Friday, September 2, 2016

Spotted Sandpiper on the Rock

I work on Skellig Michael Island (The Rock) during the summer monitoring seabird populations, especially Storm Petrels.  Last Wednesday 31st August, I came down from the scaffolding on the south west part of the island where we are doing maintenance work to the lighthouse walls, to return to my hut for a tea break. After taking off my high visibility vest and helmet and exiting the hut to go down to the Helipad to make a phone call, a small wader flew from the drain outside my hut doorstep.  At first glance and as it flew away from me down the roadway, I thought it was a Common Sandpiper. But as the bird rose high to fly over the wall, I noticed it looked dainty and had a small narrow wing bar.  I grabbed my binoculars and camera from the hut and pursued the bird to a flat slab rock below the Helipad.  As I watched it feeding, I noticed very bright yellow legs, white body, short tail a pink based lower mandible and plain looking tertials. I recognised it at this point as being a SPOTTED SANDPIPER.  I took some shots, and once again photographed the images on my mobile from the back of the camera to send to some friends and birders. Dermot Breen was my first port of call and then Ed Carty, Gracer and few others. The bird stayed around for the remainder of the day and was confiding for a short period of time.  The following day the bird was still along the road to the landing but a little wearier.  As the 1st of September brought dire weather with high winds and persistent rain, I did not manage to get any additional photos.  By late afternoon on 1st September the bird had vanished. Ed subsequently informed me that this was the 7th Kerry record of Spotted Sandpiper and that the Fea’s Petrel I had off the south of the island the day before was also a 7th Kerry record. Not bad for my week on the rock.

 Juvenile Spotted Sandpiper on Skellig Michael Island John N Murphy
 Turnstones on Skellig Michael Island John N Murphy

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