Sunday, August 14, 2011

Open Season

As we are now entering the Open season for sea watching at the Bridges of Ross, I feel I better post some advice for the novice or newcomer to the Loop.  The weekend of 20th and 21st August is the start of Heritage week 2011 and Sunday morning sees the annual Birdwatch Ireland Clare Branch Outing to the Bridges for a sea watch.The following weekend is the British August Bank Holiday and this is when we see an influx of British and European birders descend on Loop Head.  

How to find the Bridges.
The Bridges of Ross are approximately 20 km from the town of Kilkee, the entrance gate to the Loop Head Peninsula. The Bridges are situated on the North side of the headland less than 3km from the village of Kilbaha.   This landmark is well signposted in the locality.  

The Bridges of Ross © John N Murphy

From this aerial photograph you can see the lie of the land at the Bridges.  Only one bridge remains and it can be found in the bottom right hand corner of this photo.  It is a three minute walk to the bridge from the car park.  Just follow the footpath across the cliff top and it will lead you to the Bridge.  The favoured seawatching spot is on the west side of the horseshoe bay in the middle of the photo.  This spot has been tried and tested for over 25 years and offers the best shelter from west and north west winds.

During late summer and early autumn Great, Cory's, Balearic, Sooty and Manx Shearwater passage can be excellent.  All four skuas, Great, Arctic, Pomarine and Long-tailed are regular and occur from late July to early November.  Storm Petrels can be seen from mid July to late October.  Wilson's Storm Petrels are normally spotted from mid July to mid September with mid August being the best bet if you require one for your tick list.  Leach's Petrels are always that bit later and occur in large numbers from early September to mid October. Sabine's Gulls appear from mid August to late October.  Grey Phalarope and Black Terns are regular in September and October.  Little Auks put in an appearance from early October to late winter depending on wind direction. 

Arctic Skua are common off the Bridges throughout the season © John N Murphy

In autumn the best sea watching conditions are often after north-westerly gales, especially if the storm centre lies well to the north between Scotland and Iceland or if a fast depression moves down from Greenland and Arctic Canada across the north Atlantic.   These systems blow in Sabine's Gulls, Leach's Petrels, Little auks, and Grey phalaropes along with a good selection of skuas.  Of the rarer seabirds so far there has been at least 16 Fea's Petrels, two Swinhoe's Petrel, one Sooty Tern and five Little Shearwaters.

Other Wildlife.
Regularly seen off the Bridges are whales like Minke and Finn and Basking Sharks occur from time to time. Bottle-nosed and Common Dolphins can be spotted on a daily basis with Risso's Dolphin irregular, The Mola mola or Sunfish, occur throughout august and September coming up from the Carribean with the warm currents at this time of the year.  With the Sunfish Leather-backed turtles can also be seen from time to time as they break the surface to take in air.

Bottle-nosed Dolphins © John N Murphy

Monday, August 8, 2011

August Seawatching at the Bridges

Bridges of Ross 31st August 2011

Time: 07:35-10:35
Weather: Variable F2-3 E-NE, dry & dull but with relatively good visibility.
Observer(s): Niall T. Keogh

Manx Shearwater: 23 West & 245 East
Great Skua (Bonxie): 3 W
Arctic Skua: 1 pale phase adult chasing Kittiwakes
Sandwich Tern: 4 W
Common Scoter: 4 W
Fulmar: 16 W, 20 E & 5 Milling
Gannet: 100 W, 64 E & 3 M
Kittiwake: 5 W, 3 E & 4 M
Guillemot: 2 W
Razorbill: 10 W, 2 E & 4 M
Auk sp: 9 W & 20 E

Bottlenose Dolphin: c.6 travelling East close inshore.
Common Dolphin: c.10 feeding distantly offshore, travelling East.
Bridges of Ross  30th August 2011
Time: 16:30-19:30
Weather: F 1-2 N-NE, dry & dull but with relatively good visibility.
Observer(s): Niall T. Keogh

Manx Shearwater: 181 West

Common Dolphin: c.10 feeding distantly offshore, travelling East.

Sunfish: 1 

Bridges of Ross 29th August 2011

Time: 06:30-12:00

Weather: F2-3 N, dry & bright, turning F2 N-NE sunny & hazy later.

