Sunday, 10 May 2015

Inishark 7th & 8th May 2015

I camped out on Inishark on Thursday night last. I had been out with a school trip on Inishbofin during the day and after finishing up with them I headed on over to Inishark/Inishshark. I wanted to get a better handle on some of the birdlife of this island which is a both a Special Area of Conservation and a Special Protection Area. My few previous trips to island were always rushed affairs with no time to properly examine breeding birds, so it was great to have the island to myself for 24 hours.
My main focus were the cliff breeding species. I find this survey work to be both hard work but very rewarding. The three Bonxie pairs were again on the island although none had yet laid any eggs. It was nice to see one pair in the middle of displaying which involved the female bowing to and moving around the male with a lot of calling from each bird. A pair of Peregrines breed somewhere on the island and finding this pair was one of my main objectives for the trip. I had the adult male on three occasions including one where it was joined a second calendar male. The latter bird was giving begging calls and there was no aggression from the adult bird. This was probably a juvenile bird from last season. Apparently it's not unknown for adult birds to feed their young a year after hatching even with new young in the nest! Given the extent and height of the cliffs it wasn't possible to confirm breeding on this occasion unfortunately but I have no doubt that the female was sat tight incubating eggs.
Despite wild and unfounded accusations by one regular visiting birder to Inishbofin, Ravens were not present in "unnaturally high" numbers on the island. There is only one pair on the entire island although I would have expected two pairs given the size of the island. Try as I might I just could not see the nest as it was at a spot that wasn't visible although the aggressive reception I got from the adults proved that they had chicks. This is a late enough clutch as most Raven chicks have now left the nest. I managed to find a new pair of Chough on the island also. The female was busy incubating. There was also a second pair breeding on the island but again I just couldn't pin them down.
On the seabird side of things I counted approximately 430 apparent pairs of Fulmars, 93 Guillemots, 41 Kittiwakes, 13 Shag nests and 18 Black Guillemots (latter incomplete count). Great Black-backed Gulls were thinly spread out across the island with single figures of Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls breeding on one spot on the west cliffs. I heard a calling Manx Shearwater in the middle of the night and I'm sure that a few pairs breed on the island along with Storm Petrels. Ringed Plovers were the commonest breeding wader by far with probably a few dozen pairs on the island followed by Oystercatchers and a handful of Snipe in the wet spots.
I heard no Corncrakes during my time on the island. There were 2 - 3 pairs here last summer. The nettle bed in which they hide are still very low which may explain their absence so far. We might be able to put some temporary fencing around some of the nettle beds give the Corncrake a better chance next season with the agreement of the landowners.
I flushed a Tree Pipit just below the highest point on the island. It called once or twice but I never saw or heard it again. This is only the third one I've seen in the county (two others on Inishmore). The only other modern county record comes from Inishbofin. Other than a single Willow Warbler and a few Sand Martins and Whimbrels, those were all the migrants I had on the island. The only other breeding land birds seen were Rock Dove, Swallow, Wheatear, Meadow Pipit, Rock Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Stonechat, Skylark, Blackbird, Wren, Hooded Crow and Starling.
While walking around the island I was again amazed at the numbers of fallen livestock on the island. Between ewes and lambs I must have come across 40 dead sheep on the island. It was obvious that some had died while lambing, some had fallen off cliffs (I saw half a dozen live sheep trapped on cliffs and isolated coves) but I would imagine that most succumbed to the harsh winter conditions and lack of care. Sheep are left on the island over the winter in the full knowledge that it will not be possible to land on the island over the winter months due to very dicey landing conditions. You would have to wonder if its ethical to leave stock out in those conditions..

Bonxie with the mainland in the background.

Bonxie

Bonxie

Bonxie and Skylark

Bonxie and Skylark

Bonxie

Hooded Crow sitting on the old church.
 
Distant male Peregrine
 
Common Guillemots and Kittiwakes.

Male Blackbird collecting food, only one pair on the entire island.

Male Wheatear

Migrant Willow Warbler

Dead Barnacle Goose

Dead first-winter Iceland Gull, Inishbofin.

Dead Raven inside one of the abandoned houses.
Turf rack

West end of Inishark looking back East.
 

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

California 19th February 2015

So just to (finally) wrap up the California & Arizona trip I've added a few pictures from my last few hours in the US which I spent in Point Lobos area with the Golden Gate Bridge viewable in the distance. Lovely stretch of coastline and urban park along here. Plenty of Surf Scoters offshore which included another Harlequin Duck (a female this time), my first and only Black Scoters (two females), plenty of Harbour Porpoises and a pod of Bottle-nosed Dolphins. There was a small flock of gulls gathered around the Sutro Baths which have seen better days a bathing spot. This spot attracted two first-winter and a very brief adult Thayer's Gull. The park area proved very productive for Varied Thrush. There were probably around a dozen here most of which were much more approachable than previously seen individuals although they still typically kept to the shadows of the large pine trees. Also around the site were a few Pygmy Nuthatches, Brown Creeper and California Towhee. Not too shabby for a city park. I couldn't say I was particularly looking forward to heading back to what seemed like a relatively bird less place like Ireland compared to California and Arizona. I ended up with around 274 species during the three weeks of which 128 were lifers for me which wasn't too surprising given that it was my first trip to western US. Full trip list below.

