Thursday, January 1, 2015

End of the Year 2014

It's the time of the year when some lists go back to zero, January 1st.  According to Ebird I ended 2014 with 352 species seen on 2 continents. I got to see some really great birds during the year, and can't really pick a best bird for the year.  I did have a great end to the year by getting a chance to do some birding with two of the Irish birders that I got to meet so far.  I've been really busy lately with the holidays, a quick trip to Paris, having both kids home from school and lousy weather, to do much birding.  But my friend Brian asked me if I wanted to go look for a Ruddy Duck that had been seen in various parts of North Dublin.
We met at a petrol station or some coffee and ventured to a private fishing lake (angling club) in Knock.  The gate was closed, but a short stroll through some fields brought us to the larger of 2 ponds and we quickly found the Ruddy Duck among some Mallards, Tufted Ducks and Eurasian Coots.

Ruddy Duck
Ruddy Duck - Knock Lake, Co. Fingal, Ireland
Our friend Paul Lynch met us at the pond.  We also go to see a Kingfisher and had a Water Rail fly right in front us and into some reeds, not more than 10 feet away from us.  And then we got to hear another one calling just a bit further away along a the bank of a smaller pond.  We made our way back through the fields where we got to see some Yellowhammers and Sky Larks feeding in a field of stubble.
Paul mentioned that there were some Eider Ducks seen nearby at Skerries. I had yet to see some so I suggested that we head that way and see if they were still around.  We made it to the coast and scanned the sea around the nearby Skerries Islands but no Eiders could be seen.  We saw a Common Murre and many Shags moving about offshore, but no ducks.  

Rockabill Lighthouse
Irish Coast - Skerries, Co. Fingal, Ireland
I did spot some porpoises swimming just off shore, and we watched their dorsal fins break the surface a dozen times, but nothing else exciting. We stopped in Skerries for some coffees and then made our way further down the coast towards Rush.  We noticed lots of gulls, but nothing exciting and some shorebirds along the coast.  Redshanks, Ruddy Turnstones, Plovers and some Sanderlings were working the beaches and rocks.  We were hoping for some Purple Sandpipers, but none were present.
Ringed Plover
Ringed Plover - Rush, Co. Fingal, Ireland

Sanderlings and Ruddy Turnstone
Sanderlings and Ruddy Turnstone - Rush, Co. Fingal, Ireland
Paul parted ways with Brian and I at this point since it was starting to get dark.  Brian was mentioning a Martello Tower north of us and where to look for Short-Eared Owls near there.  I asked how long he could be out and then suggested that we just go over and see try to see them then, since we were 45 minutes from sunset anyway.  We made our way there and then walked through more farmer's fields and up the coast trail, stopping to see if a Black Redstart was still around, but it wasn't.

Martello Tower and Irish Coast - Co. Fingal, Ireland
We found a spot in the grass to sit and wait for it to get darker while scanning to the north.  It was too dark for spotting scopes or my camera so we just waited with our binoculars.  And then I spotted 2 big shapes gliding over the grass.  The short faces and wing-shapes could only be owls. I decided to put my camera in video mode and crossed my fingers that I could get some usable footage and I did.  Here's the video on Youtube.

My friend Brian had a much nicer camera set-up than me and shared some of his photos, which I'm posting with his permission.
Short-Eared Owl - Co. Fingal, Ireland.  Photo Courtesy of Brian Carruthers  
Short-Eared Owl - Co. Fingal, Ireland.  Photo Courtesy of Brian Carruthers
A very fine way to end the year, if I don't say so myself.  The owls were lifers for me and one that I missed seeing in Oregon back in the first half of the year.

Thanks for making it this far,


1 comment:

  1. The Ruddy Duck been my last bird to cross of my yearly 'Tick' list
    Even with the weather we had, a damp, overcast day, turned out to be a very enjoyable day.
    Looking forward to our 2015 bird list.