Nordic Raid On Potatoland

With holidays built up demanding to be taken and relatives and friends clamouring to meet Lyra, we set off for a few days in Dublin and Cork.

Red Kites are now a regular feature around the old homestead.

After a week of meeting and greeting in Dublin, taking in all the sights and old haunts, we set off for Cork early on Saturday, arriving to a cold breeze at Ballynamona beach.

Lyra seeing the Atlantic for the first time.

A leisurely stroll down the beach to the lake produced no longer familiar birds, such as Stonechat, Shelduck and Sandwich tern, with the best on the lake in terms of scarce being a single adult winter Ruff.

From here it was on to Shanagarry to meet up with "Uncle Phil" for a badly needed coffee and some classic Irish apple tart. 

After imbibing caffeine and sugar and a good catch up, we stopped off at Ballinwillig, where a huge flock of gulls was following ploughing in the fields. More non-Finnish fare here in the form of a few Med gulls.

Tipping back towards Cork produced more Meds at Rostellan and a showy Kingfisher, another non-Finnish species, good to see again. As were the large flock of Little Grebe, both species being reasonably rare in Finland.

Kingfisher - Rostellan

We hit our old watering hole, Fionnbarra, best pub in Ireland, for lunch with a friend and another baby meeting, before we made our way out to stay with Dara Fitz and family for the night.

Sunday was the day we would take time for ourselves. With all the boxes ticked in terms of showing off the baba, we headed west towards Mizen Head for a few days birding and relaxation.

We tipped our way along the coast taking in Kinsale Marsh, Kilbrittain, Timoleague, Clonakilty and Rosscarbbery, but apart from an assortment of Med Gulls and two juv Curlew Sands at Rosscarbbery, it was surprisingly quiet on the wader front.

We made a point of stopping off in Baltimore for the legendary pizza and Irish side salad though.

On the road out to Mizen, we received word that the Pacific Diver was back in Crookhaven, making a convenient lifer for Hanna and a nice Mizen tick for me, so we made sure to stop off on the Goleen road. (Am I the only one who gets Jolene stuck in their head going through that village?)

A stunning, summer plumaged bird, just starting to moult, it gave gorgeous views from a lay by on the road opposite Crook.

It provided similar great viewing over the course of our stay, both from Crookhaven itself (O'Sullivans pub, to be honest) and the high road in Crookhaven.

Pacifics require refreshment.

Under water.

That crown and nape. Snowy.

There were also birds such as Common Rosefinch and Red Breasted Flycatcher available on arrival, but we didn't bother with such trash birds.

Red Breasted Flycatcher - Brian McCloskey

Common Rosefinch - Brian McCloskey

Instead we made for the Mizen lighthouse car park where we started scanning for seabirds.

Sooty Shearwater, Manx Shearwater, Puffin, Razorbills and Guillemot, Kittiwakes, Gannets and Bonxie, all scarce, rare or mega in a Finnish context, were easily found over the few days we were there. 

We were joined then on Mizen by my dad, brother and Brian McCloskey.
Migrants over the stay included several Yellow Broweds, the aforementioned RB Fly, Blackcaps, Black Redstarts, a self found Common Rosefinch (trash), a fine looking, but unfortunately silent Siberian Chiffchaff candidate, and Ring Ouzel.

Black Redstart - Brian McCloskey

The lake produced a single juv Curlew Sandpiper, and, unusually for the site a flock of some 10-12 Gadwall.
I was blown away by the sheer number of Buzzards on the headland now, in full residency. They really have taken over the country.
This Merlin was the best of the raptors though. Cute as a button.

The best birds of the trip for me were the result of an emergency morning supply run to Schull.

Having enjoyed a few Med gulls in the harbour we made for the Croagh Estuary. I had often checked the north arm of this estuary in the past, pegging it as the potential site for Ireland's first Snowy Egret, but had never had the time to check the western arm.

With the north arm, indeed having a good count of Little Egrets (another rare bird for Finland we had enjoyed all through the trip), we made our way to the western arm. 

Driving down the length of this arm, checking the various egrets, gulls and godwits, we initially saw nothing here. It was only coming back up the estuary that we saw a few more egrets, hidden behind a bank that were invisible from viewpoints on the eastward drive.

I raised my bins and was delighted to see the middle of three egrets had a gleaming yellow bill! A great score for my first visit to the site.

A quick set up of the scope and it was clear that two of the three egrets were indeed Cattle Egrets.

It's been over 13 years since I found Ireland's ninth individual, at the famous red benches in Clonakilty, a true mega at the time.

Now their status has changed dramatically, reduced to trash ever since Robert Vaughan found the last good one at Kilcoole, preceding a massive influx of the species.

I made an effort to see many of those birds at the time here

They've been prone to little influxes since, and there seems to be one going on at the moment.

Nonetheless I was delighted with the find, still a classy looking bird, and felt suitably rare at this haggard estuary in west Cork.

There's something about Cattle Egrets. Despite the vast numbers of cattle in the country, and even with the prospect of this species breeding in Ireland (I had a pair sitting in an egret colony in Waterford many years ago I suspect did the deed), they still seem bizzare following cows around on the oul sod.

As we left the area, headed back to Mizen, we passed the rest of the Mizen household, shamefully leaving Mizen to twitch a couple of Cow Sniffers. Needless to say they were ridiculed. 

Cattle Egrets - Brian McCloskey

An enjoyable visit home, catching up with lots of friends and family and enjoying good birds and food around the country.

Thanks to the lads on Mizen for a very pleasant stay on the old stomping grounds.


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