Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Bridges of Ross 26th August 2014

Time: 0700-1000 & 1130-1825
Weather: F3 NE, dry, sunny & good visibility.
Observers: Niall T. Keogh, Neal Warnock, Des Higgins, Peter Gluth, Peter Colston, Victor Caschera, Jimmy Dowdall, John Power, Lee Gregory, Stephen Hack, Simon Dennis et al.

Common Scoter: 2
Great Northern Diver: 1 2cy type 
Sooty Shearwater: 17
Manx Shearwater: 2,350 in 4.75 hr (pm)
European Storm-petrel: 1
Great Skua (Bonxie): 4
Arctic Skua: 8
Sandwich Tern: 3
Arctic Tern: 11
Kittiwake: 70 (incl. 52 juvs)
Razorbill: 49
Guillemot: 18

Peregrine: 1 adult
Swift: 1

Common Dolphin: 4+
Basking Shark: 7 (incl. 2 full breaching)
Ocean Sunfish: 1-2 (incl. 1 breaching)

Highlight of the day was undoubtedly the Basking Sharks, which like the Humpback Whale on Sunday, were the first I've seen since I began seawatching here in August 2001. A group of three individuals were seen milling about together plus another two singles at the surface and a further two fully breaching! Whacky looking creatures out of the water!

The first diver of the season, a late Swift & a male Common Scoter sat on the sea off the watch point (odd for here) were the best of the avian rest.

Basking Shark
Common Scoter

Monday, 25 August 2014

Swinhoe's Storm-petrel @ Bridges of Ross 25th August 2014

Time: 0730-1000 & 1430-1900
Weather: F4 SE, dry & sunny (am), intermittent showers (pm) & good visibility.
Observers: Niall T. Keogh, Neal Warnock, Des Higgins, Peter Gluth, Peter Colston, Sharon Hogan, Andy Marshall, Victor Caschera, Jimmy Dowdall, John Power, Lee Gregory, Stephen Hack, Simon Dennis et al.

Balearic Shearwater: 2
Sooty Shearwater: 6
Manx Shearwater: 90 in 1 hr (am) & up to 2000 in 1 hr (pm)
Swinhoe's Storm-petrel: 1 west @ 18:05 (SHack et al.)
Great Skua (Bonxie): 1
Arctic Skua: 3
Sandwich Tern: 1
Arctic Tern: 7

Loop Head (1330-1815):
Sooty Shearwater: 6
Manx Shearwater: up to 3,000 milling/rafting/passage South
Pomarine Skua: 1
Arctic Skua: 6
Arctic Tern: 10
Sabine's Gull: 1 adult

Another not so classic day of seawatching weather but a milling flock of Manxies moving between The Bridges & Loop Head with Sooties & skuas in attendance gave us something to look at.

The magic moment for those present at The Bridges of Ross in the evening came at 18:05 when UK birder Stephen Hack picked up a Swinhoe's Storm-petrel heading West. The bird was on show for about four minutes allowing seven lucky seawatchers to get onto it. This is the second record of Swinhoe's for The Bridges following one seen here on 15th August 1985 by Tom Tarpey. Not the first time a mega seabird has drifted by here in SE winds either (Fea's & Barolo have done the same) just going to show that the rewards are there for those willing to put in the effort. A great find and a great 400th Irish tick for John Power! Congratulations to all who saw it.

Unfortunately the author was seawatching from the tip of Loop Head at the time. That's what you get for abandoning your post! ;)

Rafting Manxies off Loop Head © Niall Keogh
Nice evening light at Loop Head © Niall Keogh

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Bridges of Ross 24th August 2014

Time: 0800-1000 & 1330-1800
Weather: F4 SE, intermittent showers (light) & good visibility.
Observers: Niall T. Keogh, Neal Warnock, Des Higgins, Peter Gluth, Peter Colston, Sharon Hogan, Andy Marshall, Victor Caschera, Jimmy Dowdall, John Power, Lee Gregory et al.

