Back from the edge of the world


With the last of the salt finally washed off my optics, and detox beginning to kick in, it’s time to reflect on another superb visit to the Bridges of Ross in County Clare, my fourth autumn pilgrimage to the seawatching hotspot in the west of Ireland in five years.
Joining me to face the Guinnessunami this time round were Trops, Bazzo and Er Neill, and of course all our brilliant Irish friends – Niall, Des, Rachel, Vic, Neil, Brian, Maureen et al – who made even the slowest seawatching day a pleasure.
As usual we stayed at the Lighthouse Inn at Kilbaha, where this year Maureen had laid on a Great Northern Diver in the bay across the road just for us.


I picked the lads up on Thursday last week then drove down to Anglesey for the 0230 boat to Dublin, before ragging cross country to County Clare on Friday morning.
While it wasn’t our most successful stay at the Bridges seawatching-wise (thanks to the glaring lack of raging hooleys), our tallies would still make for red letter days this side of the water, AND we were treated to Bottle Nosed and Common Dolphins, Minke Whale and Ocean Sunfish during four days of staring at the waves.
So, here’s what I saw during marvellous day long sessions perched above the Atlantic…

28.8.15, Bridges of Ross, 1030-1815;
Heavy rain, SWly-Wly f3-4, sun later:

Manx Shearwater 3,500+
Gannet loads
Fulmar loads (inc 1 blue phase bird)
Arctic Skua 10
Arctic Tern 17
Storm Petrel 1
Razorbill loads
Kittiwake 28
Bonxie 5
Black Tern 1
Grey Phalarope 1
Balearic Shearwater 1
Sooty Shearwater 3
Pomarine Skua 2
Sandwich Tern 13
Red Throated Diver 1
plus Wheatear, Whimbrel, Raven, Chough, Rock Pipit, Hooded Crow etc


29.8.15, Bridges of Ross, 0710-1000, 1134-1900;
SWly 3-4, sunny spells, showers:

Arctic Skua 23
Whimbrel 49
Gannet bazillions
Fulmar loads
Manx Shearwater 350+
Sooty Shearwater 2
Razorbill loads
Bonxie 10
Common Scoter 9
Pomarine Skua 1
Kittiwake 52
Sandwich Tern 14
Black Tern 5
Leach’s Petrel 2
Storm Petrel 1
plus Great Northern Diver in the bay at Kilbaha, Mipits, Chough and Wheatear etc


30.8.15, Bridges of Ross, 0710-1000, 1114-1900;
Very light SWly, high cloud, calm:

Bonxie 3
Gannet loads
Fulmar loads
Manx Shearwater 1,650+
Sooty Shearwater 6
Kittiwake 10
Razorbill loads
Sandwich Tern 39
Arctic Skua 22
Common Scoter 13
Storm Petrel 1
Red Throated Diver 1
Black Tern 3
Balearic Shearwater 1
Common Gull 1
Pomarine Skua 1
plus Chough, Merlin, Green Sandpiper, Swallow, Rock Pipit, Raven, Wheatear, Rock Dove-ish etc


On Monday (31.8.15) conditions were way too benign for a seawatch early doors, so we checked around the gardens in Kilbaha, heading out to Loop Head and the Fodry, where the remnants of Irish Marsh Orchid, bizarrely late flowering Bog Pimpernel and confusing damselflies were the order of the day.
Chiffchaff, Grey Wags and a Spotted Fly hinted at migration, but this amazing place (Canada Warbler, Red Eyed Vireo, Yellowthroat and Yellow Rumped Warbler have all rocked up here over the years) was quiet today.
With the wind freshening we tried a late afternoon seawatch, more in hope than expectation.

31.8.15, Bridges of Ross, 1500-1800;
N, NWly f3-4, bright:

Common Scoter 6
Gannet loads
Fulmar loads
Razorbill loads
Manx Shearwater 60+
Arctic Skua 8
Kittiwake 14
Sandwich Tern 2
Bonxie 1


With “restraint” our keyword these days, we were all tucked up in bed by 8.30pm that night, fresh, ready and bright-eyed for the journey home on Tuesday, 1.9.15.
Well, sort of.
Actually not really, but what goes on tour, stays on tour.
Thanks again to Niall, Des and everyone else for another memorable trip…see you all again next year.