Thursday, May 29, 2014

Carton House

Yesterday we woke up to another Sunny day.  So I fed the kids and we set off for a walk along the Carton Avenue path that runs behind our neighborhood.  It's a long green avenue with a paved path for walking and has green grass, then brambles, then hedgerows on either side.  It runs from the end of Main Street in Maynooth for a kilometer and a half East towards Carton House.  Carton House was once the home of the Earls of Kildare and the Duke of Leinster, but is now a hotel.  The path crosses a road and then enters the grounds of Carton House passing through one of the golf courses there. The avenue is a really nice walk, and a shortcut through the brambles makes it very convenient to us.
Cranky kiddos aside, I had a nice time.  I got to get some photos of birds that I've seen before, and added some new ones too.  Before we even made it to the avenue, I saw this Blackbird singing away up in a tree.

Blackbird - Maynooth, Ireland
They really are a monochromatic vesion of the American Robin, they act and sing very similarly. We also got to get pretty close to a Magpie.  It was up against the blackberry bushes.  You can see the beautiful blue/green colors on the wings.  And as my daughter found out, they really like cheddar bunnies.
Magpie - Maynooth, Ireland
Speaking of Robins, I was hearing them sing everywhere, but seeing them was a different matter.  They are fairly tiny, maybe sparrow size, but they can really project their song.  I was finally able to see one towards the edge of a tree and got a decent photo of it.

Robin - Maynooth, Ireland
I see one or more of these guys on my walks.  They do typical perch and then fly out to grab a bug as most flycatchers, so they are pretty easy to spot if you are looking.

Spotted Flycatcher
Spotted Flycatcher - Maynooth, Ireland
We made it across the one road and through the golf course and found a nice little spot for a rest and a snack, under a big oak next to this great looking stone bridge near a big pond.

Bridge at Carton House
Bridge at Carton House - Kildare, Ireland
There were lots of bird activity around. Lots of Swallows and Martins were flying over the water.  Near our picnic spot was a boathouse and I noticed a flash of yellow on one of the roofs.  What could have been a Kingbird in the US was instead a Grey Wagail, a lifer for me.

Grey Wagtail
Grey Wagtail - Carton House, Ireland
The entire time that we were stopped eating out snack another Blackbird was above us in the oak singing away.
Blackbird - Carton House, Ireland
I noticed some small birds flying in and out of a snag, but the kids were getting too restless for me to get a good look, but I think that it was a pair of Tits tending to a nest (hey, I didn't name them). But I did see a small bird flying around the edges of a different tree.  Another lifer for me, this one a Chaffinch.

Chaffinch - Carton House, Ireland
Another Chaffinch landed in the grass nearby, this time you can see the coloring on the wings and a bit of the dark forehead that they have.  The one above may be a juvenile, but I have no idea what their nesting seasons are like.

Chaffinch - Carton House, Ireland
I may have also seen a Cuckoo or maybe a Mistle Thrush in the same area.  And a really yellow bird landed near me, but I never had the chance to get a good look at it as I was carrying my son instead of my binoculars at this point. But I'm going to take a walk there by myself this weekend and hopefully see what that is, and maybe a raptor too.

I plan on spending lots of time along Carton Avenue while we're here, and I'll be branching out to some other spots soon too.  Our household shipment got in from the US today, so my scope and tripod are finally here and in one piece. So perhaps I'll make a trip the shore soon.


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Let the Irish Birds Begin!

I finally got out and managed to get some decent photos of some of the local birds.  The Sun made a nice appearance with no clouds around until midday, and so far it hasn't rained all day.  I decided to take the kids to the big playground in Maynooth, which is along the royal canal and the local train station.  But the first photo of the day was from the backyard... I mean garden. I had been hearing a buzzing or clicking almost non-stop for the past few days and finally managed to see the culprit.

Wren, Maynooth Ireland
It was a tiny Wren sitting on top of a neighboring building.  It's easy to ID because there's only the 1 Wren in Ireland, and all of Europe. To think that I've seen 9 different species in the US alone, and I'll say all of the US species, but the Sinoloa Wren may be established by the time that I get back.
Over on the Canal was a Mute Swan.  I had seen a pair just a few days ago, but this one was all by itself today.

Mute Swan
Mute Swan - Maynooth Ireland
There are lots of black birds here.  Namely the Blackbird, which is more of an all black American Robin and not like the Blackbirds seen in the US. It even sings like one. But that is one bird who has alluded me so far.  But the two most common ones are the Jackdaw and the Rook.

Jackdaw - Maynooth Ireland
The Jackdaw is very likable.  They seem to be everywhere and have a cute sound to them.  The above shot really shows off the two-tone coloring on their heads. but they are mostly black.
Rooks seem to fill the role of crows back in the States.  They sound like a Corvid, but have lighter colored beaks.
Rook - Maynooth Ireland
As far as other black birds go, I've seen a Hooded Crow, but not Carrion Crow or Raven yet. And for a nice segue, here's a Magpie, which seem to be everywhere around Maynooth.

