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…

3 thoughts on “Bridges of Ross 2018: Maritime infallibility

  1. Staff and volunteers at RSPB Leighton Moss nature reserve in Silverdale will be welcoming visitors to a special Autumn Open Day event on Friday 7 September, as part of the national Heritage Open Days initiative.
    The reserve, famous for its amazing wildlife including otters, marsh harriers and bitterns, will throw open its doors and invite nature lovers to enjoy the facilities free of charge for one day only. Admission for adult non-members is usually £7 per adult (free for RSPB members). A series of free guided walks will take place throughout the day where experts will give visitors the opportunity to learn more about the nature that calls Leighton Moss home.
    All visitors arriving by train, bus or bicycle to Leighton Moss will also be treated to 10% discount in the reserve’s award winning café.
    For more information on events, wildlife sightings and facilities at Leighton Moss, visit


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