Working night shifts often provide me with oportunity to do a bit of birding either before or after. So I left home early on Tuesday 19th July in order to call at Ryan's Field RSPB before work. The tide was high and there were good numbers Curlew and BH gulls but apart from a few Common Sands, very little else of interest. I scoped the far bank from the hide and a summer plumaged adult Golden Plover came into view from one of the ditches at the back of the field. Alarm bells immediately started ringing. The white 'snake' from the supercilium to the upper flanks was bold and didnt appear go past the forewing as you would expect in European GP. So I'd got an American or a Pacific. I was aware that time was moving on and light was fading fast. I didnt have my camera and I didnt want to go round to the road to get a closer view in case it flew. Plus I had ten minutes before I had to go to work. I immediately phoned Mark Halliday and Ash Hugo and told them to view the bird from the road side and of course get some photos! While I waited for them to arrive I looked through some literature and photos I had on my phone and made a sketch and nbote in my notebook. Everything pointed towards Pacific but a combination of distance, poor light and sporadic views meant I could'nt rule out American 100%. I saw the others arrive and made a quick phonecall to Ash to make sure they got plenty of photos. Unfortunatley I then had to leave for work, leaving Mark and Ash to clinch the ID. At about 2200hrs I got the call from Mark to say they'd seen the bird in flight, got plenty of photos and after much deliberation and scouring the literature were convinced it was Pacific Golden Plover. Excellent, only the fifth record for Cornwall and the first since 1999! I immediatley phoned the news out to RBA and Ash put it on the website.
The following morning, straight from my night shift, I returned to Ryan's Field but the bird was nowhere to be seen. It was now raining heavily and the tide was on its way in, so I tried my luck on the main estuary. The bird was still there, showing well from the causway bridge. I was joined by Monty Curtis and Ash and a little later Dave Parker. The bird performed well being driven closer by the incoming tide and allowing for some more photos to be taken, this time in better light. At about 0800hrs, the bird began calling, a distinct two sylable, 'two-ee, two-ee' then flew straight towards us before circling high above Ryan's Field and heading North, still high up, over Harvey's Towans and out of sight, giving good views of the dark underwing in flight.
Despite searching the surrounding areas of the estuary, Copperhouse Creek and St Gothian Sands, the bird could not be relocated and was not seen again. A report of it seen at about 1340hrs in the mouth of the estuary was thought be eronneous.
Pacific Golden Plover is an extreme rarity to the county. The previous four records were:
1999 - At Culdrose on 19th October - 22nd November
1998 - At Bosanket, between Sennen and St Buryan on May 3rd and 4th.
1994 - At Hayle, an adult moulting from summer plumage on Aug 26th.
1978 - At Stithians, a first cal year on 7th November
For photos of this bird see: http://www.cornwall-birding.co.uk/recent-sightings/wednesday-20th-july-2011-cornwall-bird-reports/