Musings and photos of wild and everyday life

Birds

Snowed-in – New Neighbours

Have you ever walked through a marshy area and been shocked by a sudden explosion of feathers at your feet, which then disappeared off at full speed with a zig-zag flight? This is the culprit but I didn’t think we’d ever see one in our back garden!

Snipe walking in snow BG xs 7548.jpg

Snipe walking in back garden

In fact we have 2 Snipe – a brace.  They have discovered that amongst the acres and acres of deep snow around here, there is one spot where the the snow is thin enough for their long beaks to reach into the soil – our old trampoline!

Snipe foraging in snow under Trampoline BG xs 7466.jpg

Snipe foraging under trampoline

There are a lot more birds in the garden than usual, drawn by the need to find food and by our feeders and seed strewn-steps etc. Today we had a Pied Wagtail our our doorstep.

It all looks cute and is great for close views of birds we seldom see close up but many birds will die during this spell. Indeed many people will suffer with some main and most side roads closed.

So be safe and help your neighbours – feathered and otherwise 🙂

Advertisements

Crows

Jackdaw on fence Dublkin Zoo xs 8947.jpgSome of the commonest and noisiest birds are in the crow family.

Found in most regions of the world they tend to be medium to large sized, intelligent, mainly blackish in colour and relatively brave around people.

Here in Ireland, the Jackdaw is one of the most visible members of the family which numbers approximately 40. Its white eye ring and mixture of black and grey feathers making  it easily identifiable.

Rook portrait BG 5125xLsRaven on ruins above Miners Village Glendalough xs 7243
Hooded Crow St Stephens Green pond Dublin 0005xs
Slightly bigger are the Rooks which often mingle with Jackdaws.

They are much tougher looking and have a strong beak with a whitish patch at the base. They also show a dark blue tint when the sun shines.

They make untidy large nests in colonies known as rookeries, in the tops of trees in whereas the Jackdaws nest in holes, such as in trees or chimneys.

.

.

The biggest of our crows is the Raven with a wingspan of up to 1.3m.  These are birds of higher ground, mostly scavenging on dead animals.

.

.

The other typical Grey-Black crow we have is the Hooded Crow.  It is very similar to the Carrion Crow, found in England, which does not have any grey.

This is the main crow in many European continental countries.

Hooded Crow pairs nest on their own in tops of tall trees.
Magpie hunting on grass Merrion Square Dublin xs 5769
However, another common crow here is the Magpie – a really beautiful bird but with a bad reputation due to their success in towns and dominance over small birds.
Jay at feeding station Dodd Wood Keswick 6264xs
Reasonably common but not seen as much is the Jay which has much less black in its plumage.

It is predominantly Brown with patches of blue, black and white and is most often seen in woods, particularly Oak woods.Chough flying Great Saltee 4021xs
The final Irish Corvid is the least known but possibly the most interesting and certainly my favourite.   The Chough is similar in some ways to the Jackdaw but has red legs and beak.  Also the beak is thinner and down curved – designed for poking into the ground.

The best places to see these are along the South and West coasts. They will probably be noticed first by their unusual ‘chough’ calls.

That’s a reasonable number of ‘Crows’ for a little country.  In a blog to follow, some of the other crows will be highlighted.


Saltees 2017

Gannet couple greeting & Bill clacking over egg in nest Great Saltee island xs 6158

Gannets Greeting in Great Saltee colony over Egg in Nest

Great Saltee Island off the SE coast of Ireland is the place to go in May or June – or most times of the year.

But in early Summer the flowers and birds are terrific.

It seems to have its own micro-climate and has been kind, weather-wise, to us on our yearly pilgrimages.

We spent 4 or 5 hours on the island but could have spent 4 or 5 days without doing it justice.

