Monday, 15 October 2012

Inishmore Week 41

Spent last Monday to Thursday out on Inishmore with Hugh Delaney and Neal Warnock. I had a good morning on Tuesday up at the very West end at Bun Gabhla with a fly-over Tree Pipit, Snow Bunting and a Yellow-browed Warbler in the willows which spent most of its time chasing a Goldcrest around the place. I once had three Yellow-brows in this small patch of willows and they also spent most of their time chasing each other. The Tree Pipit was actually an Irish tick for me. Just goes to show how seriously I take my Irish list these days. I've seen/heard four Red-throated Pipits in Ireland at this stage in comparison! I  have far more interest in my Galway list at this stage (missing the Belted Kingfisher was a right pain). Anyway Tree Pipits are obviously a scarce bird on the West coast. James Gilroy had one on Inishmore in 2008 and Anthony McGeehan had one out on Inishbofin in 2007 but apart from one or two old Spring singing birds I think that's about it for the county. Apart from the Woodchat Shrike on the Wednesday it was relatively quiet. That's the thing with Inishmore, it's usually so bereft of common or scarce migrants most of the time but all it takes is one mega to turn everything on its head. A total of half a dozen Phyllosc's in a day out there is a good day. Add to this a 20 - 30km round trip on a bike over hilly country with shed loads of habitat makes a trip out to Inishmore not for the faint hearted!

On Saturday 6th October there were 70+ birders on the island hoping to twitch the Eastern Kingbird. Even though the Kingbird have bunked off there were Yellow-rumped Warblers seen at three different locations on the island at Kilmurvey Wood, Gort na gCapall and Kilronan.  It's clear that the Kilronan bird differed from the other bird(s) as it was a nice bright bird, possibly a first-winter male bird with a good yellow flash to the flank sides.  There also the issue of a distance of 5km between Kilronan and Gort na gCapall so I would have a severe problem accepting that a bird would happen to fly that distance, ignoring all the habitat between the two locations.
It's also come to light recently that there may have only been a two minute gap between the sightings at Kilmurvey and at Gort na gCapall. There's a distance of 1.5km between these two sites. This would basically mean that were it a single bird between the two sites, it would have had to fly 1.5km from Kilmurvey to Gort na gCapall in under 2 minutes and then fly the 1.5km back to Kilmurvey.
So it was at least two different birds with a good case for there being three.

With all this madness taking place, not one of the estimated 70 hardcore twitchers said to himself "Hmmm, there's obviously something extraordinary taking place on this island at the moment, would it be an mad idea to hang around till Sunday at least in the hope of picking something else up?", eh well no actually. I rang Aer Arainn to try to change my flight off the island to the Sunday (thinking the kingfisher would be around for weeks!) but they had no openings so I had to leave on the 1515hrs flight unfortunately. I spent that evening dipping on the Belted Kingfisher and spent 10 hours unsuccessfully looking for it on the Sunday. Just as I was finishing up at Kylemore Abbey on the Sunday evening I got news from Hugh that he had found a bloody Blackpoll Warbler in the REV garden along the High road while on the way back to Kilronan.
I later heard that there were up to 25 birders stuck on Cape Clear island for the week. Cape is less than a third the size of Inishmore. One can only imagine what could have been found on Inishmore if we had half that amount of birders on the island during last week. I could say more on this but I won't...

Arctic Skua

Arctic Skua with Kittiwake

Male Balckcap

Willow Warbler

Song Thrush

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