Muckrush is a series of muddy bays and reed beds, and is one of Galway's better locations for migrating waders, along with ducks and birds of prey. Not long after arriving we started seeing good numbers of Ruff. This was unsurprising, as there have been record numbers of the species passing through the country in recent days (over 100 in Wexford and 160 in Derry). Ruff were appearing everywhere, flushed from various bays and flying around us, making counting them a challenge. There were at least 20 or more Ruff present. Other birds seen included a ringtail Hen Harrier and several Kestrels. We were coming up around a grassy spit when we flushed a group of Ruff. Dermot then picked up a Sandpiper by call, and it turned out to be a Green Sandpiper, A real bogey bird for me, and a very welcome tick. I enjoyed decent views of this bird preening before it took off, showing a few diagnostic features such as call, underwings and tail pattern. This bird climbed high into the sky and continued on its journey.
We went around to the mouth of the clare river, and a flock of Ruff flushed with another Tringa sandpiper, but they relocated to the bay that we had just left before the id was confirmed. Later on we flushed the same bird again and watched it fly off calling. Dermot confirmed this as a Wood Sandpiper, another lifer, and a much more unexpected one! we watched this bird flying off in the bins, when another wood sand joined it! one of the birds was lost and the other flew off and away. After losing the Wood Sandpipers, attention was turned to a Ruff which landed nearby.
This bird was a fresh juvenile, and most likely had never encountered a human before, as such, it had no fear of us whatsoever. after a while it was showing down to a few feet as it foraged in the long grass, allowing for brilliant photographic opportunities.
Content with the Ruff shots, we headed on up the same grassy shore and flushed a Wood Sandpiper again, probably one of the two we lost in flight. Rather than head off into the distance like the last time, the bird relocated just a few metres away on an exposed rock in the water. The scope views of this bird were truly amazing. Compared to the earlier Green Sandpiper it was much more delicate and well marked. The fresh juvenile plumage was immaculate. While watching the Wood Sand, a flock of Ruff was picked up with what Dermot believed to be a Pectoral Sandpiper, an American vagrant, they flew close by and the Pectoral Sandpiper called and identified itself in doing so. I only managed flight shots of this bird, but on later inspection it was noted that the wings contained a large amount of white on the primaries and secondaries, a probable "aberrant bird".
In all I managed to get three ticks, and amazing views of lots of birds, brilliant day!
Below are photos of the Ruff, Wood Sandpiper, and Record shots of the Pectoral Sandpiper. Make sure to keep an eye out on Dermot's blog for photos as well.