Sunday, 25 August 2013

August Accumulation

Back in the country after two weeks and was eager to get back down to Ballycotton. With migrants beginning to turn up and seawatching season in full swing, I was watching the weather forecast carefully.

Saturday was due to get a slight bit of SW winds and rain in the evening. So I mooched around Ballycotton and the beach (and knockadoon) for most of the day up until 16.15 when I saw the weather coming in.

An hour and a half on the cliff produced a rake of year ticks, and valuable bonus points with Great Shearwater (2), Balearic, Sabine's gull, Roseate tern and Black tern all falling in pretty strange viewing conditions.

Winds were not strong, but dense cloud close in shore meant long periods of being able to see nothing, then it would clear for a while out to a certain distance and birds would be there.

A few Sooties, Bonxie, Arctic skua and Arctic terns were the best of the rest.

On Sunday I was back down hoping that the rain had dropped some migrants over night.

Phil's back passage had plenty of Willow warblers mooching about which had not been there the previous day, but nothing of any quality was with them...until I heard a familiar call coming from the field to my left. A nice adult Dotterel was shooting over, headed east towards the lake. A patch tick no less!

Alas, it was not on the beach, pools or lake, and with all the grain fields currently being cut, could pitch down anywhere. Amazingly, because of the points system in play..this gets no bonus points in Ireland, but Great Shearwater and Sabine's gull does. Ballances out I suppose.

A ruff and a green sandpiper, both somewhat overdue for Ballyc were also new for the year. A 3rd year Yellow Legged gull was the only other bird of note.

8 year ticks this weekend.

Species: 148
Score: 224
Comparative Score: 95.05%

Monday, 19 August 2013

A boat named Skua - Visit 19

A much anticipated Atlantic weather system arrived on Irish shores on Saturday 17 August, prompting many birders to travel to traditional west coast seawatch points - but not this intrepid patch birder! Before I had even boarded the Rathlin ferry I received texts about Fea’s (type) Petrels and large shearwaters from Carnsore to Donegal.  There are lots of patch birding points still available if I can manage a decent seawatch this autumn and my optimism increased when I spotted that one of the boats docked in Ballycastle Harbour was called SKUA!
A SW wind is probably the worst direction for a seawatch from Rathlin, but sure, it was worth a crack...  A 2 hour watch from the East Light produced 102 Manx Shearwaters, 29 Puffins, 1000+ Gannets and 100’s of Kittiwakes and Fulmars.  The phrase flogging a dead horse springs to mind!  Nevertheless, this was my first ever concerted seawatch from Rathlin and the experience was brought to life by up to 15 Harbour Porpoise crashing about below the cliffs.  For much of the seawatch these were being followed by a mass of Gannets circling high above the sea like vultures.  Ever the optimist, I expected the frigatebird to put in an appearance at any second! As I watched from my sheltered position behind the lighthouse wall, a trickle of House Martins and Swallows moved south and 4 Swifts passed by giving great views. A small flock of Linnets then dropped in and landed on the wall, before making their way south. 
I checked the east end gardens and the “yellow-browed” garden held Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers and a Whitethroat.  The high tide wader roost at Mill Bay hosted 15 Ringed Plover, 3 Dunlin and 2 Curlew and best at Craigmacagan Lough were 3 Teal, 1 Wigeon and a juvenile Moorhen. So another visit passed by with no new species added for the year and not even a sniff of a skua (silly name for a boat anyway...). Think I’ll wait until after a strong north westerly before I attempt any further seawatching from the East Light.  I had three species of skua from the South Light in about 15 minutes last September, so there’s hope yet.
Since 25 May, I have managed to add just 1 species to the year list (Swift) and this won’t change until mid September at least, as I’m away on my annual pilgrimage to the Bridges of Ross.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Autumnal August

Finished up on the Little Tern project yesterday (17th August) and won't be back on patch until mid-September as I'm off out West for my yearly penance at The Bridges of Ross. So the end of Summer/start of Autumn brought with it a successful breeding season for the Little Terns (45 pairs raising 75 juveniles) and a couple of excellent additions to the patch year list...

(141) Wood Sandpiper: one flyover, calling at 06:10am on 3rd August. Part of a spate of sightings of this species around the country at the time.

(142) WHINCHAT: juvenile along the coastal path just South of The Breaches bridge at 4pm on 13th August. Long time bogey finally laid to rest. Tend to miss Whinchat on patch most years whilst off seawatching. This bird only hung around for a few minutes with a couple of Wheatears before moving on. Got it by the skin of my teeth it seems!

