Thursday, 2 May 2013


I paid a number of visits to Gooig Bog near Castleconnell, Co. Limerick, in the past few weeks in search of Spring migrants.  This partly dug out bog, straddling the Limerick/Tipperary border, is always a good spot to catch up with the first arrivals.  Most migrants have been at least two to three weeks later than previous years because of the persistent northerly winds and poor weather on mainland Europe.  I saw my first Whitethroat of the year there yesterday and heard a few others nearby.  I also had my first Cuckoo there one evening last week and Willow Warblers in the middle of the month.

Whitethroats can be skulking in behaviour and are reluctant to show themselves even when singing so it can be quite difficult to get a full clean view shot. Unlike may of the earlier arrivals they appear to be arriving on schedule this year.

Whitethroat  ©Tom Tarpey

The Cuckoo appeared late in the evening but was still calling vigorously and causing consternation among the local Meadow Pipits.  I just about manged to get a few shots in the fading light. It appears that the arrival of Cuckoos here was at least a week behind normal due to the poor spring weather.  This impact can clearly be seen from an ongoing satellite tracking study of Cuckoos in Britain ( Of the five birds in the study only one had arrived back in Britain by April 26th and up to today the number was still only at two, with a third bird having briefly crossed into England and promptly reversed south back to France. One bird still remains in Morocco.  Considering this information the the first two birds reported in Limerick on April 23rd and 25th appear to be very much at the head of the posse this year. 

 The BTO study is well worth a look.  The movements of the birds can be tracked on a daily basis throughout the year. It shows a very marked south easterly bias on the southward migration through the central Mediterranean, down into Libya or Egypt, resting in the Sahel belt in Chad and finally wintering in the Congo. The northward migration is quite different with birds moving north westwards initially, filtering up to Nigeria and the Ivory coast before crossing the western Sahara.  They also take a more westerly route through Europe via Spain and France.  Interestingly it shows that some of the birds spend less than two months of the summer in Europe.

Cuckoo (male) ©Tom Tarpey

Willow Warblers are perhaps the most characteristic species of places like Gooig Bog, as they are fairly abundant and they tirelessly fill the area with their descending song through Spring and early Summer.

Willow Warbler ©Tom Tarpey

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