Monday, July 29, 2013

Mongolian (Lesser) Sandplover

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Brief encounter

Adult winter Ring-billed Gull. First picked up on a naked eye view in flight, this bird didn't stay for long. Luckily, I had my D-SLR on me. There's been up to three at the Atlantic Pond, a kilometre or more downriver, so presumably this is one of those. If pics are obtained there, the bill pattern can be compared.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Waxwings 21st January 2013

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Cork City Waxwings

     It's been a while. To tell the truth, the enthusiasm for keeping a blog waxes and wanes, more often the latter than the former these days (the same goes for Facebook usage), so my not updating is simply a matter of having nothing worth sharing.
     On 1st January, I found a small flock of 14 Waxwings in the grounds of St. Finbarr's Cathedral. These have become almost the most reliable Waxwings in Ireland right now...certainly so in the southern half of the country...and, as a result, a procession of people have chanced by to see them to date. I managed to finally get a replacement battery charger for my camera on 14th, so I got some acceptable record shots today (15th).

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Buzzard time again

Following on from last year's effort, we are again seeking to ring and tag as many Common Buzzard chicks as we can in Co. Cork. Unfortunately, we started on the back foot somewhat this year as, while we covered the core range during the soaring survey in spring 2011, we surveyed more peripheral areas this time round. As a result, we had less of an indication of where exactly this year's nests were, and many pairs had moved from last year's sites, so a day out searching for active nests was in order last Sunday.
   Thankfully, we found 4 nests in east Cork, with another birder finding a fifth there, and, together with the efforts of Allan Mee in north Cork, we now have 13 nests located, with many areas not yet checked properly. Yesterday's efforts were frustrating: despite seeing at least 5 or 6 birds, and territorial activity being witnessed in one general area, we failed to pinpoint any active nests, though there must be some in at least some of these areas.
    I also looked for the Hobby found on 12th June near Killeagh, and had a frustratingly brief glimpse of a small falcon that, had it just shown for slightly longer, even if no plumage detail became visible, would doubtless have resolved itself into that species. I suppose you just get days like that: at least the weather was lovely, unlike today!
   No opportunities for photgraphy lately, too busy looking for nests, but I did get some acceptable record shots of birds at a likely nest site just over a week ago now.
3cy Common Buzzard being mobbed by a Jackdaw secret site, Co. Cork 9th June 2012. Note the faded outermost two primaries, retained juvenile feathers allowing this bird to be aged as a 3cy.

Adult Common Buzzard east Cork 24th June 2012. One of a pair at a different site to above.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Hudsonia Dunlin: a taxon to look out for

Hi all,
    Well, one of the questions that are raised every year in western Europe concerns what it will take to firmly add hudsonia Dunlin to the Western Palearctic list. Oh, sure, we all know that they tend to be longer-billed than European birds, sometimes markedly so, and that there are some suggested plumage differences (obvious flank streaking in winter/basic plumages, for one, has been mooted as a good feature by many), but the variation in European birds (let's not forget that at least three taxa occur regularly in western Europe, and variation within these taxa may be as much of an obstacle as any variation between them) is not yet completely understood, and there is also the little matter of eastern sakhalina, which are said to resemble hudsonia in many respects. I've seen Dunlin in May in China, which would (presumably) have been sakhalina on range alone, but, regrettably, none of these came that close for further study.
    On my recent trip to the US, however, at least some Dunlin did oblige, and I managed to obtain decent images of some of these.

hudsonia Dunlin, northern IL 16th May 2012. Note the brightly coloured scaps contrasting with worn coverts, but note that this is also a feature associated with alpina at least, so is by no means diagnostic. Some streaking can be seen extening on to the upper flanks, whether this is useful or not in breeding/alternate plumage, I am not sure...

Same or another adult-type hudsonia at the same site and date as above. Note the impressive bill length, but, as females are longer-billed than males, and sakhalina is very similar structurally to hudsonia, this is merely a point of interest in and of itself.

Above two shots, two (apparently) different hudsonia Dunlin at Portage Marsh, Michigan. Again, note the contrast between the scaps and coverts, but these birds, perhaps due to light conditions, appear to show a reduced contrast compared to the (closer) birds seen earlier in the trip.
Presumed adult-type alpina (with presumed schinzii) Ballycotton, Co. Cork 3rd August 2008. Note the superficial similarity with regard to the contrast between the bright scapulars and (relatively) worn coverts. On this bird, the face is much more streaked, and less whitish, than on the known hudsonia above, but pale fringes wear away during the summer in many Calidris sandpipers, so could this bird have been whiter-headed in spring, as on hudsonia? The bill isn't as long or as downcurved on this bird either, but see comments above.

    I won't pretend to know a great deal about Dunlin racial identification, I am still learning as I go along, and perhaps the "holy grail" of a definite claim of hudsonia from Europe will always be beyond us, but perhaps if we all looked a bit harder at our local Dunlin, and tried to make sense of the variation we see, we could start to make sense of the situation.

NOTE: van Duivendijk states that adult summer/alternate sakhalina has a whiter head and a larger black belly patch, on average, than hudsonia, and this form is also said to be more brightly coloured above. However, the pics from Illinois, at least, seem to suggest that these features are relative: the bird(s) present there, at close range and in good light, certainly appeared white-headed, bright rufous on the scaps and to have large black belly patches. Of course, maybe a sakhalina stood among the hudsonia would have stood out by virtue of these characters, but it just goes to show the difficulty in applying somewhat subjective criteria to single birds.

Signs of life

Hi all, 
    Just to make a post saying that I am still alive, still birding, extensively so at times, and that a more regular service should be adopted soon on here. 
   A quick summary of the year so far: I've managed to get four Irish ticks, namely a long overdue life Rough-legged Buzzard (presumably a nominate bird, given the east coast location and huge autumn passage in Sweden last year, though, as always in Ireland, a pale sanctijohannis would be impossible to exclude on sight alone. It did look larger and longer-winged than a Common Buzzard, mind, which would arguably support lagopus better), a female Siberian Stonechat within a week or two of the IRBC adopting a split from European Stonechat (nice timing!), the unbelievable Baillon's Crake on Great Saltee (for anyone who hasn't seen pics, Paul Kelly has some cracking ones online at and, two days later, a very sweet catch-up Red-flanked Bluetail at Galley Head.
    Since I posted here last, I have purchased a D-SLR, a Canon 550D, but I am still a birder with a camera, not a photographer, and my results have been mixed, to say the least. This camera arrived too late for any of the rarities above, and the only rarity I've taken pics of to date was the Skibbereen (Black-crowned) Night Heron in April, a much needed county tick for me. The shots aren't great, but, then, the bird WAS mostly hidden in a distant treetop...
    I've also been away, to the US Midwest, meeting up with a few people I only knew as online presences and generally seeing lots of great birds, more so the first week than the second, but it was all worthwhile. I may be making a few related posts, using some of my shots and/or field impressions, in due course.

Monday, November 14, 2011

1st-w male Desert Wheatear Bray Head 13th November 2011