Grey Catbird – Cornwall – 18th-23rd October

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Sarah, Tobias and I had a few days booked at our cottage between St.Ives and Zennor and with the Grey Catbird, first found on 15th October, still present come 18th I was anxious to get on the road to try and see the bird. Sarah washeading down at around 11:00 with Tobias but I couldn’t wait that long and so the alarm went off at 03:30 and I was on the road by 04:00. By 08:15 I was arriving at the site of the Grey Catbird at Treeve Moor, Trevescan, Lands End.

I joined the small gathered crowd on the carpark site of the small area of Bramble and Gorse scrub where the Catbird had set up home and waited. Before long, it was evident that the birders on the opposite side of the scrub were watching the bird and so I wandered around to the north side of Treeve House. After around 30 minutes the Grey Catbird appeared low down in a willow and I had brief but fairly good views of this stunning little bird.

Over the next couple of hours I obtained further fairly fleeting views but rather poor photographs. At 12:30 I decided to head off and birded at Porthgwarra until around 15:00, it was fairly quiet but I did see two Yellow-browed Warbler, a Black Redstart and four Chiffchaff. It was time to head off to get some supplies and meet Sarah and Tobias at the cottage.

On 19th, Sarah was feeling a bit under the weather and so I headed out with Tobias to give her some peace and quiet. We headed to Paradise Park and then Tobias decided he wanted to see the Catbird so I took him to Treeve Moor where he got brief views as the bird perched on top of Brambles, but he was more interested in playing with my tripod and looking at the cows. Still. there cant be many five year olds with Grey Catbird on their British list.

On 20th I birded Cot Valley but saw relatively little, a Yellow-browed Warbler showed fairly well and there were four Chiffchaffand two Blackcap but little else. I then headed to Carn Gloose, just south of Cape Cornwall where four Vagrant Emperor had recently been report but I failed to see any but did see a Red-veined Darter, female Merlin and a heard only Yellow-browed Warbler. The afternoon was spent doing family things in St. Ives.

On 21st I decided to head back to the Grey Catbird site but as I left home the fog was so thick it was difficult to see the road in front of me. Arriving at the Grey Catbird site the fog hung heavy and as my main reason to returnwas to get some better photographs I decided to head to Lands End for some general birding. I parked in the main car park and wandered through the willows, there were six Chiffchaff, two Reed Bunting and then a semi-familiar call, a Common Rosefinch which flew in and landed in the willows but I had relatively brief views in the fog.

I wandered further around the willows and by 09:30 the fog had cleared and I headed back to the Catbird site and the area to the north of Treeve House. I spent the next three hours here and after some brief views and then prolonged but distant views as it showed in the open at the bottom of the carpark the Grey Catbird made a direct flight for my position and pitched in the Brambles no more than 10m away.

Over the next hour or so, the bird showed exceptionally well, on and off, appearing on the Brambles and atop an Elder bush and then it spent at least five minutes on a moss covered Elder branch scratching and surveying the scene which is presumably unlike where it really should be now. The views were fantastic and I obtained the shots I wanted, the following all being taken on my Olympus OMD EM-1 Mark II with a 300mm lens and 1.4 converter. I even managed a little bit of video. Also here, a Short-eared Owl perched in the Gorse on Treeve Moor and gave good views.

On 22nd and 23rd I decided to relax with Sarah and Tobias and on 24th we packed up and headed to our cottage in the Cotswolds.

Previous British records of Grey Catbird are as follows:

  • 1975 Jersey – Mid-October when trapped and kept in captivity until December.

  • 1986 Cape Clear, County Cork – 4th November only.


  • 2001 South Stack, Anglesey – 4th – 6th October.

Grey Catbird -Treeve Moor, Trevescan, Lands End, Cornwall

Grey Catbird – Treeve Moor, Trevescan, Lands End, Cornwall

Grey Catbird -Treeve Moor, Trevescan, Lands End, Cornwall

Grey Catbird -Treeve Moor, Trevescan, Lands End, Cornwall

Grey Catbird -Treeve Moor, Trevescan, Lands End, Cornwall

Red-veined Darter -Carn Gloose, St. Just, Cornwall

I ran a moth trap at the cottage every night but after the nights of 18th and 19th the winds picked up and the temperatures dropped and my catch declined to near zero. On the 18th and 19th the highlights were Pale-lemon Sallow (my first ever), Scarce Bordered Straw, Vestal, Pearly Underwing and Dark Sword-grass.

Pale-lemon Sallow – Trowan, St. Ives, Cornwall

Scarce Bordered Straw – Trowan, St. Ives, Cornwall

Delicate – Trowan, St. Ives, Cornwall

Feathered Ranunculus – Trowan, St. Ives, Cornwall

Autumnal Rustic – Trowan, St. Ives, Cornwall

Green Brindled Crescent – Trowan, St. Ives, Cornwall

Red-line Quaker – Trowan, St. Ives, Cornwall

Dark Sword-grass – Trowan, St. Ives, Cornwall

Lunar Underwing – Trowan, St. Ives, Cornwall

 

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Simon Colenutt

Simon Colenutt

I began birdwatching at the age of nine when living on the Isle of Wight. After obtaining a copy of the Isle of Wight Bird Report from 1976 I realised that Manx Shearwater, Arctic Skua, Pomarine Skua and Black Tern were regularly seen at St.Catherine's Point, only five miles from my home village of Chale Green. To a nine year old these birds were near mythical and so I just had to go and try to see them. Little did I know that these birds were seasonal and after a long winter of seeing nothing I eventually started to bump into other birdwatchers as March drew to a close. It was then that Dave Hunnybun, Dave Wooldridge, Paul Castle, Peter Gandy and Audrey Wilkinson introduced me to the art of seawatching and the joys of bird migration, I have not looked back since.

Simon Colenutt

Simon Colenutt

I began birdwatching at the age of nine when living on the Isle of Wight. After obtaining a copy of the Isle of Wight Bird Report from 1976 I realised that Manx Shearwater, Arctic Skua, Pomarine Skua and Black Tern were regularly seen at St.Catherine's Point, only five miles from my home village of Chale Green. To a nine year old these birds were near mythical and so I just had to go and try to see them. Little did I know that these birds were seasonal and after a long winter of seeing nothing I eventually started to bump into other birdwatchers as March drew to a close. It was then that Dave Hunnybun, Dave Wooldridge, Paul Castle, Peter Gandy and Audrey Wilkinson introduced me to the art of seawatching and the joys of bird migration, I have not looked back since.

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