Thursday, 30 October 2014

Seatrack: final survey of 2014

The final Seatrack survey weekend of the season takes place this Sat 1st/Sun 2nd November with a start time of 08:25am (preference given to Sat 1st if possible so as to link in with other coastal seabird surveys being conducted by BirdLife Europe partners in France, Spain and Portugal).

Yet another Atlantic low pressure system will produce winds veering from Southwest to West over the weekend, hopefully conjuring up some good seawatching for observers on the Celtic Sea coast as well as along the Atlantic seaboard.

Some rather excellent late autumn seawatching continued over the past week or so with four species of shearwater seen from coastal headlands and islands in Co. Cork where small numbers of Balearic, Great and Manx Shearwaters were found among triple figure counts of Sooty Shearwaters. Strong Westerly winds coupled with an aggregation of Sprat saw a hive of feeding seabird activity in Galway Bay where impressive numbers of Kittiwakes, Gannets and skuas (particularly Arctic and Pomarine) were noted along with sightings of Leach's Storm-petrel and Little Gull. For an excellent series of pics from Galway Bay see the following blog posts by Dermot Breen and Cathal Forkan.

With the forecast for decent seawatching conditions this weekend, perhaps some Little Auks may be on the cards, particularly for those in the West and Northwest? Seawatchers should also keep an eye out for migrating divers and wildfowl with counts of Great Northern Diver, Barnacle Goose, Greenland White-fronted Goose and Whooper Swan making it into recent sightings reports.

If you would like to take part in this weekends Seatrack survey or wish to send on any additional seawatching records you've collated so far this season then please get in touch with Niall Keogh (Seatrack project co-ordinator) at seatrack@birdwatchireland.ie


Balearic Shearwater from the R.V. Celtic Explorer, south of Roche's Point Co. Cork, 23rd October 2014 © Niall T. Keogh

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Seatrack: mid-October update

The second last Seatrack survey weekend of the season takes place this Sat 18th/Sun 19th October with a start time of 09:00am.

Whilst the current weather predictions for the coming weekend are constantly changing, it would appear that the south coast will be the place to be with strong south to southwest winds and rain coming off the back of post-tropical storm Fay and likely to produce a few late autumn goodies. 

This past week has seen some excellent tallies of Balearic Shearwaters in Co. Cork with 30 passing the Old Head of Kinsale plus a separate 15 seen passing Galley Head on 8th October. Seabird rarities typically associated with late August continue to feature with a Barolo Shearwater seen eight miles off Quilty, Co. Clare on 7th Oct and both a Fea's-type Petrel and a Wilson's Storm-petrel seen several miles to the southeast of Galley Head on 10th Oct, all noted from the R.V. Celtic Explorer which is currently running transect lines through the Celtic Sea as part of the annual Celtic Sea Herring Acoustic Survey. In addition, several Great Shearwaters and Pomarine Skuas plus good numbers of European Storm-petrels along with Sabine's Gull, Grey Phalarope etc. have also been seen from the ship in the waters south of Cork/Waterford in recent days. The seabirds are certainly still out there!

If you would like to take part in this weekends Seatrack survey or wish to send on any additional seawatching records you've collated so far this season then please get in touch with Niall Keogh (Seatrack project co-ordinator) at seatrack@birdwatchireland.ie

Balearic Shearwaters West of Cape Clear, taken from the R.V. Celtic Explorer © Niall T. Keogh

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Seatrack: early October update

The fifth Seatrack survey weekend of the season takes place this Sat 4th/Sun 5th October with a start time of 08:30am (preference given to Sat 4th if possible so as to link in with other coastal seabird surveys being conducted by BirdLife Europe partners in France, Spain and Portugal). 

The current forecast for the weekend looks quite promising with a low pressure system originating off the southern end Greenland and stretching across the mid-Atlantic set to create moderate Westerly winds along the Atlantic seaboard on Saturday with increasing Southwest winds benefiting Southern watchpoints on Sunday.

Pomarine Skuas will hopefully be the order of the day for many Seatrackers on this next survey. When favourable seawatching conditions coincide with their late Autumn migration period it can be a real treat! An increase in the number of migrating Gannets, Kittiwakes and auks should also be apparent.

If you would like to take part in this weekends Seatrack survey or wish to send on any additional seawatching records you've collated so far this season then please get in touch with Niall Keogh (Seatrack project co-ordinator) at seatrack@birdwatchireland.ie


Pomarine Skua © Jason McGuirk

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Cetaceans on the Frontier 6


A team of seabird observers are once again present on board the Marine Institutes research vessel, the R.V. Celtic Explorer during the sixth Cetaceans on the Frontier cruise to take place since 2009. The team will join a group of marine mammal observers from the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group and Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology in surveying offshore fauna along Ireland's Atlantic margin.

To keep to speed with all the latest sightings and pics from the trip please see the project blog and Facebook page.

