Friday, December 12, 2014

Ruffing it

Imagine my surprise today whilst scanning around the lake with the scope for stock dove and fieldfare and other patch gank that i still need for the year, when I noticed these fellas feeding in amongst the oiks...

patch gold!
Yes, indeedy, a fine brace of ruff, which is my first record at Galley for ages - at least five years I think - will need to unearth the old spreadsheets. A welcome sight for sure!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Pintail ya bas!

The first and last time I claimed pintail from the patch, back in 2009, there was huge outcry and an eventual steward's enquiry, (which was decided in my favour, obviously). So imagine my surprise when I spotted this beauty swim through the scopeview on the lake this very afternoon (127)...

er, its the duck on the right...

Looking even more wondrous in this pic
 So there ya go - only my second record for Galley, after the 5 at Red Strand that were clearly visible from a well-selected spot on the patch approximately 2.5km away. This one was a (from the) garden tick too - Bonus!
Er, the female Goldeneye is still here too...

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

the twitching

Well, the autumn fizzled out without really ever getting started hereabouts! Haven't really been out and apart from a well-timed whooper swan from the jax, and a goldeneye on the lake, there's been nothing in the way of year tick action either (126).

So it was with great excitement and anticipation that I found myself on the shores of Lough Gill, County Kerry yesterday for a spot of dirty twitching. And the target? Ireland's 4th ever american coot, no less!

An american coot yesterday (not the bird on the right)
What. A. Bird. It was great! No really! I'd nearly say Awesome but thats frowned upon these days.

A good bit smaller than european coot, of which there were at least 13, so picking it out took a lot of skill and dedication. I noted the smaller shield,  more curved bill, and white undertails, which were surprisingly hard to see when the bird was actively diving, which it was a good bit. With a bit of time, all the key salient features could be seen, and all are visible in the above shot. I would say record shot but I'm too modest.

The male lesser scaup was nice too, but I'd run out of film by the time I got on it.

A grand afternoon out in the Kingdom altogether!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


Blimey - a month since I've been on here! Apart from a rather bird-packed few days on Shetland, I've seen very little. Not that I haven't been out slogging round Galley most days, its just there's been very little to see. Thus far into October I've managed siskin and redpoll for the year at Galley. A bit pants. Until today.

With the wind finally in the south-east, I was quietly optimistic that there'd be a bit more around today. And so it proved, with a fine yellow-browed warbler gracing Shite Lane - its not a proper autumn without one of these on the patch! Dirk held very little, and I was struggling to find anything out on the head when two pipits flew over, one calling like a meadow pipit and one calling like a tree pipit (121). I was rather pleased with this. I reckon that was probably only about my 6th tree pipit in 10 years here - tricky enough, and easily less regular than YBW.

That was my lot for the day though, however, with the south-east wind due to pick up, and rain overnight I'm hoping there'll be a proper fall tomorrow! We shall see!

What I saw on my holidays

Saturday, September 13, 2014

You've got a fat neck, fat neck

Out again for another slog round Galley - the wind was still in the east, but there'd still been no rain and I wasn't sure if there'd be much new in. Wandered down to "Sibechat corner", so-called because this once happened, and spotted a bird-shaped lump on the stone wall. Quick check with the bins and ker-ching - wryneck! Once he realised he'd been rumbled it flew off into a nearby garden but I was lucky enough to pick it up again a few minutes later, sunning itself on another wall. Fortunately KC was close enough to hand to be able to verify it for me. Although I had no camera, it looked a little like this...

Here's one i prepared earlier
Didn't manage to see a whole lot else - still 2 whinchats in the Shite Lane area, plus a couple of willow warblers and 4  wheatears knocking about. Still, a kwality mig at Galley is not to be sneezed at!

Sunday, September 7, 2014


After a week of east winds, and a few empty slogs around Galley, this morning looked more promising, with a bit of drizzle and low cloud around. It was obvious that there were more wheatears around, with at least 40 knocking around throughout the day. A few willow warblers and chiffchaffs were flicking around in the hedges, while a goldcrest and a sedge warbler were occupying the magic bush.

