Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Winter visit

I made my first visit of the year to Tory Island last week. It was a little strange go be travelling there with little or no expectation of finding any rare birds. Last year I had managed 6 trips to Tory. They were all preceded by a great deal of expectation and most days I came home tired but happy. The six trips were all made in autumn. Starting in August and ending in early November.

After a quick breakfast, I would pile myself and packed lunch into the prepacked car and hit the road north to Tory. At that hour in the morning all the traffic is heading south so the lights from other vehicles can be a real problem on the two hour drive to Letterkenny. Fortunately, the road is pretty good. At Letterkenny its time to take a short break and prepare for the final leg of the journey to Bunbeg for the ferry crossing to Tory which leaves at 8.45am.
This stretch of road is beautiful, but a little more dangerous as it snakes through Glenveagh National Park up to Mount Errigal and then down to the sheltered harbour.

Mount Errigal and Glenveagh in the morning light

 Last saturday as I arrived at the harbour it was quiet as usual. Just one other day tripper was making the 1 hour 45 minute ferry ride across. The trip across was pretty uneventful, although it gave me a chance to try out my new camera and lens. It was very overcast and the there was a heavy swell so I set the ISO at 1600 to see if I could get any sharp images of passing seabirds.

Fulmar passing Bloody Foreland

Fly by Red-throated Diver

A brief Red-throated Diver flying by and some Fulmars gave me a taste of what it might be like to take some shots in bad weather on a rough crossing. I was happy enough with the grainy results. As we approached  the harbour, I could see some white birds on the water. Assuming they would be Eider I managed to get in a reasonable position and get some shots as they paddled like crazy to get out of the boats way.

 Eider Duck outside Tory harbour

As I departed the ferry I was told that the ferry was leaving at 2.00pm. This just gave me 3 and a half hours birding. No time to lose.

Welcome to Tory Island

The first land birds were the perennial Rock Pipits busy hunting along the harbour wall and in amongst the rocks and seaweed.

Rock Pipit

Given the large numbers of white winged gulls around Britain and Ireland at the moment, I was a little disappointed that there was not even one Iceland or Glaucous Gull to spice things up. The best in the harbour area were 10 Purple Sandpiper some Turnstone and Redshank.

Purple Sandpipers

The lakes were quiet with just a few duck (Mallard, Teal, Wigeon and Tufted Duck)  some waders and a pair of Mute Swans on each.

Mute Swan

Tufted Duck

East Town. Looking south over An Loch Thoir.

A little worrying was a new fence around some good migrant cover at the east end. I had Yellow-browed Warbler here last autumn and Barred Warbler the year before. The migrant cover is behind the telegraph pole.
The last three houses at the east end.

In West Town one of the large trees has fallen down in the windy weather. There were 12 Blackcap in this tree on 25th  October 2011!
Behind west town. Some of the best cover on the island.

Anyway, no rare birds but still a great place to visit again. I won't make it back until April. The first of the spring migrants should have arrived by then. There is a good chance that one or two Corncrake might be back on territory. Its still one of the best places to see this threatened species in Ireland. If the wind is blowing from the east you never know what might be waiting for me!

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