Sunday, August 2, 2009


The autumn is upon us and so many of us seawatchers are dusting off the rain gear, wellies and camp chairs in anticipation of a good seasons watching. This is not as its name suggests (unless its a very quite day!), a bunch of weirdos looking at the sea through telescopes all day but rather involves watching the migration of thousands of seabirds past the west coast of Ireland. These ocean nomads are moving from north to south and in some cases cover thousands of miles to reach the warmer waters off Africa and Europe. This annual migration sees species such as Manx Shearwater, Sooty Shearwater, Great Shearwater, Great Skua, Long-tailed Skua, Leach's Petrel, Grey Phalarope and often rare species such as Wilsons Petrel (pictured above) passing along our coast. The Bridges of Ross in County Clare is one of Europe's best places to view this mass migration.

So, its a case of sitting on a cliff for hours looking out on the Atlantic ocean in preferably strong westerly winds, looking for these birds. The gales and driving rain never stops (rather encourages) sometimes up to a hundred seawatchers. A good on-shore wind helps the cause as the birds are blown closer to land thus enabling us cold, shivering and hapless birdwatchers to see them. Bill Oddie once suggested that seawatchers weren't actually looking through their telescopes but rather using them as prop-ups while they slept! Well if you see us propped up against our scopes asleep, leave us be because we're probably dreaming about Black-browed Albatrosses!

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