Puffin taking off from burrow side - disturbed before delivering Sandeels Great Saltee xs 5771

Puffin taking off from Burrow with undelivered fish after disturbance

———————————————————-

Pehthouse Suite - Kittiwakes & egg on nests Great Saltee cliffs xs 5538

Penthouse Suite – Kitiwakes nesting on cliff, Great Saltee

It is known best for its 2 Gannet colonies and for its Puffins but has so much more – birds such as Auks, Waders, Gulls, Cormorants, Choughs, Pipits etc. as well as Seals, Rabbits (inevitably), wild flowers and great views.

——————————————————–

Razorbill flying with Sandeels Great Saltee xs 5651

Razorbill flying with fish

Great Black-backed Chicks sheltering Great Saltee xs 6628

Baby Great-Black-backed Gulls in hiding – they will grow to become the marauding Lords of the island

.

Great Black-backed Gull flying Great Saltee xs 5613

Great Black-backed Gull in full marauding flight

Shag & Chicks on nest under Rocks Great Saltee xs 6617

Shag & Chicks in nest under Rock

Grey Seal imm in Cave Great Saltee xs 6797

Grey Seal immature in cave, Great Saltee

Gannet collecting vegetation for nest on Great Saltee clifftop xs 5638

Gannet collecting vegetation for nest

.

.

The Gannets number over 2,000 and try to nest away from interference – one colony on a rock stack and the other at the extreme end of the island.

However over-enthusiastic visitors and camera holders constantly get too close, pushing the colony back and causing unnecessary stress and disturbance.

Gannets build a small mound of earth and vegetation – grass, seaweed, etc. – with more vegetation on top.

Gannet patterns edge of main colony Great Saltee xs 5851

Gannet Nests with regular spacing

In such a crowded place, the Gannets are very regularly spaced.  This is not so much about privacy for couples or respect for neighbours but rather fear of agression and use of agression to keep a small gap!

—————————————————-

Gannets fighting in colony Great Saltee island xs 6446

Gannets fighting in colony

Fights do break out in the close noisy turmoil.

Gannet returning to nest in colony Great Saltee xs 6563

Gannet returning to nest in colony, Great Saltee

Gannets mostly look all the same to us but presumably they can see distinct differences and hear different calls. Nevertheless finding one’s mate in a large noisy colony can’t be easy and landing amongst defensive neighbours in wind has to be difficult.

Gannet stare in colony Great Saltee island xs 6039

Gannet head – with superior attitude

.

.

A magnificent bird and beautifully designed for life on the sea and for diving into the water from a height.

Puffin calling from clifftop rock Great Saltee xs 5802Puffin calling from rock amongst Pinks on clifftop, Great Saltee

Puffin with Sandeels Great Saltee xs 5798
Puffin with Sandeels

 

.

.

Hard to ignore the gorgeous, cute little Puffins though.

Puffin numbers go up and down yearly based mainly on the numbers of Sandeels available.

The last 2 years seem to have been fairly good but of course fish numbers worldwide are only fractions of 100 years ago due to over fishing, pollution, human interference and now, particularly plastics  – hard to imagine such a happy state for our seas now 😦

Puffin flying overhead Great Saltee xs 6781

Puffin flying in


Costa Rica

Green Iguana lying on branch Tortuguero xs 1892

Green Iguana, Tortuguero

A long wish-list sleeper was ticked off this year with a great trip to Costa Rica.  The country is small, about the same size as Ireland but there the comparisons seem to end.

It has kept many of its forests and regrown many others.  It has a great variety of habitats and features – highlands, beach, mountains, cloud forest, rain forest, mangroves ….And it has both Caribbean and Pacific shores!

Best of all for wildlife enthusiasts, it has brilliant birds, animals and plants.  Over a few posts, I hope to show a sample of these.

Let’s start with some common birds and animals.

While Crows, Starlings and the odd Buzzard might act as scavengers in these parts, in Costa Rica they are replaced mainly by Black and Turkey Vultures and Grackles

Turkey Vulture flying Osa Pensinsula xs 5405.jpg

Turkey Vulture

The vultures can be seen in the skies all over the country and it feels strange to hear them described as ‘only’ vultures!

