Friday, 4 May 2018

Osprey

I got nice surprise at the Coonagh Nature reserve last Saturday (28/4/2018) when a large raptor appeared high over the lower lagoon.  Luckily I had the camera to hand so got a few quick record shots of the bird before it disappeared off westwards towards the Shannon Estuary.  It looked like an Osprey from its size and behaviour but seemed very dark from the brief views of it through the bins and the camera lens. The id. was confirmed once I got the camera back indoors.

This is just the sixth record for Limerick and the first definite Spring record.  It was also a first for the site.   Osprey records are scarce in the west of the Ireland and spring records are scarcer still, so this was a nice one to come across, even if it was all too fleeting.





Thursday, 3 May 2018

More Iceland Gulls

It was a great winter in Limerick City for Iceland Gulls.  By early March at least six different birds had been logged; four 1st winters, a 2nd winter and a third winter.  Amazingly by the end of the month at least two additional 1st winter birds were present, bringing the total for the winter to at least eight birds.

The 3rd winter (4cy) bird found in early March was proving to be a bit elusive initially as it ranged from Harvey's Quay up river as far as Corbally. Later in the month it proved to be more regular at Harvey's Quay, showing a distinct preference for the Shannon Rowing Club side of the Sarsfield Lock.
 
 
  
4cy Iceland Gull

Five 1st winter birds and the 3rd winter(4cy) bird were all visible on the short stretch of the Shannon between Bishop's Quay and Arthur's Quay on 30/3/2018 and again on 2/4/2018, the largest number of Icelands in one location recorded in Limerick
 

1st winter Iceland Gull of the nominate race Larus glaucoides glaucoides
One of the five 1st winter birds was the bird showing some characteristics of Kumlien's Iceland Gull, Larus glaucoides kumlieni, that was originally found in February. It is still showing a darker shade on the outer primaries along with darker secondaries and largely solid darker markings on the tail band. See photo below.   The bill also looks dark at a distance but closer views show the darker tone gradually fading towards the base. 
 
1st winter Iceland Gull with some characteristics of the Kumlein's subspecies
 
 
 

Gull Quest to Kilkee

I set out for Kilkee, Co. Clare on Saturday March 23rd to look for the 1st winter American Herring that was found there earlier in the week.  The bird had been seen there earlier in the morning by Murf, so I was hopeful it would show again at some stage.    Most of a loaf of bread later, I had to head for home without connecting with it.

As it was a fine bright day we managed to have some good birding, in spite of the yank no show.
First up was a 1st winter Iceland Gull at the shoreline, followed quickly by a  Red-throated Diver in the middle of the bay.  Next up was a 1st winter male Long-tailed Duck who obligingly came closer to the shoreline.

Long-tailed Duck

 Next up was an adult Iceland Gull that was attracted by the bread.

  
Adult Iceland Gull
 
We had a few interesting looking gulls including this adult Herring Gull below that apperared to have yellowish legs.  The primary pattern suggested the that it was the local race Larus argentatus argenteus rather than the northern race L.a. argetatus, which can have yellow legs.
Herring Gull with yellow legs.


There was nice mix of waders around, lots of Sanderling, some Dunlin, Oystercatchers, Redshank and a few Turnstone.
Turnstone
As luck would have I met a few Kerry birders when I was heading away and they eventually caught up with the bird later in the day.


Call back later for more details!

Monday, 19 March 2018

Iceland Gulls





The first significant storm of the winter from the north west Atlantic was Storm Dylan, which arrived on the west coast of Ireland in late December 2017. Once the winds settled on the evening of 30/12/17  I went out in search of white-winged gulls and came across a very interesting one at Thomond Weir in Limerick City. It was about Herring Gull size, on the darker end of the scale for Iceland Gull and also had a largely dark bill.  I put it down tentatively as an untypically darker 1st winter Iceland Gull based on the brief views i got that evening.   Kumlien's Iceland Gull and Viking Gull (Herring X Glaucous hybrid) were also a possibility.  I found it again the following evening and got a few shots in the rather poor light.



Having had a chance to study the photos I eventually came down in favour of a possible Kumlien's Iceland Gull.  The bill colouration, blackish but fading towards the base and the wing pattern showing paler inner primaries and a secondary bar seem to support the case.   I got one suggestion from another birder that it might fit the bill for Viking Gull but I think it was probably not large enough or sufficiently long-billed.  I only managed to see it again on one further occasion when it spent several minutes flying around the Shannon in the City centre on 14/1/2018.  Once again the size of the bird and the pattern of primaries looked good for Kumlien's.

