The race begins at 08:30am from Kennedy Pier in the centre of Cobh itself, once again for those of you who don't know, Cobh (or Queenstown as it was once known), was the last port from which the Titantic sailed before it sank on its maiden voyage 100 years ago in April 1912. Teams of birders cover the island and count all species seen from or on the island before convening in a local tavern to count up the scores and announce the winners. This year will be my 5th bird race, our team usually consists of Harry Hussey, Paul Rowe, Brian Lynch and myself. This year Brian is unavailable so Sean Ronayne is joining us I believe, we certainly won't be weakened by Sean's presence! Our 'crack' team of birders has done everything from winning it in 2008 to coming last in 2009 and somewhere in between in 2010 and 2011. Some of my personal highlights from previous bird races include Brambling, Cattle Egret, Indian House Crow, Black Brant, Slavonian Grebe and Ring-billed Gull to name just a few. Great Island itself has had many superb birds over the years, the long-staying and quite famous Indian House Crow for example, a Sabine's Gull that has been returning each year since 2003, numerous other records of rare and scarce gulls such American Herring Gull (a juvenile has been seen in recent days from Cuskinny Bay), Glaucous Gull, Iceland Gull, Little Gull, Bonaparte's Gull (a presumably returning bird that appears usually during or following stormy weather in Cork Harbour) and Kumlien's Gull. Last years Pied-billed Grebe was frequently seen in the north channel from Rossleague (see record shot below). Unfortunately we missed that bird in the 2011 bird race!
|Pied-biled Grebe, Rossleague, Great Island, Cork, 28th December 2010|
So, with all that in mind, rather than driving yet again to Co. Waterford I decided to stay a little closer to home and do a little birding / scouting on Great Island today.
I started with a brief yet unsuccessful search for a Black Redstart around Rushebrook and then headed into the centre of Cobh to check for the Indian House Crow and to see what gulls were hanging around Kennedy Pier. Sadly no sign of the crow, but here's an archive shot I took in late 2010 when he first appeared.
|Indian House Crow, Cobh, 19th September 2010|
|Cobh Cathedral, 1st January 2012|
|'The Holy Ground' facing out to Cork Harbour and Roches Point, 1st January 2012|
|Brent Geese, Cuskinny, Great Island, Cork, 1st January 2012|
|Cuskinny Lake, Great Island, 1st January 2012|
|Ring-billed Gull, Cuskinny Lake, 1st January 2012|
With time moving on I drove over to check the north channel at Rossleague for grebes and divers, the best I had though was a Great-crested Grebe, no Pied-billed, Slavs or Black-necked I'm afraid.
|The north channel of Great Island - Rossleague (in between the showers) - 1st January 2012|
I decided to make one final check in the town for the juv. American Herring Gull, no sign of it at the Holy Ground although there was a ringed Black-Headed gull present. It had two steel rings, one on each leg, the code on it's right leg I think reads 7 IE (or IF), if anyone is reading this and knows who I should contact to report this please let me know.
|Ringed Black-headed Gull, Cobh, 1st January 2012.|
Oh, before I forget. Dennis O'Sullivan broke, nay smashed, the Irish year list record by seeing 288 species in 2011. The previous record was 268, well done Dennis, fantastic stuff. I believe you've already ticked Bluethroat for 2012 as well!