Thursday, 4 September 2014

Seatrack: early-September update

The third Seatrack survey weekend of the season takes place this Sat 6th/Sun 7th September with a start time of 07:45am (preference given to Sat 6th if possible so as to link in with other coastal seabird surveys being conducted by BirdLife Europe partners in France, Spain and Portugal). 

The forecast for the weekend is set to be calm with light East to Northeast winds across much of the country. True passage may be slow but we will be interested to know of any feeding flocks present inshore during the calm weather so please do keep an eye out for any 'milling' seabirds. Observers surveying in the East may be affected by strong morning sunshine so an alternative evening watch with a start time of 16:05pm is suggested if necessary.

Reports of the Critically Endangered Balearic Shearwater have been widespread so far this season but in typically low numbers with 1-3 birds at a time seen during seawatches from coastal headlands across eight different counties between Donegal and Wexford.

If you would like to take part in this weekends Seatrack survey or wish to send on any additional seawatching records you've collated so far this season then please get in touch with Niall Keogh (Seatrack project co-ordinator) at

A new seabird blog featuring news updates and posts from BirdLife Europe partners in Ireland, UK, France, Spain and Portugal can be found here, or follow on Twitter by searching and posting using the hashtag #saveseabirds 

Balearic Shearwater off Baltimore, Co. Cork, 24th August 2014 © Robert Vaughan

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Bridges of Ross 31st August 2014

Time: 0710-1000
Weather: F2-3 S, dry, mild & good visibility.
Observers: Niall T. Keogh, Neal Warnock, Victor Caschera, Jimmy Dowdall, Eamonn MacLochlainn, John Power, Ger Murray, Des Higgins, Bernie Sheridan, Dave Fox et al.

Common Scoter: 1
'Blue' Fulmar: 1 'D'
Sooty Shearwater: 28
Manx Shearwater: 1,250 in 1.25 hrs 
European Storm-petrel: 2
Arctic Skua: 1
Sandwich Tern: 6
Arctic Tern: 8

Bar-tailed Godwit: 8
Whimbrel: 1

Leatherback Turtle: 1 @ 0905 (NWarnock)

The sea returned to a calm state once more for our final mornings seawatch. A light but steady passage of Manxies contained quite a few Sooties and a nice 'Blue' Fulmar (I guess it's the same bird which has been seen on several seawatches this past week or so). 

Neal connected with a surfacing Leatherback Turtle ensuring at least one made it into the records for our annual watch effort on site. Typically it was an all to brief encounter and difficult to get other observers on to. Luck of the draw! The Bridges of Ross is a particularly good spot for seeing them so with a bit of patience and careful scanning close in on calms days you'd stand a reasonable chance of seeing one, especially if there are plenty of Ocean Sunfish about it would seem based on previous years experience.

Hoping to make it back here later in September for a few more days seawatching so stay tuned!

Evening light at BoR © Neal Warnock

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Bridges of Ross 30th August 2014

Time: 0630-1810
Weather: F5 NW, dry, mild & good visibility.
Observers: Niall T. Keogh, Neal Warnock, Victor Caschera, Jimmy Dowdall, Eamonn MacLochlainn, John Power, Lee Gregory, Tom Buckley, Ger Murray, Des Higgins, Brian Porter, Tom Shevlin, Hugh Delaney, Aidan Moore, Dave Branagh, Bernie Sheridan, Dave Fox, John N. Murphy, Jarlath Coyle et al.

Common Scoter: 14
Red-throated Diver: 1 breeding plumage
Great Shearwater: 1
Sooty Shearwater: 50+
Manx Shearwater: 3,500 in first hour then 2000+ decreasing to 500+ per hour thereafter
Balearic Shearwater: 1
Wilson's Storm-petrel: 1 @ 09:22 (Lee Gregory et al.)
European Storm-petrel: 2
Leach's Storm-petrel: 15
Great Skua (Bonxie): 20
Arctic Skua: 5
Puffin: 2
Sandwich Tern: 51
Arctic Tern: c.75
Sabine's Gull: 5 (1 adult-type & 4 juveniles)
Little Gull: 2 juveniles/1st-winters

