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Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Monday, 29 August 2016

Ferriter's Cove and Burnham Lagoon

Juvenile Semipalmated Sandpiper, Ferriter's Cove, 29th August 2016 (M.O'Clery).

Little Egrets, Burnham Lagoon, 29th August 2016 (M.O'Clery).

The 18 Little Egrets roosting at this site today is the highest yet recorded there, though the highest count for the Dingle Peninsula is of 24 at Trabeg on 14th August this year. Numbers of this species, and Mediterranean Gull (see below) continue to rise, year on year. Though both species were major rarities 25 years ago, there are regular gatherings of 10+ at many sites in the county, especially at this time of year. Numbers of Little Egrets in the whole Castlemaine Harbour area probably now number 100+ in autumn, and Mediterranean Gulls have reached nearly 80 birds at Black Rock in recent years.

Mediterranean Gulls, Burnham Lagoon, Ferriter's Cove, 29th August 2016 (M.O'Clery).

The 24 Mediterranean Gulls at Burnham this afternoon is also a new record for the Dingle Peninsula.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Another SemiP Sandpiper at the Inny

Juvenile Semipalmated Sandpiper, Inny Estuary, Ballinskelligs Bay, 27th August 2016 (Ciaran Cronin).

The second SemiP at this site already this autumn, and it's not even September.

More of the Royal Tern

The Royal Tern has continued its stay in NW Kerry, entertaining perhaps 60 or more birders from all over Ireland and the UK. Some have had to wait many hours though, as the bird ranges along several kilometres of the coast, though frequently returning to Beale Strand. It has already ventured briefly to the Co. Clare side of the Shannon Estuary, thus adding a first record of Royal Tern to a third county.

Video of Royal Tern, Beale Strand, 24th August 2016 (Peter Hines FaceBook page HERE).
Click on the video to see it full-size.

Royal Tern, Beale Strand, 24th August 2016 (Neal Warnock).

Royal Tern, Beale Strand, 24th August 2016 (Neal Warnock).

Royal Tern, Beale Strand, 25th August 2016 (Richard Bonser).

Friday, 26 August 2016

Semipalmated Sandpiper, Ferriter's Cove

Juvenile Semipalmated Sandpiper, Ferriter's Cove, 26th August 2016 (Michael O'Clery).

Juvenile Semipalmated Sandpiper, Ferriter's Cove, 26th August 2016 (Michael O'Clery).

Juvenile Semipalmated Sandpiper, Ferriter's Cove, 26th August 2016 (Michael O'Clery).

Juvenile Semipalmated Sandpiper, Ferriter's Cove, 26th August 2016 (Michael O'Clery).

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Royal Tern... a first for Kerry

Davey Farrar experienced a mind-numbing, adrenaline inducing moment when a roosting tern on Beale Strand in north Kerry lifted it's head, revealing a big orange bill. A Royal Tern, and the first record for Kerry! In fact, it is only the second record of a live bird in Ireland. 

Royal Tern, Beale Strand, 23rd August 2016 (Davey Farrar).

Royal Tern, Beale Strand, 23rd August 2016 (Davey Farrar).
Although adult-like when perched, the open wing shows a dark secondary bar and moulting primaries. Royal Terns take three years to reach maturity, so this would be a second summer, or third calendar year bird, rather than adult.

The first record for Ireland was a tideline corpse found at the North Bull Island, Co. Dublin, on 24th March 1954, while the second was seen for just a couple of hours off Inchdoney, Co. Cork, on 9th June 2009, so the third, at Roonagh Lough, Co. Mayo, six days ago, was a welcome opportunity for twitchers who missed the Cork bird to have another go at this mega-rare tern. Those that travelled to Mayo that evening saw the bird but, while it stayed the night at the Lough, it flew out to sea shortly after dawn, to the despair of a few late-arriving birders. There's a good write-up of the Mayo occurrence on Dermot Breen's blog HERE

The bird found by Davey this morning is the same as the Mayo bird. The distinctive plumage and particularly the damaged right leg are identical, the almost all-dark cap of the Mayo bird now slightly flecked with a little more white as it progresses into winter plumage.

Mass twitch, Kerry style (M.O'Clery).

The sighting triggered what amounts to a mass twitch by Kerry standards, and by 6pm about 30 birders had seen it, including a couple of carloads from Dublin and a group of nearly a dozen or so mostly British birders who had been having a slow seawatching day on Loop Head but, on hearing the news, jumped into an assortment of cars and dashed for the Tarbert Ferry. All who travelled so far have seen the bird.

