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Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Pink-footed Goose up close... too close?

Pink-footed Goose, Ballydavid, 30th November 2016 (M.O'Clery)

A very confiding adult individual, sticking to the same patch of coastal grassland along the coastal path near Ballydavid for a week or so now, and a beautiful spot to see such a bird.

If Carlsberg did coastal walks... Pink-footed Goose is asleep in lower foreground, slightly left of centre.

Pink-footed Goose, Ballydavid, 30th November 2016 (M.O'Clery).

However, when a goose offers such superlative close views, there must be a modicum of doubt as to its' provenance. This bird had no rings, the wings were perfect, and there were no other physical signs of a captive origin. But tameness in wildfowl can be incriminating. An escaped bird from a collection? Or a wild bird, perhaps injured or unwell, separated from the flock, and the imperative of the need to feed overriding natural wariness? Hard to know, but this bird allowed approach to within about 15 metres after a little judicious 'keeping a low profile'. By that I mean, using contours to mask my approach, hunkering down, and avoiding sudden movements. I didn't mean refusing to log in to FaceBook, not answering the phone and wearing a hoodie in public places.

In most of the areas throughout Ireland, where flocks of grey geese might be found, you would do well to approach in the open to within 300 metres before the whole lot took off in panic.

In any case, whether it is wild or not, it was an exceptionally beautiful place to see such a bird, and in glorious winter sunshine, perfect calm and a flawless blue sky. I didn't offer it any bread in case it came waddling up to be hand-fed, thus destroying the illusion.

Pink-footed Goose, Ballydavid, 30th November 2016 (M.O'Clery).
(Click on the arrows symbol for full HD)

Pink-footed Goose, Ballydavid, 30th November 2016 (M.O'Clery).

Proper Rock Dove, Ballydavid, 30th November 2016 (M.O'Clery).

At least the local Rock Doves had the decency to be wary, and a close look at the plumage of ten or so along the coastal path confirmed there were no rings, no cinnamon-coloured tails, no virus-infected stumps of legs, or wedges of white in the wing. None of them pecked idly at a cigarette butt, or tried to rip the wrapper off a discarded burger. They looked and acted like the real deal...

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Pink-footed Goose, Ballydavid

Pink-footed Goose, Ballydavid, 27th November 2016 (Barbie Begley).

A terrific portrait of a very scarce species in Kerry with typically no more than 4 to 6 individuals each autumn and winter. Many are singletons, and several, like this bird, have turned up alone on short-cropped grass along the coastal fringes.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Eric's Coumeenoole moment...

Great account of an exciting Kerry birding moment. Days like these don't come around too often while birding Kerry headlands in autumn.

Blog by Eric Dempsey - a good days' birding in Co. Kerry, from a pure-bred Dub. Don't let that put you off. He's actually quite complimentary about Kerry, even though he's from Dublin. I know this from first hand experience in this case, as I definitely heard him say (and I will write this phonetically - or 'fone-et-ick-cally'), "Jaysus, dat's ih!... it's a blaydin' Lessser Troath".

Read the blog post on Eric's birdsireland site HERE.

Lesser Whitethroat, Coumeenoole, October 2016 (M.O'Clery). One of the honourable mentions on the blog post.

Friday, 25 November 2016

AGP at Carrahane and Dark-bellied Brent

American Golden Plover, Carrahane, 22nd November 2016 (Kilian Kelly).

American Golden Plover, Carrahane, 22nd November 2016 (Kilian Kelly).

Dark-bellied Brent, Barrow Harbour, 24th November 2016 (David O'Connor).

Dark-bellied Brent, Barrow Harbour, 24th November 2016 (David O'Connor).

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Recent ringed bird sightings in Kerry

There are a increasing number of bird colour-ringing projects around Europe, and the various species sporting the bright jewellery and bracelets are well worth looking out for. With a telescope, or better still, a good photo, it is often possible to get the ring details and have the birds' history within 24 hours. Most of the ringing groups involved are very prompt in responding to emails with sightings of their ringed birds. Most are. The Glossy Ibis ringing groups could do a lot better. 

To think, in the old days, you had to actually write all the ring details in an actual letter, put it in an actual paper envelope thing, buy a stamp, actually lick it, stick it on the envelope, add the BTO's address, or the Natural History Museum London - if you could find that out -, post it, and then wait anything up to 6 months for a reply...

Here's a few recent ones from Kerry. Responses to each of these was within 18 hours.

Ringed first-winter Mediterranean Gull, Rough Point, 13th November 2016 (M.O'Clery).

Kind of fitting that on Remembrance Day this ringed first-year Mediterranean Gull was found at Rough Point. It had been ringed on its' nest 855km distant, at The Somme, in northern France, on 28th June of this year.

Adult Oystercatcher, Kilshannig, 4th October 2016 (M.O'Clery).

