Friday, December 28, 2012

2012 Galley Roundup

Erm, haven't really been on here very much of late. Which is very remiss of me, as 2012 has actually been my best year ever on patch (so far). With a whopping 149 species in the bag (so far), it is unlikely that I will reach these giddy heights again for some time. Although, that's the beauty of patch birding - you just never know what will turn up!

So, what were the highlights of 2012 for Galley then?

The autumn was pretty good but not amayzing - with a haul of two yellow-browed warblers, red-breasted flycatcher and richard's pipit all on patch. Which was nice!

And it was the best spring I've ever had here, by some distance, despite certain ill-researched literature proclaiming that it is never done in spring! The fall on the 1st of May was of a scale I hadn't experienced at Galley before (although still small beer compared to UK east coast falls), but 200 willow warblers, 150 wheatears, 40 blackcaps, 20 sedge warblers and 10 whitethroats, 4 grasshopper warblers, 3 whinchats, 3 cuckoos, 2 redstarts, 2 lesser whitethroatsreed warbler, tree pipit and short-eared owl is not to be sneezed at!! My best moment of the day was walking a hedge with willow warblers flitting everywhere when suddenly, bam! a garden warbler jumped out in front of me! Patch Tick! Patch Bogey nailed! In a day of big winds, it was the showiest bird I saw, which was just as well as its taken me 9 years to get one on patch! Ridiculous!

The seawatching in August was really good too! Massive numbers of Cory's Shearwaters were great to see, plus my fourth fea's petrel here, but best of all was the adult long-tailed skua late one August evening - another long-awaited patch tick and much appreciated!

However, the run away winning moment was seeing the female red-flanked bluetail at Shite Lane on 26th March - what a fantastic bird and all the better for being on patch - amayzing!

Wowzers! What will 2013 bring? Stay tuned to find out!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

October Update

Jeepers! October is nearly over! Its been good on patch though of late with three yellow-browed warblers, firecrest and a very approachable red-breasted flycatcher being the key highlights.

I managed a patch tick too, in the form of crossbills - the first bunch flew over unseen a few days ago, leaving me with a tricky patch tick dilemma, as I've no other "heard only" species on the patch list. Luckily I heard some more yesterday and managed to get on them as they went over - nine birds heading south-east. Its been a good autumn for crossbills on the south coast (e.g. 100+ on Cape yesterday!!) so connecting with them was eagerly anticipated!

The patch year record has been demolished this year too, currently standing on 144 after fieldfare today - the previous best was 141 in 2010 and there's still two months to go!! This record breaking score has also had implications for the Patch Challenge, with very little separating the top five, all of whom are over 100% already. However, as things stand I'm just in the lead, and am hoping to consolidate this over the next few weeks! Sure, we'll see how it goes...

Sunday, September 9, 2012

birding from the jax

I'm not proud. I'll admit I was totally delighted to get a wigeon on the lake this afternoon (137). Such are the rewards for the dedicated patch worker! After a couple of hours seawatching, hoping for a grey phal but failing (60 sooty shearwaters was pretty good tho), I resorted to scanning the lake for year ticks. Unfortunately it was too windy on the patio, so I had to find a more sheltered spot - the upstairs jax! Perfect!

There was just enough room for the tripod, and by standing on a stool (no pun intended) I could even see most of the hidden corner! Scanning through the gulls, I got on a duck that made me think "wigeon" but before I could confirm that it wasn't one, a real wigeon walked past in the background! Excellent! Less than annual and hard to predict where to find one, this was a huge bonus to the year list! Now only two needed to reach the 100% in the patch challenge, and just 5 short of a new patch year list record - its all to play for!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Another fea's for Galley

A few recent seawatches have produced low numbers of great shearwaters and a few sooty shearwaters, however with the wind looking good for a south-westerly blow I headed out to Galley first thing in the hope of better numbers. I was soon joined by Paul Moore who quickly picked up 3 cory's shearwaters ambling through. A good start! But that was it pretty much for the next two hours. A few sooty shearwaters whizzed by, and the occasional bonxie but not a whole lot else.

