Wednesday, 17 March 2010

St Patrick's Day

Left: Nimmo Pier's wintering adult Ring-billed Gull. Below: this Black-headed Gull was ringed as a chick in 2007 at a Co Mayo colony. Bottom: Redshank on Mutton Island Causeway.

When the arrangements were originally made for this trip, I hadn't taken into consideration that it coincided with St Patrick's Day. Big mistake, I thought, as our car negotiated streets crowded with people of all ages and in all states of sobriety sporting big green hats, stuck-on ginger beards, shamrock tattoos and more.

We were on our way back to Galway city, having traversed a wide area of peat bogs and hills north-east of Rossaveal in search of a Snowy Owl. It has reportedly been present for a month, though news has only just emerged; I'm pretty confident we didn't overlook it in our extensive search by foot and car this morning, but it could range over a vast area. Five Sandwich Terns and a Black Guillemot in Rossaveal harbour afterwards were scant reward for our efforts, so we headed back to town among the revellers to Nimmo's Pier.

Here, an adult Ring-billed Gull was performing on cue. I'd located it earlier on the far side of the harbour, but now it was on the slipway, within a can's throw of the drunken crowds gathering on the pier - presumably to avoid the Garda threat to round up drinkers on public streets. We felt rather conspicuous lugging thousands of pounds of optics and cameras through this motley crew, some of whom tossed the odd insult our way, but we needed to check the beach for the long-staying Forster's Tern that had been regularly reported at low tide.

Try as we might, we could not find the bird. Five more Sandwich Terns - apparently often its companions - were on show, and I and then Chris both found first-winter Glaucous Gulls as we neared the causeway to Mutton Island. But with the tide coming in and birds rapidly departing for their roosting areas, we realised it was not to be. We celebrated St Patrick's Day, or rather drowned our sorrows, with Guinness in the Crane Bar. Maybe tomorrow.

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