A stunning morning in Glenveagh National Park.

The big move

Ihave been very lucky to grow up with family in several great birding locations around Ireland, and holidays were spent between them. With the freedom of my own car, I took full advantage and made as many trips to Donegal as I could, staying with obliging cousins in Killybegs and near Letterkenny. It has always been an ambition of mine to move up here, but there was always a reason to stay one more year in Dublin. I was delighted and fortunate to find a girl who loved the wildness of Donegal as much as I did and with little convincing, we began to plan the move. We could not have been luckier with our location, over-looking Mulroy Bay on the way to Fanad head. On our first evening relaxing by the water we were joined by an otter and this seemed a great omen. Cuckoo, Siskin, Raven, Buzzard are all common around us, Common Sandpiper breeding on the islands infront of the house and we have even enjoyed a full summer Great Northern Diver from the garden for the last few days.

The combination of wild mountains, quiet beaches and a largely un-explored birding potential have always had me chomping at the bit to get up at every opportunity. It is also one of the few remaining locations where it is possible to see Corncrake, Twite, Ring Ouzel and Red-throated Diver in the summer, a small numbers of each still cling on. Golden Eagles were re-introduced in to Glenveagh National Park almost 20 years ago, and though struggling, can still be seen in the general area. The potential for breedinng Red-necked Phalaropes must also be massive.

Field sketches of Corncrakes from Tory Island.

Autumn is a fantastic season, offering several headlands and islands to explore, the list of migrants and potential strays is endless. Tory Island has been my focus on many previous trips, its’ small size allows it to be covered reasonably well by a lone birder. Its isolation also means that anything found can be enjoyed in peace and quiet. North westerly winds must produce fantastic sea-watching conditions at several locations, and even mild winds have produced huge movements of Sooty Shearwaters, along with smaller movements of Greats and Skuas on my few attempts.

In winter, the endless coastline and countless lakes provide no end of locations to pass the day. Rare gulls and ducks can and have turned up throughout the county. Common Scoter and Eider flocks contain Surf and Velvet Scoters each year, rare auks must pass by also. There are also several goose flocks that rarely get a check, a few small Canada or Snow Geese must be lurking each winter. Even the best of spots, like Killybegs can pass weeks without a visiting birder.

But spring is my favourite season, longer days and endless optimism kick in. I have made it upto Tory Island almost every spring for the last decade, and no year is complete without the sound of a Corncrake. To be able to enjoy Corncrakes, Puffins, terns and a host of breeding waders when migration is quiet is something very special. In recent years, several White-billed Divers have been picked up off the North-West coast, and I would love to pin down where they spend the winter, the potential locations are endless.

The move is also hopefully going to help me focus on illustration and painting more regularly, I would love to spend more time field sketching than I have in recent years.  Flocks of Long-tailed Ducks and Eider grace a sheltered bay close to the house, and I have great intentions to spend a lot of time with these, and other local gems. The Spring has flown by with out any field sketching, but now settling into the area and finding a routine, I am hopefull to make the most of my new local patches.

Enjoying Long-tailed Ducks in May sunshine.
Another sketch of a showy Corncrake from Tory Island.
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