Thursday, 30 October 2014

Red-flanked Bluetail

This was one good twitch.  Dave Suddaby's  Red-flanked Bluetail at Tarmon,  Belmullet, Co. Mayo on Tuesday last (28/10/14) was the 4th record for Ireland and the first to stick around for more than a day.  I had a late start on Wednesday and got to Tarmon  in the early afternoon. At this stage the day had become dull and wind had switched around from easterly to southerly and the bird had disappeared from view. Fortunately it emerged again about an hour later, but this time on the shady north side of the Pine tree shelter belt that had been its main hangout. Murf was first to spot it again and so I got a lifer that I had been anticipating for about 30 years, well worth the eight hour round trip!

The bird showed very well at close quarters in the sunshine on the south side of the shelter belt in the morning.  By the time it reappeared on the north side of the shelter belt in the afternoon the light had deteriorated and the bird was less accessible so it was only possible to get a few distant record shots.

Solitary Sandpiper

I made the trip down to Rathangan in south Co. Wexford on 12/10/14 to look for the Solitary Sandpiper (an life tick) that had been found in the area five days earlier.  I spent the morning checking all the sites that it had been frequenting in previous days without any success.  I was beginning to suspect that I might have been a day late on the scene as it had not been seen by any of the birders in the area that day so I decided to take a break for a few hours and headed over to Tacumshin.  I was delighted to get a call from Graham Mitchell in the middle of the afternoon to say that he had found the bird at The Cull and that it had taken flight in the general direction of Rathangan.  That was the end of Tacumshin for me as I raced back to Rathangan.  As anticipated the bird returned to the marshy field west of Lambert's farm.

It was great to get the bird even if the lighting conditions were not the best by the time it showed up. Many thanks to Graham for the timely call, to the local landowners who were very helpful and accommodating and to Killian Mullarney for the excellent map that he produced showing all the favoured haunts and for arranging access to them.

Thursday, 9 October 2014


I got a report last week of a Hoopoe in a private garden near Askeaton, Co. Limerick. Geoff Hunt made contact with the owner and paid a visit there on Saturday but the bird didn't show.  When the call came on Tuesday evening that the bird was back I was lucky enough to be nearby and got a chance to get some shots.  Many thanks to Linda O'Brien who was very helpful and kindly allowed us to view the bird from her house.

The bird first appeared on Monday, September 29th and was seen on most days to up to Oct 9th.  It is the fourth record of the species for Co. Limerick, the previous ones being in 13 January 2010,  April 1965 and one pre-1900.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014


I took a trip to Loop Head, Co. Clare last Saturday (4/10/14) along with Tony Mee and Gerry Butler to look for migrants.  It turned out to be a good day as we found a Dotterel.  We first picked up the bird with a flock of about 40 Golden Plover just after they took off from a re-seeded field about 1.2km east of the lighthouse, on the south side of the peninsula.  At that point we were looking at a small unidentified wader that looked about half the size of the Goldies in flight.  The flock split up and all eventually headed westwards towards the lighthouse.  Later in the morning we came across what looked like a small party of Goldies on the heather just east of the lighthouse.  Having worked our way around to the south of the group to get a better view it became clear that there was a lot more birds in the group including one brightly coloured first winter Dotterel.  

The Goldie flock took to the air again and headed back eastwards. We relocated them again on the 'Plover' field just to the north of the lighthouse road.  This Dotterel was keen to stick with the Goldies who in turn were more flightly than normal, probably because of the Peregrine Falcon, Sparrowhawks, Kestrels, Merlin and Ravens that were hanging around the area. As a result photo opportunities were reduced to distant records shots.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Yellow-browed Warbler

I made the long trip down to Mizen Head in west Cork last Sunday (Sept. 28th) in the hope of seeing the Ovenbird that was found there the previous evening.  Unsurprisingly the bird did not show, however this Yellow-browed Warbler that was found nearby provided some measure of reward for the long trip.  It was a very bright and well marked individual, a fine bird on a nice day!  The bird was in the last garden on the road to the lighthouse. I also came across some fine butterflies on the stretch between the garden and the lighthouse, including a Clouded Yellow, a Small Copper and a fed Red Admirals.

Yellow-browed Warbler

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Stilt Sandpiper

I struck it lucky on Friday (5/9/14) when business took me to Dublin and I got a chance to pick up a new life tick with the Stilt Sandpiper at Broadmeadows on the Swords Estuary.  The bird was first seen on the previous day (Thursday), hot on the heels of another Stilt Sandpiper found by Killian Mullarney in Wexford on Tuesday.  Assuming the Swords bird is a new bird, it is the 14th Irish record of this rare North American species.

The bird was very active and a bit nervous and it moved around quite a bit. The light conditions were not great making photography a bit of a challenge.  However the bird was quite well marked and seemed to be  in transition from adult summer to winter plumage.

Broadmeadows is good spot for getting close to waders and there was good selection there on Friday. Lapwing and Redshank are often very nervous and difficult to approach but these birds below were a bit more relaxed and approachable than normal.


Adult Lapwing

Sunday, 31 August 2014

White-winged Black Tern

I was back in my local patch at Coonagh during the week to check up on the summering wildfowl and search for autumn migrants.  Following a week of strong winds, starting southeasterly, then moving to southerly and eventually to westerly, there was a good chance of something interesting showing up.  This turned out to be the case when a juvenile White-winged Black Tern was found there today.

This is the third record of the species for County Limerick, the previous ones being 1875 and 1990, and the first for Coonagh.  The site is proving quite attractive to migrant Terns with Common, Arctic and Black Terns all recorded here on a number of occasions in the past few years.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Glossy Ibis

The Glossy Ibis at the Coonagh Nature Reserve is proving to be a bit more regular in the past week or so. It was seen on four out of four visits, up to Saturday April 5th.  The bird is showing a distinct preference for the middle pond during high water in the Shannon,  but it remains remains quite wary and difficult to approach.

Glossy Ibis at Coonagh

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Coonagh Nature Reserve

The Coonagh Nature Reserve has been hosting County Limerick's first Glossy Ibis in the past few weeks. The bird is quite wary and generally can only be seen when it is flushed from its feeding area in and around the small pond located between the two large lagoons.  I could only manage a few distant flight shots on Sunday morning last (23/3/14) to add to the few distant shots from the previous week.  It was first found on 7/3/14 and has only been seen there twice since. The third shot below was taken on 14/3/14 while the bird was roosting on the southern shore of the Shannon at low tide, having just left the reserve.

Glossy Ibis
It's a quite time at Coonagh now that the visiting winter wildfowl have departed but evidence of spring is present in the arrival of small numbers of Sand Martins and a Wheatear.  Most of the remaining wildfowl have paired up and hopefully will stay on to breed.  There are at least three pairs of Gadwall, three pairs of Pochard and three pairs of Great-crested Grebes along with larger numbers of Tufted Duck, Coot, Little Grebe, Mute Swans and a few pairs of Mallard, Teal and non migrant Greylag Geese.

Gadwall Pairs

One of three pairs of Great-crested Grebes
Apart from the the spring migrants of the past week the site was also visited briefly by a female Hen Harrier, always a nice sight  to see on any birding trip.  A Jack Snipe has also been seen there on a few occasions recently.

Hen Harrier