"Full fat" patch tick! © Niall Keogh

Migrating wader tallies for the first half of August, peak day counts in brackets: Dunlin (175+), Ringed Plover (61), Turnstone (4), Redshank (12), Greenshank (3), Black-tailed Godwit (22), Bar-tailed Godwit (1), Green Sandpiper (singles on 2nd & 5th), Whimbrel (3), Lapwing (30), Sanderling (11), Common Sandpiper (6), Curlew (85+) & a juvenile Ruff on 13th & 14th. 

Juv Ruff, showing well by the wardens camp © Niall Keogh

The switch to Autumn was revealed by flocks of 80+ Linnets around The Breaches, 25 Collared Doves around Webb's farmyard, up to 5 Wheatears a day, a super flock of 33 Arctic Terns on the 4th and juvenile Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, Willow Warbler & Chiffchaff moving through the Sea Buckthorn.

Waterbirds on Webb's lagoon & Stringer's channels peaked at 17 Little Grebe, 237 Mallard, 2 Gadwall, 8 Shoveler, 16 Teal & 3 Wigeon.

Seawatching early in the month was slow but produced 7 Roseate Terns, 3 Red-throated Divers, 34 Common Scoter & a Tufted Duck

August on the patch ends with 142 species, 181 points & 92.58%

...oh and I dipped Sooty Shearwater courtesy of Stephen McAvoy on 10th whilst at a stag in Galway! Damn!

Friday, 9 August 2013

It's quiet, . .. . .too quiet.

I suppose it was bound to happen, the monotony of seeing very very little has made me decide, late in the day though it is I'm going to adopt a new patch along with the old one just for a change of scenery. So, a nice coastal area I think. Obviously I cant pick a totally new patch at this stage of the year as I couldn't be bothered doing the patch introduction.,so I'll just adopt a site that someone else is also doing, and looking around, Galley Head looks a nice spot,  not too close to home but still in Cork. So that's Blackbird, Blackcap, Blue Tit, Bulwer's Petrel, plus rarity points plus finders bonus, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, . . . by the time I get to G  this thing could be sewn up.
      Ok back in the real, ten miles from the sea, world I was very happy to see a Cuckoo in June. Only the fourth on the patch and two of those have been in the last 3 years. Then the other day while trying to flush a Sedgie from rapidly ripening Barley I instead flushed a Grasshopper Warbler. A definite bonus bird that I wasn't expecting after just my 2nd patch record last year. The following day I did flush several Sedge Warblers taking me well over the 100% and compensating nicely for the lack of flyover Hobby or Crossbills
this year.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

July birding at Kilcoole

In contrast to the year-tick bonanza of May & June, the month of July went by as expected with relatively low numbers of new species added but those that were being good 'quality' ones at the same time. Nice birding in general too throughout the month & as such the summer 'doldrums' ended up much better than expected (although my hoped for Lesser Sand Plover did me a great injustice & decided to put on a show in Cork of all places!).

(137) Rock Pipit: a juvenile around The Breaches from 3rd-7th July. In recent years this has become a typical style of record for the patch, involving dispersing youngsters probably from nearby breeding sites at Bray & Wicklow Head. Used to get a pair or two nesting around The Breaches in years gone by.

(138) Green Sandpiper: one seen in flight & heard calling around the back channel of Webb's field & The Breaches on the evening of 6th July. Earlier than expected.

(139) Balearic Shearwater: one seen heading South with Manxies during a Seatrack survey at 19:38 on 20th July. Only my 3rd patch record of this species but one that is probably annual if enough time staring out to sea is put in.

(140) Pomarine Skua: one flying North at 17:40 on 31st July during a seawatch inspired by the events at Galley Head that afternoon! My 5th patch record.

Otherwise birding throughout the month went as follows:

Seawatching produced single Storm Petrels on 2nd & 8th, six Roseate Terns on 23rd plus an adult + juv on 31st, dark phase Arctic Skua heading South on 27th, single Puffin on 17th followed by 5 on 20th & 3 on 31st, two Red-throated Divers & a total of 172 Common Scoter across eight dates. Heavy sea mist on 22nd & 23rd pulled in 31 & 26 Arctic Terns respectively which are always great to see in flocks. Top notch birds!

Mediterranean Gulls were recorded on 20 dates during the month. In all, 38 birds were seen with a peak day count of 6. The first juvenile was noted on 20th (seems to have been a poor breeding season for them?). No doubt all heading for South Dublin Bay.

Juv/1st-winter Mediterranean Gull © Niall Keogh

Summering & post-breeding wildfowl manifested themselves in the form of 160+ Mallard, 18 Teal, 2 Tufted Ducks, 5 Gadwall & 3 Wigeon. An adult + chick Water Rail were seen running across a track in Webb's field on 6th & a juvenile Coot was seen with an adult in Stringer's channels on several dates. Good to confirm breeding for these two species. Little Egrets seemed to have had a good breeding season locally with a peak count of 25 in The Breaches on 25th including many juveniles.

