Sunday, 7 October 2012

A lifer, a year tick and a Leinster win!

I was that close to going. The amazing Eastern Kingbird on Inishmore, Co. Galway was very tempting. But just before I rang to book a place on the 7am ferry from Doolin I noticed an email to IBN (Irish Bird Network) which suggested that something in the region of 200-400 UK birders were already en route for the twitch of the century. It'd be a scrum, 'feck that'....I thought, I'll not twitch this one. Sadly for those who travelled, the next day it was gone. A Belted Kingfisher in Letterfrack was a consolation at least (what a 'consolation' bird that is).
I decided to hit a local headland instead. Denis Carty emailed me the night before to say he'd be around Knockadoon Head on Saturday so decision made, I would join him.
Saturday dawned foggy and still, but the sun gradually began to burn the mist off. It was one of those autumnal days that must have inspired Keats to write 'a season of mists and mellow fruitfulness'.

At the campsite there were good numbers of Hirundines still around, mainly juvenile Swallows and House Martins feeding up before heading out to sea upon their onward journey. Around the headland itself there were numerous insects and butterflies feeding on the autumn fruits and flowers but not much in the way of migrant passerines. A couple of Chiffs and Goldcrests being the best there. The story was the same at the Pallas's Lane where we at least had one if not two Blackcaps. Hurley's Lane was similarily quiet with just a single Chiffer there and a Spotted Flycatcher along the Holy Ground lane was bird of the day, well 'spotted' (ahem) by Ian. We gave the Hume's garden 10 minutes only. I suspect we may have overlooked the Firecrest which was found there the next day but by then we were starting to tire and migrant numbers were thin on the ground otherwise.
I suggested we head over towards Cobh and see if the regular Sabine's Gull was on show. Shown now to have been coming every autumn since 2003, it's a remarkable bird really. Possibly reaching its twilight years it'd be nice to reacquaint myself with this individual in case this is its final autumn. However our luck was out, no sign of the bird from Kennedy Pier and nowhere to be seen at Cuskinny either. Two soaring Buzzards were a nice sight though.
It was 3pm by now and Denis and Ian needed to hit the road back to Dublin. I decided to give it another hour back at Kennedy Pier in case the Sabine's decided to show. Around 4pm I received a call from Dara Fitzpatrick who had just come across 2 Dotterel in a stubble field over at Robert's Cove. Dotterel is a lifer for me. But now I had a quandary. If I went over for the Dotterel I would be unlikely to get back home by 6.30pm in time to watch old foes Leinster and Munster battle it out in the Rabo Direct Pro 12 league (rugby, in case you didn't know and I'm a long time Leinster supporter). This was a real test, birding or rugby.........the Dotterel won (and I was sky-plussing the match anyway). I reached Robert's Cove in 40 minutes. Dara had kindly waited for me at Harbour Inn. We were joined by Seanie Bourke and made our way up the path and out along the headland to the very final field where Dara had first picked them up. We scanned the stubble field as a Hen Harrier quartered the ditch at the far end. It didn't take too long to pick out these two little heads poking up out of the cut corn. Lifers for all three of us, we took scope views first before beginning to approach a little closer.

Eurasian Dotterel, Robert's Cove, Cork - 6th October 2012
Once Seanie and Dara had 'filled their boots' I began to approach for some shots. The birds were remarkably tame although it was tricky to get an unobstructed shot as they fed amongst the corn stalks. Within about 20 feet they would grow wary and begin to walk away, so that was close enough. At that distant they looked truly stunning, a striking pale supercilium that meets at the back of the head, both busy feeding on insects about 5 or 6 feet apart but regularily calling to each other.


Eurasian Dotterel, Robert's Cove, Cork - 6th October 2012
Satisfied with my views and shots we left the birds happily feeding away in the field. I even managed to make it home for the end of the first half of the match (Leinster won by the way :-))
The next day I headed back to Knockadoon Head for the Firecrest. Poor light, lots of cover and a small bird meant I had to give up the idea of any pics but it's a year tick nonetheless and always a smashing bird to see.
Galway has just had an amazing purple patch. A first WP record in Eastern Kingbird, two Myrtle Warblers and a Blackpoll Warbler today, all on Inishmore not to mention a Belted Kingfisher near Letterfrack. Are the Aran Islands about to become the new Scilly? Hugh, you've really put them on the map. Well done mate!

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