Sooty Shearwater: 2
Manx Shearwater: 61
Storm Petrel: 1
Great Skua (Bonxie): 7
Arctic Skua: 3 (incl. 1 juvenile)
Little Gull: 1 1st cal-year
Sandwich Tern: 10
Arctic Tern: 6
Common Scoter: 2
Peregrine: 1 juvenile

Common Dolphin: 2+

Bridges of Ross 28th August 2011

Time: 06:10-20:20
Weather: F2 NW in the morning, turning F3 N-NW in the evening. Dry & bright.

Sooty Shearwater: 8
Manx Shearwater: 280 (15:30-19:45)
Grey Phalarope: 1
Great Skua (Bonxie): 17
Arctic Skua: 65 (incl. 5 juveniles)
Long-tailed Skua: 2 adults (Niall T. Keogh & Neal Warnock)
Sabine's Gull: 2 adults
Sandwich Tern: 20
Arctic Tern: 21
Puffin: 5
Common Scoter: 6

Wigeon: 1

Bridges of Ross 27th August 2011

Time: 06:30-09:45 & 11:00-16:00
Weather: F4 NW in the morning, slacking to a F3 but persisting NW throughout the afternoon.

Balearic Shearwater: 3
Sooty Shearwater: 17
Storm Petrel: 1
Great Skua (Bonxie): 42
Pomarine Skua: 1 pale phase adult
Arctic Skua: 39
Sabine's Gull: 1 adult
Sandwich Tern: 26
Arctic Tern: 59
Puffin: 5
Common Scoter: 3

Whimbrel: 49

Bridges of Ross 26th August 2011

Time: 06:30-09:45 & 12:00-19:40
Weather: F2 N-NW in the morning, turning F4-5 N in the afternoon & persisting for most of the evening. Dry & bright throughout with some spray starting to blow in as the day progressed. Cold!

Blue Fulmar: 1 intermediate phase
Sooty Shearwater: 18
Storm Petrel: 2
Grey Phalarope: 1
Great Skua (Bonxie): 11
Arctic Skua: 13
Mediterranean Gull: 1 1st cal-year
Black Tern: 1 juvenile
Sandwich Tern: 18
Arctic Tern: 40
Black Guillemot: 1
Puffin: 6
Common Scoter: 3
Whimbrel: 19

Sanderling: 10

Niall T Keogh et al

Bridges of Ross 25th August 2011

Time: 06:30-10:30 & 14:30-19:30
Weather: F3 SE for the most part today with some periods of moderate-heavy rain at times.

Balearic Shearwater: 1
Great Shearwater: 1
Sooty Shearwater: 18
Storm Petrel: 15
Grey Phalarope: 1
Great Skua (Bonxie): 1
Pomarine Skua: 1 pale phase adult
Arctic Skua: 4
Sabine's Gull: 1 adult
Mediterranean Gull: 2 1st cal-years
Arctic Tern: 28
Puffin: 1
Common Scoter: 5
Whimbrel: 15
Sanderling: 20
Bar-tailed Godwit: 12
Niall T Keogh et al

Bridges of Ross 24th August 2011

Time: 06:30-19:00
Weather: F2-3 W-SW with some light showers in the morning.

Balearic Shearwater: 3
Great Shearwater: 4
Sooty Shearwater: 80
Storm Petrel: 8
Grey Phalarope: 1 (first of the season) 
Great Skua (Bonxie): 10
Arctic Skua: 29
Little Gull: 1 juvenile
Black Tern: 1 juvenile
Sandwich Tern: 7
Arctic Tern: 56
Puffin: 6
Common Scoter: 4
Whimbrel: 20

Bottlenose Dolphin: 10-12
Leatherback Turtle: 1 heading west close inshore @ 18:30

Sunfish: 1

Niall T Keogh et al

Bridges of Ross 23rd August 2011

Time: 06:30-10:30 & 16:00-19:00
Weather: F0-1 E in the morning with F1-2 SW later.

Sooty Shearwater: 18
Storm Petrel: 4
Great Skua (Bonxie): 2
Pomarine Skua: 1 pale phase subadult 
Arctic Skua: 2
Little Gull: 1 juvenile
Mediterranean Gull: 2 1st cal-years
Sandwich Tern: 52
Arctic Tern: 12
Puffin: 3
Black Guillemot: 1 juvenile
Common Scoter: 9
Whimbrel: 19
Teal: 4
Hen Harrier: 1 male quartering the fields behind the watch point
Chough: 2

Minke Whale: 1 close inshore heading west @ 07:05
Common Dolphin: 10-20
Bottlenose Dolphin: 10-12
Basking Shark: 1 off Loop Head

Sunfish: 1 off Loop Head

Niall T Keogh et al

Bridges of Ross 22nd August 2011

Time: 06:30-19:45
Weather: F1-2 N-NW in the morning turning F1-2 W in the afternoon.

