Friday, December 31, 2010

best patch year ever?

As 2010 draws to a close, and with nowt else to do, I thought I'd look back at the highs and lows of 2010 on the patch. I may have got the idea from here, but I'm sure Jonathan won't mind...

Best birding moment

The best birding on patch this year has to have been the wilson's petrel day back in July. Watching the second wilson's petrel come through right beside a storm petrel - amayzing stuff, particularly given the paucity of good seawatching this year. Watching an untagged red kite come in off the sea during a massive January cold weather movement of thrushes and waders was a pretty close second though! And I mustn't forget finding the 4 gadwall off Long Strand in December!

Worst birding moment

 Probably hearing about a fly-by great white egret while i was over in the UK - of course, it may not actually have been visible from the patch anyway, in fact, I'm pretty sure it wouldn't have been, almost certainly wasn't in fact!

Best patch bird

This is a tricky one, but I think it has to be the siberian stonechat out near the lighthouse - a wee cracker and quite unexpected. Feckin rare in irish terms too, so the sooner they split it the better!

Worst patch bird

Has to be hobby, as I missed at least 3 on patch, in a really good year for them! The annual dip on long-tailed skua was so expected that it barely hurts these days! Missing 3 red-breasted mergansers on an otherwise crap, "i can't be arsed going" seawatch was also a bit galling!

Best patch find

A couple of contenders, although neither showed well - male red-backed shrike from the bedroom window in May was pretty good, although the fact that I was hungover, not wearing glasses and carrying a baby at the time didn't help. I think the ortolan bunting in September just shades it though! Did I mention those gadwall already?

All in all, a vintage year on the patch, with 5 (count 'em) patch ticks:  woodcock, red-backed shrike, wilson's petrel, ortolan bunting and gadwall, plus I finished on my highest ever total too - 141. Of course, its all relative - my irish list remains paltry, i can't id waders anymore cos I never see any, and no-one gives 2 hoots about those gadwall but I'll still be raring to go all over again from first(ish) light tomorrow. Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

thou shalt always bird

The lake was almost totally iced up again today, but a few ducks still persisted, namely 3 tufted duck, 1 pochard and 2 goldeneye, as well as the 3 coots.

Much more amusing was this birding propaganda link I got sent - cheers, Rick!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

far east twitching

Spent half a day tazzing round east cork for a change - finally managed to find the pied-billed grebe site in Cork Harbour - took over an hour, but once there, the bird itself was a bit easier, diving out in mid-channel - showed pretty well in the end though - tick! After that, a quick whizz over to Ballymacoda for the 4 bewick's swans, a good one for the cork list these days. A quick look at Aghada clinched both black-necked grebe and slavonian grebe, but we couldn't dig out the surfie. Hopefully he'll stick around for the bird race.

Friday, December 10, 2010

patch gold!

OK so I was wrong about the date and the location, but there was no mistaking the 4 (count 'em) gadwall off Long Strand this lunchtime (141) ! Crazy scenes broke out, I must admit - a good bird for west cork, and with the long-running Galley Bubo listings controversy still rolling on, I was delighted to get them for the patch! Certainly beats a heard-only, off-patch jay, anyday, but thats another story.

33 red-throated divers and 6 great northern divers were also off Long Strand, while 3 pochard, 3 tufted ducks and the teal gang were still on the lake.

Monday, December 6, 2010

no gadwall

My psychic powers failed this morning, with an absense of gadwall on the lake. My id powers weren't much better, as I failed to get on 2 possible red breasted mergansers flying past the house - pretty sure they were, but cos it would be a patch tick, I'm not having them on that. Bugger! The 6 tufted ducks remain, along with 2 new male pochard, plus 3 black-tailed godwits - quite a run of waders this week, most unseasonal.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

in which i appear to be psychic

Only 3 days ago, I said that knot & sanderling would be two more useful year ticks (but pretty unlikely given the time of year). Yesterday's knot on the lake edge was surprising enough, but things got a bit spooky this morning when I scanned the lake edge again to find a sanderling running about! And no, it wasn't the knot, sure that flew off, remember? A new personal best, not that anyone but me will be interested, and not like its doing me any good in the patch challenge. Still stuck in 6th, and definately unlikely to get any higher. Still, good to reach 140 anyway.

Numbers of tufted duck had risen to 6, but there wasn't much else doing. A look off Long Strand produced only 3 red-throated divers and a female common scoter. News that there's a few gadwall around at Ross & Muckross gives me hope that one might show up on the lake tomorrow, since I seem able to predict the future all of a sudden! Can but hope!


Saturday, December 4, 2010

patch year tick record equalled

Finally got around to scanning the lake mid-afternoon, and it was a good job I did too! Noticed an odd looking wader on the lake edge (Galley doesn't get that many waders so I'm always a bit rusty!). First thought was grey plover, which I've never seen on the deck on patch, then ruff, before the penny finally dropped - knot! Almost as the id clicked, it flushed off with a redshank, and disappeared! Timing is everything! Not much else doing, although 3 tufted ducks were new in.

So the year list moves to 139, level with my 2008 total. Wonder if I can break the 140 before the year end?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

still snaw

Another small cold weather movement at Galley this morning, with the arrival of 4 whooper swans on the lake. They didn't stay long, as the semi-resident mute (swan) chased them off, which was a shame. At least 2 coots still remain, plus 13 (count 'em!) cormorants, a huddle of teal and a smattering of lapwings. Two bar-tailed godwits flew past the house this morning too, which was a bit of a waste as I already year-ticked them yesterday. Sanderling and/or knot would be much more welcome!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

frozen lake

Still baltic hereabouts, but the cold snap is starting to pay dividends on the lake, with upwards of 40 teal now in, plus 3 (count 'em) coot (all european, unfortunately), 21 lapwing and, best of all, a bar-tailed godwit (138). Have had them here once before in winter, presumably on away-days from Ross. Now just 1 off equalling my best year total ever...

