Tuesday, 1 October 2013

September Surprises

Between seawatching & a family wedding, half the month of September was spent lolling around West Clare. As such, I was eager to get a few days in on the patch when possible as there could well be a few finds & year ticks in store.

With a nice spread of yanks & scarce European waders about the country, a visit on 10th Sept was aimed at just that. Coinciding a trip to The Breaches with low tide and sure enough 3 juvenile Curlew Sandpipers (143) were easily found feeding with the Dunlin flock. A 1st-winter White Wagtail & 6 Red-throated Divers moving South at sea were the best of the rest that day.

Skip forward a couple of weeks and the South coast appeared to be in danger of collapsing into the sea under the weight of all the Wrynecks about. This combined with reports of Yellow-browed Warblers blacking out the sky along the East coast of the UK spurred me on to check a few likely spots for migrant passerines on the patch.

Misty/overcast conditions & a light SE wind at 8am on Friday 27th produced a small but enjoyable 'fall' around the Six Mile Point area consisting of a Spotted Flycatcher (144), a Grasshopper Warbler, a Whitethroat, a Sedge Warbler, 5 Blackcap, 10+ Chiffchaff, 15+ Goldcrest, 1 Grey Wagtail, 60+ Siskin, 11 Lesser Redpoll and good numbers of Blackbird, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Swallow & House Martin.

A good haul by patch standards. I've had worse days on Hook Head/Great Saltee! The Spot Fly was a great one to claw back after dipping a few at Kilcoole in June. Will continue to work this area for migs through October & early November. The garden at Six Mile Point & the coastal scrub at ECNR look perfect for something to drop into on a wet, misty day but the vast expanse of wooded lanes & hedgerows just a few hundred metres inland means that 90% of stuff must dissipate fairly quickly. Still worth a shot though as this area has hosted Buff-bellied Pipit, Ortolan Bunting, Icterine Warbler, Wryneck, Firecrest & Siberian Chiffchaff in the past.

Spot Fly
Coastal scrub & Six Mile Point garden on right, trees along Newcastle Sea Road on left

Once the clouds parted & the sun began to shine on Friday morning the few migrants about pushed inland almost immediately. With that I continued North along the coast towards Kilcoole. Large rafts of seabird including 500+ each of Kittiwake & Razorbill were offshore from Newcastle attracting in a pale phase Arctic Skua. Four Light-bellied Brent Geese flying South past here were the first I've seen this season & 3 Pintail (145) resting on the water offshore with a flock of Wigeon were new for the year (these later relocated to Webb's field).

Whilst scanning Webb's field from the Southern end of the Sea Buckthorn at around 16:25, a distinctive "peeuw" call drew my attention to a wader flying across the lagoon. Binocs up & I can see a slim winged, subtly marked juv plover landing on a stretch of stony shoreline. A fine juvenile LITTLE RINGED PLOVER it is! My third patch record & the second this year following on from an adult in exactly the same spot in June. The bird quickly flew out into The Breaches where it joined a flock of Dunlin & Ringed Plover. Good views for 20 minutes with these before nipping back into Webb's field on its own, where it showed again (distantly) at 18:15.

With this run of good luck, a chance to get back down on Monday 30th Sept with Noel Keogh was duly taken advantage of. Light SE winds & overcast conditions remained so this time the lanes & gardens around the Ballygannon area at the North end of the patch were checked for migrants (10 Goldcrest, 2 Chiffchaff, 6 Lesser Redpoll & a single Sand Martin the best here). A quick look offshore from Kilcoole train station platform (the only spot with decent height for seawatching) revealed a distant Bonxie (146) moving North. The marsh held a Pintail, 20 Shoveler, a Knot & a good count of 27 Little Grebe. Find of the day was most certainly a superb juv/1st-winter Glaucous Gull flying North over the beach at close range past The Breaches at 13:20. Fresh speckled plumage, clean pink based bill with a full dark tip & a dark eye. Didn't expect to see one of these here at the end of Sept! Furthermore, what was almost certainly the same bird was later picked up by Stephen McAvoy on his patch at Dalkey!

Trudged around a promising looking stubble field at Kilcoole to find a flock of c.40 Skylark which wasn't bad & a check of the Six Mile Point area in the afternoon revealed the Spotted Flycatcher still present along with 2 Chiffchaff & 2 Blackcap whilst a flock of 23 Greylag Geese flying about overhead were the first I've seen this season.

One of the gardens along Ballygannon lane

Scores at end of September as follows: 146 species, 187 points & 95.65%

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