16th - 20th February 2008

(9 Iceland Gulls)           

16th February


Wanting a brief break over half term Margaret and I decided to accompany Pete Marsh on a five day trip to Ireland to look at some wintering gulls. We travelled from Liverpool departing at 20.15 arriving in Cork 45 minutes later. We collected our hire car with ease and made our way around Cork out to Ballycotton for our first night.


17th February


To start the day we headed towards Youghal for one of our target birds, arriving at Redbarn we wandered out onto the beach splitting up left and right to walk down the tideline. We soon came across Meadow Pipits, Stonechats and a few Rock Pipits. When to the west side we found the long staying Buff-bellied Pipit present with a Rock Pipit showing well allowing us to examine the subtle differences between the two. Also on the beach were Sanderlings and many Hooded Crows.


1st winter Iceland Gulls

Leaving Youghal we headed north arriving at Galway shortly after lunch, as we pulled up at Nimmo’s Pier amongst the feeding swans we could see one, two, three, four, …. ten Iceland Gulls minimum sat on the shore waiting for some bread along with many Common and Black-headed Gulls. Over the rest of the day we counted a minimum of 2 adults, 2 2nd winters and 13 1st winter Iceland Gulls in the area.

2nd winter Iceland Gull

Adult Iceland Gull

Iceland Gulls

We then bumped into Paul Hackett, who was photographing the gulls and had been for the last few days. He kindly informed us of all the spots before taking us around to the docks where the 1st winter American Herring Gull was present sat on a roof top along side two Iceland Gulls and a probable 3rd winter Kumlien’s Gull, the one with one leg! After having great views of the American Herring Gull coming to bread we made our way back round to Nimmo’s Pier where all the gulls had gone.

Herring, Iceland and American Herring Gull

American Herring Gull


3rd winter Kumlien's Gull

As the tide was in we walked across towards the sea and viewed the rocky shoreline where some of the Iceland Gulls were now roosting along with 6 Sandwich Terns and the Forster’s Tern. Back at the swans the gulls had returned with brief visits of 2 adult Ring-billed Gulls as the sun set.

Forster's Tern

18th February


Ring-billed Gull

For the morning we remained around Galway spending most of the time at a misty Nimmo’s Pier until midday when the sun started to shine. Iceland Gulls were all around again and on arrival a different adult Ring-billed Gull from the day before was sat on the shore edge. But then everything took to the air and reason became clear when Margaret spotted an Otter climbing down the rocks on the nearby wall dropping into the water being carried off by the strong current. Few bird came and went when a familiar faced dropped in, the American Herring Gull that showed superbly well among the gathered gulls. A quick walk down the pier produced a single Common Sandpiper.


American Herring Gull

Happy that we had taken enough photos we decided to leave the gulls in peace and made our way down the coast stopping at Tralee quickly locating 2 adult Ring-billed Gulls on a village pond with another on the estuary down the road. An evening seawatch produced 7 Great Northern Divers.


Ring-billed Gull

19th February


First stop of the day was Dingle Harbour where two 1st winter Glaucous Gulls were present and an adult Ring-billed Gull made a brief fly over along with 2 Choughs. Further around into the bay were a flock of washing gulls containing four 1st winter Iceland Gulls and two more 1st winter Glaucous Gulls with feeding Little Egrets that were a common sight all around southern Ireland.


1st winter Glaucous Gulls

Heading west brought us into Ventry Harbour with a flock of Pale-bellied Brent Geese along the beach, 5 Great Northern Divers, 2 Black Guillemots and a 2nd winter Mediterranean Gull. Moving around to a pool and marshy area in search of the long staying Black Duck but our efforts came to nothing, well that’s not totally true as we did see Greenshank, several Snipe and a Water Rail. Back on the beach a flock of roosting gulls held our 5th Glaucous Gull (1st winter) of the day along with a hybrid Glaucous X Herring Gull.

hybrid Glaucous X Herring Gull

It was time to make tracks and we headed on down to the South Cork coast checking sites around Clonakilty with nothing unusual being seen.


20th February


As this was our final day we thought we’d better check out the bright lights of Cork City ending up at The Lough. It was soon obvious that everyone came here to dispose of their old stale bread with many Swans, Geese, Ducks and of course some more Gulls being present. In fact the first bird we saw was a 1st winter Ring-billed Gull lounging around on the lake edge.

1st winter Ring-billed Gull

Then scanning around the southern end produced a 1st winter Iceland Gull and then further around the edge was a darker looking bird, ah the reason for coming as it was the long staying 1st winter Kumlien’s Gull that showed very well.


1st winter Kumlien's Gull

Now where was the adult bird? We headed north to get a few over the open water and there sleeping in the middle was the adult ‘type’ Kumlien’s Gull and frustratingly that is were it remained. Looking along the edge of the wooded island resulted in a perched Cattle Egret.


Cattle Egret

Back admiring the feeding gulls yet another adult Ring-billed Gull made a very brief visit before heading off to some rooftops. A sunny interval saw us photographing the very obliging Pochards, Tufted Ducks and even some Shoveler when we noticed the adult Kumlien’s had gone but where, sat on the opposite banking preening it was and people were approaching from both sides. There was nothing for it, and we ran and ran getting there just in time for a few shots before the bird was flushed for a third time!

Adult Kumlien's Gull

As our time was running out we made a quick dash out of Cork and around to Cobh  where we got excellent views of a 3rd winter Glaucous Gull. A half hearted attempt to find some Cattle Egrets was unsuccessful so we travelled back to the airport for our flight at 15.50 back to Liverpool.


3rd winter Glaucous Gull

We arrived back in England just at the start of rush hour however we were soon back home where the holiday finished on a bad note, our mobile hard drive failed to work! (2nd Holiday running!!) Resulting in the loss of many photo’s and that’s why you couldn’t see any Pipit pics, luckily we still had some photo’s mainly from the last day and also successfully recovered a few from memory cards.

Mark Breaks


All Images taken by Margaret and Mark Breaks, Copyright - © Breaks Bird Photography