Until 9.03 when Paul picked up another Cory's. And then started swearing. A lot. Then he shouted fea's petrel. Two seconds later, it flew into my scope view. And I agreed. And started swearing. And shaking. A lot! Its amayzing the adrenalin rush that you get when you see one. After my first one at Galley a few years ago I had to go home for a lie-down!

Two more cory's shearwaters came through shortly after the fea's, and a nice close great shearwater and then it all died off again. So I went home. For a lie-down!

Just fantastic! The swearing was good too. Tom Mckinney would have been proud!

Monday, August 6, 2012

more seawatching fun

July passed in a blur, with a fair bit of effort put in but little or no reward! However a run of south-westerlies at the start of August surely had to bring more seabirds to the coast?

An early session on the 1st produced 4 great shearwaters, 14 sooty shearwaters, 1 pomarine skua and 72 puffins, while another morning watch on the 2nd scored 2 more great shearwaters, a couple of large shears and 17 sooties. With conditions looking good that afternoon I headed out again and on arrival was rooted to the spot for the next 6 hours! After a heavy shower, Cory's shearwaters began streaming steadily past in small groups at a range of distances from shore. They were coming by every minute or so. Now and again, great shearwaters would also come through, either singly or mixed in with groups of Cory's. My two clickers were put to good use as over the next few hours numbers crept up, until It was almost dark, but they were still passing. The tally finished up on 1,000+ Cory's shearwaters, 32 great shearwaters, 52 sooty shearwaters, 5 pomarine skuas, 7 bonxies, 3 arctic skuas & 40 puffins.

Back for more at first light on the 3rd. The lighthouse had been on when I'd left the night before, and was still on when I arrived, but with the wind still blowing out of the south-west I had to go back! The first bird through the scope was a Cory's - had they been passing all night? By the end of the session, I'd racked up another 310 Cory's shearwaters, 32 great shearwaters, 61 sooty shearwaters, 4 pomarine skuas and 7 bonxies.

If anything, conditions looked better by the afternoon, with heavy showers passing through and the wind increasing a little. As luck would have it, I was able to escape both work & the kids again and flaked back up. Numbers of Cory's were lower by now, but there was a higher proportion of great shears in the mix, meaning you really had to concentrate to separate the two at times - great practice! Another four hours passed quickly, with 154 Cory's shearwaters, 58 great shearwaters and 32 sooty shearwaters in the bag. However, the best was left till last when I finally scored a long-tailed skua at Galley! Skua numbers had been good that afternoon, with 10 pomarine skuas, 5 bonxies and an arctic skua through, so when KC called up another arctic, I thought I'd liven things up by saying "it looks a bit delicate", as I was still trying to find it in the scope. Five seconds after seeing it, we were both repeating "it looks a bit delicate", and then the penny dropped! Fantastic to finally see one off Galley, and it was only my second for Cork, after a juv on Cape way back in September '91. This was a cracking adult, albeit without the tail streamers, but awesome none the less!

Rainbow's end produced Long-tailed Skua shortly after 

I was quite relieved when the wind finally swung away from south-west that night. Looking back, it was an amayzing spell of seawatching, and easily my highest tally of Cory's in one day. Wonder if that's seawatching over for the year? Hope not - must go check Windfinder...

Sunday, July 1, 2012

yippee! seawatching!

1st of July - time to go seawatching! The wind swung round to the south-west this evening so I headed up to Galley for a scoveen at the sea. There were huge numbers of manx shearwaters scooting past close in - too close for the scope, meaning I had to keep switching from scanning further out and scanning the manxies for rarer fare! Three pomarine skuas were my first of the year, followed by 4 common terns.

