Bridges of Ross 2018: Maritime infallibility

I had high hopes that the big guy in the red socks could pop over to the Bridges during his visit to Ireland and join us for a spot of seawatching, but sadly Frankie never made it as far as the western extremities of County Clare this year.
This was a shame as I figure papal infallibility could prove pretty handy when scouring the waves for quality seabirds.
Just imagine: “ex cathedra, that’s a Yelkouan comin’ in over the slabs boys”, or “ex cathedra White Faced Petrel on the horizon”.
Maybe next year (although I always thought those records of Red Billed Tropicbird over St Peter’s Square were a bit iffy).
Even without his holiness, we had a cracking time – I picked up Bazzo and Tony Owen on Thursday last week and took the night boat over from Liverpool to Dublin, pulling up at the Bridges for my annual four day seawatching session with all our wonderful Irish friends on Friday morning.

(picture by Vittorio Caschera)

Westerlies, rain and the appearance of a Barolo Shear the day before ensured there was a great turnout – superb to see you all again Noel, Des, Ger, Neal, Vic, Killian, Jim, Brian, Swampy, Aidan, Mark, Jimmy, Lorraine etc etc.
Brill to see so many young faces ‘scoping the waves too – the future of Irish birding…
Special thanks must go to Des Higgins for sorting out digs for us all yet again, and of course, sharing his theories on the DNA challenges of gene-splicing and how to develop an Elephant x Great Auk x Fred Astaire hybrid, which would not only boast a top hat and be the biggest alcid the world has ever seen, but may also prove a mean tap dancer too.
Of course, this would be a strictly ecumenical matter Ted.
Ahem, on with the seawatching… (my daily counts not a combined total).

Bridges of Ross, 24.8.18:
10am-6pm, west/south westerly, overcast, frequent showers, some heavy.

Manx Shearwater 1,750+
Sooty Shearwater 62
Gannet loads
Fulmar loads
Storm Petrel 2
Razorbill 38
Guillemot 22
Arctic Tern 6
Bonxie 12
Arctic Skua 1
Long Tailed Skua 1 juve
Grey Phalarope 1
Kittiwake loads
Leach’s Petrel 4
Common Scoter 5
Teal 1
Whimbrel 6

Star of the show was a lovely juve Long Tailed Skua which swept in the bay with a dark phase Arctic Skua, then landed just offshore and spent an hour or so with us – such a delicate bird, tern-like in the way it hung over the waves, dipping and stalling.
At the other end of the skua spectrum the Bonxie fest which characterised this year’s visit was just starting…

Bridges of Ross, 25.8.18:
7.20am-11.30am, 1.30pm-7pm, calm, hot sunshine.

Sooty Shearwater 12
Manx Shearwater 150
Kittiwake 49
Gannet 72
Fulmar loads
Common Scoter 10
Bonxie 1
Sandwich Tern 14

Lousy conditions for seawatching at the Bridges – superb conditions for a doze in the hot sun with the Atlantic murmuring below you and Choughs calling overhead.

You know you’re in trouble here when you find yourself checking out the local Rock Dove gang and have time to photograph passing Wheatears and Golden Plover, then admire Rock Samphire clinging to the cliffs.

All hands to Keatings.

Bridges of Ross, 26.8.18:
7.50am-7pm, mist, drizzle, rain, SWly, then f4-5 W.

Manx Shearwater 3,500+
Sooty Shearwater 80+
Arctic Tern 43
Gannet loads
Fulmar loads
Kittiwake loads
Sabine’s Gull 2 adults
Common Scoter 5
Arctic Skua 26
Bonxie 16
Pomarine Skua 1 adult
Black Tern 3
Storm Petrel 2
Leach’s Petrel 8
Grey Phalarope 2
Common Tern 1
Great Northern Diver 1
plus Bottle Nosed and Common Dolphin, Tuna, Chough, Razorbill, Guillemot, Dunlin, Rock Pipit etc.

Much more like it – plenty of Sooty Shears and two breathtaking adult Sabs Gulls that lingered offshore for most of the afternoon.

Leach’s Petrels pattering through and a bruiser of a Pom Skua, powerful and menacing as it moved west, with full spoonage, courtesy of Killian Mullarney.
The conditions attracted a great crowd of seawatchers to the bowl/hollow, all doubtless praying their brollies and folding chairs would withstand the buffeting and wild Atlantic squalls.
Can you say a novena for an umbrella I wonder?

(picture by Des Higgins)

Good numbers of Arctic Skuas coming through too, almost all of them dark phase birds.
A great session.

Bridges of Ross, 27.8.18:
7.30am-6pm, westerly f4-5 dropping, showers.

Sooty Shearwater 15
Manx Shearwater 500
Leach’s Petrel 8
Common Scoter 17
Bonxie 19
Arctic Skua 2
Arctic Tern 8
Sandwich Tern 16
Gannet, Fulmar, Kittiwake, Whimbrel, Common Dolphin etc.