Bird of the day had to be the flyover osprey which appeared near sibechat corner and flew out over the sea, heading south-west out past the Galley light at 8.55am. An osprey was seen on Dursey today too, so I wonder if it was the same individual? Its about 80 km in a direct line, so I guess thats no great distance for a migrating raptor to travel. Only my second Galley record, and a finds tick for me!

Shortly after the osprey had disappeared, I banged into another kwality migrant, in the form of a pied flycatcher. Again, this was flitting about in a hedge, suggesting it was not long arrived. Couldn't find anything rarer in the hedges tho, and with a spotted flycatcher in the Shite Lane sycamores, that was my lot for the day. Bit galling to discover that I missed a whinchat in the garden while in town between thrashing the place for migs, but its good that the winds are finally starting to produce some bits and bobs at last! Let's see what next weeks easterlies blow in!

A sedge warbler, yesterday (ish)

Friday, August 29, 2014


Back for more after the school run this am, but very little doing in comparison to last night. Managed to glean half a dozen each of cory's shearwaters and great shearwaters, with 8 sooty shearwaters too. But nothing else really doing.

Headed back up again this evening, as I'd convinced myself that the wind hadn't swung round to the west and was glad I did as a fine balearic shearwater flew by nice and close. Very welcome for the year list (109).

Thursday, August 28, 2014

a good blow

Finally a whole day of south-westerlies! Very sunny this am so I convinced myself that work was a better plan than burnt-out retinas! By lunchtime I'd heard from PM that there were big shears going by so I had a nervous wait all afternoon, hoping he wasn't going to do another bulwer's on me!

Walking up at half past five for an evening session I met PM heading back to the car but the prospect of me doing a triple fea's on him was too much and he turned round to do another couple of hours.

Its always a good omen when almost the first bird through the scope is a cory's shearwater! They kept coming too, steadily with occasional runs of 5 or 6 birds going through together. Magic! Great shearwaters were going by a bit less often and generally further out, so were harder to pick out in the blustery conditions. Good numbers of both were going by further out but the light and sea conditions meant scanning closer in was the better option.

By the end of the 3 hour watch numbers had crept up to 366 cory's shearwaters and 112 great shearwaters, with 13 sooty shearwaters, an adult (ahem) pomarine long-tailed skua (new for year 108), bonxie, 20 storm petrels and an arctic tern - kwality seawatching!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

seawatching at last!

Seawatching season normally starts at the beginning of July. Typically, this is when we'd get the first strong south-westerly blow of the "autumn". Only not this year. There's been very little sign of any south-westerlies to date, and when there has been, I've been busy elsewhere!

So, having been avidly refreshing windfinder all week, and trying to juggle somewhere to stash the kids, I eagerly bounced out of bed at 5.30 this am to check that the wind was the promised South-westerly force 5. First impressions was that it was actually South-easterly force 2, but by now I was awake so I headed up to Galley anyway.

2 hours later, and apart from a showy fin whale, I'd only managed 2 arctic skuas, 2 sooty shearwaters and a common scoter. Pants!

Fast forward 5 hours and things were looking better - the wind had picked up, cloud was beginning to build up so I hoofed back up to Galley to give it another lash. After a couple of minutes, a nice close-in cory's shearwater ambled past - excellent! Soon after, a distant great shearwater tried to sneak west without being noticed. For the next hour or so, big shears slowly sailed by every few minutes - not as dramatic as the big push last year, but really good to get to grips with them again after such a slow start to the seawatching season. Finished up after 3 hours, with the following tally:

cory's shearwater - 38
great shearwater - 20
sooty shearwater - 14
storm petrel - 30
bonxie - 2
puffin - 11

Happy days!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Local twitching

With Galley really not being very good lately, despite regular checking for bee-eaters and orioles and the like, its fortunate that some good stuff has been turning up close by.

