I've not been down to Cornwall since my brother's stag do took us there for a night back in 2010, so managing to arrange a few days in St Ives, at the last minute was a welcome break from all the intense work lately, and as Dad was also free, he didn't hesitate to accept the offer of coming along.
The trip down was pretty uneventful, though the Station Car Park served to infuriate, as it stated clearly on the signs that weekly tickets could only be bought online or over the phone via Ring Go, only to find out from the automated call, that the most you can buy is 7 hours. The joys of technology!
The break was never going to be one for concentrated bird photography - it was more of a get-away-from-everything for a while, but knowing the area, I took down my 7D and 100-400mm lens, just in case. Glad I did, as there was a fair bit to see! Despite reports from other places of rarities, we had decided to leave the car and just see what could be seen locally.
Wrens and turnstones, mainly! The latter seen in small gatherings along the front near the Lifeboat Station, numbering up to 40 I reckon. So tame too, you could almost reach down and stroke them!
On a walk to Carbis Bay one morning, I don't think I've ever heard so many wrens singing. Couldn't walk for more than 30 secs without hearing one burst into song.
A quick mooch down to the shore by Porthminster Head, yielded a bobbing seal, lounging in the shallows and also a wheatear, though it flew off when it saw the bumbling fool that is me, stumble down towards it on the rocks.
A favoured walk we have is along the back of Porthmeor, and up the cliffs just until they turn away from St Ives. Heard wrens (surprise!), chiffchaffs, chaffinches, goldfinches, blue and great tits, plus the usual array of gulls, passing by on the breeze. I have to say, we were so lucky with the weather, allowing us to go on such long walks, and see both the place and wildlife in full sunshine. Was fab.
I know there are peregrines around the cliffs, so I tried to keep one eye on the skies, though we only saw that twice, and both times missed it with the cameras! We did see several buzzards and a few ravens, which is always a treat.
The buzzards occasionally dropped down low, and one even perched on the side of the cliffs, long enough for me to grab a few pics, but it vanished as I tried for a closer view.
Stonechats are resident here too, and after several attempts to get close, I managed to get a bit of luck, when a dog scared the male bird and it landed near me, as I crouched in the gorse hoping. Such lovely birds - must make a trip to Devon one weekend to get some more...
Reports of a night heron at one of the small pools out of the back of St Ives, encouraged me to don my hiking boots and go for a proper wander. Dad didn't fancy it, and with hindsight it was a wise move, as I ended up walking miles!
No sign of the heron, or much else on my adventure. Up and over hills, down tracks, over walls, through gates, avoiding annoying growling dogs and finally back down the coastal path, where the scenery was simply gorgeous. Oh, and of course hiking back to the Sloop Inn, meeting Dad for a few pints of Doom Bar.
You don't have to go far to see wildlife - another favourite area is the Island, and we liked to sit on the benches at the back, watching the birds fly by. Starlings picked their way through the long grass and sang from the rooftops, and pipits rose high singing, before carrying their song back down in a flutter to the ground.
At sea, gannets were the main attraction, occasionally coming in close enough for photos, diving dramatically into the sea for fish. Once again, I failed miserably to get any diving shots, but with only 400mm to play with, they'd never have been much cop anyway.
With the clocks changing and the weather being so warm and sunny, it was hopefully a sign of spring and then summer coming along, and with sightings on the last day of a pair of sandwich terns hunting over the waves and then a swallow zipping over the Island, the wildlife was hinting at it too.
I'll have to make sure I do more of these unplanned trips - superb!