Click on any of the main images for a closer view

Friday, 11 August 2017

Immature Spoonbill, Fertha Estuary

Sub adult Spoonbill, Fertha Estuary, near Caherciveen (with thanks to P.Mullarkey).

This bird appeared at the Fertha Estuary around the 27th July and was seen on several subsequent evenings going to roost nearby with up to 17 Little Egrets. It was also occasionally seen feeding on the estuary. 

At the time, with the age of the bird unknown, it was thought that it might be the adult which has wintered at Cromane for the last eleven winters, but the broad area of pale, rather than yellow on the tip of the bill shows it to be an immature, possibly in its second year, and therefore obviously a 'new' bird.

With thank to P. Mullarkey and D. Kavanagh.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

The two oldest known Barn Owls are from Kerry

 
The Kerry male at his nest box near Tralee in spring 2016. He is by now nine years old, (M.O'Clery).

Ireland's oldest known Barn Owl - covered in a post from last March HERE - has survived the summer, and raised two chicks at his nest site near Tralee. However, his crown is now challenged by the discovery of another male of the same age.

A few days ago, a ringed male Barn Owl, discovered at a nest site near Ballinskelligs, was trapped, and found to have been ringed in 2008 about ten km away, in the same year as our old timer from the Tralee site.

The Ballinskelligs male, now also nine years old, August 2017 (C. Nelms).

Let's hope they both survive the coming winter and keep going. 

Ringing of Barn Owls in Ireland only really started in earnest in Ireland in 2007, so it is possible that we might yet encounter an even older Barn Owl somewhere in Ireland.

See the Irish Raptor Blog HERE for a full rundown on the story of the Tralee bird, and HERE for info on the Ballinskelligs bird.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Yellow-legged Gull, Carrahane

Left) Yellow-legged Gull, with Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Carrahane, 2nd July 2017 (David O'Connor).

Yellow-legged Gull, possibly of the generally smaller and darker race lusitanius (northern Atlantic Iberian form), found by David on 2nd July. David adds, "I'm basing this on jizz, size, primary pattern, proportions [e.g. head shape and attenuated rear end], slightly darker mantle tone, state of moult, shorter tibiae, gonys spot bleeding on to upper mandible, etc." Nice one.

Right) Yellow-legged Gull, with Lesser Black-backed Gull, Carrahane, 2nd July 2017 (David O'Connor).

Right) Yellow-legged Gull, with Lesser Black-backed Gull, Carrahane, 2nd July 2017 (David O'Connor).

Right) Yellow-legged Gull, with Lesser Black-backed Gull, Carrahane, 2nd July 2017 (David O'Connor).

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Astonishing new ID criteria - Dipper

You see a plump, dark brown bird, feeding along a fast-flowing river in the west of Ireland. You glimpse a white breast, straightish bill and a shortish tail. What could it be? There are any number of species which it might be. A young Cormorant? A Dipper? A Ring Ouzel? Or a... well, ok, three species it might be. Ok, it's constantly diving in the whitewater, so probably not Ring Ouzel. Two species it might be then.

So, still perplexed, you have it narrowed down to (a) young Cormorant, or (b) Dipper.

We are happy to reveal here, exclusively, on the Kerry Birding Blog, a 100 percent foolproof, brand new identification feature, which can clinch this identification conundrum, one which has perplexed the finest minds of the finest birders for decades.

Dippers have pink thighs. Young Cormorants don't...

Simple as that.

See the photos below. Identification secured. Enough said. Boom! Back of the net.

Fast-flowing river, dark brown bird, white breast. What could it be? Well, in this case, a young Cormorant, until now, fiendishly difficult to separate from Dipper. Ignore the brownish bird with the red breast, on the left.

So what about this one? Hard to know. But WAIT!... is there a hint of pink there? Near the top of the legs? Location withheld, but not too far away (M.O'Clery).

Young Cormorant! I mean... Dipper!. No! Young Cormorant! No! Must be a Dipper... Wait, no... Ring Ouz... Oh, I don't know. Hang on... Let me have a closer look at the thighs... *  (M.O'Clery).

YES! PINK! 