Out of the blue a couple of nights ago news broke of a fine drake blue-winged teal at the Cul-de-Sac pool, near Clonakilty. Wowzers. An Irish tick no less. And it was too - took me about 10 mins to get there and we had it skulking in the reeds round the back going to roost - Excellent! Nearly got an amazeballs phone-scoped shot of it, but my phone spazzed out at the crucial minute so here's a snap of a coaster that we have in the house that has been goading me for years - on my list at last tho!

OML ya bas!

And I even managed to pick out the male green-winged teal new in at nearby Clogheen Marsh on the way home, before it got totally dark. Marvellous.

And then more twitchy fun in the form of a black-winged stilt at White's Marsh yesterday (still there today). Which was nice...

Hopefully it'll behave like the last one & relocate to Kilkeran Lake, thus securing me a much needed patch breakback on almost everyone!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

the dipping

Another quiet few days at Galley, with absolutely nothing except a soaking to show for slogging the patch this morning. News of a marsh harrier over the house this evening was a bit galling, but thems the breaks. Had a scour for it from the top of Shite Lane but no further sign. Good few whimbrel moving through just now - the "Maybirds" are early this year!

Specially for Jono

Monday, April 21, 2014

Been a while

The spring has slowly limped along, but with very little to show for it at Galley. Today was no exception until I looked at the lake. First surprise was a male gadwall, which I think is my 4th record here.

Imagine my surprise when a male shoveler swam into view from a wee bit to the right of the gadwall - fantastic! My second record I think, after this amayzing encounter!!

So, still no real migs to speak of, but two juicy ducks for the year - bingo!

Monday, March 10, 2014

scouring for hoopoes

I love calm, sunny spring days at Galley! Inevitably, I start fantasising about finding hoopoes. And today was no different, particularly after the news of a hoopoe at Ballycotton this morning. I've found one hoopoe at Galley before and I enjoyed it so much I'd like to find another one!

So, as soon as I got free from work I headed out. But where to start? The only problem with scouring for hoopoes at Galley is that there are literally hundreds of spots where you could find one. So you have to check them all. So I did. Well, a lot of them anyway - as many as I could fit in. But couldn't find any hoopoes today. Maybe tomorrow then. I'll have to scour the place all over again!

Although I failed on the hoopoe front, I cashed in on the wheatear front! A full 5 days earlier than the average date which is 15th March. Win!

ooo migrants
and a bit closer er more zoomed in

Admiring my carrots? Yes, they are rather fine!

So that was that! Not as good as a hoopoe, but always great to score the first ear of the year - 1st one I've heard about this year in the county too - spring is finally here!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Dodgyscoping for beginners

Finally got a digiscoping adaptor for my SLR and scope so had a couple of rushed attempts at getting a "great capture" - looks like there's a lot to learn altho I'm quite pleased with the horses!

Prepare for a dodgyscoping master class!

best of a bad bunch
Otter from the Magic Patio

Horse of the Day

Iceland gull on the lake

Iceland gull

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Lady Elvis

Having spent several of my formative years birding the north-east coast of Scotland, I got fairly blase about seeing Elvis, the resplendant male king eider that spent most summers loafing about on the Ythan Estuary & getting jiggy with all those females. It was always a great bird to see, but you'd usually end up bumping into it several times in a year.

Fast forward er a few years and its a different story. Up till today, I'd seen one king eider in Ireland - a male at Lady's Island in August 2008. So, I've been quite tempted by the female thats been loitering around on the Beara peninsula the last few weeks. This afternoon everything fell into place - finished work and Beara was kind of on the way home - give it a lash!

And lashing it was! And the wind was getting up too. Still, I struggled across a field or two and scanned the bay at Cahermore. After a while I noticed a duck. Through the scope I could see it was the queen eider swimming into the bay. A  bit of repositioning and the views were good, although it wasn't long before she turned around and started swimming out of the bay again. Still, I'd had a good look and it was still raining! Four (count 'em!) glaucous gulls were duly counted and I saddled up for home, as conditions deteriorated further.

