Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Dallying in Dingle - an Irish Holiday

As mentioned in the previous blog entry, our family holiday this Easter continued in the usual theme of visits to the far flung coastal corners of the British Isles. Previous venues have included Cornwall, Wales and various parts of Scotland but this year we decided to venture over to Ireland. Of course being us we had to go to the most south westerly corner of Ireland, namely to the Dingle peninsula. This involved leaving the house at 7:30 am and not arriving at our holiday cottage until 11:45 pm, so it was quite a long journey. Some preliminary research into the birding potential had suggested that whilst things might be rather quiet in the spring there would be various sea birds to catch up with including black guillemots which I couldn't remember whether I'd seen before as a boy so they would be at least technical life ticks.

The ferry journey, between running around after L our two year old son on the ferry, did include some sea watching opportunities and I managed to see a couple of manx shearwaters. The holiday itself mostly consisted of trips around to local coastal locations with a picnic lunch and a chance to wander around on the beach. I would endeavour to have a quick scan at each location that we went to. There were several large and sheltered bays around the peninsula in which one could find various sea birds of interest. It didn't take long to find my first black guillemot and I managed to see all three species of diver which was good. We also managed to see an otter which we watched for several minutes, which was great because despite all our trips to various appropriate coastal locations we'd not until then managed to see one. On a couple of occasions I saw some sandwich terns and on the beaches there were ringed plover, turnstone, rock pipits, oystercatchers and sanderling to be seen.

A pair of greater black backed gulls at Smerwick Harbour
Oystercatchers and common gulls on the beach
One of a pair of sandwich terns at Ventry

Dingle harbour is know to be a good spot for iceland and glaucous gulls during the winter and fortunately there were three icelands still lurking around. By spring they had faded to a very white colour and consequently really stood out from the other gulls. On a couple of occasions I also managed to find a glaucous gull though I wasn't able to get any photos. One could also regularly see the odd black guillemot from the piers within the harbour.
An iceland gull in Dingle harbour
An iceland gull on the beach near Dingle
A black guillemot in Dingle Harbour moulting into summer plumage

I went to Brandon Point, a well known sea watching location, on a couple of occasions and managed to pick out some auks which I am pretty sure were puffins, flying by comparatively close. Puffins, along with the other auk species, breed on the Blasket islands which lie close off-shore to the peninsula. There were also chough and ravens to see along the cliffs there.

The highlight of the trip was probably a trip to the mouth of Dingle harbour to see the Funghi the famous Dingle dolphin. This creature apparently was first seen in 1983 so it was now at least 26 years old and still entertaining the troops. It seemed to enjoy coming over to investigate the boats and even swimming alongside them. Whilst out in the harbour I was also able to get comparatively close views of the black guillemots.

Black guillemots in Dingle Harbour

That same afternoon we went for a walk around part of the bay to the Dingle light house during which I managed to see a pair of littoralis rock pipits, a pair of wheatear and a stonechat.
A stonechat near the lighthouse

So no great birding surprises but it was good to have a chance to catch up on some sea and coastal birds which I don't often get the chance to see and the national bird list has moved along nicely. I was also most pleased to see the black guillemots which were at least technical life ticks.

National (British Isles) Year List 2009
150 manx shearwater 03/04/2009 Irish Sea (ferry crossing)
151 gannet 03/04/2009 Irish Sea (ferry crossing)
152 guillemot 03/04/2009 Irish Sea (ferry crossing)
153 razorbill 03/04/2009 Irish Sea (ferry crossing)
154 hooded crow 04/04/2009 Dingle
155 blk-thrtd diver 04/04/2009 Smerwick Harbour, Dingle
L 156 black guillemot 04/04/2009 Smerwick Harbour, Dingle
157 shag 04/04/2009 Smerwick Harbour, Dingle
158 glaucous gull 05/04/2009 Ventry Harbour, Dingle
159 sandwich tern 05/04/2009 Ventry Harbour, Dingle
160 fulmar 05/04/2009 Shea Head, Dingle
161 kittiwake 06/04/2009 Clogher Head, Dingle
162 chough 06/04/2009 Clogher Head, Dingle
163 puffin 06/04/2009 Brandon Point, Dingle
164 sanderling 07/04/2009 Inch Beach, Co. Kerry

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