Monday, November 22, 2010

birthday birds

Was reading el mackimmey's words of wisdom this morning (and every monday) and after coming across the bit about stopping reading his blog and getting in amongst it, I was suitably shamed into having a scan of the lake and the sea. Well worth it too (as tom told me it would be), with a shelduck on the sea (galley scarce!), and a fair selection of waders on the lake - well, a few curlew, 2 lapwing, redshank and 2 (count 'em) dunlin. No year ticks though, and it was feckin' freezing so I gave up and went back inside to surf the net in the warmth. Tom can shove his advice!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

a trip east

Took a spin to Ballycotton this afternoon to see the semi-palmated sandpiper, which continues to survive, despite a mauling last week from a local raptor. It was quite approachable, so got a couple of "record shots".

Caught up with the Cobh house crow again, still sat in its drainpipe on the usual wall, and the iceland gull at Cuskinny too. Good preparation for January's bird race.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Flat calm and sunny this morning, and impressed by a wee run of stuff on Mizen I headed out to try my luck. A blackcap in Dirk and a chiffchaff in our garden wasn't quite what I had in mind, but looked like my lot, until a more intensive scan of the lake turned up a female goldeneye - ka-ching! (137). So now just 3 short of a new patch year list record, but the possibilities have all but dried up - just have to keep perservering!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

what happened to October?

Not sure what happened to the rest of October - nothing much on the bird front, anyway, and the wind and rain continues unabated. Today's highlight was 2 med gulls in with the sheltering black-headed gulls at Long Strand - a winter plumage adult, and a second winter. Ho hum - its gonna be a long winter!

Friday, October 15, 2010

ybw at last!

Sneaked down Dirk first thing (ish) while it was still calm. There didn't seem to be much about on the way down, but the big sycamore was hopping on the way back up, with at least 4 blackcaps and a silent yellow-browed warbler (136) - hooray! I've been scouring Galley for one all October, so was delighted to finally connect.

Had another bash down dirk about an hour later and was surprised to hear a yellow-browed warbler calling from the top garden - different bird? I wasn't sure, but conveniently, there were 3 visiting birders further down Dirk, and 1 of them had the 1st bird again, while we were watching this second one perform further up - result! Elsewhere, the ring ouzel was still around near the head, with a lingering whinchat and a couple more blackcaps booting around, but best of all was bumping into the wryneck again at Long Strand, sunning itself on a stone wall and shuffling about in the flax once disturbed - always good to see! Two whooper swans were on Kilkeran again this pm, before the mutes shoved them off.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

a dip and a tick?

News of Irelands 2nd red-flanked bluetail and a possible collared flycatcher (1st Irish record) prompted an away day to Cape today. Didn't chance the early boats, but by the time we got in on the ferry, the bluetail news wasn't good - no sign at all, and it had been really showy the previous night. Oh well, hopefully there'll be another one soon!

Onto the flycatcher then! This was showing quite well, but was liable to disappear for periods, but luckily there were lots of photographers present allowing detailed views to be had afterwards. In the field, I could see a greyish nape, and there was lots of white on the wings but I'm no expert! On retrapping today, the bird clearly shows the diagnostic anchor marks on the rump and forehead (photos here), which, together with the wing measurements (right on the top limit for pied, in the middle for collared) and wing formula (P2 = P4/P5, not P5/P6 as in pied), is good enough for me! More photos of the bird in the field here.

Had a wee wander round the bogs and the bluetail pines afterwards, just in case, but didn't do better than yellow-browed warbler, ring ouzel & a heap of blackcaps. A grand day out in the end!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

another day, another wryneck

A slow start this morning, with much the same numbers and species around. Overall, I managed 3 blackcaps, 1 whinchat and 2 or 3 chiffchaffs, which wasn't quite what I was after. KC did a bit better, with yesterday's yellow wagtail and ring ouzel still around, plus the/a new lapland bunting too. Back home for lunch, during which I picked up a ringtail hen harrier flying low over the lake and surrounding fields - it seemed to be going after curlew, but failed.

By half-three I was bored of work, and had convinced myself there must be a yellow browed somewhere so off out again, stumbling into a wryneck almost straight away. Buoyed by this, I redid the Shite Lane area, turning up a pied flycatcher and another blackcap, seemingly new in from this morning.

Monday, October 11, 2010

a touch of naughtiness pays off

Another slog round Galley this morning, with not a huge amount new in, but loads of common stuff going through, mostly meadow pipits, magpies and blue tits - where were they going? The magpies were doing that thing where they fly out to the light and back - they seeem to like doing this on calm October days, like today (before it got windy again!). A fieldfare dropped into the sycamores at Shite Lane too, first of the autumn. I had 3 whinchats, the ring ouzel, and at least 5 wheatears, while chiffchaff numbers seemed higher today, with at least 12 knocking around. The spotted flycatcher was still at Shite Lane.

News of a yellow wagtail late afternoon lifted my spirits - have only seen two on patch, both in Sept 06, I think. A wee bit of naughtiness was required to have a chance of seeing it, but it paid off pretty much straight away as a lapland bunting flushed up with a load of pipits - my first one here since 2005 - result! No sign of the wagtail but I perservered and on round two it flew up, calling - excellent! Over the 100% mark for the year with 135! Happy days!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

the struggle continues...

The north-east wind had dropped a bit this morning, but was still quite blustery. A 3.5 hour thrashing of Galley produced not very much new, with the pied flycatcher, spotted flycatcher and 4 (ish) chiffchaffs still at Shite Lane, with 2 whinchats there & 2 further out on the head. Getting a bit desperate for year ticks, I resorted to scoping the lodge at Kilkeran Lake for a just off-patch male redstart, which I finally got after RM went and kicked it out for me - cheers fella! It was all a bit pintail-esque really, I guess, but desperate times and all that! Then twitched the ring ouzel up at the "sibe chat" site, which I hadn't seen earlier, but which eventually showed quite well. A couple of siskins over Long Strand completed the day's trio of hard-won year ticks (133), but still no ybw - maybe tomorrow, fingers crossed!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

more wind

If anything, the wind had strengthened this morning, as well as moving round to the north east. It certainly made birding at Galley tricky enough! There was no sign of the siberian stonechat, but a few other things were knocking around. I had blackcap, grasshopper warbler, whinchat, a couple of chiffchaffs and pied flycatcher in a 3 hour hoof around this morning, while spotted flycatcher, another pied flycatcher and a ring ouzel were also seen. Hopefully there'll be a bit more stuff in evidence once the wind drops and the sun comes out! Still blustery and wet tonight though, so fingers crossed more stuff is also still coming in!