Great Kiskadee on wire Tortuguero xs 1327

Great Kiskadee

A hot country with rain, breeds loads of insects which spawn many flycatchers.  One of the commonest is the Great Kiskadee, seen on wires in all regions.

Anhinga M in tree beside canal Tortuguero xs 1954.jpg

Anhinga (male), Tortuguero

The rivers and canals are home to many species including the ancient Anhingas, often seen drying their wings.  This one looks like a rock star.

Green Heron in stream at S end of Playa Espadilla xs 3100

Green Heron, near Manuel Antonio NP

Many herons can be seen waiting patiently for a fish to come close.

 

Crocodile sun bathing on fallen tree Tortuguero from boat xs 2228.jpg

American Crocodile sun bathing, Tortuguero

Rivers are not for the faint-hearted.  They host snakes, Caiman and Crocs that are way beyond ancient!

Mantled Howler Monkey M on cabin roof Pachira Lodge Tortuguero xs 1394.jpg

Male Mantled Howler Monkey on roof, Tortuguero

Meanwhile the trees are home to 4 different types of Monkeys.  Nosiest of these is the Howlers whch have a habit of waking people at dawn with their deep growling howls, produced by large throat balloons.

White-throated Capuchin Monkeys eating Palm fruit Osa Pensinsula xs 5375.jpg

White-faced Capuchin Monkeys eating Palm fruit, Osa Pensinsula

The cheekiest monkeys are the Capuchins which have learnt to rob food from tourists but ‘normally’ eat fruit and small animals.

Hoffmans Two-toed Sloth in tree Aquas Zarcas xs 2315

Hoffman’s 2-toed Sloth

Its also in the trees that Sloths can be seen. It’s hard to believe how hard it can be to see such big slow moving creatures.

It can be hard to see both large and small mammals but Agoutis and Coatis can usuallly be seen with a bit of patience.  And Squirrels often come close.

Variegated Squirrel in tree in rain Monteverdi Forest Lodge xs 2783.jpg

Variegated Squirrel, Monteverde Cloud Forest

This can only be a quick look at the common wildlife in Costa Rica but more will appear in subsequent posts.  Let’s leave with one of the iconic birds of the region – the Hummingbird – as well as bright flowers which are also a big feature of beautiful Costa Rica.

Green Violetear hummingbird feeding on flowers Monteverdi Cloud Forest Lodge xs 2936

Green Violetear Hummingbird feeding on flowers, Monteverde


Spring or Late Winter

The 1st of February is Lá Fhéile Bríde (St. Brigid’s Day) and traditionally welcomes Spring.

tree-split-lough-dan-20170225-s-141213

Tree Split,  Lough Dan

This year the ‘Winter’ was so mild that the usual flocks of Greylag Geese and Whooper Swans only made brief appearances in the fields around us.  ‘Spring’ seems to be wet, cold and windy in comparison!  Storms Doris and Ewan were not appreciated, ripping rooves, felling trees, disrupting Electricity service and ruining golf scores.

mallard-drake-walking-on-lightly-frozen-frensham-little-pond-surrey-xs-1029

Mallard Drake walking on thin Ice, Frensham Little Pond, Surrey

The birds and animals have been ‘twichy’ – a bit like the bird watchers – for some time but many people associate the onset of Spring more with March or April  and around here the worst weather of the year offen hits us in February or even March.

crocus-rotary-club-r-ssg-20170222-s-083327

R-otary Club Crocuses, Stephen’s Green, Dublin

Anyway the weather generally does seem to have been milder in recent years, no doubt a product of the climate change that politicians and many businesses around the world refuse to tackle.  It is easy to be pessimistic about the future when you couple this with radicals being elected to parliaments and higher stations around the world (trying to be polite as this includes murderers and nut cases) and the increasing violence and war threat.

snowdrops-helibore-flowers-bg-20170218-s-141158

Snowdrops & Helibores in Garden

Keeping the happy face on, the usual early flowers have risen – Crocuses, Snowdrops, Helibores etc. – and Daffodills are starting here although much more developed in the capital. Garden flowers such as Viburnum Bodnantense, flowered over winter as usual, improving the  fragrance of the neighbourhood.

