Monday, 29 July 2013

Irish Birding

Whilst the birding has started to improve of late my photography seems to have taken a real nose dive. I have seen some good birds, but most of my shots have been taken at a distance and in this hot dry weather the air quality and heat haze have had a devastating effect on picture quality. The trouble is that I know this and I should have been spending more time getting closer to the birds.

Still this is a diary of what I have seen and photographed so you get the bad as well as the good.

The first success was the Turtle Dove which had been at the top of my hit list for a couple of months. I had looked at various sites and despite hearing them on a number of occasions there had been no sightings. My luck changed when I picked up Dave and we headed over to Pagham North Wall. It was all very quiet on the wall but we did manage to spot the Turtle Dove in the trees by Honer Farm. The bird was very mobile though and despite waiting a long time we could only get distant shots.

Turtle Dove

Dave was only carrying a 400mm lens but his pictures looked better than the ones I had taken using a 500mm and 1.4 converter. Heat haze, air quality, or just better skills?

I then headed off on a touring and walking holiday with the wife taking in Pembrokeshire and the South and West of Ireland. It was not a birding trip but I did have a target list and was intending to get a few hours birding along the way.

Pembrokeshire gave the first opportunity when we spotted Chough whilst walking over Stackpole Head.

Chough - It looks as though Junior still wants to be fed!

You can actually see the heat haze in the back of this shot

 Dave had told me to look out for Black Guillemot when we arrived at Rosslare Harbour and sure enough there was one there albeit a bit distant.

Black Guillimot

 One thing that I had not expected in Ireland was a complete roll reversal of Crows and Rooks. A Hooded Crow was top of my target list and I assumed that it would be easy to get a good picture of these as with Crows back home. In practice they seemed very shy and wary of anyone approaching them. The Rooks however had filled the vacant slot of picnic scavengers and were quiet happy to have their pictures taken.

Rook - beautifully groomed for the photo shoot

Hooded Crow - looking a bit tatty

Definitely does not want his picture taken

 There were lots of Terns about. We looked at the Tern Colony at Lady's Island Lake hoping to see a Roseate Tern. No luck with that but there was an Arctic Tern that ventured close enough for a picture.

Arctic Tern

Arctic Tern
And, sitting on the beach one evening we watched a long procession of close on a hundred Sandwich Terns fly past carrying Sand Eels. I assume they were also heading for Lady's Island Lake but the odd thing was that there was not a single Common Tern amongst them.

Sandwich Tern

We spent a few days around the Killarney National Park and the Cork and Kerry peninsulars and I spent most of the time with one eye on the sky waiting for a White-tailed Eagle to appear. I had one slight panic when a couple of ravens drifted over a hill we were climbing but that is the closest that I got.

Lots of the usual small birds about and lots of Juveniles in confusing plumage. I got some nice pictures but I am still trying to work out what they are.

No black Guillimots as we left Rosslare, so I was unable to improve on my record shot taken on the way in, but I was tipped off that the Tuskar Rock Lighthouse, just off the coast, was a good area to look out for Manx Shearwaters. Sure enough there were lots flying about. Most were distant but I did manage a couple of decent shots before the boat disappeared into a fog bank.

Manx Shearwater

My overall impression of birding in Ireland. There are not so many species about and some of the sites are hard to find or access but overall nature is having a better time of it over there. There were far more birds and butterflies about than I see in England.

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