Queenie herself (Photo: C Cronin)

A grand day out for a Cork tick! Sadly it was too wet to attempt any dodgyscoping, so here's a snap taken the following day by Old Spoons.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

ross's for cork

After six hours standing around scanning Kinsale Harbour over 2 days last week, news that the ross's gull was back yesterday was a tad galling, if not entirely unexpected. As it turned out, I wasn't free yesterday but decided to give it a lash again today, although I only had a couple of hours.

There was no sign at Kinsale Marsh or on the estuary  - not a great start, but then this bird has totally failed to show any kind of a pattern so far, apart from being elusive! So it was back to my favoured spot near the Trident Hotel, where I'd spent nearly all my time last week (apart from a wee detour here - it was Kev's idea!)

Today, there was a small flock of mostly large gulls loafing on the far bank, with a small white thing beside them. I returned to the car for the scope to grill the small white thing, just in case. It was a plastic bag. Arse! But then, I just scoped a wee bit further along the bank anyway and Bingo - a small pink thing! Ker-ching! Score! Boom! etc. Momentary panic - do I reach for the camera? or phone? or just grill it in case it evaporates? I kept an eye on it while I put the news out on @corkbirdnews (everyone's favourite free news service for rare birds in Cork!), and then rattled off a few shite shots. And then it flew! Amayzing little thing in flight - really pink underneath and the tail was pink too! Fabulous!

What a cracker!
It zipped around in front of the hotel for a bit so I moved closer, before it flew right past me and landed on the water just in front of the very spot I'd been stood at last week - I ran back for some more hasty snaps...

It then flew back to the pier and hotel and at this stage some other birders were arriving and got on it. It continued to perform for a while before flying out to land on the water mid-channel and drifting off into the distance, round a small headland and away! After the runaround last week, I was delighted to have connected so well with the arctic tease!

Sadly, we noticed a bit of oil on the bird's belly, but it looks fairly light and hopefully won't affect it too much. Hope it stays around for a while and becomes a wee bit more regular in its behaviour!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

patch gold and more gull action

The storm had abated a bit this morning and although there were still some vicious showers around, I decided to play a hunch in the hope of a good patch year tick. Last April I finally managed to get purple sandpiper properly on patch, during a fairly stormy few days - see here. My theory was that in rough weather, the rocks at Owenahincha where purps normally spend the winter are too exposed and waterlogged. Birds are therefore forced to try elsewhere, meaning the rocks at Long Strand. I picked my way through the foam and rocks this morning and sure enough, there were two purple sandpipers.

multiply this by two
Ker-ching! Theory proved! Or maybe just luck, but either way, great to get them on-patch again for 2014.

Had a look at Rosscarbery at lunchtime and dug out 3 glaucous gulls loafing on the sand (1st winter, 2 winter & adult), plus what I'm pretty sure was the Long Strand kumlien's gull from the other day. Sadly it flew off inland while I was wrestling with the scope and tripod to grill it.

A trip to Cork City this pm was enlivened by a quick detour to Ballycotton for a pop at the long-staying first winter laughing gull. A blank at first, with just a first winter glaucous gull and what appeared to be a fairly pale first winter kumlien's gull - see below. The primaries on this bird appeared better marked on one side than the other, which seems strange, but, although quite pale on the primaries, I think it is a kumlien's...

Luckily for me, the main attraction showed up then and after wolfing several large slices of bread (fewer, small pieces may be a better option?) it sat about at close range - cracker!

Friday, February 7, 2014


Noticed a lot more large gulls hanging around at Long Strand this morning so went down for a closer look. Hadn't been there long before a huge adult glaucous gull came in and started throwing its weight about. Didn't get any close shots of it but then encountered what was almost certainly the same bird chewing on a long-dead seal (?) on Owenahincha beach this lunchtime.