Blog: www.cetaceansonthefrontier.blogspot.ie

Facebook page: www.facebook.com/cetaceansonthefrontier





Thursday, 4 September 2014

Seatrack: early-September update

The third Seatrack survey weekend of the season takes place this Sat 6th/Sun 7th September with a start time of 07:45am (preference given to Sat 6th if possible so as to link in with other coastal seabird surveys being conducted by BirdLife Europe partners in France, Spain and Portugal). 

The forecast for the weekend is set to be calm with light East to Northeast winds across much of the country. True passage may be slow but we will be interested to know of any feeding flocks present inshore during the calm weather so please do keep an eye out for any 'milling' seabirds. Observers surveying in the East may be affected by strong morning sunshine so an alternative evening watch with a start time of 16:05pm is suggested if necessary.

Reports of the Critically Endangered Balearic Shearwater have been widespread so far this season but in typically low numbers with 1-3 birds at a time seen during seawatches from coastal headlands across eight different counties between Donegal and Wexford.

If you would like to take part in this weekends Seatrack survey or wish to send on any additional seawatching records you've collated so far this season then please get in touch with Niall Keogh (Seatrack project co-ordinator) at seatrack@birdwatchireland.ie

A new seabird blog featuring news updates and posts from BirdLife Europe partners in Ireland, UK, France, Spain and Portugal can be found here, or follow on Twitter by searching and posting using the hashtag #saveseabirds 

Balearic Shearwater off Baltimore, Co. Cork, 24th August 2014 © Robert Vaughan

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Bridges of Ross 31st August 2014

Time: 0710-1000
Weather: F2-3 S, dry, mild & good visibility.
Observers: Niall T. Keogh, Neal Warnock, Victor Caschera, Jimmy Dowdall, Eamonn MacLochlainn, John Power, Ger Murray, Des Higgins, Bernie Sheridan, Dave Fox et al.

Common Scoter: 1
'Blue' Fulmar: 1 'D'
Sooty Shearwater: 28
Manx Shearwater: 1,250 in 1.25 hrs 
European Storm-petrel: 2
Arctic Skua: 1
Sandwich Tern: 6
Arctic Tern: 8

Bar-tailed Godwit: 8
Whimbrel: 1

Leatherback Turtle: 1 @ 0905 (NWarnock)

The sea returned to a calm state once more for our final mornings seawatch. A light but steady passage of Manxies contained quite a few Sooties and a nice 'Blue' Fulmar (I guess it's the same bird which has been seen on several seawatches this past week or so). 

Neal connected with a surfacing Leatherback Turtle ensuring at least one made it into the records for our annual watch effort on site. Typically it was an all to brief encounter and difficult to get other observers on to. Luck of the draw! The Bridges of Ross is a particularly good spot for seeing them so with a bit of patience and careful scanning close in on calms days you'd stand a reasonable chance of seeing one, especially if there are plenty of Ocean Sunfish about it would seem based on previous years experience.

Hoping to make it back here later in September for a few more days seawatching so stay tuned!

Evening light at BoR © Neal Warnock

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Bridges of Ross 30th August 2014

Time: 0630-1810
Weather: F5 NW, dry, mild & good visibility.
Observers: Niall T. Keogh, Neal Warnock, Victor Caschera, Jimmy Dowdall, Eamonn MacLochlainn, John Power, Lee Gregory, Tom Buckley, Ger Murray, Des Higgins, Brian Porter, Tom Shevlin, Hugh Delaney, Aidan Moore, Dave Branagh, Bernie Sheridan, Dave Fox, John N. Murphy, Jarlath Coyle et al.

Common Scoter: 14
Red-throated Diver: 1 breeding plumage
Great Shearwater: 1
Sooty Shearwater: 50+
Manx Shearwater: 3,500 in first hour then 2000+ decreasing to 500+ per hour thereafter
Balearic Shearwater: 1
Wilson's Storm-petrel: 1 @ 09:22 (Lee Gregory et al.)
European Storm-petrel: 2
Leach's Storm-petrel: 15
Great Skua (Bonxie): 20
Arctic Skua: 5
Puffin: 2
Sandwich Tern: 51
Arctic Tern: c.75
Sabine's Gull: 5 (1 adult-type & 4 juveniles)
Little Gull: 2 juveniles/1st-winters

Peregrine: 1 juvenile


Common Dolphin: 8-10
Ocean Sunfish: 1

A busy start first thing, similar to yesterday but without the same level or rhythm of species diversity as yesterday. Saying that, an enjoyable few hours all the same. Whilst scanning through the seemingly relentless & uniform passage of Manxies, Lee happened upon a Wilson's Storm-petrel which caught us on the hop and showed up well to the left, only viewable for a brief period before disappearing over the ridge but thankfully at close range. The bird was in active moult with old outer primaries and new/growing inner primaries/secondaries and a short (half length) carpal bar. Great to see that bouncing flight style again! Fairly quiet for the rest of the afternoon & evening save for a trickle of Bonxies and a few showy Leach's every now & then.


Leach's Storm-petrel © Niall Keogh

Arctic Skua © Niall Keogh


Great Skua © Niall Keogh