 

On another note completely, Sika Deer seem to be thriving in Ireland.  Deer generally are too numerous and suffer official culls but Sika seem to appear much more commonly recently.

sika-deer-in-trooperstown-wood-wicklow-xss-1094

Sika Deer, Trooperstown Wood, Wicklow

What is really required is a reintroduction of Wolves – the 4 legged kind, we have plenty of the others.  Reading a great book, Feral, by George Monbiot, I was delighted to see the case for apex predators was well made.  It always seemed to me that the ‘wild’ here was badly skewed and marginalised.  Monbiot argues convincingly that a bottom up approach to diversity and conservation is much less successful than a top down, apex predator approach along with relieving our mountains from the catastrophies of sheep farming.

Here’s to better action from our politicians on the environment (and hopefully, more immediately,  improving weather and some sun !)


2016 Review

Robin & Worm

Another good year and the current mild weather is encouraging for a good 2017.

Old favourites were highlights again – Cold weather at the start of the year didn’t put off Harry the Heron in Saint Stephen’s Green, here trying to swallow a large fish.

heron-trying-to-swallow-fish-roach-perhaps-st-stephens-green-dublin-xs-0964

Harry in St. Stephen’s Green with Fish – Roach perhaps

Spring brought early flowers including the usual Crocuses, Snowdrops, Daffodils and Helebores as well as more cultivated plants – all providing sustenance for the early insects.

skimmia-japonica-rubella-flower-buds-bg-xs-4259

Skimmia Japonica Rubella flower buds

In gardens and parks, birds were excited, feeding eagerly for the nesting season.

Robin & Worm

Robin eating Worm in St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin

Coal Tit

Coal Tit in back garden

Many walks were taken.  One of the nicest is in Durrow, Co. Laois. A couple of good walks taking in Castle Durrow and the Erkina river as well as woods and fields, are great for relaxation, exercise and nature.

Durrow Castle & Estate

Durrow Castle & Estate

Summer brought our annual pilgrimage to Great Saltee Island. Puffins and Gannets were numerous but the island hosts thousands of other birds as well as eye catching displays of wild flowers.

guillemots-bridled-guillemot-on-rock-stack-great-saltee-xs-8644

Guillemots including Bridled variety on Rock Stack, Great Saltee

Beside the river Liffey, Coronation Plantation looked well in Summer sun.

ruin-at-coronation-plantation-wicklow-rcs-5055

Coronation Plantation, Co. Wicklow

Back in St. Stephen’s Green – did I mention what a great place this is, in the middle of the capital city! Of course I did but it really is 🙂 – Swan, Duck, Pigeon and even Sparrowhawk chicks were thriving.

Mother Tufted Duck with growing juniors St. Stephen's Green

Mother Tufted Duck with growing juniors St. Stephen’s Green

Other good Summer walks took us to Carlow where we were rewarded with a glorious sunny wheat field with wild poppies around the edge and

poppies-in-wheat-field-carlow-css-5604

Wheat Field with Poppies, Carlow

back to my old North-side where Sutton at low tide revealed waders and gulls and great views.

worm-casts-on-sutton-beach-with-irelands-eye-in-distance-rs-5635

Worm Casts on Sutton Beach and Ireland’s Eye

m-f-red-deer-immature-squabbling-killarney-np-xxs-9604

Squabbling M&F Red Deer, Killarney NP

We visited Killarney in August and people and clouds were once again dominant 😦  Someday we will get good weather but not that time.  The scenery was still stunning and we saw a good deal of wildlife including a lot of Red Deer, including 2 that seemed to be boxing! ——————-

silver-washed-fritilliary-butterfly-f-killarney-np-xs-5667

Silver-washed Fritillary butterfly, Killarney NP

The year did not seem to be great for Butterflies but this beauty appeared in Killarney National Park.