Wild Turkey Snowy Plover Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Scaled Quail Killdeer American Cliff Swallow
California Quail Mountain Plover Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Gambel's Quail Wilson's Snipe Wrentit
Ring-necked Pheasant Long-billed Dowitcher Cactus Wren
Greater White-fronted Goose Marbled Godwit Rock Wren
Snow Goose Whimbrel Canyon Wren
Ross's Goose Long-billed Curlew Sinaloa Wren
Brant Greater Yellowlegs Bewick's Wren
Cackling Goose Willet Marsh Wren
Canada Goose Lesser Yellowlegs Pacific Wren
Wood Duck Spotted Sandpiper Blue-grey Gnatcatcher
Gadwall Ruddy Turnstone California Gnatcatcher
Falcated Duck Black Turnstone Black-tailed Gnatcatcher
American Wigeon Surfbird Black-capped Gnatcatcher
Mallard Sanderling American Dipper
Mexican Mallard Western Sandpiper Red-breasted Nuthatch
Blue-winged Teal Least Sandpiper Pygmy Nuthatch
Cinnamon Teal Dunlin White-breasted Nuthatch
Northern Shoveler Pomarine Jaeger Brown Creeper
Northern Pintail Bonaparte's Gull Northern Mockingbird
Green-winged Teal Heermann's Gull Sage Thrasher
Canvasback Mew Gull Bendire's Thrasher
Redhead Ring-billed Gull Curve-billed Thrasher
Ring-necked Duck Western Gull California Thrasher
Greater Scaup Yellow-footed Gull Crissal Thrasher
Lesser Scaup California Gull Le Conte's Thrasher
Harlequin Duck American Herring Gull Common Starling
Surf Scoter Thayer's Gull Western Bluebird
White-winged Scoter Glaucous-winged Gull Mountain Bluebird
Black Scoter Caspian Tern Townsend's Solitaire
Bufflehead Forster's Tern Hermit Thrush
Common Goldeneye Royal Tern American Robin
Barrow's Goldeneye Common Murre Varied Thrush
Hooded Merganser Xantus's Murrelet House Sparrow
Common Merganser Cassin's Auklet Nutmeg Mannikin
Red-breasted Merganser Rhinoceros Auklet Buff-bellied Pipit
Ruddy Duck Rock Pigeon Sprague's Pipit
Red-throated Loon Band-tailed Pigeon Phainopepla
Pacific Loon Eurasian Collared-Dove Purple Finch
Common Loon White-winged Dove House Finch
Pied-billed Grebe Mourning Dove Lesser Goldfinch
Horned Grebe Inca Dove Pine Siskin
Red-necked Grebe Common Ground-Dove Evening Grosbeak
Eared Grebe Greater Roadrunner Orange-crowned Warbler
Western Grebe Whiskered Screech-Owl Nashville Warbler
Clark's Grebe Great Horned Owl Common Yellowthroat
Northern Fulmar Burrowing Owl Myrtle Warbler
Black-vented Shearwater White-throated Swift Audubon's Warbler
White-faced Ibis Broad-billed Hummingbird Black-throated Gray Warbler
American Bittern Black-chinned Hummingbird Townsend's Warbler
Black-crowned Night-Heron Anna's Hummingbird Rufous-capped Warbler
Green Heron Costa's Hummingbird Bronzed Cowbird
Great Blue Heron Allen's Hummingbird Brown-headed Cowbird
Great Egret Belted Kingfisher Red-winged Blackbird
Snowy Egret Lewis's Woodpecker Tricolored Blackbird
Little Blue Heron Acorn Woodpecker Brewer's Blackbird
Reddish Egret Gila Woodpecker Great-tailed Grackle
Cattle Egret Williamson's Sapsucker Eastern Meadowlark
American White Pelican Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Western Meadowlark
Brown Pelican Red-naped Sapsucker Yellow-headed Blackbird
Brown Booby Red-breasted Sapsucker Sooty Fox Sparrow
Brandt's Cormorant Ladder-backed Woodpecker Slate-coloured Fox Sparrow
Neotropic Cormorant Nuttall's Woodpecker Song Sparrow
Double-crested Cormorant Downy Woodpecker Lincoln's Sparrow
Pelagic Cormorant Hairy Woodpecker White-crowned Sparrow
Turkey Vulture Arizona Woodpecker White-throated Sparrow
Osprey Northern Flicker Golden-crowned Sparrow
White-tailed Kite Black Phoebe Dark-eyed Junco
Sharp-shinned Hawk Say's Phoebe Savannah Sparrow
Cooper's Hawk Hammond's Flycatcher Baird's Sparrow
Northern Goshawk Gray Flycatcher Chipping Sparrow
Harris's Hawk Vermilion Flycatcher Brewer's Sparrow
Northern Harrier Cassin's Kingbird Black-chinned Sparrow
Bald Eagle Loggerhead Shrike Vesper Sparrow
Red-shouldered Hawk Cassin's Vireo Black-throated Sparrow
Red-tailed Hawk Hutton's Vireo Sagebrush Sparrow
Ferruginous Hawk Steller's Jay Lark Bunting
Golden Eagle Western Scrub-Jay Green-tailed Towhee
Crested Caracara Mexican Jay Spotted Towhee
American Kestrel Yellow-billed Magpie Rufous-crowned Sparrow
Merlin American Crow Canyon Towhee
Peregrine Northern Raven California Towhee
Prairie Falcon Cedar Waxwing Abert's Towhee
Clapper Rail Bridled Titmouse Northern Cardinal
Virginia Rail Oak Titmouse Pyrrhuloxia
Sora Juniper Titmouse
Common Gallinule Mountain Chickadee
American Coot Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Sandhill Crane Verdin
Black Oystercatcher Bushtit
Black-necked Stilt Horned Lark
American Avocet Violet-green Swallow
Black-bellied Plover Tree Swallow

