Monday, 21 May 2018

The trip to Tory - part two

The next morning we were all up and out by 7am for more Corncrake photography and to check for migrants. On Tory, the most obvious place to check is the famous 'Magic Bush'. It has previously hosted such mega rarities as Paddyfield Warbler and Collared Flycatcher. However, this morning it was a lot more modest with just Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler. A Corncrake sang from the nettles clumps in the adjacent paddock (we called him Peadair!). 

The famous 'Magic Bush'
We stopped for breakfast at 9.30am and then met up at the pier for 10.30am where Rob had organised a boat trip to look for White-billed Diver.

Our vessel for the day - The Laura Dean

The boat took us east along the southern edge of Tory and rounded the cliffs at the easterly end which is called Tormor. We had great views of the many Puffins on sea as well as Razorbills, Guillemots (including some ‘bridled’ birds) and Kittiwakes. After that we headed out into the sound between the Donegal mainland and Tory Island itself to look for White-billed Divers. Despite the numerous pairs of eyes on board, we struggled to see anything. We had Ger Murray with a scope on the island guiding us via mobile phone to a diver that was 600 metres or so in front of us but we couldn’t find it. I guess between the pitching boat in a heavy swell and the bird itself diving, we missed it. By 2pm we were all getting a little despondent and some were getting a little queasy when Polina livened up proceedings by chucking bits of her baguette off the back of the boat. This brought in a good few hungry gulls including one 3 cy (?) Iceland Gull and then several very brutish Great Skuas. We all ended up chucking our lunches away just to keep the show going – I even sacrificed a bag of Tayto Snax!

Iceland Gull

Iceland Gull

Scrambling for some baguette

Great Skua joins the melee

Great Skua
We returned to Tory Island at 5pm and spent the remaining hours between then and dinner with the Corncrakes where I managed to get a few more decent shots – I think it was the same bird from the previous day (which at this stage I had christened Liam). He was craking loudly from a small clump of nettles in the corner of a little paddock just off the main street of west town. After a lengthy wait he broke cover from his nettle bed, paused briefly on the stone wall before slipping over the other side and out of site. He seemed to have a circuit and I figured that if you waited in the one spot for long enough, he’d eventually pass your way.

Corncrake - Tory Island, Co. Donegal
That night we had dinner in the hotel which was relatively quiet at first but, a combination of a stag do, a bunch of first Holy Communions and a reception for the Donegal Rose (who happens to be from Tory Island) meant the place was jammed by 11pm.

A thorn amongst the Roses!

Good and all as the atmos’ in the hotel bar was, I knew that one more beer might be the tipping point, so we baled out at around 11.30pm and headed back to the B&B. I slept soundly until 7am although Nick was once again awakened at 5am by the Corncrake at the rear of the B&B – can’t say I’d be too upset with that type of alarm call. (we incidentally decided that this particular Crake was called Padraig).

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