Saturday, 23 November 2019

Autumn and Cape Clear - Part 2

By morning time the rain had cleared although the wind was brisk. Brian, myself and Nick squeezed in a little pre-breakfast birding, but it was fairly quiet.
I've stayed before at the Ard na Gaoithe B&B and one of the highlights (for me at least) are the hearty full Irish breakfasts. One of these will keep you going for the entire day!



The full Cape Clear!

By the time we'd finished breakfast and phoned KLM / Aer Lingus looking for updates on our missing luggage, Victor Cashera had found a yellow hippo in Michael Vincent's garden and Dick Coombes had found a Wryneck on the High Road to Lough Errul. So it seemed an obvious decision to head over to that side of the island. Unfortunately we didn't see the Wryneck and the hippo had disappearred into the field of gorse opposite Michael Vincent's. At this stage it's identification as Melodious or Icterine was unknown. Brian and I birded down through Olly gulley whilst Nick continued on towards the Wheatear field. None of us turned up anything of significance.
In the afternoon we birded the east side of the island, we had a little of note but did manage to connect with Firecrest at the Post Office which had been found a few days previously.


Firecrest, Post Office, Cape Clear Island, Cork

North Harbour Cape Clear as viewed from the A1

The day's weather (Saturday) was a big improvement on previous days and hopes were that if anything had reached the island during those few days of strong westerlies and heavy rain then today was the day it would be found.
After breakfast we meandered over towards the western side of the island intending to check Olly Gulley and the bogs for new arrivals. This time we managed to see the Wryneck along the High Road and had just arrived at Michael Vincent's hoping to see the Melodious / Icterine when news on the Irish Birders Whatsapp group came up............. 'REV in the priest's garden'. So, cue a mass exodus of birders from the area!
By the time we arrived it had relocated to the Youth Hostel garden and whilst the majority of birders present got to see it as it foraged through a small sycamore in the garden, I didn't see it at all. And then it just seemed to vanish! Most people then trooped off to Siopa Beag to watch the Ireland v. Samoa Rugby World Cup match but I preferred to stay and search for the REV. Fortunately Tom Shevlin picked it up again in the bracken covered slope at the back of the Priest's garden and both him and I enjoyed views down to about 10 feet!

Red-eyed Vireo, Cape Clear Island, Cork

Red-eyed Vireo, Cape Clear Island, Cork

Catching gnats - Red-eyed Vireo, Cork
I was more than happy with the views I got and decided to spend some time with the Melodious / Icterine in Michael Vincent's to see if I could get any shots that would assist with its identification.
Michael Vincent's garden is pretty overgrown, I remember twitching a Myrtle Warbler there in 2010 and it being full of cats but Michael Vincent himself passed on a few years ago and while there are now no cats, there is lots more cover. 
I eventually got a brief view of the bird as it paused on a low pine branch, sadly though a frond of grass obscured my shot and the bird's angle didn't quite give away the length of the primary projection. However, I could see these blueish / grey legs and a head shape, that for me away, reminded me of the many Icterine's I'd seen in Latvia.

Melodious / Icterine Warbler, Michael Vincent's garden, Cape Clear Island

I met with Nick and we both headed back via the High Road to the B&B. Passing near where the Wryneck had been earlier Nick spotted the bird perched atop a small gorse bush. It dropped down out of view behind a stone wall but soon popped out in the open feeding within 20 feet of the road. Affording me the best views of any Wryneck I've ever seen in Ireland.*

Wryneck - High Road, Cape Clear Island

Wryneck - High Road, Cape Clear Island

Cotter's Bar was buzzing that night. Stuart McKee had compiled a great wee video account of his times birding on Cape during the 80's, 90's and early 00's. I hope it appears on Youtube some day.

A captive audience enjoys 'Stuartie's' excellent documentary

A creamy pint of Murphy's to celebrate a great day of Cape birding - REV, Melodious and Wryneck (Seamus Feeney looking deep in thought beside me!)
On our final day Sunday we tried for better shots of the REV which by now had relocated to a circuit around Brid's garden. This was the best image I could manage.



Meanwhile, better views were had of the Melodious / Icterine Warbler. Despite the blue / grey legs and hint of a pale secondary panel, a short primary projection confirmed that it was a Melodious Warbler - like REV, only my second in Ireland so an equally good bird in that respect.
We caught the 4pm ferry off Cape and overnighted in Cork city. Nick took an early flight back to Heathrow whilst I still had a time to bird Galley Head before an evening flight back to Norwich via Amsterdam. A few Blackcaps were the best on Galley but it was excellent to bump into Galley Head residents Ciaran Cronin and Colin Barton.

Ciaran Cronin (and daughter), Colin Barton and myself
 


*Footnote here - I've only seen three Wrynecks in Ireland and they've all been on Cape Clear Island.




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