Monday, December 8, 2014

One Hundred Irish Birds

It has been a slow few weeks of birding for me.  The holidays and busy kids haven't left much time for birding, plus is finally got cold here in Ireland.  But I have been out a couple of times south of Dublin, and both times with a local birder, Brian Carruthers.
The first trip was to Cahore bog in County Wexford, just at the end of November.  Along with Brian, another local birder, Rachel Hynes also came along.  They were looking for a Great Egret which had been seen in area, and maybe Bearded Reedlings (AKA Bearded Tits) too.  But as we got there, some other birders said that we had just missed the Great Egret as it flew off and any Bearded Reedlings that were there decided to stay out of sight.  But it was a beautiful Sunny day in a great looking location, with some giant wind turbines standing tall overhead.

Wind turbines in County Wexford Ireland.
Cahore Bog and Turbines - Co. Wexford, Ireland
It ended up being a day of ID'ing ducks through the scope and counting waders flying overhead, so I didn't get many photographs. I did get to see flocks of hundreds and hundreds of Golden Plovers taking to the skies.  And I got my 100th Irish bird on the trip, which happened to be a Peregrine Falcon.  We actually saw 2 at the same time, one on a telephone pole and the other on the grass in front of one of the turbines.
Towards the end of the day we got to see a very friendly Stonechat and I had a chance to take a photo of an actual bird.

Stonechat - Co. Wexford, Ireland

Stonechat - Co. Wexford, Ireland
At the end of the day I had quite a few lifers and new Irish Birds, Golden Plovers, Hen (Northern) Harrier, Peregrine Falcons, Greylag Goose, White-Fronted Goose, and some ducks. Not a bad time, despite the cold and the cow patties everywhere.

Earlier this week I was walking to do some shopping in our town of Maynooth. The road crosses the Rye Water near one of the combination shopping mall and apartments which are quite popular in Ireland.  I usually stop on an stone bridge to see if there's a Kingfisher down below (there never is), but this time there was a pleasant surprise.  A European Dipper was sitting on a barely-submerged rock.  

Eurasian Dipper in Maynooth
Dipper - Maynooth, Ireland
Sorry for the potato photo, but I only had my phone with me. You can see the white bib which is an easy ID.  I also took a video of it swimming through the water, you can watch it over on YouTube here if you'd like. The bird is pretty hard to see, but is popping up and then diving back down towards the middle of the shot, and then it flies to some rocks.  I've seen Dippers nearby, but not in town before.

Yesterday Brian invited me back to the East Coast Nature Reserve in County Wicklow, which I wrote about back in October.  We got a very early start in order to get there before the Sun rose and drove all the geese away to forage.  But it ended up being in vain since the only fowl on the the reserve were a half-dozen Mallards, which was disappointing to say the least.  I was hoping to see some Pink-Footed Geese, or maybe a Barnacle Goose, but those will have to wait.  We did see a hundred or so Graylag Geese flying off because of a dog walker. But one of the first birds that we saw would be the highlight of the day.  Just before dawn we saw a raptor flying over the reeds in lazy circles. It was just barely light enough to see a white band around the tail and ID a female Hen (aka Northern) Harrier!  A nice surprise for Ireland, although common in the area.  But alas, the light was not good enough for photos, and we lost sight of it when the Graylags that I mentioned above, took off flying.
    We saw a few hundred Eurasian Wigeons on some flooded fields, and some Mute Swans, including these 2 which flew off above us.

Mute Swans in Flight
Mute Swans - ECNR, Co. Wicklow Ireland
In addition to all of the waterfowl, there were quite a few passerines about.  We saw a Yellowhammer sitting on a wire with some Linnets and Reed Buntings.  And stood watching a large flock of European Goldfinches eating some berries, maybe thirty birds in all.

Eurasian Goldfinches and Redpol
European Goldfinches - ECNR,Co. Wicklow Ireland
I can't decide if I like the European or American Goldfinch more.  Both are nice birds to see out in dull winter.
Eurasian Goldfinch
European Goldfinches - ECNR, Co. Wicklow Ireland
We were watching the flock of Goldfinches when I noticed that some of the birds were streaky brown.  Brian got his binoculars on them and noticed a red spot on top of a sparrow-looking bird.  A pair of Common Redpolls, a winter visitor to Ireland and a lifer for me!

Common Redpol
Common Redpoll - ECNR, Co. Wicklow Ireland
They neither Redpoll got into the light, so this is the best photo that I got of them, and I think that it's Mrs. Redpoll too.  They reminded me that I miss seeing the myriad Sparrows found back home in the USA (and don't get me started on Woodpeckers...).
We were driving off to get a bit of lunch when Brian saw a Coal Tit out of his window so we stopped.  And then we saw a few hundred Graylag Geese fly over and looked around to what scared them up.  We soon saw a Common Buzzard, and then another one or 2 others.  We watched one fly off and the other fly into a tree.  And then another raptor flew into the same tree, a Sparrowhawk.

Common Buzzard (below) and Sparrowhawk (above)
Buzzard (below) and Sparrowhawk (above) - Co. Wicklow, Ireland
In addition to walking through the fields, bogs and woods of the Nature Reserve, we also walked along the beach for a bit.  I spotted a lifer Little Gull, but no photo, as well as some other nice birds, like some Scoters, a Common Guillemot and a Ruddy Turnstone.  And also a few Red-Throated Divers (aka Loons) diving off the coast.

Red-Throated Diver (Loon)
Red-Throated Diver - ECNR, Co. Wicklow, Ireland
There were also some Wigeons on the ocean, which I've never heard of before.
Scaup on Irish Sea
Wigeons - ECNR, Co. Wicklow, Ireland
Birds weren't the only wildlife about, a single Common Seal popped up near us, which is so awesome to see.

Common Seal - ECNR, Co. Wicklow, Ireland
Despite it being a very windy and cold day, Brian and I still managed to get 47 species and I got to see much more of the Reserve than I usually do. Next up is a trip out to try and see some Short-Eared Owls and some Common Cranes were just reported in County Fingal. Plus I'd like to get down to Wexford and visit the big waterfowl reserve down there and see some Barnacle and Pink-Footed Geese.

Thanks for making it this far,



  1. Two planned trips already, it looks likely to be a busy Christmas holiday

  2. Ye had a smile on yer face when I stepped in the wrong part of the only pool covering the track.