Next up was a cracking cory's shearwater, hardly flapping as it headed west. Great to see one again! Two bonxies loomed up out of the mist, and then as it cleared and the sun came out, it was back to scanning the manxies which were still hooring past! With time running out a distant arctic skua made it 5 year ticks in 1 hour 15 mins - happy with that! (124). A good start to the season!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

leo score!

After a hectic evening watching da footy, I ventured outside for a breath of air just as dusk was falling. I was barely out of the door when I saw an owl come floating over the top of the house, and away over the field next door. It looked pretty dark and there was no sign of it against the field background, whereas I'm pretty sure a barn owl would have shown up in that light. So, its going down as a long-eared as I'm sure that's what it was - unless it was a vagrant tawny of course...

Full-fat patch tick ya bas! Result! (119)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Desperate times

Its been a pretty good spring for turtle doves in Cork but the species still eludes me on patch for the year, and its about the only regular thing I still need this spring.
News of two at nearby (but off-patch) Red Strand got me wondering if they’d be visible from the top of Dirk Bay (on-patch, but approx. 1 km from Red Strand). There is a bit of history with long-range patch ticking from Dirk, (e.g. here) but not for a couple of skulky doves – this could be tricky!
Efforts to find a willing volunteer proved futile, meeting with various piss-poor excuses like “I’m in Kerry” and “Isn’t that harassing migrants” etc, so I drove to Red Strand to dig the birds out myself, in the unlikely hope they’d remain in full view while I pegged it back to Dirk. All was going well, until a power-walker appeared and headed purposefully up the very track alleged to be containing the doves! Bollox! If I was still at Dirk, I’d have seen them flush! Well, I did see them flush twice and then disappear into a tarmaced garden surrounded by a high hedge.
With the doves now pinned, I pegged it back to Dirk. The garden looked pretty small from there, and the light wasn’t great, rendering the 50x on the scope obsolete. However, after about 10 minutes, I noticed something grubbing around on the tarmac beside the house, followed by another something! The excitement reached fever pitch as the two dots doves headed down the driveway towards me – well, ok they got ever so slightly closer! At one point you could nearly clearly see that they were doves, and then one flapped a bit and the crowd went wild!
So, I finally got turtle dove for the year, which together with the water rail I gleaned last night (actually that was off-patch too, but clearly audible from patch) puts me on 115 for the year – streets ahead on any previous year, but will my luck hold?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A wader day

May continues to surprise, with a few year ticks still dribbling in. Since the last post, I’ve jammed a huge flock of 16 (count ‘em!) bar-tailed godwits and a soaringbuzzard, as well as a wee late fall of spotted flycatchers (at least 8). Wasn’t expecting much today on the mig front, and couldn’t do better than 2 collared doves and a lingering spotted flycatcher. However, waders were on the move today, as a look at Long Strand showed – another 2 bar-tailed godwitsconsorting with a knot!! And lingering in view for several minutes! Unheard of!
Noticed a massive number of hirundines on the deck in the horse field by the lake late morning – there must have been at least 150 swallows, c30 house martinsand  the odd sand martin hunkered down – never seen them sheltering like that before! By mid-afternoon, numbers had at least doubled, but couldn’t pull anything rare out of the bag. 10 dunlin on the lakeshore was another spring wader bonus though – 113 and counting!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

more migs

Its been a busy week for year ticks! Although things slowed down a little after the bumper harvest on 1st May, there’s been plenty of on-patch action to keep me busy.  Weds & thurs were quiet enough, with numbers of willows, caps and ears slowly dropping off after the big fall, although I suspect there were still new birds moving through.  Friday morning also had nothing new, but a late afternoonspotted flycatcher at Shite Lane lifted the spirits, and was quickly followed by 20sanderlings on Long Strand – not seen many in spring – some were just coming into summer plumage too.
And then this weekend its been all ducks. Still bashed the patch both mornings, and had another spotted flycatcher and a male whinchat this morning, but an ever-expanding aythya flock on the lake has proved good value for year ticks, with 4 tufted ducks, 2 pochard and a female scaup all gleaned.
The discovery that I’d omitted pheasant from the year-listing proceedings was very welcome. I’d had an inkling that I maybe hadn’t counted it, but kept forgetting to check. All in all, patch year list now standing at a whopping 109 to date – beating my previous best in 2010 by 2 species and 3 days – all good!
Its currently blowing a stiff south-easterly and bucketing down with rain – what’s to be had tomorrow I wonder?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

patch bogey nailed at last!!

