Just back from a superb few days of quantum birding/reverse listing/occasional seawatching at the Bridges of Ross, making the journey over to the wild west coast of Ireland with Duncan Rothwell and Andy Pryce on the Liverpool-Dublin ferry late on Thursday night (24.8.17).
It was my seventh annual visit and as ever, the hospitality of our brilliant Irish friends was overwhelming.
The tear-arsing westerly I’d hoped for failed to materialise, but the tally from the Bridges is better than most other seawatching sites in the world even when it’s quiet and each of the five days we scanned the waves was a joy.
The (almost) ever-present Manx Shearwaters, Gannets and Fulmars brought some classic autumn seabirds along, with Sooty and Great Shearwaters, Sabine’s Gulls, Storm, Leach’s and Wilson’s Petrels and three species of skua ensuring our ‘scopes were kept busy.
Thanks to Andy Pryce for letting me use his pic of an adult Sab’s Gull that paraded past us on Monday afternoon (I was too busy drooling to get a pic) and to Vittorio Caschera for supplying me with some fine images reflecting the crucial social side of our activities in Kilbaha and the Bridges.
It is after all, a criminal offence not to have fun in County Clare.
There’s Vic attempting a selfie with the characteristically sombre father and son seawatching phenomena that is Noel and Niall Keogh.
This was taken shortly after they bagged the Bridges’ Barolo a week or so back, so it’s hardly surprising it looks like you could scrape ’em off the ceiling…
The seawatching took the usual Bridges approach – a session from 7am to 10am each day before heading back to the cottage for brekkie, then a “big boy” stretch from 11am to 7pm, with occasional detours to check Loop Head and the gardens of Kilbaha for migrants, and visits to the now world-famous “lovely girls shop” for proper coffee.
With the legendary Lighthouse Inn in Kilbaha still closed, all sustenance (liquid and otherwise) was provided by Keatings – thanks for looking after us so well, and most importantly continuing to supply us with buckets of PINTS every evening, possibly the world’s greatest approach to a carry-out.
I am pleased to announce I have now graduated from the beginner’s cattle feed bucket of 2016 to being entrusted with the all-new super deluxe 2017 curry bucket delivery system, which needs greater care in handling as the designated driver heads slowly back to base to avoid traumatic spillage disasters.
Clink, clink, clink…
The bucket method guarantees everyone – even the Antler Moths – have a good time long after the pub has shut…
Right, on with the birds…
1115-1900, SWly 3-4, cloud, light showers, sunny periods.
Manx Shearwater 2,500
Sooty Shearwater 16
Great Shearwater 1
Arctic Skua 10
Sandwich Tern 3
Red Throated Diver 1
Leach’s Petrel 1
Storm Petrel 6
Pomarine Skua 1 (full spoonage – lousy record shot!)
Drizzle, flat calm, brightening later.
Loop Head 0700-noon:
Grasshopper Warbler, Chough, Raven, Song Thrush, Hooded Crow, Mipits, Wheatear, Ravens. Minke Whale and Common Dolphin offshore.
Bridges of Ross, Noon-1900:
Hot, sunny, calm…
Manx Shearwater 750
Sooty Shearwater 23
Sandwich Tern 37
Common Gull 1
Arctic Skua 4
Black Tern 1
Wilson’s Petrel 1 (so distant it was barely tickable on the Irish list!)
Teal 1 female
Cetaceans were good in the flat calm conditions with a Humpback Whale, Minke Whale, many Common Dolphins and a visit by the Shannon Bottle Nosed Dolphins with a calf.
Grey and Common Seal too.
0830-1200, 1330-1900, SSWly2-3, rain then sunny periods.
Black Tern 3
Arctic Skua 9
Manx Shearwater 332
Curlew Sandpiper 1
Sandwich Tern 106
Storm Petrel sp 1
Wilson’s Petrel 1 (much closer in – fine views)
Common Scoter 29
Great Crested Grebe 1
Black Guillemot 1 juv
Sooty Shearwater 4
Med Gull 1
Arctic Tern 5
Grey Heron 2
*counting waders is never a good sign at the Bridges, but a good species mix and a closer Wilson’s can’t be bad!
One of today’s passing Bonxies had MAJOR white wing flashes – possibly the most striking moultiness I’ve seen, while the Black Guillemot youngster was just beneath the cliff.
0700-1050, 1345-1900, SWly 3-4, turning Wly later, cloud, drizzle.
Common Scoter 15
Manx Shearwater 509
Sandwich Tern 7
Sooty Shearwater 21
Arctic Skua 7
Pomarine Skua 1
Storm Petrel 2
Arctic Tern 4
Black Tern 2
Sabine’s Gull 2 (1 adult, 1 juv)
Lovely views of the very close adult Sab’s – and a great shot of it from Andy Pryce (ta Andy). Compare it with my crappy juv Kittiwake pic…
Leaping Tuna and Common Dolphin offshore today and the wind trying to get into the west. Finally.
0700-0930, Wly 4-5, cloudy, mild, showers.
Sooty Shearwater 59
Great Shearwater 1 (distant)
Arctic Skua 4
Common Scoter 17
Pomarine Skua 1
Arctic Tern 2
Red Throated Diver 1
Great Northern Diver 1
A truncated sesh as we had to head back east to catch the 3pm sailing to Liverpool, but solid Sooty Shear action and a very close full summer Great Northern Diver, with a Pom Skua bonus wasn’t a bad way to bring things to a close.
Shame the second Great Shear of the trip that I managed to lock onto stayed so resolutely distant.
Leaving Dublin Bay yesterday afternoon we managed Arctic Skua, two rafts of Manxies, auks, Kittiwakes and distant terns including one Black Tern, Arctics and what appeared to be a few Roseates, but they were a long way off.
A Kittiwake hitched a lift on the prow of the ferry from about halfway out to the waters of North Wales and was a lot easier to pap.
Thanks Duncan, Andy, Noel, Niall, Vic, Des, Joao, Jimmy, Ger, Neal, Colin and Jim – as ever a stunning few days.
Buckets willing, I look forward to seeing you all again when the west wind blows.