Royal Tern, Beale Strand, 23rd August 2016 (M.O'Clery).

Royal Tern, Beale Strand, 23rd August 2016. A little more white flecking on the left side of the otherwise black crown than when it was seen in Mayo six days previously (M.O'Clery).

Royal Tern, Beale Strand, 23rd August 2016 (M.O'Clery).

And finally, Davey owns a painting which I did for The Complete Field Guide to Ireland's Birds, which illustrates Gull-billed, Elegant and Caspian Tern, all of which he has seen or found (mostly found) in Co. Kerry. It hangs in pride of place in his hallway, next to his almost equally prized collection of Daniel O'Donnell memorabilia. As of this morning, Royal Tern didn't feature on this painting but this has now been corrected. Davey has thus not only found a first Kerry record, but also trebled the value of his painting with a quick flourish of a biro and a Post-it note. Nice one Davey.

Tern painting, previously valuable, now priceless.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Holy s*%@... Brown Booby off Kerry coast

A photo posted on Facebook today is causing a massive stir among birders as it appears to show the first live record of a Brown Booby in Irish waters, apparently perched on a trawler a few miles off the Kerry coast in the last day or two.

Immature Brown Booby, "off the Kerry coast", date and time uncertain, but believed to be very recent (per Tim Squire's Facebook page).

This follows hot on the heels of the first Irish record, unfortunately of a tideline corpse, found by Ciaran Cronin on 2nd January this year at Owenahincha, Co. Cork (see post on Birdguides HERE.

Tideline corpse of an adult Brown Booby, Owenahincha, Co. Cork, 2nd January 2016 (from birdguides)

More on this as we get it.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Semipalmated Sandpiper again at Reenroe

Semipalmated Sandpiper, Reenroe beach, Waterville, 20th August 2016 (Pat McDaid).

Semipalmated Sandpiper, Reenroe beach, Waterville, 20th August 2016 (Pat McDaid).

Semipalmated Sandpiper, Reenroe beach, Waterville, 20th August 2016 (Pat McDaid).

From photos,this is the same individual as was present at this site from 6th to 8th August. See below, for example, the identical white-edged upper scapular (A), the two adjacent brown-washed lower scapulars (B) as well as identical bill length and shape, facial pattern, etc.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Lesser Yellowlegs and more at Black Rock

Lesser Yellowlegs, Black Rock, 19th August 2016 (David O'Connor).

An adult bird, and the 19th record for Co. Kerry.

Lesser Yellowlegs, Black Rock, 19th August 2016 (David O'Connor).

Lesser Yellowlegs, Black Rock, 19th August 2016 (David O'Connor).

Lesser Yellowlegs, Black Rock, 19th August 2016 (David O'Connor).

Curlew Sandpipers, Black Rock, 19th August 2016 (David O'Connor).

Yellow-legged Gull, Black Rock, 18th August 2016 (David O'Connor).

Yellow-legged Gull, Black Rock, 18th August 2016 (David O'Connor).

Yellow-legged Gull, Black Rock, 18th August 2016 (David O'Connor).

Yellow-legged Gull, Black Rock, 18th August 2016 (David O'Connor).

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Little Stint, Blennerville

Juvenile Little Stint (with Dunlin), Blennerville, 8th August 2016 (Kilian Kelly).

Juvenile Little Stint, Blennerville, 8th August 2016 (Kilian Kelly).

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

GPS tracking of Kerry Barn Owls

Readers of this blog will be well aware of the impact that major roads have had on local Barn Owls with, for example, 14 Barn Owl casualties recorded on the 13.4km stretch of the Tralee Bypass in just two years. BirdWatch Ireland and Transport Infrastructure Ireland have been undertaking a two-year project to try to find out how and why Barn Owls might use or interact with these major roads, and ultimately to address how best to prevent and/or reduce such casualties in future.

Part of this project was to put GPS data loggers on individual owls to track their movements in incredible detail, and several of those owls have been tracked in Co. Kerry.

Adult Barn Owl ready to be released, with the GPS tag in place, July 2016 (M.O'Clery, under licence from NPWS).

The GPS data loggers capture the birds' position, height and speed every few seconds, showing exactly where the birds hunt, roost and rest. 

So, how have Barn Owls been interacting with the major roads in their home ranges? The findings so far have been striking. Have a close look at the image below, tracking part of the movement of a female Barn Owl whose nest in north Kerry is about 2km distant...

 The image above shows the tracking of a female Barn Owl hunting along the grass verges of the Tralee to Listowel road near Kilflyn, crossing the road three times in just a few minutes. Red dots show where the bird was stationary (perching/perch-hunting), orange is slow (hunting) flight, yellow is faster flight (J.Lusby/M.O'Clery, under licence from NPWS).

