Last Monday 15th August 2016, I made my way back to the Loop Head peninsula in search of a possible Least Sandpiper observed by Tony and Darragh Cully late Sunday evening at Cloghaun Lough outside Kilbaha. On my way downto the loop, I took in Poulnasherry Bay to search for American waders and Kilcredaun Marsh also. I got delayed at Poulnasherry with a very unusual looking plover that I was convinced was a Semipalmated Plover. Next I went through the pools at Kilcredaun Marsh where there was one juvenile Ruff and very little else. I arrived at Cloghaun Lough at around 15.15 and once the scope was set up the first bird I noticed in the mud was a Common Sandpiper feeding along the edge of the main stream in the middle of the Lough. Then sitting behind a mound of mud to the left of the Common Sandpiper I noticed a slightly larger looking wader.
On first impressions the hunched over bird looked like a Wood Sandpiper. I needed to get closer and better views with no heat haze distorting my views, so I made my way along the southern shore of the Lough. The bird moved out feeding just right of the mud mound and immediately I noticed the eye ring, long primary projection and dark overall colour similar to Green Sandpiper. I got closer and took the camera out of the bag. I now had it in my head that it could be a Solitary Sandpiper but I could not see the rump. As I approached closer the bird attempted to move away from me and as it did so it flew about 4 metres to the right. As it landed I could see that it had a dark rump and I then knew it was a Solitary Sandpiper. One of the shots depicted this so I took a couple of pictures from the back of the camera with my phone and texted it off to a few friends to release the news.
The phone started ringing immediately and during conversations with the lads it was worked out that it was only the 7th Irish record and I knew it was a first for Clare. Of course I was delighted and I patiently watched the bird for over an hour while waiting for local birders to arrive and see this North American vagrant. While waiting the Least Sandpiper appeared on the edge of a reeded fringe near the mouth of the river entering the Lough from the landward side. This was obviously the same bird as seen the evening before, so I contacted Tony Cully to let him know the good news. The Least Sandpiper was only a second county record. The birds remained in the Lough till the end of the week and all got great views of these two brilliant birds. A great start to the autumn.
Solitary Sandpiper at Cloghaun Lough, Loop Head John N Murphy