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Thursday, 31 December 2015

(live) Little Auk and Slavonian Grebe at Reen Pier

Some further goodies to add to the Black-necked Grebe and Glaucous Gull seen off Reen Pier today.

Little Auk, Reen Pier, Ballinskelligs Bay, 31st December 2015 (Pat McDaid).

Slavonian Grebe, Reen Pier, Ballinskelligs Bay, 31st December 2015 (Pat McDaid).

Happy New Year to all birders in Kerry, and here's to some great birds in 2016.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Day-flying Barn Owl near Caherciveen

Although you will see documentaries with footage of Barn Owls gliding around meadows in sunlight, these will not have been filmed in Ireland. Rather, this is most likely to be in Britain where hunting in daylight is much more frequent.

In Ireland, a day-flying Barn Owl is a much rarer sight and often a sign of a bird in trouble. This bird below hunted for at least an hour over rough fields and bog, in mid-afternoon today, near Caherciveen. Chances are that, with the recent incessant heavy rain and strong winds, this bird was close to starving, and was forced to try and take advantage of a rare lull in the weather to hunt.

(with thanks to Annette O'Leary and Pat McDaid).

Barn Owl, near Caherciveen, 30th December 2015 (M.O'Clery).

Often, it is not long before a day-flying Barn Owl will attract the unwanted attention of mobbing crows. In the photo below, the owl is not in flight, but adopting a 'threat posture' by drooping both wings and holding its' head bowed in order to look larger and intimidate the nearby Hooded Crows.

Barn Owl with a nearby mobbing Hooded Crow (M.O'Clery).

See this video clip for more...

Day-flying Barn Owl, in flight, and threat posture (M.O'Clery).

The risk of this bird venturing out during daylight might well have paid off, as it was seen diving into tall grass after prey. Hopefully it caught something tasty.

Barn Owl diving into long grass for prey (M.O'Clery).

Little Auk in early December

Unlike the recent Little Auk rescue (see post below) this one was less fortunate. It was found dead by Chris Nelms on 8th December at 5pm, in sand dunes behind Reenroe beach, Ballinskelligs Bay.

Dead Little Auk, Reenroe, 8th December 2015 (Chris Nelms, with thanks to Pat McDaid).

Ringed Common Gull

Adult Common Gull, Baile an Reannaigh, 15th November 2015 (Michael O'Clery). Fledged from Lough Mask in Co. Mayo in 2007 and now over eight years of age.

Adult Common Gull, Baile an Reannaigh, 15th November 2015 (Michael O'Clery).

From Eoin McGreal, National Parks and Wildlife Service:

"Many thanks for this re-sighting record and photographs of COMGU 294V. This individual was colour-ringed as a chick on Lough Mask on 24/06/2007 and was originaly resighted in Galway that August as a dispersing juvenile. It has subsequently been resighted, probably as a breeding adult, back on Lough Mask but not at its natal colony. The islet where it has been resighted is primarily a breeding Black-headed Gull colony so it is quite possible that it has also returned in subsequent years but has not been resighted as this site is difficult to scan for colour-ringed birds; 

Most of our resightings of colour-ringed Common Gulls have been in counties Galway and Clare so it is good to know that at least some of them are crossing the Shannon Estuary."

If you see any similarly ringed Common, or Black-headed Gulls, please do let Eoin know.
More info on the ringing project, in PDF format HERE

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

American Wigeon and Black-necked Grebe

Male American Wigeon, Inny Estuary 16th December 2015 (Chris Nelms, via Pat McDaid).

This bird was seen briefly at the Inny Estuary on 13th December last, but unfortunately the observer, Pat McDaid, had no camera to hand and was unable to return in subsequent days. Fortunately Pat had tipped off Chris Nelms, who managed photos of the Wigeon flock on 16th December, and the results showed this fine male American Wigeon.

American Wigeon occurrences have declined in Ireland over the past decade, and this is the first in Kerry since an adult male was seen with the large Wigeon flock at Inch, on 15th October 2009.

Black-necked Grebe, Reen Pier, Ballinskelligs Bay, 28th December 2015 (Pat McDaid).

There's every chance this is a returning bird, as one frequented this very spot for several months last winter - see e.g., this post HERE

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Winter number 10 for Spoonbill

10 winters, and going strong. The adult Spoonbill at Cromane is surviving the storms well, occasionally commuting across the bay to Inch.

