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.
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.
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.
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!).