Sunday 5 August 2012

Wheatears on the move

After a strong passage of large Shearwaters (Greats and Cory's) towards the end of the week (which of course I missed) I had hoped to get out this weekend for some seawatching. I set the alarm for 6am this morning planning to head for Ballycotton cliffs. However I wasn't expecting too much, a check of the weather forecast last night indicated slack NNE winds and it was flat calm sea that greeted me at 7am. No surprise really, so I packed my scope away and decided to head for Ballynamona Strand instead, hoping that I might get some close wader views on the high tide.
8am on Ballynamona Strand and I was the only soul there, where else would everybody be at that time on a bank holiday Sunday morning?? The tide was right in and a mixed group of Ringed Plovers and adult Dunlin were poking around the dead weed in front of the car park. I decided to walk the beach towards the lake. In the distance I could see a large group of gulls gathered on the tip at the front of the lake. I checked through them and picked out three juvenile Sandwich Terns, all the rest being Black-headed Gulls. As I moved along the beach there were plenty of juvenile and adult Pied Wagtails, a large and noisy group of adult and juvenile Starlings, many moulting into 1st winter and 2 Wheatears. I tried for a few photographs but as is always the case with Wheatears, once I got within range they took off, all I could see was their white arses heading off down the beach! But it was good to see them nonetheless, signifying perhaps, that after a quiet few weeks, birds are finally on the move once more. Around the corner at the lake there were 5 more Wheatears, a mix of moulting adults and juveniles. I lay belly down on the wet seaweed trying to get a shot as all manner of flies buzzed around me. There's no doubt that these Wheatears will be very well fed when the time comes for them to head out to sea and make their way back towards Africa.
Without a scope I didn't bother to check through the large group of gulls that had gathered at the back of the lake. In fact I'm using a pair of rather crappy bins at the moment as my beloved Swarovskis are on holidays in Austria receiving a much needed make-over.
On the way back I took a little time with one of the Wheatears which decided to stay still for long enough to allow some reasonable shots.

Northern Wheatear - Ballynamona beach, 5th August 2012

As the tide had started to go out I crossed over to check the pools at Shanagarry. At this time of year there should be at least a Green Sandpiper and possibly something better like a Wood Sand. However the best I had was 3 Common Sandpipers, several Little Egrets, a single Stock Dove and plenty of shaggy looking Curlews.
With no really strong sign of wader passage just yet I decided to call it a day there and headed home for lunch.

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