Of three Barn Owls tagged in Kerry so far, two had major roads in their home territory. In both these, the birds actively hunted for extended periods along the grassy verges of those major roads.

And in an even more striking example, the video below tracks the movements of a female Barn Owl from a nest site just outside Castleisland, Co. Kerry, in late July. The video starts with a view of her nest site, but we join her nearly 2km away, at a farmyard where she has been sheltering from torrential rain for four hours. It is now 1.30 a.m. and, as the rain finally lets up, off she goes. We can track her movements as she perches on trees and hedges and then, she arrives at the Castleisland Bypass...

Video showing the movements of a female Barn Owl along the Castleisland Bypass, Co. Kerry. The GPS device was scheduled to record one fix every five seconds - yellow fixes are where the bird was flying at speed, orange fixes indicate slower hunting flight and red is where the bird was stationary (J.Lusby/M.O'Clery, under licence from NPWS/BTO).
(You can click on the 'four arrows' symbol, bottom right, to see a full screen version of the video)

On one night she hunted along a 1km stretch of the Bypass for 55 minutes, crossed the road six times, and even perched on the central median for 17 seconds! The dangers to the Barn Owl are obvious, however this information also highlights the suitability of road-side grassy verges for foraging. On this occasion  she does does not successfully capture prey, and moves on to forage elsewhere to try and provision the three chicks which are back at the nest site.
Lots more on this, and more to come, on the Irish Raptor Blog HERE

Monday, 8 August 2016

Couple more photos of the SemiP

The adult Semipalmated Sandpiper, found on the 6th August, was again present at the morning and evening high tide roost on the 7th.

Adult Semipalmated Sandpiper, top left, with Dunlin and Ringed Plover, Reenroe Beach, 7th August 2016 (M.O'Clery).

Adult Semipalmated Sandpiper, Reenroe Beach, 7th August 2016 (M.O'Clery).

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Adult SemiP and Little Stint at Reenroe beach

Adult Semipalmated Sandpiper with Dunlin, Reenroe beach, 6th August 2016 (M.O’Clery).

Adult Semipalmated Sandpiper, Reenroe beach, 6th August 2016 (M.O’Clery).

The 46th county record, the fifth in August and only the fourth adult to be recorded in Kerry (with thanks to Ed Carty for stats).

Juvenile Little Stint, Reenroe beach, 6th August 2016 (M.O’Clery).

Juvenile Little Stint, Reenroe beach, 6th August 2016 (M.O’Clery).

Friday, 5 August 2016

Kamchatka Gull in Kerry, a potential first for the Western Palearctic

On 6th March 2014, David O'Connor saw and photographed an unusually dark-backed Common Gull at Black Rock, Co, Kerry. The post with photos from this sighting can be seen HERE.

There was much conjecture at the time that it was one of the eastern races of Common Gull, perhaps even a Kamchatka Gull, though it was thought there might be too little detail on the photos - particularly the flight shots - to be certain.

Putative Kamchatka Gull, Black Rock, March 2014 (David O'Connor).

However, a recent paper published in the journal Dutch Birding has refined and defined the identification of this north-west Pacific sub-species of Common Gull, and David submitted the photos to the authors Peter Adriaens and Chris Gibbons for comment. Their replies, shown below, indicate that the Black Rock bird looks likely to be the first record of Kamchatka Gull for Ireland and the Western Palearctic.

Although currently considered to be one of four sub-species of Common Gull, it also seems increasingly likely that Kamchatka Gull will be 'split' in the near future.

From Chris Gibbins:

Hi. David. 
Hi David,
My immediate reaction on opening these images was jesus christ! It is an amazing bird. You are right that the features you would like to see/resolve are not easy to see due to image resolution, but least my first/gut impressions of the standing bird are in line with what Killian [Mullarney] suggests. Ideally you’d like head/neck shawl to be heavier but the jizz is impressive – even in the flight images.  I will have a proper look at the open wing photos as soon as I have a chance to see what I can make out, and get back to you as soon as I can... Wow...

I’m sure Peter will be in touch, and always has very insightful thoughts…

Many thanks for sharing these images


And from Peter Adriaens:

Hello David, 

Well what do you know - looks like this is a fully identifiable kamtschatschensis, in Ireland!! 

As Chris said, the photos strongly suggest (or even scream) this taxon: it is clearly a bulky Common Gull with rather long forehead, long, strong bill, and strikingly dark upperparts. Head streaking is extensive and the bill pattern (with extensive dusky gonys spot but no dark markings on upper mandible) looks good. It then becomes a matter of finding something in the primary pattern to support and confirm the identification. 

