Wednesday 24 October 2012

Olive-backed Pipit

Hugh Delaney struck gold again on Monday afternoon at Kilmurvey when he came across an Olive-backed Pipit. It will be the eight Irish record if accepted and the first in 19 years. I was trying to do an I-WeBS count down in the Ballyconneely area at the time. It took me about two hours to cover one site that usually takes 30 minutes between making and receiving phone calls. While doing my last site of the day I came across a sheepdog that had somehow managed to get one front leg and a toe on the back leg caught up on sheep wire. I could hear the poor sod crying from some distance off as he was obviously in alot of pain. I managed to get his back leg free but while working on his front leg he managed to give me a good bite on my left wrist. I knew he would probably lash out given his state and had been using my coat to try and hide what I what I was doing but he still managed to get me. Anyway I got him completely free. He still had wire tightly wrapped around the front leg but there wasn't much I could do at that stage, I had my own problems now. I didn't think much of the bite after cleaning and bandaging it up as best I could. I called round to local houses, pub and shop to ask if anyone had been missing a black and white sheepdog but no seemed to. A few hours later my wrist started to swell and stiffen. The next morning I had no power in my left hand. Driving was out of the question along with even holding bins or a camera. The OBP would have to wait. Thankfully a tetnanus shot, antibiotics, anti inflammatory pills and Solpodeine did wonders and I was just about ready for go this morning.
I joined Dick Coombes, Richard Hunter and Dave Fox on the ferry. I decided to get a battery powered bike for the day as my wrist still wasn't 100%. It really was the business and made short work of the hilly sections.
About 5 minutes away from the site I got a text from Hugh to say he had had a good look for the pipit but it wasn't looking good. Less than 5 minutes later he was looking at it and we all managed to get onto it shortly afterwards. It favoured the trees immediately behind the old church (where the Kingbird also favoured!) and also right at the back of the wood up on the top of the cliff. It could be a real ghost of a bird as it was amazingly hard to follow or keep tabs on as it flew through the trees. It also had a habit of sticking to the thickest of the cover like nettles and ferns while on the deck. We never heard it call once. We spend a few hours with it but it would disappear for long periods at times.
Also around the island was the Dusky Warbler, a fly-over Crossbill (another first for Inishmore), male Brambling, 10+ Long-tailed Tits, female Blackcap, 2 Chiffchaffs and a Willow Warbler.

Tuesday 23 October 2012

Non Inishmore shots

A selection of non Inishmore pics from the last fortnight or so.

Pink-footed Goose, Omey Island, 19th October.

Common Gulls, Omey Island, 19th October.

Golden Plover, Truska, 13th October.

Golden Plover, Truska, 13th October.

Greenshank. Lough Rusheen, 14th October.

Record shot of the female type Blue-winged Teal, Rahasane Turlough, 14th October.

1st cal Peregrine, Crompaun Bay, Ballyconneely, 16th October.

1st cal Peregrine, Crompaun Bay, Ballyconneely, 16th October.

Female Kestrel, Ballyconneely, 16th October.

German ringed Meditterranean Gull, Mannin Bay, 22nd October.

German ringed Meditterranean Gull, Mannin Bay, 22nd October.

Sunday 21 October 2012

Dusky Warbler

Headed out to Inishmore to catch up with Hugh Delaney's Dusky Warbler. I saw the Dusky at Power Head, Co. Cork in 2009 but this was too much to resist. Could be a while yet before another shows up here again. This will be the tenth Irish record is accepted. There have only two in UK this Autumn up until the Friday both of which were on Shetland and one of those was also found on the Friday evening.
This is the first good Sibe for Inishmore. Previous to this we've had about three Red-breasted Flycatchers, three Barred Warblers and numerous Yellow-browed Warblers including two different day counts of at least ten birds. So it was good to see that some good birds from the East can reach this West coast location. The only other West coast Dusky record refers to a bird picked up injured in Limerick on 5th December 1970 that had been ringed in the Calf of Man the same October (I think). Cork seems to have the near monopoly on Irish records with seven of the nine total, the remaining Irish record is from Wexford.
We searched for the bird for a few hours in the morning but couldn't pick it up. It showed fairly well in the brambles and bracken for Hugh the previous evening and was quite vocal. We split up and I headed West up as far as Bun Gabhla, the best being a Great Tit and about 3 Chiffchaffs. On my way back I stopped off at the Dusky location for another look when I got a call from Hugh to say he probably had it again but couldn't be 100% sure. Thankfully after about a half hour wait I had in the Scyamores in the main garden and later in the Fuschia and brambles but it was more typically elusive and just occasionally calling very Wren like.

Despite Hugh's best efforts to try and convince me to hang around till Sunday I headed back to get the ferry to get the five o'clock boat off. I had just handed back my rented bike when Hugh rang to say he had a Galway tick for me at Kilmurvey - a Ring Ouzel. Got another bike back but didn't get far as the chain slipped while changing gears. It got wedged and I just couldn't get the bloody thing unstuck. Third bike of the day and I was on my way all the way back up to Kilmurvey. I was a bit worried that by the time I got back up again it may have gone to roost with the Redwing and Blackbirds it was associating with. After a 20 minute search we managed to pin it down again.
We also had the Woodchat again but like the Rouzel the light was rapidly going so the shots leave alot to be desired.
I had a completely sleepless night in the hostel and was completely exhausted today. The wind really got up as it was forecasted so I left on the early ferry.

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

Friday 12 October 2012

Inishshark Geese & Grey Seals

Some photos from last Friday taken on Inishshark just before things went completely mental here in Galway. I joined a few others from NPWS to help count Grey Seal pups on Inishshark who seem to be doing well. Four Pink-footed Geese were seen flying over the island even before we landed. These are presumably the same flock Anthony McGeehan had about two weeks ago on Inishbofin. Also eleven Barnacle Geese which I reckon were probably just arriving in. 470 were counted here on the last aerial survey in 2008. They are impossible to survey other that by the air due to being extremely flighty. They often fly off and move to other adjacent islands even before you can land on the island. Secondly more often than not it's usually not possible to land a boat on the island during the winter months due to heavy swells and poor/no harbour facilities.
This is one of the main reasons why Inishshark was abandoned by the very last of its 24 inhabitants in October 1960. Islanders were often stranded on the island for weeks at a time without any communication to the outside world or access to shops, a doctor and importantly at the time a priest. I'd really recommend watching "Inis Airc; Bás Oileáin" (Inishshark; Death of an island) done by TG4 about island life and the evacuation. It's divided into five parts on Youtube, first one is here. Nothing left on the island now apart from the geese and seal. Very sad going through some of the old houses out there and just imagining what life would have been back in the day.

Pink-footed Geese

Barnacle Geese

This could actually be a Harbour Seal, doesn't seem to have the typical Roman-nosed appearance of a Grey.

This "looker" unlike all other female seals stands her ground every year we do the count. Not a lady you'd want to tango with!

Day old Grey Seal pup, whence the blood probably from the afterbirth.

Another very young pup having a little stretch, note the fresh umbrilical cord.

An older pup, note the old white furry coat being moulted.