Sunday, January 8, 2017

Trumpeter Swan at Nyack Beach State Park - 8th Jan

The first Trumpeter Swan in New York that's been reported a reasonable distance from the city since I've been in the US was reported from Nyack Beach SP last week (they are regular in winter at various sites in the north of the state). Saturday saw our first snow of the year, so traveling was dicey, but Sunday was gorgeous so off I went. The site is only half an hour from home, and the bird was easily found. Tick!

The massive all-black bill is quite obvious...

The bird was quite fearful of people, and moved away once we approached to less than about 100m.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Colour-ringed Mediterranean Gulls at Sandy Cove

19/12/16 - In the roost at the Forty-foot.
Red PRN6: - Ringed as an adult on a nest at Mietkow in Poland on 26/05/15. It was first recorded in Ireland on 03/08/15 at Sandycove, and stayed in the same area until 01/03/16. It was recorded back in Poland on 30/03/16 at Sulislawice, and again on 08/04/16. On 17/04/16 it was at Lobnitz gravel pit in Germany, and was back at Sandycove on 19/07/16. It has been seen there regularly ever since.

This map from the website, run by the Polish ringing group Polring indicates at least 2 records from the Netherlands, which I couldn't find on their database. The German record looks like it might be on passage.

26/12/16 - Close to the shoreline at Sandy Cove.
Green AKAJ: Ringed as a pullus on the nest on 01/07/11 in Hamburg. Its first Irish sighting was on 02/03/12, it stayed until 22/05/12, well into the breeding season. It popped up on Merseyside on 09/06/12, before coming back to Ireland from 18/12/12 to 06/04/13. Looks like a bit of juvenile wandering about in its first year.
It has returned to Ireland every autumn since, first sighting dates vary from 27/06 to 02/08, and it stays in the Sandycove area until returning to Germany (presumably) to breed. It usually leaves in the first week of March (dates vary from 01/03 to 12/03). There is only one record from mainland Europe besides the original ringing record, and that was on 08/04/16 when it was at Niedersachsen in Germany
26/12/16 - Close to the shoreline at Sandy Cove.
Yellow 2X1J: Ringed as a juvenile on 03/12/13 at Sandycove. It stayed in the same area until its last sighting on 12/03/14. Since then it has followed the same general pattern as other Med Gulls, arriving at Sandycove every autumn between 21/07 and 17/10, and staying through the winter until leaving in Spring, with last sighting dates between 22/02 and 18/03
Its breeding ground seems to be on Pionierinsel Island at Niedersachsen in Germany, where it was seen regularly between 10/04/15 and 20/06/15, returning the following year when there were sightings on 14/05/16 and 22/05/16 at the same site. It was identified as a male with territorial behaviour in 2015, and was retrapped and measured in Germany on 23/05/15.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Rogerstown Estuary - 22nd Dec

A morning trip to Rogerstown Estuary in search of winter finches etc. Very birdy. The hedgerows at the top of the reserve had large numbers of birds, including a Yellowhammer, large flocks of Linnets, smaller numbers of Reed Bunting, Common Stonechat, Redwing, Song Thrush, and a Mistle Thrush. Deeper into the reserve were flocks of finches, including more Linnets, many Chaffinch, some Bullfinch, a Goldfinch and a Common Siskin.

The tide was out in the estuary, and the mud was loaded with many hundreds of Lapwings, as well as several species of wildfowl including Eurasian Wigeon, Common Teal, Common Shelduck and Brent Goose. Waders included Whimbrel, a Curlew, Common Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit and Knot.

An interesting feature of the reserve was an enormous roost of at least 300 Wood Pigeons.

Best bird was probably a Raven that flew over, though a Common Kingfisher in one of the ditches was also a nice surprise.

Adult Yellowhammer
Reed Bunting

The farms on the reserve are used for rare breeds of domestic livestock, some of them are pretty freaky to look at...

Monday, December 19, 2016

Dun Laoghaire - 19th Dec

Back in Ireland for Christmas, and back to my favourite coastal site. Most of the usuals present, including Black Redstart, Water Pipit, Black Guillemot, Common Guillemot and Mediterranean Gull.

Female/ immature Black Redstart. I hadn't seen any reports of this species this winter, but I went looking on the off chance and got lucky!
Rock Pipit. This was the palest individual I saw, which contrasted strongly with the rest which are much darker (see next picture). All other plumage details point to Rock Pipit, it's just very pale. Maybe a first winter bird?
A more conventionally coloured Rock Pipit.
Winter-plumaged Black Guillemot
Winter-plumaged Common Guillemot. Nice to see these two together showing the differing structure and posture.

Common Redshank
Eurasian Oystercatcher with a limpet.
Mediterranean Gull. At least 58 spread between the piers at Dun Laoghaire, Sandy Cove and The Forty Foot. Most birds were at the last spot. 
Ring number PRN6. Mediterranean Gull ringed as an adult in Poland on 26/05/2015. It spends most of the year in Ireland, and is most often seen at Scotsman's Bay (probably at the roost at The Forty Foot). It has been seen twice at a coastal site in Germany, as it travels between Ireland and Poland (5 sightings) where presumably it breeds in the summer.

Juvenile Herring Gull 
Juvenile Great Black-backed Gull
Harbour Seal

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Long-eared Owl at Jones' Beach - 10th December

Last weekend a Long-eared Owl was reported from Jones' Beach. It wasn't seen during the week so I assumed it was gone, but decided to try anyway as I hadn't anything better to do. I bumped into a couple of other birders at the Coast Guard station, and we joined up to scour the median. The place was absolutely jumping with Red-breasted Nuthatches. While I was waiting for a flock to approach me so I could get a decent photograph I noticed that their call notes change. Suddenly there were a lot of alarm calls, and I guessed they might have found the owl for me. I moved forward, and sure enough, low down in one of the conifers was a magnificent adult Long-eared Owl.

The views were unobstructed, and absolutely fantastic. It was very alert at first, as I didn't spot it until I was fairly close, but after moving back a bit it settled down.
Sibley suggests that the male has some rufous markings on the belly which I don't see here, so my assumption would be that this is a female. I can find no reference to this in any of several other sources I checked so I'm a bit unsure about that. It is very strongly marked underneath, much more so than those I've seen elsewhere (UK, Dubai).

Red-breasted Nuthatch. Thanks for the heads-up!

Horned Lark in the car park at West End 2.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Short-eared Owl at Shawangunk Grasslands - 26 Nov

Finally managed to get up to Shawangunk at the right time of year for the Short-eared Owls. I got on site at about 3:30. At first the only birds in sight were a fair number of Northern Harriers. I counted a minimum of 7 (4 ring-tails and 3 'grey ghosts') but there were probably more than that. Maybe a dozen or so in total. The first Short-eared Owl showed at about 4:30, followed quickly by others. I saw at least 4 in flight together, so there were almost certainly more than that.

Conditions for photography were not great, nevertheless here is a shot containing no less than 3 Short-eared Owls!
A pair of Northern Harriers.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Western Tanager in City Hall Park - 25th Nov

City Hall Park has really turned it on this autumn with yet another rarity, this time a Western Tanager which was found yesterday morning. Accordingly I caught an early train and got down there before the crowds. I found it quite quickly, in same area it had been seen yesterday. There were a few other birders there, and pretty soon everyone was on the bird. It moved south in the park, staying pretty high in the canopy, and I left it after about an hour. A nice quick twitch!

Female Western Tanager showing the smallish pink bill, white wing-bars, and yellow underparts.
The light was very poor, and the bird stayed high so the photographs are particularly bad, but what a bird!