Monday, 14 July 2014

April, May & June at Kilcoole

Time to play catch up seeing as it’s been a while since I last blogged on progress at the Kilcoole patch. Here’s a rundown of how the Spring went…


The floodgates certainly opened with a flurry of (expected) migrants totalling 21 new patch year ticks that month alone. An increase in effort to make up for lost time in March certainly helped also. Friday 11th saw seven species added during a nice wee fall with 5 Chiffchaff, 13 Blackcap (species #98), 24 Willow Warbler (99), 10 Swallow (100), 7 Wheatear (101), finally connecting with Black Guillemot (102), 9 Sandwich Tern (103) and a Sand Martin (104).

Wednesday 16th added Sedge Warbler (105) and a female/immature type Marsh Harrier (106) at Blackditch East Coast Nature Reserve plus a Whimbrel (107) at Kilcoole to the list.

Marsh Harrier at ECNR. Another female/immature type was seen at Kilcoole on 17th June.

One of the most unexpected finds of year so far came on Monday 21st whilst trundling about in the birchwood at ECNR failing to locate any Woodcock. In the thick of the wood I could hear a goose calling overhead which sound like a high pitched White-front. I dashed about looking for a gap in the canopy and just about jammed in on getting a good view of the bird flying North… a Pink-footed Goose! (108). Some seawatching from Newcastle added a Common Tern (109), 21 Manx Shearwaters (110) and a dark phase Arctic Skua (111) with a single Common Sandpiper (112) later on at Kilcoole.

The next day saw 7 House Martins (113) and three singing male Reed Warblers (114) at Ballygannon along with 2 Little Terns (115) and the first migrating trio of Sanderling (116) at Kilcoole. A striking white-headed Cormorant day roosting at Newcastle that afternoon was confirmed as being a fine example of a sinensis (Continental) Cormorant by Killian Mullarney (thanks for getting the protractor out!). My first record of this taxa on patch.

sinensis Cormorant
Spring Golden Plover flocks in Webb's field looking well. No repeat of last years AGP unfortunately.

The final year ticks of the month came on 26th when doing some pre-Little Tern conservation project scoping of the beach with warden Andrew Power. The weather was horrendous and it was no great surprise that it pushed a superb group of 11 Arctic Terns (117) up along the beach. Once the rain cleared a stonking male Whinchat (118) popped up on the fence around the wardens camp in Webb’s field. Only my second patch record after getting the first here last August!

#patchgold Whinchat
April dips (birds seen by others): Ruff and Garganey at Kilcoole and a Mandarin Duck at ECNR (although perhaps not so worried about that last one!).


Most of May was spent out of the country surveying in Scotland or offshore on the R.V. Celtic Voyager and as such only managed five visits. Certainly missed out on my best chance for some high scoring rarities as May is definitely the best month on patch for picking up on these. Saying that, still got three year ticks so not a complete loss: the first Swifts (119) of the year and a flyover Yellow Wagtail (120) on 4th followed up by a 2nd calendar year Bar-tailed Godwit (121) in Webb’s field on 6th.

May dips (birds seen by others): a flyover Spoonbill and a Curlew Sandpiper at Kilcoole.


A total of ten days volunteering with the Little Tern conservation project during June culminated in no less than nine patch year ticks. Wednesday 4th got the scoring rhythm back in action with a Puffin (122) flying North during an early morning seawatch followed up by my third patch record of an OSPREY (123) which drifted South overhead between 10:35-10:50 and then to top the day off, a Kingfisher (124) on the channel alongside Webb’s field later that evening.

#patchgold Osprey
Blackditch East Coast Nature Reserve produced the goods with a reeling Grasshopper Warbler (125) in the fen on 15th and a triple whammy on 18th thanks to an early morning start for a CES session where a Spotted Flycatcher (126) was seen in the wood and a female Cuckoo (127) followed swiftly by a male Whitethroat (128) on the walk back along the coastal path afterwards. Later that evening I racked up the fourth patch year tick of the day with a cracking Storm Petrel (129) feeding very close in from The Breaches at 21:35. The next morning added Roseate Tern (130) to the list with a single adult flying North and a most welcome 2nd calendar-year Knot (131) which dropped into The Breaches that afternoon. A fine couple of days!

Reed Warbler caught & ringed at CES. One of eight recorded that day between Newcastle & ECNR. A good year for them on patch.
2cy Knot in The Breaches
The big dip in June came on Sunday 22nd when I was awoken by a flurry of texts and missed calls whilst in bed, suffering from the aftermath of social ‘engagements’ with some drouthy cronies in Dublin city centre. A fine 2nd calendar-year Laughing Gull nailed by local birder Cian Cardiff put in a brief appearance at The Breaches and was long gone by the time I got my act together and made it down that evening.

A Red Kite seen by Justin Ivory just outside the patch near Newcastle in late June gives hope that I will be adding it to the list soon enough.

June was also a particularly good month for other general wildlife sightings in the area with some highlights as follows: Hummingbird Hawkmoth, Poplar Hawkmoth, Small Elephant Hawkmoth, Garden Tiger, Buff-tip, Six Spot Burnet, Early Bumblebee, Cryptic Wood White, Red Admiral, Painted Lady, Hairy Hawker, Emperor, Four-spotted Chaser, Common Darter, Variable Damselfly, Harbour Porpoise, Otter, Leisler’s Bat, Soprano Pipistrelle and Barrel Jellyfish (40 of which washed up in The Breaches on 16th).

Cryptic Wood White at ECNR
Hairy Hawker at ECNR
Barrel Jellyfish in The Breaches (pic by Anne-Lise Gerard)

So a PWC 2014 half time half score of 131 species & 169 points (83.25%) compares rather well with 136 species & 176 points by the end of June 2013 considering the amount of on site effort missed out on as a result of not working the Little Tern project as a full time warden.

Here's a few pics from my time spent volunteering with the Little Tern wardens so far this summer. Weather has generally been great and the chicks are certainly responding to it!

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