It's a Dipper!

Thank you Kerry Birding Blog!

Welcome.

* Location withheld, but a different location from the above photo, which gives additional credibility to this whole ID criteria thing by now having a sample size of two.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Worst Hedgerow in Ireland? Kerry has a strong contender

"This is Kerry, west of Dingle. June 2016. Colaiste Íde, Lord Ventry's old estate, now a girls' school. There used to be  approximately 1 km of mature, tall,  dense Blackthorn hedge which divided  up the estate's farm pastures, adjacent  to the C19 arboretum (which  features a South American collection). A heritage landscape. This Blackthorn hedgerow was razed and grubbed up in June 2016 by the farmer, a relative of a member of the school management. He also dumped Tarmac (source was the Dingle car park?) in the field gateway. A year later the tarmac is still visible though the hedge is gone."

What was left of the hedgerow (J.Crosher).

"At the same time the school management felled trees (species not known of course) in the arboretum with no felling licences and razed an area of native Spindle. This is one of the few sites in Kerry where spindle is found and is the food plant of  Spindle Ermine Moth (the only recorded site for this species on the peninsula)."

"Some  residents alerted the four government departments responsible for dealing with these offences and Dingle  Gardai. Kerry County Council, (Biodiversity and Environment staff), NPWS (three staff) and  Forestry Service staff were all involved and at least five staff, maybe one or two more, completed site visits to the farmland and arboretum. Dingle Gardai also responded when one resident was threatened at her home by the farmer. There were no prosecutions and the damage is still evident a year on."

"Contextualised in its heritage landscape I think this (no longer with us so I hope it qualifies) hedgerow is a worthwhile candidate for not only ‘Worst Hedgerow in Ireland' category  but as part of (a) the most investigated simultaneous hedgerow /felling/ dumping offences (b) to the least effect."

"I hope it will go forward to the European Finals."

Best wishes, 
Jill Crosher

Monday, 26 June 2017

Adult Squacco Heron at Ross Castle

 
Adult Squacco Heron, Ross Castle, 25th June 2017 (Ed Carty).

Kerry birders enjoyed the first Squacco Heron in Kerry in over a century at Ventry (see HERE), back in April of this year, so a second within a few months was a real shocker. And a beautifully pristine adult bird too. The bird is frequenting the reed-fringed edges of the lake at Ross Castle, near the boathouse. The fourth county record.

Adult Squacco Heron, Ross Castle, 25th June 2017 (Ed Carty).

Adult Squacco Heron, Ross Castle, 25th June 2017 (Ed Carty).

Offshore seabirds from the RV Celtic Explorer

Gannets, Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Storm Petrels and Fulmars, Porcupine Seabight, 24th June 2017 (Niall Keogh).

From Niall Keogh:
"While surveying the waters off the Blaskets and out to the eastern edge of the Porcupine Seabight today on RV Celtic Explorer we saw:


8 Cory's shearwaters, 17 sooty shearwater, 1750+ Manx shearwaters, 2 Leach's storm-petrels, 300+ European storm-petrels, 1 great skua

1 humpback whale, 2 Minke whales, several groups of common dolphins (including a melanistic individual, see photo, below) and 1 ocean sunfish

.

The Cory's, sooties, Manxies and Euro stormies were offshore from the Blaskets between 17nm (32km) southwest of Inishvickillane to 4.5nm (8.5km) northwest of Inishtooskert.
The Leach's were on the eastern edge of the Porcupine Seabight in 300m or so of water, approximately 45nm (85km) west of Inishvickillane.

 All the best,

Niall Keogh (Seabird Observer for MFRC GMIT/BirdWatch Ireland)
William Hunt (Marine Mammal Observer for UCC/MaREI)
Larry Manning (Marine Mammal Observer for NPWS)"

Storm Petrel, Porcupine Seabight, 24th June 2017 (Niall Keogh).

Cory's Shearwater, Porcupine Seabight, 24th June 2017 (Niall Keogh).

Sooty and Manx Shearwater, Porcupine Seabight, 24th June 2017 (Niall Keogh).

