Bridges of Ross, 2019: Praying to the west

Another annual visit to the cradle of western seawatching, Guinness and craic, was just dandy, despite a lack of classic conditions – something I suspect will change this weekend if forecasts hold true…
Took the boat over from Anglesey after picking up Chris Kehoe on Thursday night last week, arriving red-eyed and raggedy-tailed in Dublin at 5.45am on Friday morning.
With my foot firmly to the floor all they way west we were back among old friends on the Bridges and focussing our ‘scopes on the waves by 11am.
Good big westerlies failed to materialise, although we had a few spells of reasonable weather that produced the goods as it always does here.
I do love the Bridges (this was my ninth annual pilgrimage), but I’d rather it looked a little less picture postcard and more scary edge of the world when I was there…

As ever the social side of things were fuelled by nightly visits to Keatings in Kilbaha.
Noel, Des, Gerard, Neal, Jim, Chris, Colin, Adam, Brian, Cathal, David and Dylan, I raise a glass of the good stuff to you all, and look forward to seeing you on the cliffs again next year.
Most days the regulars flapped or swam by – Hooded Crows, Chough, Raven, Rock Pipit, smiley Bottle-nosed and Common Dolphins, Sunfish and great big Tuna are all normal Bridges fare.

23.8.19, Bridges of Ross, 11am-6pm
(south/south easterly, cloudy and warm):

Razorbill 17
Sooty Shearwater 6
Gannet many
Manx Shearwater approx 50 every 30 mins
Fulmar many
Whimbrel 17
Wheatear 2
Sandwich Tern 1
Kittiwake 11
Guillemot 6
Arctic Skua 1
Storm Petrel 1

plus Chough, Rock Dove, Swallow, Rock Pipit, Meadow Pipit, Turnstone, Oystercatcher, GBB, Herring Gull, Starling, Stonechat, Pied Wagtail and Shag

A quiet day by the lofty standards of the Bridges of Ross, hardly surprising given the wind direction.

24.8.19, Bridges of Ross, 7am-9am, 10.30am -7pm
(southerly, heavy rain, later calm and humid with some drizzle):

Osprey 1
Sooty Shearwater 9
Gannet many
Fulmar many
Bonxie 5
Kittiwake 29
Manx Shearwater approx 1,500
Razorbill 50
Guillemot 50
Common Gull 5
Sandwich Tern 53
Common Scoter 6
Storm Petrel 13
Arctic Skua 4
Whimbrel 40
Arctic Tern 1
BHG 29

The Osprey was a lovely morning surprise as it flapped out of the murk heading west over our heads at 10.30am. Worth the drenching.
At least skuas were starting to move.

25.8.19, Bridges of Ross, 6.50am-11.30am, 12.50pm-7pm
(sunny periods, west/north westerly)

Gannet many
Fulmar many
Manxies approx 1,500
Sooty Shearwater 42
Razorbill many
Guillemot many
Common Scoter 25
Kittiwake 31
Sandwich Tern 26
Bonxie 6
Sabine’s Gull 3 adults
Arctic Skua 4
diver sp 1
Leach’s Petrel 1
Storm Petrel 1
Red Throated Diver 1

plus Stonechat, Redshank, Herring Gull, LBB, Cormorant, Greenshank, Whimbrel, Curlew, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Hooded Crow, Starling, Meadow Pipit, Rock Pipit, Dunlin, Shag, Oycs, Raven (11), Herring Gull, GBB, Swallow, Rock Dove, Hen Harrier.

The sunny weather and wind creeping into the west put a spring in the step and a smile on our faces (no, one of the world’s foremost Professors of Bioinformatics didn’t trip over that tripod leg and plunge into the Atlantic).

Three sparkly adult Sabs and a very close Leach’s were a tonic after the previous day’s ordeal by ennui.
The long quiet periods allowed for some fascinating conversation though – who knew Cory’s and Scopoli’s Shearwaters smelt differently? (well, Chris did) or juve Arctic Skuas are fatter than adults?
Or most importantly that Craggy Island’s parochial house was in reality just an hour’s drive away?

26.8.19, Bridges of Ross, 8am-11.15am, 12.30pm-7.15pm
(southerly, veering south westerly, cloud and sunny spells, light showers)

Manx Shearwater approx 5,000
Gannet many
Fulmar many
Razorbill 75
Kittiwake 20
Sooty Shearwater 94
Sandwich Tern 58
Storm Petrel 38
Arctic Skua 9
Great Northern Diver 1
Bonxie 6
Grey Heron 1
Balearic Shearwater 3

Kestrel, Turnstone, Shag, Mipit, Rock Pipit, Herring Gull, Hooded Crow, Starling, Pied Wagtail, Linnet, Peregrine, Chough, Robin, Wren.

The day started fairly calmly, but good numbers of Stormies swept past the slabs (we had emerged from the shelter of the traditional bowl) and the sea started to chop up rough.

Manxies increased with two striking pulses where birds were sweeping by at a rate of 2,500 an hour, and with them came three fine Balearic Shears and increasing numbers of Sootys, some of which came close enough for me to snap…

They’re always further away than you think!
A good day to end this year’s sesh then – many thanks to Des Higgins for organising the cottage again this year.
Were it not for Des we would be shambling wrecks without a roof over our heads, and thanks once again to everyone on the cliffs for the company and hospitality.
I hope whoever makes it down to County Clare this weekend for the monster westerlies scores big time, but I’ll have to wait until next year.

Getting up at dawn on Tuesday morning I watched an Irish Hare as it lolloped down the lane past our cottage, ready for another day of shapeshifting as they do out in the wild west, before we scooted back to Dublin and got the Stena over to Anglesey.
Black Guillemot, Med Gulls and between 9 and 14 Roseate Terns were the best of it as we surged out into the Irish Sea and headed east.

One thought on “Bridges of Ross, 2019: Praying to the west

  1. Well that was as seawatch with a difference, just back from a fortnight in Mauritius (Dodo count very poor) – Wedge Tailed Shears, Barau’s Petrel, Masked Booby, 2 sp of tropicbird, Sooty Tern, 2 sp of Noddy all from the comfort of my beach umbrella. Mauritian Guinness is FIZZY!!! What a world we live in. Blog will appear in due course.


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