Fortunately, in this bird this is possible, despite the quality of the photos being less than ideal. 

We can pretty much focus solely on the Old World taxa, since nothing in this bird suggests Short-billed Gull really; size, shape, and patterns of head, bill and primaries are all wrong.

Adult heinei does not normally have this distinct head streaking nor such a strong bill. The bill pattern is still within range of this taxon, but is more typical of kamtschatschensis. A major difference from heinei can be seen on the underwing of this bird: only the outermost primary (p10) has largely black underside, while p9 is extensively grey (the grey tongue clearly covers more than half of the length of the inner web). Adult heinei has a largely black p9, so the impression is that of a more extensive black zone on the underside of the outer hand. On the upperwing, the broad white tongue-tip on p7 is also not typical of heinei.

That leaves canus as the other contender. I believe this taxon can already be excluded on the colour of the upperparts alone. My guess is that this was what attracted your attention to the bird in the first place? The bill does not normally look this strong in canus, but the main difference is again in the primaries: the grey tongue on p9 is also a bit too long for (most) canus, but even more useful is the size of the p9 mirror, which is clearly small. It looks to me like the mirror is confined to the inner web; there is definitely a complete black division between the white mirror of p9 and the one on p10. 

It is also clear (in the flight shots where the outer primaries are more or less in focus) that the p9 mirror is only half the size of the one on p10. Canus has larger white mirrors, particularly on p9. A complete black division between the two adjacent mirrors is lacking. There are a few adult canus with small p9 mirror (only half the size of the one on p10 - though still bleeding onto outer web) but such birds have only a (very) short grey tongue on p9.

Also of interest is that a query of our database reveals that the combination of the p5 pattern (lacking a complete black band) and the small mirror on p9 being limited to the inner web occurred in two adult kamtschatschensis from our sample, but in not a single bird from any of the other taxa. 

Despite some minor features being absent which would have made the bird even more typical, such as a pale iris, bright yellow bill, and/or distinct streaking on chin, throat or forehead, I think enough elements are present and visible in the photos to build a strong case for this bird as a Kamchatka Gull - as Killian already suspected...

Cheers, Peter

And remarkable as this is, it seems that possibly this same bird was seen again by Davey Farrar on 4th February 2015, fully eleven months later, in fields not far to the north, around the Cashen Estuary.

Dark-backed Common Gull, near the Cashen, February 2015 (Davey Farrar).

Unfortunately, the photos (in this post HERE) are, according to the authors above, just not quite good enough to resolve whether it too was a (or the) Kamchatka Gull, but so convinced was Davey of the importance of the sighting that he spent the whole of the next week scouring the fields in the area in the hope of clinching it with better views and photos.

More on this as we get it, but congratulations to David O'Connor on this jaw-dropping find. It seems Kamchatka Gull is ready to join the celebrity A-listers of ultra rare gulls seen in Ireland recently, a list which includes Slaty-backed, Glaucous-winged and Vega Gull.

There's an interesting blog on a recent occurrence of Kamchatka Gull in Nova Scotia HERE, and a good overview of the Common Gull races HERE.

Adriaens, P. & C. Gibbins. 2016. Identification of the Larus canus complex. Dutch Birding 38:1-64.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

A rare Kerry chick

While searching a Barn Owl nest in a wall cavity in an old building near Milltown, we came across this newly hatched chick at the nest entrance, next to an unhatched egg. It's not a Barn Owl chick, but rather a Stock Dove chick. The owls haven't nested there this year and the male is currently only occasionally visiting the nest site, but it looks as though the doves are giving it a go. A high risk nest, as this chick would no doubt make a tasty snack for the Barn Owl should he return.

Stock Dove chick, Milltown, 2nd August 2016 (M.O'Clery).

Stock Dove chick, Milltown, 2nd August 2016 (M.O'Clery).

There are probably fewer than 15 pairs of Stock Dove nesting in Kerry, so this really is a very scarce breeding species in the county. The 2007-2011 Atlas shows just a few breeding records. Most of the recent occurrences have been around Milltown, to the east of Tralee town, and a few around Ardfert and Abbeydorney.

Atlas records of Stock Dove in Ireland, with just a handful of breeding records in Kerry.

Stock Doves are cavity nesters and, like Barn Owls, will nest in a suitably large hole in an old building or tree. The nest mentioned above is the square-shaped cavity just above the clump of grass on the wall (M.O'Clery).