This site just south of Falmouth has a good reputation in winter for attracting rare gulls. In past winters there has been as much chance finding an Iceland, Little, Mediterranean, Ring-billed or Glaucous gull here as anywhere in the south of the country. Activity really busies up when fishing boats use the estuary to stay safe from the weather attracting thousands of gulls (mainly herring). In winter the shoreline attracts purple sandpipers along with the more common turnstones and a black redstart might be found around the cliffs to the east or west of swanpool.
The lake itself used to be open to the sea but became silted up forming a brakish lagoon which the sea floods into every now and then. Breeding birds include little grebe, coot, mallard, moorhen and possibly reed warbler. Fulmars breed on the cliffs. But it is in winter when rare birds are more often spotted with overwintering warblers in the trees surrounding the lake including firecrest. Siskins feed in the lakeside alders.
Swanpool is a short walk south of Falmouth from the moor and is easily found by following signs to the beach. There is a walk around the lake with good views at the northern and southern sides. For seawatching there is a coastal walk from Falmouth all the way at least to Maenporth which encompasses most of the productive areas and this is a good area for an overwintering black guillemot (rare in the south).
Past rarities are numerous and include Britain’s first Forster’s Tern, Grey Pahalarope, Little Auk, Yellow-browed Warbler, Surf Scoter (2003+2006), Laughing Gull (2005), Black-necked Grebe (2005), Little Bittern (2003), Long-tailed Duck (2002)
By Car – Driving along the A39 into Falmouth take a turning right towards Swanpool beach which is well signposted (just before Falmouth Docks). There is a car park here with beach cafe for a nice warm drink!
By Bus – There is a bus stop at swanpool beach but it is only served by one service (the falmouth explorer) which isn’t regular so I recommend any bus to falmouth moor and then its just about 1 mile to Swanpool following woodlane then turning right towards Swanpool
Not far south from Swanpool following the coastal footpath is this small headland of Pennance Point which offers some of the best seawatching in the area behind St Anthony head (on the other side of the Estuary) and Rosemullion head further south (beyond Maenporth). Strong southerlies or south-westerlies are necessary for great seawatching but often there is stuff around in the bay (protected from weather from the west by the lizard promontary), with a few Great-northern Divers and the odd Black-throated Diver present in winter and a bit further out always the odd gannet and guillemot.
Peak time for numbers in is autumn with birds migrating southwards when huge counts can be had including 100’s of Kittiwakes and Gannets, and a recent count of 176 Shag being exceptional. Rarer birds are likely to pass at this time of year with Great or Arctic Skuas possible and other treats such as Little Gull, Sabine’s Gull (if really lucky!) and others to pass by, fighting their way back out to sea.
Seawatching is tough in the ‘best’ conditions and few people regularly do it, but it can pay large dividends in finding some jems, that next black-browed albatross is just waiting to fly past Pennance!
Recent Rarities include – Sooty Shearwater, not much nationally rare but tricky stuff in Falmouth such as Manx Shearwater, Storm Petrel and Skuas are rarities of the area.
By Car – Driving along the A39 into Falmouth take a turning right towards Swanpool beach which is well signposted (just before Falmouth Docks). There is a car park here with beach cafe for a nice warm drink! Walk from the car park up the hill westwards and take a left turn onto the signposted footpath. In the wooded part further along take a left turn and follow the path along the point.
By Bus – There is a bus stop at swanpool beach but it is only served by one service (the falmouth explorer) which isn’t regular so I recommend any bus to falmouth moor and then its just about 1 mile to Swanpool following woodlane then turning right towards Swanpool.