Melanistic Common Dolphin, Porcupine Seabight, 24th June 2017 (Niall Keogh).

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Danny Sheehy, Guardal Wilson

Dingle man Danny Sheehy who, among many things, was a poet and boat-builder, passed away today after his boat capsized off the coast of Spain (news stories on RTE News HERE and the Irish Times HERE.

Danny Sheehy at the helm (with thanks to Ed Carty).

Danny has a special place in Kerry birding folklore as, though not a birder himself, his interest was such that he took a small band of eager birders in his boat from Dunquin out into the Atlantic, on one of the first trips from Kerry to search for Wilson's Petrel, on 7th August 2002. My memory of that trip is one of great excitement and anticipation, along with the good nature of Danny and, when we started to see Wilson's Petrels appearing out of the thick fog off the Blaskets, he was every bit as excited as we were. So much so that Danny later penned a poem about Wilson's Petrel and the connection with that bird, Ireland and the Antarctic.

Here it is reproduced in full, in Irish, and again with an English translation. I suspect if you are fluent in Irish you will enjoy the full subtlety of the poem. Forgive me if I have deciphered the exact spelling of his handwriting incorrectly.

Guardal Wilson
Thóinig sé chugainn
ináir dtreo thíos fé'n (féin?)
giuílt chesigh ós cionu an uisce
ag síor-eitilt go híseal
ar chuina (chuma?) aingil bhig
ag beannú dúinn
ag fáiltiú romhainn
isteach san aoibhneas
gan radharc ar charraig né (ná?) ar thír
siar ó thuaidh ó Inis Tuaisceart

Éan farraige gan tuirse
tagaithe na milte míle slí
ón Antarctic Theas
mar ar thug Wilson i bhfochair
Shackleton fé udeara
aeireaball bán glégeal
dorcha féna sciatháin
go raibh sé difriúil (clifriúil?)
ó ghardail eile.

Spioraid é seo
i bhfuirm éin
ar chuma an aingil
tagaithe i lohfad ó bhaile
ag lorg Crean a charad
curtha sa chré gairid
do'n áit a chonacsa
an spréach i gclabhar ceoigh

Wilson's Petrel
He came towards us
downed himself in our direction
a fume of mist above the water
forever flying low
like a little angel
blessing us
welcoming us
into enchantment
without sight of rock or land
northwest of Inish Tuaisceart.

Tireless seabird
journeyed the thousands of miles
from southern Antarctica
as Wilson, in Shakleton's wake
bore witness
a brilliant white tail
darkness underwing
bearing his difference
from the other petrels.

This is a spirit
in a birds form
in the guise of an angel
tracking far from home
Crean, his friend
buried in the shallow clay
of the place where I beheld
the spark in the mire of fog.

Danny Sheehy, August 2002

Sketches of Wilson's Petrels from that day with Danny (M.O'Clery).

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Glaucous Gull, TBWC

Adult Glaucous Gull, Tralee Bay Wetlands Centre, 5th June 2017 (Ed Carty).

Only the sixth record for June in Co. Kerry, and undoubtedly the same bird as seen nearby on the outskirts of Tralee on 27th May.

Adult Glaucous Gull, Tralee Bay Wetlands Centre, 5th June 2017 (Ed Carty).

Adult Glaucous Gull, Tralee Bay Wetlands Centre, 5th June 2017 (Ed Carty).

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Whitethroat, Black Rock

Whitethroat, Black Rock, 30th May 2017 (David O'Connor).

Whitethroat, Black Rock, 30th May 2017 (David O'Connor).

Still a scarce bird 'out west'.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Dotterel, Mount Brandon

Kilian Kelly climbed Mount Brandon today with a few friends, and was puzzled by a strange call coming distantly from the ridge between Brandon summit and Brandon Peak. Although it was windy and the bird was some way off, the recording was enough to later identify it as a Dotterel call, or more accurately, a disjointed song phrase. The full song of Dotterel is a persistent "Pwit", Pwit, Pwit" quicker than one a second and often lasting 20 seconds or more. The recording of the song on Mt. Brandon is of a brief phase of three calls, a short gap, and three more.



