Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Ballycotton - Hello. How was your January?

I am coming at this whole patch birding thing a bit late. But with the amount of time I spend at Bally-C I thought I would give it a go.

I have never really "worked" a patch properly before. I tend to work certain coastal routes at different times of year, to maximize the birds I find. But over the past couple of years I have found those routes are taking in Ballycotton more and more.

Ballycotton is a strange site. Some years, there are good birds galore. Others a sparse sampling of juicy tidbits.

Sitting down to work out what I had seen there was a challenge in and of itself. In total I have seen about 195 species in the area. Most years do not come close to this however, and keeping track of what I have seen from year to year was difficult.

The Patch

The patch I work is pretty much the same as what people have always worked. From the cliffs and the famed "Phil's Back Passage", taking in migrants and Seabirds, to the beach and its waders and gulls, to the back bog and its raptors and the marshes up as far as Garryvoe.

This patch should allow for a good mix of species, and is easily worked in a few hours. However the real tricky birds will be those that you would normally not be bothered with on a visit to Ballycotton. Finding birds like Treecreeper will be...interesting.

Working out the past years scores was also interesting for the bias involved. 2011 was a damn good year for American Waders, and I found a fair few on the beach here. This plumped up the average score a fair bit, coming in at 235.7 (This could change if I notice some omission or misplaced inclusion.)

I do not intend to work the area religiously, as other patch fanatics do. There will be times I go nowhere near the place, particularly in October, when I am usually haunting West Cork. Probably madness really, as I would stand to dig out good birds that time of year. Luckily, east Cork often does very well in November for passerine migrants, and I can put in some time then.

January was a reasonably good month. Though I only managed a few visits to the area due to distractions like Bird-Races etc, I did manage to see some decent birds.

Over the past 2 weeks, the numbers of gulls have boosted, due to the renewed level of fishing out of Ballycotton and the icy easterly winds. The result was a real bonanza in terms of large Gull species, including ~6 Yellow Legged Gulls, ~4 Glaucous Gulls and a single Adult Iceland gull.

Big Gull Bonanza - Hanna Hyvönen

Glaucs - Brutes - O. Foley and Hanna Hyvönen

Yellow Legged Gull - Hanna Hyvönen

Due to the incessant bad weather and windy conditions, however, hoodwinks over the past couple of weekends have included a possible Caspian Gull and 1-2 American Herring Gulls.

Possible Yank - Hanna Hyvönen

In fact I am convinced this one is the real deal. With a solid dark tail, barred upper and undertail covs, and smooth,solid chocolate-mocha underparts, I am just hoping for some better views to seal the deal. With luck, he will hang around and I will run into him again, or someone else will.

Last weekend I failed to connect with this or the Casp candidate, but with storm force winds, no fishing boats were active, and gulls could be seen out on the various islands, waiting patiently for a free meal.
The weather did have the benefit of moving a few juicy bits inshore, which included a Black Throated Diver (tough enough in Cork) and a cracking Little Auk flying by (Patch Tick).

The month's end sees a score of 92 species and a score of 117, Comparative score 49.6%.

I guess I will have to put a bit of effort into mopping up some of the obvious, "gettable" species, no doubt lurking in the marshes and laneways.


  1. Welcome on board Owen. You left it late! Good to see one of Ireland's premier sites getting involved.

  2. Thanks Neal. Hopefully it will force me into some different habitats down there and result in some good stuff being found.