Wednesday 26 February 2014

A bunch of Ringers

Saw a dozen Ring-billed Gulls - of all ages - in Ireland last week, a few of which were probably good enough as finds but most no doubt familiar long-staying/returning faces.

Second-winter, Bantry (Co Cork), 16th February

Second-winter, Tralee Bay Wetlands (Co Kerry), 18th February

Apparent third-winter, Tralee Bay Wetlands (Co Kerry), 18th February

First-winter, Achill Island (Co Mayo), 19th February

Adult, Belumllet (Co Mayo), 20th February

Adult (top) and second-winter, Atlantic Pond, Cork City, 22nd February

First-winter, O'Callaghan Strand, Limerick City, 22nd February

Tuesday 25 February 2014

Pale American Herring Gull

This beast was first found by Conor Foley et al. in a muddy field at the northwest end of Carrowmore Lake on Monday 17th Feb; Rich Bonser and I attempted to relocate it late afternoon on the Wednesday but failed, only to return mid-afternoon on Thursday to find it back in the same field. It's not with many gulls (up to 20 Herrings, and a couple of Icelands) and is extremely mobile - we saw it for a few minutes on Thursday before it flew off; extensive searching of the area then drew a blank for the next couple of hours until it magically reappeared in the same spot. Again it proved mobile, and we last saw it in another manure-covered field in the next valley to the north at Fallagh, where it stayed until clearing off just ahead of an heavy rain shower. The gulls it is with feed west to Barnatra village, where there are a couple of sheep fields. Guess it must get in those too.

Evidently a very pale bird, but these photos should show enough for the bird to be diagnosed as an American Herring (rather than Thayer's or a hybrid) - something reflected in field observations after quite a bit of head scratching and deliberation. It's a really big bird, quite thick-set with a strong, extensively pale-based bill - the latter is generally not evident in my photos due to being covered in cow excrement (though can be made out reasonably well in the penultimate pic)! Though it has a pretty well-defined greater covert bar, the rest of the upperparts are quite pale and concolorous, which was one of the primary reasons for our initial concern about it being smithsonianus. Just look at those scaps! The underparts are quite pale, but solidly marked nevertheless. In contrast, rump and tail pattern (and upperwing pattern in flight) look typical for smithsonianus. Eye-opening bird!

Ross's Gull in Cork

The final of the fourteen species of gull we encountered during our week-long Irish trip was this delightfully salmony adult Ross's Gull at Kinsale. Of course, a good proportion of Ross's Gulls show a pink wash to their plumage but they rarely come this bright (at least in the UK) - the most intense hue was around the bird's tail base, on the rump and the vent. This was another new Irish bird for me, and infinitely better than the utterly underwhelming Lancashire bird (that later died!). Just a shame about the appalling light that morning, not to mention the oil all over the belly and, as you'll see in the perched shot above, on the tertials too.

Monday 24 February 2014

Ballycotton Laugher

Having managed to miss out on the 2005/6 influx entirely, the first-winter Laughing Gull encountered on the first day of our Irish trip (last Sunday - time flies!) was only the second I'd ever seen in Britain and Ireland. As such I lapped it up, and the bird put on a great show, regularly allowing us to approach within five metres. Shame the early to mid-morning light was average at best.

Thursday 20 February 2014

Wingers, ringers, mingers... and a purple chicken

The past couple of days in Mayo has produced all of the above. I'll let you decide which is which.

Got to Killybegs this evening; lots of trawlers in, with Glauc and Iceland both seen in the harbour lights at 20:30!

Tuesday 18 February 2014

Ireland: half-time

Day three of a seven-day tour of Western Ireland has just concluded; there have been moments of brilliance but it just feels like we're a bit too late to the party for all these monster counts of Glaucs. Indeed, the weather has been great the past couple of days (after an average Sunday). Highlights so far include Laughing Gull, a handful of Ring-billed Gulls, 44 'wingers' (mainly Glaucs with the rest kumlieni and lesser numbers of nominate glaucoides), female King Eider, a few Pink-feet etc. Nothing big yet though. Let's see how the next few days go; hoping the wind later this week has some effect and brings birds back in to shore.

Lots more shots when I'm back home.


3cy Ringer in the mix

Adult Kumlien's flies by

Juv Glauc

4cy Ringer

Saturday 1 February 2014

Great Northern Diver

I went down to Maxey fishing lakes on about five occasions last weekend in an attempt to photograph the juvenile Great Northern Diver, which has been residing there since the turn of the year. I found the bird really wary and nigh on impossible to get close to - every time I got anywhere near, it would just motor back in to the middle of the lake. Nice animal though.