As expected January brought lots of strong wind from the north west, so it was no surprise that further Iceland Gulls eventually showed up.  I found a two new birds, a 2nd winter and a 1st winter, at O'Callaghan's Strand on 18/1/018.


2nd winter Iceland Gull

1st winter Iceland Gull

1st winter Iceland Gull
Geoff Hunt then had two 1st winter birds at Harvey's Quay four days later.  By the 23/1/2018 it was clear that there were at least  three 1st winter Iceland Gulls in town.


1st winter Iceland Gulls




One of the three 1st winter birds was showing some characteristics of Kumlien's Iceland Gull.  The bird, shown below, has slightly a darker tone on the outer primaries, a secondary bar and a largely solid pattern (rather than variagated) to the colouring on the tailband.   As the bird's plumage is heavily bleached, the relevant features are fairly subtle and not always apparent in some views.


 



 Just over six weeks later Geoff Hunt found an adult or near adult bird at Harvey's Quay on 7/3/18.  I came across a similar bird at the Barrack Lane Boat Club, just upstream of Thomond Weir on 13/3/18.  Subsequent views showed that it retained some juvenile markings on the tail feathers, making it a 3rd winter(4cy) bird.




In all at least six birds, four 1st winters, a 2nd winter and an adult/near adult, have shown up in Limerick so far this winter, mirroring large influxes of the species elsewhere in the Country.

April Update

Amazingly three more new 1st winter birds had turned up by March 30th. Six 1st winter birds, including the bleached Kumlien's, were present on the river in the City centre on the day and remained there up to April 2nd, bringing the total number of Iceland Gulls this winter up to nine, a record number for the City.



Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Yellow-legged Gulls

The past winter once again brought a handfull of new Yellow-legged records for Limerick with four birds recorded, slighty up on last winter's haul of three individuals and including at least two new birds to the area.  First up was a 2nd winter bird at Thomond Weir in Limerick City on 31/12/2017, the eight record for the County.  For a bird about to enter its third calendar year it had advanced plumage on much of the scapulars, tertials, lesser and median coverts as well as a few all white tail feathers.  It also had a distinct yellow tone on its legs.

Advanced 2nd winter Yellow-legged Gull

A week later on 6/1/2018 another 2nd winter bird turned up at O'Callaghan's Strand in the City.  This bird however had noticeably less advanced plumage on the lesser and median coverts than the new bird found the previous week.  Interestingly it looked like and behaved very like the 1st winter bird that frequented the same area a year earlier.  It was relatively tame as big gulls go and was still exhibiting the same begging posture and calls as the previous year's bird.

Returning 2nd Winter Yellow-legged Gull.

Next up was a 1st winter bird again at O'Callaghan's Strand on 17/2/18, a ninth record for the County.

1st winter Yellow-legged Gull

Finally I found an adult bird frequenting the area between Corbally Weir, on the northern edge of the City, and the Athlunkard area on the Co. Clare side of the River Shannon on 13/1/2018.  Once again this bird's habits were very similar to the 3rd winter bird that I found in the same area a year previously.
Adult Yellow-legged Gull


Saturday, 2 December 2017

Hawfinch

Curraghchase Forest Park at Kilcornan, Co. Limerick has proved to be the most reliable site in Ireland for wintering Hawfinches since a major influx of 95 birds occurred there in the winter of 1988/89.  They have been recorded there in much smaller numbers on several occasions since, howevr this winter is proving to be one of the better ones, with a flock of up to 15 birds seen there over the past few weeks. 

The bigger numbers this year are not altogther surprising given given the very large influx of the species into southern Britain in the late autumn.  The abundant crop of seeds on the Hornbeam trees in the forest park this year is also sure to be a factor in keeping the birds in the area.

The birds have been feeding high up on the trees so far, making good photo opportunities hard to come by. I finally got a chance to take some shots in reasonable light last Thursday, having been unsuccessful on several previous visits, since I got a brief glimpse of the first two birds there on November 5th.









The site is also a good location to look for wintering Bramblings.  This male below was one of up to seven birds seen there so far this winter.



The forest park has a very healthy population of Jays.  Their racous calls can be heard constantly as they squabble over the best acorn deposits but they can be difficult to approach and have a habit of melting away into the canopy once people get near.