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St Ives Bay and the Hayle Estuary
St Ives is one of the most famous seawatching points on the British mainland with, in the correct weather conditions, huge numbers of divers, seabirds and waterfowl recorded every year as well as rarities on a regular basis. This large bay on the north coast of Cornwall has extensive sandy beaches, backed by dunes, with rocky headlands at either end.
In the east is the "island", just north of the town of St Ives where most seawatching takes place. At the western end of the bay is Godrevy Point with its lighthouse.
The very sheltered Hayle Estuary lies on the bay and is an important habitat for waders and waterfowl on passage and in winter. The RSPB have a reserve of saline lagoons here at Ryan's Field.
 Notable Species
All winter and through most of the spring the bay is frequented by divers, Great Northern Diver and Black-throated Diver are regular with the latter reaching peak numbers in spring, as elsewhere in south-west England, Red-throated Diver is scarce and recorded mainly on late autumn passage. Wintering grebes do not reach large numbers but Slavonian Grebe is the most numerous joined by occasional Red-necked Grebe and Black-necked Grebe.
Similarly seaduck are scarce with a few scoters and Common Eider usually present. Northern Gannet, Great Cormorant and Shag can be seen all year and Purple Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone and Rock Pipit occur along the rocky beaches in winter and very small numbers of Water Pipit may winter on Copperhouse Creek.
Spring brings a wider range of species and an increase in Black-throated Diver. Gulls pass through the bay and as well as the commoner species there are often a few Glaucous Gull, Little Gull and Mediterranean Gull. The most numerous tern is Sandwich Tern with small numbers of Common Tern and Arctic Tern. Balearic Shearwater is regular amongst the Manx Shearwater flocks and Fulmar can pass in high numbers. A few of the larger waders can be seen on spring passage.
In autumn numbers of most species are higher and there is generally a greater range of species. As well as Manx Shearwater there are Balearic Shearwater and a small number of Cory's Shearwater and Sooty Shearwater. Petrels are always scarce but both European Storm Petrel and Leach's Storm Petrel are possible.
Roseate Tern occurs regularly in variable but always small numbers and Little Tern and Black Tern may also pass through. The terns attract skuas in good numbers with Arctic Skua sometimes reaching 100 per day. Great Skua can also involve 50-100 birds per day and Pomarine Skua is seen daily in small numbers. Long-tailed Skua is annually recorded and even South Polar Skua has been reported. Gulls at this time include Sabine's Gull and this is the premier site for this species in Britain. Grey Phalarope is regular in late autumn. when Common Guillemot and Razorbill move past in large numbers with a few Little Auk in early winter.
Much depends on weather conditions and the area is most productive during north-westerly to northerly winds following strong south-westerlies associated with an Atlantic depression.
The St Ives Bay and Hayle Estuary area has an excellent record for rarities and vagrant seabirds, waterfowl and waders are recorded every year.
St Ives has produced Black-browed Albatross, Macaronesian Shearwater, Wilson's Storm Petrel, Laughing Gull and Bridled Tern while the Hayle Estuary has attracted Green-winged Teal, Black-winged Stilt, Long-billed Dowitcher, Lesser Yellowlegs, Wilson's Phalarope and Pectoral Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper and Broad-billed Sandpiper.
American Wigeon is now regular with more than 20 recorded in some winters and this is the most reliable site in Britain for this species.
Birds you can see here include:
Red-throated Diver, Black-throated Diver, Great Northern Diver, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Red-necked Grebe, Slavonian Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Northern Fulmar, Cory's Shearwater, Sooty Shearwater, Great Shearwater, Manx Shearwater, Balearic Shearwater, European Storm-petrel, Leach's Storm-petrel, Northern Gannet, Great Cormorant, European Shag, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Mute Swan, Dark-bellied Brent Goose, Common Shelduck, Eurasian Wigeon, American Wigeon, Gadwall, Common Teal, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Common Eider, Long-tailed Duck, Common Scoter, Velvet Scoter, Common Goldeneye, Goosander, Red-breasted Merganser, Common Buzzard, Common Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Eurasian Oystercatcher, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Eurasian Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Northern Lapwing, Red Knot, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Purple Sandpiper, Dunlin, Ruff, Jack Snipe, Common Snipe, Bar-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Eurasian Curlew, Spotted Redshank, Common Redshank, Common Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone, Grey Phalarope, Great Skua, Pomarine Skua, Arctic Skua, Long-tailed Skua, Sabine's Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Little Gull, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Iceland Gull, Herring Gull, Glaucous Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Black-legged Kittiwake, Sandwich Tern, Roseate Tern, Common Tern, Arctic Tern, Little Tern, Black Tern, Common Guillemot, Razorbill, Little Auk, Common Kingfisher, Barn Swallow, Meadow Pipit, Rock Pipit, Water Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Black Redstart, Snow Bunting
 Other Wildlife
 Site Information
 Areas of Interest
The Hayle Estuary lies partly within the town of Hayle and as well as the main channel it is joined from the west by Copperhouse Creek. In addition there is an artificial tidal area, the Carnsew Pool, which is an important bird habitat.
Gulls form an important part of the birdlife here and the area has a reputation for rarer gulls. Glaucous Gull, Iceland Gull, Little Gull and Mediterranean Gull are all annually recorded and Ring-billed Gull is virtually a permanent resident at Copperhouse Creek. Little Egret is now also a familiar sight here.
Wintering waders include Grey Plover, Red Knot and Dunlin, Eurasian Curlew and Bar-tailed Godwit, plus Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper and Spotted Redshank. Dark-bellied Brent Goose may occur, particularly when the weather is severe further east.
 Access and Facilities
To reach the "island" which is the best seawatching point, follow signs for the car-park to the north of the town of St Ives. The bay can be viewed well from the car-park but most visitors follow the path to the top and watch from the Coastguard lookout
Timing and weather can be crucial and winds from the north or north-west are usually required to produce heavy passage.
St Ives is reached on the A3074 from Hayle. The Hayle Estuary is just west of the town of Hayle and can be viewed from the Old Quay House Inn car-park and the hide nearby at the head of the estuary. Further down the estuary, Carnsew Pool and Copperhouse Creek are just north of the town centre and can be viewed from footpaths.
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Content and images originally posted by Steve