Wet, windy and cold in Ireland
As it was half term, I decided to take Bernie for a few days to the west coast of Ireland to see some lovely scenery and hopefully some good birds. The weather forecast was not good, so we packed all the weatherproofing gear Ryanair's baggage limit would allow!
Taking advantage of the new service from Liverpool to Knock, we decided not to do a pilgrimage and headed for the Galway coast in the vain hope that the Little Blue Heron might still be there. The scenery was magnificent and the Connemara mountains foreboding as we dodged our way through showers to the extremity of Galway in about two hours. The wind was blowing strongly from the north and it was COLD! There were very few birds to be seen so we headed off to our B&B (run by an ex-roadie of U2 and a very nice place too!) and a meal in the town of Clifden.
The following day didn't seem much better but a brief respite in the morning gave us the chance to do a circuit of one of the Galway headlands where we saw Chough, Twite and several commoner waders. The with the sunshine and showers, we'd never seen so many rainbows but we could not find that pot o' gold!
So it was north we headed stopping off at Westport for 11's and then up to the northwestern part of Mayo and the Mullet peninsula. As we neared Belmullet, I took a detour to drive along the shoreline of Carrowmore Lake - it was very choppy and exposed but we found one sheltered bay and there we had some lovely views of a drake and female Ring-necked Duck. I'd booked the B&B that Bill and John had used a few weeks previously at the south of the peninsula and we received the same warm welcome (and a much needed brew!). We headed out to look for the Snowy Owl that had been in residence not half a mile south of the B&B.
We started by the standing stone sculpture and headed down over the hill but there was no Owl to be seen. It would have been sheltering low down somewhere if it had any sense - unlike us!
Having given the place a good hour or so we headed back to Belmullet calling in at Leam Loch where there were a good selection of waders including seven Greenshank and over 100 Golden Plover.
The following morning I got up early only to be met with the worsening weather. A great-northern diver was fishing in the bay below the B&B at Blacksod but there was precious little else showing. After breakfast I headed up Termon Hill again, putting up a Merlin sheltering behind a pile of rocks (no doubt what the owl was still doing) and a few Redwings called overhead. Wrapped up against the cold and with all our waterproofs on we checked a few of the sites further up the Mullet as the weather turned more showery. At Termoncarragh we saw a flock of over 50 Barnacle Geese as well as a few Greylags and a Merlin whilst in Annagh Bay there was another adult Great Northern Diver. I braved the headland at Annagh for a little while but only saw a few Gannets and yet another Merlin. Back near Belmullet there were 72 pale-bellied Brent Geese along with the usual waders; I've got to say that I've never seen so many Ringed Plovers - they were everywhere (well, on every beach and mudflat). There were 17 Whooper Swans on Cross Loch and a small flock of Greylag were nearby. When we got back to Blacksod Bay there were at least three Great Northern's feeding.
The following day was our last - the sun came out, the wind speed had dropped a bit and was coming from the North-east. Early morning on the hill still didn't produce the owl but there were a couple of Fieldfare overhead. I made my way down to what was now a sheltered bay at the south of the peninsula and had a very pleasureable hour or so watching two Red-throated and a single adult great Northern Diver as well as a single Black Guillemot, three Guillemots a female Long-tailed Duck and a juvenile Gannet that glided its way in from the sea and settled down for a while.
I checked the gardens in Blacksod but could only hear Goldcrests and Wrens and Robins - didn't see a thing as it was still very windy and cold.
Calling in at Cross Lough on the way back to the airport there was a flock of Scaup and then I noticed a small curlew-like bird with a few Curlew in the distance - it flew up briefly - it was half the size of a Curlew - probably a Whimbrel but it did seem very small. I made my way round but the farmer disturbed the flock and they flew off - as we had to in a few hours time. So witha brief stop off at Carrowmore Lake again, we headed back home after an enjoyable if not entirely bird-filled couple of days.