This bird was first ringed as an adult while incubating eggs on its nest at Olfus, in south-west Iceland, on 18th May of this year. It was seen there on seveal more dates this summer and successfully reared chicks. The next sighting was 1430km away, at a high tide roost of about 100 Oystercatchers at Kilshannig, in October.

Map showing locations of ringed birds in relation to their re-sighting locations (red dot) in Kerry.

Adult Ring-billed Gull (front) and ringed adult Common Gull, Black Rock, 7th October 2016 (M.O'Clery).

If you can ignore the much rarer gull in the foreground, the bird in the background, a ringed adult Common Gull, has a story to tell. It was colour-ringed as a chick on Lough Mask, Co. Mayo, on 15th June 2010, about 145km to the north. There was one other re-sighting, by David O'Connor, the following year at Barrow Harbour on 27th May 2011. The next reported sighting was at Black Rock in October 2016, though it is quite possible that it is wintering annually on the North Kerry coast.

Ringed adult Mediterranean Gull, Ventry 7th October 2016 (M.O'Clery).

This gull was one of 14 Mediterranean Gulls at Ventry on 7th October, but had been ringed as a third calendar-year bird on its' nest just east of Hamburg, Germany, in May 2015. The nest site is 1350 km from Ventry.

If you see a colour-ringed bird, it is now much easier to report it and to get feedback on the bird, usually within a day or two. See the Cr-birding site HERE. Let us know if you get details back on any Kerry re-sightings.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Genetic identity of Killarney Chiffchaffs

Following from this post HERE, a paper published in the 2015 edition of Irish Birds shows how the first record of a Chiffchaff of the race abietinus was genetically identified at Killarney (along with six Siberian race birds, tristis).

The authors, B.O'Mahony, D.Farrar and M.Collinson, have made the Irish Birds article available to download from this link HERE. Mercifully, for a genetics-based ornithological paper, it is short and accessible.

From a birders perspective, perhaps the most striking finding was the consistent genetic differences between tristis and the other two races, abietinus (the Scandinavian race) and colybita (the common breeding race of Chiffchaffs in Ireland). Many birders would argue that the field characters of the increasing number of tristis Chiffchaffs in Kerry and Ireland in autumn and winter are readily discernible, such birds often easily identifiable from our more regular colybita Chiffchaffs. 

The genetic distinction found in this paper will surely fuel the argument that tristis Chiffchaffs should be 'split' to become a full species in its own right, Siberian Chiffchaff.

It must now be close to the time to get your out your best clicky pen, get comfy in your most comfy of armchairs, and get ready to give yourself a tick. Welcome to the list, Siberian Chiffchaff.

The best clicky pen – BIC 4-Color™ Retractable Ballpoint Pen, Medium Point 1.0mm, Blue Barrel. Black, blue, red and green inks all in one pen. For armchair ticks, red is recommended.

As for identifying abietinus Chiffchaff? The bird trapped at Killarney was only identified as such from the genetic study. Such a bird looked identical to colybita Chiffchaffs in the hand and this individual at least would not have been identifiable as anything other than colybita in the field (though no calls from this individual were heard).

Chiffchaff of the race colybita – a typical 'Irish'-type bird, richly suffused with olive and buff tones, Ross Castle, February 2015 (D.Farrar/B.O'Mahony).

Chiffchaff of the race tristis – a Siberian Chiffchaff, pale, cool coloration, almost pure white underneath, with the only green tones in the wing and tail fringes, 'tobacco-stained' ear coverts and jet black legs and feet with yellow soles, Ross Castle, February 2015 (D.Farrar/B.O'Mahony).

Siberian Chiffchaff, Ross Castle, February 2015 (M.O'Clery).

The paper above also notes the intriguing statistical possibility that, going on the number of unringed Chiffchaffs (of all races) seen in the area after ringing took place, that up to 100 individuals were present.

(Irish Birds journal is available to buy on the BirdwatchIreland website HERE).

Monday, 14 November 2016

AGP still at Carrahane

Juvenile American Golden Plover, Carrahane, 12th November 2016 (Hubert Servignat).

Looks like the same bird as was present at this site in October.

Buzzard, Carrahane, 12th November 2016 (Hubert Servignat).

One of two present. Buzzards are becoming a regular feature in the Ardfert area now, with perhaps three pairs nesting this summer within a few kilometres of the town. The local crows certainly react unfavourably to their presence whereas, in areas where Buzzards are now common again such as Wicklow, they are largely ignored by the corvids.

Buzzard, Carrahane, 12th November 2016 (Hubert Servignat).

A study of the diet of Buzzards in Co. Donegal a few years ago showed that Magpies were one of the most frequent prey items. These two may not have figured that out yet...

Buzzard, Carrahane, 12th November 2016 (Hubert Servignat).

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Gulls galore at Rough Point

Part of the large gull flock around Rough Point, 12th November 2016 (M.O'Clery).

