Friday 22 November 2019

Autumn and Cape Clear Island - Part 1

It had been 7 long years since I last set foot on Cape Clear Island and in Nick’s case 23 long years. Last year’s futile effort to get there was put to the side and on Thursday 10th October 2019 we travelled from Norwich to Cork via Amsterdam arriving in Cork airport at 10am that morning. 

Aer Lingus flight from Amsterdam to Cork awaiting our arrival!

Sadly though, our luggage decided to spend the weekend in Amsterdam! That necessitated a stop-off in the town of Bandon en route to the Cape Clear ferry in Baltimore to buy socks, jocks, waterproofs and thermals – you don’t do Cape without rainwear!
Anyway – we made a detour to Toe Head, a place I hadn’t birded previously, but has a track record for American migrants (Common Yellowthroat and REV). We arrived just as a band of thick misty rain swept off the Atlantic, our new waterproofs were put to the test. By the time we reached the last garden the rain finally stopped and I managed to dig out a Lesser Whitethroat and on the road between Toe and Skibbereen we came across this rather tame (and presumably fresh-in) Turtle Dove.

Turtle Dove, Toe Head, Cork - October 2019
We reached Baltimore in plenty of time for the 5.30pm ferry to Cape and rendezvoused with my old mate Brian Lynch, whom I hadn’t seen since I left Cork in 2013.

Cape Clear Ferry

We were met at the pier on Cape by Mary Cadogan (Cape Clear’s bus driver and finder of Ireland’s first Veery). She dropped us up to our base for the next few days, the Ard na Gaoithe B&B on the Lighthouse Road. Thankfully Triona Leonard had a full fire going so we were able to dry our soggy boots!
We changed quickly before heading back down the road to Cotter’s bar. Despite the fact that they weren’t doing food that night, they took pity on us and rustled up some fish and chips! I think it’d be hard to find hospitality like that in many other places……and even harder to find such good pint of Murphy’s.

Bird warden Steve Wing calls the log in Cotter's Bar, Cape Clear Island

That night I awoke to the sound of the wind and rain lashing against my bedroom window. All that separated me in my cosy bedroom from the Atlantic and beyond was a mile or so of fields and bog. I peered out into the darkness and could make out the reassuring beam of Fastnet lighthouse. Fingers crossed that it was guiding some North American waif onto the island!

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