Wader passage was excellent! Curlews peaked at 212 on 2nd & 330 on 6th, mostly heading South in small groups throughout the day. The Dunlin flock got up to a maximum of 217 on the 25th with the first juveniles seen from 23rd onwards. These were joined by up to 45 Ringed Plover. Good to see a high count of 14 Common Sandpipers on 18th, as they have been present in low numbers in recent years. Smaller numbers of other species recorded on & off, some dropping in only for an evening or during heavy sea mist (peak day counts in brackets): Whimbrel (3), Black-tailed Godwit (10), Bar-tailed Godwit (1), Redshank (9), Greenshank (2), Snipe (4), Sanderling (23), Knot (2), Turnstone (3), Golden Plover (1) & Grey Plover (1).

The world's worst Sanderling. Visibly smaller than accompanying Dunlin. I spent too long trying to turn it into something else. Damn that lack of hind toe! © Niall Keogh

The raptor highlight of the month was a ringtail Hen Harrier (probably a 2cy female) from 13th-18th. Only the 2nd I have seen on patch in July.

Passerines & co. were quiet enough as expected with the best being a singing male Reed Warbler still present at it's usual spot in Webb's field on 21st, flyover Grey Wagtails on 22nd & 27th, single Grasshopper Warblers around the Sea Buckthorn on 22nd, 23rd & 30th, the first returning Wheatear on 30th, 200+ Swifts on 29th & a hybrid Carrion X Hooded Crow on 9th.

So July ends with scores reaching 140 species, 178 points & 91.04%...

A good month for insects too including up to 7 species of bumblebee (Bombus lucorum agg./terrestris, lapidarius, jonellus, hortorum, pascuorum & muscorum), a Humming-bird Hawk-moth on 14th, the first Migrant Hawker of the year on 28th, a large emergence of Six-spot Burnet & a total of 12 species of butterfly (Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Painted Lady, Small White, Large White, Green-veined White, Dark Green Fritillary, Small Copper, Common Blue, Speckled Wood, Meadow Brown & Ringlet).

Dark Green Fritillary © Niall Keogh
Small Copper © Niall Keogh

Monday, 5 August 2013

A Late Evening Errand Pays Off

On Friday I had to run down late to Ballycotton on an errand.

This paid off with a Barn Owl on the bog rd. Nicely year ticked! Now if only Long Eared and Short Eared would drop in.

Species: 140
Score: 202
Comparative: 85.71%

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Ballyquintin news ...

It has been a while since I updated this ... I have been visiting once or twice per week over the last few months, but ticks come a bit slower at this time of year. So, here is a list of those ticks:

sedge warbler: one or more singing regularly from the reed bed at Templecowey since 28th April

grasshopper warbler: at least two singing from the rough grass on the shore at Templecowey on 28th April

blackcap: singing at Templecowey on 28th April

Manx shearwater: the first for the patch with 5 past Ballyquintin on 28th April, seen regularly since (up to 100s/hour)

whitethroat: first singing at Ballyquintin on 5th May, seen and heard regularly after that at both Ballyquintin and Templecowey

Arctic tern: first past Ballyquintin on 5th May, seen regularly since then

house martin: single birds seen a few times from 6th May at Ballyquintin and Templecowey, apparently not breeding in the area

common tern: 2 past Ballyquintin on 6th May, seen occasionally after that (larger numbers apparently moving south on 3rd August)

Arctic skua: at least one (possibly two) at Ballyquintin on 15th May, chasing terns, and a dark juvenile chasing terns there on the evening of the 3rd

lesser whitethroat: one singing and seen briefly in the bushes near the Ballyquintin lookout on 15th May

sanderling: 10 resting with dunlin at Barr Hall Bay on 2nd June

storm petrel: a group of about 10 feeding offshore from Ballyquintin on 15th June, a smaller group on 23rd June, one flew past on 3rd August

puffin: three past Ballyquintin on 21st July, two by themsleves, one with a couple of guillemots

peregrine: one flew straight over the lookout on 21st July (surprised it took this long to see one in the area)

Mediterranean gull: an adult flew south past Ballyquintin on 23rd July

Balearic shearwater: one flew south past Ballyquintin on 30th July, by itself, and obligingly swung in towards the shore as it came past, with a moderate passage of Manx shearwaters

swift: a groups of about 10 moved past, low over the sea into a stiff headwind on 3rd August

black-tailed godwit: a group of six flew past, in a fine colourful group, on the evening of 3rd August

Definitely moving towards autumn in the area - passerines in flocks, passage at sea starting to pick up, with good numbers of terns this week (Sandwich terns earlier in the week, common and Arctic today)

109 species (141 points)