Thursday, October 27, 2022

Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Cape Clear

Only a couple of days after the successful twitch to Unst for Cape May Warbler in late October 2013, there was another big system coming in and expectations were high. It was still a shock, though, when news broke of a Ruby-crowned Kinglet found and trapped in Cotter’s Garden on Cape Clear on 27th, on the front of the system. With the weather due to worsen as the system came through, Paul, Dave Gibbs, and I decided to fly rather than face the risk of the ferries being cancelled (or even just a very lumpy crossing). In the end it gained us nothing, as the ferries ran and we were gathered with a small group of other British twitchers in Baltimore, waiting for the only ferry of the day to Cape.

The news from Cape wasn’t good – no sign so far of the bird. As the ferry departure time approached all had a decision to make – jump on, knowing it automatically entailed an overnight stay win or lose, or bail and take the risk that the bird would be refound with no further option available to get on that day. Most decided that it was a no-go and bailed at that point, but we and a few others decided to press on.

There were virtually no Irish birders staying on Cape apart from the resident ones, so the much reduced British contingent were on our own, and over the course of the afternoon our spirits flagged considerably as there continued to be no sign of the bird. Given the weather the previous night it was extremely unlikely to have left, so maybe it had succumbed after the transatlantic crossing? Each Goldcrest we saw gave us momentary hope, but no more than that, prompting Paul to quote Star Wars: ‘These are not the ’crests you are looking for.’

At least we had a decent night in Cotter’s, and next morning I added a couple of species to my Irish list while searching the Waist (Yellow-browed Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat, in case you’re wondering). As we fanned out later in the morning I took the opportunity to search some habitat near the stone pier in the South Harbour, where I camped as a teenager on a summer tour of Ireland between school and university some three decades previously. So some fond memories to help assuage the dip, but, as we got the ferry back to Baltimore, four mega alerts in short order reminded us that the autumn was far from over. Thankfully there was nothing Paul or I needed, and only one tick for Dave (the Mourning Dove on Rhum, which he saw a few days later) – given how far out of the way we had put ourselves, it could have been much, much worse…  

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