If the player doesn't work in your browser, you can download it from HERE.
Dotterel call, Mount Brandon, 20th May 2017 (Kilian Kelly).

The cadence and tone is similar to eg., that of a Dotterel recorded in Sweden. Hit the play button below to hear it...

Dotterel call, Sweden, Rob van Bemmelen, XC322091. 
Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/322091.

There are lots more example of Dotterel calls and song on the excellent xeno-canto website HERE.

There were five Dotterel seen on the summit of Mount Brandon on 23rd April last, almost a month ago, so it is possible they are still present. You can see photos of them HERE. One is shown below.

Five Dotterel, Brandon summit, 23rd April 2017 (Michael Connaughton, See more on the Irish Birding website HERE).

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Kestrel chicks update

A short clip of the young Kestrels in a nest box on the Dingle Peninsula. They're growing fast!

Kestrel nestlings - junior takes a tumble, Dingle Peninsula, Co. Kerry (M.O'Clery, under licence from NPWS).
You can click on the 'four arrows' symbol to see it full size.

More from this nest site today on the Irish Raptor Blog HERE.

Friday, 12 May 2017

Marsh Harrier, Blennerville

Marsh Harrier, Blennerville, 11th May 2017 (Padraig Webb).

Marsh Harrier, Blennerville, 11th May 2017 (Padraig Webb).

Marsh Harrier, Blennerville, 11th May 2017 (Padraig Webb).

A first-summer bird, going by the bright yellow on the head and throat and the dark forewing.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

More from the Kestrel nest box

Female Kestrel at the nest box on the Dingle Peninsula, 9th May 2017 (M.O'Clery, under licence from NPWS).

Screengrab of female Kestrel inside the nest box, 9th May 2017 (M.O'Clery, under licence from NPWS).

Footage of the female Kestrel brooding her young chicks can be seen on the Irish Raptor Blog HERE.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

First Kerry Kestrel chicks of the year

The first Kestrel chicks of the year were found today at a nest box on the Dingle Peninsula, and are just a few days old.

Kestrel nest box, Dingle Peninsula, with the chicks just visible near the front of the box (M.O'Clery. Photo taken under licence to NPWS).

More information and a short video clip of the chicks HERE, on the Irish Raptor Blog, and there should be some good footage from this site in the coming weeks.

Four Kestrel chicks, Dingle Peninsula, 9th May 2017 (M.O'Clery. Photo taken under licence to NPWS).

Visit at dawn to the Magharees

Kayaking out to sea at dawn on a beautiful summer morning is one of life's more memorable undertakings, even with the slight unease and sense of vulnerability at leaving the shore far behind with nothing but a shell of a few millimetres of polypropylene keeping you and your expensive camera gear afloat.

Kayaking out to the islands at dawn (All photos: M.O'Clery, 7th May 2017).

The Magharees are a series of low-lying, generally flat-topped islands 1 to 2 km north and north-west of Castlegregory. They were first fully surveyed for seabirds in 2006 and 2007 (reference below), a census which was the first to cover all nine of the island group as well as three outliers to the east, in Tralee Bay. It was also the first to conduct nocturnal surveys, resulting in a significant discovery, upgrading the estimated Storm Petrel presence from around 50 pairs, to 1,272 Apparently Occupies Sites, fully 1% of the estimated Irish breeding population.

The main islands of the Magharees group (MOC).
(Click on the image for a closer view).

North-west corner of Illauntannig, where the walls used to be.

Unfortunately for the Storm Petrels, the massive storms of winter 2014/15 have destroyed one of their main nesting areas, the stone walls on the north-west perimeter of Illauntannig. The whole coast here has been eroded by about 2m-3m in just a couple of years of bad storms. It's possible the petrels will nest in the walls a little further inland, and a visit later this summer should see if that is the case.

The only house on the Magharees, on Illauntannig.

Even on the sheltered east side of the island, the sandy beach has been recently eroded to the point that, rather than a comfortable buffer of 10-15m of coastal grassland, the beach is now at the outlying walls of the only house on the island.

Common Tern, Illaunturlough.

