Saturday, 24 September 2011

Last Sunday in Clare...

I’d intended to write up last Sunday’s Irish events on Wednesday. However, after receiving a much appreciated call from the identifiers of the Weir Wood Long-toed Stint just as the school day ended, more important things took precedence and I managed to see this bird rather better than I’d expected. It’s been quite good value reading all the nonsense on the internet - inevitably by the usual suspects – though rather irritating at the same time. Nevertheless, it’s pretty criminal that this bird continued to be called a Temminck’s Stint for a whole week; even with distant car park views, it was evident that it was not this species due to a combination of size, structure, leg size and brightness of mantle. A tale of two stints... the Red-necked was a Little, the Temminck’s was a Long-toed. Who’d have thought it...
So, back to the task in hand, and to explain what happened last Sunday. With a total of at least 865 Sabine’s Gulls seen off the Bridges of Ross the day before, and all the seawatching I’ve done over the years there, it was really too good to turn down the chance of being there Sunday morning. It had been blowy overnight – still from the northwest – so much so I’d strategically parked my car by The Lighthouse Inn to sleep, as sleeping in the car park at the Bridges would have meant a rather rocky night. Anyway, to cut to the chase I got in one and a half hours of seawatching – not nearly enough  - but this produced Sabine’s Gulls at pretty much every scan (at least 40 in total including a nice flock of 7; adults and juveniles seen) as well as 4 juvenile Long-tailed Skuas (still an Irish rarity) and 2 Grey Phalaropes along with decent numbers of Bonxies, Arctic Skuas, Arctic Terns and Manx Shearwaters. Spray was a bit of an issue, with the foam party ensuing due to the swell and wind direction.
8 of the 9 Buff-b Sands at Loop Head (the 9th is just to the left and out of this photo!)
I headed straight up towards the lighthouse at Loop Head, after reminding Killian about ‘those’ Skuas off Graciosa earlier this year, forking right at ‘the barn’ – the famed accommodation that Franko and I had frequented for several years. I stomped around The Fodry, and after a single Golden Plover flew over and then ditched down, I was led to the ‘wader flock’ that comprised of 4 Golden Plover and 9 Buff-breasted Sandpipers (the remains of a record equalling flock of 15 there midweek). The bastard GPs were skittish, and this caused the BBS flock to get up and go too. So, like last weekend, those usual up close and personal BBS views eluded me. A couple of Lapland Buntings flew around as I headed back to the car, and Chough were as usual pretty common and nice to see.
Beady-eyed Borefinch, Loop Head
I drove back from the lighthouse towards Kilbaha, and Niall and his Dad – along with Brian Porter – flagged me down as they’d found a Common Rosefinch. Unbelievably in the same place as where James Hanlon, Adrian Webb and I found one whilst dipping a Rose-breasted Grosbeak back in October 2000 (though according to John Murphy – the main man of Clare – most have been found in this specific spot at Loop). Anyway, back to today, and after a short while the Rosefinch popped up in Walsh’s garden where I was able to take a couple of shots. There was also a Willow Warbler, and it was as pleasurable as always to have a look in Gibson’s Garden – nothing present, but nice to relive the Canada Warbler for the umpteenth time.
Good old smurf... being able to con Clare County Council into making this sign that's located by Keating's Pub, Kilbaha; love the Canada and Myrtle Warblers along with the REV and GW Teal!
The Clare sites along the coast from Loop Head as far north as Liscannor were pretty crap, with the ‘highlights’ being a first-winter Mediterranean Gull at Liscannor and 9 Curlew Sandpipers (4 at Liscannor and 5 at Kilcredaun Bay). I had a nice sleep for an hour at Quilty, which was well needed after the past 24 hours of pretty exciting birding, and headed – via a relatively birdless Lough Atedaun – back towards Shannon Airport. I had a look at the lagoon before I caught my flight, complaining with Owen Foley how high the water levels were (the only waders able to get onto it these days are Blackwits). But Owen found a Blue-winged Teal there last year, almost to the very day... so it was worth a look at the quackers for sure. And what happened this evening? Well, a Blue-winged Teal was present again and a nice way to end the trip (and a good one by Owen).
Curlew Sandpiper, Liscannor, Clare
And well done to JJ and Staines on their smashing Mayo trip this week where Semi-p’s were following them around like a bad smell. Plus some nice other yank wader finds – AGP, Spotted Sand,multiple Buff-b Sands, Pec and a R-n Phal. So this rounds off another Irish trip for now... September trips are blinding over there; you should give it a bash one day.

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