Standards were starting to slip. Extended survey time on board the R.V. Celtic Explorer along the Rockall Trough and a recent trip to Scotland meant that I hadn't been birding on patch since 4th March...shameful!
An impressive arrival of Wheatears & Grasshopper Warblers on the Bull Island during the week hinted that I needed to get the finger out and go patching so I headed off down to Kilcoole for 8am yesterday morning and 10 hours later I had racked up no less than 17 patch year ticks!
Swallows, Sand Martins & House Martins were trickling North in small bursts throughout the day along with a total of 9 Swifts. Great to see these guys back. Warblers were in song everywhere, particularly Willow Warblers & Blackcaps but only a handful of Chiffchaff were noted. Counted 10 singing Sedge Warblers along the full length of the coast and a nice Reed Warbler was chugging away at Ballygannon reedbed in exactly the same spot I hear one most years. Crippling views of a Grasshopper Warbler at a range of 3m in amongst the Sea Buckthorn at Kilcoole was most welcome. A further two were heard reeling at ECNR during a brief shower. Six species of warbler in a day is not to be snuffed at, but as hard as I tried, I couldn't dig out a Whitethroat anywhere.
White Wagtails and Wheatears were scattered along the coastal fields and beach, with six & ten respectively. Sandwich Terns were feeding up and down the shoreline throughout the day, at least 57 of these along with 4 Little Terns at the traditional colony site at Kilcoole. Nearly that time of year again! A few Manx Shearwaters loafing around offshore too along with some nice breeding plumaged Red-throated Divers and a couple of drake Common Scoter migrating North.
A rather dull looking Wheatear (2cy?)
A Common Sandpiper on the first scrape at the BirdWatch Ireland Kilcoole Reserve and 11 Whimbrel along the coast were more additions for the year whilst c.145 Black-tailed Godwits & c.190 Golden Plover, all in full breeding plumage added a nice splash of colour to the coastal fields. Other migrant waders included a Bar-tailed Godwit & 4 Turnstone. A few wildfowl linger on with 3 Greylag Geese, 37 Light-bellied Brent Geese, 4 Wigeon, 12 Teal, a drake Gadwall & 2 Shoveler noted. A good day for raptors too with 1 Peregrine, 2 Buzzards, 2 Kestrels & 2 obliging Sparrowhawks seen.
A tiny wee immature male Sprawk
Best was saved for last when I got to Blackditch ECNR in the afternoon. After a mooch around the Northern walkways & hides I scanned out across the coastal fields where a nice wet flash is still present. "Looks good for a Yellow Wagtail" says I...and sure enough there it was! A cracking male flavissima prancing about like a Dandelion on legs! A former rare but regular breeder along the Wicklow coastline, records are becoming more sporadic in recent years unfortunately so most definitely a good one for the scoreboards.
A great start to Spring!
111 species, 133 points & 68.03%