———————————————  Deer were again in focus in the Autumn in Phoenix Park, Dublin, where the annual rut saw stags strutting their stuff and sometimes clashing in head-jarring fights with rivals hoping to claim the ‘rights’ to a particular group of Does.

fallow-deer-rut-master-bellowing-over-does-phoenix-park-rxs-0681

Fallow Deer Rut master bellowing over Does, Phoenix Park

Climbing Croagh Patrick mountain gave brilliant views over Clew bay, islands and Baltra strand. We also had a great cycle ride.

baltra-beach-clew-bay-from-croagh-patrick-shoulder-rcs-0717

Clew Bay & Baltra Strand from Croagh Patrick

Wildlife around Westport included Great-Northern Loons (which used to be called Divers) and pleanty of waders. A wren foraged continuously in the trees and bushes and around old rusty pillars

wren-at-old-head-near-louisburg-mayo-xs-0898

Wren at Old Head, Mayo

.All that sea produced lots of Seaweed in a variety of colours and patterns.

seaweed-at-old-head-nr-louisburgh-mayo-s-0853

Seaweed at Old Head, Mayo

The colours in Ireland in Autumn and early Winter are often taken for granted but it is worth getting out, particularly on those magical, crisp, clear days to walk, look, listen and just soak-up the scenery.

photogrraphers-at-shankill-river-through-sunny-autumn-leaves-cloghleagh-bridge-manor-kilbride-s-7729

Autumn Leaves Shankill River, Wicklow

Frost appeared early mornings late in the year and that coupled with an enduring cold / flu, curtailed golf a bit but the lakes looked stunning on calm days – the course too with a partial frost covering.

giant-mirror-blessington-lake-on-sunny-cold-still-winter-day-from-tulfarris-rs-7783

Calm Blessington Lakes from Tulfarris

After Christmas over eating, we felt obliged to take a decent walk and revisited Seefin mountain in the Dublin / Wicklow range.  The cairn on top covers a 5000 year old Neolithic passage Tomb and the view from 621 metres up is well worth the strain and cold.

cairn-over-5000-year-old-neolithic-passage-tomb-on-top-of-621m-high-seefin-mountain-in-evening-sun-with-kippure-in-distance-rcs-7825

Cairn over Neolithic Tomb on top of Seefin Mountain

A few trips were also taken to fine places in other countries but other posts will have to deal with those as it’s time to wish everyone a

Happy 2017.


Autumn Passing

shankill-river-through-sunny-autumn-leaves-cloghleagh-manor-kilbride-wicklow-rs-7710

Autumn Colours and Shankill river, Wicklow

Didn’t seem to last long but Autumn has given way to Winter.  While the weather was good this year, already the temperature has taken a dive.  Hopefully the great colours of the falling leaves were enjoyed by many.

.

.

It was a busy time in many ways.  Apart from loads of photos to be takem, an old oil tank acting as a coal bunker needed to be removed (partly to make way for a new Water Butt and auto solar-powered watering system – but that’s another story) and it revealed a teeming environment of ‘low life’.

bugs-behind-old-coal-bunker-xs-0998

Snails, slugs, spiders and other creepy crawlies behind old bunker

Not everyone’s cup of tea, so to speak, but it’s amazing what lives and dies beyond our normal gaze.

.

Interesting contrast between these two pictures, don’t you think!

young-moorhen-walking-st-stephens-green-dublin-xs-0422

Young Moorhen scavenging – St Stephen’s Green Dublin

.

.

Autumn is the time that many young birds start to fend for themselves, entering another dangerous period of their short lives.

Moorhen often feed on droppings and other bits and pieces lying around as this young one was in St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin.

.

.

.

.

.

.

great-northern-loon-autumn-off-old-head-nr-louisburgh-mayo-xs-0881

Great Northern Loon or Diver, Clew Bay, Mayo

 

.

.

.