Magpie - Maynooth, Ireland
Besides the Mute Swan on the canal, there were a few Mallards out and about, including this mom and a couple ducklings.

Mallard and ducklings
Mallards - Maynooth, Ireland
And moving through the reeds was a nice surprise.  What I thought at first was a Eurasian Coot, was instead Common Moorhen.

Common Moorhen
Common Moorhen - Maynooth, Ireland
I saw another one further down the canal with a chick, but I didn't get a chance to get a photo before they disappeared into the reeds.
There were quite a few small birds around the playground too.  The most numerous that I saw were Pied Wagtails. A really neat looking bird that have a real knack for running away from a camera.

Pied Wagtail
Pied Wagtail - Maynooth, Ireland
And it took me a bit of work to pin down the ID on this other bird, but it ended up being an immature Pied Wagtail. 

Pied Wagtail
Immature Pied Wagtail - Maynooth, Ireland
Another very common bird is the Wood Pigeon. They have been very active building nests along Carton Avenue, and everywhere else.  As a matter of fact, I haven't seen Rock Pigeons yet, but plenty of these better looking ones.

Wood Pigeon - Maynooth, Ireland
Finally, just before we got into our car and left to do some shopping, I saw a small bird fly into a tree near the car park.  I was busy with the kids, but I managed to get one photo off before leaving.

Bullfinch - Maynooth, Ireland
It was a Bullfinch!  One of the birds from the cover of the Birds of Europe, from Princeton Field Guides, the best field guide that I've ever seen.  It was a bird that I had really wanted to see and surprise, there it was when I wasn't even trying.
I'm up to 25 species ID'd so far.  Hopefully the weather stays nice and I can get out and maybe get some photos of the rest of the birds that are around. 

Thanks for making it this far,


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Farewell tour of the USA

I'm writing this from our new house in Maynooth, County Kildare, Ireland. We arrived early Wednesday morning on a red-eye from Boston.  My wife, both kids and I survived and are adjusting to our new home.  But before we arrived here, and after we left Oregon, we did a little farewell tour of the ol' U-S of A.  My wife was in a wedding in Southern California, so we jumped on the chance to spend a few days in sunny San Diego at a resort there.  We knew that the Sun is a rare commodity in Ireland and wanted to say bye to it in style. So we parked ourselves in a nice bungalow on an island in the bay and enjoyed the beach and most of the 5 pools.  We did pick a week where the temperature was over 100F every day, and most of San Diego was surrounded by fires, but we still had a nice relaxing time. I even managed to take my binoculars for a walk once or twice.
There were lots of Great Blue Herons around, maybe 10 different ones, they almost out-numbered the Gulls.

Great Blue Heron
Great-Blue Heron - San Diego CA
And this little Black-Crowned Night-Heron was hanging out at the cafe where my son and I were eating lunch while the girls were getting mani-pedis.  It would lurk and then grab whatever food fell onto the ground, even french fries.

Black-Crowned Night-Heron
Black-Crowned Night-Heron - San Diego CA
Surprisingly it could still fly after eating all that crap.  Just nearby we got to see some neat Jellyfish swimming alongside a boat dock.

Moon Jellyfish - San Diego CA
There were lots of yellow birds flying around and they were really hard to see against the light-green leaves.  But I saw some Western Tanagers and a few Wilson's Warblers.

Wilson's Warbler
Wilson's Warbler - San Diego CA
Another yellow bird that I saw, and a lifer, was a surprise Hooded Oriole, what a great looking bird.

Hooded Oriole
Hooded Oriole - San Diego CA
I was telling my family about it on our way to dinner later than night, and what do you know, there was another one.  There were also lots of Hummingbirds about.  Most were Anna's, but a few Costa's Hummingbirds were buzzing around too.

Costa's Hummingbird
Costa's Hummingbird - San Diego CA
Sadly I found a dead Swainson's Thrush that had flown into a door right after I had entered to get coffee one of the mornings there. I moved if off of the path in the hope that it was just stunned, but it never moved again.  I had hoped to see one in Oregon, but never did. But as luck would have it, I would see a 5 of them flying in and out of a hedgerow at the resort.  I can only guess that this was a group of recent fledglings that were still with their parents.

Swainson's Trush
Swainson's Thrush - San Diego CA
The other birding highlights of the trip was watching Little Terns dive bombing fish at the beach.  But they were far too fast for my camera to capture.  We were also there during a rash of wildfires throughout San Diego County.  There were 11 at one point. We were travelling further into California for a wedding and was actually afraid that we weren't going to be able to get to it.  But the fires were under control and the highway was open when we had to leave.  The fires did give us a nice sunset during dinner our last night at the resort.

Smoky Sunset
Smokey Sunset - San Diego CA
We left Sunny southern California for equally Sunny Pittsburgh to spend a few final days with family before our big jump across The Pond.
I was able to squeeze in a few hours birding in between parties and visiting Primanti Brothers. My goal was to get lots of eastern warblers on my life list.  A goal that I did not even add 1 to. I did manage to see some new-to-me birds though.  But really, I got so see some of my favorite east coast birds.
My first trip was to Beechwood Farms Preserve in Allegheny County. But alas, it was too cold for bugs to be out, so it was too cold for Warblers to be out too. But I did get to see some nice Eastern Bluebirds out enjoying the morning Sun.

