Friday, January 24, 2014

Pacific Diver

 I travelled upto Lough Fea in Co. Tyrone yesterday to look for the pacific diver found recently. First to arrive, we enjoyed fantastic views early on before it became a little distant as more birders arrived. Later in the morning it was showing really well again on the western shore line with the strong sun behind it.
 The throat strap was very distinct and the flanks were usually all dark, but as it relaxed it often showed long white 'tufts' along the flanks. The bill was also a little longer than I was expecting for a pacific but certainly not out of range for one.
 I found the mantle feathers difficult to note, every shift in position and the four seasons of weather we experienced changed their appearance. They were quite plain with a subtle paler tip/fringe, clearly adult type. At times white spots on the coverts could be seen as the scaps were lifted while it preened.

 A few illustrations of the bird today using photos and sketches.
 Nice obvious throat strap, very distinct from all angles and lights. Much easier to make out than on the distant bird at Doorus pier in Co. Clare in 2010.
The vent strap was visible at times as it preened, but never seemed to be complete, it was definately thinner in the centre broadening out to the thighs.

Finished the day off at Giles' quay near Dundalk with 16 twite showing down to a few feet for over an hour by the pier. Some of the best views I have ever had and hopefully I will get up there again next week.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Ross's gull

I had just finished some work and about to make some lunch yesterday when I got a text about an adult ross's gull feeding along the bull wall in north Dublin. I threw everything into the car and went hungry as I made my way through lunchtime traffic. As I pulled up the bird was feeding just feet off the rocks below and for the next few hours I enjoyed incredible views as it fed along the causeway.

 The bird was feeding close in to the shore for the whole afternoon, but would regularly get up and fly short distances before settling down again. It remained on show until I left in near darkness.

 I worked on some paintings of the bird this morning, have a few more to finish off yet.
While on the causeway, the 6 snow buntings that had been in the area all winter flew in and landed close by, much to the annoyance of a small group who went off in search after seeing the ross's gull!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

More gulls

 The adult ring-billed gull returned for atleast it's third winter and was showing well in its usual spot today. I was there early enough this morning and despite throwing out a loaf of bread that brought the rest of the gulls down, he sat still glaring down on me. 

Not impressed with my fresh white bread.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Ivory Gull

 I travelled down to wexford on saturday morning in the hope that the ivory gull would still be around. It was still dark when we arrived but we were told it had already been seen flying below the carpark. It took a short while before it was located feeding on carrion and viewable from a muddy field. For the next 4 hours we enjoyed incredible views of this stunning bird. After feeding for all of this time, it shat, preened a little in the water and then flew into the centre of the lake where it continued to preen.

 It turned out that the gull was feeding on a porpoise, quite an oddity in a land locked coastal lake! It just shows how powerful the recent storms have been to push this over the dunes and into the lake.

I didn't spend much time sketching the bird, and regret not having made more of such a great opportunity.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Local gulls

During the week news broke of a caspian gull photographed in a nearby park a few weeks ago, I didn't think it would be still around but I checked a few of last years gull spots. No sign of the ring-billed yet, but I'm sure it will turn up. The following day came news that it was still in the small urban park and within 20 minutes I was watching it. There have probably been less than 15 caspian gulls in Ireland, so to have one so close, and as it turned out, so tame was great.

 It was quite a dark mantled second winter bird, very advanced in moult and instantly stood out.

 With it being so close I was able to go up and see it a few times, and I hope to get up again soon. Tomorrow I'm hoping the Ivory gull in wexford stays another day.

 I was probably a little late for the caspian today, no sign of it on the usual pond so I tried another Park. Plenty of common gulls, 2 great black backs and a single adult lesser black back. I spent a bit of time sketching a young common until the rain arrived.

 This female merlin posed nicely for me in Cahore last week. With short eared owl, peregrine and a hen harrier in the same area I didn't know where to look!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Dusky warbler, I'm having it!

While checking a garden on Aranmore a few weeks back I heard a few lesser throat like chak calls. With out really time to think about the identity, a small warbler popped up infront of me. I could only see the head but I immediately thought dusky warbler. After a stand off, I tried to move slightly to see the whole bird, but it dropped out of view. I tried a chakking a bit and the bird popped up again, but once more, only the head was visible. While waiting for it to re-appear, I scribbled down some notes. Unfortunately, the bird never showed again, only calling a few times from thick cover a few hours later.
It was one I thought would probably be best forgetting about, but I felt the distinctive head and call combined were enough to work with. The notes I scribbled down about the super being sharply defined and ending infront of the bill match all my notes and photos of dusky from Asia, plus everything on a google search. Chiffchaffs' super is more diffuse and usually extends over the the bill, plus the call is completely different. Raddes', although never really thought of with this bird falls down on these features also.

 Dusky warbler from Rudong in May 2013. The head is a little blurred but the well defined super is still obvious. It is not a feature mentioned in any field guides I have, but is in the advanced bird id handbook.
Its good enough for me and I'm having it!

Chiffchaff from Tory Island, 2012, the diffuse super extending over the bill.

Raddes warbler, Beidehe 2010, just like the chiff, diffuse super continues over the bill.

Monday, October 14, 2013


 I was on Aranmore Island off the north west coast for the last 10 days or so hoping for a good selection of migrants. I had planned to spend my time on Tory Island again, but the small island had 3-5 birders out there daily during my planned visit so I decided to find somewhere else. Tory is easily doable in a day by one person, Aranmore was a different story altogether! It was tough work, and I really only had 2 good days of migration. The first produced this wryneck along with a common rosefinch, yellow-browed warbler, pied and 3 spotted flycatchers with a back up of phyloscs. Some north west winds towards the end of my stay produced some great sea-watching, flocks of skuas, a single sabines and little gull. Geese also arrived in big numbers with a single pink-footed and 4 large Canada geese amongst several hundred barnacles.
 The wryneck showed really well most days during its 5 day stay, on the final evening I saw it, it fell asleep so close I wasn't able to focus the camera on it!

 I spent a lot of time sketching and photographing it, the island was very quite most of the time and it was great to have the diversion.