Friday, October 8, 2010

sibe chat

There was a really good feel about Galley today - the roaring south-easterly and overnight rain might have had something to do with that! There weren't too many birds in evidence, but it felt like stuff was coming in all day. CC was out first, while it was still raining, picking up a grey phalarope over the stubble fields, and a whinchat, plus a few chiffchaffs. I got out mid-morning and had a turtle dove at Shite Lane (130), and the same few chiffs, but on hoofing down the top lane for a second time, there was a pied flycatcher, seemingly new in. Back at Shite Lane, a new spotted flycatcher was flicking around - that wasn't there earlier! Returning home for grub, I dallied with a bit of work, but it just felt too "rare" to be bothering with that, so headed out again. A black redstart at Long Strand and a willow warbler in the Shite Lane sycamores was more evidence of stuff arriving, but it was CC who got bird of the day - a fab siberian stonechat, out towards the light. I hoofed up for good views, but it was fairly flighty - cracking bird though.

Photos: C Cronin

Checking the relevant hong kong books of kung fu, this appears to be the 6th Irish record, with 4 previous in County Cork - pretty good going, and rarer than the yellow-rumped warbler still on Cape! Just a shame its not split...yet!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

yellow rumped warbler oml

After procrastinating yesterday and missing out, I tried to be good this morning and get a bit of work done, whilst waiting for news of the yellow-rumped warbler on cape. Was en-route soon enough, once the call came in at lunchtime that it was still there, and a slick operation involving SW and MOS got us off the very slow ferry, up to the bird, some cracking views in the blustery conditions, and then a spin back down to the ferry again - all achieved in less than an hour - couldn't have done it without their help - many thanks to both! There's a nice photo of it here!

Its blowing a howling south-easterly outside with drizzley rain - there's gotta be stuff at Galley tomorrow - can't wait!

Monday, October 4, 2010

mid-morning seawatch

Gave the sea a lash mid-morning, as a front was approaching, but despite a good south-westerly, there wasn't a whole lot happening - 10 sooty shearwaters, 14 manx shearwaters, 1 balearic shearwater, 10 common scoter and 2 bonxies was it.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

no pg for me

Out for a couple of hours in the calm, sunny weather but one grasshopper warbler was all I could muster, unfortunately.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

in defence of shetland

A certain on-off-on blogger from Seaton in Devon has recently produced an in-depth analysis of whether Shetland or Scillies is the best option for a birder looking to brighten up his/her autumn - see here. And seeing as how I'm just back from 4 bird-filled days on Shetland, I thought I'd put the case for the northern option.

To summarise (if not plagiarise), Haig (2010) concluded the following:

Shetland pros

  • Gets lots of rare birds, heaps of scarce birds, more than its fair share of megas  - I could add that it seems to get hardly any common migs these days! Blackcap was our commonest mig, with c.15 seen, with only single lesser whitethroat, whitethroat, pied flycatcher and spotted flycatcher seen - compare this to 9 yellow browed warblers and 7 barred warblers - madness! But good fun too!

  • No vegetation taller than 6 inches - not quite true, sadly, but certainly a lot less than Scillies or Galley, come to that.

Job done, it seems. Stacks of cracking birds, and nowhere for them to hide. But...
Shetland cons

  • Birds can only find Shetland when assisted by easterly winds - easterlies certainly help but birds can (and do) turn up in any winds

  • Every single birder on Shetland is red-hot and keen as mustard - they will see everything before you do - the good thing is, not even the Shetland lads can be out every day, so there's still possibilities to get in amongst it when they're not looking!

  • If the wind turns to NW and is accompanied by rain, suicide will seem an attractive option - I asked my mate if he'd ever not seen anything on a trip to Shetland, and he said the worst time was 5 days of north-westerlies - tough going but he still ticked white's thrush

  • There are only so many Common Rosefinches a person can take - Its been 11 years since I last saw a rosefinch, and I saw 3 rosefinches in 4 days

  • If you muck something up, the best birders in Britain will be on hand to witness your ineptitude, and blog about it witheringly that same evening - there's always a chance. but luckily Brydon was very good about the sedge warbler!

  • Do you really want to follow in the exact same sheep-like footsteps as every other thinking birder in the land? N0! Which is why I'd go to Shetland every time!

  • Shetland doesn't do proper scones, and if you did find some clotted cream you certainly wouldn't be able to trust it - forget scones and twitch pies! The Voe Bakery does some fantastic ones - macaroni & bean pie, tattie & bean pie plus I'm told the sweet chili chicken pie is great! Hard to find at times though, and you do have to be pretty ruthless getting into the various shops and checking out both the hot counter & fridge sections before the rest of your carload beat you to it! I'm sure there'll be lots of hot pie action from the Isles here very soon!

Aren't rosefinches brilliant?

Although we dipped the white's thrush (we were on Unst, it was 1 mile from our gaff),  the last 2 hours were among the most exciting times I've had birding - after stumbling over, and then losing what was almost certainly last weeks river warbler of punkbirder fame (we had a large dark locustella with well-marked under tail coverts at the same site), a pale, sandy warbler then gave us the run-around for ages. Twice we had it seemingly pinned in a small stand of nettles, and both times it vanished! Cobbling together a composite description, it had to be a paddyfield warbler, confirmed beyond doubt once 2 of us had departed for a well-earned pint and the plane home, when it began to settle down a bit. It was joined by a blyth's reed warbler out of nowhere later that evening - madness! Can't wait till next autumn to go back!

 The only scottish tick of the trip - melodious warbler  - belter!

Monday, September 20, 2010

south east again!

Full of hope this morning, but 1 and a half hours later it was beginning to fade. Nothing much doing despite a good south-easterly all night. Two whinchats in the weedy fields at Shite Lane were nice, but I suspect they were probably still lingering from the 17th.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

how far would you go?

for one of these?

