Monday, 27 July 2015

Inishdawros 22nd July 2015

Just a few shots from last Wednesday at Inishdawros. The Hudsonian Godwit was never seen again despite several searches, God only knows where it could be now.

Knot

Knot

Adult Little Tern
Juvenile Little Tern

Juvenile Little Tern

Juvenile Little Tern

Inishdawros strand, Hudsonian Godwit site.

Inishdawros strand, Hudsonian Godwit site.
 

Thursday, 23 July 2015

HUDSONIAN GODWIT

What a day! I took a trip down to the strand which leads out to Inishdawros 4km south east of Ballyconnely (on the R341 on the way to Roundstone) to see if there were any small waders in yet. I've been checking this site now for seven years now and only had my first notable wader here last year in the form of a Curlew Sandpiper. Anyway there were around 30 Ringed Plover, 12 Dunlin, 2 summer plumaged Knot and an adult and two recently fledged Little Terns out on the mudflat today. I drove out across the mudflat in the van but decided try and get some shots of the Little Terns. I parked it up back at the end of the road leading down to the shore as I didn't want to get stranded with it out in the middle of the flats with the incoming tide. As I moved back down to the shoreline a large wader flew right by me. As it bank it showed jet black underwings and reddish underparts and displayed a striking clean white square rump. It could only be a bloody Hudsonian Godwit!! My heartbeat immediately increased significantly. It looked like it landed just behind a large seaweed covered rock along the waterline. As I crept up behind the rock and peaked over the rock, there it was sat by the waters edge. It spent all of its time by itself and didn't associate with any of the few Redshank, Greenshank or Oystercatchers that were present. It flew off towards the mainland shoreline where I lost it to view. It reappeared back in the original spot a while later and repeated the same behaviour. I last saw it at 1725hrs.

For those thinking of travelling for it, your best chance is probably to aim for two hours either side of low tide which is at about 0400 and 1600hrs tomorrow. The mudflat can be reached from the cul de sac with the orange cone on a fence post and blue signpost for Calla Beach House or from the layby by the main coastal road a few hundred metres to the west (please don't block the rough trackway down to the small pier here).

Link to the site on google maps below with latitude and longitude,

https://www.google.ie/maps/@53.3998022,-10.0350249,4600m/data=!3m1!1e3

53°24'09.9"N 10°02'18.0"W

53.402757, -10.038321














 

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

First-year male breeding Merlin

I dropped into one of the Merlin families that we ringed two weeks ago to check if they had successfully fledged. There were at least two juveniles (male and female) out of the nest and I suspect the other two chicks were in the area also. The adult female was on site the whole time. At one stage a male showed up which I initially thought was the adult male but it was apparent that it was a "brown" male. I naturally assumed it was one of the chicks. However I managed to get a few woeful record shots of it and on later inspection it proved to be a second-calendar/first-summer male. The light was atrocious at the time as it was raining for most the time. While the UK and to a lesser degree the east of Ireland has been experiencing a heat wave recently, typically for the west of Ireland we've had rain and windy conditions for the last while with temperatures struggling to even reach the high teens.
The male can be aged as a young bird by the newly moulted adult male-type black inner primaries contrasting with the old brown outer primaries and new grey scapulars, rump and tail although these aren't too easy to see in these crap shots. Female Merlin tend to nest for the first time earlier than males. Two different studies put the average age of first breeding of female Merlin at 1.3 ± 0.1 years and 1.3 ± 0.6 years while the age of males was 2.3 ± 0.1 and 1.9 ± 0.7 years. Another study in Northumberland, UK found that 18% of breeding pairs contained a first year female but only 8 - 9% contained a first year male. Adult pairs tend to breed early in the year and are more productive than pairs with at least one first year bird.
One hypothesis for males taking that extra year to commence breeding compared to females is that they generally require more hunting experience as it largely falls on them to provide most of the food during the laying, incubation and early chick stages of the breeding cycle. Thankfully this young male was able to provide enough food to raise a brood of chicks in this instance. This isn't the first first year male that I've encountered in the small sample size of pairs I've had in Connemara with another first-year male seen two years ago. This relative high rate of breeding first year males may be a sign that all may not be well with the species here. It would suggest that there may be a lack of recruitment of adult males into the population i.e. that survival rates for males past their first year may be poor as females would certainly prefer older more experienced males. It's interesting to consider that the average life span of a Merlin is only 3 - 5 years. I'm assuming the breeding female was a at least a second-year or an older female but they are much more difficult to age but can be aged by the shape of tail feathers and the shape of the tail bars.