Little Shearwater: 1 at 09:35 (Dan Brown, Tom Lowe, Keith Langdon & Mikey Hoit)
Balearic Shearwater: 8
Great Shearwater: 7

Sooty Shearwater: c.225
Manx Shearwater: 800+ (07:15-10:15)
Storm Petrel: 5+
Great Skua (Bonxie): 6
Pomarine Skua: 1 pale phase subadult
Arctic Skua: 6
Little Gull: 1 juvenile
Sandwich Tern: 24
Arctic Tern: 11
Puffin: 5
Common Scoter: 8
Whimbrel: 5
Shelduck: 2 

Common Dolphin: c.10
Bottlenose Dolphin: 10+
Sunfish: 2+

Niall T Keogh et al

Bridges of Ross 21st August 2011

Time: 06:30-19:00

Weather: F2-3 W-NW with light showers in the morning.

Little Shearwater: 1 heading west at 08:45 (Dave Cooper)
Great Shearwater: 38
Sooty Shearwater: 512
Manx Shearwater: c.10,000
Storm Petrel: c.25
Great Skua (Bonxie): 21
Arctic Skua: 23
Long-tailed Skua: 2 adults (Niall T Keogh & Dan Brown)
Sabine's Gull: 8 adults
Mediterranean Gull: 1 3rd cal-year
Sandwich Tern: 11
Arctic Tern: 52
Puffin: c.12
Black Guillemot: 1
Common Scoter: 2
Whimbrel: 48

Common Dolphin: 2
Bottlenose Dolphin: c.6

Niall T Keogh et al

Bridges of Ross Friday 19th August 2011
Great Shearwater 1
Balearic Shearwaters 2,
Pomarine Skua 1 adult
Arctic Skuas 10
Bonxies 5
Whimbrels 209
Storm Petrels 12

Minke Whale 1

Tom Lowe & Chris ten Bohmer

Bridges of Ross Thursday 18th August 2011
At the Bridges of Ross today there were eight Arctic Skuas, one Bonxie , one juvenile Mediterranean Gull and a Leather-backed Turtle.
Tom Lowe & Dan Brown

Bridges of Ross Tuesday 16th August 2011
One adult Sabine's Gull, one Pomarine Skuas, one Bonxie and eight Arctic Skuas were at the Bridges.
Eanna O'Flynn

Bridges of Ross Sunday 14th August 2011
At the Bridges or Ross this afternoon there were two Sooty Shearwaters, four Arctic Skuas, one Pomarine Skua, two Whimbrel and 50 Arctic Terns.
Jeff Copner.

Bridges of Ross Saturday 13th August 2011
There were three adult Sabine's Gulls, for Balearic Shearwaters, 50 Sooty Shearwaters, two Pomarine Skuas, 18 Bonxies, 12 Arctic Skuas, three Storm Petrels, eight Common Scoters, 14 Whimbrel and 16 Arctic Terns, 12 Bottle-nosed Dolphins and two Sunsfish at the Bridges of Ross today.
Alan Lauder, John N Murphy & Brian Finnegan.

Bridges of Ross Tuesday 9th August 2011
One Arctic Skua, five Bonxies and two Sooty Shearwaters were at the Bridges today.
Angus Murray & Chris McGuigan.

Bridges of Ross Monday 8th August 2011
There were five Sooty Shearwaters, seven Bonxies, two Pomarine Skuas and two Arctic Skuas at the Bridges of Ross.
Dave McNamara.

Bridges of Ross Friday 5th  August 2011
One Blue Fulmar was at the Bridges today along with 30 Whimbrel and few other birds of note.  Off the tip of Lop Head there was one Pomarine Skua, one Bonxie and one Sooty Shearwater.
John N Murphy, Finbarr MacGabhann & Clodagh Glasgow.

Loop Head Thursday 4th August 2011
Off a fishing boat 4km out to sea off Loop Head were three Sooty Shearwaters, one Bonxie and ten Storm Petrels.
Stan Nugent.

 Sooty Shearwater © Stan Nugent
 Bonxie © Stan Nugent
Storm Petrel © Stan Nugent