Thursday, February 27, 2014

Dodgyscoping for beginners

Finally got a digiscoping adaptor for my SLR and scope so had a couple of rushed attempts at getting a "great capture" - looks like there's a lot to learn altho I'm quite pleased with the horses!

Prepare for a dodgyscoping master class!

best of a bad bunch
Otter from the Magic Patio

Horse of the Day

Iceland gull on the lake

Iceland gull

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Lady Elvis

Having spent several of my formative years birding the north-east coast of Scotland, I got fairly blase about seeing Elvis, the resplendant male king eider that spent most summers loafing about on the Ythan Estuary & getting jiggy with all those females. It was always a great bird to see, but you'd usually end up bumping into it several times in a year.

Fast forward er a few years and its a different story. Up till today, I'd seen one king eider in Ireland - a male at Lady's Island in August 2008. So, I've been quite tempted by the female thats been loitering around on the Beara peninsula the last few weeks. This afternoon everything fell into place - finished work and Beara was kind of on the way home - give it a lash!

And lashing it was! And the wind was getting up too. Still, I struggled across a field or two and scanned the bay at Cahermore. After a while I noticed a duck. Through the scope I could see it was the queen eider swimming into the bay. A  bit of repositioning and the views were good, although it wasn't long before she turned around and started swimming out of the bay again. Still, I'd had a good look and it was still raining! Four (count 'em!) glaucous gulls were duly counted and I saddled up for home, as conditions deteriorated further.

Queenie herself (Photo: C Cronin)

A grand day out for a Cork tick! Sadly it was too wet to attempt any dodgyscoping, so here's a snap taken the following day by Old Spoons.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

ross's for cork

After six hours standing around scanning Kinsale Harbour over 2 days last week, news that the ross's gull was back yesterday was a tad galling, if not entirely unexpected. As it turned out, I wasn't free yesterday but decided to give it a lash again today, although I only had a couple of hours.

There was no sign at Kinsale Marsh or on the estuary  - not a great start, but then this bird has totally failed to show any kind of a pattern so far, apart from being elusive! So it was back to my favoured spot near the Trident Hotel, where I'd spent nearly all my time last week (apart from a wee detour here - it was Kev's idea!)

Today, there was a small flock of mostly large gulls loafing on the far bank, with a small white thing beside them. I returned to the car for the scope to grill the small white thing, just in case. It was a plastic bag. Arse! But then, I just scoped a wee bit further along the bank anyway and Bingo - a small pink thing! Ker-ching! Score! Boom! etc. Momentary panic - do I reach for the camera? or phone? or just grill it in case it evaporates? I kept an eye on it while I put the news out on @corkbirdnews (everyone's favourite free news service for rare birds in Cork!), and then rattled off a few shite shots. And then it flew! Amayzing little thing in flight - really pink underneath and the tail was pink too! Fabulous!

What a cracker!
It zipped around in front of the hotel for a bit so I moved closer, before it flew right past me and landed on the water just in front of the very spot I'd been stood at last week - I ran back for some more hasty snaps...

It then flew back to the pier and hotel and at this stage some other birders were arriving and got on it. It continued to perform for a while before flying out to land on the water mid-channel and drifting off into the distance, round a small headland and away! After the runaround last week, I was delighted to have connected so well with the arctic tease!

Sadly, we noticed a bit of oil on the bird's belly, but it looks fairly light and hopefully won't affect it too much. Hope it stays around for a while and becomes a wee bit more regular in its behaviour!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

patch gold and more gull action

The storm had abated a bit this morning and although there were still some vicious showers around, I decided to play a hunch in the hope of a good patch year tick. Last April I finally managed to get purple sandpiper properly on patch, during a fairly stormy few days - see here. My theory was that in rough weather, the rocks at Owenahincha where purps normally spend the winter are too exposed and waterlogged. Birds are therefore forced to try elsewhere, meaning the rocks at Long Strand. I picked my way through the foam and rocks this morning and sure enough, there were two purple sandpipers.

multiply this by two
Ker-ching! Theory proved! Or maybe just luck, but either way, great to get them on-patch again for 2014.

Had a look at Rosscarbery at lunchtime and dug out 3 glaucous gulls loafing on the sand (1st winter, 2 winter & adult), plus what I'm pretty sure was the Long Strand kumlien's gull from the other day. Sadly it flew off inland while I was wrestling with the scope and tripod to grill it.

A trip to Cork City this pm was enlivened by a quick detour to Ballycotton for a pop at the long-staying first winter laughing gull. A blank at first, with just a first winter glaucous gull and what appeared to be a fairly pale first winter kumlien's gull - see below. The primaries on this bird appeared better marked on one side than the other, which seems strange, but, although quite pale on the primaries, I think it is a kumlien's...

Luckily for me, the main attraction showed up then and after wolfing several large slices of bread (fewer, small pieces may be a better option?) it sat about at close range - cracker!

Friday, February 7, 2014


Noticed a lot more large gulls hanging around at Long Strand this morning so went down for a closer look. Hadn't been there long before a huge adult glaucous gull came in and started throwing its weight about. Didn't get any close shots of it but then encountered what was almost certainly the same bird chewing on a long-dead seal (?) on Owenahincha beach this lunchtime.

Ravenous beast

mmmm Lunch

More exciting was a first winter kumlien's gull which was mixing it with the herring gulls at Long Strand this morning. Sadly, it too didn't come that close but got a couple of snaps on a fly-by.

kumlien's ahoy
Sadly, they'll all be blown away in tomorrow gales!