An amayzing day on patch!! Galley was heaving with common migrants, and the birding was great! It was a bit like a uk east coast fall, I guess, not something that we are used to over here! The common stuff consisted of at least 200 willow warblers, 150 wheatears, 40 blackcaps, 20 sedge warblers and 10whitethroats, while scattered in amongst all these were 4 grasshopper warblers, 3 whinchats, 3 cuckoos, 2 redstarts, 2 lesser whitethroats and areed warbler. My best moment of the day was walking a hedge with willow warblers flitting everywhere when suddenly, bam! a garden warbler jumped out in front of me! Patch Tick! Patch Bogey nailed! In a day of big winds, it was the showiest bird I saw, which was just as well as its taken me 9 years to get one on patch! Ridiculous!
A call of black kite late in the afternoon had us all out scouring again, but no joy! However, the day wasn’t over as a tree pipit called explosively from somewhere, 2cuckoos appeared from nowhere and a short-eared owl came in being mobbed by corvids – only my 3rd one on patch, and 1st one for several years! Excellent altogether!
With patch gank like ringed plovermanx shearwater and common sandpiperall falling too, the final tally on the year list front was 12! That where to watch birds in Ireland Galley section definately needs a re-write now!! (103)

Monday, April 30, 2012

bit windy out

Bloody ‘ell sheila! Its been nothing but strong northerlies for the past two weeks and up until this weekend, spring had all but stalled! However a singing sedge warbler on thurs night was a sign that birds were getting through de wind, while on saturday we actually had a pretty big fall by Galley standards – upwards of 20 blackcaps and 50 willow warblers, plus cracking views of a grasshopper warbler. All the birds seemed to be just fresh in and were moving along the hedgerows into the stiff northerly wind. Shame I didn’t have time to get round the whole patch!
Sunday was a similar story, with fewer caps and willows, but a stronger wind so maybe birds were just keeping lower? A few wheatears were in evidence, another gropper at the light (though missed a reed w there), and a collared dove was at Shite Lane. Best of all was a wind-blown cuckoo late afternoon – cracking views as it struggled to cope with the conditions – only my 5th here in 9 years, and first one since ’09 – good to get another one (91).

Friday, March 30, 2012

Night heron treasure hunt

Today I was Anneka Rice for a while! Got a call about an adult night heron in skibbereen late morning and had a tricky decision to make as I only had an hour before the school run. And skib is 30 mins away. Feck it. I went. And skib is actually only 20 mins away! Who knew?

Anyway, with the town centre jammed, and the clock ticking, I switched to HMU mode (highly mobile unit). Hoofing along the pavement, knocking grannys out of the way, whilst on the phone to Julian for directions, I realised I was Anneka Rice in Treasure Hunt - that tedious race-against-the-clock pointless excercise that used to be on Channel 4 years back. Just as the clock was nearly run down, I found the secret passageway that Julian was on about, and hey presto - there he was! Shortly afterwards, once I'd stopped gasping, I even managed to see the heron!

Yes indeed, back in the territory of piss-poor record shots! Bird duly ticked, it was back to the jogging and cursing and knocking over grannys all the way home, and even made it to the school with 2 minutes to spare. Happy days.

Monday, March 26, 2012

red-flanked bluetail!!!!

Cripes! What a day! Birding wasn't much of an option this morning having been up with a sickly child all night, but a call from CC just after getting out the shower changed all that... "Drop the kids, there's a female red-flanked bluetail at Shite Lane!!" I think I was there about 3 minutes later, luckily I'd had the foresight to get dressed first!

