Thursday, 25 August 2011

Back at the Bridges

The mighty Bridges of Ross
Later on this afternoon, I'll be heading off to the Bridges of Ross, County Clare for my annual bit of seawatching. This site, bar none, is the best in Britain and Ireland and it's been a permanent fixture in my calendar ever since I first went there in 2002. Quite a bit has changed since those almost solitary days before loads of Brits descended upon the place for their 'presumed Feas' tick. Thankfully, as the job is done and a lot of those involved have got their quarry, it's back to relatively low numbers of birders (for British - not Irish - standards at least).

I've now seen 5 presumed Feas at the Bridges of Ross, as well as finding one further north off Annagh Head, County Mayo. However, that elusive Little Shearwater - or Macaronesian Shearwater - still eludes me and probably still will on my return. I've been on site when one flew past (there are a couple of choices of where to sit, and I was with the majority who were in the wrong place), been at breakfast when another was reported past and missed the odd one or two by a couple of days. But if you're looking for good views of a steady stream of migrating seabirds, that can increase dramatically in numbers with strong northwesterlies, then the Bridges of Ross is bang on the money. Sit at Porthgwarra and you'll get distant views of stuff, at Pendeen views may be slightly better but more weather dependent. At the Bridges, when it's good it's mint. I'm talking 40+ Sabine's, Long-tailed Skuas cutting the corner and scooting over your head, Wilson's Storm-petrels in the cove below you. That sort of shit you don't get in Cornwall. Never.

The weather looks ok for this year, well tomorrow at least. And then current Magic Seaweed predications show a nice high settling in the eastern Atlantic so it'll predictably go quiet. And when it goes quiet, there are always a few spots to check for waders etc. Last year, with Josh Jones and Marc Read, we were lucky to see a single presumed Feas Petrel before heading down to Kerry for a grotty American Herring Gull and then up to Mayo to see the Snowy Owl, Black Duck and we managed to find an unseasonal Ring-necked Duck on Achill Island too. Along the Clare coast, over the years, pleasant distractions have included regular Ring-billed, Glaucous and Iceland Gulls as well as Long-billed Dowitcher, Spotted Sandpiper and finding White-rumped Sandpiper. So all in all, it's always a decent and relaxing trip with good company.
Snowy Owl and pellet, County Mayo August 2010

American Herring Gull, Blennerville, Kerry August 2010

Glaucous Gull, Kilrush, Clare August 2010

Ring-necked Duck looking grubby on Achill Island, Mayo August 2010
Times have also changed. Back in the day, Franko and I used to sleep in a barn that was kindly (unwittingly) laid with fresh hay by the farmer. However, the last couple of years have seen the roof corrode a bit and this free accommodation is no longer. Last year was the tent, but now having turned 30 I'm reluctantly splashing out on the (comparative) luxury of The Lighthouse Inn in Kilbaha. Admittedly this is where most other birders have based themselves each year, so it's not a palace by any means.
Ring-billed Gull Spanish Point, Clare August 2009

Iceland Gull Liscannor, Clare August 2008

Mediterranean Gull Limerick August 2008

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