Great weather conditions, but few birds.
Even the Bridges can go quiet I suppose.
Late in the day Bonxfest began, with a stream of the bad boys coming past, including a group of five birds looking for any trouble that came their way.

Drove back over to Dublin yesterday morning and caught the 3pm boat to Liverpool taking in at least 11 Roseate Terns on their feeding grounds between Rockabill and the Kish Bank, and small numbers of Manxies, an Arctic Skua plus the usual auks and Med Gulls, as we headed out, before descending below decks for the superslow voyage home.
Thanks to everyone for another fine break at the Bridges – Des if you can sort out the digs again for next year, I’ll email the Vatican and see if we can find a window in Frankie’s diary for 2019.
See you all next time you langers…

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If you’re waiting for autumn – don’t. It’s already here.
Finches and Mipits overhead and parties of hirundines speeding around the office at Ainsdale, perching on wires and jostling in the air with the swelling flock of largely juve Starlings – congregations like this are just screaming for raptor strikes.
Despite a tsunami of emails and tasks that kept me largely locked to the desk today, there were glimmers of hope every time I looked roofwards.

Small numbers of Wheatears and Pied Wags were resting first thing, before indulging in flycatching as the day warmed up – and there were certainly more migrants further into the dunes if a brief meeting with Andrew Spottiswood was anything to go by.
Even after work there was a sense of anticipation as willow and rosa rugosa branches twitched and shook around Sands Lake.

Okay, only raggedy-assed Chiffchaffs, Greenfinch, Goldfinch and Blue Tits emerged, but who knows what will come out tomorrow?

Red Necked Far-larope

After a morning of meandering round the maze of stands at the Birdfair at Rutland, I naturally gravitated to the beer tent, via a few Green Sands and Snipes, Chiffchaffs, Little Egrets and a calling Gropper (or was that on a BTO tape lure?).
It’s far too dangerous once refreshed to go anywhere near the optical stands of course -or anywhere else where money can change hands for that matter – so I went birding in the afternoon instead.
A brisk walk around the waterside trails brought me to the Goldeneye hide, and a distant, but fun, Red Necked Phalarope.

Without a ‘scope or proper camera, watching options were severely curtailed, and most of the time it was a busy little dot in the distance.
Luckily a kind soul let me digiscope the phalarope at range through their Leica as it wandered along the waterside, or went off swimming amongst the flocks of decidedly unsavoury moulting Egyptian Geese – muchas gracias.
Good bird – I wonder where it will end up in a few weeks time – off to the Pacific perhaps?
Away to the Arabian Sea?
Ain’t migration grand?
(and thanks to Duncan and Elizabeth Rothwell for the lift down….)

More tern time

Sandwich Tern surveying both days this weekend at Ainsdale, and predictably with the combination of highish tides and reasonable weather, the roosting waders, terns and gulls suffered much disturbance.
Hard to get an accurate count today, but Common Tern numbers started to pick up yesterday and today two Little Terns – an adult and a juv – dropped in to join
the dozing Dunlin, Sanderling and Ringed Plover and Sarnies (700+ now).
Better still was a pure white/leucistic Sandwich Tern which swept past south, presumably the bird ringed as a nestling at Sands of Forvie in Aberdeenshire last year which spent a week or two at Ainsdale and on Fylde in 2017.
I didn’t connect with it last year, so today’s brief flight view was much appreciated – if this can make it over from Aberdeenshire, what other considerably rarer terns may make the same journey I wonder (okay okay Sooty fans, but you’ve got to dream…and the Cemlyn bird seems so long ago now).
I did manage a terrible exposure disaster image of it as it flew away from me, but I’m sure folk will get better pictures if it hangs around…

It’s the smudge in the middle.
Through the bins it seemed to have the same pale yellowy bill as last year’s freak, but I didn’t get it on the deck to check for the colour ring.
Finally bagged last year’s great white whale Ahab.

The Sandwich Terns barely settled as dog walkers etc wandered through them as if they weren’t there – although most understood when I explained about disturbance, and resolved to avoid roosts in future.
You just gotta keep explaining….
As the tide fell back waders began feeding again, including some fine summer plumage Turnstones – I know they’re regular here now, but they are stonking birds…

I’ll just leave this here…

Still little time for birding (that’ll change), but Med numbers are picking up on Ainsdale beach with at least three there a few days back, while the autumn Sandwich Tern roost continues to grow.
Another cycle of counts for our third annual survey kicks in in a day or so, but there were 354 on Friday evening.
Some Common Gulls looking chipper (is that one wearing eye-liner?), but the Meds are heading towards winter…

Down at Ravenmeols a good sit by my favourite elder patch revealed a few Chiffies, Goldcrests and titmice, while a Hobby picked up major Starling hassle by the office at Ainsdale yesterday.