Adult Spoonbill, Cromane, 27th December 2015 (Michael O'Clery).

See some information about long-staying Spoonbills HERE

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Azorean Gull

Adult Azorean Gull, Cashen, 22nd December 2015 (D.Farrar).

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Siberian Chiffchaff, Ross Castle

Siberian Chiffchaff, Ross castle, 16th December 2015, one of two birds present.(D.Farrar).

Friday, 11 December 2015

Little Auk video

Some video of the Little Auk released near Camp yesterday

Little Auk, near Camp, 10th December 2015 (D.Farrar).

Click the 'four arrows' symbol on bottom right to see the full size video.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Little Auk release

This Little Auk was picked up yesterday evening in the brightly lit yard of a poultry farm near Knocknagoshel, at least 30km from the nearest coast. The owner Edwin Stryker took the bird into care and kept it overnight. This morning it was taken to the coast near Camp for release, in a sheltered bay, with plenty of potential feeding nearby and access to open ocean.

Little Auk, at the release site near Camp, 10th December 2015 (D.Farrar).

The Little Auk had perked up during the night, and by morning it was obviously ready to release.

Little Auk, near Camp, 10th December 2015 (M.O'Clery).

Ageing and sexing Little Auks is very difficult, even in the hand. Characteristics of bill depth and wing measurement can be used, though only with an accuracy of 83%, according to a 2005 paper on the subject from the Seabird Group. Just to add another layer of detail, "White or white-tipped feathers in the lesser primary coverts (LPC) occurred more frequently in juveniles than in adults, while the reverse was true for the greater secondary coverts (GPC). Only 74% of the Little Auks were properly aged on [this] basis." 

If you want to explore this vexed and complex issue, make yourself a stiff drink, keep the Hedex tablets to hand, then download and read the article (in PDF format) from HERE, or alternatively, shrug your shoulders and say, "Ok then, but it's still definitely a Little Auk..."

Little Auk, Camp, 10th December 2015 (D.Farrar).

Little Auk, Camp, 10th December 2015 (M.O'Clery).

The bird was placed on a rock with a gentle slope onto the water, and after a few minutes it stretched a little, then shuffled into the incoming tide and started to make its' way out to sea.

Little Auk, Camp, 10th December 2015 (M.O'Clery).

We last saw it heading strongly away from the coast, occasionally flapping, and diving. A happy ending to this bird's (mis)adventures. Let's hope this male/female/ youngster/veteran made it.

Big shout out to Edwin for taking this bird into care - a lot of people wouldn't have bothered. Good man.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Little Auk & Glaucous Gull

Adult Glaucous Gull, Dingle, 8th December 2015 (M.O'Clery).

Adult Glaucous Gull, Dingle, 8th December 2015 (M.O'Clery).

 A big, beefy adult Glaucous Gull, the Tony Soprano of gulls. Don't mess with this one.

Little Auk, near Castlegregory, 8th December 2015 (M.O'Clery).

Little Auk (same as above), near Castlegregory, 8th December 2015 (M.O'Clery).

Little Auk (same as above), near Castlegregory, 8th December 2015 (M.O'Clery).

And at the opposite end of the size spectrum, one of two Little Auks seen at Sandy Bay this afternoon, both alighting briefly on the sea before heading N and out of the Sandy Bay area. Before something altogether more enormous appeared.

Friday, 4 December 2015

White-winged gulls, near the Cashen

The brown-washed primaries and tail band on this bird are characters of a Kumlien's Gull, this bird seen in fields near the Cashen Estuary, 30th November 2015 (D.Farrar). 

A more typical first-winter Iceland Gull, one of two present, also in fields near the Cashen Estuary, 30th November 2015 (D.Farrar). 

Regulars at TBWC

First-winter Iceland Gull, Tralee Bay Wetlands Centre, 4th December 2015 (Ed Carty).

Second winter Ring-billed Gull, Tralee Bay Wetlands Centre, 4th December 2015 (M.O'Clery).

A couple of 'the regulars' at the TBWC.

Monday, 30 November 2015

Black Brant, The Trench

Adult Black Brant (left), 'The Trench', Sandy Bay, 30th November 2015 (Michael O'Clery). 

