O’lAmur

7 July 2017Polgigga, CornwallLate Thursday evening and I was just having a look through the late messages on Twitter before retiring for the night when a photo, taken earlier at Polgigga in Cornwall, revealed the presence of a 1st summer (2nd calendar year) female AMUR FALCON!!!!! The second British record and the first although present for a month and seen by many on their way past as a Red-footed Falcon was not identified until it had gone – so effectively the first British record to be identified in the field. Clearly having been seen late it would be roosting somewhere close by, so the only sensible option was to be there at dawn. I sent a few messages to see if anyone was interested/available, but most came back reluctantly negative – it was just too late in the evening to make arrangements for work commitments. However Marcus Lawson responded positively and within 15 minutes I was on the road, having arranged to meet him en route in Wincanton, just off the A303. Everything was going fine until I reached the M3, which had been closed for maintenance in both directions and resulted in a complex diversion around towns, villages and country lanes, the last of which was also closed due to road works, causing a further diversion. Eventually I was back on the road and soon on the A303 heading west. I met Marcus just after 01:00 and we were soon back on the road. We arrived at Polgigga at 04:15, the third car in the small lay-by. We agreed to have half an hours sleep, but the birders in the car ahead had other ideas and were soon out of the car and walking down the lane. We got out and prepared, had a cup of tea and got the gear together. I had a wander down the road and back, and then we walked up the hill to the small group of birders gathered where it was last seen. The news services had suggested the falcon had flown south at dusk, toward Portgwarra, so rather than stand with everyone else we decided to walk further along the lane to a vantage point with views to the south, east and west. While Cornish sunsets are often famed it is fair to say this mornings sunrise was absolutely breathtaking, almost worth the drive itself.Sunrise over PolgiggaWe scanned from the hill for a while. Franko drove by in his car and said he was going to Porthgwarra to check down there. We continued scanning. Some time later Franko came racing back, and Marcus just caught him. Apparently the Falcon was showing back where we had parked the car. The 1/2 mile run certainly woke me up! We arrived back at the car (literally right behind it) to find a crowd of about 100 birders crammed into the narrow lane looking into the back of an elderflower bush not more than 10m from where we parked. Now to be fair it was not visible from the car, but it was visible, sat hunched at the back of the bush, from the field entrance I had stood in earlier – doh!My first view of Britains second Amur FalconIt soon became apparent that it was in full view from the field on the other side, and that a public footpath ran right through it. We joined the first few birders in the field and soon after the crowd reassembled, getting slightly more distant, but clearer views with the sun behind. It initially looked pretty unhappy. It had been a surprisingly cool night, and the ground was wet with dew. The Falcon’s plumage was similarly wet, it looked bedraggled, its flight feathers were quite damp, which some people read as extreme wear. Clearly it was cold, it may have also been tired after a long flight, but whatever it wasn’t going anywhere until it warmed up. It sat on the sunny side of the bushes and picked up the early morning rays. As it warmed up it grew increasingly active, preening and occasionally moving from bush to bush. The next couple of shots show the plumage moult in wings and tail. We decided to walk back round to the lane where the bird was much closer, but viewing more into the light. After getting some closer images, and playing with the camera’s exposure, the bird began to look more awake, preening its tail and wings. At 09:07 it suddenly took flight, straight towards us, and caught the morning’s first dragonfly literally a metre over our heads. It flew across the road to the wires where it ate its prey, and was soon off across the fields to hunt. Closer views from the lane before it flewPreening its tailAt 09:07 it took flight, having spotted the first dragonfly of the dayIt caught it at the first attempt and carried it over to the wiresWhere it landed to devour its breakfastBrief digestionThen it was off across the valley towards NanjizalAs it flew down the valley and out of view we departed to find a local cafe for our own much needed breakfast. The Falcon was lost in the valley, and not seen for nearly two hours, when it apparently circled up high and was lost towards Sennen. It hasn’t been seen since and most of those who waited for news are currently hoping it will get re-found in the next few days or weeks.After an excellent Cornish breakfast we drove along the coast to Botallack. The coastal scenery here is absolutely stunning but we were hoping for a Chough. After some scanning we spotted one sat atop a very distant rock on the headland to the West, but it flew out of sight when I wasn’t looking. A couple of smart Ravens were calling from the nearby tower and a Wheatear was briefly on the headland to the East, before we called it a day and headed for home.