Tuesday, 23 October 2012

A little bit 'fly'

Inishmore continues to steal the show and the drudgery goes on in Cork. I guess we had it good for so long, we were due a bad autumn. I was almost tempted to travel for the Olive-backed Pipit. I set the alarm for 5am hoping to make the 10.30am ferry from Rossaveal. However at 2am I was still staring at the ceiling. There and then I cancelled my plans to travel, needing to be back the same evening, there was no way I'd drive for 8 hours on just 3 hours sleep.
Tuesday morning looked dull and dreary but the Red-breasted Flycatcher at Dirk Bay on Galley Head might be worth going for. A year tick and always a great bird to see. I texted Colin Barton to see if it had been seen that morning but Colin hadn't managed to make it out to Dirk at that stage. I decided to chance it and go anyway. Shortly before reaching Galley Head a tweet confimed it was still there. I arrived at the top of the lane leading down to Dirk Bay and parked up on the grass verge alongside Sean Cronin's jeep. I grabbed my gear and started on my way down the hill to the little wood at the end where I assumed the bird would be. The path down is a pleasure, nice views and an easy descent even with heavy optics, the way back would be different!

The road down to Dirk Bay, Galley Head, Cork - 23rd October 2012
The light didn't look great but at least there was no fog or drizzle. When I reached the end of the lane I climbed up the very slippery slope into the wood where Sean was already in place and had just heard and seen the bird a few moments earlier.
After a couple of minutes we both picked it up, restlessly flitting about high in the sycamores. The light was dire though and if it stayed up against the pale, grey sky then shots would be nigh impossible.
I think in total both Sean and I gave it just over an hour and we both enjoyed good binocular views but little enough opportunities for taking photos. At one stage it moved down to eye level just as another birder emerged behind it. The bird dived for cover and stayed hidden. That was 1pm. Sean left, I stayed with the other birder (a UK visitor I think) and for the next 2 hours neither of us saw or heard anything. At 3pm, cold, stiff, hungry and in need of a 'bio-break' I left the wood and trudged all the way back up the steep hill to where I had parked my car. I drove back down, parked up and had my lunch. Feeling a bit more 'ship-shape and bristol-fashion' I decided to give it another go. It was 3.30pm and by now I was on my own (the other guy had thrown the towel in and left without seeing the bird). I headed back up into the woods and parked myself down amongst the bracken and the brambles. I'd thrown a few extra layers on me and had brought a little foam pad to lie on. I perched the camera and lens up on the tripod and waited. Another hour passed and no sign, not a sound! I was beginning to think the Sparrowhawk that had dashed through earlier had dined on the little chap. Every so often I'd hear a Yellow-browed Warbler call from high up in the sycamores but I couldn't seem to pin down where it was. Then at about 4.45pm I heard that distinct soft rattling call. I waited another minute and then below me in the woods about 20 feet away the bird appeared flitting around an ivy covered tree. For the next 20 minutes or so it was busy feeding and calling in the general area below me. There were times when it would seem to hear the sound of my camera shutter and it would fly up into the sycamore directly above me and check me out. Great close views through the bins but useless for photographs. It was great to get my ear in on its distinct rattling call............'wren-like' yes! but softer, not quite so rapid and with occasional soft little 'ticks' added in. A really lovely bird and only my fourth one in Ireland. It posed about 30 feet away for some shots before the light truly packed in and I called it a day.

1st winter Red-breasted Flycatcher - Dirk Bay, Galley Head, Cork - 23rd October 2012

When I returned to the car I accidently set the alarm off. Talk about shattering the silence. It took me about 30 seconds to dig my keys out and knock it off. I was breathing a little a sigh of relief once the ringing had stopped when my ears were met with a loud Yellow-browed Warbler call. Assuming I had accidently activated the call on my smart-phone I started digging around through my many layers yet again. When I finally fished out the phone I realised that it wasn't what was making the call. There about 10 feet in front of me in the fuschia was the Yellow-browed Warbler. As I raised the camera for a shot it flew towards me and sat up in the sycamore. I got one shot in the fading light before it took off again into the woods.

Yellow-browed Warbler - Dirk Bay, Galley Head, Cork - 23rd October 2012
Just then Micky Sull appeared, we chatted briefly but he was anxious to see the RB Fly so with the light really going he headed off up into the woods and I headed for home.

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