Adult Black Brant, 'The Trench', Sandy Bay, 30th November 2015 (Michael O'Clery).

Two Black Brant were seen in Kerry earlier in the autumn, during the annual Brent Goose Survey, one at Barrow Harbour and one at the same time at Spa, near Fenit. As in previous years, the several thousand Brent Geese frequent those areas for the early part of the winter, dispersing more widely in Tralee Bay and beyond from mid-winter onwards. Numbers of Brent at Sandy Bay have increased greatly this past week and the flocks also now include at least one of the Brants.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Lesser Scaup, plural

If you fancy an eye-strainer of a challenge, spot the two Lesser Scaups in these photos. One an adult, the other a first-year male.

Lesser Scaups with Tufted Duck, Lough Gill, 26th November 2015 (D.Farrar).

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

New N.E.W.S. news

From Helen Boland, BirdWatch Ireland

Hello Kerry Folks,
As you may know, the coastal Non-Estuarine Waterbird Survey ‘NEWS’ is being carried out this winter and the survey period runs from 1st December through to 31st January. It involves walking a section of coast (usually between 2 and 4km) just once during the survey period within three hours either side of low-tide and recording all waterbird species along it on the sea, the intertidal and the land. We need some help in Kerry and I’m wondering if any of you like to take on a sector of coast to survey?

For your interest I’ve attached a screen grab of the current Kerry coverage situation to date to give you a sense of where current gaps are in Kerry. The blue dots are the sections of coast that have been assigned to a counter (thanks to Kilian and Richard), the red dots are the priority sectors of coast that we need to find coverage for e.g. the same sectors that were covered 9 years ago during the last NEWS. The yellow dots are lower priority so we’re trying to allocate the priority red dots first.

You’ll see the main areas where we need help are at Caherciveen/Valencia; Dingle Peninsula; and the north Kerry coast south of Ballybunion.

The last ‘NEWS’ took place 9 years ago. This time we have teamed up with the BTO and observers can select their sections of coast through an online system. It means you need to register for a username and password but it is very straightforward, but if you have ever used BirdTrack or Atlas before you can use the same log-in details.

We’re trying to get an idea of where the real gaps are (rather than ones that people will probably cover but just haven’t gotten around yet to officially signing up to) so we can target our own fieldwork. If you would like to take on a sector it would be great if you could log on through the BTO online system (details below) and request your sector/s that way. Much more detail of the sectors is available there. Or else drop me a line if you have any queries at all.

Thanks, and I hope all is well!

Tralee Gulls

First-winter Iceland Gull, Fels Point Hotel car park, Tralee, 21st November 2015 (Ed Carty).

First-winter Iceland Gull, Fels Point Hotel car park, Tralee, 21st November 2015 (Ed Carty).

Second winter Ring-billed Gull, Tralee Bay Wetlands Centre, 21st November 2015 (M.O'Clery).

Probable 'Viking' Gull, Tralee Bay Wetlands Centre, 21st November 2015 (M.O'Clery).

Probable 'Viking' Gull, Tralee Bay Wetlands Centre, 21st November 2015 (M.O'Clery).

Although superficially like Iceland Gull, this first-winter white-winged gull has a strangely large head, a coarsely marked mantle, and a rather 'snouty' look, with a small 'piggy' eye set high and back in the head, features more consistent with a Glaucous Gull rather than the dainty, round-headed appearance of typical Iceland Gulls. This would seem most likely to be a Glaucous x Herring Gull hybrid (a so-called 'Viking Gull'), though a smallish one, and not terribly obvious as such from any distance. Anyone prepared to offer an opinion on this one?

Friday, 20 November 2015

Continuing to thrill the GBT community

Gull-billed Tern, Tralee Bay Wetlands Centre, 20th November 2015 (Davey Farrar).

The A-list celebrity tern gave point-blank views at the Wetlands Centre today.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Gull-billed Tern, Tralee

Most of us thought the Gull-billed Tern had finally had enough and moved on - no reports for nearly a week - but no! 

There it was again at the Tralee Bay Wetlands Centre today, even roosting in the nearby gravel car park at Fels Hotel, site of the world famous Rose of Tralee Festival, held annually in a rather large marquee in, let's face it, a gravel car park. Though they do put a few nice potted plants about the place and a good bit of red carpet.