Autumn is also one of the main migration times as thousands of birds leave and arrive in search of more suitable conditions.  Twitchers will have been covering the miles to catch sight of unusual birds and rarities.

If not at the twitcher stage, it is still worth looking out for birds and sea creatures from our

red-throated-loon-w-baltra-beach-clew-bay-mayo-xxs-0783

Red-throated Loon, Clew Bay, Mayo

shores.

We recently saw both Great Northern and Red-throated Loons while strolling along the beach in Clew Bay, county Mayo.

Theses used to be called Divers in Europe.  They were in transitionary plumage – half way between breeding and Winter plumage.

Loons or Divers are large duck-like birds sometimes confused with cormorants from a distance.  They can stay underwater for a few minutes at a time during which you need to predict where they will surface.

.

.

.

.

.

fallow-deer-rut-master-bellowing-beside-does-phoenix-park-xs-0563

Rut Master calling in woods of Phoenix Park, Dublin

fallow-deer-young-bucks-pratice-fighting-phoenix-park-xs-0505

Younger Fallow Deer Stags practice fight, Phoenix Park

Autumn and early Winter is the rutting time for  some deer species in this part of the world.

Right on Dubliners’ doorsteps, the Phoenix Park hosts several groups of Fallow deer.  They have been there for a few hundred years since they were placed for the hunting classes.

During the rut, Stags compete to have mating rights with groups of does.  This involves a lot of posturing, gutteral calls and some fighting using their prodigious antlers (which while impressive and photogenic, otherwise seem to be a bit of a nuisance, catching in grass and branches).

fallow-deer-rut-master-does-phoenix-park-xs-0493

Rut Master Stag with Does, Phoenix Park

Damage is sometimes done but mostly common sense prevails and the strongest (or most confident or biggest bluffer) prevails.

Fights can be witnessed – they often take place in the woods while the does sit and wait in the fields.  Young stags also practice fight which is a much more relaxed affair.

It is not a good idea to approach too closely at this testosterone charged time.  Indeed too many people get too close all year to animals that should be left wild.  Many also feed them bread, Mars bars and all sorts of stuff best left outside the park.

toadstool-clara-vale-wicklow-rcxs-0713

Red Toadstool – Fly agaric – Clara Vale, Wicklow

.

This is what it is all about – a contented if tired stag with ‘his’ hopefully content and fruitful does!

.

.

.

Plants usually provide the most colourful and showy Autumn sights.

But it is not just the dying leaves – whose often brilliant colours are caused by the closing down of chlorophyll, resulting in the green leaves changing to a range of yellow to orange and red colours – that are notable.

Many plants show confident colour at this time.  For example Crocuses and shrubs such as Verbena often flower brightly and some with lovely scent.

Mushrooms also can be colourful although generally in nature, the most colourful are the most dangerous!  This one is said to be poisonous although rarely seems to kill humans.  It also has hallucinogenic properties.

curlew-godwits-baltra-beach-against-sun-xs-0759

Curlew & Godwits against morning sun, Baltra beach,Mayo

Finally, this is the season of the wader.  Coasts everywhere are greeting larger and larger flocks and Geese and Swans are on their way, including ‘ours’, hopefully.

.

The message as always is if you can get out there, well, GET OUT THERE.

Happy Winter


Goodbye Lizzie, Hello Caoimhe

Looking like a small alien blob, it takes a while to recognise the tiny baby birds huddled together for warmth in a small nest.

In previous years Lizzie had rared families of Blue Tits but last year our camera nest box stayed idle, despite a brief bout of grass depositing.

This year we hadn’t seen any movement near the box and on the infrequent times we had checked the video, there was nothing happening, although again, some grass had been collected early on.  This month we checked again just to be sure there was nothing there.  In another nest box, with no camera, wasps had built a nest a few years back.  Anyway we were surprised and delighted to realise that not only was there a nest but there were eggs – very small oval shaped eggs with few markings and a slight pink tinge, although this could have been caused by the light reflecting off the wooden box.

