Sunday, 25 September 2011

25 Yanks, 7 lifers...6 days (part 1)

Myself and Josh Jones had planned on heading back to Ireland in September, well pretty much since we left there this time last year. As the departure date got closer, excitement and expectation levels increased, as low after low came across the Atlantic depositing a very healthy number of nearctic waders across the western extremities of the British Isles. The ferry was booked, all that needed to happen was for us to leave. Then, whilst walking round Flamborough, Black-and-White Warbler broke, the day before departue. A few calls later, the ferry had been pushed back a night, and changed to Fishguard-Rosslare. I met Josh mid-afternoon on Sunday to make a leisurely way down to Cornwall, stopping off in Lydney, Glos to have a look for the Spotted sand. Unfortunately we got there a bit late, no-one was around, the directions weren't entirely clear, and there was a huge amount of riverbank to search, so we missed it. It didn't really dampen our spirits, and we pulled in at Drift reservoir for a few hours kip, nervous and expectant at the thought of an excellent few hours on Scilly (and in my case, with a degree of nervousness about getting seasick on the Scillonian). The weather was pretty crap at dawn, but we still headed off down to the end of Drift at first light in the fog and drizzle to get a glimpse of our first Yank of the trip, the juv Lesser Yellowlegs doing what Yellowlegs do and mooching round the edge of the reservoir, looking pretty tame. We didn't have much time to hang about tho, as we needed to buy tickets for the crossing. By midday, we found ourselves in St.Mary's harbour, after a blissfully sickness free trip, picking up a Leach's petrel on the way across as a yeartick. Garry Bagnell kindly offered us a couple of spaces on the taxi he had booked, and we agrees that we should go to Newford duckpond for the briefest of looks for the Solitary Sand, before heading off to Lower Moors for the warbler. When we arrived, the taxi promptly departed for another fare, and with the Solitary Sand absent we were left to watch the Blue-winged Teal Ash Howe had found at the weekend squirm around in the mud, feeding constantly, only a few feet away. A very different experience to the one at Wheldrake. After about 10 minutes, another taxi appeared and we jumped in and headed off to Lower Moors. We had a wade through the mud on the side of the path, and headed in to a swamp filled with 30+ birders looking for the warbler and the waterthrush. It had become apparent that the waterthrush was far from pinned down, and that I could easily spend all of the 4 precious hours I had on the island waiting for it to show without success, so I decided to concentrate my efforts on the other birds on the island that would be lifers for me. After about 10 minutes of running, pishing and stalking through the Lower Moors rainforest, the Black and White warbler gave itself up, a truly stunning little bird. Pictures really don't do the bird justice, like the parula last year, it really seemed to glow in the dark and damp of the woodland. After getting good views of our main target, myself and Josh walked on to the Garrison and Lower Broome platform, which was only populated by only 3 other birders, a pleasant change to the slightly cramped Lower Moors. I picked up the Red-eyed Vireo, and it showed fantastically well, sitting out in the open for prolonged periods before crashing off to pick up more shield bugs to eat, then popping out again. We then shared a taxi with Will Soar and Stu Piner, and headed back up to Newford duck pond. By this stage, the Sandpiper had come on the pagers as showing at project pool, so we had the briefest of looks for the Bee-eater (fail), whilst Will and Stu enjoyed the teal, then headed back to Dump Clump. At the pool, the Solitary sand was showing incredibly well, showing down to just a few metres (unfortunately my camera was on the wrong setting, hence the blue appearance). We then returned to Lower Moors for a second crack at the warbler, this time getting even better, more prolonged views. With all the species we expected to see in the bag, with crippling views to boot, we chilled out, chatted a bit, and wandered down to the ISBG hide to check out the Pec. On my way to catch up with Josh, who had gone on ahead, I realised that somehow it was already 4pm! We needed to check in at the harbour in ten minutes at the latest, and it was at least a 20 minute walk. I dashed in to the hide to get Josh, glanced at the head and breast of a Pec sand buried in vegetation, and sprinted up to the road. A local was driving, thumbs out, and miraculously the car stopped and gave us a lift all the way to the quay! We boarded with time to spare, and I enjoyed a few decent seabirds on the crossing back (60+ Stormies, 3 Balearics, 3 Sooties and 15+Common Dolphins) while Josh kipped in preparation for the dash round to Fishguard in time for the 02:45 ferry. Day 1: 6 Yanks, 3 lifers to be continued....
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