Where and Why?
For those interested in the pursuit of scarce and rare birds, especially finding your own, then the valleys of the west Cornwall coast should be high on your agenda during October. Nanquidno, Cot and Kenidjack to the west of St Just, offer tired migrants and vagrants varied habitats in which to shelter and feed. The valleys have long been synonymous with rarities and past records include Varied Thrush, Red-flanked Bluetail, Isabelline Shrike, Wheatear, Black-eared Wheatear and Red-eyed Vireo.
Nanquidno is the most southerly of the three valleys and is easily accessible from the B3306. Take the minor road that runs along the northern edge of Land’s End airport and follow this to the small parking area at the end of the public road. It is worth using the passing areas to view the airfield where American Golden Plover can occasionally be found amongst small flocks of their Eurasian cousins. Wheatears, Pipits, Larks and Wagtails can occur in good numbers and rarer species such as Short-toed Lark, Richards and Red-throated Pipits are all possible. The upper part of the valley is heavily wooded and roaming mixed tit flocks often contain Firecrests, Yellow-browed and Pallas’ Warblers. Spotted, Pied and Red-breasted Flycatchers have all been recorded in the sycamores and Oaks in this area. As the valley approaches the seaward end the vegetation becomes more rugged with gorse and blackthorn dominating the rugged slopes. It is worth spending time scrutinising every movement in this scrub as it is favoured by Wrynecks, Barred and Melodious Warblers and Woodchat or Red-backed Shrike. The fields to the north of the valley can hold more Pipits and flocks of finches with rocky outcrops supporting Ring Ouzel and Black Redstart. Cot and Kenidjack Valleys are very similar to Nanquidno in both habitat and species variety. The cliff top fields are worth checking for Snow and Lapland Buntings and raptors such as Hen Harrier, Merlin and Short-eared Owl are all seen annually. All the valleys have some degree of running water in them and Water Rails are resident. Snipe, Woodcock and possibly Jack Snipe could be flushed from footpaths. The resident Choughs will be in larger flocks, often containing over twenty individuals and can be heard and seen as they pass over the valleys or alight in cliff top fields to feed.
Sites and Access
All sites are accessible by car but parking is limited in the valleys and it may be easier to park in St Just and walk to Kenidjack and Cot. For the fit and adventurous, all three valleys can be reached on foot along the coastal path, though stout footwear and practical clothing is advised! To a certain extent, all are accessible to some degree by wheelchair. St Just can be found from the A30 on either the B3306 or A3071 and from the village both Cot and Kenidjack are signposted. Nanquidno is easily accessed from the B3306 just north of Land’s End airfield. Buses run regularly to St Just from Penzance. There are no facilities at any of the sites but St Just has plenty. It is worth noting that Land’s End airport is closed to flights on Sundays, so there is a better chance of finding birds using the airfield at Nanquidno on that day!