Only about a week later, we saw one of the birds seemingly breaking an egg.  But as she moved, the strange outline of a fleshy, scrawny, awkward baby could be seen.  The parent was actually getting rid of the broken egg.

Now there are at least six babies.  There could be 7 or even 8 – they tend to sit on each other in the confined nest hollow.  There were 8 eggs, so maybe all hatched safely – more to find out!

Welcome Caoimhe.

 


Winter Birds

Swans beside 18th Green Tulfarris under heavy frost
Swans beside 18th Green Tulfarris under heavy frost

Swans beside 18th Green, Tulfarris, under heavy frost

We’ve had frost, snow, winds and rain but it hasn’t been a bad winter so far.

Of course golf hasn’t always been possible!

.

Birds have had a mixed time. There has been a good deal of wild fruit on trees and on the ground and people these days put out more food in gardens.

On the other hand, some of those aweful shrubs with ‘lasting’ berries (meaning that birds don’t like them, which makes them close to useless in my book) have begun to see some bird harvesting.

Fieldfare in front garden

Fieldfare in front garden

.

Whooper Swans and Greylag Geese still visit the fields beside our garden.

See previous post – ( https://wordpress.com/post/14866330/2493/ )

.

.

In the garden, Fieldfare and Redwing arrived in December.

These thrushes are in the same family as the more familiar Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush and Blackbird but arrive in some numbers here only in winter from Scandinavia.

They are definite signs of cold weather if that’s not already obvious.

Redwing in field

Redwing in field

The Fieldfare is pretty much Mistle thrush size and has a grey look.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

The Redwing is closer to Song Thrush size and appearance but has a red patch under its wings.

Both can be a bit shy and scare off easily.

Chaffinch Male feeding on fallen crab apples in front garden

Chaffinch Male feeding on fallen crab apples in front garden

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

The Fieldfares love the fallen Crab Apples in our front garden.  Strangely we usually get a bumper crop of these every second year and were not expecting them again this year.  They still came and fell in large numbers which attracted the Fieldfares as well as the more common and less shy Chaffinches and Blackbirds.

.

Goldfilch charm on Larch cones Blessington Lakes

Goldfilch charm on Larch cones Blessington Lakes

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Down at the lakes I heard and then saw a large flock of Goldfinches (Charm, Drum or Troubling of Goldfinches according to ‘Birds of Ireland, Facts, Folklore & History). There must have been at least 50 birds making quite a racket as they attacked the cones high in the Larch trees beside the lake. They moved quite fast, making them difficult to photograph and showed good agility.

Long-tailed Tit Blessington Lakes

Long-tailed Tit Blessington Lakes

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Also close to the lake, a flock of Long-tailed Tits flitted amongst the trees

They also move quite fast and don’t stay in one tree too long.

It is an unfortunate fact that Ireland has a much smaller number of bird spesies than the UK – who in turn have a much smaller selection than the continent.  We miss out on some really cute members of the Paridae family, such as Crested, Marsh and Bearded Tits.

However the Long-tailed is one of the most beautiful birds in Ireland with its long tail and pinkish feathers.

Its nest if you ever find one (not easy), is beautifully constructed in a tree from moss and spider webs, with a small entry hole – something to keep an eye out for in spring.

Heron fishing Blessington Lakes

Heron fishing Blessington Lakes

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Finally, checking out the lake near Russborough House, this Heron was happily fishing away. He (or she) didn’t seem to be catching anything large but seemed to have plenty of small successes. The prey looked like insects.

Hopefully the rest of the winter will be as enjoyable.


Whoopers & Greylags at Christmas

Whooper Swans and Greglag Geese neighbours for Christmas

Whooper Swans and Greglag Geese neighbours for Christmas

They arrived in October this year as most years and apart from some very mild mornings, have enhanced our view from the house since.

A particularly nice sight on a frosty Christmas morning.

Happy Christmas and a brilliant New Year to all.