Please note this holiday starts and ends in Penzance
We meet at Penzance station at 13:30, or at our accommodation at 14:00 if travelling by car. You can leave your vehicle parked here for the duration of your holiday. Please contact our office for travel tips by road, rail and air.
Day 1: Thur 14 April - Arrival, meet up and Marazion Marsh
Once settled into our comfortable accommodation, we head out for a few hours birding, with the RSPB reserve at Marazion Marsh an excellent place to start. A wetland site for wildfowl and waders, attractive Garganey pass through in April and we should see Little Egret, Snipe and Kingfisher on the pools too. Cetti’s Warbler are resident and a gentle walk through the reserve should give us other summer warblers, including recently arrived Reed and Sedge. Large numbers of Swallow and Sand Martin roost in the extensive reedbeds, so it comes as no surprise that Red-rumped Swallow is recorded annually. Other regular rarities include Purple Heron and Glossy Ibis while migrant Marsh Harrier and Hobby often find the reserve to their liking. Just across the road is Mount’s Bay with majestic St Michael’s Mount rising from the sea. The beach can be productive for waders and we can expect flocks of Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Turnstone and Sanderling along with lingering divers, grebes and seaduck offshore and after strong winds, skuas including Pomarine can be driven into the bay to shelter.
Day 2: Fri 15 April – Porthgwarra and St Levan
Our first taste of ‘valley birding’ will be at Porthgwarra, arguably the most famous birding destination in the county being the most south-westerly point of Mainland Britain. A pretty place to explore, we seek out migrants, checking patches of trees and scrub for incoming northern breeders. Passing Cuckoo, Ring Ouzel, Wheatear, Whinchat, Redstart, Pied and Spotted Flycatchers, hirundines, pipits, finches, thrushes and a variety of warblers are all possible and in the right conditions numbers and diversity can be high. Regular Mediterranean scarcities include Hoopoe, Wryneck, Bee-eater, Woodchat Shrike, Western Subalpine Warbler and Serin - anything is possible! In the afternoon we plan to investigate other nearby valleys choosing from St Levan, Penberth or Porthcurno, or perhaps work the fields around Polgigga or Treen. A great day of exploratory birdwatching!
Day 3: Sat 16 April – Boat trip and Hayle Estuary
This morning we head to Penzance to take a special boat trip. As we meet our skipper and crew, we look out for the last few Purple Sandpiper among the Turnstones on the harbour wall before steaming out into Mount's Bay. Continuing west, we enjoy a different perspective of the attractive Penwith coastline and also the iconic open-air Minack Theatre. At St Clement’s Isle off of Mousehole, Grey Seal haul out, and it is worth searching the large numbers of gulls for scarce Yellow-legged, or indeed a late Iceland or Glaucous Gull. Gannet, Fulmar, Guillemot and Razorbill and Kittiwake should be plentiful, with Manx Shearwater and a few Puffin, Arctic Skua and terns likely to be around at this time of year. Cetaceans including Harbour Porpoise, Common and Bottlenose Dolphin are regular and impressive numbers of Basking Shark visit in April/May. Our exact course will be weather dependent, but we can anticipate being on the ocean wave for approximately three hours; a great trip!
Back on dry land we relocate to Hayle Estuary RSPB for the afternoon. The most important site for wildfowl and waders in the area, many thousands of birds feed on the tidal mud. Wigeon and Teal will be the most numerous wildfowl with Oystercatcher, Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Knot and Redshank the commoner waders. Rarities are always possible and we should also see ever increasing Little Egret and Mediterranean Gull. With plenty of vantage points to view the estuary, we enjoy a busy afternoon, and if there is time to spare may visit nearby Porthkidney for terns or St Gothian Sands LNR to finish the day.
Day 4: Sun 17 April - Land’s End and Sennen
Land’s End might be a tourist attraction, but it is also one of the best birding locations in the UK! Isolated bushes and scrub are sparser than in the valleys, and it is also one of the best places for visible migration as birds arrive off the sea. Good paths allow for comfortable walking and in clifftop fields we should see pipits, Yellow and White Wagtail, Wheatear, Stonechat, Whinchat and Linnet. Vocal Chough often show well here as Raven, Peregrine and Kestrel patrol the skies above. Inland lies the village of Sennen, and more habitat and potential. Flocks of Lapwing, Golden Plover, Skylark and Meadow Pipit fill the fields, and our guides know quiet pools which will be worth checking for waders such as Green Sandpiper. The track record for rarities in the Land’s End/Sennen area is a strong one with Dotterel, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Common Crane, Montagu’s Harrier, Wryneck, Woodchat, Red-backed and Brown Shrike, Hoopoe, Golden Oriole, Tawny and Red-throated Pipit, Eastern and Western Subalpine Warbler, Ortolan and Little Bunting all recorded in recent springs! After dinner, we may visit inland moors for any lingering Hen Harrier, Merlin or Short-eared Owl at dusk, perhaps seeing Barn or Tawny Owl on the drive home.
Day 5: Mon 18 April – Cirl Bunting
With a very small and range restricted population, Cirl Bunting is a rare and difficult to see bird in the UK. Formerly commonplace, thanks to RSPB re-introduction the species is now breeding again in parts of southern Cornwall and we make a special effort to see them. Other thriving farmland birds include Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting, Skylark, Linnet and Goldfinch. Searching for the Buntings will be our priority, but we should also have time for birdwatching around the Carrick Roads or could journey to Stithian’s Reservoir or the Tresillian River in the afternoon if good birds are reported there. A great day out to see a very rare UK resident!
Day 6: Tue 19 April – The Lizard
Today we visit the most southerly point in Britain and the area where Chough first returned in 2001, re-claiming their historic territories and featuring on the Cornish coat of arms. We should see this smart member of the crow family as we explore the sheltered valleys at Kynance, Caerthillian or Church Cove or in open ground at Lizard and Bass Points. The Lizard is one of the better places in Cornwall for Dartford Warbler and sites we visit hold similar migrant and rarity potential to those further west. Windmill Farm LNR, Croft Pascoe and farmland around the village also offer great birding and there can be lots to see in a relatively small area.
Day 7: Wed 20 April – St Just valleys, Pendeen and Drift.
The sheltered valleys next to St Just, a former mining town, give us another chance to seek out migrant passerines. Nanquidno, Cot, Kenidjack and Kelynack are all options, and we enjoy our time birding and walking in these beautiful areas. Drift Reservoir is the largest freshwater body in the area and time here is likely to add several new species including Great Crested and Little Grebe, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Dipper and Grey Wagtail or even an Osprey. Being our last full day, we may decide to explore underwatched valleys and moors on the north Penwith coastline, or seawatch from Pendeen if winds are from a favourable direction.
Day 8: Thur 21 April - Final birding and departure
Our final morning and chance to mop up any species we might have missed or try a new birding site. Our exact plan will be dictated by travel arrangements, but we will be sure to get in as much birding as possible before concluding our holiday in Penzance.