Friday, 28 February 2014

South Dublin Parks: Jan & Feb update

No megas to report in the South Dublin Parks since 1st January but patching here has been enjoyable all the same with a total of 56 species (60 points) recorded by the end of February.

With Kilbogget Park being the closest of them to home it has received most of my attention, boosted by my new tactic of diverting normal routes and walking through the park as much as possible on my way to the bus/mates houses/pub! This has resulted in adding Collared Dove, Snipe, Light-bellied Brent Goose, Siskin, Reed Bunting, Lapwing, Sparrowhawk & Raven to the list since the last update. Of these, 24 Light-bellied Brent flying South overhead on 6th Jan, a single Reed Bunting coming out of roost early morning on 9th Jan, a single Lapwing on the pitches on 5th Feb and 2 flyover Ravens on 22nd Feb were by far the best finds in local terms. The Snipe was flushed from the rugby pitches at 1am one night on the way home from the local Guinness dispensary! (dodgy)

Other highlights at Kilbogget have included peaks of 26 Mediterranean Gulls (starting to display these past few days), a super little flock of 21 Teal, two pairs of nesting Coot (apparently incubating since 18th Feb!) and cracking views of 2 Water Rail. Have also had a colour-ringed Oystercatcher from the Dublin Bay Birds Project feeding on the pitches which was ringed at Merrion Gates, Sandymount in February 2013.

Cabinteely Park finally yielded a Treecreeper in the wood on 6th Feb but other than that, 3 Little Egrets & a flock of 40 Redwing have been the only other sightings of note there. Not much to report from Clonkeen Park other than the usual few Med Gulls, Little Egrets & Grey Wagtails.

On the BirdTrack front, that's 10 complete lists/369 records added to the database from the parks over the past two months.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Easy Moorhen – Rathlin Visit 2

After weeks of seemingly endless howling gales, the weather on Sunday 16th February finally allowed for a day trip to Rathlin. I had hoped the recent weather might have blown something into the harbour – a Little Auk or white-winged gull perhaps, but there were no real surprises to be found. Despite this, a further 7 species were added to the year list.
The Harbour
The first birds of note came in the form of 2 Great Northern Divers, loafing about 300m outside the harbour walls.  Inside the harbour, the Eider flock had doubled in size and still held a single Long-tailed Duck, which remained distant throughout the day.  Several Black Guillemots were also now gathered in the harbour.  Surprisingly, very few gulls were seen anywhere on patch, though a flock of c25 Common Gulls feeding in a flooded field provided brief hopes of something better.

Whilst standing near the West Pier inspecting the birds using a garden feeder, a couple of Rooks (51) flew west overhead - a species that could easily be missed during the year.  A single Ringed Plover (52) was amongst a small group of Turnstones in Mill Bay.  The best bird of the day came at Craigmacagan Lough, where bobbing around in the middle of the lake was a Moorhen (53) – which judging by last years escapades is perhaps one half of the only pair on the entire patch!  The feral Greylags appear to have returned to their breeding grounds already, which suggested the 16 birds seen later at Ushet Lough were of Icelandic origin.

The lack of Aythya ducks at their usual sites suggests they may well have evacuated the island during the stormy weather. There are often 75+ between Craigmacagan, Ally and Ushet Loughs at this time of year, but only a handful were seen today.  A couple more year ticks were seen in the Ushet area – Magpie (54) and Skylark (55) and several Gannets (56) passed Rue Point.  Once back in Church Bay, a male Red-breasted Merganser (57) appeared in the harbour; the 49th and final species of the day. 

It was pleasing to hear the island had got off relatively unscathed following the storms, with the track near Rue Point the only noticeable casualty. Hopefully by my next visit some early returning breeders will have made their way back to the island such as Lapwing, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Black-headed Gull and Chough.

Score 57 species, 68 points or 45.03%

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

72 minutes

If that’s the answer what is the question? How long does it take a Common Crane to fly from Garron Point to Glynn? 72 wonderful minutes. 
After taking an excited call from Ian Dickey saying he was watching a Crane flying about the coast near Glenarm, I was soon on my way to try and see it.  However, a second phone call soon told me it had been lost to view, flying south.  With no stubble fields for absolute miles, I felt this bird was not going to land anywhere nearby and once it gained altitude would have two options – head for Lough Neagh or keep going south towards Larne.
The coast road was traversed in a timely fashion and I was soon set up on the platform at Glynn Station.  I thought if the bird did continue along the coast this would be an attractive stop off point, as the tide was going out and there was lots of exposed mud.
I knew this attempt to get Crane on my patch (and county) list was a long shot and what greeted me just below the platform seemed to suggest my extended lunch break would end in tears.  Grazing away merrily amongst Greylags was the infamous Larne Lough hybrid goose; like a heckle from the birding Gods.  What the hell, I thought, it’s within digiscoping range so I hunkered down behind a wall to take a few shots and check through the throng of gulls. 

Hybrid Goose, Glynn Station

I was reviewing my efforts on the back of the camera when all of a sudden the whole mass of gulls and geese lifted – I looked up to be greeted by the sight of a large skinny silhouette gliding through the swarm.  It’s the CRANE!!  I pointed my compact camera towards the bird and fired off a few shots as it tried to come in to land.  But the local gulls were having none of it and the bird soon gained height and headed inland.
Gloroius Grus grus 
At this stage I will admit to doing a few Mourinho style fist pumps along the platform! But as I began to regain composure, I saw that the bird was doubling back and heading towards me.  I managed to get to the car, grab my zoom lens and take a few better shots as the bird again looked set to land.  This time a Buzzard appeared to scare it off and it quickly moved on south towards Whitehead. 

Full Fat Score
So a full 3 points were secured for the patch year list and a new species added to my patch and county lists. All thanks to my best ever birding moment whilst standing on that damned platform at Glynn. 
This brings my score to 83 species or 100 points. Since my last update things have been predictably quiet, with Grey Wagtail, Little Gull and Skylark the only other additions.
Little Gull, Sandy Bay, 5 February

Saturday, 1 February 2014

All the 6's - Part Deux !

The year started with a flurry of species but I have not added anything new in the last 10 days.
Since my last posting I have added eight species to the list including Velvet Scoter and Fulmar, neither of which I saw last year. 
The still obvious missing species are LBB Gull, Raven, Redwing, Fieldfare and Sisken amongst others. 
I wonder how much of my patch will be left by the end of the winter. I have never seen anything like the continuous storms and Ben Head and the beach at Mosney are literally getting washed into the sea. There have been a number of times when I couldn't get to the beach because the estuary had become so flooded that it looked like a lake (unfortunately not attracting any new ducks) and overflowed onto the roads.
No doubt this current storm will knock a few more lumps out of Ben Head.
84 species, 98 points and most importantly 66.66% !