Saturday, December 19, 2015

biking not birding

Haven't been out birding much of late. There's been too much of this...

Yes, indeedy, the midlife crisis continues unabated, however it did lead to a bit more of this....

I was jammy enough to spy the american bittern from the bike, as it paraded around the banks of Castlefreke Lake after a few days of not being reported. The downside was that "Old Spoons" managed to finally tick it the following morning, when this shot was taken.

Sadly, its looking more and more likely that the bird may have left Castlefreke Lake, as it hasn't been reported for several days, despite a few visiting birders looking hard for it. Hopefully, it'll turn up again though.There's been a fair bit of european twitching action going on, with belgians, germans and even geordies coming for it! I'd better keep cycling past though, just in case it does reappear.

Slightly less mega visitors (but still welcome) turned up at White's Marsh yesterday, and I managed to catch up with them today...

Sadly, it was too dark to see by the time I cycled back to get them on my "from the bike" list this pm but hopefully they'll stick around and give me another chance!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

A local twitch

It took me all of 5 minutes this morning to drive from my house to the scene of much excitement yesterday. Sadly though, I was heading off patch - 2.7km off patch to be precise. As light slowly began to increase, 10 of us started scouring the shore of Castlefreke lake for the american bittern that was found there yesterday. Eventually it actually got light. And then even more eventually someone spotted its head sticking up over the near bank. And then everyone got great views as it walked out into full view before heading back towards the ditch - a fabulous bird!

It was such a good bird that we took the kids to see it this afternoon. Sadly it wasn't quite as showy but we did see it. The kids yoyo'd from boredom to hyper-excitement when it showed and then back to boredom when it disappeared. Then they looked at a pheasant. Which was nice. Then we went home.

Monday, November 2, 2015


The last week has seen good numbers of firecrests all along the south coast, so I was pleased to bump into a couple in the willows down Marsh Lane. I even managed to jam a reasonable shot of one...

Fluke shot!
A couple of goldcrests were even more obliging although they were actually too close to follow with the 400mm lens! Managed a couple of shots that were almost in focus...

Don't zoom in!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Coot Club

Limited birding opportunities today so there was massive excitement this morning when I scanned the lake and found this...

A coot, honest
It doesn't get any better than that! Well, it didn't for me today anyway.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

local birding

Been slogging Galley on a pretty much daily basis as time allows but apart from a brief richard's pipit and my 3rd Galley yellow-browed warbler of the autumn at Shite Lane last weekend, its been pretty quiet of late.

Did manage to catch up with some just off-patch rares this week though, in the form of a juvenile american golden plover

That's it asleep at the back, honest!
and a juvenile spoonbill at Muckross this pm. Which was nice.

Old spoons yesterday

Thursday, October 15, 2015

"I'm just going to check this garden for American Redstart..."

I read this account of the historic day in Galley Head birding lore last night when both a philadeplphia vireo and an american redstart were present in Dirk and afterwards dreamt of finding rare american passerines in Dirk. One day....

Hard to believe it was 30 years ago!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Another Bonelli's?!?

Didn't have long this am, but there were a few phylloscs and the spotted flycatcher at Shite Lane this am, with a male Blackcap down Marsh Lane. Old Spoons did the business today tho, with Galley's second Western Bonelli's Warbler in 10 days!! I got up for a few glimpses of it late morning and it was a right fecker to see! Clearly a duller, less green-fringed bird, although still very clean white underneath, smaller than willows and greyer about the head - wouldn't have been happy with the views of last weeks one hadn't given itself up!

Western Bonelli's Warbler both courtesy C Cronin
As if that wasn't enough excitement, I jammed a flyover, calling yellow wagtail over the house after lunch - less than annual here, and its been ages since my last one! Happy days!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Another rare, another planet

Although the wind had swung round to the west overnight, it still felt like there had to be more out there, if the success of yesterday evening was anything to go on. Would the current white-hot streak at Galley continue?

Up with the lark then, followed by the usual tramp about in the half dark until it eventually gets light enough to see properly!

Bleary early morning ear
More wheatears were in evidence at least, with at least a dozen booting around out on the head. A couple of  willow warblers and whinchats too, plus the spotted flycatcher still at Shite Lane and a few flyover siskins for the year too.

However, it was Old Spoons that turned up the goods today, with a fine ortolan bunting in the mahoosive beet field down the top lane. Coincidentally the very same field where I had my first one at Galley back in Sept 2010. Time was against me this morning, but a hoof around this pm proved fruitful, once I twigged that the bird I was looking at wasn't a meadow pipit! The old "should have brought the camera" adage also crossed my mind, so here's a record shot courtesy of Old Spoons himself.

Ortolan, Galley Head, Courtesy C Cronin

Friday, September 11, 2015

Abusing modern technology

It rained all day today. Until I got a call about a lesser whitethroat on Galley whereupon I looked out of the window and realised it had stopped raining and was clearing nicely. But I was saddled at home with 2 kids! Thrashing for migs was not a viable option! Nooooooooooooooooooo!

Luckily some quick thinking involving a tablet, a laptop and the promise of chips on the way home got us out the door and up the road. No sign of the lesser whitey but I was just watching a load of finches flitting around on the edge of a weedy field when a rosefinch popped up out of nowhere, and sat there eyeballing me! Full fat patch tick! And number 200 for the patch! Amazeballs!

