The Mrs and I have just returned from a week in South-West Ireland based for most of the time around the Dingle Peninsula with the hope of doing some seawatching, looking for cetaceans and maybe bumping into the odd yank wader!
It was a great trip and although the winds were not great for seawatching we did very well on cetaceans as the Mrs pulled out a Humpback Whale feeding amongst a mass of Manx Shearwaters and a dozen Sooty Shearwaters. Amazingly, this animal was seen on three consecutive days visible from Clogher Head. Other highlights were numerous Common Dolphin, Bottlenose Dolphin a few Harbour Porpoise and a lone Ocean Sunfish. We spent a fair bit of time seawatching from Brandon Point, considered as good as the Bridges of Ross in the right conditions (preferably a strong NW with an associated front) but things were pretty quiet.
Despite continual visits to Ventry Bay and other great looking wader sites, we had no luck bumping into rare waders, but there were plenty of commoner waders to sift through. On leaving the Dingle area on our last day, I came across an interesting looking Scoter amongst a group of 18 or so Common Scoter. The bird was a long way off (at least 1.5 - 2km) but it had an immediately obvious glaring yellow bill. I tried to get a little closer, but it was only visible from the roadside above the bay. The seemingly, swollen orange-yellow bill was most obvious in side profile, when the other drake scoters' yellow bill colour disappeared. My thoughts obviously turned to Black Scoter, though I could not see any black tip or cutting edge, but it was so far away, I assumed it would not be easy to pick out. I managed to get the worst photos in the world (below!) and to cut a long story short, it turned out that Killian Mullarney had what was most likely the same bird back in March (when it was much closer!) and it is an extreme aberrant Common Scoter with an all-yellow bill! Certainly an education!
Of course, the best was saved until last with a visit to Ireland's premier wader haunt for rarities, Tacumshin aka "Wader Heaven". It was no less than 17 years ago that I last visited this amazing site and it was to twitch what has to be the most pristine plumaged adult Sharp-tailed Sandpiper that has ever reached our shores. We spent an amazing day just lapping up great views of both rare and common waders and what a treat. Within just 200 metres we were treated to:
2 Semipalmated Sandpipers (ad and juv)
1 White-rumped Sandpiper (ad)
1 Buff-breated Sandpiper (ad)
1 Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (ad not as bright as in 1994, but nice all the same!) Found just as we arrived thanks to a swift phone call from KM to let us know of its presence!
By the end of the day, we had notched up a total of 23 species of wader just by visiting Tacumshin, nearby Ladys Island Lake and Rosslare Strand.
All in all a great trip and definitely worth a visit if you want to get away from the crowds and try and find your own birds. Better luck next time! We shall be back.......