 A nervous few minutes while I put the news out on corkbirdnews - hands were definately a bit shaky, while we waited for it to show again! And then suddenly, there it was! A bluetail! On Galley! Fantastic! Ireland's 3rd record and the first one in spring, on me feckin patch! Wowzers!

The rest of the day passed in a buzzy blur! Wandered out again after lunch for another look at it, and again it showed really well after a bit of a wait. Hearty thanks to CC for finding it and providing these shots for the blog too. The bird was still present this evening but will it break the mould and stay for a second day (the previous two haven't...)

Photos copyright Ciaran Cronin

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Patch Jam

Birding time was very limited today. Was out for an hour or so first thing this morning, but to be honest it was only really light by the time I'd finished - nothing in the bag at all. Mid-morning the lake caught my eye, and I wandered out to scan it, thinking that there really should be a shelduck on it. Bingo! There was one harassing some lesser black backed gulls - excellent! 10 minutes later, when I scanned again it had vanished!


The next bit of luck was even more jammy. A quick glance out the upstairs jax window prior to answering a call of nature revealed 2 male blackbirds having a go at each other on the garden wall. Only one looks like its got a white crescent on its breast. A quick scramble for the bedroom bins and Bingo again - ring ouzel! (79). What a cracker! He flew up on to the phone wire and then quickly back down to the same area, landing just the other side of the wall. Only my second spring bird here, and they are tricky enough in autumn. My luck today was definately in! Maybe I should try for something even more exotic tomorrow?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Winter v spring

Had just arrived at Shite Lane when a loud "nyeh" had me jumping off the bike - brambling! (77). It called a couple more times from the trees, showing well, before heading off. My 1st spring one, and I'd guess they are quite unusual at this time of year. Usually fairly scarce in autumn and not guaranteed so a good bonus for the patch challenge.

That was pretty much it though, not many signs of proper spring migrants!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Ello willow ello

A bit more mig action at Galley this morning in the form of a singing willow warbler at Shite Lane (76), with a handful of chiffchaffs around too. Hopefully get a bit more in tomorrow, as the south-easterly continues.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The ears have landed

After several days of thrashing the patch (or at least the likeliest bits) I was finally rewarded this morning with a cracking male wheatear, which was followed by another on the way home. A female was also there this pm, while a chiffchaff in the garden was another sign that things are getting through! There's been a few additions since my last post, namely stock dove, merlin and common scoter, which with the wheatears makes 75 for the year to date. Getting there!

This iceland gull was hanging around with some common gulls in the field next to the house this afternoon, allowing more much-needed digi-scoping practice to be had!

and this was the stock was quite far away

and while yer on, here's a v dodgily "enhanced" redwing - know your limits!

Saturday, February 18, 2012


Another strike at Red Strand this morning, with a 1st w glaucous gull visible from Dirk (68), with a 1st w iceland gull and 2 med gulls there too. Had my first go at digiscoping too, despite the bad light and strong north-westerly (photographers always blame the weather!) Not great but the camera seems to work pretty well with the scope! More practice required. Behold, a heavily cropped med – could be a lot of this sort of thing over the next while!
med gull

Sunday, January 29, 2012

money well spent

I got a new scope recently, with a rather nice 25-50x zoom. This got me wondering how far off-patch I could see stuff, whilst out scanning for divers this morning. Like, is there anything to see on those rocks over there approximately 2.5 km away? Yes, there are 3 oystercatchers and some small dark waders hopping about. Could those small dark waders be small enough and dark enough to be purple sandpipers? Only one way to find out! Drive 2 km and scan the rock from a bit closer! Why look! Three oystercatchers and half a dozen purple sandpipers hopping about! Am I definately looking at the right rock? Only one way to find out! Drive 2 km back to the patch and have another look at the rock again! Why look! Three oystercatchers and some purple sandpipers hopping about! That's a patch tick no less! Result! (64)