Managed to call Old Spoons without dropping my phone or losing the bird, so he saw it too. Sadly instead of posing for a photo, it suddenly flew up, circled a few times calling, before disappearing northwards into the distance! Brief but brilliant!

There was enough battery in the electrical devices to give me a few minutes at Shite Lane before heading to the chippy. It seemed pretty quiet at first, but then I found a small flock of warblers, containg at least 6 willow warblers, blackcap and best of all yesterday's garden warbler, which I'd failed to catch up with. Only my second at Galley in 11 years - outrageous! They aren't particularly common, but I do seem to have a knack of missing the ones that do turn up. Not today though - cashed in completely!

The chips were good too!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Big score at Shite Lane!!

Had an hour this am before I was supposed to go to work so I decided to chance my arm with the light easterlies overnight. Out round the head at first light for 2 wheatears, while a skove down the top lane produced a late swift. Not much doing then, but I still had Shite Lane to go...

Quiet enough there too at first, before a weird phyllosc call caught my ear - kind of like a willow warbler "hoo-eet" call but higher pitched and thinner, kind of like someone doing a bad impression of a willow warbler. Views of the bird proved scarily interesting, clearly a phyllosc, with a pale grey head, a wide supercilium, greeny fringes on the primaries, dark legs and really clean pale grey/white underneath. When a willow warbler hopped up beside it, it was clearly bigger! "Help" I thought, "a Bonelli's Warbler", before ringing and texting frantically! By the time other folks arrived, I'd heard that the call fitted Western, as Eastern should give a "chip" type call apparently.

A couple of folks heard the call & got on the bird again briefly a short time later, and it showed well briefly again this pm, but was seemingly elusive for the rest of the time. Hopefully it'll behave better tomorrow!

Friday, June 12, 2015

for crex sake

News of a calling corncrake on Galley Head on Wednesday evening was very exciting - after a time extension deal was struck for minecraft enthusiasts, I was allowed to drag them out to hear it. Forgot how loud they can be! This was my first at Galley, and in Ireland, but "heard only" patch tickage was the only option due to the habitat. Would be great if it hangs on!

Earlier that evening we'd done some more twitching, this time to see a striped hawkmoth, which was trapped the previous evening on the cliffs just east of Galley Head. A proper classy moth, and rare too, with only about 67 previous records.

Striped Hawkmoth
What a cracker!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

ears and hammers

Not been an awful lot of variety going through Galley of late. Did stumble across a few wheatears the other morning - the first photo opportunity I've had this spring.

A few were bathing in the recently refreshed puddles down the top lane.

Couldn't resist another go at the showy male yellowhammer - cracking birds!

Monday, April 20, 2015

hammer time

The first few years of stomping round Galley revealed that yellowhammers were mucho scarce in these parts, with only one or two sightings a year. In recent times, birds have been hanging around in winter, and, during the last year of the bird atlas, one male was even singing for most of the summer. In the last two years, there have been two to three pairs breeding, and hopefully numbers will increase again this season.

Here's a nice male I got quite close to this morning...

You can't touch this
Quiet on the mig front though, with only a couple of blackcaps and a handful of willow warblers and chiffchaffs knocking about.

Saturday, April 18, 2015


Gave Galley a good going over this am, but with a pretty stiff easterly blowing, it was pretty hard work! Managed to dig out three year ticks though, with house martin, sand martin and a fine brace of collared doves (scarce here) for my efforts (83). As well as these kwality prizes, a few chiffchaffs, willow warblers and a blackcap were knocking about Shite Lane, while a wheatear was on the top lane.

dove from above

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Hoopoe invasion

The last few days have seen unprecedented numbers of hoopoes being reported all along the south coast of Ireland, from Wexford to Kerry, with many sites having multiple birds. Being stuck inland supposedly working while having to put out many of these reports on @corkbirdnews was doing my head in, as the one site that was still blank was Galley. Knowing there weren't likely to be any other birders covering it (underwatched in spring, innit), I cracked and headed home early. By 3.45 I was thrashing the patch, trying hard to think like a hoopoe.

An hour and a half later, with just a handful of wheatears and chiffchaffs, and a single black redstart to show for my efforts I was getting edgy. News of another two hoopoes 3 miles away in Ardfield was really galling, and after shouting aloud "there has to be one here", finally one flew up in front of me - Huzzah!

"You ain't seen me, roight?
After snapping a few proof of life pics, I hurried on to check the last few possible spots where a second bird could be hiding but no luck. Still, one hoopoe is plenty to be going on with, so I went back to try for more shots.

"What are you looking at?"
Eventually left him to it, and headed home. My first one here since 2004, when me & "Old Spoons" found one each in the spring. Corking birds!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

A few more photos from Ross

Had another hour with the camera at Ross on Saturday. The state of tide & the light were quite different from the previous week, but I managed to find plenty to snap at.

Here are the "best" efforts...

Black-headed gull
Male teal
I feel like Jono!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

mostly off-patch "record shots"

Purchased a secondhand 400mm lens from the dreaded ebay a couple of weeks ago, and have been playing about with it a bit since it arrived. Slowly getting the hang of things, although still a lot to learn. Really enjoying the instant response from the camera, after becoming increasingly frustrated by the lack of pace of the bridge camera. The following are the "best" results so far, heavily sharpened natch...

Robin in the garden

Black-tailed Godwit at Ross

Greenshank at Ross
Black-headed Gull at Ross

Dunlin at Ross

Redshank at Ross