Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Kumlien's Iceland Gull

2nd winter Kumlien's Iceland Gull found at O'Callaghan's Strand, Limerick City on 10/02/2019.

Update 18/2/19

Latest photo taken on 18/2/2019

The photos below were taken on 10/2/2019

At least one other white-winged gull was also present.  It looks like a 1st winter Iceland Gull but has a pale iris, a feature normally acquired in the 2nd winter/2nd summer period.  It also has a relatively long bill and relatively short wing projection and looks to be about Herring Gull size. The possibility of a hybrid cannot be ruled out.

The shots below were also taken at the same location. The bird in these looks more like an Iceland Gull in structure.

Monday, 11 February 2019

Loop Head in Autumn

October 15th, 2018 was a fine day at Loop Head, Co. Clare.  The weather turned out warm, dry and  sunny in the afternoon, with a southeasterly air flow, good conditions for attracting daytime migrants.  I spent the day there with Murf and a few other Clare birders who dropped in from time to time.

The day started well with a female Hen Harrier near the Lough and a Wheatear in the fields to the east. I checked the flocks of Golden Plover in the same area and also at Ross hoping to catch up with the long-staying adult American Golden Plover (AGP) but drew a blank.  

A pair of Buzzards heading eastwards over Kilbaha village at lunch time afternoon was a nice surprise and indication of more to come. I spent the mid afternoon checking the village gardens along with Murf for the long staying Red-breasted Flycatcher.  It hadn't been seen for a few days but eventually showed up in overgrown hedges/grove at Costello's.

Red-breasted Flycatcher

This grove proved to be a hive of activity and kept drawing us back every time we resolved to leave. We counted at least six Chiffchaffs, several Goldcrests and Collared Doves along with the Flycatcher.  We were eventually rewarded with some views of a Garden Warbler, a scarce migrant at Loop Head.  

Garden Warbler

We eventually caught up with the moulting adult AGP in the company of a Goldie flock at Fodry in the late afternoon.  The flock was nervously watching out for a nearby Peregrine and didn't seem to mind our approach.

American Golden Plover

AGP (right) with Golden Plover

Leaving Fodry we came across two groups of three Buzzards drifting down the peninsula.  Buzzards are an increasingly common sight now in the west of Ireland and are regular visitors to Loop Head in the autumn but the eight birds (minimum) that we encountered is a record number for the area.


Later in the day we got nice views of Snipe in the pond at Kilbaha as the tide filled it up. The birds sat out in the open, clearly confident of their camouflaged plumaged as they sat on the seaweed.


Saturday, 15 December 2018

Winter Waders in Limerick City

The city stretch of the Shannon is not noted for waders. Apart from the 100 or so Oystercatchers that routinely feed on the open area in King's Island and small numbers of Snipe in the wetlands adjoining the river, there is usually very little else to see.    In some years very small numbers of Redshank can occur along the river anywhere between Corbally and Barrington's Pier.  The occasional wintering Common Sandpiper may also be found.   We went one better last Saturday (8/12/2018) when with a fine winter plumaged Dunlin showing up at O'Callaghan's Strand in close proximity to a Common Sandpiper and a lone Redshank.  The Dunlin and the Common Sandpiper were new recruits since the previous week.


Common Sandpiper

    The Redshank wasn't as obliging when it came to posing for the camera!

Thursday, 13 December 2018

Hooded Merganser

A spectacular male Hooded Merganser was found at Streamstown Bay, Clifden, Co. Galway on 25/9/2018.  I got to see the bird two days later and managed to get some distant shots.   Back home later that evening I discovered what appeared to be a metal ring showing on the right leg in two of the flight shots.  I learned the following day that two other birders has subsequently made similar observations.  Unfortunately this has cast doubts on the origins of the bird, not withstanding the fact that it turned up on the west coast in the middle of migration season.

Apparently a few thousand Hooded Mergansers are ringed annually on the eastern side of America, so it's not beyond the bounds of possibility that a ringed wild bird could turn up on these shores. It would be a great tick to get but it seems more likely that the IRBC will treat the record as one of bird of unknown origin.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Summering Gulls in Limerick City

The River Shannon in Limerick City attracts large numbers of gulls outside of the breeding season. Black-headed Gulls with a peak count of 1,628 in mid winter tops the list followed by Common Gulls (peak count 80), Herring Gulls (peak count 66) and Lesser Black-backed Gulls (peak count 25).  Outside of these commoner species, Iceland, Great Black-backed, Glaucous, Yellow-legged, Mediterranean and Ring-billed Gulls all occur in single figures most years.

As one would expect the situation changes dramatically during the breeding season.  About 90% of the Black-headed Gulls disappear along with virtually all of the Common Gulls. The Herring Gull numbers don't vary much, as a number of pairs breed locally on City roof tops. Virtually all of the scarcer species also disappear, however numbers of Lesser Black-backed Gulls appear to have increased noticeably in recent years.

Very low flows in the Shannon this summer combined with low tides exposed large rock outcrops and gravelly stretches in the river bed.  These areas have proved attractive to roosting gulls and provided an opportunity to estimate the numbers involved.  A count on August 13th last produced a surprisingly large total of 882 Lesser Black-backed Gulls.  The majority of these were 2nd calendar year birds with smaller numbers of juvenile (about 10%) and older birds.  The 2CY birds were in widely varying stages of moult.

Four 2nd CY birds showing varying moult progression

A colour ringed juvenile first seen in the City on 11/8/18, (Blue 005:R), was ringed as a chick at the north-eastern end of Lough Ree in Co. Longford on 29/6/18. This was a fairly quick dispersal from the breeding colony and was the fourth report of a colour ringed bird from a newly established ringed project run by Brian Burke on Lough Ree.
Juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gull (Blue 005:R) from Lough Ree, Co. Longford

Fresh Juveniles

Several mature adult Lesser Black-backs were visible all summer so it seems likely that a few at least bred locally.

The first juvenile Black-headed Gulls started to appear in the City in late July and the first returning Common Gulls were only noted in late August. These were joined by an adult Mediterranean Gull in early August, an early date for this scarce species in the City.

Moulting adult Mediterranean Gull at Brown's Quay on 11/8/18

This is the first year that a summering Yellow-legged Gull was recorded in the City.  It appears to be one of two 2nd winter birds that were present last winter.

2nd summer (3CY) Yellow-legged Gull