Alan Dalton post's birding diaries and original artwork from Sweden. Established in 2006, this now long running blog is now a complete overview of my birding experiences. As an artist I greatly enjoy sketching birds in the field and you will find a wide selection of that work here, from fieldwork to finished paintings. I am very passionate about my artwork and try to depict birds in their natural habitat, as I see them in the wild. My artwork is for sale and can be viewed at
As regards to my photography, since 2008 I have used a Nikon D90 DSLR camera coupled with a Sigma 150-500mm OS lens for since March 2012 for bird photography, all previous images being digiscoped. Regarding sound recording, I have been usung a Telinga Stereo Dat Mic and parabol to record birds in the field, coupled to a Marrantz 661 digital recorder, a superb piece of kit. Interest in butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies has recently seen the accquisition of a Sigma 150mm macro lens. I hope you enjoy the blog and please feel free to leave comments or contact me at

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Cape Clear Island; August 17th-25th August 2009

Blananarragaun from the northeast, this is one of the most acclaimed seawatching sites in Europe and is the epitomy of Cape Clear Island itself...

A long awaited return to the island was prompted by the 50th Anniversary of Cape Clear Island, which fell on August 19th, 2009. Having wardened on the island in 1994 was delighted to join in the celebrations on the island with both birders and locals alike, arriving on Monday 17th August off the afternoon ferry.

Gannet Close Up; these birds constantly pass by overhead at Blanannarragaun.

The weather over the opening three day proved to be the best for birding over the course of the week and a good southwesterly wind would see to it that some quality seabirds would be seen from Blananarragaun. The next morning saw me eagerly sitting on the headland and not dissapointed after a distant Great Shearwater was almost immediatly picked up, followed a few minutes later by another glorious bird just off the tip at close range, the sight that I had hoped for during the week previous to arriving on the island, these are fabulous birds you never tire of seeing. The following birds were recorded over the following hours in my notebook;
32 Great Shearwater, 1,224 Storm Petrel, 24 Puffin, 15 Sooty Shearwater, 12 Great Skua, 1 Balearic Shearwater, 1 pale phase Pomarine Skua, 1 Arctic Skua, Kittiwakes, Auks, Harbour Porpoise, 8 Common Dolphin and Manx Shearwaters in their thousands.
Spent the evening pottering about looking for landbirds without any rarities, though a Peregrine Falcon, Choughs and the local common landbirds were a very nice sight after birding over the past five years predominantly in Sweden.

Great Skua on passasge off Blanan...

The following day, August 19th, saw me again seawatching off Blanan, another good day with the following recorded personally;

3 Great Shearwater, 22 Sooty Shearwater, 1220 Manx shearwater west per hour, 8 Common Dolphin and plenty of common species, namely Gannets, Kittiwakes etc.

The evening was dominated by the Cape Clear Bird Observatory 50th Anniversary, a wonderful evening at the observatory hosted by Steve and Mary, with food, drinks and atmosphere aplenty. A memorable, tremendously well organized evening was had by all involved, both birders and locals having a great night that went brilliantly and well into the early hours. Steve and Mary were both wonderful hosts on the night and throughout the week, with superb talks and slideshows arranged every evening during the week.

Swallow Juvenile on the wires over The Waist..

Robin Juvenile, a common site on the island.

The day of August 20th saw a shift in wind to the dreaded northwesterly and sea passage came to a standstill. The evening did prove to hold my best passerines of the weeks when I picked up 2 Common Crossbill calling over the Low Road, these birds then flying past me eastwards up the Glen Road. Ravens. Little Grebe, 1 Sooty Shearwater and a handful of common passage and local species saw the evening close out quietly.

Willow Warbler, a juvenile bird and common passage species on the island.

August 21st saw the following species recorded at sea off Blanan;
14 Kittiwake, 126 Fulmar west per hour, 4 Common Scoter, 1 Whimbrel, 4 Puffin, 2 Common Dolphin, 3 Harbour Porpoise.
The afternoon and evening produced little of note birdwise, again common species prevalent, took advantage of some good light to do some photography and sketching about the island...

Whitethroat, a breeding and passage species

August 22nd proved a better day at sea with the following seen;
570 Manx Shearwater west per hour, 84 Fulmar west per hour, 14 Puffin, 79 Kittiwake, 15 Guillimot, 9 Storm Petrel, 14 Sooty Shearwater, 3 Great Shearwaters, 3 Razorbill, 5 Knot, 1 Blue Phase Fulmar, 1 Pomarine Skua, 3 Great Skua, 2 Comic Tern.

Chough in flight, on of the more special breeding species on the island, a peak of 16 birds were recorded over the week...

Gannet in Flight, taken from Blanan in good light.

23rd August proved the last day of seawatching of any not, news of 3 Sabines Gulls seen earlier in terrible condition saw us back out to record the following;
6 Sooty Shearwater, 1 Razorbill, 558 Manx Shearwater west per hour, 6 Great Skua, 2 Storm Petrel, 6 Puffin, 2 Common Scoter, 28 Kittiwake, 210 Gannet west per hour, 340 Fulmar west per hour.
Cape Clear Lighthouse

Juvenile Dunnock, another very common bird locally.

Stonechat, an ubiqutous island species..

The view out into the Atlantic Ocean from the western side of the island, Ballieragh. Majestic scenery is common on this side of the island and only adds the pleasure of a birding holiday on the island...

The last couple of day proved fine weather wise and days were spent about the island watching for birds and butterflies, taking advantage of conditions to do some photography and a little sketching, whilst the evenings saw birders gathering for the talks organized, generally socializing and swapping birding tlales. It is impossible to describe the atmosphere on the island in words, suffice to say it is very special. I can only say I thouroughly recomend a trip to the island, the birding is out of this world at times and has on its day repeatedly amazed birders all over Europe. Many thanks once again to Steve and Mary at the observatory for a wonderful week which was enjoyed thoroughly by all present, and thanks to all the birders present over the week for good company and never ending birding talk over a fine pint of Murphy's Stout....

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