Yes, this out-of-season super-rarity was standing on the very ground where this remarkable event happened. The very spot where Lovely Lady, Edel Buckley from Cork, bragged it up, revealing "...I am treasurer of the Donoughmore Tug of War Club.", and
 Just-as-Lovely Lady, Orla Gately from Roscommon, betrayed her raw, naked ambition by telling us, "My main achievements include receiving June Employee of the Month in Hodson Bay Hotel in 2011 where I worked as a waitress." (More here)

There was some sort of sprat run in the nearby river, perhaps explaining the tern's interest upriver from Blennerville. It was too late for the Rose of Tralee in any case.

Gull-billed Tern, Tralee Bay Wetlands Centre, Tralee, 19th February 2015 (David O'Connor).

Great record for the Wetlands Centre. Only another ten days to beat the record for the longest staying Gull-billed Tern, and might it even grab the 'first for December' accolade? It survived the two ferocious recent storms, so both seem possible again.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Storm-blown birds

Winds of over 100km per hour were recorded on the Kerry coast yesterday, and many birds have been blown onto our shores, some of which were making their way back out to sea today. 6 Bonxies were seen heading west off Rough Point this morning, while a Leach's Petrel, 3 Pomarine Skuas and 2 Sooty Shearwaters flew west past Brandon Point.

First-winter Glaucous Gull, near Sandy Bay, 18th November 2015 (M.O'Clery).

First-winter Glaucous Gull, near Sandy Bay, 18th November 2015 (M.O'Clery).

First-winter Iceland Gull, Blennerville, 18th November 2015 (D.Farrar).

First-winter Iceland Gull, Blennerville, 18th November 2015 (D.Farrar).

The eye position on this bird is unusual, set high and towards the rear, more like a Glaucous Gull. Might there be a hybrid element to this bird?

Pomarine Skua, off Scraggane, 18th November 2015 (M.O'Clery).

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Grey Phalarope at the Cashen Estuary

Grey Phalarope, Cashen Estuary, 17th November 2015 (D.Farrar).

The faint streaks along the flanks and some remaining dark-centred coverts are the most obvious indicators that this is a first-winter bird, no doubt grounded by the ferocious gales this afternoon.

Grey Phalarope, Cashen Estuary, 17th November 2015 (D.Farrar).

Monday, 16 November 2015

Free talk, Thursday 19th Nov., Curlews and Barn Owls

You are invited to a talk at the Tralee Bay Wetlands Centre, Tralee, at 7.30pm on Thursday 18th November, hosted by the Irish Wildlife Trust. Everybody welcome, admission free.

Curlew at Dingle Harbour.

Curlew numbers have been declining lately, but how are they faring at breeding sites in Kerry and beyond? Michael O'Clery, took part in the national Curlew Survey this summer, covering all potential Kerry nesting sites, and tells us what he found.

Barn Owl over the Tralee Bypass

Also, Barn Owls have been in the news in Kerry, due to collisions with vehicles on the Tralee Bypass. Why is this happening, and what might be done? Michael has also been working on a year-long project to answer these questions, and his findings will be presented at the talk for the first time.

Come along, and bring a friend.

The Kerry Irish Wildlife Trust Facebook page is HERE

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Killorglin leads the way on Swift nest boxes

Swifts are rapidly disappearing from towns and villages all over Kerry. The larger conurbations such as e.g.  Tralee, Killarney and Listowel still have perhaps tens of pairs, but numbers everywhere are dropping fast. Smaller towns such as Castlegregory and Caherciveen have precious few left, and at the rate of decline, might well have none in years to come.

A flock of Swifts ( User:Keta)

Thanks mainly to the hard work of James Daly and the Killorglin Tidy Towns, the town of Killorglin can boast 12 Swift nest boxes now in place, in theory capable of hosting up to 35 Swift nests. There are three sites around town and one outside town where the boxes have been located, each with built-in speakers to play the sounds of Swifts next spring, in order to draw in curious young Swifts to investigate and hopefully nest.

Three of the 12 Swegler Swift boxes in place in the centre of Killorglin. Ideally situated, and with room for expansion if, or hopefully when the Swifts move in. Each box can hold three nests.

There's a nice little free booklet on Swifts, available to download HERE. Well worth a read.

and a lot of good information on the national Swift Conservation Project HERE

A great project for Tidy Towns or interested individuals.