Eastern Bluebird
Eastern Bluebird - Beechwood Farms Preserve, PA
I also saw my favorite hawk, a Red-Shouldered Hawk. It went into some trees, and then I saw it land on a wooden "T" where it ate something.

Red-Shouldered Hawk
Red-Shouldered Hawk - Beechwood Farms Preserve, PA
There were lots of woodpeckers about.  The first bird that I saw after getting out of my car was  Red-Bellied Woodpecker. And a Downy was in the same tree. Later I would see another Downy and then 2 Pileated Woodpeckers at different parts of the preserve.  Finally I tracked down a Northern Flicker by following it's very noisy calls.  There were also lots of Indigo Buntings about, but none that wanted their picture taken.  On my way back to my parents house I decided to stop by the Tarentum Bridge and try to see the resident Peregrine Falcons.  I looked around for a few minutes without seeing any, but on my way out I noticed one in the rear-view mirror.  I backed-up and parked and hopped out for another look.  Sure enough there was one in the same area where I'd seen them before.

Peregrine Falcon
Peregrine Falcon - Tarentum, PA
And then I noticed a second one fly up.  When seen side-by-side it was easy to see that the first one that I spotted was the female and the other the male.

Peregrine Falcons
Peregrine Pair, male on left, female on right - Tarentum, PA
I also ran into Steve Gosser there.  Steve is a fantastic photographer from the area and has managed to get some incredible photos.  He told me that there may be a nest there and that there would be an inspection later that week.  As it turns out, there were 2 chicks there when I was, but I didn't know where to look.  There was a bit of excitement during the inspection, which can be read about here at Outside My Window if you would like to read about it. 
I snuck in one more chance to try and see some Warblers at Harrison Hills Park.  I finally did get to see a few, but none that I had not seen before.  I did tried really hard to see some Worm Eating Warblers, but dipped on them.  
One new bird was shouting it's name at me, an Eastern Wood Pewee.

Eastern Wood Pewee
Eastern Wood Pewee - Harrison Hills Park, PA
And nearby were 2 warblers, Black-and-White Warblers.  I managed to get a shot of one while it stopped to eat.

Black-and-White Warbler
Black-and-White Warbler - Tarentum, PA
And there were so many beautiful Scarlet Tanagers about.  This was the same park where I saw my first one the year before.  But I didn't a single good shot.  I saw at least 5, but there could have been twice that number.
Another warbler that I was surprised to see was a Common Yellowthroat, and I saw a pair of them too.

Common Yellowthroat
Common Yellowthroat - Harrison Hills Park, PA
Nearby I was surprised by one of my target birds in PA.  If I didn't see one before I left, I knew of a yard where the were readily seen.  But instead, this Rose-Breasted Grosbeak decided to same me an extra trip.

Rose-Breasted Grosbeak
Rose-Breasted Grosbeak - Harrison Hills Park, PA
I was really hoping that this was a Worm Eating Warbler, but instead it's a fairly nice, if not exactly diagnostic, shot of a Red-Eyed Vireo, which was a lifer for me the day before at Beechwood Farms.

Red-Eyed Vireo
Red-Eyed Vireo - Harrison Hills Park, PA
I didn't have the warbler extravaganza that I had hoped for, but it was still enjoyable to get back to some familiar places for a proper goodbye.
So that's it for me bothering birds in North America. I had my first walk with binoculars in Ireland today and got to see some really great birds.  But because it was taking turns misting and raining, I didn't get any photos.  But it can't rain here every day, can it?

I'm already missing everyone back home (wherever that may be).  But the family and I are adjusting and my wife starts at work tomorrow.  We're still waiting for our household stuff to show up, along with my scope and waterproof shoes.  But I've already made a birding contact and will hopefully get out a bit this week and get some photos to share.  To be honest, I'm really missing my 7D, the SX50 isn't cutting it and I may not be able to wait to get back to the US to replace it.  We'll see though.

Thanks for making it this far,

Cheers from Ireland.  

Monday, May 12, 2014

See you on the other side!

I really wanted to update one last time before out big move to Ireland.  We are taking a small vacation in San Diego and attending a wedding before we head across the pond, as well as spending a few days in Pittsburgh to say by to our families.
As far as birding goes, I haven't had a chance to get out much.  But I did buy myself a new spotting scope for Ireland and got to play with it a bit yesterday.  I managed to see some new-to-me shorebirds, Semipalmated Plovers and Sandpipers, Least Sandpipers and some Western Sandpipers at the amazing Jackson Bottom Wetlands.  I really regret not going there sooner, my kids would have loved it.  Oh well, we may wind up back on Oregon in a few years, and if so, I'll be there often.

So, we've been super busy getting ready to leave and getting our fill of the American food that we'll be missing.

Thanks for reading this blog and I'll be sure to update it by the end of the month.  That is if Ireland has the internet.  (they do)