Common Scoter: 4
'Blue' Fulmar: 1
Sooty Shearwater: 1
Manx Shearwater: 200 in 15 mins (am) & 25 in 4.5 hrs (pm)
Arctic Skua: 2
Sandwich Tern: 1
Arctic Tern: 6
Sabine's Gull: 1 adult

Ruff: 1 past the watch point
Raven: 3 around the watch point

Humpback Whale: 1 breaching
Minke Whale: 1 breaching
Common Dolphin: 20+ feeding
Bottlenose Dolphin: 4

The weather couldn't have been any worse for seawatching! Relatively calm seas & a breezy offshore wind. Not ideal! But great for cetacean watching, of which there was plenty. Yesterday's splashing/blowing unidentified whale sp. was confirmed first thing this morning as a fantastic breaching Humpback Whale, a rare sighting in this part of the world away from the hub of acivity to be found further South around The Blaskets in Kerry. In fact, it was my first record of this species here in 13 years of effort between mid-August & mid-September. The breaching Minke added to the excitement along with leaping Common Dolphins & cruising Bottlenose.

The cetacean craze continued in the afternoon when some of us joined the IWDG Whale Watch Day event at Loop Head. From here we had nice views of 5 Bottlenose Dolphins and better numbers of seabirds (albeit distant) than from The Bridges. Rafts of 100's of Manxies held an adult Sabine's Gull, a dark morph Arctic Skua & a Sooty Shearwater.

Elsewhere, a flock of 22 Chough were seen at The Fodry, 2 juvenile Ruff were present at Kilcredaun marsh and a Little Egret at Cloghaun Lough which was a good local record.

Bottlenose Dolphin off Loop Head © Niall Keogh
IWDG Whale Watch Day at Loop Head © Niall Keogh

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Bridges of Ross 23rd August 2014

Time: 0730-1905
Weather: F3 N (am), F3 NW (pm), dry, sunny & good visibility.
Observers: Niall T. Keogh, Neal Warnock, Des Higgins, Peter Gluth, Peter Colston, Sharon Hogan, Andy Marshall, Victor Caschera, Jimmy Dowdall, John Power, Dave Fox, Paul Keating, John N. Murphy, Finbarr MacGabhann, BirdWatch Ireland Clare Branch et al.

Balearic Shearwater: 2
Sooty Shearwater: 6
Manx Shearwater: 1200 East in 30 mins (am) & 485 West in 4.5 hrs (pm)
Arctic Skua: 6
Sandwich Tern: 1
Arctic Tern: 29
Black Guillemot: 1

Chough: 2 around the watch point

Ocean Sunfish: 1
Minke Whale: 1
Unidentified Whale sp: 1
Common Dolphin: 3

A short but busy passage of distant Manx Shearwaters going the ‘wrong’ way early in the morning probably accounted for most of the birds which drifted back the ‘right’ way throughout the afternoon. Both Balearics were typical in that they were on their own & quite close in, one of which put on a good show for the participants of the BirdWatch Ireland Clare Branch outing. 

The most tantalising sighting of the day related to a series of large, distant splashes from a breaching whale which was also seen to produce a blow on one occasion, behaviour suggestive of Humpback more than anything else but not confirmed unfortunately.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Bridges of Ross 22nd August 2014

Time: 0640-0940 & 1410-1820
Weather: F1-2 W (am), F3-4 NW (pm), dry & good visibility.
Observers: Niall T. Keogh, Neal Warnock, Des Higgins, Davey Farrer, Peter Gluth, Peter Colston, Sharon Hogan, Andy Marshall et al.

Balearic Shearwater: 1
Sooty Shearwater: 4
Manx Shearwater: 600 (am) & 465 (pm)
Arctic Skua: 3
Great Skua (Bonxie): 3
Arctic Tern: 3

Peregrine: 1 attempting to catch an Oystercatcher

Bottlenose Dolphin: 3 west @ 0830
Common Dolphin: 3 milling/logging @ 1510

Another slow day(!) which allowed for the surrounding gardens & marshes to be given a thorough going over, producing no more than a juv Ruff at Kilcredaun marsh, a Common Sandpiper at Kilbaha pool & a few juv Willow Warblers scattered about the place.