According to today's Irish Examiner, "busloads of british bird-watchers" are coming over to see the house crow in Cobh. This is a bit inaccurate, as twitchers rarely travel by bus (although I did get the overnight bus from Aberdeen to London for the golden-winged warbler at New Hythe many moons ago - successfully too). There were a reasonable number of UK twitchers in Cobh this morning though, which makes me wonder why they're here.

Firstly, I must state up front that I do keep a UK & Ireland list. But only because I birded over there for approx 12 years, and now I'm birding over here, so I don't really get UK ticks very often these days (the Heathrow brown shrike was my last - just happened to be in the area). It is a bit pathetic though, cos my UK list is still sub 400, while my irish list is 300 plus (but only just!). Combined, my UK/Ire list would be just about passable, if I just declared it as UK, or really really good, if I just declared it as Irish, but its not (and I don't!). Must point out here that the Galley patch list beats all, in order of importance!

If I still lived in the UK, I wouldn't keep a UK/Ire list, despite having seeing some great birds over here before I emigrated. I don't really see the point, as they are two different countries. I'm pretty sure Irish birders wouldn't dream of keeping such a list, although a few ship-assisted twitchers did jump on the Dublin - Holyhead ferry for the Anglesey black lark. This was only because it was a Western Pal tick or research purposes or something tho.  

Such ramblings don't even scratch the surface of whether this particular bird is tickable though! There's been quite a lot of debate on the IBN on such matters, with the best pro statement seeming to imply that house crows actually choose to travel on ships in order to reach new habitats in which to breed. All a bit "Battlestar Galactica" type of idea, but with a smaller cast, and fewer special effects. A point in defence of ticking it (from the same source) was that plenty of birders (including me) ticked the tailless white-crowned sparrow in Dursey Sound, so if that was ok as a very likely ship-assist, then why not this?

I'm sure both debates will rumble on, but for me, I was pleasantly surprised by the house crow - it was a cool bird! And who knows, I might even tick it yet!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

off-patch pec

Not a lot doing at Galley today although 3 tufted ducks on the lake yesterday and 1 coot there today show there's still a bit of movement going on. News of a pectoral sandpiper at White's Marsh dragged me over there for great views, (and a bad photo). Good to see another one, its been a while!

Another record shot!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

no frigatebirds

Gave Galley a lash this evening for an hour or so, as the wind fairly got up from the south-west. It was all a bit of a waste of time unfortunately, with only one arctic skua and 1 storm petrel in amongst the manxies. I was quite glad when it started to get dark!

Monday, September 6, 2010

sneaky greenish

A mid-morning sojourn today, but there seemed to have been a bit of a clear-out overnight. Only had 1 spotted flycatcher and 1 sedge warbler around Marsh Lane, although wheatears were definately new in, with c. 20 knocking around in small flocks of 4 or 5 birds - quite unusual for Galley, which never seems to get a lot of ears. The melodious warbler was seen again today around Shite Lane, but I didn't see the ortolan today, nor the 2 whinchats or any reed warblers.

Aborted an afternoon attempt for the greenish warbler at Strawtown, but tried again sans kids this evening and was rewarded by good but brief views as it flitted through a willow - good to see one again. Having seen 2 close to the patch in the last few years, I'd say the Shite Lane sycamores are definately due one of these!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

ortolan again

I was out at first light this morning but only had an hour or so to get in amongst it. Whinchat numbers had doubled to two, and there was a new male blackcap in the sycamores at Shite Lane, plus a new sedge warbler down Marsh Lane, with 2 reed warblers and a spotted flycatcher still around. The egyptian goose was still trying to get accepted into the mallard flock too, flying around over Long Strand - fully winged and unringed, as the birdlines would put it, oh and wary as, baz!

Had brief and still distant views of the ortolan bunting again, on wires halfway down Marsh Lane, before it headed off to a big stubble field again - no time to chase it today, sadly, but maybe tomorrow, if the rain clears. Wonder what else is going to be out there? 

Saturday, September 4, 2010

pushing it

Out again this morning, and at first there didn't seem to be much new about. The whinchat, whitethroat and a spotted flycatcher were still knocking about, but Dirk was still quiet (still far too much cover in there to be sure though!), and the top fields held nothing new. At least 3 reed warblers were in the reeds in Marsh Lane, but things didn't really heat up till I noticed a pale bird sitting on a distant hedge. I really couldn't get very much on it with just bins, but thought it could be an ortolan bunting. I rattled off a couple of super-zoomed (and super-bad) record shots, and headed back down Marsh Lane to get a better look. Arriving at the crop, I was walking up the side of the dike, when the bird booted out, flying up and around, calling a soft "pit, pit" all the time. As it started to descend over the other side of the valley, I pleaded "don't drop into the enormous kale field", whereupon it dropped into the enormous kale field - bollocks!

I hoofed up there (took a while), having alerted PC, but by the time I got up there, he'd seen it flying around back over Marsh Lane, apparently landing in a different stubble field. No further sign, but having checked the camera, I'm happy it was an ortolan (129) - see below:

It was very distant! Hopefully it'll get pinned down somewhere over the next couple of days - fingers crossed!

 The day's excitement was far from over though - news of an possible ruddy shelduck at Kilkeran Lake was nearly enough to make me drop all ortolan efforts, but better than that (as I've already had 1 on-patch), it turned out to be an egyptian goose - gen bird, obviously! Finally, I was sitting at the table, trying to catch up on updating corkbirdnews when I saw a bird on the telegraph wire at the bottom of the garden. I so nearly didn't check it, but something made me pick up the bins and lordy, another wryneck! Luckily the scope was already up (for the goose!) so gave it a good grilling before it flew off - house tick!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Galley comes good

Didn't get out till mid-morning today, but bumped into the whinchat again in the weedy field and also picked up last night's pied flycatcher at Shite Lane - handy for the year. Didn't have anything else on the rest of the circuit, and having met MOS we were pretty convinced that nothing much new was around. We decided to give the whinchat another bash, as MOS hadn't seen it, and I was very surprised to see a wryneck sitting on top of some brambles, whilst I was having a scan around. It flew over the dyke into a grassy field and we got great views (and some not so great photos) of it over the next few minutes - result!

