Monday, 19 February 2018

Ireland day six - Achill Island

If there was one place that I have an affinity with away from the River Thames, then it is the lost world of Achill Island in west Mayo. Particularly the area around the village of Keel. Every time I go there, I feel as though it has immense potential... even in midwinter. The flooded golf course and machair looked perfect for a Killdeer, but alas it wasn't to be. It is also a prerequisite of Achill that you get a soaking, and on Friday it was no exception with socks, hat and trousers being nicely dried off on the dashboard as I headed back to Knock airport.

Anyway, it was a rancid day weather wise but the gulls loved it. Keel once again was the place and the golf course had a good selection - after starting at the west end (where I thought I heard a chu-it call but quickly dismissed it, more later...), I headed to the east side to the south of Sruhilbeg Lough. I was happy with the haul in the foulness, with an adult Iceland Gull and eight Glaucous Gulls (three adults, two 2nd-winters and three juveniles).
adult Iceland Gull Keel, Achill Island, Mayo 16th February 2018 
juvenile Glaucous Gull Keel, Achill Island, Mayo 16th February 2018

adult Glaucous Gull Keel, Achill Island, Mayo 16th February 2018 - particularly beautiful!
I then did a smash and grab of the north end, around Doogort and Tontavalley where all I could muster were a couple of longstaying Ring-necked Ducks (a pair) on Lough Doo. And a lot of rain! With the latter not abating either when I reached the southeast end of the island, where a juvenile Glaucous Gull was on the beach by Cloughmore Pier and the salmon processing plant there. That being the 10th white winger on the island for the day, and with the rain not stopping, I headed off... or so I thought.
pair of Ring-necked Ducks Lough Doo, Achill Island, Mayo 16th February 2018
One thing I hadn't realised was, that despite the desolate day, I hadn't been alone on Achill! So when news filtered through of the continued presence of the Semipalmated Plover at Keel just as I was hitting Mulranny, that hollow and galling feeling returned. I'd not been thorough enough earlier in the day, and had bowed to the poor weather and not followed up on 'that' chu-it call. I cared enough though to turn the car around, rag it back to Keel and do a quick scan of the waders on the golf course. Far from ideal, but in the 30 or so Ringed Plovers on the flood was a smaller bird with that distinctive pale gape line at the base of its lower mandible - target bird seen, distantly and in the rain. But genuinely, every minute counted as I then had to drive like breakneck speed through the country lanes of Mayo to get my flight back to London...

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