Mounts Bay (Winter)

Mounts Bay, dominated by the imposing and beautiful St Michaels Mount, can offer the intrepid winter birder an array of seabirds, wildfowl and waders to be found sheltering from the often rough winter weather on the south Cornish Coast.

  1. Little London cove to the east of Marazion Village is often a good place to start your observation of Mounts’ Bay. In an onshore wind the stunning St Micheals Mount offers shelter to those species using the sea and the beach. Dunlin, Turnstone, Curlew, Ringed Plover and possibly an overwintering Whimbrel can be found feeding amongst the rocks and tideline. An American Hudsonian Whimbrel spent the winter of 2016 in the area. Rock and Meadow Pipits can often be found in good numbers and it is worth scrutinising them for Water Pipits that occur almost annually. Offshore four species of Diver occur regularly, with Great Northern being most common followed by Black-throated and the scarcer Red-throated. I mention four species, as the adult Pacific Diver has now returned to Mounts Bay each winter for over 10 years. This American vagrant can be difficult to locate at times so best to check the bay from all the viewing points mentioned here.
  2. The Red River meets the sea on the beach at Marazion and the mouth is a good place to look for waders. Best viewed from the main car park at the west end of the village, it is easily accessible from there even by wheel chair. It must be said that the whole of the bay is very prone to disturbance from dog walkers and kite surfers during the winter months and you may find yourself ‘chasing’ the wader flocks for some distance until they settle! Oystercatchers and Curlew congregate here, as do good numbers of gulls, which can include Iceland and Glaucous amongst their numbers. Mediterranean Gulls are often found amongst the Black-headed Gulls and the area is one of the best in the county for American rarities such as Laughing, Ring-billed and Bonaparte’s Gulls which have all been reported in recent years. Sanderling occur in good numbers along the beach and Grey Phalaropes may be encountered after or during winter storms.
  3. The RSPB reserve of Marazion Marsh and Longrock Pool run adjacent to the road into Marazion. Park in the car park opposite to walk over the road and view the reed beds in the hope of seeing an elusive Bittern or Water Rail. Bitterns can be very obliging here when it’s really cold and the water is frozen over. Little Egret, Snipe, Grey Heron and wildfowl such as Teal and Wigeon also use the reserve and the reed beds afford food and shelter for overwintering Chiffchaffs, Reed Bunting and Kingfisher. The surrounding scrub can hold Stonechat and Cetti’s Warbler and occasionally Firecrest. There are large car parks at Marazion and Longrock from which to view the water and the Bay often holds ducks, divers and grebes in good numbers. Black-necked, Red-necked and Slavonian Grebes are recorded annually but Great Crested can often be absent. Common Scoter is the most common sea duck offshore and their flocks are worth a second look as they are occasionally joined by Velvet or the rarer Surf Scoter. Eider and Long-tailed Duck are also regular winter visitors and Gannet, Guillemots and Razorbills are common.
  4. The small beach to the east of Jubilee Pool at Penzance is surprisingly good for waders and is the best place to find Purple Sandpipers as they roost on the rocks at high tide, often accompanied by good numbers of Turnstone and Ringed Plover. The harbours at Penzance and Newlyn are both busy fishing ports and as such attract gulls. You can often encounter Glaucous and Iceland Gulls at very close quarters as they sit around on the pontoons and piers with Great Black Backed and Herring Gulls. Sheltering Divers and grebes can also be seen here giving some amazing photo opportunities.
  5. Black Redstarts and Grey Wagtails favour the stone buildings and walls around Newlyn and Sandy Cove and the bushes here may contain more overwintering Chiffchaffs, which often include Siberian types amongst them. Yellow-browed Warbler has also overwintered here.

 

Sites and Access.

From the A30 take Newtown Lane off the Newtown Roundabout to access the bay. Penzance Railway Station is situated right in the middle and the South West Coast Path runs along the whole of the Bay from Penzance to Marazion. The bus station is also located right next to the railway station. There are plenty of car parks (most are pay and display) and viewing areas along the route but I would suggest a Telescope is essential for scanning the water.

Maps

Ordnance Survey Explorer 102 and Landranger 203.

Web Resources

www.cornwall-birding.co.uk for sightings, images, site guide and much more

www.cbwps.org.uk for the Cornwall Birdwatching and Preservation Society

Follow on Twitter: @cwlbirds, @cornwallbrdnews, @CBWPS1 and @BirdGuides