12 Mar 2022

12 Mar 22 - Much Nicer Than A 70s Memory

In an earlier Post I wrote about my first post-C19 trip abroad to Ireland for the Egyptian Vulture. After seeing the Egyptian Vulture, I drove North from Tracht to The Mullet Peninsula in the dark & found a pull in by the side of Cross Lough about ten that evening. I slept in the car that night. I've slept in cars on so many UK & foreign trips, that it was the obvious option for this short Irish break. This allowed me to arrive late and not to have to look for accommodation & not to lose time for breakfast. Plus, it was a lower C19 risk. After a good sleep that night, I woke at dawn to the alarm & found I was looking at the nicest area I've visited on my nine short trips to Ireland. The Mullet reminded me of the Uist Islands, albeit with more houses, which remains one of my favourite parts of the UK. I'm old enough to remember the bad mullet haircuts from the 70s, hence the title of this Blog Post.
Barnacle Goose: These three Barnacle Geese which flew over and dropped onto the grass close to the car, were a nice start to the day
The view from the 'Focus' Hotel
The reason for choosing to visit The Mullet was to look for an American Black Duck which has taken up residence on Cross Lough. I drove to the Northern end of Cross Lough & started looking for the American Black Duck. It wasn't with the first groups of Mallard in the North East corner, but then I saw a couple of Ducks flying South: a male Mallard and the American Black Duck. They landed at the Southern end of the lake about a mile away. Driving around to the North West corner, I found some picnic benches, which would have been a better place to kip for the night: the disadvantages of arriving after dark at an unknown site. I carried along South to the end of the road, but it was still a long way to where the American Black Duck had dropped in.
The far shore of Cross Lough
Unfortunately, I couldn't see a path that continued along the shoreline & there were a number of barbed wire fenced fields stopping me walking along the lake shore. Equally importantly, there was a flock of Barnacle Geese that I would have flushed had I tried to walk. At this point, several cars arrived, followed by many more to make 24 cars over the next few minutes. It was time for the local park run along the lake shore & back along a track close to the beach. It seemed a good time to move on, given I didn't think I would get better views of the American Black Duck.
Barnacle Goose
Barnacle Goose: While I was looking for a path along the shoreline, some of the Barnacle Geese got jumpy and flew back one field
It was a nice sunny and crisp morning, albeit quite windy. The plan was to spent the afternoon looking for a Ross's Gull near Galway and have another look for the Forster's Tern, that I hadn't located on the previous afternoon. Knowing I had a three hour drive ahead of me, I decided to spend another couple of hours exploring The Mullet before heading South. I drove back to the main road and followed it South. It certainly looks an interesting place and I can see myself returning for a longer trip on a future October Irish twitch. This is a coastline that has a proven potential for American vagrants.
Greylag Geese: Perhaps a wilder origin that the ones that hang around Poole Harbour
Whooper Swan Lookalike?: There were fourteen Whooper Swans and sixteen Mute Swans on Cross Lough, but none were close enough to photograph
The road passed alongside a couple of great looking sandy beaches, both of which had groups of feeding Bar-tailed Godwits. A Grey Seal popped its head up briefly in one of the bays.
The Bar-tailed Godwit Beach
Bar-tailed Godwit
Bar-tailed Godwit
Eventually, the road ran out at the small harbour by the Blacksod lighthouse, where there was a showy Great Northern Diver and a Rock Pipit on the quayside.
The quayside at Blacksod: Albeit with the usual kink that panoramic camera photos introduce
Great Northern Diver: This Great Northern Diver was feeding in the small harbour at Blacksod on The Mullet
Great Northern Diver: It was a lot closer than I tend to see them on my Studland patch
Rock Pipit: This is a very plain looking individual compared to the ones I see around St Aldhelms and Studland, yet it's still the nominate petrosus subspecies
The Blacksod Lighthouse
Tidy fishing gear on Blacksod quay: It's good to see this all tidily stacked as it's easy for birds to get caught in fishing gear
Trees at Blacksod harbour: This could be interesting in October
It was late morning & my time on The Mullet was up. If I wanted to head down to look for the Ross's Gull, I needed to get moving.
Once you get off The Mullet Peninsula, it looks a lot more like the Scottish West coast
Irish Non-military Tractor: In the week before I went I saw many photos on twitter of Ukrainian farmers towing abandoned Russian tanks behind their tractors, that I had almost forgotten that they are also used for normal farming work
I stopped en route to Galway for another look for the Forster's Tern on the coast around Tracht. Unfortunately, it still wasn't showing. I later found out it was frequently a wider area than I was aware & maybe I should have tried to get to the coast at other points. After an hour or so of looking, I carried on driving to Mutton island near Galway to look for the Ross's Gull. There is a long causeway out to the island and the Ross's Gull was roosting on the rocks with Black-headed Gulls, a Mediterranean Gull & a Sandwich Tern. It wasn't close. But the good thing is it wasn't possible to leave the causeway, so at least they weren't going to be disturbed by a selfish photographer.
Hooded Crow: I don't normally think of them feeding on seaweed, like this one was doing on the Mutton Island causeway. But Corvids are very good at adapting to their surroundings
Ross's Gull: Only the fourth one I've seen with none to this point being close. Fortunately, the 2023 Dorset individual proved more photogenic
The wind had strengthened significantly by the time I had reached the Ross's Gull site. The overnight weather forecast was looking rough, with stronger winds & rain as a front arrived. However, it was also forecast to have cleared through by dawn the following morning. This looked more hopeful for the following morning. I decided to driving across to Lough Boora to look for the Northern Harrier that had been there for a few weeks. It should only have been a bit over an hour to complete the drive, but the Sat Nat failed me. It has built in maps for the whole of Europe, but many of the smaller place names are in Gaelic. I had problems matching up the Sat Nat with Google Maps & the RBA directions and this was the first time the Sat Nav failed me & left me in a village about ten miles from where I needed to be. Eventually, I had to give up on the Sat Nav & switch to Google Maps, but I ended up approaching Lough Boora from a set of very small minor roads. Eventually, I found the site & got ready for another night in the car, whilst hoping the wind & rain would easy by dawn.