Second-calendar male Merlin.

Second-calendar male Merlin.
 
Second-calendar male Merlin.
 
Second-calendar male Merlin.

Adult female Merlin.

Adult female Merlin.

Adult female Merlin.

Adult female Merlin.

Adult female Merlin.

Adult female Merlin.
 

Friday, 3 July 2015

Narrow-leaved Marsh Orchids

I came across about half a dozen distinct looking orchids about two weeks back that to me look like they could be Pugsley's / Narrow-leaved Marsh Orchids Dactylorhiza traunsteinerii / D. traunsteinerioides. The taxonomic status of Marsh Orchids seem to be rather confusing and ever changing. These six plants were found on blanket bog. They differed markedly from most of the marsh orchids that I see in Connemara. The usual Western/Irish/Broad-leaved Marsh Orchids are usually a much darker pink colour, a more robust plant with much more florets on the spike and aren't generally seen on open blanket bog here. I suspect that these plants were growing on a alkaline flush. Any opinions on the identification are welcome.



 

Friday, 26 June 2015

June 2015

A few more pics from a very busy few recent weeks between Golden Plover, Kestrel, Merlin, Peregrine, more seabird surveys, etc. Mixed season for a lot breeding birds. The very cold and wet May seemed to have a bad affect on many species.
Peregrines had a very strange season. In general they had their poorest year in recent years. However we had three successful pairs in West Galway. Despite the fact that there are several traditional sites in West Galway I only came across the first successful pair two seasons ago with just the same pair being successful again last year. The pairs in the quarries in East Galway had a particularly poor year. The handful of pairs that managed to raise chicks only had ones and twos. Taken all together the productivity rate was well below what it should be for a self-sustaining population. Here's hoping for a better season in 2016.
On the Kestrel front they didn't seem to fair as badly but we just didn't have the time to visit the same number of nests that we normally would.
I found three Merlin pairs this summer each producing four chicks each. One brood were only days away from fledging so were far to big to attempt to ring.

Sandwich Tern (one of two) head found in a Peregrine nest, the only known successful coastal breeding pair this year in the entire county that we know of.


On the bog counting Golden Plover.

Roundstone Bog fording spot.


 
Killary Harbour
Had Merlin breeding on one of these islands this year, can you guess which one?

Kestrel nest site right beside a busy road.


Irene abseiling down for a clutch of five Kestrel chicks.

North Mayo coastline with the Stags of Broadhaven offshore. Heather cliffs here have breeding Twite, an increasing rare species in Ireland.

Portacloy, Co. Mayo.

Porturlin, Co. Mayo.
 

Monday, 15 June 2015

Seabird Survey 2015

Its been a hectic few weeks here lately with a lot of survey work. I haven't taken a huge amount of photos for the last month or more now. We spent three full days out on the RHIB last week doing seabird surveys. We managed to cover Duvillaun, Clare Island, Caher Island, Inishdalla and Mweelaun Island in Co. Mayo and Davillaun and Inishark with a brief stop-off at High Island in Co. Galway. Thankfully we finally managed to get the first decent spell of settled weather here this year just in the nick of time for the boat work. Clare Island held large numbers of Guillemots, Razorbills, Kittiwakes, Fulmars and a Gannet colony that is rapidly growing in size. The cliffs here are vast and at their highest reach around the 400 metre , 1,300 feet mark.

Another highlight was Caher Island which is well known for its seventh century early Christian monastery. There are still plenty of craved stone crosses on the island. An annual pilgrimage to the island by local people takes place on 15th August of each year. There were good numbers of Arctic Terns on Inishdalla also totalling around 300 individuals along with a single Little Tern.

Gannet colony on Clare Island.

Gannet colony on Clare Island.

Common Guillemots and Razorbill colony, Clare Island.

Common Guillemots and Razorbill colony, Clare Island.

Oystercatcher, Caher Island.

Oystercatcher, Caher Island.

Rock Pipit, Caher Island.

Sea stack Clare Island

The transport with Eoin and Aonghus.

Stone cross Caher Island


Stone crosses  Caher Island
Stone cross Caher Island
Stone cross Caher Island

Not exactly sure what this item is/was but it was inside the old church on the altar. This offering of money must surely be an old Celtic pagan tradition that was incorporated into the Christian religion like many other "Irish Christian traditions".