 I headed off then, but news in the afternoon that MOS had seen a hippo very briefly dragged me back out to Shite Lane again. As I was trying to stalk a couple of spotted flycatchers for more camera practice (boy, do I need it!), the hippo flew out of a garden and landed on the same fenceline as the wryneck had been on only a couple of hours earlier - melodious warbler! (apologies for pushing the definition of record shots to a whole new low!) It seemed to be hanging about with a mixed flock of chats and a whitethroat. A pretty amayzing day for Galley, especially as all the birds were within 500 m of each other - wonder what we'll get tomorrow? (128).

Unfortunately in the pic on the left, the bird is flapping about, otherwise it would have been a perfect record shot, whilst in the second shot, it is cunningly hiding its primary tips behind the bramble branch - they were short though, honest!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

whinchat magic!

A few migs around this morning, although it was hard work digging them out! A couple of willow warblers, spotted flycatcher and cracking views of a grasshopper warbler was my own personal haul, but managed to successfully twitch a whinchat at Shite Lane crossroads (my first on-patch since 22 Oct 2006 - they've been hen's teeth lately!) and 2 reed warblers down Marsh Lane (125). 


A low point this morning was flushing and losing a probable garden warbler above Dirk - tried again for it later but no luck - a patch tick slips through me fingers! Best go have another look...

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A 3rd for the patch

Nothing much doing in a saunter round Shite Lane late morning, with 2 wheatears the only proof of migration.  Was outside on the phone to de langer early afternoon when a grey plover flew over calling away - excellent, cheers fella! Only my 3rd ever on patch, with 2 in the same week back in Sept '07 - its been a while (123) !

Thursday, August 19, 2010

big shears at last!

The SW blow continued this morning, with conditions looking really good first thing. It was a slow enough start, but 2 great shearwaters (122) west were worth the wait, especially the second bird which took its time ambling past nice and close - was beginning to think I wouldn't get one this year they've been so thin on the ground.  Managed another 10 or so sooty shearwaters, 6 bonxies and 1 arctic skua in the 2 hours, plus some storm petrels too - all good!

a slight improvement

A rather surprising good SW blow came on this afternoon - surprised Windfinder anyway. Got 3 hours in at Galley but failed on the (hoped for) large shear front. Did rack up 12 bonxies, 7 sooty shearwaters, 1 balearic shearwater, 1 common tern, 1 arctic tern, and c. 5 storm petrels though, which was a bit more variety than of late.

Monday, August 16, 2010

still nothing doing at sea

Tried another hour of seawatching this evening in a promising south-westerly & occasional drizzle. The first five minutes was quite promising, with a single bonxie and sooty shearwater west, but the rest of the hour was pants! Got another bonxie right at the death, but I was bored stupid by then! No immediate improvement in the offing according to windfinder either - ho hum!  

Saturday, August 14, 2010

green sand

Struck lucky this evening with a fine green sandpiper over the lake (121). Didn't see it as it was getting pretty dark, but it called 4 times before disappearing. A common sandpiper was also calling - waders are beginning to move!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

seawatch southwester

Did a watch this morning as part of a coordinated project around Ireland trying to see how many balearic shearwaters are around. The project is along the same lines as the Seawatch SW project, but with less mindless swearing cos Tom Mckinney isn't involved!

This was the second watch, but alas, it was light north-westerly - not usually any good for Galley. There wasn't much seabird action, although 4 common terns and a turnstone were both new for the year (120), while watching a peregrine trying to catch storm petrels out at sea was pretty cool. Highlight was 6 fin whales - one was reasonably close in, maybe 4 - 5 miles out, with at least 5 more blowing right on the horizon - cool! A while since I've had any off Galley, hopefully they'll stick around for a while.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

dismal weather for seawatching

Chanced a half hour watch this eve but nothing better than 1 bonxie, and 4 sandwich terns in a mediocre passage of manxies. Hopefully we'll get some better winds in August!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

quietening down again

After yesterday's excitement, I snuck up for an hour late morning but there wasn't much doing. Still a trickle of storm petrels, and reasonable numbers of manx shearwaters going through, plus 3 bonxies and an arctic skua, which was most welcome for the year (118).

wilson's on the move

A wet and windy morning, and my lazy start was repaid with news of a madeiran storm petrel and a couple of wilson's petrels off Galley. Bugger! Managed to get out for an hour late morning, but failed to get on anything significant. A second session in the early afternoon was much more successful, with 3 wilson's petrels past in 2 and a half hours, one of which went through with a european stormie, allowing a really good comparison between the two - class! Its been 15 years since my first and only wilson's, so it was great to connect with these ones. A nice balearic shearwater in with manxies, and an arctic tern were useful additions for the year too (117).

Saturday, July 10, 2010

quiet on the sea

Not a lot happening this pm off Galley, with 3 bonxies, 1 arctic skua, 1 storm petrel and 13 common scoter past between mid-afternoon and evening. A juvenile wheatear on the walk out was probably local stock, as there was a pair hanging around back in the spring.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

warm-up seawatch

My first seawatch for quite a while this afternoon in a promising wind. A few year ticks too, with 4 bonxies, 2 sooty shearwaters, 1 storm petrel and c. 15 puffins all west (114).  Hopefully its the first of many for the season!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


An unseasonal redpoll over this morning moves me onto 110 for the year - well ahead of all previous efforts.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

first wader for a while

Two dunlins hiding on the beach in the seaweed at Long Strand this afternoon were new for the year (109).  Both were in breeding plumage and presumably still on their way north. I thought this seemed a bit late, but with news of 100 at Ballycotton this evening, perhaps its not.  Had brief views of a basking shark just off Long Strand this evening too.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Shrike surprise

Got a bit of a shock this morning, when I was sitting looking out the bedroom window trying to work out if I was hungover or not. I gradually became aware that the bird I was looking at seemed to have a pale grey head with a black mask through the eye.  The thought that "that could be a shrike sitting there" gradually permeated my brain, before a scramble for the binoculars, (flinging the baby to one side) revealed that it was indeed a male red-backed shrike!! (108). It then flew into the sycamore trees in our garden, but flushed round the side of the house when I opened the window for another look, revealing its white tail patches as it went - cracking, but alas, all too brief - I couldn't relocate it afterwards.