Every now and then, when currents, wind and tides conspire to dump immense amounts of seaweed on the shoreline, huge gatherings of gulls can occur around Rough Point, Scraggane and Fahamore. Today, some 1500 Common Gulls and about 500 Black-headed and Herring Gulls formed a melee fringing the coastline all around the headland. They were also joined by at least 300 Kittiwakes, many of which were rafting offshore, but some of which ventured close inshore to join in the feeding frenzy, offering a rare opportunity to see them in winter, up close and in some numbers.

Best of the bunch was a first-winter Little Gull which joined the throng for just a few minutes before continuing west.

First-winter Little Gull, Rough Point, 12th November 2016 (M.O'Clery).

First-winter Kittiwake, Rough Point, 12th November 2016 (M.O'Clery).

The plumage similarities between first-winter Kittiwakes and first-winter Little Gulls are striking, though of course the two are in completely different size categories, officially known as 'robust-medium-sized' and 'teensy-and-cute.'

First-winter Little Gull, Rough Point, 12th November 2016 (M.O'Clery).

First-winter Kittiwake, Rough Point, 12th November 2016 (M.O'Clery).

Adult Kittiwake, Rough Point, 12th November 2016 (M.O'Clery).

Winter-plumaged adult Kittiwakes develop quite an impressively dark 'shawl' around the hind neck.

Adult Common Gulls, Rough Point, 12th November 2016 (M.O'Clery).

One stand-out Common Gull was what must surely be the same heavily 'hooded' adult Common Gull as was seen at this exact spot in January 2016 (see this post HERE). Of the hundreds of Common Gulls around today, none even came close to the amount of neat, dark markings on the head.

Adult Common Gulls and Black-headed Gull, Rough Point, 12th November 2016 (M.O'Clery). 'Hooded' Common Gull on bottom left.

Purple Sandpiper and Turnstones, Rough Point, 12th November 2016 (M.O'Clery).

Female Eider, Fermoyle, 7th November 2016 (M.O'Clery).

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Singing like a Loon

After almost a month of predominantly easterly winds throughout October, there has been something of a mass arrival of birds from the NW Atlantic in recent days as the winds finally switched back to their more typical quarter from the west. In just the last few days, following brisk north and north-west winds, about 50 Barnacle Geese are now back on the Magharee Islands, while Greenland White-fronted Geese and Pinkfooted Geese have been popping up in unusual places around the country. The relatively small number of Redwings which had returned to Kerry in the past 2-3 weeks have been of the Continental race iliacus, but now flocks numbering up to 500 are descending on the wild Rowan, Hawthorn and Holly berries and are predominantly of the Icelandic race coburni.

Sandy Bay, near Castlegregory, has seen only up to five Great Northern Divers in recent weeks, but now hosts some 35-40. One of these (the individual photographed below) actually launched into a full song, a haunting wail, evocative of deep northern forests and remote mountain lakes in the high Arctic in summer. It is most unusual to hear one singing in Ireland, and most birders I quizzed on it had only had the experience at most a few times in Ireland in twenty or more years.

Adult Great Northern Diver, Sandy Bay, 4th November 2016 (M.O'Clery).

Below, a recording of the breeding calls of a territorial Great Northern Diver from Iceland, similar to the one at Sandy Bay yesterday. An unexpected delight while birding on an Irish coastline and a wonderful sound to hear anywhere. 

For added realism, close your eyes, waft the opened bottle of "Scent-Omatic' Pine-Needle-Fresh Bathroom Fragrance * ', and hit the play button. 

Actually, scratch that... First, open the bottle of "Scent-Omatic' Pine-Needle-Fresh Bathroom Fragrance', hit the play button, THEN close your eyes.

Guaranteed to whisk you 500 miles north, and 6 months back in time.

* Product does not actually exist, and can not be purchased at local retailers, so don't ask for it, unless you want to be embarrassed, but if you don't mind being embarrassed, ask away.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Not in the field guides

This pipit, feeding alone at the edge of a muddy pool at Carrahane, would make you think twice. Not only tame, but very pale, with whitish wing bars and pale underparts... surely something rare? Not so. Just a Rock Pipit very much at the paler end of the spectrum, but one to get the pulse racing, if only for a while. Most field guides only portray the more regular, dusky, swarthy-looking Rock Pipits.

Rock Pipit, Carrahane, 1st November 2016 (Eric Dempsey).

Rock Pipit, Carrahane, 1st November 2016 (Eric Dempsey).

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Some passerine migrants out west

Lesser Whitethroat, Coumeenoole, 31st October 2016 (Eric Dempsey).

Lesser Whitethroat, Coumeenoole, 31st October 2016 (M.O'Clery).

Siberian Chiffchaff, Coumeenoole, 31st October 2016 (M.O'Clery).

Siberian Chiffchaff, Coumeenoole, 31st October 2016 (Eric Dempsey).

Yellow-browed Warbler, Coumeenoole, 31st October 2016 (M.O'Clery).

Two male Blackcaps, Coumeenoole, 31st October 2016 (M.O'Clery).

Blackcap, Coumeenoole, 31st October 2016 (M.O'Clery).