The Garden Diary 2008
A Cornish Break
26 May - As you may have realised from the gap in the diaries, we have taken a break from our bit of the planet, heading for our summer haunts on the Lizard peninsular of Cornwall.
Our caravan is set up in its usual spot in the middle of a small field, surrounded by trees and the constant sounds of birds. One of the first sights to greet us when we set up was a Buzzard circling overhead, and later doing a slow flypast as it was being mobbed by a solitary Magpie!
Down at near ground level, one of our first treats as we set up the caravan was a male Agrion virgo (one of the damselflies known as demoiselles) fluttering by with its dark, purple/blue wings and a metallic blue abdomen.
At the end of the field behind our caravan there is the usual sight of Orchids -I have still to decide what species.
Over these first few days the weather has been mixed. We have sat in brilliant sunshine drinking coffee at Lizard Point (England's most Southerly point) and today, with it being a British Bank Holiday Monday, the rain is pouring down as I write this in our caravan. At least it does encourage us to take things easy, although I hope to be able to get out on my kayak by the end of the week. Strong easterly winds over the last few weeks have meant that the sea has been rough on the east side of the Lizard so it may be some time before the water is clear enough to do any snorkelling. However, a bit of beach-combing in some of the small coves, only accessible from the sea may be interesting.
27 May - A dry day with some sunshine - in contrast to yesterday' gales and heavy rain. However, as the ground takes time to recover from such downpours, if we didn't have a 4-wheel drive vehicle we would have been stuck on our campsite field this morning.
A surprise this morning when I saw this Orange Ladybird. It's the first time I've seen one here - no sign of them yet at home.
We spent a few hours down at Porthallow Cove, seen here from the rocky coastline to the south of it.
The cove is usually all pebble, with a bit of sand seen at the lowest tides. However, rough seas have piled up pebble banks, produced areas of coarse sand and left the beach strewn with debris and lots of seaweed.
Amongst the seaweed I spotted a trio of Dunlin, foraging amongst the seaweed washed up during yesterday's gales. I can't recall seeing these here before, and I was able to get very close to them.
There is another low pressure system due to hit us tomorrow, but I'm hoping that once that has passed through conditions will quieten down enough for kayaking.
As mists rolled in from the east we headed for Lizard Point to have a meal at the Polpeor Cafe. A great spot to eat and enjoy the sea view (even with the sound of the Lizard foghorn sounding from a few hundred yards away!). This is also the spot from where you can keep an eye on the cave nest site of a pair of Choughs. This year they have 4 female chicks which are due to fledge mid-June - it may be that we will have already headed home before that happens, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that having missed them last year, we'll have a chance to see them this time, and get a few photographs.
There was a pleasant surprise in store for me after we had finished our meal - I met up with the RSPB's Chough Project officer Claire Mucklow. Two years ago she saw a t-shirt that I was wearing, bearing a flying Chough design that I had produced from one of my photographs. Subsequently, and thanks to Claire, the RSPB used the design to create a Chough pin badge to add to the set they already have representing British birds.
Today I got to see (and receive) the badge for the first time. Here you can see it compared with the t-shirt and the original photograph.
There have been very few moths about so far but tonight a species that I haven't seen before appeared in the Men's shower room.
Its striking markings made it easy to identify as a Peach Blossom Moth (Thyatira batis).
29 May - A sunny day, with the sea friendly enough for me to use the kayak for a while.
That was enjoyable, but later there was a disappointment when I set off to do some snorkelling with the sea scooter that I had from Sheila for Christmas. Within a couple of minutes of taking it into the water it made horrible, broken gearing noises.
It didn't take long to establish that there had to be a serious internal fault which didn't show up until it was used under water - It's now packed away until we get home and sort out its replacement under warranty.
30 May - A day spent at Porthallow, although I didn't go onto the water, and the only photographs taken were of another visitor to the Cove, one that I have not seen here previously.
It was a solitary, and rather scruffy Guillemot that just seemed to be resting on the calm water a short way off the rocks.
It spent ages preening itself - an amusing process whereby it would lift up one side of its body to preen while it kept paddling itself around in circles.
Every-so-often it would suddenly flex its wings,
and raise its body high in the water as it flapped them before resuming its preening again.
This carried on for ages as it slowly drifted along the shore with the current.
31 May - A restful day spent down at Lizard Point. While I understand that the Chough chicks are doing well, their parents are proving to be very elusive and I didn't see any.
There were plenty of gulls about,
and occasionally we could hear the calls of Oystercatchers down on the rocks around the Point.
The mist is constantly changing, and just as you think it is lifting it can very quickly become thick again - a real obstacle for boats that may pass near to an obstacle such as the Lizard.
The fog did start to clear towards the end of the afternoon, and his picture shows the view that emerged, looking westwards towards the actual Lizard Point in the background, with the old lifeboat station and a winch-house to the side of Polpeor Cove.
Despite the outlying reefs, the cove can get a real battering in south-westerly storms, so the winch-house is needed to haul the small fishing boats well clear of the high tide mark.
3 June - After yesterday's sea mist, today has been sunny with a brisk westerly breeze.
We spent much of the day taking things easy around the caravan. I have been putting chopped peanuts into cracks in a decaying tree stump in front of the caravan, and they have attracted a Jay which appeared numerous times today. I may set up my camera to take some photographs of it tomorrow morning while the sun shines on the log.
Late in the afternoon we headed down to Lizard Point for a meal at the Polpeor cafe.
This picture was taken, looking back from the actual Lizard Point, and you can see how different the lighting was compared with yesterday. You can see the cafe, just above the old lifeboat station.
As I walked back after taking this photograph I was treated to my first close encounter with the Choughs when the two adults flew just feet over my head - no chance of getting a photograph on this occasion but it was nevertheless a good moment.
At this time of the year, many of the visitors to the Lizard comment on how beautiful the cliffs look with their carpets of yellow and red flowers.
Sadly, the scene is being provided not by native plants but species introduced from South Africa - larger Hottentot Figs (giving the yellow colour in the background, although they can also be purple) and the smaller Purple Dewplants in the foreground.
4 June - Another day largely spent down at Lizard Point,
and at last a chance to photograph the adult Choughs foraging for their youngsters. They seem to be very elusive this Spring, with long gaps between their appearances at the nest site cave.
Another family nests in a much more visible spot. This notch in the cliff over-looking Polpeor Cove is a regular nesting site for Herring Gulls.
Back at the campsite, this Jay has become a regular visitor to pick up chopped peanuts that I put out,
although it is often in competition with a couple of Magpies.
10 June - Over the last few days I've taken very few pictures, and here are some of them -
First, a holiday snap of Coverack, a village in a bay on the south-east of the Lizard, with this small fishing harbour tucked into its sheltered southern corner.
On the 6th I came across another 'new' moth in the Men's shower room, this time a Scorched Wing (Placodis dolabraria).
Today we shared our time between Porthallow and Lizard Point. The only pictures from Porthallow were of this White Ermine (Spilosoma lubricipeda) that actually flew in through an open window into our car.
Down at Lizard Point for our last visit of this holiday the biggest attraction for us was this unusual sky overhead. It looked as though the clouds were being pulled apart by high winds from the north. It's almost like looking up at a shoal of giant jellyfish!
Down at our level, there was hardly a breeze.
11 June - The end of another enjoyable few weeks on the Lizard peninsular, and the next diary entry will be from our garden once again.
An early morning start on our journey home was delayed when I had a chance to photograph this Mistle Thrush that was foraging just yards away from the back of the Discovery at around 6.30am.
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