Elsewhere on Galley today, a turtle dove and 2 collared doves were booting around, although I didn't catch up with them till they were off patch, while a spotted flycatcher was at Shite Lane. A basking shark was feeding in Dirk Bay this afternoon too, and 2 tufted ducks were on Kilkeran Lake this evening.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

spring sandpiper

Another grasshopper warbler was reeling away at Long Strand this evening, in a hawthorn bush in the dunes, so its song was carrying very well. A common sandpiper was also at Long Strand (107), which I think is my first spring record, although they are regular enough in small numbers in the autumn.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Nevermind the migrants, here's a bullfinch

Took a stroll down Dirk this morning with high hopes of scoring a golden o or something similar. No such luck, but I was rewarded with a fine bullfinch instead, which is only my 5th sighting on the patch, I think.  There was little else doing there or around Shite Lane but did finally land a grasshopper warbler for the year, reeling away near the house tonight (106).

Monday, May 3, 2010

still trickling in

Out again this morning for another thrash of the patch. Still quiet but luckily I'm getting pretty used to that. Dirk struck lucky again this morning, with a fine spotted flycatcher (104), while I tried to liven things up a bit by stringing a garden warbler (still haven't seen one on the patch!) but had to admit defeat when it morphed into a female blackcap - maybe tomorrow...

Sunday, May 2, 2010

swift return

Another couple of hours in the field notched up this morning, but to not much avail. Still very quiet at Galley, although a singing male blackcap at Shite Lane was new in, while a swift over Dirk Bay was my first for the year (103).

Saturday, April 24, 2010

quiet enough

A two hour wander about the patch mid-morning was again pretty quiet, with only 1 wheatear, 1 willow warbler, 1 chiffchaff, 1 whitethroat and 3 house martins (102). Maybe tomorrow...

Friday, April 23, 2010

a new troat

Sneaked out late afternoon for a quick look around Shite Lane, and was rewarded with a whitethroat for the year (101), along with a chiffchaff and a couple of wheatears.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

ton up

Gleaned a couple more year ticks on the patch today. Firstly, several sedge warblers seemed to have arrived overnight and were all singing away in the reeds around Kilkeran Lake this morning. It was still quiet on the mig front though, with only 4 wheatears knocking about at Shite Lane, (despite a mega count of 28+ birds at Galley yesterday evening), plus 1 willow warbler and 1 chiffchaff. Two sandwich terns off the cove were also new for the year (100), while a reeling grasshopper warbler halfway along Long Strand was too far outside the patch to be audible from within, more's the pity! Still, can't complain, as I don't normally hit 100 species till June or July - this bodes well for the homecoming of the Golden Mallard!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Hammer time!

Had a gentle wander down Marsh Lane this morning - not much in the way of migrants apart from 2 wheatears and a singing  chiffchaff but a yellowhammer was a bit more like it (98)  - always a good one on the patch as they can be tricky.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

taking stock

Quiet again for migs this morning, with just 5 wheatears, 2 willow warblers and 2 chiffchaffs around the Shite Lane area. Its been so clear lately that I think most stuff is just going straight over. A few whimbrel beginning to move through now, with a flock of 21 birds arriving at Long Strand this evening. Highlight of the day was a stock dove at Long Strand (97), which signals the end of having to scan all pigeons (hooray!), while a male tufted duck on the lake was the first for a while.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

pleasant valley sunday

A lovely calm, sunny morning on patch, and a few more migs about. Three blackcaps and 6 swallows were both new for the year, while at least 6 chiffchaffs, 2 willow warblers and 3 wheatears were also knocking about. Bird of the day was a 2nd winter iceland gull over Long Strand (96) - they've been scarce enough this winter. Off patch, an early swift was at Red Strand this morning. 

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

not much doing

There certainly wasn't much sign of movement at Galley this morning, despite some good rain overnight. However did bag 2 willow warblers for the year (93), plus 3 chiffchaffs.

Friday, April 2, 2010

a sand martin at last!

Was out on patch quite a bit during today, for one reason or another, but didn't see any sign of a mig until this evening, when there was 1 sand martin hawking over the lake (92). A scandinavian rock pipit was near the ruined castle on the way out to the lighthouse late afternoon too.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Cork Bird News to your phone, for free!

I'm currently trialling a twitter site for rare & scarce bird news in County Cork. If you want to receive updates on sightings via your mobile, for free, you need to sign up to twitter online at  Once you've got a username & password, you can set up your account so that you register your mobile with twitter - more here...


When your mobile is activated with twitter, you can go to the cork bird news site ( and follow it - see here...


At the moment, I'm posting news via my phone or online. However, twitter are currently beta-testing a multiple users (contributors) system, which would let several folk operate from 1 account - this would (theoretically) mean that someone finding a rare in the field could just send 1 text message to Twitter/Cork Bird News and the news would go to everyone following the site on their phones - in seconds! Currently, sending a twitter message costs 9c on O2 and 0c on vodafone, as an introductory offer - they've only just got it going.


As well as news of rare & scarce birds, news of decent falls of migrants, or seawatch totals will also be posted, to let folks know that it mite be worth checking elsewhere. News of megas found elsewhere in the country will also be posted.


Click on "Join the Conversation" on the Twitter box to the right to see all news postings to date, or to sign up.

Monday, March 29, 2010

a few more migs

The spring trickle continued today, with 3 chiffchaffs at Shite Lane and a willow warbler in Dirk Bay, which I managed to miss, so no year ticks! Doh!

Sunday, March 28, 2010


Very quiet mig-wise this morning, with a female merlin the only thing of note.  A male merlin was seen later, and a black redstart was knocking about the ruin on the way to the lighthouse.  My first manx shearwaters of the year were feeding off Long Strand this afternoon (91).