Peregrine: 1 juvenile

Common Dolphin: 8-10
Ocean Sunfish: 1

A busy start first thing, similar to yesterday but without the same level or rhythm of species diversity as yesterday. Saying that, an enjoyable few hours all the same. Whilst scanning through the seemingly relentless & uniform passage of Manxies, Lee happened upon a Wilson's Storm-petrel which caught us on the hop and showed up well to the left, only viewable for a brief period before disappearing over the ridge but thankfully at close range. The bird was in active moult with old outer primaries and new/growing inner primaries/secondaries and a short (half length) carpal bar. Great to see that bouncing flight style again! Fairly quiet for the rest of the afternoon & evening save for a trickle of Bonxies and a few showy Leach's every now & then.

Leach's Storm-petrel © Niall Keogh

Arctic Skua © Niall Keogh

Great Skua © Niall Keogh

Friday, 29 August 2014

Bridges of Ross 29th August 2014

Time: 0630-1900
Weather: F6 WSW (am) turning F5-6 W (pm). Largely dry with some intermittent light showers. Visibility good to poor at times.
Observers: Niall T. Keogh, Neal Warnock, Victor Caschera, Jimmy Dowdall, Eamonn MacLochlainn, John Power, Lee Gregory, Tom Buckley, Ger Murray, Tom Tarpey, Des Higgins, Brian Porter, Tom Shevlin, Hugh Delaney, Aidan Moore, Dave Branagh, Bernie Sheridan, Dave Fox et al.

Common Scoter: 3
Red-throated Diver: 1 breeding plumage
'Blue' Fulmar: 1 'D'
Cory's Shearwater: 1 @ 0635
Great Shearwater: 7
Sooty Shearwater: c.185
Manx Shearwater: up to 30,000
European Storm-petrel: 13
Leach's Storm-petrel: 3
Great Skua (Bonxie): 26
Pomarine Skua: 4
Arctic Skua: 9
Puffin: 3
Sandwich Tern: 16
Arctic Tern: c.85
Sabine's Gull: 43 (41 adult-types & 2 juveniles)
Little Gull: 3 juvenile/1st-winter

Whimbrel: 20

Grey Seal: 1
Ocean Sunfish: 1

REDEMPTION! Winds from the West producing the goods with a seawatch which has made the past weeks effort in testing conditions all the worthwhile for many present. 

A Cory's which slinked out of a trough in among the close Manxie line early doors was a welcome Irish tick for Neal (serious bogey bird for a hardened salty seawatcher!). Manx Shearwaters were absolutely piling through from the get go, with 4,500 logged in the first hour and 2,000+ per hour for much of the day after. The presence of a large raft of milling birds later in the evening muddled the counts up a bit but by that stage we were on a comfortable 25,000! And what's more they were showing very well. I haven't seen a passage like this here for a good ten years so definitely a real highlight of the day for sure. Large shearwaters are a treat at The Bridges at the best of times (not like Galley Head!) so several of the Greats which showed well at close range were most appreciated. 

What The Bridges does do well for however is Sabine's Gulls and they certainly didn't disappoint. A single flock of 10 adults which showed ridiculously well just off the point was a sight to behold (with lots of smiling faces in the assembled crowd to be seen after they passed). Whilst the numbers of other species might not have been as high as hoped for there was still some great variety throughout the day. A good year-listers seawatch! Red-throated Diver, Leach's Petrel & Little Gull were all firsts of the season for the site.

Here's a bunch of iPhone-scoped pics to give you a flavour of the day...

Sabine's Gull © Niall Keogh
Sabine's Gulls © Niall Keogh
Sabine's Gulls © Niall Keogh
Sooty Shearwater © Niall Keogh
Pomarine Skua © Niall Keogh
Seawatchers © Niall Keogh

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Bridges of Ross 28th August 2014

Time: 0645-1715
Weather: F3 S (am) then F5 SSW turning F6 SW (pm). Dry (am) then persistent rain (pm). Moderate-poor visibility.
Observers: Niall T. Keogh, Neal Warnock, Victor Caschera, Jimmy Dowdall, Eamonn MacLochlainn, John Power, Lee Gregory, Tom Buckley, Ger Murray, Tom Tarpey et al.

