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'Blanan' - Cape Clear - Not Forgotten

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Old Friday 23rd July 2010, 13:02   #1
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'Blanan' - Cape Clear - Not Forgotten

Cape Clear really needs no introduction. If you have not been there you have undoubtedly heard of it. It's reputation for attracting rare passerines from Siberia and America is well known.

However its reputation as a Sea-watching hot spot has diminished over the past decade, mainly due to the Bridges of Ross finding favour as a destination for visiting birders from Britain and Europe. Sadly however the number of Irish Birders spending time here has also dropped significantly.

Blananaragaun or 'Blanan' is a rocky outcrop on the south west tip of Cape Clear, which for decades in the 20th century was THE place to go seawatching, and realistically it has so much potential still with numerous records of a variety of rare sea-birds, including multiple records of Black Browed Albatross, Fea's Petrel, Little Shearwater, Wilson's petrel, and even "ultra rares" such as Frigatebird sp., "all dark petrel sp" etc etc.

The number of "One's that got away" from Blanan is famous, (sadly at time cast in a negative light). But realistically the same is true for here as any Irish watch-point....Anything can turn up! And anything will!

Wilson's petrels must pass by here frequently and in days gone by numerous records were undoubtedly rejected out of hand back in the olden days of "You cant claim a Wilson's from land!". Realistically a great many of these should be revised, but who would bother with so many recorded annually now? (3 birds minimum were seen as recently as Monday 19th July).

Blanan takes commitment. There is no way to get around this.
Cape itself requires getting a ferry out and realistically at that point you want to stay a few days to make it worth your while. Once on the island you are looking at 30 minutes walk to Blanan from either the Bird Observatory or the Youth hostel. Cape has a taxi these days that will take you anywhere on the Island for 2 Euro...but you wont get that at half 6 in the morning!

Accommodation on the island is a simple matter. The Bird Obs sleeps a dozen people or so and if full you can stay in the hostel easy enough. Both are priced around 22 Euro a night and have cooking facilities.

Alternatively there are many bed and breakfasts, however these are somewhat wasteful from a seawatching perspective as once you are out on Blanan, you wont wish to go back for food.

A number of houses are available for rent on the island and these would be good value for a group of birders intent on manning Blanan for a week.

There are 3 pubs on the Island, 2 of which serve food in the evenings and a dedicated restaurant and shop open from early morning for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Blanan itself is bare hard rock. A pad of some sort to sit on is advised (foam gardening pad of some sort) and is a bit exposed, though some shelter can be found in various nooks and crannies out there.

Getting there is a nerves of steel event. A 3 foot wide bridge of exposed rock over the "Blow hole" is the manliest route, usually crossed while praying to whichever deity you believe in and bracing oneself for that stiff gust of wind that will knock you to your doom. There is an alternative safer route down below the blowhole, but you will be mocked as a P*ssy for evermore by friends and foes alike!
In all seriousness, in wind and rain the rocks can be dodgy, and some sort of backpack for carrying your scope, leaving both hands free for scrambling the rocks is strongly advised. As far as I am aware there has never been any casualty on Blanan (Though I did wrench my shoulder here once in a slip near the blowhole) and we would all like it to remain as such.

I spent a week here in august 1999 during a spell of south westerlies with the odd calm day mixed in and came away with all the usual suspects including good counts of Great Shearwaters, Cory's Shearwaters, Balearic Shearwaters, Sooty Shearwaters, Bonxies, Arctics, A few Pom's and my first ever Fea's petrel on the 18th of August.

A week here with a few mates grilling the sea could be worse spent! And the option is now present to do pelagic trips from Cape.
And bear in mind...if you were to give it a go in September, you could alternate your days between seawatching and hunting rare passerines on the Island. A more than tempting prospect!

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Last edited by Pariah : Friday 23rd July 2010 at 13:12.
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