James Lowen 


29 October 2023 Atlantis

This week, a family holiday to Cornwall helped me avoid being tempted into twitching a ship-assisted grackle in Wales. Hurrah for family holidays! Family fun at the base of the Lizard aside, this was my third stint mothing in Cornwall during late October in the last five autumns. It was less rubbish than last time (2021) but more rubbish than the first time (2019), which was so rubbish as to garner only a brief mention in Much Ado About Mothing, when the idea had been for it to be the fulcrum of a chapter about migrant mothing. In 2021, it was too windy for moths; in 2019 too cold. This time it was basically cold and wet and windy - so I was surprised to catch any migrants at all. A sum total of three Vestal, one Rush Veneer and one Dark Sword-grass was hardly going to get the pulse racing. A Brindled Ochre was passable - and certainly further from the coast than I have caught them before. And a Merveille du Jour always pleasing. But essentially, mothing was rubbish. One day, I'll make it work here. One day.

Birding wasn't much better. The best bird I found was a late Whinchat. It really ought to have been an Eastern Stonechat, given the number around this autumn. But it wasn't. Firecrests were around in a few places, as was a late-ish Willow Warbler. A couple of quick twitches combined with family travel/outings produced Upland Sandpiper at Sennen (only my second in the UK, the other being in 2005; no photos as too distant), an Atlantic Yellow-legged Gull - the taxon atlantis being new to me in the UK, not that it will ever be split - nearby at Land's End, a fine Little Bunting at Porthgwarra and three Ring-necked Ducks (a daddy drake and two son drakes) at Dozmary Pool. And while there were a fair few grockles around, there was not a grackle in sight.