Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Winter draws in

I wanted to check the report of a female / immature type Surf Scoter at Ballybrannigan Strand. Brian Lynch had found one there on Sunday afternoon and photos on Irishbirding looked like the real deal. I missed the bird earlier in the year over at Garretstown so this would be a year tick. Interestingly when I first ticked Surf Scoter it was a bird that Brian had found way back in January 2007 over at Carrigrennan Point. So he has a good track record here!
Once again I was a bit slow getting out of the starting blocks. I'm a little pre-occupied these days with our pending relocation to the UK. Our move date is coming down the tracks very fast and there is still so much to do.

Over at Ballybrannigan though there was no sign of the Surf Scoter. The sea looked pretty angry so maybe the bird had moved further out, away from the crashing surf.
The evening was drawing in and I had two choices. Check Roches Point Lighthouse for a Black Redstart (never seen one there but I always felt it has the potential) or visit an east Cork harrier roost.
I went with the Harrier option, quietly hoping to find a juvenile Pallid or another Northern but realistically the sight of four or five birds quartering the bracken before dropping down to roost would be enough.
I reached the roost site at 4.30pm and a single ringtail Hen Harrier was already present. It was getting a whole bag of hassle from two Hooded Crows and so it wasn't long before it drifted off over the far fields.

A Hoodie swoops up as the ringtail dangles it legs
A moment of peace from the Hoodies

I stood there on my own waiting for more harriers to arrive. It's funny, weeks ago at the same spot, a mild evening, the sun dipping amongst the autumn colours, it was a lovely place to be. But this was different, bare branches, a cold wind, a grey sky and some drizzle thrown in for good measure. It was a lonely spot now. The light continued to fade and the ringtail appeared again, a lone Hooded Crow continued to harass it. I waited for more harriers but only one showed. That's worrying, last year at the same spot it wasn't unusual to have up to five birds. What's going on, was last summer a breeding disaster for them? I hope not.
A pair of Ravens croaked overhead and a Peregrine dashed by. By 5pm, the light was as good as gone. It felt spooky and I needed to be home within the hour. I folded up my tripod and trudged back along the path to the car hoping that the solitary ringtail had been joined by some comrades after I left.

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