Thursday 9 February 2017

Belclare Todd's Canada Goose

I visited Belclare Turlough on Sunday to try and finally see the Canada Goose that Eamon Delaney found here earlier in the winter with the Greenland White-fronted Goose flock. This was my fourth time visiting the site to try and catch up with this Canada. On the last two visits there was no sign of the goose flock at all. Like most turloughs in east Galway, Belclare has been without much water at all. This winter has been one of the driest that I can remember.

Thankfully I picked up the bird with the GWFs in the usual fields immediately to the west of the turlough, just below the Primary School. It looked good for an interior Todd's Canada Goose to me. It certainly was slightly larger that the adjacent flavirostris but didn't particularly dwarf them. It was also proportional longer bodied but not necessarily as comparatively as heavy. The neck was very giraffe-like especially when alert. It also had a good broad throat strap.

Unfortunately after 30 minutes the flock became increasingly stressed by an extremely noisy passing convoy of rally drivers and their minion boy racers in supped up cars, some of which regularly backfired mimicking gunfire. The flock took to the air and circled the site several times and looked like they were keen to return to the same fields to resume feeding. Not unsurprisingly the constant barrage of noise eventually drove the birds away from the site and were last seen flying high and to the west.

Sunday 5 February 2017

Creggoduff Laugher & Lapper

I was down by Ballyconneely on Friday by the gold course when a local tipped me off about a dead stranded Harbour Porpoise on Creggoduff Beach. This was the first Harbour Porpoise I've seen stranded here in Connemara after eight years and quite a few stranded cetaceans encountered during that time. I've only seen a handful in Galway Bay and off Inishmore and Inishbofin ever before. Considering they're one of the commonest cetaceans species in Irish Inshore waters I've always been intrigued by how scarce they are here in my experience. Could the resident Bottlenose Dolphins be responsible for this, who knows?

After measuring and photographing the Harbour Porpoise I noticed there were the usual Black Guillemots feeding very close in (55, have had up to 100 here before) along with about 250 Common Gulls feeding in the surf. I quickly picked out a first-winter Glaucous Gull resting on the beach with a few Common Gulls and a gorgeous male Long-tailed Duck amongst the Black Guillemots. While looking through the feeding Common Gulls in the hope of a Little Gull or something even better, I picked up a gull with dark upperparts joining the flock. It was quickly apparent that I was looking at an adult winter Laughing Gull! It made a half-hearted attempt to feed with the gulls but never landed on the water and quickly made it's way up along the beach towards me briefly joining a few other feeding flocks in the surf. I naturally assumed it would remain with these flocks or maybe join some of the gulls on the beach who were washing in the outflowing freshwater stream, but no it continued on its leisurely way to the west out towards Slyne Head. Of course the Canon camera was sitting back in the van and try as I might in the short time to get some video on the phone through the scope it was to no avail. I never saw the bird again and I even headed down there again yesterday but it was the same story. While checking the beach for the last and third time in the afternoon I was quite surprised to pick up a calling Lapland Bunting. While they are nearly annual in the Slyne Head/Ballyconneely area during September and October, this appears to be the first winter record for the county. They seem to rather unheard of during the winter along the west coast although there are usually a few reported from the east coast and Wexford at this time.
I also had the wintering Black Redstart down at Aill Mhór below Murlach.

Harbour Porpoise

First-winter Glaucous Gull.

Thursday 2 February 2017

Snowy Owl Update

I placed a trail camera on one of the female Snowy Owl's favourite boulders that it perches on to see if I could establish any sort of a routine in the birds movements. Bit of a disaster as is most often is the case when using my own particular trail camera. The first time I put it out I set it up to take video and pictures at regular intervals. Unfortunately I set the video length at 30 seconds length so this combined with a small memory card resulted the card rapidly filling in just a couple of hours! I changed the memory card for a bigger one the next time I was in there and moved its position as all the pictures came out completely overexposed, so much so that you couldn't make out the bird. The second time round I still had the same problem and after nearly three weeks out there it only took one photo! I've previously noted that my camera can be very unreliable at picking up movement and firing, really frustrating! While setting up the trail camera and resetting it I didn't see the bird in the field on either occasions. I went in on Tuesday to collect the camera and there was still no sign of the bird however there were some fresh droppings on the boulder along with the first pellet I've found from her. Will have to hand it over to someone who knows what they are looking at to try and see what she is living on out there. I spend about three hours out there yesterday and the only birds I saw during that time were a pair of Stonechats, a pair of Red Grouse (lots on droppings on big boulders, must be collecting smalls pieces of grit to aid digestion), a flyover Kestrel, a pair of Hooded Crows and a flock of nine Golden Plover. I wouldn't think there's a great density of rodents out there especially on the wet blanket bog. I took a wander around the other side of the hill where there was another collection of granite boulders. Just as I came around the side of the hill I spotted her head. I had to move slightly to get her in full view. She was probably only a hundred metres away from me but wasn't too concerned by my presence. She moved off after a half an hour just before an incoming rain shower arrived. It's a huge area up there so it's not at all surprising how difficult she can be to spot at times.

Snowy Owl, Connemara, Ireland, 1st January 2017 from Dermot Breen on Vimeo.
Trail camera picture from my second attempt taken on 28th January, also horribly overexposed :-(
First view of the bird on Tuesday.

Digi-scoped shot.

Digi-scoped shot.

About as close as you are going to get to tundra in Ireland.

Snowy Owl, Connemara, Ireland, 31st January 2017 from Dermot Breen on Vimeo.

Snowy Owl droppings.

Snowy Owl droppings.
Snowy Owl pellet.

Snowy Owl droppings and feather.

Snowy Owl Boulder no. 1.

Snowy Owl Boulder no. 2, it was sitting up on the smaller rock immediately to the left of the large boulder.