Monday 28 April 2014

Connemara National Park Easter 2014

A few shots taken in Connemara National Park taken over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend.

Hind with yearling Red Deer

Yearling with hind Red Deer

Hind with yearling Red Deer

Kid Feral Goat

Kid Feral Goat

Nanny Feral Goat

The Diamond

The Diamond
Derelict farmhouse at the back of Addergoole. Not sure when this dates from. Its not on the 1840's 6 inch maps.

Most of the park was part of a large farm that went along with Kylemore Castle/Abbey. Came into existence in 1862 when Mitchell Henry MP bought the land here. He attempted to "reclaim" about 3000 acres of bogland. The lines in this shot are evidence of that attempt at drainage. Thankfully all of these have been long since blocked up.

Stone wall enclosure in Gleann Mór, presumably associated with Kylemore Farm.

Gleann Mór looking East from Benbrack.

South facing slope within the park.

South facing slope less 1km away outside of the park boundary, spot the difference in the vegetation!!
Kylemore Abbey/Castle

Kylemore Abbey/Castle

Thursday 24 April 2014

Nesting Ravens Part Two

We're nearly finished up with the Raven ringing already this year. They are one of the earliest breeders amongst the Irish avifauna. Most chicks will probably be on the wing now within the next week or two. We've managed to ring a total of 29 chicks from eight different nests visited which gives an average of 3.6 chicks per nest. While this is an extremely small sample set, it is a very high ratio. One of the nests visited had failed. I've added captions to most of the shots below with further info. Again all of these shots of nests, eggs and young were taken under license from NPWS.

Newly hatched Raven chicks, the three remaining eggs shouldn't be far from hatching either.

Two week old chicks, more bill and legs than anything else.

Same chicks from above safely back in the nest.

Chicks begging for food.

Five chick nest.

Four chick nest

Note the pale iris of young. The pink mouths of young Raven gradually turns black after 2 -3 years as they reach maturity. They also retain the pink/pale gape line for a short while after leaving the nest. Adult Ravens are readily identified at this time of time as they begin primary moult and consequently have noticeable gaps in the wings.

Young in the nest usually cower in the nest if they perceive any danger to make themselves less obvious to potential predators. They are usually very docile in the hand when being ringed.

More relaxed chicks before they spotted me.

This nest contained four eggs on 5th March. When we re-visited it on 14th April to ring the chicks this is what we found - an empty nest!

Nest from above. One of the most accessible nest locations which may explain the failure.

Barbed wire interwoven into the nest. Ravens will use anything to hand in the nest construction. They have a bad habit of using bailing twine and fishing line in the inner cup. I've seen chicks ensnared in this material in the past unfortunately.

This nest contained several sheep bones including hip bones. I've also seen them using cetacean bones at coastal sites before.

The view below!

Irene O'Brien arriving at a nest. You can make out the remains of the previous years nest at Irene's feet. Many coastal nests are "blown-out" by severe gusts over the winter period.

There isn't usually much evidence of prey items at the nest. The closest thing are these regurgitated pellets. Some contain huge amounts of beetle cases at some times of the year.

I just happened to come across this poor guy while checking a nearby pair near Renvyle. I had assumed that logically it must be one of the local Connemara birds which we had ringed. However Irene informed me that it actually came from the very first clutch of Ravens she had ringed as part of her study near Westport, Co. Mayo in 2011. It's about 37km between the two sites as the Raven flies. The body was too far decomposed to determine how it died but I don't think it was human persecution as there's been a resident breeding pair at this location only 200 metres away every year.

Sunday 20 April 2014

Inishbofin Black Guillemots

Another highlight from last Friday on Inishbofin were the great views of Black Guillemots. Black Guillemots gather just offshore from their nests first thing in the morning. Morning counts are the standard means of surveying the species as they generally are out of view when at the nests as these are usually under boulders at the bases of cliffs. Pairs often squabble amongst themselves and can be quite vocal giving a high pitched wheeze. I had two separate flocks up at Dún More of 20 and 23 birds and a further 15 off the back end of Knock. I'm sure there are plenty other pairs around  the island.


Saturday 19 April 2014

Inishbofin 18th April 2014

I got the evening ferry out to Inishbofin on Thursday evening to get a full day out there the following day. The first ferry doesn't arrive out until 12 o'clock and leaves again at 5 so trying to get anything done out there is always done in a rush. I managed to get to most of the spots I had hoped to, it was around an 18km round walk, two sore feet by the end of the day! The sea cliffs are the real attraction for me at this time of year on Inishbofin. Two of the three Raven nests were successful with two and three large chicks respectively. This is a little on the low side as the average clutch size of chicks this year was around four chicks. The female Peregrine was also around but doesn't appear to have laid eggs yet which she really should have by now. The Peregrines here never seem to be very successful for some reason. It certainly can't be the lack of food so it's hard to know why? I also had probably three nesting pairs of Chough around the island, even managed to see part of one of the pairs nest wedged into a crack in a cliff.
There was a Black-throated Diver giving good views with around 20 Great northern Divers off the sandy beach at Westquarter. I  think this is the first proper island record for this species. Anthony McGeehan has seen one from the ferry in the past though. Also in the same area were two female Merlin which were seen interacting with each other. One actually called as it flew over me. These are presumably migrants, possibly Iceland bound? Males which are always first on the breeding grounds (that is if they ever leave) should be on territory for a month at this stage. Quiet on the migrant front 3 Chiffchaffs, 1 Blackcap and a few Wheatears including one female Greenland type.



House Sparrow

House Sparrow

Rock Pipit collecting nest material. Note the pink flush to the throat and the sparse underpart streaking which are features of littoralis Scandinavian Rock Pipit. However it did lack a noticeable whitish supercillium.

Rock Pipit. This shot was taken in the rain so the exposure is a bit off but again note the pink coloration to the breast, bluish tones to the head, sparse underpart streaking and white supercillium. This would probably be called littoralis by some. This bird seemed to be paired up with another much more typical looking petrosus Rock Pipit, so is this natural variation amongst the local population or what??


Shag nesting on sea stack.

Sanderling moulting some of the wing feather tracts into summer plumage.

Typical looking local female Wheatear
Female Wheatear, most likely the leucorhoa Greenland race, note the colour tone difference between the two.

Three male Wheatears, probably migrant birds. All three fairly typical looking so probably not heading too far North.

Puffin and Razorbill skulls. The Puffin skull was a little mangled, I think the lower mandible has been twisted upside down. That's the upper mandible of the Puffin on the left which was detached.

Dead adult male Otter. Not sure what happened to this poor fella. Found in an isolated spot so certainly not a road casualty. It didn't appear to be a young animal as it was missing some front incisors and the canines were worn.

Front pad of the Otter.
Duach beach, some erosion here same as all sandy beaches on the West coast after the winter storms.
There used to be a lovely stone pier leading out the derelict fish curing station here, not anymore after the storms!

Prísún/The prison, an impressive blow-hole land bridge. The bigger rocks washed up by the sea probably weigh a few tonnes each.