Wednesday, 9 October 2013

All Filler no Killer – Visit 22

I finally bit the bullet and spent a few nights on Rathlin from 5-8 October, giving it just some of the coverage it richly deserves at this time of year.  Winds were from the SW up until the last day which brought a strong westerly with showers.  I had a mixed few days, but am fairly pleased with what I managed to see given the unfavourable weather conditions.
Things got off to a promising start scoring a Garden Warbler (113) feeding in Church Valley in close company of 2 Blackcaps in the same thicket.  Nice to claw back one of the species I missed back in the spring.  Walking up through Ballyconagan I got my first glimpse of a rather large female Sparrowhawk which caused much panic in the nearby Meadow Pipits.  I mentioned in one of my earlier posts that the area around the old Coastguards Station was good for buntings and plovers in autumn and was checked daily.  First up on the 5th were a nice flock of 22 Golden Plover (114) but a good stomp around revealed just a single Skylark.  On my way back to the main road I overheard the sound of one of my favourite birds – the Twite and was soon sat in the middle of a flock of 25 as they fed on withering seed heads.

Church Valley - hand me that mist net


The gardens, harbour and coast road to Mill Bay were all quiet, so I went and had a good check through the pipits at Ushet Port.  A flock of 4 Whooper Swans (115) passing south at sea raised my spirits and I made my way to sit at the bench overlooking Ushet Lough at dusk; as I’ve always wanted to see what drops in here for the night.  Well, it wasn’t long until 4 Whooper Swans flew in – perhaps the same birds seen off Ushet Port only half an hour ago?
                                                                               Time for a scratch - a peak count of 24 Stonechats were recorded
The next day brought a small arrival of 6 Goldcrests and peak counts of 103 Linnets, 46 Goldfinch and 44 Robins to the patch and a single House Martin looked lost over Craigmacagan Lough.  That evening I went up to check around the East Light and was rewarded with numerous Wheatears and Meadow Pipits appearing from nowhere in the lighthouse compound, before moving swiftly south along an old stone wall.  These birds were obviously exhausted and the Wheatears in particular just sat on the walls of the lighthouse in small groups looking confused.  As I walked back down the lane a female type Merlin nabbed a Meadow Pipit and flew off with it giving me a cursory glance.  I estimate that up to 25 Wheatears and 150 Meadow Pipits were seen in the last hour of daylight here.  Several migrant Silver Y moths were also in the lighthouse compound and surrounding area.


 The next morning I left the Manor House B&B while it was still dark to make my way to the East Light for a seawatch.  A Wheatear was sat in the rain under a street light and along the high road 9 Song Thrushes and 9 Blackbirds were sitting on the road. My hopes of an overnight fall were premature however and the highlights from an hour and a half’s seawatch were a Bonxie (116), 2 Puffins, a Tufted Duck and a submarine! 
The only new arrivals during a check around the usual sites were 2 Common Redpolls amongst a flock of 26 Lesser Redpolls in Church Valley and 30+ Pied Wagtails and a Whimbrel at the West Pier. Two Wigeon were on the sea at Mill Bay.
My final morning was spent lurching about the Coastguards Station and moorland at Ballyconagan and scanning out to sea.  The overnight switch to a F4 westerly had certainly brought lots of Gannets and Kittiwakes ashore and eventually 3 Bonxies and an Arctic Skua were seen in hot pursuit of the latter. I was bemoaning my inability to find anything decent when I heard a slow rattling call overhead, followed by a loud ‘chew’ – a Lapland Bunting (117). 
I dropped my seawatching gear off back at the B&B and set off round the harbour towards the coast road to Mill Bay.  I stopped as usual at the small beach at the base of the South Pier to scan for waders and the first bird I put my bins on was a Snow Bunting (118)!  The gardens were again devoid of anything unusual, so I made my way once more to the East Light where the heavens opened and I spent several sodden minutes hunched by an old stone wall.  Perhaps this was how the Wheatears had felt a couple of nights ago, I thought.  Once the rain stopped I stood up and felt the cold rain fall from my hood drenching my trousers, then there was another rattling call, this time I managed a good view of the bird hopping about the lighthouse compound, another Lapland Bunting. It flew high above the light and was lost to view.  A moment later a flock of 24 Barnacle Geese (119) flew east probably trying to find their way to Islay.  I returned to Church Bay for a final look at the Snow Bunting, only to find there were now 2 of them!

A grand total of 7 year ticks were added during this short trip and leaves my score on 119 species, 149 points or 117.32%


No comments:

Post a Comment