Arctic Skua © Niall Keogh

There will be a BirdWatch Ireland Clare Branch outing to The Bridges of Ross tomorrow to view migrating seabirds plus a chance of other marine wildlife such as Bottlenose Dolphin & Ocean Sunfish.

The meeting point will be at the car park at 09:00am from where it is a short walk on easy terrain the watch point.

The outing is free & all are welcome to attend. It is advised that participants bring along binoculars and/or telescopes with them in order to make the most of it but there will be some telescopes available to look through on the day as provided by event organisers.

We hope to see you there!

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Bridges of Ross 21st August 2014

Time: 0630-1030 & 1150-1820
Weather: F3-4 W-NW, intermittent showers & mod-good visibility.
Observers: Niall T. Keogh, Neal Warnock, Des Higgins, Keith Langdon, Simon Mitchell, Reg Land, Will Soar, Davey Farrer, Peter Gluth, Peter Colston et al.

Common Scoter: 7
‘Blue’ Fulmar: 1 intermediate (L)
Sooty Shearwater: 21
Manx Shearwater: c.1,000 in 4 hrs (pm)
European Storm Petrel: 6
Grey Phalarope: 1 juv.
Arctic Skua: 5
Long-tailed Skua: 1 juvenile @ 1615
Great Skua (Bonxie): 11
Sandwich Tern: 4
Arctic Tern: 14
Sabine’s Gull: 1 adult

Choppy seas with a backing wind from the right direction made for a hopeful afternoon watch with a decent run (by recent standards apparently) of 600 Manx in an hour at close quarters during drizzly squalls. All quietened down fairly quickly after that however but not before a juv Long-tail Skua gave an all too quick flyby at super close range to wake us all up! The adult Sabine’s Gull showed well early doors and a few overhead and/or behind the watch point passing Bonxies were good value too.

A slow start but a good day for ‘getting the eye in’!

The first of what will no doubt be many iPhone-scoped seabird pics to feature on the blog over the next 10 days... today's subject, a Bonxie © Niall Keogh

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Seatrack: mid-August update

The second Seatrack survey weekend of the season takes place this Sat 16th/Sun 17th August with a start time of 07:10am. Current weather forecasts give the best conditions along the Atlantic seaboard with moderate West to Northwest winds hopefully producing some decent seawatching between Mayo & Donegal, particularly on Saturday morning.

This past week saw lots of media attention focusing on the arrival of the weather system affectionately known as 'ex-Bertha'. This post-tropical cyclone was followed up by a Northwesterly low pressure system, producing some nice seawatching at headlands along the West coast from Galley Head to Malin. Flavour of the month so far has been Cory's Shearwater which has graced the notebooks of many a seawatcher, albeit in small numbers. Along with these have been the first Sabine's Gulls & Grey Phalaropes of the season, small numbers of skuas and Balearic, Sooty & Great Shearwaters.

At the rarer end of the scale, singles of Wilson's Petrel were noted from The Bridges of Ross, Co. Clare on 8th & 12th August. Furthermore, there's been a superb early run of Fea's-type Petrel records as follows:
  • 30th July: one from a pelagic 8 miles off Galley Head, Co. Cork (Paul Connaughton)
  • 3rd August: one past Malin Head, Co. Donegal (Rónán McLaughlin)
  • 10th August: one past Kilcummin Head, Co. Mayo (Brad Robson) with what was presumably the same bird seen passing Annagh Head, Co. Mayo (Dave Suddaby) no less than 3 hours & 9 minutes later!
  • 13th August: one past Kilcummin Head, Co. Mayo (Derek Charles & M. Ullman)

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 month then please get in touch with Niall Keogh (Seatrack project co-ordinator) at seatrack@birdwatchireland.ie

Arctic Skua © Gerry O'Neill

A special mention must go out to Liam Lysaght of the National Biodiversity Data Centre who is currently in the midst of his 'Wild Ireland Tour', an epic cycle around the coast of Ireland visiting some top wildlife destinations and meeting with folk involved in research & conservation along the way. Liam popped into The Bridges of Ross on Monday for a spot of seawatching & I have to say, he was the hardiest man there by the look of his get up! 

Liam seawatching in style!