Sunday, 21 December 2014

Close encounters of the Dovekie kind

I had without doubt my best views of Little Auk yesterday down by Newtownlynch Pier near Traught beach. This is one of the better spots for the long staying Forster's Tern when its not at Nimmo's Pier. I had been at Nimmo's earlier in the day and there was no sign of it (haven't seen it at Nimmo's yet this winter myself), just the usual three Sandwich Terns and four Ring-billed Gulls. After a few minutes at Newtownlynch I picked up the Forster's Tern feeding around it favourite spot around Goat Island just off the pier. It sat on the water to preen on two occasions and eventually sat up on the island. High tide is usually the best for the tern here. It's possible walk out to the island on a low tide and as a result birds rarely use it then due to disturbance from dog walkers.

While looking at the Forster's I noticed a Little Auk sat in the water between the tern and my location. I moved down onto the beach to get closer views. The bird quickly started to make a beeline towards the shoreline coming closer and closer all the time. It eventually rather ungainly made its way up onto the beach. It then ran/flapped right up to my feet where I presume it got some shelter from the cold winds. For the next ten minutes it proceeded to preen happily completely unconcerned by my presence, snuggled right up against my feet. I just wish I had the camera phone with me to take a shot of it by my feet as it wasn't exactly within range of my 400mm lens! It then returned to the water a while later and began diving for food. Not surprisingly for such a small bird I quickly lost it in the choppy waters. This species sometimes gets "wrecked" by stormy weather during the winter but there hasn't been any particularly rough weather to push the species into inshore waters within the last week. They can show up in some very odd spots after rough weather and although many are rescued, many unfortunately don't make it. I've heard of more than one rescued birds being released only to be promptly swallowed whole by a waiting Great Black-backed Gull! It was a great little character to run into and was only about the third one I've seen in Galway.





  1. Good god, this is ridiculous. Well crushed.

  2. Hi Dermot, great shots ! Been hoping for a few down my way, as it's many years since I've seen any....
    Was at Dungeness today and had 2 Cattle Egrets and 5 different Great Whites !
    Happy New Year.

    1. They're surprisingly very scarce here on the West coast for some reason Steve. I see from the website that you were in California. I'm off there + Arizona in three weeks time. Joining James yet again, should be a good trip. How did you get on over there