Thursday, 4 July 2013

Six months completed!

Since reaching the ‘ton’ with a Collared Dove in early April I’ve now managed to reach a ‘ton and a quarter’ by half-time with a couple of six-pointers to ease the way to a points score of ‘180’!
In anticipation for some autumn seawatching I took advantage of strong west winds in mid-April to suss out the patch for seabird potential. This resulted in a ‘baywatch’ from Blacksod pier which delivered small numbers of Puffin, Manx Shearwater and Kittiwake along with auks, Gannets and Fulmars moving out of the bay towards the wild Atlantic. Something to keep an eye on! The next day (15th) my first patch Swallow for the year arrived followed by a Willow Warbler on the 23rd and the month ended with a couple of male Eider ‘scoped at range, bringing the tally to 106.
Numbers of northward bound Whimbrels increased during May (Dave Suddaby)
May opened with a few summer arrivals in the form of Little and Common Terns in the bay, along with a small group of summer plumaged islandica Black-tailed Godwits which were northward bound with increasing numbers of Whimbrels (max day count 102) and Sanderling (max day count 52). On land the first Sedge Warblers arrived and a small passage of Swallows on the 8th included a House Martin and a few Sand Martins. With news of a good skua passage starting to develop along the west coast, including seeing several Poms and Long-tails off Annagh Head on 13th, I tried a few ‘baywatches’ but to no avail. However, sitting at the kitchen table and staring aimlessly out over the garden whilst having breakfast on the 16th three shapes appeared that quickly transformed into gorgeous adult Long-tailed Skuas! They slowly drifted over the house and made their way down to the bay and then headed north! The next skua to be added to the list was an Arctic off Blacksod pier on 21st followed by another 3, plus a Bonxie the next day, then to complete the set, 6 adult Pomarines drifted through on the evening of 23rd whilst the first Grasshopper Warbler of the year ‘reeled’ from the garden. Following a further Long-tailed Skua passing through, May finished with a singing Corncrake ‘from the doorstep’ on the 30th bringing the tally to 118.
A singing Corncrake appeared for a few days in late May (Dave Suddaby)
Number 119, on the afternoon of 1st June, turned out to be #patchgold: on hearing the ‘typical sound of mobbing crows’ I instantly scanned towards the sound and quickly ‘locked onto’ a large raptor flying low over the ground and approaching the garden. After a few moments of taking in all the subtle features it was clear that I was watching a Black Kite! A ‘first’ in many ways, including the first record for Co. Mayo. The kite slowly drifted south and on reaching ‘the end of the road’ at Blacksod it started to thermal up before continuing to drift away. A few days later (4th) my first patch Swift, Cuckoo and Crossbill of the year were added, followed by a Storm Petrel off the pier on 11th, a fly-over Lesser Redpoll on 12th and a Common Sandpiper ‘on the rocks’ on 15th bringing the tally to 125 species for the year. Not bad!
So after six months what are the ‘obvious gaps’ in the patch year list? Well there are several but most obvious being species like Pheasant, Knot, Grey Plover, Blackcap, Whitethroat and Spotted Flycatcher. Hopefully these, along with a few ‘6+ pointers’, will make for a memorable autumn!

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