Monday, 4 February 2013

Spring Cleaning

Apparently February is "Officially" Spring. So after a successful Saturday down in West Cork digging out various American Gulls, I spent Sunday attempting to mop up gaps in the Ballycotton list that "theoretically should" be present during the winter.

I started down at the pier, where there was a dearth of Gulls. This was depressing, as I had hoped that perhaps fishing during the week had brought the hoard of winged rats back into the bay, and 3 loaves of tesco's finest did little to boost numbers.

I moved on back to the gate over the lake, in the hopes that some gulls were sitting out the high tide on the mud. Sure enough, there was an appreciable number here.

D'lake at Ballycotton - Legendary

This produced the first new addition, in the form of an Adult Ring Billed Gull. A true patch "Scarce", they are surprisingly uncommon here, usually being found washing or preening in the outflow from the Back Bog. I have only ever seen 2 or 3 in all the years I have been birding here (though admittedly I do not look that hard for them), so getting this on the yearlist so soon was a high point.

Adult Ring Billed Gull - Patch Scarce - Valuable points

One of the 1st Winter Glaucous Gulls from Previous weeks was also on the lake, but otherwise a general clearout of gulls...or so I thought.

1st Winter Glaucous Gull - Et Tu Brute

I then took a quick stroll up the lane towards the back bog, where I knew there would be a chiffchaff hanging around. It did not take long to suss one out, pweeting away in the hedgerows. Never exactly going to be difficult over the course of the year, but again, good to get it out of the way early.

I then tried a few likely locations for Black Redstart, this failed dismally, but compensation came in the form of a Kingfisher flushed from the rocks at silver strand. Another species that, although are usually around on the back channels or Shanagarry, can be tricky to connect with.

After this I headed for Ballynamona, intending to hunt after a Water pipit which had been around a few weeks previously, and check likely spots for Jack Snipe. Here I ran into Denis O'Sullivan, and he informed me he had checked a usual spot for Jack Snipe at Shanagarry to no avail, and there was no sign of the Water pipit.
So we worked up to the lake to check the south fringe for Jack snipe. Alas a dog walker made his way right through this area ahead of us, so if it was there, it was flushed before we could see it.

A quick scan out to sea, showed several fishing boats returning back in...and a mass of gulls following them.
So I ran back around to the pier to intercept them.

Winged Rat Express

Another or the same Glaucous gull was in this group, as well as an Adult Mediterranean Gull. Much commoner than Ring Billed Gull, especially in June/July/August when juveniles show up in good numbers. Already on my list for the year, but nice to see anyway.

As part of the patch list thing, I am aiming to spend a small amount of time seawatching each visit. It really is the most likely aspect of the patch capable of adding really juicy birds to the list. The best today was the usual Gannets, Fulmars, Gulls and Auks, with five Common Scoter flying by.

I then took to walking the infamous "Phil's Back Passage" and the gardens above the village. Tree sparrow should be gettable here at some point during the year, but the House Sparrow flock failed to produce on this occasion, and there were no sign today of the usual Yellowhammers that they might otherwise associate.
Blackcap, however, fell fairly easily up behind the church, and then Patch bird of the day fell, with a single Waxwing lifting out of a garden near Phil's. A new bird for the patch, and one which, considering the winter that has been in it, I should have searched for sooner.

I ended the day by first checking the beach from Silver Strand again, where Gulls had again built up in numbers. It was obvious though that the mix had changed, with no white wingers or Yellow Legs in the flock.  It may well be the case that my chance at adding Caspian and American Herring have bit the dust, but I still have until March, we keep our hopes up. The Navy boys decided to visit BallyC today for some reason.

In the Navy

I then moved on to the Back Bog for dusk, the most likely spot for Short eared and other owls. But none chose to show themselves. At the very least I should manage Short Eared here before the year is out.

D'Back Bog - Raptorless 

Whilst I know it is not "On Patch"..I can't resist.

The Real McCoy - No. 1 Patch Target

This 1st winter American Herring Gull I found on Saturday, at Baltimore-West Cork,  is currently my most hoped for addition to my Ballycotton List, and finding this bird has made me more certain of the bird I had in BallyC. I just need to run into it again. Fingers Crossed.

Scores this week - 97 Species - 128 points - 54.3% Comparative Score.

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