Tuesday, 27 March 2012

News from Chris and Tim

Chris Ingram and Tim Murphy (Tory regulars) visited Tory on the 25th March. They reported the following. Migration was slow but the Puffins (10) are back! A few winter thrushes are still moving north. The only summer migrants were 5 Wheatear a single Chiffchaff and a White Wagtail. 3 Wren singing. Good numbers of the resident breeding waders and gulls present. A single Sparrowhawk was seen at the east end.2 Purple Sandpiper in the harbour and a single Knot (I did not see any last year) there too. 8 Eider offshore. Good numbers of Razorbill, Shags and Cormorants.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Some good days; 14th September 2011

There had been a strong westerly airflow over Western Scotland and Northwest Ireland for a number of days during the middle of September. The ferry to Tory had been cancelled on the 11th, 12th and 13th and the weather was deemed calm enough for a sailing on the 14th ,just in time for my visit. 

The period had seen a number of American waders on the western Isles including Baird’s Sandpiper, 2 White- rumped Sandpipers, Pectoral Sandpiper, Buff-breasted Sandpiper and a Semi-palmated Sandpiper and a large fall of Lapland Bunting. Belmullet in County Mayo had only a Pectoral Sandpiper, but seawatching had been good with most of the scarce birds predictable at this time of year present including,  Sabine’s Gull, Long tailed Skua and Leach’s Petrel. 

There was no wind when we set out from Bunbeg harbour, so I looked forward to a pleasant crossing. As we approached the open ocean on rounding the last inshore islands I scanned the horizon for sea birds. I was puzzled to see what looked like new islands on the horizon out to the west. On closer inspection I could see they were waves not Islands………oh dear…a very heavy swell made the journey a real rollercoaster of a ride and seawatching was difficult to say the least.

As we rounded the headland and out across open water I could see there was a large passage of birds moving back west after the storm. It only lasted about 15 minutes as we passed through the stream of birds which included the following; 50 Fulmar, 8 Manx Shearwater, 1 Sooty Shearwater, 8 European Storm Petrel and a prolonged close range  view of a Leach’s Storm Petrel, 300 Gannet (mainly juveniles) and 35 Great Skua and an Arctic Skua.

When the boat docked I headed out west to see if the wind had brought any American waders to the lake. On the way down a small group of Lapland Bunting passed overhead. When I was close I scanned the shore line and indeed there were a number of waders present including 2 Ruff and a Pectoral Sandpiper. The waders were quite jumpy as there was a peregrine hunting close by. I made my way around the shore line and I noticed a small grey wader feeding close to the shore line but feeding in a very distinctive manner by spinning around on the water surface. It looked good for Grey Phalarope so I inched my way along to try and get some photos.

Grey Phalarope

I left the bird in peace and headed to check the rest of the lake. Right at the western end I spotted the familiar shape of a Buff-breasted Sandpiper playing hide and seek in the rough grass.

 As I was watching it another two flew to my right and landed close enough to get these shots.

 Buff-breasted Sandpipers

Further on a couple of Curlew Sandpipers and another Buff breasted Sandpiper where working some puddles with the local Ringed Plovers.

Outside the cafe some Lapland Bunting were feeding and washing in a puddle on the road.

Lapland Bunting

Having checked the west end I headed east but there were no migrants to be found anywhere. An hour long check of  the cover in west town before departure failed to produce any yank passerines(maybe next time!).

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Some good days;25th October 2011

Some good days;25th October 2011

In 2011 I had my only real fall of migrants on the 25th October.  There had been a south easterly blowing for a couple of days and there was plenty of cloud as I drove up to Donegal. The only problem was there was no rain. It was dry the entire journey up. I was worried that with no rain the birds might have just kept travelling northwest with the wind and out to sea. Then about 5 miles from the coast the roads were wet. Good news, at least for me. The prospect of some grounded migrants on Tory. When the boat arrived there was low cloud and it was obvious there had been some rain during the night.

First stop, the Magic Bush. It is so named because of the birds that seem to magic from nowhere to take up temporary residence from time to time. It’s only 50 yards from the harbour.  If you are looking for migrants it’s the first port of call and so I went to pay homage.

It’s not much to look at. First off, it’s in a paved garden with no cover other than the actual tree itself.   The tree is about 25 feet high, it’s quite rakish looking and you can see through it. There was nowhere to hide. I look up and I can see two maybe three birds flitting about. Great, some migrants, I won’t go home empty handed. I lift the bins. First bird…. Yellow-browed Warbler!  Now that’s a great start. No jackpot but a great start. I wait about 15 minutes and the final tally is 5 Blackcap, 1 Chiffchaff and 1 Yellow brow. It’s amazing how hard birds are to see when they want to stay hidden. 