The Magharee islands are perhaps best known - ornithologically - for its terns. A quick visit last summer saw the worst year in a decade for nesting terns on the main islands (see post HERE), and unfortunately the picture seems not to have improved sine then. Only 10-15 pairs of Arctic Tern, and perhaps one to two pairs of Common Tern were present on this visit. They had not yet laid eggs, but must be about to, so these figures will need confirming a little later in the summer, though it doesn't look good.

Common Tern, Illaunturlough.

Black Guillemots, Inishtooskert.

This is also the time of year when Black Guillemots are displaying at their best, just before egg-laying. The advantage of an early morning visit is seeing the pairs displaying and flying about together in small groups, before going about their business for the day.

Black Guillemot, Illauntannig.

Numbers of pairs seen were on a par with estimated numbers of previous surveys, so at least the Black Guillemots are doing ok.

Dunlin, Illauntannig.

The Magharees islands and adjoining peninsula are a great place to see arctic-nesting waders well into summer. Grey Plover, Sanderling, Bar-tailed Godwit and Purple Sandpipers are regularly seen well into May, even June. Here, four Dunlin, in immaculate summer plumage, were feeding along the shore. Also seen were eight Purple Sandpipers, six Whimbrel, and three summer-plumaged Sanderling.

We Have a winner!

One of the only species which seems to have undergone an increase on the islands was Lesser-black-backed Gull. The 2006-07 survey found 146-164 pairs, but at least 200 pairs were seen on Illaunammil and Reenfardarrig.

Shags, Illaunturlough

Although 271-284 pairs of Shag were detected on the 2006-07 survey (the highest ever), there seemed to be far fewer now. Nests were not directly checked however, to avoid disturbance, but a more complete count will be needed later in the summer.

Common Gull, Illaunammil. Rather ominously, a bit of what looks like nylon fishing line is hanging out of its mouth... (click the picture for  closer look).

The Magharee islands have been something of a stronghold in the southern half of Ireland for Common Gulls, though this visit showed a drastic reduction in apparent pairs. The large colony of of 38 pairs in 2007 on the south shore of Illauntannig has been abandoned for about four years, but numbers on the other islands visited seem also reduced. Another visit is needed later this season to make sure, but it's not looking good for nesting Common Gulls. The 178-187 pairs recorded in 2006-07 represented an astonishing one fifth of Ireland's breeding pairs, so if this loss of breeding pairs is real, it could be a significant loss.

Oystercatcher, Illaunammil.

Nesting waders, such as Oystercatcher and Ringed Plover, seem to be holding their own. Similar numbers to previous surveys.

Fulmar, Illaunammil.

A great place to see Fulmars flying close by at eye level.

Little Tern pair, Illauntannig.

The jewel in the crown for the Magharee islands must be the nesting Little Terns, one of the rarest breeding seabirds in Ireland. Through the nineties and early noughties, they have varied in numbers from around 15 to 50 pairs on Illauntannig. Last year however, only two to three pairs nested. On this visit, only two to three pairs were again present, though it is still a little early to determine if they will nest yet this year. Courtship is apparent and hopefully egg-laying will follow in the next few days.

Little Tern, Illauntannig.

A beautiful bird. The only colony of this bird in Kerry is hanging on by its fingertips. Little Terns are long-lived birds, and can generally accommodate a bad breeding season or two. But the loss of so many breeding pairs from the Magharee islands recently is surely a matter of concern. 

The causes are a little mysterious. Summer 2016 was a generally poor year for all tern species in Ireland, but two such years in a row are worrying. What is going on here? It seems the nesting beaches have eroded a little, but perhaps not sufficiently to warrant abandonment. The main storm beach on which they have nested in recent years is a little smaller, but similar in character. Disturbance might be an issue, as more human visitors descend on the islands in calm weather, or are there other subtle factors in the waters and fish offshore which are deciding factors?

More to come, as follow-up visits are planned in the coming weeks to try and get some more concrete information.

References: O'Clery M. 2007. Breeding seabirds of the Magharees and related islands, County Kerry, 2006/2007. Irish Birds Volume 8 number 2, pp 179-188. BirdWatch Ireland.