Saturday, 4 September 2010

The Best Worst Cape Clear Trip Ever

In typical fashion I arrived too early for any migrants - this was actually my cunning plan, last thing I wanted to do was find a rare bird and have the place crawling with birders, why else would you pick the last weekend in August when there's only the slightest breath of air from the north and sunny skies all round? (there was the small matter of the wedding anniversary but that was a mere triviality)

I got off to a good start - what could be better than finding some pig's milk cheese? A good sign if ever there was one

After turning up that mega it was straight out to the ferry, with the sinking feeling that the only word I could understand out of the Irish language broadcast from the bridge was 'Sherkin Island'. The english translation was no better and yup we were on the ferry to Sherkin Island just a mile or so up the bay, defintely not the ferry to Cape Clear.

It's all in the detail

Anyway, after a salty anchovie pizza that did no favours to my blood pressure (ameliorated by a few pints and copious cigarettes) it was time to catch the real ferry. My plan to avoid rare birds was coming up trumps reaffirmed by the fact that I saw shag all seabirds except shags. It was a stroke of luck that I didn't bump into one of the Great Shearwaters seen nearby a few days before.

Anyway, onto the island and deftly avoiding the shop at the harbour that sells BLT sandwiches for 10 yoyos (Euros!) it was up to the campsite and the Yurts (minus yaks milk butter tea and fermented mare's mlk hooch). Pretty good though - no complaints there.

 Yurtally Yurtastic!

 The only problem with the yurts was that they were infested with the indigenous Cape Clear black pudding.

So it was up on the first morning for a trudge round the island, carefully scrutinising each fencepost for the avoidance of shrikes and skulking silently at bushes unlikely to hold any sort of migrant - my meticulously prepared gameplan was definitely paying dividends. So to celebrate it was off to the bar (after a celebratory ale or two at the yurt) and then back to the yurt to continue the celebrations with my new friend - the box of wine I had stashed in my rucksack.
After that things became funny but through the haze I suddenly spotted my old friend and mucker Pacman. We reminisced for a few hours over a the end of the box of wine, then I ate half his head.

Black Pudding, however, are common and can be found all over the island, sometimes in feeding flocks but mostly seen creeping through the grass searching for cheese or singing from fenceposts.

 Dawn Chorus on Cape

Well, you get the jist of it - everything that you would expect, a few Choughs and plenty of Starlings and Swallows to show for a nearly 1000km round trip. The second morning was just as good as the last - I was keeping my average of nil birds, I just had to hold out until the last ferry and I was home free with a big fat zero. I was stunned at my luck in avoiding the Lesser Whitethroat that was there on the day I caught the ferry back, god knows I might have broke my duck and my masterplan would have been in tatters - the saints were certainly smiling that day on this stray soul from the North.

 The trail of tears

Even better I missed the 2 Red-backed Shrikes and 2 Pied Flycatchers that were there on Thursday (2nd Sept).

 Extreme toileting on Cape Clear

Still it could have been worse - you can imagine my relief that I wasn't there on Friday (3rd Sept) when 4 Pied Flycatchers, a Redstart, a Yellow Wagtail and a Garden Warbler turned up.

 These went extinct early on Saturday afternoon


Don't be tempted - you're a year and a half too late

Now I'm tucked nice and safe in the rarity free zone of south east Co. Down again at least I can rest easy knowing that there could well be a mutlitude of rares on Cape Clear over the coming days and I'm nearly as far away as I can get from the lot of them - a close shave but I love it when a plan comes together.

It was a weight off my mind to see that a Melodious Warbler, 14 Pied Flycatcher, 6 Spotted Flycatcher, 4 Whinchat, a Garden Warbler and a Redstart were on Cape yesterday (4th Sept)

Double Update!
6th September - Pied Flycatcher 6, Spotted Flycatcher 8 and Reed Warbler 2 - fortunately not as good as 9 Little Egret at Dundrum Inner Bay South

Worst Update Ever!!
Myrtle Warbler, Red-flanked Bluetail etc. - you all know the story. Thank god I missed all that.