Friday, March 26, 2010

zilp zalp

Another lash round the patch this morning - finally caught up with the wintering whimbrel in Dirk Bay, with the first chiffchaff of the spring also there (90) (although it could have been skulking there all winter too, I guess).  Not much else doing though - still no hirundines yet!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

more ears

A nice sunny morning at Galley, but by the time I got out into the field, a strong easterly wind had got up, so that it felt pretty baltic. Just 2 wheatears was the best of it, out near the lighthouse, where they've bred in previous years.  A sparrowhawk and a peregrine flew over Long Strand and the spoonbill was still asleep at Rosscarbery  this morning too.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

sherkin, and a tick!

Managed to get over to Sherkin this afternoon to catch up with the stone curlew there - a good irish tick, and tricky to get anywhere outside of Norfolk. It was certainly the first time I've seen one without parking illegally by the side of the road and scoping frantically before getting moved on by the Weeting Heath wardens! Big thanks to Julian for finding it in the first place, and for ferrying us around today! Great stuff, fella!

Monday, March 15, 2010

got me ears on!

Playing a hunch, I had a quick stroll down the top lane this lunchtime, thinking that the ploughed and weedy fields could be good for producing the first mig of the spring. Imagine my surprise when a wheatear popped up - a cracking male too (88).  Top stuff! Sadly nothing pink & white with a crest followed suit though - that was my other hunch - can't win them all!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

year ticks at last!

A full-scale assault on the patch today failed to produce any migs but did net a male merlin and a ringed plover for the year (87). Still good numbers of divers about, with at least 60 red-throated divers and 20 great northern divers offshore, plus a few redwings and song thrushes still knocking about too.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

the end of silence

The by now traditional long silence between the flurry of winter birding and the start of the spring is hopefully nearly over, as the first early spring migrants have begun to appear on the cork coast. Had a wander down Shite Lane this morning, but couldn't do better than a water rail skulking in the ditch at the bottom of Marsh Lane, trying to look rare. Only me second one actually on the patch, as I usually hear them around Kilkeran Lake, which technically speaking is actually outside the patch. Enough excitement for one day!

Monday, February 15, 2010

a low-listing tart no longer...

more of a medium to low-listing tart!  After catching up with the glossy ibis at Tacumshin on Saturday, I've finally joined the 300 club for Ireland, if such a thing exists - I think most respectable listers have long since moved on to the 350 club, if not beyond!

Back on patch, 3 whooper swans were on the lake briefly this lunchtime (85), before the resident pair of mute swans got too hostile.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


A sparrowhawk over Long Strand mid-morning was new for the year (84). The great crested grebe remains on the lake, but not a lot else about.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

pleasant valley sunday

Cracking day to be out and about! With divers flavour of the month, I had a good look off Long Strand this morning, but couldn't do better than 50 red-throated divers and 19 great northern divers - both nationally important counts! Things were steady on the lake, with 50 teal, 2 wigeon, 1 tufted duck, 44 little grebes, 1 coot and the great crested grebe, while the female/immature black redstart was still messing about on the beach at the surfers end of long strand. The year ticks have dried up though!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

mid morning break

A morning sojourn around shite lane produced a grey wagtail for my troubles (83), but little else.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

garden dove

A collared dove sitting on the phone wires at the bottom of the garden  this morning was an unseasonal visitor to the patch (82).  One little egret was also around, proving that they didn't all succumb during the big freeze, though numbers generally seem pretty low just now.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

two more for the year

Minimal effort spent on the patch today, but still gleaned fulmar and kestrel for the year (81).  A (the same??) red kite was seen briefly over Rathbarry late morning, and a 2nd winter med gull flew over Long Strand early afternoon, while the great crested grebe was still on the lake, with 14 tufted ducks. The juvenile spoonbill was still loitering at Ross this afternoon too.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

oh no, not another red kite!

A wander down Dirk this afternoon didn't produce very much, but on the slog back up the hill, what should come winging over the bay but Galley's 4th red kite in 2 weeks! This one was tagged, a red tag on its right wing, which, I've been informed by a reliable source, means its come from England. I already suspected that this was were the 3 others came from, but its good to have it confirmed, in this case at least. Hopefully, it'll be possible to work out where the one with the purple tag on the left wing came from too. Anyway, the kite started soaring a bit, and then dropped down to land on the cliff edge between Dirk and Red Strand, but we couldn't pick it up from further up the road, unfortunately.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

greasy grebe

A winter plumage great crested grebe was gracing the lake with its presence this morning (78) - only my second ever on patch! The Aythya flock had at least 19 tufted duck present (although they kept diving so it was tricky to count them!), with a female pochard in with them.

A black redstart at Long Strand late afternoon was another welcome one for the year (79).


No birding on patch today cos it was too wet and miserable. However, did stumble into a juvenile spoonbill at Ross at lunchtime, which was nice. Well, actually it was a bit sad, cos you could almost see the poor thing shivering, it was so wet and windy. Went back later this afternoon to try and get even better pics but there was no sign. Hopefully, its relocated to the lake, and I'll re-find it again tomorrow!

spoonbill - honest
Erm, its the smaller one on the right!

Sunday, January 10, 2010


A HUGE flock of ducks on the lake first thing this morning - could see 28 blobs out there, all apparently diving. When it eventually got light, I could make out 21 tufted ducks, 4 pochards, the female scaup and 2 coots all hanging out together - impressive counts for the lake in recent times (although you should have seen it back in the 70's, when it was really good - mcA pers comm). Easily the biggest Aythya flock I've had here - is there more to come? Still at least 5 woodcock knocking about Galley too.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

more movement

After yesterday's excitement, I wasn't sure there'd be many birds left on the move, but, although visibly less than yesterday, there were still a few thousand thrushes over in the first 2 hours of the day.  The rate was averaging about 50 thrushes per minute for the first couple of hours, which multiplies up to roughly 6,000 birds in the first 2 hours. Again, I'd say the majority were redwing, with fieldfare and song thrush in there too. Lapwing numbers were up on yesterday, with a minimum count of 835 west between 8.45 and 11.05. Didn't see many snipe moving today, but there were easily 200 scattered throughout the fields of Galley. Plenty woodcock too, with c.12 knocking about, including 2 from the house. 

