7 Jun 2010

A Weekend at Delphi Lodge Co.Mayo starring a Pair of Common Sandpiper and a Dipper

I have just returned from a lovely weekend down at Delphi Lodge in Co.Mayo. I went down to meet my parents, who have for the last twenty plus years stayed in one of the Delphi Lodge cottages for the last week of May in order to fish for Salmon. It is one of my favourite spots in Ireland. It is between Louisbergh and Killary Harbour and about twenty miles from Westport. The Lodge is nestled in a valley between Doo Lough and Fin Lough(Which you can see above) The view below is looking from Finlough northwards up the valley.

I was hoping to see and maybe photograph Dipper as I have not seen any in the last couple of years.

After a five hour drive I was just in time to have lunch with my parents outside their cottage, which was made easier with a liberal dose of Autan (Kills Midges) Afterwards I had a snooze before heading down to the river below the house. It was one of those rare west of Ireland moments when the sky was blue and the sun blazing.
There were quite a few Sand Martins hawking for flies and Willow Warblers and Sedge Warblers could be heard. I then noticed a Common Sandpiper on a little rocky causeway that crosses the river calling.

Then I saw that it had a chick with it which was quite exciting and proof of breeding in the area.
It soon was out of sight and the parent flew off.

Pleased with what I had seen I made my way back to have dinner with my parents and some friends of theirs.

By the following morning the weather had reverted to drizzle interspersed with bright spots. After a delicious full Irish breakfast I headed out to take some shots of the lough in front of the house, it was mirror glass calm.

Here is a Black and White photo looking the other direction.
I'm think Delphi Lodge would make a fantastic venue for those interested in spending a few days photographing landscapes.

I then headed up the river and it wasn't before long that I saw a Dipper. Unfortunately not close enough to photograph and then it flew off up the river and I didn't see it again. I made my way upto Doolough and then came back via the road. There were a few Blackcap calling in the woods and a party of young Long-tailed Tits were chattering away.

Lunch was a Delphi Smoked salmon and potato pie and salad. mmmmmm :-)

In the afternoon I headed off to White Strand which as the crow flies is quite close but by car about 10. It is a fantastic beach with views towards Inishbofin. On the beach there were two pairs of Ringed Plover.
It looked very threatening weatherwise but we were spared the rain. This is looking southwards.
As is this.

This was looking North.

Out at sea there were a few Arctic Terns feeding and a pair of Great Northern Diver, which were quite close to the shore but by the time I got to them had swum out a bit.
It was a massive beach and there were only a few others on it. I believe Michael Viney, who has a great column in the Irish Times on saturdays, and writes about nature inspired subjects overlooks the beach. Lucky man.

Made my way back to Delphi and headed out with my long lens to see if I could get better shots of the Common Sandpiper. As I approached the rocky crossing where I had seen them the day before they were both calling very insistently and I was wondering whether it was me that was causing their disturbance.
So I moved away from them and the noise was just as bad, so I crawled back and lay down wondering what was going on. They were both only a couple of feet apart and one would fly up a few feet and land further down the crossing calling all the time. I had not seen the chick and assumed it was something to do with it when suddenly a mink appeared about two feet away from the birds before disappearing back under the rocks. This continued until the birds were almost on the far side of the river. At one point the birds were only a foot away from the mink and I thought it was definitely going to catch one. At this point both birds flew off. A few minutes later I saw the mink again and got this grab shot of it with an eel. I mistakenly had auto iso switched on which took this shot at 1600 iso and being a 40D camera body it is extremely noisy.

The mink swam down the river mostly underwater. The Sandpipers came back but again calling as they were flying. They seemed to be flying just over the water almost in a hover. I then saw bubbles on the surface and thought bugger the mink is back. But no this time two Otters were swimming up the river and the Common Sandpiper followed them closely. I just could not believe what I was watching. The only shots of the otters I got were as they were diving with both head and tail under the water so not great viewing.
After the otters disappeared round the bend in the river the birds came back and were flying around calling so I headed to the car and thought I would watch from a bend in the road that overlooks the rocky crossing. As I drew up there was one of the birds in the middle of the road before it walked to the edge.This shot was taken from the car.

I watched this going on for another five minutes and the other bird landed back down on the causeway.

At this point it was nearing 8 O'Clock and as dinner time I had to head back. I was thinking that the mink probably had caught the chick at this stage and after I turned the car round I had one last look and there was this chick running down the path beside the river. I went to dinner a happy man.

The food was delicious with a lovely starter of white asparagus, serrano ham and parmesan followed by a steak and a light lemon mousse for pud. Brill

On sunday morning it was glorious again outside and I decided to try for some dipper shots before breakfast. What was not glorious however was that it was warm and completely still and the midges were horrendous. I first of all heard this Willow Warbler calling from a small gorse bush and it had a massive mouth full of bugs.
The Dipper I had seen the previous day was half a mile away but I was fortunate to find one within a few hundred yards on the far bank.
It flew off pretty much as soon as I approached it. I got the next shot by hiding behind some bushes.
My preference is for the one below as it flew up this tiny tributary and was caught in the sunlight.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Peter Mantle for his generosity over the weekend.


Timothy Belmont said...

Sounds terrific, particularly the grub! Making me hungry, merely reading it.

Must be a heavenly spot, especially if the weather's kind.

Neil said...

Great stuff and interesting story with the mink

Gyorgy Szimuly (Szimi) said...

Excellent post. Lovely area specially with a nesting waders.
Should you have time please add it to our map. :)

Cheers, Szimi

simon said...


Bird said...

What gorgeous landscape photos - I particularly like the one of the beach with the stormy sky behind.

And the birds are great too! I really enjoyed reading your story of the mink and the otters and the common sandpipers - so nice to read a blog about observing nature and not just ticking off species seen :D

Lovely bird the dipper - I first saw one after a disastrous stormy walk in the Lake District - had to come down off the hills in a ferocious blinding hailstorm. Significant other navigated us down and said "never mind, if we follow the river we might see a dipper". We saw several, they made the cold, wet trudge back worthwhile.

Sandy said...

Next time pack a gun for the mink!