Sunday, July 25, 2021

Whitethroat Recovery

In recent years Whitethroats with their scratchy song have slowly recovered throughout the country. Even in Kerry birds have been recorded this year after an absence of many decades since the big crash in the 1970's. Throughout the country this year, I have never heard or seen so many birds. Hopefully the tropical weather we have received over the last few weeks, will help these warblers and many more to produce enough young and return to Africa for the winter, coming back next year in droves to breeding grounds throughout Ireland. 

Whitethroats John N Murphy

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Lapwing Return

Over the past three weeks while travelling to different parts of the country, I have noticed that large flocks of Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus have begun to move out into open fields after leaving the security of their breeding grounds in bogs and lakeshore edges. Its lovely to see these young birds as seen below, beginning to venture out into the green fields and start developing their own characters as we move closer to the end of our breeding season.

Immature Northern Lapwing feeding in open fields John N Murphy

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Smews in Spring

Back in May a pair of Smew frequented Gortglass Lake near Kildysert, over a three day period. At the time it looked like they might be settling in to breed.  But after weeks of constant monitoring they could not be re-located. They obviously headed back to Scandinavia after going off course during their northerly migration.

A pair of Smew at Gortglass Lake John N Murphy

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Pink Stink

Rose-coloured Starling adult John N Murphy

Here is another one of the many Rose-coloured Starlings that have turned up in Clare and throughout the country in 2021. As this summer has seen an exceptional eruption of Rose-coloured Starlings out of Europe to western countries, they are now so plentiful they are regarded as Pink Stink. There was once a time in the not so distant past that this species was considered a rare bird to our shores, but in recent years with birds breeding in parts of central and western Europe they are almost considered common and what some twitchers would refer to as gank.  In Clare we have had 15 records to date. See below.

The first record for Clare was of an adult bird shot at Roxton, Corofin in 1808.  The next was another bird shot in the county during the summer of 1830. It is odd that all the Clare birds have been adults with no juveniles recorded here yet.

In the 1900’s there were two records. One adult male was shot at Sixmilebridge in the first week of July 1937.  The next bird also an adult was in a my own back garden when I lived at Tradaree Court, Shannon Town on 29th July 1989. 

The majority of records came in during 2000’s.

One adult was at Spanish Point from the 2nd to 19th of July 2000.

One adult was at Marrion Avenue, Ennis from the 1st to 12th July 2001.

One adult was seen on rooftops near the Half Way House Pub, Ennis from the 19th to 25th August 2007. 

One adult was at Spanish Point on 13th June 2012.

One adult was at Kilkee on 21st August 2017.

One adult was at Connolly on 18th July 2018. 

One adult at Kilcredaun on 20th June 2019. 

One adult at Hags Head from 1st to 4th June 2020. 

One adult at Kilcredaun from to 1st to 3rd June 2021. 

One adult was at Ogonelloe, east Clare on 15th June 2021.

One adult at Carrigaholt from 16th & 18th July 2021.

Adult Rose-coloured Starling at Carrigaholt with orange pollen on its head from drinking nectar from New Zealand Sea Flax plant along the roadside John N Murphy

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Richard's Pipit

This Richard's Pipit was found in an undisclosed site in Limerick County today by Davey Farrar. It is a first county record and an excellent winter find of this eastern European vagrant. Here are a few distant shots.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Lesser Kestrel

How many times have you heard it said, “work gets in the way of birding” or “a bad days birding is better than a good days work”.  All true, but if it was not for my job and my work, I would never have come upon this Lesser Kestrel on the west coast of Clare. 

Since October, the company I am employed by have been contracted for eight days fieldwork a month, in and around the Kilkee area of west Clare. As I live in the county and have years of bird knowledge built up of this region, I was sent to cover these sites as part of my work. Every day on my lunchbreak, I head to Kilkee to have my coffee and sandwich. This gives me the chance to do a small bit of birding. I have developed a routine, which I stick to rigidly, around the horseshoe bay in the middle of town and outlying coastal cliffs.

On Monday the 9th November as I was almost finishing my lunch and routine, along a coastal loop drive just south of Kilkee, I noticed an adult Raven basking on a sunny embankment.  This looked like a perfect photographic opportunity.  I drove down the 100m to the car park at Dunlickey Castle, where this bird was sitting. I was hoping to use my van as a hide to get shots of this Raven, and as I approached the bird it was giving out to a Kestrel sitting on a pole nearby.  Needless-to-say, the Raven flew off within seconds of my arrival, to my disgust, leaving the Kestrel sitting on the pole.