Common Scoter: 1
'Blue' Fulmar: 1 'D'
Balearic Shearwater: 3
Sooty Shearwater: 21
Manx Shearwater: 1,100 in 5 hrs (am) and 215 in 45 mins (pm)
European Storm-petrel: 3
Great Skua (Bonxie): 4
Sandwich Tern: 9
Arctic Tern: 23
Black Tern: 1 juvenile
Puffin: 1

Whimbrel: 37
Bar-tailed Godwit: 1
Sanderling: 1

Common (Harbour) Seal: 1
Ocean Sunfish: 1-2

A most welcome increase in seabird variety today with a few nice close in Balearics, higher daily counts of Sooties, Arctic Terns & Stormies (just about!) than in recent days and the first juvenile Black Tern of the season.

Persistent rain & decreasing visibility this afternoon called for an early end to the days effort. Here's hoping tomorrows Westerlies will produce the goods!

Sunrise at BoR © Niall Keogh

The Soggy Bottom Seawatchers © Niall Keogh

Ocean Sunfish © Niall Keogh

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Bridges of Ross 27th August 2014

Time: 0800-1000 & 1400-1700
Weather: F4 NE (am) & F5 SE (pm), brief periods of light rain (pm) & good visibility.
Observers: Niall T. Keogh, Neal Warnock, Victor Caschera, Jimmy Dowdall, Eamonn MacLochlainn, John Power, Lee Gregory, Tom Buckley et al.

Common Scoter: 10
Great Northern Diver: 1 adult 
Balearic Shearwater: 1
Sooty Shearwater: 2
Manx Shearwater: 850 in 1.5 hrs (am) & 420 in 3 hrs (pm)
Arctic Skua: 1
Sandwich Tern: 3
Arctic Tern: 10
Sabine's Gull: 1 adult

Swift: 1
Wheatear: 1 'Greenland'-type around the watch point

Common (Harbour) Seal: 1
Common Dolphin: 12+
Basking Shark: 2+ full breaching
Ocean Sunfish: 1

Another good day for animal watching! We're starting to think the adult Sab's is simply doing the rounds between The Bridges & Loop Head. A juv/1st-winter Mediterranean Gull was waiting for us in front of the pub at Kilbaha this eve! 

Serious high hopes for these SW and W winds coming tomorrow and Friday...

Arctic Skua © Niall Keogh

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Bridges of Ross 26th August 2014

Time: 0700-1000 & 1130-1825
Weather: F3 NE, dry, sunny & good visibility.
Observers: Niall T. Keogh, Neal Warnock, Des Higgins, Peter Gluth, Peter Colston, Victor Caschera, Jimmy Dowdall, John Power, Lee Gregory, Stephen Hack, Simon Dennis et al.

Common Scoter: 2
Great Northern Diver: 1 2cy type 
Sooty Shearwater: 17
Manx Shearwater: 2,350 in 4.75 hr (pm)
European Storm-petrel: 1
Great Skua (Bonxie): 4
Arctic Skua: 8
Sandwich Tern: 3
Arctic Tern: 11
Kittiwake: 70 (incl. 52 juvs)
Razorbill: 49
Guillemot: 18

Peregrine: 1 adult
Swift: 1

Common Dolphin: 4+
Basking Shark: 7 (incl. 2 full breaching)
Ocean Sunfish: 1-2 (incl. 1 breaching)

Highlight of the day was undoubtedly the Basking Sharks, which like the Humpback Whale on Sunday, were the first I've seen here since I began seawatching at this site in August 2001. A group of three individuals were seen milling about together plus another two singles at the surface and a further two fully breaching! Whacky looking creatures out of the water!

The first diver of the season, a late Swift & a male Common Scoter sat on the sea off the watch point (odd for here) were the best of the avian rest.

Basking Shark © Niall Keogh
Common Scoter © Niall Keogh