I leave the harbour and head east with a smile on my face. A hundred yards along the road and another yellow brow flies over my head and lands on a stone wall and stays long enough to be identified. I presume it’s the magic bush bird moving back east. At the council cottages on the edge of west town, another yellow brow and a few more blackcaps are sheltering in the only cover available. It’s the same story up east with another couple of yellow brows in Graces B+B and Anton Meenans land at the east end. There are a lot of thrushes busy flying about around, 450 in all. Grounded blackcaps are hiding under rusty trailers and beside farm buildings. It’s a marvellous sight…migration in action.

 Yellow browed Warbler


 Song Thrush


 Yellow browed Warbler


 Willow Warbler



 Black Redstart

The final warbler tally is 61. 46 Blackcap, 10 Chiffchaff, 4 Yellow browed Warbler and one late Willow Warbler. And a Black Redstart.

A quick visit to the lake at the west end reveals a juvenile American Golden Plover with the few residents. A tick!  A great way to end the day!

All the above photos were taken with the Canon Powershot. Its good for stationary birds but little use for small birds that move around a lot. I recently bought a DSLR Camera so I am hoping the photos will be better this year....

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Weather 25th October 2011

I had my only passerine fall of the autumn on the 25th October 2011. It included 450 thrushes and 61 warblers (46 Blackcap, 10 Chiffchaff, 4 Yellow browed Warblers and a Willow Warbler) and a few finches. One day in never enough…….

 The Western Isles had the following, a couple of yellow brows, Wood Warbler a sprinkling of Blackcap and Chiffchaff and an influx of thrushes. On the 26th and 27th Hawfinch, Garden Warbler, Treecreeper, Willow Warbler, Waxwing some Brambling and Snow Bunting and on the 28th Great grey Shrike.

Inishbofin in Galway drew a blank...

Satellite image of the weather on the night of 24th October....

The weather was overcast with moderate south easterlies for a couple of days. Tory had rain overnight. 

Clear weather over Inishbofin.

It looks like birds moving south west during the good weather got caught up in this weather system over France, got pushed north-west with the wind and the rain forced them to land on the north coast of Ireland and the Western Isles.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Birds and weather

I have always been interested in weather patterns and the effect they have on migrating birds. I have had a look at some historical weather charts to see the effect of this on bird migration.

Tory has had so little regular birding done in recent years that it would be difficult to draw any conclusions from historical records.

There are a lot of similarities between the timing of falls of birds on the Western Isles and Tory, just 100 miles to the south. So I thought I would look at the weather during a good fall on the western Isles  in June 2011.
It started on 1st June with Laughing Gull,Little Stint,Greenland Redpoll and Pectoral Sandpiper (the yanks presumably moving north in the spring having wintered in Europe?). The 3rd had Black headed Bunting. Bonapartes Gull on the 4th, Golden Oriole on the 5th, Garganey on the 6th, Hobby on the 7th, Turtle Dove on the 8th and Woodchat Shrike on the 10th. A good set of birds by any standards, particularly way out west.

And now the weather satellite photos....

 June 1st

The bank of cloud was pretty much stable from late May till at least 10th June drifting slowly to the south east....

 June 7th

Presumable the clear weather in Europe gave the birds a good opportunity to move north during the spring with birds over shooting and the bank of cloud stopped them dead in their tracks over the Western Isles.

 God bless the birds who met this weather over the open ocean to the north west of Ireland....

There have been a few good falls on Tory over the years. I had 61 warblers on the 25th October 2011 which included 4 Yellow browed Warblers.
I must have a look at the weather at the time of that fall..............................

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Island life 1974

A video from youtube showing what life was like on the island in 1974

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

2009 Snowy Owl

A long staying Tory rarity I managed to miss by a few months. Apparently it had been worrying the local Mallard which in turn worried some of the locals..........

Sunday, 11 March 2012

My first visit

From the ferry looking back to Donegal

Tory Island

Harbour at West Town

West Town

Looking west


Lighthouse. West End

The inspiration

The painting

 The Club

Eastern Cliffs

I just came across these photos while looking through my computer hard drive. My wife Olivia and I made our first visit to Tory a few years ago.Possibly 2006! It was her idea. She wanted some inspiration for a painting and settled on some of the islands tractors as a subject. I was delighted to tag along as it was September and the best place in Ireland to see Lapland Bunting, a localised autumn migrant. I met two birders on the way over on the boat, Wilton Farrelly and Derek Charles. It was the first time I had met them both together and at the time they were Tory regulars. I think last year was the first time they had not made the trip in a long time. Anyway I was very greatful for that chance meeting as they found and showed me a group of 5 Lapland Bunting which were a new bird for me.