven (1+) seen at the mining centre soon after daybreak. Northern Wheatear (4-5) were seen to the west of the lighthouse before spending an hour sea watching. Highlights in the hour included Sabines Gull (my first since 8th November 2009), Manx Shearwater (1000+), Storm Petrel (1), Bottlenose Dolphin (2), Harbour Porpoise (3-4) and Tuna (1).

Before the pelagic I decided to have lunch and purchase some ginger biscuits and bottled water, which turned out to work in my favour. Two Peregrines were seen whilst waiting to board the boat. The pelagic started off very quiet with Mediterranean Gull (1), Manx Shearwater (20+) and European Storm Petrel (2+) being the best birds seen before we started chumming. Arctic Skua (1), Arctic Tern (1 juvenile), European Storm Petrel (15+), Wilson’s Storm Petrel (2+), Fulmar (5+), Gannet (20+), Herring Gull (30+), Great Black-backed Gull (5+), Balearic Shearwater (1) and Mediterranean Gull (3) were seen whilst chumming and returning back to Penzance. Unfortunately, no large shearwaters on this sailing. Pleased I stocked up on water and ginger biscuits as the skipper decided to light up a couple of times, making me feel a little bit queezy, lol.

Following the pelagic and despite knowing the conditions weren’t quite right, I decided to head for a site that I knew held Scarce Blue-tailed Damselflies. As expected, there was nothing flying and I could only find 5-10 of the commoner Blue-tailed Damselflies, so I decided to set off for Teignmouth to sleep there for the night and hopefully get better views of Cirl Bunting in the morning.

At least ten Cirl Buntings were in hedgerows dropping to feed in the field. Green Woodpecker (1) Willow Warbler (5+), Robin (2), Dunnock (2), Wall Brown (1) were also seen whilst watching & listening to the Cirl Buntings calling from hedgerows. Nice.

Next stop was Bystock Pools to see Small Red Damselfly with at least ten seen at one location on the reserve in much nicer conditions. Other species of dragonflies included Azure Damselfly (3+), Keeled Skimmer (5+), Ruddy Darter (1), Common Darter (4), Emperor Dragonfly (1) and Beautiful Demoiselle (1). The site was also good for butterflies with Holly Blue (10+), Gatekeeper (30+), Peacock (4+), Meadow Brown (10+), Small Copper (2), Red Admiral (1), Small White (4) and Brimstone (5+) seen. Other species seen here included Woodcock (2), Great Spotted Woodpecker (1), Stonechat (2), Green Woodpecker (4+), Wren (1), Raven (2), Lizard (1), etc.

Next site was for Southern Damselfy, but by now the weather had once again changed to dull and overcast conditions making it hard work. despite this, Holly Blue and Gatekeeper were seen in decent numbers. I didn’t see my target species, but other species of dragonfly included Variable Damselfly (2), Azure Damselfly (30+), Common Blue Damselfly (4), Emerald Damselfy (10+), Emperor Dragonfly (1), Hairy Dragonfly (2) and Beautiful Demoiselle (1). Other species seen were Stonechat (4+), Spotted flycatcher (3+), Kingfisher (1), Raven (1), Linnet (4), Silver-washed Fritillary (1), Brimstone (1), and Grayling.

Overall, 1120 miles were driven over three days seeing 68 different species of birds including one new bird (Forster's Tern at Arne). One new species of dragonfly (Small Red Damselfly) was seen at Bystock Pools, but didn't manage to see other possible targets in mostly difficult conditions. Still a very nice experience in a much needed change of scenery.