There were a good few wigeon moving too, which is unusal for Galley, with 4 landing on the lake, early in the day, and then another 23 flying over Long Strand later. Once I finally ventured out, 6 shelduck over the lake were unexpected, but they moved on quickly (77).  Duck numbers on the lake increased to 17 tufted duck, 1 pochard and 1 scaup by evening.

now that's what i call vis mig...and a patch tick

Looking out the window at 8.40am, I gradually became aware that there were serious numbers of thrushes on the move. Scanning with bins, I could see that there were thrushes all across the bay, all moving west towards ross and toe head. For the next 3 hours there was a continuous movement of birds over the bay - I did a few counts, and birds were moving through at approx 250 birds per minute. If you multipy this up, the numbers start to get pretty amayzing! Being a bit conservative, we'll call it 1,000 birds in 5 minutes, or 12,000 thrushes in an hour - the rate appeared pretty constant for the next 2 hours, so that's 24,000 thrushes. Even if we take half that number for the third hour (wasn't watching so intently, but the rate hadn't dropped much), that's another 6,000 birds, making 30,000 birds in the first 3 hours of day (not including the first 30 mins of daylight, when I wasn't watching). Wow!

So what were they all? I'd say that the vast majority, (80%?) were redwing, with 10% song thrush and 10% fieldfare - so thats approximately 24,000 redwing, 3,000 song thrush and 3,000 fieldfare. Wow!

In amongst the thrushes, there was other stuff too - a minimum of 300 snipe over, (largest flock was 23), 275 lapwing (largest flock 24), 150 starlings, 7 golden plover, 15 black-tailed godwits and another untagged red kite, in off the sea heading towards castlefreke. Wow!

News from Galley of a woodcock had me itching to get out for a bit, so drove up to the top fields, flushing another woodcock on the way - it sat on the wall 2 feet away, eye-balling me - full-fat patch tick! Goldcrest there too was new for the year. A quick boot of the top stubble fields revealed a flock of 20 skylarks, plus c.30 chaffinches, including a brambling, (one I missed last year), plus a raven. Wow! It was feckin freezing out though, so we didn't linger. Thrushes were still coming over in dribs and drabs, with the odd lapwing now and again. The 3 buzzards were still booting around too.

Back home, and a squizz at the lake revealed another year tick - 3 coot! My biggest ever count - in fact you could even call it a flock! Wow! Aythya numbers had also swollen to 7 tufted ducks, the male pochard and the female scaup. Crazy scenes! Quite a morning, all in all (75)!!



Friday, January 8, 2010

And the winners are....

Congrats to North Don in Aberdeen for winning the 2009 patch list challenge. It was a close-run thing between himself and last years winner, fat paul scholes, but he ran out victorious in the end with a whopping 107.94% - amayzing!  Here are photos of the much-coveted beautiful golden mallard trophy in its new place of worship (you can see why these things go for £50 on ebay - yes really!)

The winner of the much-coveted porcelain snowy owl was Galley Head for the black-headed bunting found in September at Shite Lane, with a whopping 92% of the votes! Thanks to all who voted.  Here's some photos of this wondrous trophy, sans one wing, cos I still haven't got any superglue yet. Not sure how much one of these would fetch on ebay, but i'd say it would be a lot!


You can see why the patch challenge is such a draw, when you realise just how high the stakes are! Bet Gavin is kicking himself for signing up to it now!  On the birding front, a quick glance at the lake late afternoon revealed that the male pochard, female scaup and 3 tufted ducks were still present.


Thursday, January 7, 2010

halfway there already

Broke the 50% barrier today with a whopping flock of 5 Aythya ducks on the lake at lunchtime, including a male pochard, the female scaup and 3 tufted ducks (1m, 2 f). Numbers of teal have also reached a dizzying 30 birds - this cold spell is really beginning to pay off! The calm conditions enticed me to have another squizz at the divers in the bay, but could only manage to find several red-throated divers and great northern divers. A winter plumage tystie was a good bonus though, as they can be tricky (69). Still heaps of winter thrushes around too, belting all over the place.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Another red kite!

Over the last couple of days I've gleaned lesser black-backed gull and stonechat for the year, but this morning there was more excitement, when my second red kite of the week flew past the house! Unlike the first  bird, which was untagged, this one had an obvious purple wing tag on its left wing. It flew steadily into the wind, disappearing towards Red Strand (66). Happy days!

Monday, January 4, 2010

slowing down already

Bitterly cold today, but still managed a good hoof around the patch. Not much doing, with just 6 additions to the list, although an adult winter med gull past the house this morning was nice (63).

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Vote now for the best patch find in 2009

Yes, avid readers will be delighted to once again have a chance to decide the fate of the coveted (and only slightly broken) porcelain snowy owl - our annual award for the best patch find. Just have a look at the poll on the right hand side of the screen, and try to imagine which find would you most like to bump into on your patch (if you have one). And then make sure you vote for black-headed bunting (its comin home, its comin home etc etc). Results will be announced soon (once I've glued the wing back on, and made it presentable for a photo).

that's more of it, ted

The year-listing continued today (57), with another look for the black-throats. No luck, but still good numbers of divers off Long Strand, with c 45 red-throated divers and c. 25 great northern divers around, plus 1 female common scoter. A good day for raptors too, with buzzard, peregrine and hen harrier all nailed for the year. Duck numbers increased, with 12 teal and 5 tufted duck on the lake, plus kingfisher there too - another good year tick.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy 2010!!

I love the 1st of January! Its really sad, but I get a huge kick out of trundling round the patch seeing everything for the first time each year! As it transpired, I only managed the last hour of the day on-patch, and dipped yesterday's 2 black-thoated divers at Long Strand, but the light was pretty bad by the time I started looking. Still plenty great northern divers and red throated divers out there, so will have another crack tomorrow morning. Racked up 32 species by dusk, nothing unusual, but still heaps of redwing around, a few fieldfares and a couple of calling water rail at the lake (32).