Ravenous beast

mmmm Lunch

More exciting was a first winter kumlien's gull which was mixing it with the herring gulls at Long Strand this morning. Sadly, it too didn't come that close but got a couple of snaps on a fly-by.

kumlien's ahoy
Sadly, they'll all be blown away in tomorrow gales!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

footit target assimilated

I've been sneakily banging in the odd year tick along the way this last week - nothing amayzing but bits and bobs like water rail and shelduck and the like. All these year ticks also count for my footit challenge too, as I've done no car birding on patch this year. Mainly cos I can't drive it on to the Magic Patio!

Anyway, with the January days fast running out, and being 4 short of the magic 100% figure of 70 species, I decided to try once again for the (fairly) regular whimbrel that hangs out in Dirk Bay each winter - I guess it may not be the same bird every year but it does hang out in the same spot all the time. Except on the 1st of January of course.

I lugged my scope too there, as I was hopeful of maybe picking up a razorbill in the bay or flying past at sea - it was all beginning to get a bit serious! But nothing like as serious as this, I should add! 127 miles of walking? Respect!

As I struggled up Shite Lane hill, marvelling once again at my brilliant scope porter (tm), I saw 4 small waders flying into the gusty wind. "Hmmm, probably snipe" I wagered to myself, as I raised my trusty bins, and sure enough, 4 golden plover flew onto the year list. Ker-ching! (67).

Descending into Dirk, there was the whimbrel sitting on the rocks where it likes to sit (except on the 1st of January). Bingo! (68). But that was me lot. No wintering chiffs or caps frolicking in the sheltered fuschia bushes (well, none that I could find anyway). Tried for a while to string a raz out of the few auks booting past out to sea but they were all pretty distant & the light was pants. There were 2 auks in the bay, but of course one was a guillemot and the other was a tystie (scream for me again, stevie g(antlett)). No raz tho. Booo.

Humped me gear all the way home (only about half an hours walk but its a steep hill!), and scanned the lake to see just the usual dabchicks, and with that, birding appeared to be pretty much over for the day. Luckily tho, I reckoned without the power of the lunch table to pull in the year ticks. Mid-sandwich I noticed a whitish looking gull flying over the lake, which through bins was clearly a white-winger. Rushed out to the garden with the scope to see a smart adult iceland gull (69) being wind-blasted on the lakeshore. Better again, at 50x zoom, I noticed a knot hunched in the rocks behind it, trying to shelter as well. Moob!! (70, or as we say in old money, 100%).

Unfortunately unlike some, I didn't think to take a selfie of the big moment. On the other hand, unlike some, I haven't walked 127 miles for my 100% (I might have covered 7 miles in total, but possibly not even that) so you'll have to make do with a couple of dodgy-scoped shelduck from midweek.

Kwality Kwacks!!
So there you go! Gonna try and nail Raz tomorrow if I can swing the time. Will involve my longest walk of this footit campaign tho - all the way to the light. And back!! Hope I make it!

Sunday, January 12, 2014


Took a while but eventually caught up with the 2 glossy ibis between Owenahincha and Rosscarbery - saw them a couple of times swirling around over the main road on the school run and then found them in the field beside the road on another day.

Globular on-deck action
This is the first attempt of handheld phone-scoping, and so impressed was I with the results that I tried again on the black guillemot that has been hanging about on the lake the last few days. The results speak for themselves...

very tystie
It was miles away, and I couldn't be arsed getting off the patio! Tried really hard to get the globbies on the patch list yesterday morning, but unfortunately there was an inconvenient hill in the way. Did get wigeon, grey heron  and sparrowhawk  on the year list tho (63).

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


One week into the new year, and I feel like I've hardly been out! The weather hasn't really been up to much, and what with the Great Island Bird Race last saturday (we came second - again!!), I've somehow been off-patch whenever the weather has been good.

Did manage to notice this fella through the salt-encrusted windows this morning tho (55).

BFG - big fat glauc

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

fisher of kings

Out with the usual 1st of Jan spring in my step this am but didn't get anything particularly unusual. Best of it was a kingfisher,  courtesy of Senor Faulty - saw it a couple of times last week, but a good one for the year - they ain't around every winter! Finished on 42 species for the year.