Monday, 23 September 2013

American Golden Plover

I made a trip to the Loop Head peninsula in Co. Clare today and stopped off in Kilkee to see the American Golden Plover that has been on the beach there for just over week now. The bird, an adult moulting out of summer plumage, was feeding on the tide line with a mix of other waders at the western end of the beach.

American Golden Plover ©Tom Tarpey
The were small numbers of Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Oystercatcher and a lone juvenile Bar-tailed Godwit along with Sanderling and Turnestone also feeding in the same area.

Juvenile Dunlin acquiring winter plumage.
Juvenile Ringed Plover
1st Summer Oystercatcher
Juvenile Bar-tailed Godwit

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Elegant Tern

I took a trip down the Shannon Estuary to north Kerry yesterday with Tony Mee to search for the 'Orange-billed' Tern found the previous day by Davey Farrar.  We eventually caught up with the bird when we got news from Davey that he and a group English birders had found it roosting at the edge of Bunnaclugga Bay, just east of Letter Strand.  We got partial views of it at the roost but were subsequently treated to some spectacular action from it as it fished in the bay, dodging the attentions of an Arctic Skua at one stage.

Initial observations indicated that the bird most closely resembled Elegant Tern, ruling out other 'Orange-billed' Tern types such as Royal Tern and Lesser Crested Tern.  However the identification is complicated by the possibility of it being one of the hybrids produced by a long staying Elegant Tern at a Sandwich Tern colony in France, which I understand may be visually indistinguishable from Elegant Tern.


Elegant Tern ©Tom Tarpey
As can be seen from the photos above and below the bird has a pure white rump and tail coverts, which would appear to rule out Lesser Crested Tern in this case. 

Elegant Tern ©Tom Tarpey
The bird's bill was quite long and noticeably down curved, with the gonydeal angle located nearer the base of the bill. The bill appeared to be orange in colour at the base, gradually fading slightly to a yellower tone near the tip.  These features are visible to some extent in the photos below and also in the excellent shots taken by Ian Jones (see Kerry Birding Blog).

Elegant Tern ©Tom Tarpey
The bird looked to be about the size of a Sandwich Tern.  See photos above and below.  
Elegant Tern with Sandwich Tern ©Tom Tarpey
The bird also showed one other interesting feature; the soles of its feet and part of its hind legs were orange in colour.  See photos below and third from top above. I couldn't determine for sure if this feature is diagnostic, though I did find some images of Elegant Terns with this feature. It appears that juvenile Elegant Terns initially have orange legs and feet and that the colour eventually changes to black over time. 

 There has been five previous accepted records of Elegant Tern in Ireland, the first being in Co. Down in 1982.  If accepted this will be the sixth record for Ireland and the second for Co. Kerry.

Elegant Tern ©Tom Tarpey

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Blue-winged Teal

I made a quick trip to Coonagh last Sunday(1/9/13) morning followed by a visit to the Charleville Lagoons.  Things were quiet at both sites.  The tide was out at Coonagh so the absence of waders there was no surprise.  A Snipe was the only wader on view at Charleville, a site that was always good for scarce Sandpipers in the past.  I did come across several Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers that provided some good photo opportunities. See shots below.

I returned to Coonagh on Tuesday(3/9/13) evening as weather conditions were perfect and the tide was high. Waders again proved to be in short supply, a small flock of Lapwing being the only species present.  I was scanning the upper lagoon hoping to see if there was any sign of the Garganey that had been hanging around all summer when things took a dramatic turn for the better. I picked up what looked like a drake Blue-winged Teal in the distance.   Closer inspection confirmed the identification.  It was the second record of the species for the site, the first being in October 2010, and the sixth record for the County.
Drake Blue-winged Teal ©Tom Tarpey

Drake Blue-winged Teal  with Coot ©Tom Tarpey

Drake Blue-winged Teal  with Shoveler ©Tom Tarpey

Drake Blue-winged Teal with Coot ©Tom Tarpey

Blue-winged Teal are normally slow to moult out of eclipse plumage and generally the drakes don't appear in full plumage until November.  This bird has well advanced head feather moult. The body feathers generally seem to be still in eclipse mode however there are some signs of the white thigh patches starting to emerge.

While I was looking at the Teal a female/juvenile/type Garganey came into view.  Tony Mee and I had seen what appeared to be two birds in similar plumage flying around the site about ten days earlier but we didn't get a chance to view them on the water.  This bird looks like a possible juvenile bird.  It is noticeably different to the adult female bird that I saw there the following evening (4/9/13) in the company of an eclipse male.  This bird appears buffer in tone and with a less pronounced head pattern than the adult female.  All of these sightings point to the likelihood that the pair may have bred successfully at Coonagh this summer.

 Garganey ©Tom Tarpey 

Going back to Charleville, the adult birds there were looking the worst for ware after the breeding season, whereas the juvenile birds were looking much fresher. 

Adult Chiffchaff ©Tom Tarpey 

Juvenile Willow Warbler ©Tom Tarpey 

Sunday, 1 September 2013

White-tailed Eagles

I made another trip out to Mountshannon, Lough Derg last week to see the recently fledged White-tailed Eagles and their parents. It was an early morning start and the weather was quite dull and misty at times so conditions were not ideal for photography. Never the less it proved to be a great trip as both the juvenile birds and the parents were quite active, giving some very good views at times.  The young birds have now started to make forays away from their natal island to the adjoining islands as well as the lake shore.

Juvenile White-tailed Eagles ©Tom Tarpey

The adult female bird had been absent for long periods post fledging so it was great to see her in the area again.  She moved around quite a bit in the early morning, passing by the nest site and the young birds at least once during our two hour trip.  She looks a little ragged at present  as she is on the process of replacing several molted primary and secondary wing feathers.

Adult female White-tailed Eagle ©Tom Tarpey

We came across the male towards the end of the trip, flying away from the nesting island towards one of his favoured perches.  He appeared have delivered some food to the juveniles near the nest site.

Adult male White-tailed Eagle ©Tom Tarpey