Anna's Hummingbird

Anna's Hummingbird

Anna's Hummingbird

California Towhee

Ring-necked Duck with mud/sludge on bill and forehead.

Varied Thrush

Varied Thrush

First-winter Thayer's Gull, bird no. 1.



First-winter Thayer's Gull, bird no. 2.

First-winter Thayer's Gull, bird no. 1.

First-winter Thayer's Gull, bird no. 2.
 
First-winter Glaucous-winged Gull
First-winter Glaucous-winged Gull




First-winter Glaucous-winged x ? hybrid gull.

First-winter Western Gull

First-winter Western Gull

First-winter Western Gull
 
Second-winter Western Gull

Friday, 24 April 2015

Dotterel 23.4.2015

I was lucky enough to come across a "trip" of four Dotterel down by Aillebrack yesterday. The Slyne Head area has proved to be a relatively regular spot for the species in the last five years or so. It's probably has had the most records for one site in Ireland during that time. I've added all the Dotterel records for county Galway below;

• One, Inishbofin, 1st June 1992 (K.P.Collins).
• Male, Aillebrack, Slyne Head, 23rd to 26th April 2010, photographed (D.Breen et al.).
• Juvenile, Aillebrack, Slyne Head, 10th October 2010, photographed (D.Breen).
• Juvenile, Truska, Slyne Head, 22nd to 29th September 2011, photographed (D.Breen et al.).
• Juvenile, Aillebrack, Slyne Head, 24th to 30th October 2011, photographed (D.Breen et al.).
• Three, Aillebrack, Slyne Head, 26th April to 4th May 2012, photographed (A.Ó’Dónaill et al.).
It's interesting to note that I found my first Dotterel at the same site on the very same date in 2010. They have a reputation for turning up at the same traditional sites at the same time most years. I'm sure many more go unnoticed on other machair commonages, fields and mountain tops each year.

These birds were hanging around with seven European Golden Plovers. These are presumed Arctic breeding birds as the local Connemara birds have been on their territories for well over a month now.


Bird 1

Bird 1

Bird 1
 
Bird 1

Bird 2

Bird 2

Bird 4 & 3

Bird 3

Bird 3

Bird 3
Bird 4
Golden Plover

Golden Plover

Golden Plover
 

Thursday, 16 April 2015

California 18th February 2015

So managed to eventually get out into Monterey Bay on one of the whale watching trips on my last full day of the US trip. We saw a lot of Rhinoceros Auklets but most would dive as the boat approached them. Smaller numbers of Cassin's Auklets but these would fly off at even greater distances. A few Black-vented Shearwaters and two Northern Fulmars really the only other proper seabirds around. I was expecting much anyway given the time of year though. Certainly the highlight had to be a very inquisitive Humpback Whale that came right up to another whale watching boat and later came to ours. I've never experienced anything like it before. The exhalant breath was over-powering!

I headed down along the Big Sur coastline to have a look for California Condors. Plenty of Turkey Vultures and a nice pair of Golden Eagles but no condors unfortunately.

Black-vented Shearwater, Heermann's and Western Gulls

Black-vented Shearwater

Black-vented Shearwater

Black-vented Shearwater

Black-vented Shearwater
 
Pacific Fulmar

Pacific Fulmar

Great northern Diver

Great northern Diver

Pacific Diver

Pacific Diver

Pacific Diver

First-winter male Red-breasted Merganser

Surf Scoter

Cassin's Auklet

Cassin's Auklet

Cassin's Auklet

Rhinoceros Auklet

Rhinoceros Auklet

Rhinoceros Auklet

Rhinoceros Auklet

Black Phoebe

Great Blue Heron

Lincoln's Sparrow

Varied Thrush

Harbour Seal


















Humpback Whale

Humpback Whale

Humpback Whale

Humpback Whale

Humpback Whale

Humpback Whale

Pacific Grey Whales
Sea Otter

Sea Otter