Thursday, December 31, 2015

Ring-billed Gull in Blackrock - 31st Dec

The last day of the year saw me back at Blackrock saltmarsh, the spot I visited on 1st January this year. The waders roost was fantastic, with huge flocks of a number of species. Most numerous was European Golden Plover, with at least 10,000 birds. There were also large flocks of Lapwing, Red Knot, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Oystercatcher and Dunlin. Other waders included Common Redshank, Ringed Plover, Turnstone and Little Stint. The roosts had attracted predators with singles of both Merlin and Eurasian Sparrowhawk seen.

Ducks and geese were mainly represented by Brent Goose, with quite a few Common Shelduck and a small group of Common Goldeneye. A group of 10 Pink-footed Geese passed overhead but didn't stop.

Bird of the day was a 2nd winter Ring-billed Gull on the main beach in front of Blackrock town. Other gulls included a couple of Lesser Black-backed, half a dozen Greater Black-backed, Herring, Common and Black-headed.

2nd winter Ring-billed Gull. Quite a surprise finding this little beauty. The first one of these I saw was in Galway in 1998, but I've seen plenty since then!

Adult winter argenteus Herring Gull to compare with the Caspian Gull in Tallaght. Much shorter primary projection, pale eye, pink legs and pale mantle

3rd winter graellsii Lesser Black-backed Gull

1st winter Herring Gull

Common Gull
Part of a huge flock of European Golden Plover that roost on the flats at Blackrock
Bar-tailed Godwit with a ring, sadly unreadable!
Part of a flock of 10 Pink-footed Geese that passed overhead while I was gull-watching at the seafront of Blackrock town.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

'Caspian' Gull at Sean Walsh Park - 24th & 29th Dec

For the last 3 years a Caspian Gull has been reported hanging around Sean Walsh Park in Tallaght. I only found out about it recently from, so have spent quite a bit of time over the last week looking for it. I caught up with it briefly on Christmas Eve, and again for a prolonged period yesterday, thanks to meeting up with an Irish birder (Dave Fox).

First seen as a juvenile, this 4 year gull is now in adult winter plumage for the first time, and the most striking thing initially is the darker shade of the mantle. It really stands out from the argenteus Herring Gulls it is most similar in size to, looking quite a lot like a Scandanavian argentatus Herring Gull. This isn't a normal feature of Caspian, but is within the range of variation. Note the long primary projection, a feature of Caspian.
It has a nice upright stance most of the time, and is relatively easy to pick out at some distance in profile when with other large gulls.
The legs are greyish which fits Caspian, not pink as would be expected in a Herring Gull
It has dark olive-coloured eyes, and only light streaking on the hind-neck. The gonys is also quite small, though the bill seems shorter and deeper than I expect from Caspian.
All in all, a smart bird with all the features you'd expect from a Caspian Gull...
...until it takes off, and the wing pattern is completely wrong. While the white mirror on the final primary (P10) is present, there's nothing at all on P9...
...and now it looks like an argenteus Herring Gull. A strange bird to be sure. Currently several local birders are carrying around little plastic bottles to try and collect a fecal sample so a definitive ID can be made. The wonders of modern birding techniques...

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Dun Laoghaire, west pier - 27th Dec

The weather over Christmas has been pretty rubbish, so when Sunday was forecast to be dry I decided to head down to Dun Laoghaire harbour. All the usuals were there, including quite a few Black Guillemots inside the harbour, Common Guillemots offshore, several Mediterranean Gulls mixed in with the Common Gulls, Kittiwakes, and other commoner species. I finally caught up with the Black Redstarts too, with one popping up next to the car in the west pier car-park.

Winter plumaged Black Guillemot
Mediterranean Gull
Harbour Seal

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Pink-footed Goose at Rogerstown Estuary - 24th Dec

A very blustery day, but dry and clear so I headed back to Rogerstown. I had much better luck with the Pink-footed Geese this time, as well a surprise in the form of a Sparrowhawk. Both were seen from the northern hide, which has a very muddy access, and one that gets flooded at high tide.

Better views of the Pink-footed Goose today

The commonest goose here is still 'Pale-bellied' Brent Goose.

Common Redshank
Black-tailed Godwit
Common Greenshank

Eurasian Curlew

Monday, December 21, 2015

Rogerstown Estuary, Turvey Hide - 21 Dec

My main target for the day was to get to Rogerstown Estuary. It's a known spot for winter geese and other estuary birds, and not too far from home. The walk from the car-park to the hide is through fallow fields, which attracts large flocks of winter finches. Linnets numbered in the hundreds, but there were also Greenfinch, Chaffinch and Goldfinch. The hide itself was closed, but no matter. The tide was put, and the mudflats had a nice variety of waders. Mainly Curlew and Redshank, but Greenshank and Black-tailed Godwit also present. The Pink-footed Goose that have been here since October were easy to find, grazing on the north side of the estuary, opposite the hide. A large flock of Brent Goose were in the fields west of the hide, along with hundreds of Lapwing. Ducks were mainly Eurasian Wigeon, Common Teal and Common Shelduck.

Several raptors showed up, including a Peregrine hunting along the north shore, 2 Common Buzzards soaring over the woods to the west, and a Merlin streaking through as I walked back to the car.

Pink-footed Goose. Part of a group of 8 that have been here since October


Sean Walsh Park, Tallaght - 21 Dec

My first day back in Ireland for Christmas. The Irish Birding website had news of a couple of rarities nearby, so I dropped in to Sean Walsh Park. First up was a magnificent juvenile Iceland Gull in a mixed flock that was mainly Black-headed Gull, with a couple of dozen Herring Gulls. No sign of the Caspian, but I did pick out a Common Gull, which was nice. The woods had several finch flocks, which were mainly Siskin, but also included a couple of Common Redpoll and a Goldfinch. Other birds included singles of Grey Wagtail and White Wagtail.

1st winter Iceland Gull

Common Gull 
White Wagtail

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Long-billed Dowitcher at Santapogue Creek - 6th Dec

Over a month ago a group of Long-billed Dowitchers appeared at a site on the south shore of Long Island, the creek at Santapogue. Today I finally got down there to see for myself, and very quickly found a group of 11 birds. Also present were 8 Greater Yellowlegs. While watching the shorebirds my attention was drawn first to the distinctive call of a group of 6 Fish Crows flying overhead, and then the raucous calls of several flocks of Monk Parakeets.

Long-billed Dowitcher

Several noisy flocks of Monk Parakeets passed by as the sun started to warm everything up...

...I later found them feeding on leaf buds on trees lining the local side streets.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Great Cormorant at Randall's Island - 5th Dec

While waiting for my son's Saturday morning football game to start I scanned the cormorant flock on the nearby East River, and found this juvenile Great Cormorant amongst them.

And Conor's team won 4 - 3, so a second good result for the morning!

Juvenile Great Cormorant
A nice contrast with a nearby juvenile Double-crested Cormorant. Aside from the white belly there is also a fairly obvious size difference.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Painted Bunting in Prospect Park - 3rd Dec

On Sunday 29th Nov a male Painted Bunting turned up in Prospect Park. It has hung around in the same spot all week, and I finally caught up with it this morning. It was initially a little shy, as there were a horde of birders hanging around, including some real numpties. It eventually showed well, perched up in a white pine.

Male Painted Bunting. It has been very faithful to a small area of plantings near the Lefrak skating rink in southern Prospect Park. Let's see how long it stays.