Godalming area birds

Godalming area birds

Thursday, 22 February 2018

West Ireland 16th-19th February, part two

Day three was an early start, as we drove down the west coast to County Kerry, and the extremely remote and atmospheric Inveragh Peninsula. With excellent gen from Rich B, the 150+ Common Scoter flock was located at Rossbeigh, and so began the process of picking out the long-staying drake Black Scoter.
Female Surf Scoter, Rossbeigh, 18/2/2018.

With the wind coming straight onshore, and rain with it, viewing a constantly diving flock among high waves was far from ideal. A female Surf Scoter was picked out fairly close in early on, but the main target remained elusive. Eventually the Black Scoter was picked out, with his bulbous, yellow-orange bill illuminating the dreich morning.

After a Full Irish, it was back north, and we stopped at Limerick to check out the gulls along the River Shannon. Clearly feeding them is popular with the locals, and a few people were by the river chucking bread, with Mute Swans, Feral Pigeons and even a Grey Heron getting in on the free food.

Juvenile Iceland Gull, Limerick, 18/2/2018.
There were around 100 gulls there, mainly Black-headed, but also a handful of Common and Herring. I also had my only Lesser Black-backed Gull of the trip here, an adult, as well as, much to my surprise, a 1st-winter Yellow-legged Gull, which flew down river.

The main attraction though was the 3 juvenile Iceland Gulls that showed pretty well. A Kumlien’s Gull has been reported here for some time, but despite one of the Iceland’s seeming fairly dark, and displaying a slight tail band in flight, I wouldn’t mark it down as kumlieni. Perhaps there was a Kumlien’s somewhere along the river, and I missed it.

We then deviated along the Clare coastline, and managed a few more wingers, including 2 Glaucous Gulls at Liscannor and an Iceland near the Cliffs of Moher. At the former site, one of the birds was a really stunning 2nd-winter bird, and it obliged for photos at close range. After another failed check at Kinvarra for the Forster’s Tern, where I met some friendly local birders, it was back to Galway for the night.

2nd-winter Glaucous Gull, Liscannor, 18//2/2018.
The final day involved a lie in, after a bit of a session on the Guinness the previous night. Most of the day was non-birding, but before our evening flight home we looped west to Achill Island, another end-of-the-world-esque place, in County Mayo. Here the target was a long-staying Semipalmated Plover, a difficult ID, and after passing a few Glaucous Gulls the mixed wader flock it associates with was located on the golf course at Keel.

In driving rain, picking out the subtleties of this Nearctic species was exceptionally tough. Sadly, I had to vacate the car and trudge through the damp golf course, being careful not to flush the birds (which consisted of Ringed Plover, Dunlins, Sanderlings and Turnstones) as I went.

Semipalmated Plover, Keel, 19/2/2018.
I managed to pick out the Semipalmated Plover, which certainly seemed that bit slighter in comparison to the Ringed Plovers it was with. The chest band was fairly thin, but there were young Ringed Plovers with similar bands on them, and the eye-stripe wasn’t notably weak – the key thing was the white extending above the gape line. This did stand out, even in the trying conditions, and is quite clear in photos I took. I compared and contrasted with the Ringed Plovers for a while, before, cold and wet, it was back to the rental Seat.

Ireland in the winter is really fun. As mentioned in the previous post, the combination of find-your-own and twitching is enjoyable, and you always have the feeling a rare gull is there to be found (sadly not by me). I’ll definitely be back one day.