Tuesday, 18 August 2009

St Ives and Godrevy Point

It is becoming a tradition that in August I try to squeeze some more time off from work to join my oldest brother when he's holidaying in the Cornish fishing village of St Ives. While the trip is never meant to be for birding, I always take my camera along, as I enjoy walks along the cliffs behind Porthmeor, and there's often something to see from the Island.

After driving down in constant rain, the clouds parted upon parking up, and after dropping my bags off at the flat, I was soon re-aquainting myself with the delights of Doom Bar, a Cornish favourite ale of mine, best served and enjoyed sat out in the sunshine in front of The Sloop Inn, on the harbour.

Apart from the herring gulls here, surprisingly placid for once, there's little to see. The beer kept me busy...

Birding wise, there's a fair amount to see around the area. By the river outflow on the beach, the gulls (black headed, herring and great black backed) all take advantage of the fresh water for a drink, and the rocks nearby provide drying off perches for the shags which often fish around the harbour. On the quay itself, you might be lucky and see some turnstones, though numbers are reduced massively in the summer months.

From the Island sea-watching view point, gannets can be seen flying by in squadrons or more often alone, occasionally dropping into the sea after fish, in their unmistakeable manner. We also spotted several pipits from here, and along the walk around the back of the chapel, were very fortunate to witness a peregrine falcon chasing a juvenile herring gull, presumably just to teach it a lesson about which birds not to bully! Oystercatchers pottered about on the rocks, but never allowed anyone to get near, darting off calling out, if you dared to stray too close.

Along the cliffs, we spotted wheatears, though fewer than last year. Crows were hopping about the crags, pecking at insects that were sunning themselves and more pipits zipped from rock to rock. Linnets occasionally made an appearance, though never for very long. The highlight on one walk though was a family of stonechats, which were chattering away right alongside the path.

The problem with St Ives is parking, and while I always aim for the car park at the top of the town as it's the largest, walking up there is a killer, and if you take the car out during a day, you have to wait until after 5pm when the masses are leaving, before trying to find another spot to park up. Hence we only made one trip out of town, and that was on my last full day there.

A misty start, but the view from Wheal Coates made it worthwhile. I love the place - timeless, almost magical and so colourful with the yellow gorse and purple heather, orange wildflowers against the blue of the sea and sky. That combined with the classic tin mine engine houses, situated on steep cliffs. Just gorgeous.

Unfortunately it lacked birds, and aside from the gannets and gulls off shore, little else seemed to want to show itself. Walking along to Tubbys Head and then down to Chapel Porth, provided some fine scenery though, and set us up for the next trip along the coast to Godrevy Point.

Wow, is all I can say about this place, both for wildlife and scenery. A wide stretching beach with sets of surfable waves rolling in, dunes, marshland with reeds, rocks and pools plus heathland and high cliffs.

Despite the numbers of folks around, we still saw fulmars, oystercatchers, stonechats, linnets, pipits, masses of swallows, martins and swifts, 3 kestrels, a suspected peregrine, 2 hobbies and 2 buzzards! Sat on the cliffs, watching kestrels balanced in the breeze, against the Godrevy Lighthouse was a sight to savour. What a place. Typical that it's so bl**dy far away!!

I'll gradually get the pics from this trip online, though I have a backlog of pics already, and more from the last weekend locally...

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