Saturday, 2 December 2017


Curraghchase Forest Park at Kilcornan, Co. Limerick has proved to be the most reliable site in Ireland for wintering Hawfinches since a major influx of 95 birds occurred there in the winter of 1988/89.  They have been recorded there in much smaller numbers on several occasions since, howevr this winter is proving to be one of the better ones, with a flock of up to 15 birds seen there over the past few weeks. 

The bigger numbers this year are not altogther surprising given given the very large influx of the species into southern Britain in the late autumn.  The abundant crop of seeds on the Hornbeam trees in the forest park this year is also sure to be a factor in keeping the birds in the area.

The birds have been feeding high up on the trees so far, making good photo opportunities hard to come by. I finally got a chance to take some shots in reasonable light last Thursday, having been unsuccessful on several previous visits, since I got a brief glimpse of the first two birds there on November 5th.

The site is also a good location to look for wintering Bramblings.  This male below was one of up to seven birds seen there so far this winter.

The forest park has a very healthy population of Jays.  Their racous calls can be heard constantly as they squabble over the best acorn deposits but they can be difficult to approach and have a habit of melting away into the canopy once people get near.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Radde's Warbler

I struck it lucky last Monday (30/10/2017) when I arrived at Loop Head, Co. Clare just as John N. Murphy and Tony Mee were viewing a Radde's Warbler that John had found a few minutes earlier by the south side of lighthouse road.  This lively bird gave great views all day as it fed along the roadside bank and occasionally in the adjoining field. 

It was a first record for Clare and a great find by Murf!  While I had seen a few of them on the south coast last year I delighted to see this one closer to home.  It was completely unphased by all the attention from birders who gathered to see it and provided lots of good photo opportunities.

It was a good day's birdwatching with several Yellow-browed Warblers, Chiffchaffs, a male Blackcap, a Merlin and large numbers of Redwings, Song Thurshes and Blackbirbs.  This Chiffchaff was one of three in a small cluster of willows near Kilbaha village.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Scarlet Tanager

It was a great week for American passerine vagrants in Ireland and the Scarlet Tanager found by Harry Hussey last Tuesday (3/10/17) at Mizen Head, Co. Cork, a firth Irish record, was one I was keen to catch up.  I missed out on the previous one at Garinish, Co. Cork in 2008 so I made the long trip to west Cork on Friday (6/10/17) along with Tony Mee to see this one.

Fortunately for us the bird showed up within an hour of our arrival and gave us some good views on and off over a 20 minute period.  We also got a view of a Yellow-browed Warbler at the same location and one very brief view of the other American passerine in the area, the Red-eyed Vireo at Toor on the north side of the peninsula.


Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Little Stint

There were at least fout Little Stints at Blackrock Strand, Co. Kerry last week (25/9/2017). Two of the birds are featured in the shots below.

The two photos below include a juvenile Dunlin moulting into winter plunage, to the right of one of the Stints.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Curlew Sandpiper

The variety and numbers of scarce migrant waders picked up noticeably on the west coast during the last week of September.  I took a trip to Blackrock strand in north Kerry on 25/9/2017 in the hope of getting a few shots of the adult White-rumped Sandpiper that had been in the area during the previous week. While a got some brief views it never stayed around long enough to to allow me to capture a few shots.  The five Curlew Sandpipers present were much more obliging and were often willing to come close to the camera along with the four Little Stints and the many Dunlin and Sanderling on the beach.  All of the photos below are of juveniles; the lone moulting adult bird on the beach escaped the lens.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Black Tern

The Coonagh Nature Reserve hosted two juvenile Black Terns this week following the stormy weather last weekend.  A single bird was found there on Monday evening (11/9/17).  It was joined by a second bird on Tuesday morning and both birds remained at the site until Friday (15/9/17) at least.

Black Terns are scarce passage migrants in Limerick and Coonagh has proved to be most reliable location for them in the County in recent years.   They have been recorded previously at the site on autumn migration, with one in Sept. 2010, four together in Sept. 2011 and one in Aug. 2012.  The site has also atteacted the much rarer White-winged Black Tern once previously in August 2014.

Two juvenile Arctic Terns also spent most of the week at the site.  Arctic Terns are occasional passage migrants at the site, with notable influxes of 63 birds in April 2013 and 13 birds the following September.