I then concentrated my camera on this Kestrel. The bird didn’t seem to be bothered by my presence and was tame at times. As I snapped off a couple of shots the bird flew from the pole down to an exposed earthen bank.   Once on the ground the bird began to dig out worms and started chewing them on the grass close by.  I kept shooting and when the bird was finished eating the worm, it flew across the car park to sit on a tourist display board. I moved the car to get into a better position to continue photographing the Kestrel.  It was only at this point, as it sat in the sunshine, that I noticed the colour of the toes.  The toes stood out against the rusty edge of the frame of the sign and I could see they were not the normal black claws, that would be found on a Common Kestrel.  The head of the bird and overall appearance was pale.  I found this unusual as I had not seen a Common Kestrel this pale ever.  The bird then started jumping from the sign to the ground catching more worms and eating them on the deck.  It started to become a little livelier chasing insects and worms on the tarmac of the car park, before flying back up to the pole again.  I spent more time shooting off lots of photos and even got some small bits of video footage.   Now I could see that the wings were longer, the tail had grey colouration to the upper-parts, and I put it down to be a young male Kestrel. After about 15-20 minutes the bird flew off north along the nearby cliffs and out of sight.

I left the area and headed back to work wondering was the bird I just encountered a pale Common Kestrel or what?

Once back at my place of work and between showers of rain, I got a chance to take a closer look at the bird in question on my camera. I knew that Lesser Kestrels had pale/yellow toes, as I had seen hundreds in the past in Mediterranean countries. But I was also cautious that the bird I had just observed could be a partially albino or a leucistic type Common Kestrel, especially given the paleness around the head with a small bit of warm fawn running through the feathers. Looking at spread winged photos of the bird I just encountered, and measuring the wing,  P10 looked the same length as P7, (as outlined in some ID forums), which was perfect for Common KestreI. I was confused given other features such as the toes and wing markings and length, were closer to Lesser Kestrel rather than that of Common Kestrel.

I What’s App’d a few images to Killian Mullarney of the toes etc. to get his expert opinion and advice. He replied saying, “the claws on that Kestrel are remarkable! I have never seen this in Common Kestrel. Would love to see the real shots, when you download them, and I’m sure Dick Forsman would be interested too”. I forwarded more images to Killian by What’s App after this text, but due to his workload and child minding that afternoon, he did not get a chance to look at them till later that night.

The rest of the afternoon I drove myself insane, toing & froing as to which Kestrel species I had just been watching. Work consumed me for the rest of the late afternoon, and I didn’t get home till approximately 18.30 that evening. At about 19.40 before I even had a chance to download the photos from my camera to the laptop, I got a text and a phone call from Killian.  He had just got the chance to look at the series of photos I had sent earlier on in the day and was extremely apologetic that he hadn’t got the chance to scrutinise them properly. At this point he was very happy that the bird in west Clare was indeed a Lesser Kestrel.  During our conversation he was happy to call this bird a Lesser Kestrel, but the decision was made at this time to forward the shots to Dick Foresman immediately for further confirmation.   Dick replied before 20.15 stating that no doubt whatsoever that it was a Lesser Kestrel.

To my delight and disgust at the same time, I thought I had a first Irish record. But I was soon set straight. There had been one previous record of a male Lesser Kestrel 130 years previously, within a day to the month of this bird near Kilkee. One male was at Glenamuck, south Dublin from 8th to 10th November 1890 and remained over the winter feeding on ploughed fields before being shot on 17th February 1891. A sad end to such a fantastic looking bird. Hopefully the west Clare bird won’t come to such an ending.  Unfortunately, it was not seen again after this date despite extensive searches by local birders over that week.  I now look forward to going to work every day, no matter how hard it seems getting out of the bed in the morning.

I would like to thank Killian Mullarney and Dick Foresman for their help with this bird and also my employers Malachy Walsh & Partners.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Pectoral Sandpiper

I was in Tacumshin, Wexford on Monday and caught up with one of the two Trans Atlantic vagrant Pectoral Sandpipers, that have been lingering on a small flash flood south of the main lake.  Here are a couple of images of one of the birds which was fairly tame.
 Pectoral Sandpiper at Tacumcshin © John N Murphy