When I got home, I realised the rock was also visible from the house, but alas, a wicked heat haze had sprung up in the time it took to get home, dashing my chances of a "from the garden" tick but now I know where to look they should be a dead cert!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Galley gets more Gadwall

Gracing the lake this afternoon were a pair of gadwall - great (63)! I only ticked gadwall on the patch two winters ago, and had 4 more last December, so to get another two today was a good bonus for the year - result

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Where not to watch birds at Galley

Got my hands on the Galley Head section of the newly revised "Where to watch birds in Ireland" book yesterday and have to say it appears to be a bit crap! The original book was written by Clive Hutchinson a good while ago, and while the blurb claims that "the book has been extensively revised" it doesn't seem to be the case for the Galley Head section at least!

 Perhaps the strangest bit of text in the section is the news that "Dirk Bay and the gardens at Galley Head may well be productive in spring, but they have never been watched at this season!" How bizarre! I've been thrashing Galley every spring since 2004, and I'm certainly not the only one! And I wasn't the first either! And there's even been some good birds found in spring e.g. hoopoes in March & April 2005, male woodchat shrike in April 2005,  male red-backed shrike in May 2010, wryneck and alpine swift in May 2011, to list but a few. And who found the black-winged stilt at Kilkeran Lake in May 2005 if it wasn't birders doing Galley in the spring? Actually, spring 2005 was pretty fecking good looking back on it, and should surely have got a mention in the book!

The autumn round up is patchy to say the least, with the ancient 1985 but still amayzing haul of american redstart and philadelphia vireo getting dragged out again, but no mention of two pallas's warblers together in November 2003, the cracking swainson's thrush in October 2008 (Ireland's 5th) or the black-headed bunting from September 2009. All in all, it would appear that there has been little in the way of revision in this section at least, and the directions and maps are pretty scanty on detail. If this is typical of the book, then I'd advise potential buyers to get a copy of Eric Dempsey's "Finding Birds in Ireland" instead - its a better researched and more up-to-date book, IMHO. (And it mentions and maps Shite Lane too - bonus!)

Friday, January 13, 2012

Urban birding

Had to go to London for a meeting today so challenged @wansteadbirder and @p4rus to a mini-peanut challenge: who can the most species in the day. Off to a flyer even before we'd landed with black headed gull & wood pigeon, closely followed by starling, 2 (count 'em) skylark & kestrel. Gleaned magpie, crow & feral pigeon rattling in on de heafrow express before netting blackbird on the way into the meeting.

Bird of the day had to be the cracking peregrine belting past the window 11 floors up - cool! Tried really hard on the return journey to de plane but couldn't do better than adding herring gull & lbb gull to finish with just 12 for the day.

Soundly by beaten by both the other peanuts, but I'll just have to try harder next time. Not easy, this urban birding lark!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

some more for the year

Managed to struggle out to the light for black redstart today, despite feeling like death warmed up. Also scored fulmar & kestrel for the big 60

Seriously running out of possibilities now tho, unless the lake starts working its magic!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Best Patch Find 2011

The voting has started for the Best Patch Find 2011 - click here to see the poll, and make your choice. Which would you most like to find on your patch? The winner receives the much-coveted porcelain Snowy Owl - there's a lot at stake!

Pimped for 2012

A new year and a new look, courtesy of Surfbirds moving over to WordPress. Got locked out for a few days in the move hence the lack of posts, and I don't know how things work in the new set-up either so apologies if it all looks a bit clunky to begin with.

Got the new year off to a flyer anyway, with a mighty 52 species on patch, my highest ever by some way. The downside is, it means I haven't got much still to get before the spring.

Best of the lot was the lingering little gull which was still in Dirk over the weekend, plus there's also been a fair few med gulls on the lake, plus wintering chiffchaff and whimbrel (52). More news as it happens!