Saturday, 31 August 2013

Sandwich Terns

I paid a visit to north Kerry today in search of migrant waders.  My first stop was at Blackrock Strand. There was a strong westerly wind coming in off the sea making birdwatching quite difficult.  It didn't matter a lot as there was a complete absence of Dunlin and smaller waders.  From there I moved on to Carrahane hoping for some better variety.  I arrived about an hour before high tide however as it was a neap tide much of the sand in the bay remained uncovered. There was a large flock of Dunlin present along with three Curlew Sandpipers, an adult and two juveniles. Once again the wind was quite strong here so I kept the camera in the back pack.  A small flock of six Golden Plover on the machair looked like they were recent arrivals, the vanguard of the autumn passage.

I decided to move northwards towards Shannon Estuary in the afternoon in the hope of getting more sheltered birding, making Beal Strand my next stop.  This can be a good spot for small waders, terns, divers and even the occasional skua. I was a bit late for the high tide however there was a small flock of Dunlin feeding in the hollow around the stream outlet.  There were small numbers of Sandwich Terns hanging around with the gulls.

Adult winter Sandwich Terns ©Tom Tarpey

My next stop was Ballylongford Bay.  There was no sign of the Black Duck that had been frequenting the area earlier in the month.  I came across a pair of Whimbrel in very fresh looking plumage, however they seemed to be unduly nervous and quickly flew off. 

My final stop was at Tarbert Bay. The tide had receded quite a bit by the time I arrived so the birds were well scattered across the mud flats. This is usually a good spot for Mediterranean Gulls and sure enough I came across two birds close to the pier road.  There was also about half a dozen Little Egrets feeding close to the road.

Adult winter Mediterranean Gull ©Tom Tarpey

Little Egret ©Tom Tarpey

Monday, 26 August 2013


I was back at my local patch in Coonagh last Saturday morning along with Tony Mee.  The tide was high so we were expecting to see good numbers of waders roosting in the lower lagoon.  We did have a flock of Lapwing but surprisingly few Black-tailed Godwits and Redshank.  A Common Sandpiper on the river bank was a nice surprise as they are not particularly abundant that far up the estuary.  We also picked up a few Snipe including this one below lurking at the edge of the small intermediate pond.  

Snipe ©Tom Tarpey

There was a nice variety of duck present including two small parties of Shoveler and a few Wigeon that we assumed were recent arrivals, although a lone Shoveler had been seen there on a few occasions over the summer.

Shoveler  ©Tom Tarpey

We also had party of five Gadwall and brief views of what appeared to be a pair of juvenile Garganey.  Both of these species have been present at the site over the summer so it is tempting to think that they may have successfully bred. In the case of the Gadwall this was the third summer that the species has been present at the site.

Gadwall ©Tom Tarpey


Tuesday, 20 August 2013


I paid a quick visit to the Swords Estuary in Dublin last Saturday evening hoping to catch up with the juvenile Ruff that was giving good views there earlier in the week. I found the birds feeding along the southern shoreline at high tide.  It was quite confiding and did not seem to be bother by the constant stream of walkers close by.

Juvenile Ruff  ©Tom Tarpey
The inner estuary is a great place to get close to waders especially at high tide.  There were large flocks of Redshank and Black-tailed Godwit present as well as smaller numbers of Lapwing and Dunlin.  I also came across a juvenile Common Sandpiper and a lone Snipe keeping close by a boulder protruding through the mud.

Snipe ©Tom Tarpey
Common Sandpiper ©Tom Tarpey

Lapwing ©Tom Tarpey

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Juvenile White-tailed Eagles

I finally got to see the recently fledged White-tailed Eagles on Lough Derg at Mountshannon, Co. Clare at close quarters earlier this week.  Early on Monday morning the two young birds were sitting on a dead tree awaiting the delivery of food.  The arrival of the adult male generated bouts of excited calling by all three birds before he departed again on a fishing trip.

Juvenile White-tailed Eagles ©Tom Tarpey
Adult male White-tailed Eagle ©Tom Tarpey

Juvenile White-tailed Eagle ©Tom Tarpey

In the absence of food one of the young birds moved down to the shoreline. The second bird eventually left its perch and flew around the shoreline out of sight, before eventually returning and landing on one of the rocks protruding at the waters edge. Both birds then continued to explore the shoreline in between making occasional trips back to various perches on nearby dead trees.

Juvenile White-tailed Eagle ©Tom Tarpey

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

White-tailed Eagles at Mountshannon

It was great to see that the pair of chicks in the White-tailed Eagle nest near Mountshannon, Co. Clare successfully fledged in mid July.  This is first successful fledging of the species in Ireland in over 115 years.  The parent birds are part of the stock imported from Norway in recent years as part of a re-introduction programme managed by the Golden Eagle Trust. The male is a five year old and the female is a year younger.  The pair have been in occupation of the area for about two years and made an unsuccessful attempt at breeding on the site last year.

Having spent many hours on nest monitoring over the past five months it was very pleasing to see two fully grown and healthy looking young birds readying themselves for their first flight. The young birds are still hanging around the island where the nest was located, in spite of what appeared to be repeated attempts by both parents recently to lure them further a field.  The photos below were taken by Nigel Beers Smith recently.  Nigel has been stationed at Mountshannon for the past six months photographing and filming the birds. See his Mountshannon-White-Tailed-Sea-Eagles Facebook Page for more excellent photos.
Male White-tailed Eagle 'Red Y' at Mountshannon  © Nigel Beers Smith

Male 'Red Y' attempting to lure one of the young birds into the open  © Nigel Beers Smith

The many visits to Mountshannon afforded the opportunity to catch up with the other breeding birds on the lake locally. Small numbers of Common Terns (up to three pairs) are regularly seen around the harbour.  Black-headed Gulls are very much in evidence along with a few Common Gulls.  A few pairs of Great-crested Grebes and a single pair of Red-breasted Mergansers breed close to the harbour.  Family parties of Mallard, Mute Swan and Coot were also very much in evidence. Single Kingfishers and Common Sandpipers were seen on occasions.  There was a notable Whimbrel passage between mid April and mid May.   Disappointingly no Osprey was seen during the very extensive nest monitoring in either 2013 or 2012, even though there are one or two old records of the species in the area previously. Buzzard was the only raptor of note, with a couple of records in 2012.

Common Tern ©Tom Tarpey

Black-headed Gull ©Tom Tarpey