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: Thursday 15 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 and April is prime time. Other regular rarities include Purple Heron, Great Egret and Glossy Ibis, and 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 sea. The beach can be productive for waders and we can expect flocks of Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Turnstone and Sanderling. Lingering divers, grebes and seaduck from winter may still be in attendance and after strong winds, skuas including Pomarine can be driven into the bay to shelter.
Day 2: Friday 16 April – Porthgwarra and St Levan
Our first taste of ‘valley birding’ will be at Porthgwarra, arguably the most famous birding destination in the county, and a beautiful place to explore, being the most south-westerly point of Mainland Britain. Here we birdwatch for 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. Firecrest may be seen, with regular Mediterranean-based scarcities including Hoopoe, Wryneck, Bee-eater, Woodchat Shrike, Western Subalpine Warbler and Serin. Sea-watching can be exceptional and in onshore winds large numbers can pass. 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: Saturday 17 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 heading 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 Seals 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, with chances of other species including Minke Whale. Impressive numbers of Basking Shark visit the area in April/May, and we may even encounter peculiar Sunfish of see frantic Atlantic Blue Fin Tuna. Our exact course will be weather dependent, but we can anticipate being on the ocean wave for approximately four 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: Sunday 18 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 utilise 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 incredible, with Dotterel, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Common Crane, Black Kite, Montagu’s Harrier, Alpine Swift, Snowy Owl, Woodchat, Red-backed and Brown Shrike, Hoopoe, Golden Oriole, Short-toed Lark, Tawny and Red-throated Pipit, Western Subalpine, Melodious and Icterine 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: Monday 19 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: Tuesday 20 April – The Lizard
Today we visit the most southerly point in Britain and the area where Choughs first returned in 2001. Rightfully re-claiming their historic territories, and featured 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: Wednesday 21 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 neglected and underwatched valleys and moors on the north Penwith coastline, or seawatch from Pendeen if winds are from a favourable direction.
Day 8: Thursday 22 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.