Monday, August 27, 2012

Autumn begins

 Pied fly, 1st winter male, churchtown.

Had been looking forward to a day of seawatching on saturday but after a friend dropped out last minute, I decided a 4 hour drive to sit in the rain wasn't much of a prospect. So I decided to spend a day in Wexford and sketch some terns, hoping to find something amongst them. I arrived early at Churchtown and found good numbers of willow warbs, chiffs and blackcaps, large numbers of hirrundines over head held a few late swifts. The only bird of note was a young male pied fly which showed well, albeit briefly.
 I walked along the coast, checking through the terns and the countless wheatears I was kicking up along the beach. Two juv black terns were flying around the distant rocks, the rising tide brought one in quite close, unfortunately it was always partially hidden amongst the larger sterna terns once it landed. Roseates were plentiful, atleast 150 were on the rocks infront of me at one point, probably dozens more spread out on other outcrops. Very few juveniles of any species were amongst the adults.

 With the tide at its highest this hare appeared on the most distant rocks, panicking the terns as it tried to jump between rocks. Eventually giving in and having to swim back to shore!
A ring tail hen harrier and this 2nd year marsh harrier were around tac, a glossy ibis over the east pond, but the area was largely waderless.
An evening seawatch off carnesore was very quite, though an immature long tailed skua flying north was very nice. It was also seen by a few others in the car park further along the coast who had it in closer.
Will hopefully get to a scanner in the morning and put up some of the sketches from the last while.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Snowy Owl

 The twin lakes, Aranmore, Co.Donegal

A male snowy owl on Aranmore Island off the west coast of Donegal for the last month finally became too much and after hearing it was still present last friday I set about trying to fill the car and make plans to get up at the first opportunity. A midweek trip didn't suit many so I set off aiming for the 730am ferry picking up two friends along the way. With no traffic, we arrived in burtonport shortly before 645 and had a bit of food and coffee ahead of the short boat trip. 
We set off for the twin lakes, scanning every white rock and plastic turf bag. After a good scan, we split up and started walking. The island seemed endless, every hill climbed led to another rolling hillside. Heading north in the hope that the bird would be sheltering from the strong south westerly wind, I came across a great arm chair overlooking a large sheltered valley leading down to the lighthouse. I was just about to sit down and scan when reception on the phone picked up and I got a series of txts of missed calls, eventually a text with directions came through and I set off taking the long way round due to a little dis orientation. When I finally caught up with them I was told the owl had just flown over the brow of the hill. Had I sat on the armchair I would have been looking straight down on it as it flew!

 Best view on the island, if I was sitting in it!

After another long walk around I looked back to see Ciaran and Laragh were waving and pointing back where I had come from, another long jog followed before a shadow passed over head, looking up, the immense shape of the snowy passed overhead and disappeared over a ridge. I continued up towards the others, glancing back the snowy was sitting on mound, sheltered under a ridge from the wind.

 The views were pretty good! The white spot in the dark ridge above is the snowy owl! After a while crouching in the soggy heather watching it dozing, I tried to change position onto a small rock for a bit of comfort and sketching, the bird took off and disappeared over the hilltop back towards the lake.
We moved in to check on where it was sitting and found a pile of atleast 6 pellets, moulted feathers and the remains of a rabbit. It was pretty clear this was an area the bird favours and well worth a look in future.

                          Some of the pellets and rabbit remains found where we had the snowy today.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Kilbaha pelagic

 2nd year Artic Skua

Last weekend I finally got out onto a pelagic from Ireland. Have been geared up to go on a few over the years but all have been cancelled due to bad weather. Fortunately this time round the weather was looking good, if anything a little too good! With little wind and rain forcast, I wasn't hugely optimistic of anything too spectacular. However, from the first rays of light as we chugged past the lighthouse on Loop head it was clear that is was going to be a memorable day. Storm petrels pattered around the boat in amazing numbers, manxies were scattered into a few large rafts and our first sooty shear, great and artic skua passed by very quickly. We ploughed out to 10 miles and began to chum, immediately attracting in several stormies, fulmars and a few close passes by sooty shearwaters. A minke whale was seen twice, while upto 200 common dolphins were constantly moving around the boat, often coming in to ride the bow waves. As the chum slick spread out, large numbers of stormies came in close and attracted in 4 great and an artic skua. The artic skua was initially identified as a long tailed as it passed over head, the 1st of 2 wilson's petrels was found almost immediately afterwards and focus shifted from the skua. I spent most of the time watching and trying to photograph the skua as the wilson's stayed quite distant, it did look bulkier and less agile than I thought long tailed should be, but several of the features pointed to it being a long tail. In future I'll have to put the camera away and watch the birds! 
A great day out could have been even better, I stopped off on the long journey home to check Moyasta and have some coffee, as I got up to leave I caught a glimpse of a harrier that passed behind a small copse of trees never to reappear somehow. I hit the road and 10 minutes later I got the call from a friend to say he had just found a pallid harrier a short distance from where I had this bird! Feck it anyways!

 Some great views of the artic skua as it passed over heard seveal times.

 Sabines gull, this adult was one of 2 that spent 40 minutes circling the boat, the 2nd was an immature lacking the yellow tip to the bill.

 Storm Petrol, over 300 were seen during the day, several feeding just off the back of the boat.
Sooty Shearwater, one of over 20 seen, a few passed very close.